2006 SAFARI – Malawi Safari: Zimbabwe to Kenya
At home in Bulawayo
Ok – so we drove down to Zim for Xmas: Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe – no problems. We collected my folks, who had come out from the UK, and some friends from SA, who had driven up, and set about showing our guests some of the sights.
From Bulawayo we travelled up to Lake Kariba and stayed at the grossly mis-named “Mlibizi Resort”. It might be OK if all you want is a fridge for your beer and a freezer for your fish, but as a family “resort”? No way! No bar, no food but plenty of damp patches and mosquitoes! Oh, I forgot to mention the bullet hole in one of the windows! The place hasn’t changed since I first visited it in 1991 and even then it smelt like the fridges hadn’t been cleaned since the 70’s!
Lake Kariba Basin
Next door was the much better “Mlibizi Lodge” – much better accommodation, food, nice little bar next too a pool for the kids and good views of the Lake.
Sikumi Tree Lodge
From here we drove back to the Gwayi Valley and visited “Sikumi Tree Lodge”, a camp that used to be the “jewel” in the crown of “Touch The Wild’s” safari camps. Still a 5 star camp although the lack of a good chef was noticeable. Also was the lack of professional guides – there was only one registered resident guide and he was on leave when we were there. We arrived late in the day and so were not able to make a trip into Hwange National Park but made do with a game drive through the private estates and forestry land adjoining the park.
Ele’s in Sikumi Forest
We did, however, see a pair of white Rhino in the Dete Vlei right outside the lodge and got very close to a large herd of Ele in the Sikumi Forest. The problem is that uncontrolled hunting is now occurring in the Gwayi Valley and this has decimated the stocks of plains game.
Fuel is always a concern and so we made sure we had full tanks and 2 full jerricans of spare fuel stowed on our roofracks. When we booked at Touch the Wallet’s Bulawayo office, we arranged for 50L of diesel to be made available to us (and 50L of petrol for the other vehicle) at Sikumi Tree Lodge. This was rather dodgily decanted from plastic “gallons” and I’m glad I kept an eye on the guy doing the pouring because I managed to catch him before he dumped half a kg of assorted shit into my fuel tank!
Matobo Hill Lodge – Dinning Hall
Matobo Hill Lodge – Accomodation
Getting back to Bulawayo we bummed around our home in Burnside for a few days and then travelled out to Touch the Wallet’s "Matobo Hills Lodge" in the Matopos National Park. What a lovely place and what a lovely lodge! We drove through the park to get to Rhode’s Grave at the World’s End and discovered that vandals had got there before us – the three graves and the monument on the kopje all have brass plates on them. Each one had been defaced with idiotic comments and swear words. Tsh! I mean, these monuments to the people who built Rhodesia/Zimbabwe have survived over a hundred years of being exposed to the elements and two Chimurengwa’s only to be defaced by some ignorant little person who is trying to make their mark on history.
Desecration of CJ Rhode’s grave
Sadly the vandalism was not restricted to attacks on the colonial past. We also visited some Bushman paintings that were situated at the back of a large cave. These cave paintings are judged to be 3000 years old and some idiot had graffitied all over entrance to the cave with spray paint!
Anyway, after a lovely 3 week break we packed off all our guests and started packing our house back down again. About 3 days before we were about to leave, I was driving back from town when I stopped at the turn off for the Hillside Shopping centre. The lights changed and I pulled away: 1st, 2nd, 3rd…no 3rd. Tried 4th…no 4th. Back into second and then I crawled home. Basically I lost 3rd and 4th gears! I couldn’t drive 4000km home without 3rd and 4th gear but it was the “dead space” between Christmas and New Years when everyone is still on holiday and so there was no expect advice available.
So we speak to some people and eventually we get in touch with a guy called Nathan who is supposedly a gear box fundi. With trepidation we drop the vehicle off and await the bad news…eventually Nathan rings and says we need to replace the 4th gear and some of the bearings. OK, go ahead we say. Eventually, after schelping all around Bulawayo, we find the bits we need and Nathan delivers the job. Driving around town all is great, but, as soon as you do any distance the gear box heats up and I lost 1st, 3rd and 5th!
We take it back – Nathan test drives – no problem – we want some money back – no way – Nathan gets very irate and we decide to leave anyway – we’ll fix it on the road.
Day 1. Bulawayo to Hwange: 178 miles.
Dept. 8:30pm – Arr. 12:36am.
It’s cooler and the gear box doesn’t play up too much. We decide to only go as far as Hwange Safari Lodge. Hwange Safari Lodge is still a lovely hotel, well managed, clean, friendly and still beautifully furnished.
View from Hwange Safari Lodge
Day 2. Hwange to Lusaka: 419 miles. 1st & 2nd flat tyres. Visa costs: nil.
Dept. 11am – Arr. 1.30am.
Relaxed breakfast on the lawn of Hwange Safari Lodge. We stopped in Vic Falls for a couple of hours and here we fixed a flat tyre and bought some cheap fuel from the Kingdom Hotel. We got a good price for the fuel (2000 compared to 3000 Zim bucks per litre) due to the fact that we were clients of Hwange Safari Lodge. Thoko worked her magic and, once again, we didn’t have to pay for our visas. The border crossing was straight forward but we found fuel to be very expensive in Livingstone.
We hit the road and headed for Lusaka. I found that if I nursed the vehicle along at low revs/speeds, then the gear box did not heat up too much. 10mph in 1st, 20mph in 2nd, 30mph in 3rd etc. If I did any excessive speeds the gear box would heat up again and I found that I lost 1st, 3rd and 5th again. By keeping my speed low I found that I could swiftly change up to 5th were I could cruise comfortably at 40/50mph. Second flat tyre.
We stopped at The Rendevous in Choma at 7:55pm and had something quick to eat before pushing onto Lusaka. Last time we visited Lusaka we stayed at Kuomboka Lodge and, although the room we were given was quite poor, everything else was OK apart from the bloody FROGS that kept me awake all night! We did notice that the exchange rate offered by the Lodge was very poor so, the next day, we got a taxi into Lusaka to change some forex, I picked up a free sub at Subway as I found a maggot in my cucumber and by the time we got back, the bar had started to fill up. This time I wanted to try Chachacha Backpackers as I’d heard it was quite good – yeh right.
Couldn’t find ChaChaCha Lodge on my first or second pass of the road it was SUPPOSED to be on, and it was 1:30 am and I was tired…so I ran a red light. Within seconds we had been pulled over by some Zambian Police - well they said they were Police men but they were all, except one, in civies….however, before they escorted me to the Police Station they showed us where Chachacha’s was. I took this opportunity to see if they’d let me off…no luck, but if I paid for their fuel… tsk! As we had just arrived we had no Zam Kwacha, or so we said, so would they take a beer instead? Well after some whinging from the policeman who wanted money I finally parted with 4 Zambezi’s and they let me go. I won’t be running any red lights in Zambia again – no matter how late it is – 4 Zambezi’s is just too expensive a price to pay!
ChaChaCha – sounds sort of romantic doesn’t it? Well don’t be fooled – it’s a mouldy pile of shite - only to be used in an emergency!
Day 3. Lusaka to Chipata: 352 miles.
Dept. 5.07pm - Arr. 2.45am.
We left early the next morning to change some cash and to find a garage. Thoko spotted an “Autoworld” on Kafue Road (033). We pulled in and after a chat with Gary the manager, felt sufficiently confident to leave the truck there whilst we stocked the cool box, well actually, one of those cooler boxes with a small 12v motor, and it actually worked!
So Gary replaced some bolts that had dropped out between the bell housing and the engine; drained and refilled the transmission and transfer boxes; drained and replaced the coolant and fixed another tyre. I also had the wheel alignment and tracking done…shouldn’t have bothered as the road to Chipata was SO shite that it would all have to be done all again as soon as we hit the next major town!
Dept. at 5.07pm. We finally pulled into “Dean’s Hill View Lodge” (034/035) at 2.45 am. Dean and his place, are nice, clean and friendly! Bed and breakfast for the 3 of us was a very reasonable USD 35 per night.
Dean @ Dean’s Place
Day 4. Chipata to Mzuzu: 300miles. 3rd flat tyre. Visa costs: nil.
Dept 11.15am – Arr. 10.00pm.
The Malawian border post is only 31km from Chipata. We arrived at the Mawi/Mchinji border post only to find out that I had another flat tyre but that was the only bad news as we found that NONE of us needed visas! RESULT!
Entered Mchinji at 1pm, Lilongwe at 3pm. Tried to get to Nkhata Bay but I was buggered by the time we got to Mzuzu at 10pm and so decided to stay ay the very expensive and totally anonymous, Ilala Crest Lodge – USD64!
Bridge crossing in Malawi
Day 5. Mzuzu to Mbeya: 244 miles. 4th flat tyre. Visa costs: 30 USD transit visas.
On the very steep & windy road down to Lake Malawi, we suffered our fourth flat. Luckily there was a lay-by close by and we rolled slowly down to it. After putting chocks under the wheels, putting the hand brake on and putting the gears into reverse and then doubling the chocks under the wheels – it was that steep! I jacked the car up and swapped the tyres and we stopped to admire the view for a few minutes before trundling down the hill to Karonga where we stopped at The Marina for lunch and a clean place for me to fix another tyre.
Arrived at the border at Songwe/Kasumulu at 5pm, took half an hour but we still left at 6.30pm due to the change from Central to East African Time. Borders a bit out of sync: the TZ BP closes at 8pm which is 7pm in Malawi. Crossing this time we paid for Transit Visas valid for 14 days and costing USD30 for me and Jazz. USD5 for road tax – valid for 7 days.
We drove to Mbeya, had dinner in town, and then made our way to "Karibuni Lodge", a Catholic lodge just outside of town. Very nice room with a double bed and a set of bunk beds.
Another one bites the dust - Chirundu
Day 6. Mbeya to Morogoro: 375 miles.
Dept. 8.30 am.
Stopped at The "Highland Hotel" (036), Makambako 104 miles later for breakfast. Carried on to the "Acropol Hotel" in Morogoro (038) but there was no room in the inn! So we ate there and then slept next door at the rather basic "Hilux Hotel".
Sundowner on the Great North Road
Day 7. Morogoro to Mombasa: 356 miles. 5th flat tyre.
Stopped at Segera at the Engen Service station (039) for about an hour. Buffet lunch was good – there is camping available behind the lodge. Drove to Tanga, filled up in Tanga as there are no fuel stations between Tanga and Mombasa.
Tanga to Horahora road is awfull – another flat tyre.
Arrived at TZ border (Horahora) at 7pm. Border formalities took around 20 minutes, UNLIKE the Kenya border formarlities that took 1 and a half hours.
Drove along rather dodgy road to Mombasa. It was getting rather late and we missed the turn off for the hotel strip, turned around and headed for Lunga-Lunga again. Saw sign for "Sand Island Beach Cottages" and made a left turn (043/042). Drove through the bush, woke up Sheila, parked up (045) and went to bed.
Sand Island Beach Cottages by night…
Day 8. Mombassa: 0 miles.
Woke up to the sound of the surf crashing on the shore. Spent the day lazing and eating the biggest and best white snapper with prawns for tea. Barclays Bank (044).
…and by day.
Mombassa – even if it was pitch dark you could still smell it!
Day 9. Mombassa to Nairobi: 315 miles.
Caught the ferry to Mombasa (046) – easy. First 15 miles out of Mombassa are atrocious!
Tsavo Gate (048) Stopped at Tsavo Inn (049) in Kiboko.
Athi River road atrocious.
Mombasa’s only ferry
The roads are commonly crap so people drive on the “hard” shoulder!
And then you have to play “chicken” with the trucks.
Enzo & Thoko, MMIX
Self-Drive Safaris in East and Southern Africa
|UK:||+44 (0) 776 860 6729|
|UK:||+44 (0) 1273 731 166|
|ZW:||+263 (0) 9 241 131|