Victoria Falls

After leaving Songea I overnighted at Mbeya ready to cross the border into Zambia early the next day and then drive to Mpika, a distance of some two hundred and fifty miles. It rained from early evening all through the night and was still raining the next morning. This was to become something of a habit over the next week.

I got up at six o’clock the next day, in darkness because of an electricity outage, washed and packed the car. Leaving at six-thirty as dawn broke; we motored up to the border only to find that it wasn’t open until seven-thirty African time, which meant shortly after eight o’clock. Fortunately we were processed through Tanzanian immigration and customs in a little over half an hour and made our way to Zambian immigration. They appeared very efficient and stamped my entry visa within minutes of our arrival; I thought at last we had found a border control that knew what they were doing.

The first customs officer I met quickly stamped Bridget’s carnet but then said I would have to go and purchase a carbon tax certificate, pay a road toll and pay a local council levy before returning to finalise the carnet process. Paying the carbon tax and getting the certificate was simple and fast but then I went to the location of the Department of Transport and Safety to pay a road toll. There was a notice explaining that the toll was not a tax, but a charge for using the road. However the office wasn’t open and would not be open until nine o’clock! Nine o’clock turned out to be nine-thirty and then they declared that they wouldn’t process any payment until they had cleaned their office and sorted out some files and stationary. So myself and some thirty other soles were kept waiting while they did this and then they took our money. By the time I had paid the local council levy and got Bridget’s carnet completed we had been at the border post for over four hours!

If we were to have any chance of keeping the rendezvous with the South Africans we had some serious motoring to do. I had already scrubbed out all the rest-days bar the one at Victoria Falls and now I decided that we would go from Mpika to Livingstone in two days rather than three. The town of Kabwe appeared to be the mid-point and so that is where we headed early next day, arriving around one o’clock in the afternoon. I found Tuskers Hotel in the centre of town and visited Barclays Bank to use their ATM machine shortly after. I have never seen such a long queue for an ATM as there was here. The cause appeared to be that it was the only working ATM in town and being a Saturday the banks had closed at twelve-thirty. Barclays have no reason to be proud that it had the only working machine in town, as they had two machines but only one worked.

Kabwe reminded me much of some of the ‘colonial’ towns of northern Australia, almost entirely made up of wooden, single storey buildings.

The following morning, early again as the temperature is much cooler for the first couple of hours making things easier for Bridget, we headed off to Livingstone. Generally speaking the roads in Zambia were proving a lot better than in the two previous countries although they still provided some un-marked speed humps. I was taking things decidedly easy as just one more un-noticed bump or pot-hole could finish off Bridget for good. It is surprisingly tiring, driving and having to continually scan the road surface ahead ensuring that you stay alert the whole time. On arriving in Livingstone, and having completed almost nine thousand miles of the journey, I decided to treat myself to a little luxury and stayed at the Zambezi Sun hotel.

The hotel was good, but the setting was excellent. There are two hotels in the same grounds, both owned by the same organisation. A three minute walk from my room and I was gazing at the Victoria Falls. The dry season had only just finished, two days earlier according to my experience, and I was warned that the falls were almost empty. Everything is relative, and the falls were still spectacular. I even think they may be better this way because so much more of the cliff is clearly visible as opposed to just sheets of water.

As well as the falls the bird life is interesting and there are zebra, giraffe and monkeys in the area some of whom stroll around the hotel grounds. The Royal Livingston Hotel has an outdoor stage area with a bar where you can sit and watch the sun go down and occasionally the nearby shore is visited by hippos. A full rest day here was very good.

Once again the plan had been to cross the border into Namibia and drive into the first town, Katima Mulilo, which allowed plenty of time for immigration and customs procedures, however this time the crossing took a mere forty minutes. I now had time to spare so a quick look at the map and I decided to drive further on to a town called Kongola. According to the map there were some lodges there where I should be able to get a room for the night and then the following day’s drive would be a mere two hundred and eighty miles. This would be followed by a couple of long days covering some nine hundred miles arriving right on time to meet my friends from SA.

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