BootsnAll Travel Network


The last three weeks have been action-packed, and it’s hard to believe I’ve been on the overland truck for five weeks already. Harder still to believe is that aside from the guesthouses in Zanzibar and the houseboat in Zambia, I’ve been sleeping on the ground in an old A-frame tent for the last five weeks.

My last post was from Kande Beach in Malawi, and we’ve covered quite a lot of ground since then. After leaving Kande Beach, we headed south into Zambia, stopping along the way for a night at Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. Once we crossed the border into Zambia, we left the paved road and drove about five hours on a very bumpy dirt road to Flatdogs Camp on the edge of the South Luangwa National Park. Flatdogs is a bush camp, and our campsite was visited by several elephants and a hippo, as well as a tribe of baboons and several vervet monkeys. It was quite cool.

We stayed at Flatdogs for two nights, then drove back up the lumpy, bumpy road to Chipata for the night before heading to Zambia’s capital city of Lusaka to stock up on supplies. Lusaka is a town of approx 1.2 million people, and is the most modern city I’ve seen in Africa yet. The shopping center where we stopped was as close to an American mall that I’ve seen for months. The shops were clean and modern, the cars were new, and there was even a Subway sandwich shop. (No Starbucks, unfortunately, although I’m sure it won’t be long.)

We stayed the night in Lusaka, and then drove to Lake Kariba where we boarded a “luxury” houseboat for three nights. The houseboat was really nice, with two levels of sleeping cabins and a bar and dining area on the upper level. However, the trip itself was a bit of a disappointment. We spent most of the time docked on the shore of instead of cruising around the lake, and we weren’t allowed to swim near shore because of the crocodiles so we spent the entire time sitting around on the boat. The only exception was when we took the tender boat out to go fishing. We fished for tiger fish, a very aggressive predator fish that hides in the weeds near the shore. The fishing was fun, even though we only managed to bring in one fish. We also caught a few smallish perch and a catfish off the back of the houseboat one evening.

While docked on shore, we did take the opportunity to go and visit a crocodile farm. The croc farm at Lake Kariba is the largest croc farm in the world, and we saw the breeding grounds, the incubation chambers, and the nurseries where they raise the crocs until they are big enough to slaughter for their meat and skins. The highlight was the tour of the breeding grounds where we saw some crocs up to 4 or 5 meters long and got to watch them being fed.

After Lake Kariba, we headed to Livingstone, on the Zambian side of the Zambezi River and Victoria Falls. We camped there for one night, and took part in a three-hour walking safari the next morning in the nearby national park. The walking safari was excellent, and again we saw rhino, elephants, buffalo, giraffe, gnus, and monkeys. Walking through the park is a completely different experience than going on a game drive. Once you step outside the vehicle, you suddenly find yourself on equal footing with the wild animals (although the animals definitely have the advantage), and it was really cool.

After the walking safari, we packed up the truck and headed across the border into Zimbabwe for three nights in the town of Victoria Falls. Victoria Falls is a very small, very touristy town that bills itself as the adrenaline capital of Africa. Upon arriving at our campsite we were immediately met by a booking agent with a list of all the possible activities we could do. Everything from whitewater rafting to walking with “wild” lions in a conservation center. Spending the last several days sitting around on the houseboat and truck had made me a bit restless, so I opted for bungy jumping one day (no big surprise there), and another full day of rapelling and gorge-swinging over the Zambezi river. The bungy jump was fun, a 111-meter jump off the bridge on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. I did my jump on a Friday morning, after which some of us had lunch and then walked to see the falls. We returned to camp just in time to depart on a group sunset cruise on the river. Otherwise known as a “booze cruise,” the boat had an open bar which we all took part in (some of us more than others) so that by the time we got back to the campground the party was in full swing. This was all fine and good until the next morning when I had to get up early for the trip to the gorge.

The “Adrenaline Day,” as it was called, started with tea and coffee at the jump center. There were five of us booked in that morning, and the first thing on the agenda was abseiling down the canyon wall. This was pretty basic stuff, and we all made it down the wall with no problems. The only downside was that once we reached the canyon floor we had to hike back out of the canyon, and it was a fairly long hike in the hot sun. (The hangover from the night before didn’t help matters any either.) After we got back to the top, it was time for the “flying fox,” a highwire harness ride across the canyon, followed by another rapel down into the canyon, this time facing down into the canyon instead of looking upwards. After doing all the small stuff, and hiking out of the canyon once more, it was time for the big jump. The gorge swing is basically a 54-meter rope swing over the canyon, but with a few seconds of free fall before the slack in the rope disappears and you are swung out into the canyon. We had the option of doing the swing as many times as we wanted, and I did three different jumps in all. The first one was forward and feet first, and the second was also feet first but backward so that you could watch yourself falling away from the rock face of the canyon. The third jump was done with me leaning as far backward off the platform as I could while they held on to the rope, and then once I was ready they dropped me. This is known as the “death drop.” The backwards jumps were the most scary, since you couldn’t see below you. After three successful jumps I called it quits, not wanting to have to do the long hike back out of the canyon anymore.

After the long day of playing in the hot sun, we headed back to camp, where I had a quick dinner and called it an early night, as did most of the others who were on the booze cruise the night before. The next morning we were heading out of Zimbabwe and into Botswana, but we had only about 100K to drive so we were able to relax in the morning. I took advantage of the free morning to have a massage in the garden of the campground. It was quite nice, the first massage I’d had in several months, and it was well worth the $15 I spent. Before we left for Botswana, we met up with 6 more people who were joining us on the truck for the rest of the trip to Capetown.

Once in Botswana, we headed to the Chobe Safari Lodge, in the town of Kasane and at the edge of the Chobe National Park. We camped here for two nights, going on a game drive the first morning, and then another sunset cruise (this time with no booze, thank goodness) on the second evening. The lodge/campground was really nice, with great hot showers. (It’s really funny what becomes important to you on a trip like this.) The lodge had a nice pool and two bars overlooking the river. From the bar we could watch elephants grazing across the river, and our campsite was frequently visited by monkeys as well as the occasional warthog.

After two nights in Chobe, we headed for Maun, the gateway to the famous Okavango Delta. The delta is essentially a huge marshland where the Okavango river runs in and eventually ceases to flow. We camped out for two nights in the middle of the delta, traveling by mokoros, or dugout canoes. The mokoros are driven by the locals and are propelled using long poles instead of paddles. The poler stands up in the rear of the mokoro with two passengers seated in front of him or her. We loaded up one mokoro with our tents, sleeping bags, and enough food for the two days and camped out on an island in the middle of the delta. No chairs, no electricity, no running water or toilets. Just us, a campfire, and a hole in the ground. We spent the early mornings and evenings going for walks or for rides in the mokoros, but during the day it was too hot to do anything but sit in the shade and play cards. The camping was less than spectacular, and we didn’t see much in the way of wildlife, but the trips out and back in the mokoros were awesome and very relaxing.

We camped one more night in Maun, and then left this morning for Namibia. We’re camping out tonight near the Botswana/Namibia border, and then heading off tomorrow for three nights in the Etosha National Park where hopefully we’ll see some more lion and rhino. After three nights in the park we’ll spend another night at a cheetah sanctuary before continuing west toward the Atlantic Ocean. We’ll be in Namibia for I think twelve nights in all, and then cross the border into South Africa for the final two nights.

I can’t believe how fast this overland trip has gone, and that I’ll be in Capetown in two weeks time. At this point I still have no idea what I’ll do once I get to Capetown, but I imagine that I’ll want to stay there for a while and enjoy being back in civilization again.

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