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2007 Trip to Kenya and back
Matt and Jason’s Big Adventure
So, we left Maun on the 12th October 2007, and headed for Kasane in the north of Botswana. The idea was to get to Jollyboys backpackers lodge, stay there for the night, and have a good run in Zambia the next day. It is huge when it comes to trying to cross it, and the roads are terrible. The potholes just slow you right down. I felt it was important, to start each new country with a new day. OCD? Anyway, getting into Zambia involved the usual gauntlet of money changers, and favour brokers, who are willing to go to all the relevant offices on your behalf to help you get into Zambia and through the red tape a hell of a lot faster. As it was, with their help, and being told which offices to go to, it still took 2 hours to get it all done. And that was after we crossed the Chobe/Zambezi on the ferry. This ferry by the way has the oddest queuing system in the world and only the money changers/favour brokers really know the system, if you pick the wrong guy you may not get on the ferry till late.
So, back to immigration. The things that need paying are as follows;
Carbon Tax, this is a complete mystery to me, they have the most expensive petrol, and at night the forests are on fire with all the local people burning charcoal. Where does this money go?
Council Tax, What? I found out later on that only the big trucks are supposed to pay this, but it seems even the police at road blocks, of which there are many, want to see the receipt for council tax. It’s can’t be for the roads, because they don’t do any maintenance on them.
Insurance, Ok this one you can maybe understand, here in Botswana, we have insurance on the petrol, so not all of us have third party insurance, but, they don’t care what insurance you have because they want you to buy insurance off them. That’s how it felt.
Visa. Now this is good. UK passports US $ 65.00, although for some reason when coming in from Malawi I only paid US $ 60.00. However the thing no-one tells you is that if you are booked in at one of the lodges for activities on the Zambezi they will waiver this “fee”. It’s cheap but very nice lodgings, bar, food, swimming pool and a chance to meet other travellers. Going to Zambia we stayed at Jollyboys, in Livingstone, as mentioned earlier, but on the return trip I stayed at Fawlty Towers. To me a much better place to stay. And they offer the same package but with a slightly better place, and free Internet! I would like to point out at this time that this was not the first time we had crossed paths with David Livingstone, and it was not going to be the last. The town as you can se was named after him, as he was the first white man to see the falls ‘Mosi Oa Tunya’ or the smoke that thunders in the local language. He, of course, promptly named them Victoria Falls. Which is the town on the Zimbabwean side of the falls. His statue can be seen at the entrance to the falls from the Zimbabwean side.
The next day we pushed on into the interior of Zambia. The place is dead. Not a bird, no wildlife, no cows, chickens, goats or donkeys. October is suicide month; well I can understand that. 24 hrs in the country and I was depressed. Everywhere you look is charcoal. There seems to be a system of slash and burn agriculture. The ‘farmer’ moves into a new area hacks out a clearing piles up the green logs covers it in mud and then sets fire to it, everything else is burnt, I suppose to provide fertiliser for whatever crops he wants to grow. We saw a lot of tomatoes and onions, what we thought were nuts but turned out to be some kind of fruit, that apparently doesn’t taste good but locals have a taste for. And wood carvings, lots and lots of woodcarvings. Another pattern seemed to emerge now. There would be long stretches of roadside stalls selling a particular type of produce or even a basket of groceries. For a stretch of about 5 to 10 km’s then the products would change and something else would be available, woodcarvings maybe, but only for 10 km’s. All the time though there would be charcoal, and at night the skies are lit with the flames from all the fires.
Arrived in Lusaka, which I have to say was a bit of a disappointment. Maybe it was once a shining jewel of African progress but since the ‘70’s it seems there has been no progress. I was a bit disappointed, these places had running water, electricity, and tar roads long before Botswana did and now they have been left behind. The tar roads have potholes in them, some are very dangerous and you have to be on your toes at all times.
The second night was spent at the Forest Inn. Sounds nice, but this was the start of expensive camping, warm cokes, and even warmer beers. We arrived late so it was impossible to know what the place looked like. I believe England were playing rugby in the bar, but I was so tired just went straight to my bed(roll) We awoke to chickens scratching in the undergrowth, the odd small bird and tall trees. A nice setting but still for some reason my depression deepened. Too much jungle I think, all that green is unnatural, cannot see the more than 10 metres into the forest, and never mind the horizon. Having said all that it was never hot, and I really thought it would be. I think if it were hot, it would really have put the icing on the cake.
The next day brought us to waterfalls, Shiwa House, hot springs, and US$10 camping per person. The waterfalls were spectacular although we viewed them from the top and I think the best way to see any waterfall must be from the bottom. The drive to Shiwa House was what I think all of Colonial Africa should be like. All the colonial farmers should have built houses like the one at Shiwa. A very impressive mansion built in clay face bricks, which were made on site. It apparently took him a while to build the house but the result is astounding. And the trees, giant Eucalyptus trees, a very impressive farm. And if you venture a little further, a lake, in fact the lake that gives the house its name. And when you drive on, a campsite run by the brother of the current owner, and direct descendant of the original inhabitant of Shiwa house. This campsite boasts hot springs and nearby a waterfall, we were told there was game on the farm but never saw any. Also a nearby hill that family legend has it that Livingstone is rumoured to have climbed. I am sure that Africa is scattered with such stories. We certainly came across houses that he was rumoured to have stayed in, and even if it was for a short time, it is elevated to museum status. The road into and out of this place was just a clay road with drainage ditches either side. I can imagine that those roads would be a lot of fun in the rainy season, but not today. So far on this trip there has been no need for the 4wd. I am hoping that at some point it will be necessary, but right now it seems a bit silly, driving on tar roads with such a car.
We push on to Isoka, a late breakfast, heading for Nakonde, this town only exists because of the border and looks like a classic border town, or frontier town, with guest houses that are just shacks hemmed in between shops that will sell you anything from a nut or a bolt to strips of inner tubing, which the transport bicycle people use to tie on their loads of charcoal or crates of coca cola, which is available anywhere, and always warm. The bicycle people also run a taxi service, between villages.
Nakonde seems to be where all the dregs of society congregate money changers, con men, prostitutes and of course the place is full of all the long distance lorry drivers. Through the border is a whole different world, called Tanzania. Different people, you can see you are no longer in Central Africa and have crossed over into East Africa.