Into Zambia

Day 41 – Katima Mulilo ( Namibia ) – Sunday 8th July – 330kms

It was time to leave Shametu lodge. The main building was like a Harry Potter movie with 3 large owls living inside, on the beams. A mother and 2 youngsters. At night, the mum would go hunting while the 2 young ones would constantly screech, asking for food, while looking at us below, turning their heard in funny ways, as only owls can do.

Unfortunately we do not carry the sort of cameras that could take long shots in the dark. They were very cute. The owners told us it was good to have them there, despite the mess they would cause on the floor. They eat mice, which means less mice so less snakes in the area!

We left early. The road across the Caprivi Strip was long straight and boring. We did not see any wildlife, despite crossing a national park. The vegetation was kind of semi tropical with lots of bushes, trees and tall grass so it would be hard to spot anything.

Still, when we stopped half way, in the middle of nowhere, for a quick pee, I put Alistair on lions watch! I was told there were many lions and elephants there, so don’t laugh!

The ride was tiring as we had constant headwind.

Eventually, we arrived at Katima Mulilo and found the guest house we had selected online. We even had a booking this time!

We were the only guests. Although the next day for breakfast, there were two men there, who sounded like they spoke Russian or some Slavic language.

The guesthouse owner spoke with us of our plan to cross into Zambia. He warned us that the road, on the Zambian side, was in very bad state and suggested to ride south and go via Botswana to Livingstone. In term of distance, it would be about the same, but we were not keen to cross two borders on the same day and deal with all the taxes, fees and other stuff to pay twice and in two other currencies.

Eventually, after looking the map we decided to stick to our initial plan.

We had dinner in the guesthouse (it was only us. It was a set menu, beef, lots of rice, beans and some thick carrot soup that was to be used as sauce for the rice. Then we went to our chalet. The guesthouse had several little chalets, small but nice. They even had functioning WiFi! Yay!

As usual i felt a bit nervous about the border crossing, not knowing what to expect!

Day 42 – 220kms – Livingstone, Zambia – Monday 9th of July

After breakfast, which was included, we left Happy Forest guesthouse and went to buy fuel. Then we rode to the border.

Leaving Namibia was fairly fast. No touts in the compound. We got our passport stamped, then custom signed out our carnet for the bikes. Then we rode to the Zambian side.

All the offices were in the same building. We parked the bikes, surrounded by touts trying to convince us to change money, but i had done research and we went first to the bank in the compound. I changed all our remaining Namibian rands into Zambian Kwachas (ZK). Meanwhile, Alistair got some cash from the ATM machine.

Then we went to the offices. We had to pay 50$ each ( in dollars) for our single entry visa.

Then we were sent to buy our insurance for the bikes (about 45 $ each, but we paid in ZK). Then we moved to the carbon tax office for about 7 $ each. Then we were directed to the road tax and toll window to pay 10$ in dollars each. By then we had forked a lot of money! The staff were friendly and smiley. Makes a big difference compared with border crossing in Russia or Central Asia!

After that we were told we could go… only to be stopped just before the exit, to pay some additional local tax (3 dollars in ZK).

After that we were really allowed to leave.

The first 40kms were fine with fine tarmac. Then things went bad, but not as bad as we expected. For a long section the potholes had been filed with a mix of stones and sand. After that we had massive potholes. They were very large and very deep. With the bikes we managed to slalom and avoid the worse.

Eventually we made it to Livingstone and found the guesthouse we had booked the day before.

It was simple and the building rundown, in a fairly good location near to the town centre and supermarket, in a sandy gravelly road.

We decided to stay only two nights. We had been before to Victoria falls years ago, and done all the touristic stuff that all tourists do: the bungee jump off the bridge, the white water rafting, the 3 days canoeing down the Zambezi river, the helicopter ride over the falls…. We were not keen on doing anything like that again!

We had a look in town and had dinner near the supermarket.

Day 43 – Livingstone, Tuesday 10th of May – 0 kms

We went in search of an ATM that would accept MasterCard. Not an easy task, but eventually found it.

Every time we go travelling, we try to open a bank account with a bank that would not charge for withdrawing money abroad. Every trip we change, as this free scheme never seems to last.

This time is no exception. Alistair got a new account and got the debit card, but it is MasterCard instead of visa. In Zambia they don’t seem to like much MasterCard! We eventually, after visiting many local banks in the Main Street, found one that would accept our card. Of course we can also use our debits Visa cards but our banks both charge a lot for the pleasure.

In the afternoon I lazed around the courtyard and read a book. The place was ok, but our shower gave us an electric shock when touching the taps. If we were dry it was ok, but once I stepped into the shower and got wet, jeez! Nasty. I had not had a shower giving electric shocks since Bolivia!

We did some research to find accommodation in Lusaka. We usually avoid capital cities, but we need tyres! No way round it and we can only find them in Lusaka!

After going through all the terrible and expensive backpackers places, alistair found a nice AirBnB flat. It even had secured parking for the bikes. So we booked it.

Day 44 – Mazabuka – 370kms – weds 11th July

We left Livingstone early as we had a long ride. We were not aiming to get to Lusaka on the same day, as it is a long way. We decided to stop at the last big town before the capital city. It was still a long and very tiring ride.

We had constant headwind which is very tiring. Our bikes have no fairing so we get it full on.

We finally got to our destination for the night. The cheap guesthouse we had found in iOverlander was interesting.

The room we visited was a dump, and the horrendous bathroom had a massive plastic tub in the middle, full of water, near the shower. When I asked if there was no water, the lady showing us round mumbled something. I opened a tap in the sink, no water. I then asked if they had WiFi, expecting a no.

The woman looked puzzled. I added, thinking she had very little English: “you know WiFi, for Internet”.

She looked at me and said: “what is it, a dish?”. Hmmm….

Seeing the state of the bedroom we decided to inspect the other choices in town. After a bit of a run around ( the second place we looked at was fully booked!) we eventually found a nice clean guesthouse.

After a long day ride with lots of wind we were rather tired. We ate at the restaurant attached to the guesthouse. Choice was chicken, pork or beef. We took chicken! It was good.

Day 45 – Lusaka- 135kms – Thursday 12th July

We were not in a rush, but somehow, we were told breakfast was at 7:30, so woke up early. We left soon after 9.

The road, for about 70kms, was in terrible condition, and as before, we went into slaloms to avoid massive potholes. The road was busy with many trucks. There were also lots of trucks broken down by the side of the road. The weather was cloudy but not too cold.

We then arrive in town around midday. The traffic was going nowhere as all the roads end up in Lusaka and there is no ring roads or anyway to avoid the town centre. So even massive trucks get sucks into the centre. It was very slow going with minibus drivers and taxis all over the place as well as street vendors walking on the roads, between cars.

We wanted to stop at Best of Bikes as we would be riding through that road but did not find it. They don’t have a proper address. It is in Cairo road, the main road in Lusaka, where all the traffic end up driving through. In the end, we stopped at a petrol station and alistair went on foot try to find the place, but it was not where google map said it was! So we decided to ride to the Airbnb flat. That also took a while. I just wanted to get out of the heavy traffic, as it was rather stressful.

The Airbnb place was off the main road, through a dirt road with a big tall metal gate. Perfect for our bikes.

After getting changed we walked to the local supermarket. By then it was mid afternoon and we needed some food. We got enough for a snack and dinner. We decided that Alistair would ride the next day to Best of Bikes and check their tyres. If they are good quality I may also change my rear tyre. My Shinko tyre could still go on for a while. For Alistair, his Mitas rear tyre is over and has to be replaced.

The flat has a washing machine so we decided to do a big load with almost all our clothes.

We will stay in Lusaka until Sunday. I have to do some planning for the next few days of travel across eastern Zambia and our visit to South Luangwa National Park. Long distances with little fuel and campsites. And Alistair needs to do a bit of maintenance on the bikes.

That’s all for now!