Well, it’s just another evening sitting on the shores of Lake Malawi typing up the next update of our travels. We’re staying at a place called Fat Monkey’s backpackers and it’s just magical. In a nutshell, that pretty much sums up Malawi. White shores, high mountain passes and lush greenery..awesome stuff. The difference between Malawi and Zambia is evident as soon as one crosses the border – the people are much friendlier and industrious, the S & M (sweets & money) brigade are less evident and pushy than their Zambian counterparts, and there are literally thousands of bicycles madly winding their way all over the streets carrying all manner of objects, from families and chickens, to wood and even other bicycles.
We made our way through the border this morning from Zamiba with relative ease after having spent a wonderful night at Mama Rulas Backpackers in Chipata. Hot water and comfy beds we’re welcome after the 17 hour car journey there! I’m not sure exactly why the organisers of this thing thought that we would be able to complete a distance of over 700 kilometers on some of the worst roads I have ever travelled on, but there we were in the land of crazy, wild goats and potholes trying to make our way to the border town in pitch darkness. It was not exactly a pleasant experience but we eventually got there after having thrown only a few tantrums on the side of the road. Zambia has been a rather interesting experience to say the least – Livingstone was absolutely epic, albeit exorbitantly expensive. We went to the falls, which are absolutely stunning and gargantuan in scale. We also had high tea at the Royal Livingstone Hotel (If I ever come back to Zambia, this will be the reason). The Zambezi Waterfront Hotel was really great and it was fantastic to be sleeping on a real bed again, even if it was in a tent! Livingstone the town seems to be a thriving tourist ‘island’ of sorts in Zambia, being vastly different to any other town or city outside it. Lusaka is absolute chaos and the villages scattered along the roadside exhibit none of the grandeur of the resorts that foreigners pay huge sums of money to stay in. One can’t help feeling as if things are a bit off kilter here and that some of that money could be directed back into the country, the people and the roads more effectively.
From Livingstone it was on to the Kariba Dam and Eagles Rest Resort. We once again only got there after nightfall on a horrible dirt road but had mind-blowingly great spaghetti bolognaise on the shores of the Lake followed by a rather rushed tent set up. It’s very disconcerting having to run after the car through ‘God knows what’ in the pitch darkness when the road becomes very bumpy, especially since lots of villages spring up close to the resorts and one doesn’t know if the people are friendly or not or if their goats are going to attack you. It was only in the morning that we could really appreciate how close we were to the water’s edge and how truly huge the dam is. You really can’t see the other side and there are all sorts of little islands jutting out of the water. On leaving the resort, we walked next to the car handing out some sippy cups to the S & M’s – their modus operandi here in Zambia is to shout/chant ‘hello, how are you?!?Hello, how are you?!?’. There was one specific spot where the road dropped away into a valley with a settlement on it’s slopes. As we passed, all the S & M’s in the village saw us and started chanting it at us! Very ‘The sound of music’/ ‘children of the corn’ through the hills.
We eventually made our way across the Zambia-Zimbabwe border the next day and I must say that we were lucky enough to have no problems at the border post. Some of the other teams were not so lucky however and had to make a ‘plan B’ as they called it. This involved slipping large amounts of dollars in your passport to the border official so he could clear your vehicle. To the border official’s credit, many people didn’t actually have the correct forms (really?!?) so they weren’t actually allowed into Zim. All in all, I think those officials must have made around $2000 out of all the teams going through! It’s pretty evident that things are in pretty bad shape in Zim from an economic point of view. The guy at the petrol station shop actually had to give us change in sweets! There was also virtually nothing in the store and guys that we met in Malawi who had travelled from Harare actually told us that the power and water cuts there went on indefinitely at the moment. Having said that, all the people we met were really friendly and curious about the rally which was more than I can say for everyone outside Livingstone in Zamiba! The place we stayed at was the National Angler’s Union which was lovely, albeit a bit run down. What was really sad to see was the number of old permanent Zimbabwean residents who were staying there in caravans permanently. These guys gave that beggar lady with the lopsided boobs in Glenwood a good run for her money looks wise. Verrrry rusky..they were also incidentally having a whale of a time buying booze from the little store on premises! Once again the checkpoint was fine and we made our way through to Chipata from there next morning. This did involve three hours of back tracking on top of a border crossing and an unavoidable journey through Lusaka (perhaps not the most practical idea from the Rally organisers again).
Will update again when I can!