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Return from south to east: Livingstone to Arusha

The nicest thing about being in southern Africa was the lack of hassle from the traffic police.  Since entering Tanzania two days ago, we have been stopped no less than 15 times!  We have not been speeding or driving dangerously – these are simply routine stops to check you have driving licence, insurance, fire extinguisher, warning triangles, first aid kit, that your lights all work, etc etc.  This morning we got a fine for the light over the number plate not working.  Meanwhile real crimes are happening but the police are too busy getting money from us “rich tourists”.  Tanzania is pushing their tourism in foreign media currently, but after the way the police have ben speaking to us (the one this morning was shouting at us because we wanted to go to the court to check the fine was genuine) how can we recommend people to come if they will get treated so rudely?

That’s my rant over, now onto the nice aspects of our week travelling.  We said farewell to our guests in Livingstone, but before starting the journey home we had to spoil ourselves just once.  Francis and I went to the Royal Livingstone Hotel, the most expensive hotel in Livingstone.  It sits on the Zambezi River just at the top of Victoria Falls and you can sit on the sundeck sipping a cocktail while the sun sets over the water.  One cocktails cost more than our typical dinner for both of us, but that wasn’t important at the time!

Victoria Falls, Zambia, OTA - Overland Travel Adventures www.ota-responsibletravel.com

Sunset over the top of Victoria Falls from the sundeck at the Royal Livingstone

The next morning we started the long drive back to Nairobi.  We decided to take it a bit easier than we had on the way down, so our first stop was Bridge Camp on the banks of the Luangwa River.  The border with Mozambique is on the other side of the river here and reports are that they will be tarring the road between there and Livingstone through Lower Zambezi National Park.  When that is complete, it will be a great new route – much more interesting than following the main highway through Lusaka.

Mikumi National Park, Tanzania, OTA - Overland Travel Adventures www.ota-responsibletravel.com

Elephant spotted out the window as we drove through Mikumi National Park, Tanzania

We continued into Malawi, the land of missing speed limit signs but plenty of police with speed guns.  I was told there by a policeman that I “should not use my thoughts” and to just follow the signs.  So because many signs were missing, I thought we were passed the village and we were safe to go at speed again.  But the speed sign was still to come, unbeknownst to anyone.  I explained that other signs had been missing so I assumed this one also was because there were no houses around to slow down for and I had been stuck doing 50km/h for about half an hour earlier waiting for the signs that never came.  That’s when he said I shouldn’t think and just need to follow the signs (that don’t exist??!!).  Are there any questions about Malawi’s lack of development if the man in the uniform tells me I should not be thinking??

Tanzania, OTA - Overland Travel Adventures www.ota-responsibletravel.com

Poor goat!

We stayed at Flame Tree B&B, run by the lovely Maggie.  It was a surprise to find such a place in Mzuzu, which had previously struck me as a market hub but not worth spending much time in.  The food was excellent and we met an English couple who have spent many years in Malawi and had recently set up a charity working on improving agriculture and supporting education.  Normal farming practices mean that during the rains, all the topsoil gets pushed away taking all the nutrients with it.  The charity was teaching farmers methods to keep the precious topsoil and thereby improve their harvests.  And they are enjoying success.

We were almost glad to be back in Tanzania (or East Africa), although we discovered that on our way down the officials at Namanga had cheated us on some taxes.  But we found a great guesthouse, had a reasonable dinner and continued through the dozens of police check points the next day.  We got as far as Morogoro before continuing into Dar Es Salaam yesterday.  We had two missions in Dar: meet Investours and learn about them, and buy new tyres.  New tyres are fitted now and we are really excited to start introducing Investours into our itineraries.  They are an NGO that ensures tourism dollars are actually getting to the local population.  It started in Mexico, but now has a branch in Tanzania.  An excursion with Investours only involves a day and you visit two entrepreneurs who have applied for a micro-loan and by the end of the day you are to decide which of them gets the money that you have paid for the tour as their loan.  You are also taken to the Woodcarvers Market to meet some entrepreneurs who have benefited from the program and a traditional lunch with locals is included, providing those women with some income as well.  The entrepreneurs who are qualifying for the micro-loan must live under the poverty line which is a measly 950 shillings per day (approximately 65 cents).  They receive a $200 interest-free loan to be paid back in three months – this ensures they pump the money into their business and work hard to grow it so they can meet their obligations.  Investours is planning to expand to Arusha and Moshi, opening up opportunities for entrepreneurs in those towns and also enabling visitors to Kilimanjaro and Serengeti to participate in this fantastic program.  We cannot wait to start supporting this organisation, so we hope some of you will also get excited about it as well!

Investours, Dar es Salaam, OTA - Overland Travel Adventures www.ota-responsibletravel.com

Meeting Peter from Investours in Dar es Salaam

And now we are on our way to Moshi and Arusha where we will be researching all the good accommodation, updated prices of Kilimanjaro climbs and Serengeti safaris and maybe have a little relaxation with some friends before getting back to Nairobi.  We heard it’s raining in Kenya, so I’m not in a super rush to leave the sunshine down here.

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Namibia & Botswana Tour Part III: Maun to Livingstone

Maun was fairly uneventful except for the purchase of a new cylinder head (which I’d prefer not to talk about J).  The experiences of our guests in the Okavango Delta are far more interesting however.  For three days they stayed on an island in the middle of the Delta, far away from the rest of the world.  Their rooms were on stilts above the hippos and crocodiles in the water below.  Morning and evening game drives and a couple of boat cruises gave plenty of wildlife-watching opportunity including an incredible leopard sighting.  The leopard was half hiding in the bushes and suddenly leaped out and dashed across the plain in front of their vehicle.  Leopards are so elusive, so to see such action was truly amazing.

In Maun we said good bye to Dennis and Merete.  They are heading back through the Kalahari Desert south to Cape Town.  Dennis wanted some sand driving, so I’m looking forward to hearing about their adventures.  Meanwhile Pia and Henning have come with us to Livingstone, via Chobe National Park.

Elephants, OTA - Overland Travel Adventures www.ota-responsibletravel.com

Elephants on the side of the road

From Maun we travelled east to Nata where we spent the night before continuing the journey north to Kasane.  Along the way we nearly ran into a huge elephant that was hanging out by the side of the highway – that’s what I love about Africa: just driving on the highway and suddenly there’s an elephant!

Nata Lodge, Botswana, OTA - Overland Travel Adventures www.ota-responsibletravel.com

The chalet in Nata

Kasane is the jumping off point for Chobe National Park, the park with the highest density of elephants in the world.  Henning and Pia had been spoilt in the Okavango Delta so Chobe was almost an anti-climax.  While they were enjoying their game drives however, Francis and I discovered that we didn’t have to travel at all to see the wildlife.  About thirty elephants decided the bushes on the other side of the fence near our campsite were the perfect grazing site for the day.  So while we cleaned the van and prepared for the onward journey, the elephant herd munched about 50 metres from us.

Kasane, Botswana, OTA - Overland Travel Adventures www.ota-responsibletravel.com

The elephants near our campsite. They blow dust on themselves to keep cool

Crossing the border from Botswana into Zambia is easier said than done.  The Kazangula ferry is straightforward enough, but entering Zambia is another story.  The customs official wanted Francis to produce a written letter giving him authorisation to drive his own car!  There are three different taxes one must pay on bringing a vehicle into Zambia and rather than streamlining the process, the three offices are scattered throughout the port with one official who may or may not be on a lunch break at any given time.  Nearly two hours later we were signing the final book to be released into Zambia.  The correlation between development and bureaucracy was proven – the less of one, the more of the other.

Livingstone, Zambia, OTA - Overland Travel Adventures www.ota-responsibletravel.com

Cheeky baboons raid the bins in search of food

Now we are in Livingstone.  Yesterday we visited the National Park where there are walking trails to see the mighty Victoria Falls.  At the moment, there is A LOT of water coming over and it is a very wet walk to see the falls.  At the best of times one should wear a raincoat to protect from the spray.  But currently, Victoria Falls simply laughs at a raincoat and you are better off taking your soap and enjoying the bath.  We also walked on the bridge that is the border crossing from Zambia to Zimbabwe.  The middle of the bridge is where the bungee jump happens, but none of us were tempted.  There’s a less drenching view of the falls from the bridge as well, but still too damp to pose for a nice photo.  In the afternoon Henning and Pia went walking with the lions.  Getting up close to these massive cats, seeing their huge teeth, but patting them as if they are sweet little pussy cats was an experience they will never forget.

Bungee jump at Victoria Falls, OTA - Overland Travel Adventures www.ota-responsibletravel.com

Bungee jumping in the Zambezi Gorge

We have a day or two more in Livingstone before Henning and Pia fly home and Francis and I start the long drive back to Nairobi.  That will be next week’s tale.

Victoria Falls, OTA - Overland Travel Adventures www.ota-responsibletravel.com

The Victoria Falls

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