Updated: Oct 22, 2021
BLOG POST #32
(This is a long one so grab a big cup of coffee and enjoy being transported into a few days of life of the 4ina4x4 family x)
I lie here at 4am in our tent and listen to the sounds of the bush. ….
Little night bugs chirp and rattle their sounds, the wind gently blows the leaves in the tree above us, some little antelope quietly chews its grass, the stars shine brightly in the black cloak of the sky but to the one side the darkness becomes a bit brighter. A puku buck whistles it’s distinctive call. We lie here on the banks of another iconic African river- The Kafue.
Since my last blog where we were in southern Malawi at Majete game reserve (sleeping in a hide I think!) we have covered a lot of miles…..
We laugh about how much we sometimes fit into a day. Much more than we would contemplate back home. Our departure day from Majete was a good example of a FULL day. We woke up at about 4am in the hide by the waterhole having not much sleep the night before. Over tea and rusks we quietly watched the waterhole come alive. Packed up our bedding and paraphernalia went past another waterhole close by then went back to the official campsite and packed up our tent and our stuff which we had spread out everywhere . A Quick shower, then hit the road at 8:30am. Stopped in Blantyre (after 3 hours drive) to do a quick grocery top up shop (Sunday we have now learnt is NOT a good shopping day in Africa. It is chaos!!!) after an hour and a half we emerged and left the far too busy town and headed towards Liwonde Game reserve another 3 odd hour drive away. Stopped at steers for lunch. What a treat. Arrived at Liwonde in the seriously baking hot dry dusty afternoon. Went to look at one campsite(Liwonde safari) but had no shade so proceeded to the next door one. Bushmans Baobab was also very run down but at least had a shade lappa we could squeeze our trailer under , an ice cold pool and a viewing deck. After camp set up and an icy swim we enjoyed another gorgeous African sunset over another African river! Then it was obviously fire and supper cooking time, watching the quiet Ellie a few meters from our tent then finally bed! That was all in one day!! And to be honest this has become normal. We don’t panic about too long drives or absolutely NO padkos. I used to be so good about having a full snack box for kids and us. But with time and limited sources that snack box now sits empty in the boot of the car! (My poor deprived kids!!!!)
Liwonde lies to the south of lake Malawi. The game reserve follows the river and being the dry season the game is all found along the river. It is such a different reserve to Majete and in itself has so many diverse habitats. From dry dusty plains, to swampy areas along the river banks , to park like forest areas, to termite mound areas, to huge baobabs, to palm trees ….it is a very pretty reserve. We had the most incredible sighting of 6 cheetah,out on the open plains, who made a kill. Oh my word the excitement of seeing this absolutely majestic animal take off at full sprint after a male impala was mind blowing. Interestingly only the one cheetah actually made the hunt. Very little “team work” was involved. At some stages you cheering the cheetah but also quietly wishing the impala to run a little faster. But the cheetah won. What amazed us was how calmly and slowly the remaining 5 cheetah sauntered up to the kill. They even had a little dib at the other antelope still mulling around, but as I have now learnt cheetah can only attack/kill from behind (ie by chasing an animal from behind). In my 43 years I have only seen 2 actual real life kills- from the hunt to the actual kill. Our kids are beyond blessed to have seen these 2 kills at their ages.
After Liwonde we headed back to the lake to the well know Cape Maclear lying on the southern shores of the lake. We stayed at Chembe Eagles nest which is a gorgeous campsite (and lodge) on the sand under the trees in the very corner of the bay. This allowing you privacy from the hassling local people. And also a relief from the overpowering STINK of drying fish in the village nearby. We spent a few chilled days here doing not much besides swimming in the pool. (Crocodiles in lake), did a little boat trip to the islands and went to dinner with an American family we had met in Majete. We loved cape Mac but our best lake spot is still most definitely Nkhata bay!
From cape Mac we drove to Lilongwe where we stayed a night with my brides maids very good friends, Shanie and Simon. This is another family who didn’t know us, but welcomed us into their home, fed and spoilt us and helped with advice on so many places and things. Once again blow away by people’s amazing kindness x
The next day was another jam packed day. Up early and waited for the doctor to arrive to do our covid tests. He eventually arrived an hour late but we couldn’t complain as he kindly came to the house we were staying at so saved us the trouble of finding him! After that we needed to get the leaf spring clamp (?) re-welded on our car. Then it was another grocery shop before heading to Zambia. Thankfully the covid test (RT-PCR) is much quicker to process and we had our results in a few hours. After a few issues with downloading them and printing them we were on our way to the border.
African border posts we have come to expect take around 3-4 hours. God, once again, must have been smiling down on us and we got through both borders in an unheard of 1 hour!!! We had aimed to spend the night at the Protea Hotel at the border town of Chipata where we had stayed twice before in Feb but sadly their prices are no longer “covid friendly” and we decided to drive a further 2 hours to Wildlife camp at south luangwa. Oh, this is after getting our SIM card sorted as wasn’t working. It was now 5pm and 2 hours to go…. But we did it and just in time as a massive storm came through about 8 mins after our tent was up! Won’t lie this is not ideal and at moments during the drive in the pitch dark I knew we would be setting up in a camp where we knew predators roamed at night, plus the storm brewing. Mild stress after a long day…..
BUT I had the absolute joy to wake up the next morning, on my birthday, in a favourite place - the banks of the Luangwa river. What a birthday treat!
Luangwa was a completely different river and park to the soggy emerald green bush we had experienced earlier in the year (February). The river had shrunk in size and the boggy areas were now bone dry. Roads we had no chance of going on where now open and so we had massive new areas to explore. We had amazing leopard and wild dogs sightings. Dev and I both commented that even though the reserve was “smaller” due to limited road access in summer we preferred this emerald green animal packed experience.
We were so lucky to once again bump into Omri and Adele who have also been overlanding this year and who we met in SL in February as they were the only other campers in our campsite! We hosted them and a French family for a camp dinner at our tent and had a great evening swooping stories and adventures.
Leaving the Luangwa we did the challenging “escarpment crossing” which everyone said we would not be able to do with our trailer and heavy load. But we made it - through the tsetse fly infested low lying areas, over the rickety submerged stick bridge and up the hour long rocky hair pin bend pass up the escarpment - in 1st gear-low range-diff lock the whole way. I even drove half of it up with amazing teaching and encouragement from Dev the whole way. So awesome conquering your fears!
We had a quick wonderful soul filing, heart warming stop with a friends the Stones in Mkhushi and met some of their amazing friends. Josh was asked for his autograph from someone who has been following our journey - Precious child was so taken aback he said he didn’t have one yet!!!!
From there we had a long days drive across to Kafue NP in the west of Zambia. We spent 2 days outside the park just gathering our thoughts and having a complete “down-day” after a busy past few weeks.
The sky has now turned a crimson pink, new bird calls are heard and baboons start their morning ritual of barking & shouting and the kids start waking ……. A new day begins for our journey ….. And Kafue park beckons- a new place for us to explore and experience.
We will head to the northern most section - The Busanga Plains, where apparently at this time of year the game in teaming! This area is completely underwater from Nov - May!!! But not just sloshy water…..under under meters of water.
We are very excited to see it ………
Love Katie x