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Rainy Season

Zambia, a huge country with warm hearted people.  An untouched African spot on the way to find access to international markets. A country in the dilemma between traditions and free market interests.

When we crossed the border to Zambia we also noticed here how friendly the people are. No helpers, no money change shouters, only efficient handling. We were immediately out of customs after we got a visa, the required stamps and paid the carbon emission tax for our Toyota. Firstly we went to the ATM and then to the filling station. How relaxing life can be if diesel is available again at all filling stations!

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From Chipata we drove north-west to the South Luangwa National Park.  There are no campsites in the park therefore we stayed directly at the National Park at the Luangwa River in the Croc Valley Camp (GPS coordinates S13 06.010 E31 47.644). At our arrival the campsite manager warned us immediately not to leave any fruits like mango’s, oranges etc. in the car. It happens very often that some elephant’s walk into the campsite and smash everything into pieces in order to get the delicious fruits. Luckily we put everything immediately into our fridge because at sunset one elephant swam across the river and came to our campsite.

Early next morning we entered the National Park. Unfortunately after the first hundred meters it started to rain and with that the probability dropped a lot to see wild animals. Apparently also during rainy season the park is known for a spectacular fauna. But we realized that all animals are hiding away during rainy days (of course apart from crocodiles and hippos). Nevertheless we did not want to give up and continued our way to the north on the well prepared main roads that were covered with red stones. The side roads were impassable because the black soil transformed the track into incredibly slippery mud only with few drops of rain. Apparently the street workers must have run out of red stones because without any warning the well prepared street turned suddenly into the feared slippery black mud soil. It felt like ice rain back home! Our Toyota skidded and ended up in an over flooded mud ditch. And here again; we were standing totally alone in the pouring rain. However this time the conditions were a bit more challenging than in Rwanda: there were no Rwandan helpers and there was a slight probability that a wild animal might get close to us. It is actually not permitted to get off the car in the National Park but we did not have any other choice. The car would not move anymore and there was no help from someone else to be expected for the next couple of days. We could not help but rolling up our sleeves again and started digging. Nasty biting ants and disgusting worms were crawling up our legs, but no matter what we had to continue. And in fact it was worthwhile: after almost two hours of working heavily we were ready to go and managed to get the Toyota out with a lot of power. What a relief!  As we still did not want to give up we drove towards south searching for some animals. However the street conditions were really bad. The roads were either flooded or covered with the feared black mud soil. Fortunately we made it without getting stuck again but that was only with big luck and some skills. At least at the end we saw some animals.

After one day break and cleaning we continued our journey. We wanted to take the road directly along South Luangwa National Park however a British guy stopped us after 15 km. He said that even though the landscape is very beautiful, we can only take this road during dry season in July or August and ideally with two cars.  Only few cars can make it alone in dry season but the road is impassable during rainy season as the rivers are flooded. The British guy and his wife live in the middle of the forest at South Luangwa National Park and founded a small NGO some years ago. The project is mainly about preservation of flora and fauna in the South Luangwa area. Poachers are harming the National Park sensitively and tree chopping for fire wood or charcoal outside the park makes the surrounded forests and its old trees more and more shrink. The British couple is creating awareness among the population and they educate young children already in school. The project is solidly sustainable and was awarded with the World Prize for Sustainable Energy of the European Parliament Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Panel. Please have a look at their website for more information  http://chipembele.org/.

As we did not want to run the risk to get stuck on this road until July (in spite of the beautiful landscape), we turned and used the main road to Lusaka. In Lusaka we had to run some errands and noticed immediately that we were getting closer to South Africa because the variety of goods was almost like at home – however the prices were incredibly high. We haven’t found out yet how the locals can afford these products because their average income is really low. We drove 15 km outside of Lusaka to stay one night at the Pioneer Camp (GPS coordinates S15 23.732 E28 27.045) in the middle of the forest. It was really worthwhile to drive out of the city to this idyllic place.

Our next stop was the farm Moorings Campsite (GPS coordinates S16 11.624 E27 32.600), which is conveniently located between Lusaka and Livingstone (Victoria Falls). The core product of the farm is maize in addition to their pigs and cows. We met the Swiss couple Tatjana and Michael. They started travelling through Africa six years ago and settled down on the farm about three years ago. We heard interesting and exciting stories of their experiences.  The campsite is one part of the farm and is usually quiet and peaceful. However when we arrived there on Good Friday we were surrounded by drumming and happy singing. The local farm workers with families and relatives celebrated the Easter holidays with singing, dancing and drumming almost continuously from Good Friday to Easter Monday.  We walked on the farm several times and as we were curious we participated on a service at their farm church on Easter Sunday and took a video of their activities. The locals were happy to see us and integrated us immediately into their community. Luckily we did not need to sing.

After the Easter holidays we drove to Victoria Falls in Livingstone. Sambesi River has grown to a huge raging torrent during rainy season and we were very impressed to see the masses of water plunging 110 meters down the rocks over a width of 1708 meter. However we were not able to see to the ground because of the up to 400 meters high spay that looks like fog. The Spray is visible even from approx. 30 km distance. We were drenched immediately by the spray and it felt like a tropical rain shower. It was great fun to wander along the falls and to cross the bridge on top with the best view point. After we were dry again we drove immediately to the Zimbabwean border, which is right behind Victoria Falls. As the entire area around Vic Falls is very touristy we did not want to stay one night longer on the camp site. Besides the fact that we were fed up with the helicopters, that were continuously cruising around and making terrible noises. The helicopters offer tourists a beautiful Vic Falls view for 15 minutes.

We enjoyed Zambia a lot in spite of rainy season. The country has everything to compete with the international market. It has many mineral resources, a variety of great national parks in every part of the country and a beautiful landscape. Additionally the people are warmhearted and friendly. Nevertheless we very often felt like we were still in an untouched African country. We can only recommend Zambia as a travel destination.

Our Highlights:

  • The beautiful South Luangwa National Park
  • Different Easter vacation on the farm Moorings
  • The fascinating Victoria Falls
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Smiling Country

Greetings from the smiling country in Africa. Even though Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, the people seem to be quite happy. This might be because of the beautiful Lake Malawi, the wild untouched mountains or the fertile grounds. Or is there another reason?

We crossed the border from Tanzania to Malawi at Songwe and were done with the customs quickly.  After 15 minutes we were already driving on Malawian roads. The streets in Malawi were totally deserted – everyone walked or drove on bicycles. The reason for that was that there is no diesel at all and petrol only occasionally available at the filling stations. This disaster has been going on for six months because the president has misused development money. As a consequence the donating countries have cancelled the support for Malawi. Like anywhere else in many third world countries the population is suffering most and the president did not care. (Remark: The president died as soon as we reached Zambia. BBC reported that he passed away because of a heart attack. We would like to highlight that we were not involved in this incident!)

People can only buy diesel on the black market for about 3 Euro per liter (the average salary per month is 80 US$). And as soon as the rumor is going on that a filling station will be delivered with some petrol the locals queue for hours in order to get some of the precious liquid. We very often saw petrol lorries standing at the road side and selling some liters to the locals unofficially. Petrol lorry driver in Malawi is probably the most popular and the most dangerous job right now.  Luckily we entered Malawi with 240 liters of diesel as we knew about the problem beforehand.

Our first place to go after the border was Chitimba Camp at the northern part of Lake Malawi.  The campsite is viewing the lake and is quite nice. We stayed there for two days and walked along the lake and to the villages. The locals waved at us happily. They were sitting at the lake chatting and laughing and their children were playing loudly. At night Julian worked at the computers in order to rescue our website. Some hacker misused our website and our server was blocked. The internet in Africa is very slow and only partly usable at night.

The next place we drove to was  Lukwe EcoCamp & Organic Gardens and we discovered a little paradise in the middle of the mountains. The lodge and the view over the untouched mountains as well as Lake Malawi are just spectacular. The Loge has been run by a Belgian for about twelve years. During that time he has built up a wonderful organic garden with vegies and fruits from all over the world. These ingredients taste so delicious in his restaurant. It was such a pleasure for us to enjoy these wonderful salads and vegies in his restaurant together with the most delicious filet steaks we had so far on this trip. Even the coffee grows in his organic garden. The owner also has a second hobby and this is furniture design. All furniture’s on his lodge and campsite are hand made by him from the wood of this property. Everything is kept very natural and the power comes from solar energy. As we loved the place so much Julian offered to renew his website. Here is the link to the website www.lukwe.com . We also wanted to help Lukwe because the owner told us that Mushroom farm which was established later and is only two kilometers away has copied all his ideas and is using them strongly for their marketing strategy. Mushroom farm does neither have organic food nor coffee in their gardens.  So hopefully it works to get some of the customers back to Lukwe. We stayed five nights at Lukwe and walked up the mountains, to Livingstonia and to the waterfalls apart from working hardly on the website. We did not bother to go to Nyika National Park close by because it was rainy season and all animals are hidden and spread out.

On the way to our next destination we bought some of the delicious filet at peoples in Mazuzu. Thanks to Auke from Lukwe for the fantastic recommendation.

We continued our trip to Makuzi Lodge, a bit further South of Lake Malawi. The campsite is peacefully placed at a beautiful sandy bay. Lake Malawi is about 500 km long with deep blue water and fantastic sandy beaches. However in the South of the lake breed these frightening bilharzias worms. Human beings can get them by swimming in the lake or washing with lake water. We were rest assured that Makuzi lodge is bilharzias free because it is located in the northern part of the lake and the whole campsite is anyway using lake water for their showers and tabs. So we enjoyed swimming several times per day and will do a worm test as soon as we reach home again. We also used relaxing Makuzi Lodge to fix everything on our car. After four days we drove firstly towards south along the lake and later towards west via Lilongwe in order to cross the border to Zambia.

As mentioned at the beginning, we enjoyed the beautiful landscape, Lake Malawi and especially the smiling and pleasant people in Malawi. Everyone we were talking to seemed to be happy and greeted us friendly. We were wondering very often why that is, because the whole country is suffering heavily from of their political situation. As the president is dead now, everyone is hoping that the next political leadership will finally support the population and not their own pocket. The education system is terrible in Malawi and so is the education level. Not to mention the economy and the tourism. We heard that the tourism budge for the entire country per year is something like 2000 USD. No wonder that Malawi is only known as a country to drive through as quickly as possible. We liked Malawi very much and found the most beautiful place. Therefore we can only recommend Malawi for enjoyable vacation.

Our Highlights:

  • The marvelous Lake Malawi.
  • The beautiful Mountain area
  • The fantastic Lukwe Eco-Camp & Organic Gardens
  • The happy and friendly Malawian’s
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Jambo (English)

Tanzania, is the country of snow covered mountain tops, snow-white beaches, turquoise oceans, wild animals, fertile grounds, blooming sisal plantations and the highest entrance fees.
We crossed the border from Ruanda to Tanzania at Rusumo. And again, we were done within a very short period of time. It was very funny to see that there was the same big confusion on which side of the road to drive between the two countries, because there is again left wheel drive in Tanzania.

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When we drove to our first destination to Biharamulo at Lake Victoria, we noticed immediately that compared to Rwanda less people live in Tanzania. We only saw few huts here and there in between a never ending savanna of bushes and little trees. In Biharamulo we stayed at a former German Fort that was built during the German Emperor Wilhelm aera (GPS coordinates S2 37.907 E31 18.291). The previous German colonial masters must have built this far outside station in good old German quality because the buildings are still in a relatively good shape and have been functioning as a guest house for a long time.  From Biharamulo we drove towards East along Lake Victoria to Mwanza. Mwanza is not really worth to see and we cannot recommend at all the campsite Yacht Club Mwanza directly at the Lake Victoria (GPS coordinates S2 31.745 E32 53.652).

On the following day we drove to Serengeti. We realized that Serengeti has become a total rip off and can almost be considered as a tourist-nap. The campsites in the national park are 30 USD per person and the standard of those is very basic – there is only parking, toilet and cold shower. Even the campsite outside of Serengeti cost still 15 USD per person and these are as well very basic. In order to give an idea of what to pay at Serengeti we listed the following:

You have to pay:
For one day Serengeti and one day Ngorongore Crater (including drive to the crater) for two people with a vehicle and foreign number plate: 820 USD

You get:

Really bad roads. On some parts even that bad that you can hardly drive on them in rain. Basic campsites with cold showers. However many exotic tourist from all over the world and they all come together at the special highlights.

Of course we will not hide at this point that we saw rich and diverse animal life and we drove through beautiful landscapes. Our special highlights were the huge herds of wildebeests and buffalos and they were all accompanied by a large number of zebras and antelopes. We even saw our first lions. However they were surrounded by about ten safari vehicles all packed with tourists and we had to queue with our car in order to get closer to the honey moon couple. Looking back we both agree that it was good to visit Serengeti National Park however we do not need to come again. Luckily we will visit many more parks further south of Africa with more wild animals as well as less tourists and they will only cost a fraction of Serengeti.

After Serengeti we continued driving to Arusha and stayed at a recommended campsite directly at a small idyllic lake. However we cannot recommend this campsite at all because it was very basic. We had to stay there for one night because we arrived late but we left really early in the morning.

As we were really fed up with the cold and rainy weather we decided spontaneously to drive all the way to the Indian Ocean in one goal. There was also heavy rain in the mountain area around Kilimanjaro and we would not have been able to hike there. Kilimanjaro was only sticking out of the clouds for a second when we passed by. We did not climb up Kilimanjaro either because it would have cost us between 1200 USD and 1800 USD per Person!  Luckily at the Indian Ocean we were rewarded with warm and sunny weather and the beautiful campsite Peponi (GPS coordinates S5 17.230 E39 03.936). Peponi is at the upper east coast of Tanzania and is a very pleasant location. It offered shady trees, the Indian Ocean at our feet and W-lan usage for free. We got the W-lan from the far more expensive however very beautiful neighbor resort (small hint: campsite K at Peponi has the best W-lan reception and is also the best spot).  We enjoyed staying at Peponi especially because we met a very nice couple from Austria, Vesela and Wolfgang. We laughed a lot and had very good conversations.

Our next destination to go was Zanzibar, the Island with the longest, widest, and whitest beaches – at least of Tanzania. As we had to leave our Toyota on the mainland we stayed for one night at Mikadi Campsite  (GPS coordinates S6 49.142 E39 19.252) and left our car there for four days. Early in the morning we went to the Zanzibar ferry terminal with a Tuck Tuck. However firstly we had to take the car and passenger ferry to get to Dar Eh Salaam city area as the day before. The city Dar Eh Salaam is divided because the ocean bay is ending in a wide river and there is no bridge only a shuttle ferry. The journey takes maximum five minutes but everyone needs to queue for about one hour. Before getting to the Zanzibar ferry terminal we had to pass by the very smelly fish market. No wonder, the temperatures are very high (approx. 40 degrees) and humid and the fish market is without aircon and ice cubes.  The journey to Zanzibar on the ferry was very pleasant because the ship was brand new.  At the arrival in Zanzibar we noticed immediately the Arabic and Indian influence. Historically Zanzibar was one of the main trading centers as well as the connection between Middle East and India. The mixture of people and the architecture are very unique and until today many exotic spices are growing on the island. For a price of 50 USD per person, guided tours introduce the spice gardens.

We followed a recommendation and stayed at the Paradise Beach bungalows at Paje Beach, east of Zanzibar. The owner is a Japanese woman, who has been there for twenty years. She serves home cooked traditional Japanese food in the restaurant. We found it totally crazy to enjoy fantastic Japanese dishes like Sushi, Sashimi, Teriyaki, Tempura, etc. in the middle of Africa. The Japanese women even collected every morning as a special ingredient seaweed from the ocean. The local people grow seaweed professionally in front of the resort as the beach offers perfect conditions. The beach is very flat and at low tide the ocean retrieves far out that the beach transforms to a wide white sandy area of a couple of hundred meters. We spent four relaxing days with reading and some work at the computer. We planned to stay longer however the adventure called us again and we wanted to go back to our car.

Luckily we found our car exactly in the same position as we left it behind. We camped one more night at the lovely Mikadi campsite and spent the next days with grocery shopping as we were going to Malawi soon. As we wanted to check out another campsite at the beach of Dar Eh Salaam, we drove to Kipepeo (GPS Koordinaten S6 51.102 E39 21.697). This place was suggested by several people so we thought it must be special. However we did not like it that much and we definitely prefer Mikadi campsite that is only five km away. The only advantage was that we met the very nice couple from Austria again at Kipepeo. We were very happy and therefore we stayed there for two days before we drove slowly south west towards Malawi.

We drove south-west through beautiful landscapes on the main road. We liked the Baobab-Tree valley the most. These very impressive trees can reach a diameter up to 10 meters. Another highlight on this road was the crossing through the Mikumi National Park. We were lucky because we saw wild animals just by passing by. Usually people cruise through the park for hours and pay high entrance fees to see what we saw. Directly next to the main road there was a huge herd of elephants, zebras, several giraffes and many impalas. Fantastic! Right outside the Mikumi National Park we camped at the Tan-Swiss Guesthouse (GPS coordinates S7 23.786 E37 00.111). The owner is Swiss and he welcomed us former country neighbors happily. His daily challenges are not easy to manage however he would never go back to Switzerland.

Our next destination was the well-known OLD Farm in  Kisolanza ( GPS coordinates S8 08.747 E35 24.737).  It is a beautiful place that offery everything to stay for a while. However the rain caught up with us again and therefore we left the next day. For generation the Old Farm has been owned by an English family. The female owner has established wonderful guest houses and a beautify campsite in addition to the farm. Mainly Tabaco and various vegies grow on the farm. We enjoyed buying really fresh vegies and some herbs directly from the ground.

The border to Malawi was still 300 km away from the old farm. As we did not want to enter Malawi in the afternoon we stayed one night at a locally run community campsite about 30 before the border. And the next morning we were crossing the Malawian border.

Even though Tanzania has many things to offer, we did not like the country too much. The wildlife, snowy white beaches, beautiful landscapes and the fascinating mountain area are simply too expensive and some people from Tanzania can even be considered as greedy. However not only the entrance fees alone put us off, it was more the bad standard as well as the crap service. Nevertheless we had a good time and were looking forward to Malawi.

Jambo means „hello“ in Kiswahili and everyone greeted us with „Jambo“. Kiswahili is spoken in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and party in Rwanda and Malawi.

Our Highlights:

  • The Serengeti Nationalpark und Ngorongoro Crater
  • Die beautiful beaches of Zanzibar
  • The Baobab valley