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Jun 23 2013

Heading eastwards

After the superb experience of Leopard Hill, the tar road to Luangwa Bridge was a big anti-climax. It is not busy, it is not scenic, and it is not interesting.

We arrived at Luangwa Bridge Camp in the early afternoon. The campsite is not big, but as there was only one other car there we had plenty of space. Our hosts, Lindsay and Will, welcomed us and provided us with wood for our bread baking. The other car at the campsite belonged to Albert – a Dutchman travelling on his own for six months while in-between jobs (more about Albert later).

Luangwa Bridge Camp is a peculiar place. For us it was the perfect stop-over between Lower Zambezi and South Luangwa, but I think that is all it has going for it… It is not that old, nor is it very elaborately done. But it already looks tired and worn. It doesn’t have a fantastic view, it doesn’t have much sun, it doesn’t have any green on the property. And because of its location, people drop in at 2330 at night.

Albert was also heading towards Mfuwe and South Luangwa National Park (see separate post). His plan was to take the tar road to Chipata and then head north. Our plan was to take the tar to Petauke, and then head north on the gravel, skirting the south side of the park. We asked Will about the condition of the road.  He said it was doable – even for Albert with a non-functioning 4×4. The next morning we set off early to have as much time as possible; we knew it would be a long drive on the gravel. In Petauke we stopped to do some shopping and fill fuel and then headed north.

We had made the right decision!

The gravel started right outside Petauke. Initially wide, getting narrower and narrower the further north we travelled. We passed through villages on either side, waving to kids and exchanging smiles with people along the way. The road was a bit like Leopard hill, only gentler. It still had its challenges though, mainly in the form of steep and rutted entries to and exits from dry riverbed crossings. By this stage the gravel had ended, we were now on very narrow dust roads where Brodie would scrape on both sides to get through the grass and bushes. The astonishing fact was that this road (if you can call it a road) is also used by the cotton trucks. These are normal lorries that navigate the countryside to collect cotton from the farmers and bring it to the mill in Chipata. I admire the drivers!

 

Petauke to Mfuwe is about 170km; 120km on the dust road to the last village on the map, and then about 50km from that village to Mfuwe on what we thought would be gravel (as there are a few lodges along that stretch). At half past four in the afternoon we passed the last village. It had taken us five hours to do the 120km. And the road did not improve. Being in a Game Management Area (GMA) we had to find a place to stay before dark – not really interested in having hippo and elephant visit us during the night in the wild (also it is illegal). We pressed on and arrived at Tundwe Lodge, the first lodge we saw. On arrival it looked deserted. It was almost… until Joseph arrived and asked if he could help. After a bit of negotiation we agreed on a fee to camp, just in time to watch the sun set completely.

The next morning we woke up to an eerie feeling of being in a ghost town. Only us, and a fantastic view of the river. Tundwe is currently being refurbished, having changed from a hunting lodge to a lodge that needs another speciality to draw customers. We enjoyed our coffee and rusks as the sun rose, listening to the morning calls of a myriad of birds and the two schools of hippos.

From Tundwe it was a short drive to Wildlife Camp where we spent the next few days relaxing. Our campsite had river view, the view was better than that from the main lodge!  Over two days, we only moved from the campsite to drive into Mfuwe to enquire about park entry and to buy fritas and kapenta. Kapenta is a small dried fish that is easy to get in Zambia, so we thought we would try it. With a local receipt supplied by the seller we tried the Kapenta for lunch. Not to our taste. But the fritas were divine.


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