If you’re confused about the title of the Blog, you’re not alone! Wachizungu was the term used by Africans to describe the early white explorers. It means “He who wanders around aimlessly” – kinda sums it up pretty well!
This trip is really about getting to explore East Africa and experiencing for the first time places, people and animals we’ve never seen before. So……….as much as I love the wonders of Southern Africa; it’s been mainly bypassed this time around in favour of something new.
Planning in Africa is a bit of an oxymoron. You plan and Africa laughs! But we did take copious amounts of time studying the wonderful bouquet of “things to see and do” and below is the planned trip and itinerary…………so let’s set sail!
Enough of the Prelude, let’s begin……………
Leaving South Africa – 4th March 2016
Six-hour drive and an overnight stop at Fig Tree Guest House, Martin’s Drift Border Post. Arriving at 17:45 was clearly a massive inconvenience to the surly Clara; who refused to greet us and closed the kitchen early to avoid serving dinner. Fortunately, the warm and friendly owner stepped in and rustled up a mean Lasagne and joined us for a drink.
The first of many a long drive – Botswana 5th March
A full day’s drive to Lesoma Lodge in Chobe Forest Reserve, close to Kasingula Ferry where we will cross the Zambezi River to Zambia. We saw herds of elephant en route and in the vicinity of the lodge. Lincoln, the owner, is quite a character and made us most welcome. It’s a nice location with lions and hyenas kicking off in the night and we would have liked to have stayed longer but there’s a boat to catch!
The Border Post From Hell – Kazingula, Zambia 6th March
Up at the crack of dawn to get over the border to Zambia. The Bots side was a breeze but we crossed the Zambezi river on a makeshift “car ferry” and it didn’t get any better! The ferry costs US$13 in Zambian Kwacha or US $30 if you only have dollars. Don’t ask! Chaos reigned supreme on the Zambian side; we had to pay 5 different taxes from separate unmarked “offices”. Got mobbed by the “runners” and other undesirables looking to make a quick buck. Ripped off for 3rd party insurance and eventually made it through to Pioneer Lodge in Lusaka after another gruelling 10-hour drive.
Zambia: Drive to Chipata – 7th March
Another all day drive to get to Mama Rulas in Chipata (border town with Malawi) for a stopover. Cold, dirty showers and lazy, disinterested management staff. The Cheeseburger and chips were OK, though! Wow, sounds like I’m just non-stop moaning; well anyone that knows African border posts will understand………it’ll get better folks, I promise!
Malawi: Onwards to Fish Eagle Bay Lodge 8th & 9th March
A nice surprise at the entry to Malawi………a recently introduced $75.00 p/p Visa! The border post informed us that they had “run out” of Visas and we would need to wait until more arrived. SoH failure! But fortunately, we only had to wait around 20 mins.
En route we passed a school where children were kicking around a football made of paper, tied with string. I had bought 4 Umbro leather footballs to hand out on the trip; this was the perfect opportunity. We drove into the school and caused much commotion and excitement……what are the Muzungu’s doing here? I walked up to the teacher and asked permission to gift a football for the kids. There was so much excitement that we could hardly hear each other. Hundreds of kids gathered around and sang as I blew up the ball. Then we had a penalty taking ceremony, with me taking the pens! The smiles on the faces were a joy as they danced and sang. One football = one hundred gleaming faces. It was quite a humbling experience.
We reached our destination – Fish Eagle Bay Lodge. Fairly average place, nice beach but the reason we’re here is to see Bonnie & Clyde, the two resident spaniels that we fell in love with when we stayed here 2 years ago. They were our constant companions and slept outside our tent. We were anxious to know if they were still there and just had to see them again. They didn’t recognise us; boo hoo, but it didn’t take long before we were best of chums again, a lovely reunion.
Malawi: Kande Beach 10th to 13th March
The next stop was determined by Everton v Chelsea in the FA Cup Quarter Final; whoever would be screening it wins. Kande beach won hands down, Dave & Andy, the owners are both from Nottingham and big footie fans so I was in good company. Kande has a lovely beach and we stayed in a pretty beach front chalet, facing a small island. Dave & Lisa were so hospitable, it felt like home from home.
We also met a lively bunch of travellers from all over, led by Andrew, they were great fun. Andrew is a Doctor and was able to inform us of which medicines we may need on our long journey. The baffling thing was the price of the antibiotics and pills (across the counter!). They were as cheap as chips, you pay more for sweets – seriously. Go figure!
Beginning to get the taste of this beach bum life on Lake Malawi, with its easy going pace, laid back style and peaceful blue waters. The people in Malawi are so warm and friendly and it’s just full of smiling faces.
Malawi: Mayoka Lodge, Nkharta Bay 13th to 15th March
This place came highly recommended and didn’t disappoint. Quite a bohemian kind of feel with a mix of people from every walk of life. Although there is no beach, it sits high above tranquil waters that are so clear that you can see all manner of tropical fish from the water’s edge. We’ve got a cottage perched high above the shoreline, on a steep forested hillside with a little sunning deck; could get used to this. It’s run by Gary & Kathy, very welcoming hosts. Plenty of time to go paddling in canoes and snorkelling, not to mention the lively bar life and excellent food.
Malawi: Lukwe Lodge, Home of the Gods – 15th March
Lukwe is close to Livingstonia, it’s reached via a very steep, winding and extremely battered dirt road with no end of hairpin bends. It takes an hour to do the 12 km to the top, a single lane track that hugs a precipice as you weave your way to the top…….not for the feint hearted!
The views, once you reach there, overlooking Lake Malawi are spectacular. We just stopped the one night but it really deserved more time.
Tanzania: Mbeya, Utengele Coffee Plantation 16th to 17th March
Here we go, another Border Post after a few hours drive. The official was rather grumpy and said he wanted to search the vehicle thoroughly. That turned around completely after a quip I made. He asked me if I had a trailer; my reply was “only the missus”! He nearly peed his pants and became our best friend……….we didn’t get searched. I think there’s a lesson there somewhere.
We stopped two nights at Mbeya to get some routine jobs done on the Landy, shopping etc. I can highly recommend Lena at Mbalezi who has a great workshop and team that offer excellent value for servicing; in fact, any jobs that need may need doing. Utengele is in a picturesque setting in the hills above Mbeya; a far cry from the noise and chaos below!
Tanzania: Iringa, Neema Crafts – 18th March
This is hopefully the last stop before we get back to the bush – hoofeckinray!! The road from Mbeya to Iringa was slow, tedious and, at times, gruelling. Nearly came a cropper as a lorry swerved towards me (as I was overtaking) to avoid potholes. Neema is doing a really great job. They run a successful hotel and crafts centre for the deaf and dumb and make a big difference in the local community. And last nights curry was the top drawer!
Tanzania: Singida – 19th March
A decent stopover at Aqua Vitae Resort before the push to get to Tarangire National Park.
Tanzania: Tarangire National Park, Lion Nights and Tsetse Days – 20th to 23rd March
Eureka! We’re back in the bush. Arrived around midday and set up camp in time for an afternoon game drive. It’s hot, Tarangire is a deep verdant green with grasses a little too long for great game viewing. However, this is a beautiful park with stunning vistas and rolling hills and valleys.
I’ve used low range more times on the first game drive than I have in the last 12 months! Plenty of mud and bumpy roads but that’s what makes for the adventure.
We’re shortly into the first game drive when we spot our first East African lion. It’s a lioness and she climbs a bank, right in front of us, looking for her next meal.
That night the baboons kick off around 3 a.m., quickly followed by impalas barking………a clear sign of predators. We could hear the lion calling and it got closer and closer. There are no fences in the camp, it’s just open bush. As I brought a spotlight with me this was a great chance to use it! I picked up the lions, they were about 10 – 15 metres from our tent. It was two females, they were on the hunt. I stepped outside to keep tabs on them and got an earful……..I think our little altercation scared them off. It was “get back in NOW”…….”we’re not on the menu, RELAX” kind of thing!
At around 5 a.m. the two lionesses made their way back through camp, taking the same route.
The following day we take off, sensibly dressed in a vest, shorts and sandals. Or so we think! It’s not long before we have uninvited, hostile passengers in the form of the tsetse fly. OMG, do I hate these little f*&ckers!! I got nailed, Emma too. She counted about 30-40 welts on my back. At one stage there were so many that we closed the windows and had hundreds of them clinging to the outside of the windows and bonnet. We learned that there are certain parts that are their stronghold and tried to stick to the plains area where they’re not present.
Nevertheless, next day was boots, longs and a light jacket! Even so, we still got invaded. We were whacking them as best as we could. Emma has an elegant pinching method of nailing them whilst I just swat like a mad man. I went for one on the windscreen and executed perfectly………..CRACK, yep end of windscreen! Cracked it big time. As if that wasn’t enough, I took a wrong turning on the way back and reversed back, straight into a sharp ended log in the long grass. All you could hear was the hiss, as the spare wheel was speared! They say it always comes in 3’s and it did. That night we were caught in the eye of a storm, thunder, lightening and raining for Africa. In the mad dash to get everything inside, I tripped and broke one the tent poles in two. Not funny, lost my SoH………off to bed!
Tarangire is great for game, we saw plenty of elephants at the Tarangire river, giraffes aplenty, buffalo, jackals etc, but the bird life is extraordinary. So may species we don’t see in southern Africa like lovebirds, exotic types of hornbills and starlings, white headed buffalo weavers etc. It’s a twitcher’s paradise!
Each night the lions would kick off in the early hours, although we didn’t see them walk through camp again. We had a hunch that there may be cubs; mainly because they were sticking around the area, not venturing far and returning, presumably to the same place.
On the last morning, I was up at 5 a.m. to take pics of the sunrise. The sunrise was a damp but as I drove around a river bend, there on the beach by the river was a lioness and 3 cubs. She had brought them there for a drink and a play. I sat watched and photographed them for about 30 mins before they headed back into the bush. A lovely way to end Tarangire.