Facts and Figures
July 4th - July 12th 2009
Botswana Cont., Zambia & Namibia
Maun (Old Bridge Backpackers)
Not a lot of activity today, internet most of the morning trying to update the site on a very on/off internet connection.
Watched Wimbledon in the afternoon, Rugby highlights and Golf.
Maun (Old Bridge Backpackers)
Sunday, day of rest after the busy day we had yesterday!!
More Internet, redoing everything I did yesterday, the connection was so bad that the uploads were all corrupted meaning it all needed uploading again, a slow process but successful this time.
Wimbledon finals and more Golf.
Maun (Old Bridge Backpackers) - Gweta (Gweta Lodge)
Moving day today. A late start as we slept through till 09:00, so after a coffee and shower we started loading the bike. It wasn’t long before we stopped loading the bike, we noticed some of the tent poles were missing, left in storage after the overnight trip. No problem, up to reception to get them. Well, it wouldn't have been a problem if one of the staff hadn't gone into town with the keys!! An hour or so later she returned with the said keys and also informed us that there was a spare set behind the bar, maybe let the staff know too!! Poles retrieved, we finished off loading up and eventually got on the road at 13:00. Good time had at OB but I think if we had stayed another day we would have been stuck for quite a few days more, the water level in the Delta is the highest it has been for 30 odd years and had already flooded the main entrance road to the site and was rapidly approaching the temporary access road.
It is about a 350Km ride to Nata, where we have been told there is a nice campsite, although we weren't told where and how much, so we should still be able to get there early enough, and leave the 400 + Km stretch of bad road to Kasane for the following day.
Not much in the way of scenery on the ride, mostly bush with the odd village dotted here and there. We arrived at Gweta, (a small village that we thought was a lot bigger) 100 Km short of Nata at around 16:00 and decided to pull into Planet Baobab, a Backpackers we had seen in Coast to Coast, rather than ride on and look for the campsite we had been told about earlier. Looks a nice place, unfortunately they are full! After trying to get them to squeeze in our tent for the night without success, they point us in the direction of the Gweta Lodge, which has camping. Turn round and head back to Gweta, again. We had pulled in on the way through hoping to find supplies, without luck, don't know what the locals will think we are up to as this is the third time down the high street!
Gweta Lodge, expensive, delusions of grandeur and not very welcoming to budget travellers. The camp ground could be better with not a lot of space and not very many level spots. After booking in we are told that dinner is take it or leave it, 60 Pula for main course and 30 Pula each for starter and dessert, sit down at 19:00 for 19:30, surprised we weren't told to dress for dinner. We only ordered the main course.
The bar area was split into two, the bar with a couple of tables and bar stools, and the “Lounge” with soft seats and sofa’s and a big sign at the entrance “Lounge for use of Lodge Guests ONLY, campers to use the bar area”.
We went in for dinner at 19:25, then waited while the starters were served and consumed before being “called through” to the buffet being served outside. Something resembling a chicken leg only smaller, a couple of bits of carrot, a few peas and one roast potato, gravy and rice. Not worth £6 of anyone's money.
Glad we are only staying a night.
Gweta (Gweta Lodge) - Kasane (Thebe Game Lodge)
Up at 07:00 and pack down after a coffee. Not wanting to stay here any longer than necessary it’s a quick pack.
We get to Nata around lunchtime and stop off to refuel and get some eats. Refuelling the bike, no problem but refuelling us is reminiscent of West Africa. The restaurant has an extensive menu on offer but when we order we are told they only have chicken and chips, ah, it’s good to be back in proper Africa.
We also bumped in to the SA and Aussie crowd we met a couple of days ago in Rakops. They told us that the road to Kasane was really bad with potholes that would swallow a truck. After a chat we set off fearing the worst. These South Africans don't know potholes, it was bad but hadn't a patch on West Africa.
A better ride today than yesterday. Just after leaving the service station at Nata, I needed to pull over for a call of nature, I was ready at the services but wasn't going to pay the 1 Pula charge when there are perfectly good lay-by's along the road for free. A couple of hundred yards after starting off again, right at the edge of the road, no fences, no game park entry gates, were a herd of Elephant grazing. I guess the red bordered circular sign with the “S” with a line through it in the lay by meant “No Stopping”. We saw a lot more Elephant along the way all the way to Kasane and stopped to get some pic’s at one point with a herd of about 30, again, right at the edge of the road, but I couldn't find a solid spot to get the side stand down. We will have to wait for the desert Elephants in Namibia to get the bike and Elephant in the same shot.
We had been recommended the Kasane Game Lodge by Ian as a good place to stay, nice spot and reasonably cheap. After trundling up and down we saw no sign of the place so pulled into the next site we came across, Kudu Lodge which looked very expensive. Another site that was fully booked, so we move off again and turn into the next site we see, Thebe Game Lodge. They have a space but only for one night, not ideal as we want to park up for a couple of days and do a trip to Vic Falls in Zambia, but we take it anyway as time is getting on and maybe they will have some space tomorrow morning. 68 Pula each a night and we can have spot number 12, we don't have the exact money and reception has no change so we hand over 130 Pula, they will get the other 6 Pula from us in the morning. After 30 minutes riding around the site we have seen every site number apart from 12. One of the staff who has seen us riding around tells us to go back to the entry gate and the guard there will show us where it is. Back at the gate and the guard does show us where to go, site number 12 is in fact the car park not a camp space. We would have been happy with it if they had only charged 30 Pula for both of us and if it was flat, so off we go to complain, reception is shut so we can’t get our money back, but one of the staff will look for a better spot for us. The first spot he comes up with is a small spot between some thorny trees and very muddy, after dropping the bike again when the front wheel hit a really wet bit and dug in we said no good, so off he goes again. The next spot is behind some of the accommodation blocks, their bathrooms looking out over us and their sewage pipes running alongside us, but that wasn’t the worst part, right through the middle of the patch of ground we were supposed to put our tent on were recent animal foot prints, Elephant footprints! and we could hear them trumpeting not to far away as well. We eventually settled for a small patch of sand next to another car park which was just big enough for the tent. We will be moving on tomorrow!.
Kasane (Thebe Game Lodge) - Livingstone (Livingstone Backpackers) Zambia
Once again we are up and packed early, the last two stops have put a bit of a damper on Botswana which we had been enjoying beforehand.
Not wanting a confrontation, we decide to cut our losses and not try for a reduction on the camping at reception. We park the bike at the bar/restaurant and have a coffee before leaving, the receptionist that booked us in last night saw us there but never made any mention about the 6 Pula we owed.
We go into Kasane again looking for another site, all we see are expensive looking Lodges but decide to try one on the off chance it is cheaper than it looks, it isn't, and they don’t have camping anyway, but after telling them we are looking for Kasane Game Lodge, they inform us that Kasane Game Lodge is really Chobe Game Lodge, we passed it god knows how many times yesterday. Chobe Game Lodge has camping but only for one night, that’s it, we have had enough of putting the tent up and down every day so decide to run on to the Zambian border. If it is cheaper to go into Zambia with the bike than camp in Botswana then that’s what we will do. The Visa is a mute point as we would have to pay that anyway to do the trip to Vic Falls. We have seen a Backpackers in the Coast to Coast at Livingstone that has camping for $3 US each a night so that is a lot cheaper than camping in Bots, it is all down to the expense of taking the bike in. at the Bots border they can’t tell us how much it is for vehicle entry into Zambia so we just go for it. Stamped out of Botswana we head for the ferry across the Zambezi into Zambia.
This is not looking like a wise choice! The ferry is less than a Km from Bots border but the “ferry port” is a sand pit, the slipways are steep banks of sand and mud churned up by the trucks and very soft and rutted. No choice I have to go for it and make it on without any trouble, one more car and a few foot passengers and the ferry pulls away only to pull back in a couple of minutes later, looks like he just went back to pick up another car. The other car loaded, the engines rev up but we don't move, lots more revving and the same amount of movement, the engines go quiet and we are told that the ferry wont be going as the engines are broken, everybody off. Not happy I have a moan at the crew, there is no way I will get the bike back up that sand bank, but they insist I will. Lots more arguing and one of the guys says to come and have a look, he will show me the best way so just to humour him I go, then I realise that when we pulled off the first slipway and went back in we had gone onto another slipway a lot smoother …. Doh!!
Onto the next ferry which only had half the deck planks in place with 8 inch drops down onto the metal deck plates. They wanted me to park in a section with no planks which would have meant trying to ride the bike out over the ribbing of the deck .. No way. Not to worry they will lift the bike over them .. Right. Eventually we come to an agreement, I will park the bike on a bit of the deck that still has some planking but they will have to push me back after the truck has got off so I can ride off in a straight line. We reach the other side and I am the only one left on the ferry, they’ve forgotten to come and give me a push back! Lorraine had to give them a gentle reminder and we are soon in country number 16, Zambia.
An easy and pleasant border crossing that took about 45 minutes, then the short run to Livingstone.
We arrived at Livingstone and immediately had a good feeling for the place. We were headed for Livingstone Backpackers, which the Coast to Coast says you can’t miss, although we did!! So, after a coffee/lunch stop in town we got directions and found it quite easy. The site was really nice, very clean with everything required, and most of all, flat grassy areas. We booked in for three nights and set about getting the tent up. Trying to use their free internet was a bit of a pain, it didn’t work, very intermittent when we asked, so just did a bit of updating of the web site until the power went out. The power was only supposed to be off for an hour, happens every Wednesday as part of the towns energy saving scheme, but never came back on until nearly two hours later, by this time it was beer time! A couple of beers later then off to bed, all very quiet until at 12:00 am, the two lodges either side started a competition to see who could play the loudest music. This went on till 04:00, and also caused all the local dogs to be howling and barking along with the music. There was also a house across the street who we later found out had a dog with rabies, which, if you have never heard a dog with rabies in agony before you can’t describe. And, just to top it all off, trucks running along the dirt road alongside the site all night and a train yard across the way with trains sounding off as they pass through. No sleep tonight!!!!
Start Mileage - 14293
Miles - 3
Livingstone Backpackers - Fawlty Towers Backpackers (Livingstone)
Having had no sleep we had to move on from here. The rabid dog was still howling so at 06:00 I got up (again), and went to have a word with security to see if something could be done i.e. call out the SPCA or at least have a word with the owners. No joy with that idea, Zambia apparently has no SPCA and the owners were away. We just have to wait for reception to open at 08:00 and see if we can get our money back.
With reception open we go and explain the situation, they are very apologetic though it isn’t any fault of theirs and offer us space at their sister complex in town at no extra cost.
Tent packed again we move the 3 miles to Fawlty Towers who have been informed we are coming and why. Again the site is a nice one with flat grassy camp sites and the same intermittent free internet!
Tent up, just a quiet day due to lack of sleep. A quick walk into town for dinner supplies and an early night after dinner,
until ------- 01:00, two American lads and two Brit girls, the only people awake at the time, decided every one else should be awake as well laughing and shouting way too loud. I got up and politely reminded them of the time and asked nicely for them to keep the noise down and got the reply to “Chill Dude!!”
All was quiet for 5 minutes, then came the guitar. Again I asked them to keep the noise down, only not so politely.
After another 5 minutes they were at it again, this time I went for the duty manager, but the security guard said he would sort it out. After I had threatened to break his guitar in two and throw it and him in the pool (lack of sleep can make you brave), I left them to security, which seemed to work as everything was quiet from then on.
Livingstone (Fawlty Towers Backpackers)
A semi decent nights sleep.
Today we are going to Victoria Falls, which the locals call Mosi Oa Tunya, The Smoke That Thunders and the reason for coming to Zambia. We take the free transport from the Backpackers to the falls, which is a 15 minute ride, and on the way we can see the mist rising from the falls, spectacular already, it only gets better. The noise of thousands of gallons of water a minute dropping hundreds of feet is deafening and there is nearly as much water coming back up with the spray. Standing nearby the edge as the Zambezi river falls over into the precipice is an amazing feeling. Walking along the path not 20 feet from the drop into the canyon, you can feel the force of the water, lucky we hired raincoats, we thought it would save us from being soaked through to the skin. Or maybe we should have saved our money and not hired them, I don’t think we would have been much wetter without!!
Next we took a trek down to “The Boiling Pot”, where the Zambezi continues at the foot of the falls. A long hike down a rocky path, climbing over fallen trees, wading through rivers and clambering over rocks. We met a parks guard coming up the way and asked how far it was, 20 minutes down and 30 - 45 back up .. Ok if you’re fit!!
30 - 45 minutes later we reach the bottom, knackered, and we still have to get back up!! But well worth the effort to see the result of all that water hitting the bottom. The climb back up was as hard as we expected, we were shattered by the time we got back to the top. Next we took a walk along the “best picture route”, with loads of baboons wandering around as if they owned the place. We didn't think it was as good as the walk along the edge of the falls. The path didn't go to the road bridge into Zimbabwe either as we had thought so we had to trek all the way back then tackle the hoards of sellers outside the gates trying to palm us off with their goods. We did buy a couple of wooden animals though, and nearly made a deal with a seller to swap Lorraine's wet/smelly socks for a couple more animals. The deal nearly went through but at the end he wanted money as well, not such a good deal after all as we would have had to replace the socks!!
The view from the bridge between Zambia and Zimbabwe wasn't as good as we had already seen but still worth the walk. The bungee jump station wasn't very busy while we were there so we never got to see anyone leaping off a perfectly good bridge.
We took a taxi back to Fawlty Towers and just outside Livingstone nearly ran into a herd of Elephant grazing at the side of the road.
All quiet at the backpackers tonight.
Livingstone (Fawlty Towers Backpackers)
Quiet day today, everything aches after the walking and climbing yesterday.
Tried the internet at the backpackers again without success, seems to be not working more than it is, probably why they don't charge for it.
Took a walk into town in the afternoon to visit the Livingstone museum, not really our thing but wasn't too bad.
We decided to eat at the backpackers tonight, we had heard people saying how good it was so gave it a try. Rubbish, a pokey bit of lasagne with half a lettuce leaf and a slice of tomato, and they had the cheek to charge £4 for it.
Livingstone (Fawlty Towers) - Kongola (Namushasha Country Lodge), Namibia
A struggle to get going today, up early but no enthusiasm to pack up the bike and hit the road again. Said goodbyes to all the people we have met at Fawlty Towers, hope to see some of you again a bit further down the road, thanks for the invites.
On the road at midday at last with only a couple of hours to the border at Wenela. After clearing all the exit/entry paperwork, we get on the way again at 15:30. Looking at the map there are a few campsites around Kongola which we expect to reach by 17:00 so we ignore the rest camp after the border at Katima Mulilo, mistake.
We arrived at Kongola and spotted the first sign for a lodge that had camping, 25Km’s down a dirt road so we gave it a miss and tried a bit further down the road hoping to find one a bit closer to the main road, mistake number 2.
We saw a sign for Kongola camp and lodge. The campsite was signed as 2Km and the lodge 4Km, the road didn't look to bad with a little bit of sand here and there, until we hit a detour. The road got a lot worse with deep sand making it difficult to keep going. Lorraine got off the bike as it was getting really bad with the sand reaching the bottom of the panniers. After about 8Km’s a car passed in the opposite direction, completely ignored me but stopped when they saw Lorraine walking a couple of hundred metres behind. They told her that the road got even worse and there was still 5Km’s to go to reach the campsite. Do we carry on or turn around? The decision was made when one of the lodge vehicles stopped and told us we wouldn’t make it, they had had to make the detour as the normal route in was under water due to the high rainfall they have had. They did tell us about another campsite (Bum Hill) just down the road that has no problem with access and it is only 1Km off the main road. It’s now getting dark so it sounds like a good option. Turn around and struggle back through the sand, bike goes over again and I have to wait for Lorraine to catch up (she is walking again through the really bad stuff) to lift the bike back up again. We get back on to the tarmac and it is now pitch black, we get stopped at an agricultural check point to wash the tyres and our boots before we can carry on. We find Bum Hill and turn off the road onto a dirt track, following the signs we get to the main gate, deserted. After checking the gate area we decide there is nobody around and carry on through the gate hoping to find the campsite. At a fork in the road with no sign to point us in the right direction I park the bike and have a wander around looking for any signs of camp lights to give us a clue. All we find is complete darkness, then we hear Hippo and Hyena which sound very close so turn the bike around and hot foot it out of there. It’s not going to plan again!!
Back on the main road we turn right on the B8 and head towards Grootfontein when I realise that there are no fuel stations on the map until Divundi 160 miles down the road and the trip computer telling me I only have 80 miles range left. Starting to consider pulling up in a lay-by for the night we head back to the control point to see if they know of anywhere. They tell us about the ones we have already tried and the first one we ignored. The road is apparently a good gravel road and Namushasha lodge is only 1 or 2 Km’s off it so we head back there. The gravel road was ok, we had a few moments with the front wheel taking charge as we crossed some loose gravel piled into ridges by other traffic but we made it in one piece to the turn. The sign said 4Km, but again there was a detour and we did about 11Km’s but not as bad as earlier.
Glad to be at last all we need now is for them to tell us they are full, luckily they have room and only $N60 pp. just out of interest we ask how much their cheapest rooms are, $N650!!! We’ll camp thank you very much, then the manager told us we weren't going to put the tent up this late at night and we could have a room for the same price as camping. Wow, what a room, big plush beds, en suite shower you could fit a football team in and a balcony looking out over the delta to watch the hippo’s.
After dumping all our gear in the room and a quick shower we went for dinner, 5 course help yourself buffet. Not asking the price beforehand we just had the main course but later found out it was all included in the price, bummer!!
Best nights sleep we have had in a while and the first bed for a couple of weeks.