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Oct 02 2013

The journey south

Well, at some point, we knew we would have to point Brodie south and return to South Africa.  We have no interested in tackling Egypt or Syria.  We didn’t see very much of South Africa earlier in the year, and so we have saved this as the final country on our adventure.

But first, we had to get there.

Day 1: Kigali (Rwanda) to Nyakanazi (Tanzania) (260km)

We left Kigali at a fairly civilised hour, as we didn’t want to disturb our hosts at early o’clock in the morning!  We followed the tar road to the border, winding our way again through beautiful green scenery.  We were surprised by a heavy thunderstorm along the way, too.  The border crossing was hassle free (see border crossing page) and soon we were on the tar road from the border to Nyakanazi.  We returned to Sayari Guest House for the evening, and were recognised by Amina who had been so welcoming last time.  A quick meal out of the back of the car and we were soon asleep.

Day 2: Nyakanazi (Tanzania) to Sitalike (Tanzania) (510km)

This was the start of the stretch through western Tanzania – the part of the return journey we were not looking forward to, given the fine dust and dirt we had experienced on the way up.  We were in for an enormous surprise.  No, not quite tarred by the Chinese (yet) but they had definitely had rain in the previous days, and the dust had been compacted into hard gravel.  In places, it was even smooth!  We made far more progress than we had anticipated we could make, and reached our nightstop of Kasulu at lunchtime!  So, we decided to push on … Uvinza came next, and then we reached Mpande with a mere hour until sunset.  Viking Explorer decided that it would be nicer to spend the night camping outside Katavi National Park listening to hippos grunting in the water, than stay in a guest house with echoing walls and loud TVs from adjacent rooms.  We knew the road for this stretch was not good, but we just had enough time to reach Riverside Camp in Sitalike.  We rolled in as the sun set!  And as Viking Explorer had imagined, we were serenaded by the hippos and even saw 2 elephants grazing on the water’s edge.

Day 3: Sitalike (Tanzania) to Mpulungu (Zambia) 344km

Despite the gravel roads, we reached our proposed nightstop of Sumbawanga at lunchtime, so pressed on to cross the border.  This meant not only crossing the border, but making it the 60km (20km on terrible roads) to Mpulungu to clear customs.  We had used Kasesya / Zombe border post when we headed north, and were feeling confident it would be quick.  We were in for a huge surprise when the immigration official became very difficult with us, and threatened to send us back to Tanzania because Viking Explorer didn’t already have a visa.  Any discussions were blocked by this power hungry official.  He said he could only give us 7 days (!!) because he would have to explain to his superiors if he gave us anything longer.  (the fact that both previous entries had been 30days seemed irrelevant).  He could, however, give us 14days if we gave him money for a drink.  We operate a ‘no bribe’ policy so told him to stamp 7 days.  Eventually, after much hassle, our passports were stamped and we headed out.  We managed to make it to Mpulungu in time to clear customs – from a very friendly man who balanced off the aweful experience at the border.  Thank goodness we were heading back to Nkupi Lodge for the night, and Charity again welcomed us, and cooked us yet another superb dinner.  The temperature was a shock to the system – easily high 30s!

Day 4: Mpulungu (Zambia) to Mutinondo (Zambia) 487km

Ahh – back on tar!!  What a relief.  It was a fairly easy day, with a stop in Kasame to stock up a bit at Shoprite.  We sooned reached the turnoff to Mutinondo, a gorgeous game farm on the edge of the Luangwa Valley.  It was back to the southern African standard of camping, and we enjoyed a stroll to the river, and a chance to make a fire and bake bread again.  That night we nearly froze as the temperature dropped to 8C … a bit of a shock!

Day 5: Mutinondo (Zambia) to Lusaka (Zambia) 574km

Our journey on tar continued.  Our destination for the day was Eureka Campsite on the south side of Lusaka.  It was a fairly uneventful day on the road, although passing through Lusaka – like any large city – required 3 pairs of eyes and a sixth sense to anticipate other motorists’ behaviour.  The campsite was lovely, with a bit of a backpacker feel.  We met a group of 4 Irish motorcycles who were travelling from Mombasa (Kenya) to Cape Town over 8 weeks.

Day 6: Lusaka (Zambia) to Livingtone (Zambia) 450km

Our early start paid off as we encountered lots of roadworks and one way traffic as we exited Lusaka.  However, it still delayed us by an hour making our long day in the car even longer.  After the roadworks, the tarred roads continued all the way to Livingstone.  The further south we drove, the higher the temperature soared.  The wind, which once used to be cooling, was now hot and biting.  Our dear vehicle is lacking one small detail – air-conditioning!  So, we arrived hot, flustered and tired at Maramba River Lodge for our camp spot for the night.  After setting up camp, we were visited by a large hippo who quietly wandered through camp, munching on the grass.

Day 7: Livingstone (Zambia) to Francistown (Botswana) 532km

Another border crossing day, and we decided to brave the infamous Kazangula ferry.  We departed Livingstone at 6am and reached the border a little after 7am.  All looked quiet, and about half an hour later we were aboard the ferry, having cleared Zambian border formalities.  Botswana side was quick and easy, and soon we were back on the road.  We stopped to fill fuel, and met a vehicle of South Africans.  They were just starting their return journey to Johannesburg after school holiday – and were planning on doing it in a day!  Madness.  Our journey took us straight south towards Francistown, the thermometer rising as we progressed.  When we stopped for lunch, the mercury stood at 42C.  Brutal.  We reached Francistown and went to Marang River Lodge.  Bad idea.  They had a wedding on, and despite assuring us that it would finish at 6pm, it continued well into the night.  (Better bet would have been Woodlands … )  After 7 long days on the road, my sense of humour was thin.  As an aside, it was pretty and the ablutions were good.  So I kept reminding myself as the night wore on …

Day 8:  Francistown (Botswana) to Waterberg (South Africa) 476km

Early up and ready to cross another border.  We were very fortunate that the clouds rolled in during the night, and we even had a very light drizzle while we were packing up and enjoying breakfast.  Rain in Botswana!  The excellent tarred roads continued and we covered the approx. 300km to the border, stopping to fill fuel in Palapye and again before the border.  Very smooth border crossing and finally back into South Africa.  We didn’t want to arrive in Johannesburg with the rush of traffic after school holidays, so we stopped at Waterberg Wilderness Camp for the night instead.  It was hard to remember the hot days we had come through, as the temperature dropped below 20C and we had to dig out our fleece jackets!

Day 8: Waterberg (South Africa) to Johannesburg (South Africa) 264km

The final stretch of a very long drive.  We avoided the toll road and stuck to the R101 passing through many towns along the way.  This area of the country I have not visited in many years, and was not familiar with all the new names!  We stopped in Modimolle to pick up venison – and met a chap who had just read our article published in the SA4x4 magazine!  He was very excited and posed with Viking Explorer and the car.  Eventually, we joined the many laned highway that passes through Pretoria on the way to Johannesburg.  We were quick surprised by how fast people drive!  And how busy the roads are!  Makes driving in Dakar and Kampala positively easy.

And so, with our last few pounds, we are spending a bit of time touring in South Africa.

2 comments

  1. Vic

    Yeah, arriving in Jo’burg is always a shock. The traffic and highways, etc, are mind-boggling. Not very pretty. Welcome to Sefrica!

  2. margaret hingley

    Good to catch upwith you guys again. We have been travelling ourselves these last few weeks but in the UK. We started off at the Overland Show – hard to believe it was a year since you left from there – Then down south to Devon and back up through the Cotswolds, A good little trip to make sure the trailer worked. Enjoy your stay in ZA.

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