Stories

 

Zambia


From the 18th of May to the 8th of June, 2016

He shook the tree, stopped and looked right into our eyes. We stood still and held our breath while he walked away only a few meters from us. He then continued his way through the campsite before heading down the steep slope leading to the Luangwa River.

With the South Luangwa National Park just across the river, this camping spot has an exceptional location overlooking the slow flowing river with bathing hippos, basking crocodiles, playful baboons and elephants walking through the campsite. But that´s not all. Big "cats" have been walking around at night, leaving their footprints behind. The beautiful views are only topped by the even more spectacular sunsets.

    

At sunrise, we crossed the bridge leading to the national park. The animals were slowly waking up, soaking up the first sunrays. Antelopes, zebras and warthogs were grazing in the meadow side by side with baboons digging in the mud. Later groups of elephants enjoyed their afternoon mud bath. Hippos and giraffes were playing hide and seek. One hiding under the Nile cabbage, the other misjudging his height when choosing his bush hideout.

Unsure about where to go in the vast area of the national park, with countless tracks leading in all direction, we first followed some professional safari Landcruisers. They immediately brought us to a sleepy leopard which didn't seem to bother too much about the 5 cars on his back. Unlike us: we didn't want to be part of a traffic jam in the middle of the savanna, caught in the diesel cloud and fighting with the professional safari drivers for the best vantage points. So we decided to go our own ways and had the feeling of having the park to ourselves for the rest of the day. Unfortunately we missed the lions which were hiding in the only corner of the national park we didn't reach.

    

At the south western end of the country, the 1,7 kilometers wide Zambezi River falls in its full width into a narrow 100 meters deep gorge which will then lead to the even narrower Batoka Gorge.
When we were there, shortly after the wet season ended, so much water was flowing down the falls that the spray covered the scenery. Only for seconds, wind gust blew away the curtain of mist to reveal a fraction of the falls. Like many other tourist, we decided to get an aerial view of the this magnificent natural wonder. That turned out to be an amazing way to get a wider perspective. While I chose the helicopter flight (the only way to take pictures), Raphael went on a microlight (motorized hang glider). After his flight, looking at the pilot board, he recognized the name of the pilot who just flew him around. "Are you the insane guy who wrote the book about his crazy journey through Africa on motorbike?" "Yeap." Twenty years ago, the book of Heiko Held (German, meaning 'Hero') inspired Raphael for his motorbike journey to Africa.
We started talking and in the end he invited us to stay with him and his family for a few days.

    

When we were in Malawi, our plan was to continue our journey to Mozambique. But the plan changed after meeting the driver of an overlander truck. For safety reasons, they stopped going there: Over the past three months, there has been attacks on random cars driving on the main roads. Instead, we decided to go to Zambia and continue towards the western coast. In Lusaka (Zambia's capital city), we met another traveler who just drove through Mozambique. Apparently, apart from one stretch which had to be done with a police escort, the situation had gotten better. Back to 'plan A', we dropped our passports at the Embassy of Mozambique for the visa process and decided to drive back and forth to Livingstone to see the Victoria Falls. A week and 1100 kilometers later, we reached Lusaka again, picked up our passport and learned that the situation was getting worse again. In the previous two weeks, 7 civilians had been shot dead and 30 injured while driving on the very same stretch of road we would have to take. Back to 'plan B', we drove the 550 kilometers to Livingston for the third time and reached the border with Botswana...

On our way between Lusaka and Livingstone, we sneaked out of the highway to find a night spot and reached a beautiful lake just in time for sunset. Partially surrounded by forest, this place looked wild and far off any habitation. But while driving further, we discovered it was actually a private lake, fenced and surrounded by fields. Asking for permission at the farmhouse, we were warmly welcomed by Cornwell and his brother Cansius, the owners of the farm. They accepted to let us "wild camp" on their land by the lake. At night, the milky way popped up above us like a ceiling of stars. In the morning, the birds took their flight while the sun rose over the misty lake. A week later, when stopping for one more night on our way back to Lusaka, none of us expected to see each other again only 3 days later for a third time!

    

The majestic elephant gracefully making his way so close to us in Luangwa, the power of the Victoria Falls and the friendship with encountered at our little lakeside farm truly touched us.

Click here to read the following story about our journey through Botswana.

Album "Zambia - May-June 2016"

Vidéo : "South Luangwa national park - Zambia"
Vidéo : "Victoria Falls, helicopter flight - Zambia"