Sunday, 7 September 2014

The Beginning

5 Countries 2 people 1 bakkie

Duration 6 months - Departure 13 Oct 2014

South Africa
& back again

Lets see what Happens

That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run. So I ran to the end of the road. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd run to the end of town. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd just run across Greenbow County. And I figured, since I run this far, maybe I'd just run across the great state of Alabama. And that's what I did. I ran clear across Alabama. For no particular reason I just kept on going. I ran clear to the ocean. And when I got there, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well turn around, just keep on going. When I got to another ocean, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well just turn back, keep right on going. – Forrest Gump

The boring stuff
-but probably interesting to people planning a trip like us

Vehicle : 2005 Toyota Hilux 2.5 SRX 4x4

Equipment : 
  • Alu-Cab canopy with drawer system
  • Roof Rack
  • Stretchers
  • Tracks 4 Africa
  • Garmin GPS
  • Two extra Tyres + 4 new BF Goodrich All terrain Tyres
  • Howling Moon Roof top tent.
  • Tentco Combo - Dome + extension
The Rooftop to be used for a 1 night stay & the Tentco for longer stays.


  • Yellow fever injection
  • Malaria Tablets - Mefliam - to prevent you from getting Malaria
  • Coartem - in-case the above doesn't work & you have indeed got malaria
  • Travel Insurance - incase none of the above work 
  • And a whole lot of other tablets that I can't pronounce, let alone spell, that control your bowel movements
  • Extra tent - for when I snore
  • US dollars - Universally revered by all


We decided to call our trusty steed "Mzungu", she is after all white &  will be responsible for getting us to Uganda & back

Sept 2014

When we first started planning our trip, it was like looking through the wrong end of binoculars - everything seemed so far away.  Six months later we still needed to get our injections, Carnet and police clearance for Mzungu, US dollars for us & who-ever will be liberating us of them, Malaria tablets for the mozzies &  a plan to get the kitchen sink into the back of Mzungu.
 At one stage, Kenya  demanded that all  South Africans needed to obtain a visa before they arrived & they had to get  it personally, in Pretoria & it was only valid for 3 months.  This was due to a tit-for-tat political squabble with SA.  After some frantic phone calls to the Kenyan embassy, we were told very diplomatically what every embassy advises  its citizens ..... “Please Hold “.   I am now happy to say that South Africans can obtain visas at the border.
 I am also happy to say that for now we will be able to travel  safely through Mozambique.  Renamo has put down their weapons ,  joined the peace talks & said they wouldn’t target South African registered cars like the police do
Robert Magabe is a man of integrity & should be nominated to the Nobel Peace Prize & I will be travelling through his corrupt free & prosperous land soon.  I know he luvs reading blogs – luv you Bob & I hope you are reading this.  P.S. Please pass this on to your henchmen.

Early Oct 2014

They say that time moves fast when you are having fun, but I think that time is relative to amount of stuff you need to get done.  The more things you need to sort out – the less time you will have to do it in, and before you know it, you are about to leave.   In 4 days time, we will be heading into those dusty lands of Africa, where the biggest unknown, will be our naivety.  We will be saying good-bye to Robertson, for at least a year.  A town we have called home for the last 13 years.  It was 6 months ago that we decided that if a fat kid on a bike could cycle through every country in Africa,  then we could at least get to Uganda and back by car.
Good-bye, totsiens, sala kahle, kweheri every-one ….see you when we get back

South Africa

Robertson - Gariep Dam - Pretoria - Mupangubwe

It was with mixed feelings that we left Robertson on the 13 October 2014.  Glad to finally be on our way after 6 months of planning, but sad to say goodbye to Robertson Backpackers & our beloved Staffie - Floyd.  It was 8 am when we left & by the time we climbed over the Hex River Pass, the scenery had changed from the lush green of the Breede Valley to Karoo desert scrub – the vineyards were replaced by rocks and bushes.  I have travelled the N1 quite a few times, and I always seem to forget how long it is.  After Beaufort West, the “Stop & Go’s “start.  Annoying for some, but a great opportunity for us smokers.  People don’t realize that we smoke because we have to.  It is not like braaing.  Tell a South African he can’t braai on the side of the road & he will be fine – a smoker won’t.   At these breaks, Mzungu seemed to attract attention.  One bloke, translocating with his dog from De Doorns to De Aar, wanted to know where we were heading.   Uganda, we told him.  With a look of disbelief, he jumped back into his bakkie & waited for the lights to turn green.  

Sunrise from our campsite

Our first over night stop was Gariep Dam, where we spent our first 3 nights fine tuning our camping skills.  Gariep Dam is the Free States version of Still Baai or Laangebaan, with yachts lying idle in the water & boere-boroque I-have- a-million-in-the-bank houses fighting for the best view of the dam. When we arrived, there were only 3 other campers, but with 107 campsites we all had plenty of space.  The next morning, they all left and we had the whole place to ourselves.  That was until Lennie, Boetie & Sissie arrived in there Red Chinese No-Name car & set up camp right in front of us spoiling our view. During sundowners, we were forced to watch a game of badminton – not quite Olympic standards, but more amusing than expected.

Gariep is a great half- way stop between Robertson & Pretoria, our next destination, but the main reason was to sort out the packing of Mzungu.  Here are a couple of tips we learnt in the art of packing.

·         just because there is space, doesn’t mean that you need to fill it.
·         Just because you have something, doesn’t mean you need to take it
·         Do a trial run, because there will always be something, you forgot to pack, and  something you packed that you don’ t need
·         Pack your clothes & then take out half & leave it behind – you will not need it
·         When in doubt, leave it out.

Gariep Dam Campsite – Forever Resorts
Cost  -  R 90-00 pp  |   No. of days Stayed  -  3  |  Wi-Fi  -  Yes   |  Electricity Point  -  Yes
Reason for staying: Half way stop & to sort out our camping gear.
Attraction: Gariep Dam
Rating:  8/10
Comments:  Clean, friendly, well organized shady grassed sites overlooking the yacht harbor in a sheltered basin.  Only one big ablution block, quite a walk away from the water front sites. 

View from our campsite - Gariep dam

Tshipshe Camp site – Foreveresorts
Cost  -  R 195-00 pp  |   No. of days Stayed  -  1  |  Wi-Fi  -  Dubious   |  Electricity Point  -  Yes
Reason for staying: Close to Beit Bridge Border
Attraction: Hot springs
Rating:  5/10
Comments:  Expensive & unfriendly.  The staff make you feel like you are taking away their lunch hour.  There is, of course, the hot springs. The most alluring thing here after Wi-Fi, but were here for neither.  We are here to go through the dreaded Beit Bridge border Post.  After using there Wi-Fi & spending an hour trying to get onto Facebook, Beit Bridge seemed a cinch.

There were about 15 campers in 6 sites.  We all had to use one ablution block, even though there are about 9, the others were locked, so we all had to crowd around Block 6.  Half the sites around block 6 had water sprinklers on, so they couldn’t be used.  Would have given them a 2, if I wasn’t feeling so tired & had a good night’s sleep.


Zimbabwe Ruins - Gonarezhou - Chimanimani - Bvumba - Nyanga - Kotwa

 Norma Jeans, over looking Lake Mutirikwi (Kyle) 

No. Of days in Zimbabwe: 18 Days
Border Fees :  Beitbridge R 730
Average Cost per day : R 630

Milage : 2 360 km

Where have all the South Africans gone ?

“It’s an offence to have anything on your backseats, other than passengers.  ” said the policeman at one of the thousands of road blocks we were to encounter while in Zim, “so that is a $20 fine.”  I knew this was a bullshit charge.  He had walked around our car to see if all the stickers where in place, asked for the TIP, looked at my drivers license twice ( & Lyndas' who wasn't even driving), wanted see the fire extinguisher and  warning triangles & when he  couldn’t find anything wrong, invented an offence.  I tried to reason with him, but it is pretty pointless trying to argue against Mugabe logic.  “Just pay the fine & lets go “ said Lynda, fearing that I might end up in Chikarubi Prison.  Being a person who doesn't like communal showers, I paid the fine.

We had spent 5 amazing days in Gonarezhou & were on our way to Chimanimani & the Eastern Highlands. 

Gonarezhou is destined to be placed on many a South Africans bucket list. It is Game Park bordering the Kruger Park & Mozambique & makes the Kruger Park feel like a zoo.  Similar to Mana-Pools, the campsites do not have fences & the animals are free to wonder around, but unlike Mana-pools the crowds are not there & you don’t have to book a year in advance. Another thing in its favor is that it is just over the border from SA, braving the infamous Beit Bridge Border post & police road blocks being the only obstacle.

 Our campsite overlooked the Runde River and in the late afternoon, the ellies would come down to drink. The boisterous young bulls would play for hrs in the water, a welcome respite from the afternoon heat. At night you would fall asleep with the sound of elephants tearing at branches and the crashing of trees as they were pushed over.   Having elephants walking through your camp within 5 meters was something I had not experienced before.

Ellies playing in the Runde River - Chipinda Pools - Gonarezhou

The roads are well maintained, but rough.  A high clearance vehicle is essential, a 4x4 preferable.  It forces you to slow down& drive at Africa’s pace.  She is not built for speed.  If she was I would have missed the wild dogs on an impala kill and the rest of her beauty & animals she cared to show me.

Sundowners with a glass of Springfield "Life from Stone" - Campsite 2 - Chipinda Pools - Gonarezhou

Gonarezhou was not the first place we stayed at, it was Norma Jeans overlooking Lake Mutirikwi.  The reason for coming here was for the Zimbabwe Ruins.  I am not talking about the whole country, but a place where a once powerful city stood.  The dry wall structures were fascinating as our guide explained life here 500 years ago. It was hard to imagine how such a powerful an ancient city had gone to ruin, but then again, being in Zim, it wasn’t really.
It was sad to see Zim in such a state, but things are much better now I was told so many times.  It will get better when the ‘old man’ dies.  Things do seem to be getting better.  The shops are fully stocked, and you can get fuel everywhere. There is a 2 tier monetary system & you can pay for anything in either rand or dollars.  If you pay in dollars & they haven’t got change, they will give it to you in rands – confusing at first, but it works.  A lot of the campsites are old & tired & in need of a good renovation, but they are clean – some of them spotlessly clean.  The local Zimbabweans are proud, but humble people.  We were told stories of how people would walk miles to Mozambique & back, when there was no food.  One old lady told us, that they followed the monkeys around, to see what they ate & ate the same so they wouldn’t poison themselves.

Baobab Tree - Gonarezhou

Zimbabweans want & need tourists to start coming back.  In the 3 weeks we spent in Zim, we only saw 4 overlanders.  Once at Norma Jeans, once at Gonarezhou & 7 German foreigners in Bvumba Mountains on their way to Mozambique.

Tessa's Pool - Chimanimani

While hiking in the Chimanimani mountains, we met Dave from the Outward Bound Zimbabwe.  He was busy teaching locals of all age’s leader ship skills.  “If all Africans went through a place like this” he told us, “Africa would be a much better place.”  Dave was happy to see us & glad that South African Tourists were slowly starting to come back.  “Please pass the word around,” he pleaded, “We need you guys to start coming back. “  Dave was aware of the 2 biggest problems that prevented South Africans from coming over.  One was the slow chaotic confusion of beaurocracy at Beit Bridge Border post & the other was the Police road blocks & corruption.  They were working on it, he assured us.  To be quite honest, out of the hundreds of road blocks we went through – at least 5 a day, we were only fined twice.  Most of the times they were polite & waved us through.  They were stopping all cars & not targeting the South African cars like in Mozambique, but it only takes one corrupt policeman to leave a sour taste in your mouth.  Those who do adventure over will be experiencing Zimbabwe in the raw.

Ellies playing in the Runde River - Chipinda Pools - Gonarezhou

The road to nowhere

Sitting around a boiling donkey to keep warm, drinking Black Label,  Lynda and myself were having a good laugh.  How did we end up back in Nyanga Campsite after traveling about 300km in 9 hours.
  The plan, that morning was to head up north to Pumpkin Hotel – Kotwa, about 20 km from the border & then cross into Mozambique.  The distance from Nyanga to Pumpkin was about 200km, but our GPS said it would take about 4.5hrs – this had to mean a lot was dirt roads, even though Garmap said it was tar.  We broke up camp early & set off.  Going via Trout Beck, which is on top of a Plateau.  It was very misty up there & we had to drive about 30km an hr.  After descending the plateau, the scenery in Manicaland was really beautiful with the dolomite rock out crops.  The road was one of the best we had been on so-far.
 After a while the tar ended – we had about 100 km of dirt road.  In the beginning it was fine – you could see that it had recently been graded.  Then the huts and farming land got scarcer & the road got really bad, forcing us into 4x4 low at quite a few places & driving at 30km max.  When we hadn’t seen a vehicle for about 40km and the villages where no more, this should have been a warning sign.  After about 60km the biggest warning sign arrived.  Lynda spotted some small red signs that had been deliberately placed in the trees.  They were a skull & crossbones, that said “Danger Land Mines“.  We decided to push on.  We were more than half way & only had 40km to go, when it all happened.

 The road seemed to be getting better or so we thought.  I bit of pessimism I realize in retrospect, because suddenly it ended.  What lay ahead was a 500m stretch of sand and water.  Stretching between the 2 banks was a huge concrete bridge structure, with the main section missing & lying in pieces below.  This had clearly been washed away by floods & not too recently either.  Down below in the river-bed were hundreds of locals in small groups.  There was a group of 3 closest to me, then there were 2, then 1 , then none, then one more re-appeared.  I realized that all these people were mining – probably for alluvial gold.  Across the other side & so tantalizingly close we could see 2 new SUVs parked next  an old, almost dilapidated building.  We could see what looked like tyre tracks leading down into the river bed.  Neither Lynda nor myself wanted go back at this stage.  We had completed the worst & Mzungu had performed well.  Lynda pointed out the tyre tracks & suggested I go and have a look to see if we could perhaps get across.  Reluctantly, I agreed, and headed down a steep bank and started walking to the other bank.  All good so-far and if I let down my tyres , I was sure I could do it, but the river lay ahead.  From where we were on the other side, it had looked like it was possible.  All around me heads kept popping up.  Two Mzungus lost in the middle of nowhere, must have seemed an easier loot to the miners, than what they were doing.  I got to the first part of the river and walked across.  It was only about ankle deep & the sand seemed hard underfoot.  After crossing a small dune I got to the other section of river.  It was wider than the first & the other side was only about 10 meters away.  Unfortunately, between me and the other side, was a channel that I judged to be at least waist deep.   I could get across.  Lynda could get across, but there was no-way we could get Mzungu across.

When Lynda & myself first started out on this trip, we knew that things would not go to plan.  We  agreed not to panic or get cross with each other as there was always a plan B or C or D.  So with plan B now in action, we headed back to where we had come from.

Ellies playing in the Runde River - Chipinda Pools - Gonarezhou

Lyndas Favourite things.... Zimbabawe

The friendly people of Zim....even the police at the road blocks. For people who have been through so much...their endless capacity to smile and try and please is amazing.

The ellies right in our camp at Gonerezhou.

Making the best mash potato from locally grown spuds bought at the side of the road. Am done with bread and pasta.

Enjoying a Savanna bought at the Spar in has been 3 weeks since the my last one!!

Spending a morning catching up on washing (by Hand) and then having a whole pile of clean clothes to choose from...see how simple life is?

Sitting in our tent with the rain pouring down and realizing that how much I miss the thunderstorms of the Highveld
Making the best bush pancakes ever...with some squashed banana, Nutella and a tin of condensed milk....I knew those ammo boxes full of stuff would come in handy!

Jumping into my new sleeping bag on a chilly misty night in the Highlands and feeling roasty toasty.

Despite overloading on carbs (they cheap), I have still lost weight...take that Tim Noakes!

Travelling through the National parks in Zim remind me of S.A in the 70s. Things like the hot water donkey being lit every afternoon. Or the man who comes out of the hut at the gate and salutes you.

Geting upset when some tourist sets up camp so my view is ruined and thne laughing at Kevin when he says “ you don’t own Africa!.....Too true but I like to think I do!

Visitng old colonial icons like the Leopards Rock hotel and Rhodes’ old house in Nyanga which is now a museum and hotel. Despite everyting these places are still going and will hopefully be around for years to come.

Finding a bottle of the worlds best olives, homemade by Dad....thanks Dad... and realizing we need little and it is the small pleasures that make life special.

Discovering that Kevin and I have a unique and special relationship and that this is gonna be one hellava ride.....whoop whoop!!! 

Chilojo Cliffs - Gonarezhou

Nyangombe Falls - Nyanga

Campsite Report

Norma Jean’s Lake View Resort & Campsite - Zimbabwe
Cost  -  R 90-00 pp  |   No. of days Stayed  -  2  |  Wi-Fi  -  Yes   |  Electricity Point  -  Yes
Reason for staying: To visit the Zimbabwe Ruins
Attraction: Zimbabwe ruins
Rating:  9/10
Comments:  The campsite is tucked away on a hill in an indigenous forest overlooking Lake Mutirikwi.  It is & quite, clean, friendly and has well organized shady sites.  Ablution blocks are new & spotless. 

Norma Jeans

Gonarezhou - Zimbabwe
Cost  -  R 215-00 pp +a R110 car entry|   No. of days Stayed  -  5  |  Wi-Fi  -  No   |  Electricity Point  -  No
Reason for staying: Gonarezhou National Park
Attraction: National Park
Rating:  9/10
Comments:  Amazing Camp site – Camp not fenced off – had elephants every day & night in the campsite.  Great view over the Runde River, with elephants bathing.  Did not even need to leave the camp for game viewing. Each site has its own thatch roof boma and a braai. Firewood for sale @ $5.  Would have given it a 10 out of ten. But the ablutions were not cleaned every day and although we were the only ones there…the wild life does leave its mark as in bat droppings and frogs etc.  We stayed at camp 2.  Best camps 2 & 3.  3 had more shade but was quite far from the ablutions.  Camp 9 was also very good with lots more shade was right next door & overlooked the tented camps – not as private as the others.

Camp 2 @ Gonarezhou

Heavens Lodge - Chimanimani
Cost  -  R 50 pp |   No. of days Stayed  -  2  |  Wi-Fi  -  Yes   |  Electricity Point  -  No.  Can use electricity from the lodge
Reason for staying : Chimanimani Mountains
Attraction : Hiking
Rating :  7/10
Comments :  Chimanimani has had it hard.  In 2000 the hurricane off Mozambique devastated the area, washing away roads & bridges, restricting access to the mountains.  About the same time Mugabe started the land grabs & tourists stopped coming to Zim.  Sadly Chimanimani  started down the slippery slope into decline.  Like a prom queen, who has fallen on hard times, her real beauty still remains.  For 10 years,  people like Alan from Heavens lodge stayed behind.  With no tourist & very little income in the area, they were forced to cut back and let staff go. So who are the winners in all this?
But  things are starting to look a bit better now with tourists slowly starting to trickle back & he is busy trying to bring the lodge back to its former glory.  Dave from Outward Bound Zimbabwe  is working hard to encourage people back to the area – especially South Africans.  There are some great hikes in the area.  Dave was very accommodating , in letting us hike down to Tessa’s Pool on the Outward Bound Property to spend the afternoon there. No charge.

Hivu Nursery/ Hycroft Lodge – Bvumba
Cost  -  R 80 pp/ R 100 pp on weekends |   No. of days Stayed  -  3  |  Wi-Fi  -  No   |                  Electricity Point  -  No.  Can use electricity from the lodge
Reason for staying : Bvumba Mountains
Attraction : Hiking & Botanical Gardens
Rating :  8/10
Comments :  I really liked this place.  The people were friendly & the security guard Godfrey, had to be one of the nicest person I’ve met.  Even though there is not much shade, it does not get very hot up there & in the mornings the hills are shrouded in mist.  Campers have use of the upstairs lodge, which has electricity, gas stoves, fridge & all cooking utensils - more like a backpackers.  It is a great place to get away from the summer heat .  With the indigenous forest, it felt more like being in Tsitsikamma than in Zim.  We didn’t go to the botanical gardens – the $10pp entry fee was not in the budget.  We hiked down to Leopards Rock Hotel.  This iconic nipple pink Hotel reeks of a bygone era.  It was a favorite of the late Queen Mother and Princess Diana – we can always pretend.  Tonys' coffee house was quite expensive.  R 60 for a bottomless cappuccino.  But it was one of the best coffees I’ve tasted.

Mare/Nyanga Caravan/campsite - Nyanga
Cost  -  R 80 pp camping – R 100 once off car entry – R 80 pp once off  Park Fee |                                No. of days Stayed  -  4      |  Wi-Fi  -  No   |          Electricity Point  - Yes
Reason for staying : Nyanga Park
Attraction : Hiking & waterfalls & natural swimming pools
Rating :  8/10
Comments :  The 4 days we spent here, we had the place to ourselves, except for 1 night.  Like the rest of Zimbabwe’s campsites, the ablutions are old & tired, due to lack of funds, but they were clean & working.  We never lacked for anything – power points, braai area & plenty of free wood.  Every night a fire would be lit under the donkey & we had hot showers.  Six hundred meters from the campsite, is a big natural swimming pool, with a sandy beach.  We drove to Nyangombe Falls.  A 4km 4x4 road & then a short hike to the falls.  The falls are a beautiful series of cascading waterfalls, with secluded pools.  Once again we had the whole place to ourselves.  Not too far from the campsite & within walking distance is Cecil Rhodes’ summer house.  This is now a museum & Hotel - $2 pp entry fee – well worth it.


Pumpkin Hotel - Kotwa
Cost  -  R150pp      |        No. of days Stayed  -  1      |  Wi-Fi  - Yes   |          Electricity Point  -No
Reason for staying : Close to the Zim\Moz. Border through to Tete.

Comments :  I think it would be unfair to rate this place.  If there ever was a place that had been hard hit by the Zim situation this is it.  The cottages/Chalets  were in what was clearly a landscaped garden – but the buildings were needing repairs.  I had e-mailed them about camping & they had replied with costs.  When we arrived the camp site almost but didn’t exist – I suppose with the little amount of income they receive, the maintenance of the camp site would be the last  thing on their minds.  The staff were extremely friendly and hospitable – something that was common through-out Zim.  They tried to persuade us to take a room, but we were on a budget.  When they realized that we only had money for camping, they told us it was our lucky day & they were upgrading us to a ensuite bungalow, with air-con, fridge & TV.  What they could control, they excelled at and put all their effort into.  The tables were all laid with white starched table cloth, and serviettes  were all folded in a fancy shapes,  with polished cutlery – but nobody to dine.  The rooms were clean and well serviced, but were all empty.  I went to have a look at what I presumed was the campsite. The ablution block was falling down & definitely not in operation.  It was next to a pool, that must have been rocking in its heyday.  The large kidney shaped pool flowed into  a thatched Bar area & I could imagine guests swimming onto the bar for a cocktail, without having to get out of the water.  Unfortunately, there was no water, except a green puddle in the deep ends.  All the light fittings were removed & there were holes were the water jets once were.  Even the fountain at the deep end had been taken apart.  It was so sad to see the staff  trying their utmost to keep the place running with a lack of income.  They seemed very apologetic, for something that was beyond their control & clearly not their fault.  When we had settled in, they came with bottled water, as it was extremely hot.  There was no electricity, so the aircon or fridge wasn’t in operation.  When we wanted internet, they put the generator on for an hr.  It was the best internet reception we had since leaving SA.  The electricity only came back on at 9am, by that time we were in bed.  Like with the rest of the places we stayed at, I really hope things get better for them.  They could definitely teach South Africa something about hospitality.

Pumpkin Hotel


Chicamba - Cahora Bassa Dam

No. Of days in Mozambique : 4 Days
Border Fees :  Nyamapanda (Tete) -  R 728
Average Cost per day : R 840

Milage : 550 km

Cahora Bassa Dam

Cahora Bassa Dam wall

Campsite Report

Ugezi Lodge - Mozambique

Cost  -   R 140 pp                        No. of days Stayed  -  3      |  Wi-Fi  -  Yes   |          Electricity Point  - Yes
Reason for staying: Cahora Bassa Dam
Attraction: Tiger Fishing
Rating:  6/10

Comments:  If I was staying in one of the bungalows, I might have given this place an 8/10.  The bar area & restaurant was great, with nice views onto Cahora Bassa and its islands.  The campsite felt like an after-thought.  Tucked away behind the maintenance shed, near a smoldering rubbish dump.  Short & sweet, the camping was way over priced.

Ugezi Tiger Lodge


Blantyre - Mulange Massif - Zomba Plateau - Liwonde - Palm Beach - Cape Mc Clear - Senga Bay - Nkhotakota - Ngala Beach - Makuzi Beach - Nhkata Bay - Mkondowe - Livingstonia - Sangilo

No. Of days in Malawi : 28 Days
Border Fees :  Zobue/Mwanza  R 660
Average Cost per day : R 453
Milage : 1 746 km

The rare & shy Sykes Monkey - Mulanges

Tobacco, Tobacco everywhere, but not a leaf to smoke.

I had started to run low on Tobacco.  Let me tell you nobody wants to be in my company when I get the cravings and can’t get nicotine.  I am more irritable than Julius Malema with a bunch of English journalists.  In Zimbabwe, where tobacco is grown, they only sold cigarettes, but no rolling tobacco.  The same in Blantyre, so when there, I decided to make a serious effort to get hold of some.  Once again, there were only cigarettes for sale, but more interesting, they also sold Rizla papers.  At the lake where the backpackers hang-out, you will find notes on the signboards saying “Hi, I am from England & am currently in jail for carrying drugs.  I really need someone to talk to.”  Some unfortunate dude had exchanged a couple of hours of Malawi Gold bliss, for 6 months of dull scenery & communal showers.  If Malawi is trying to clamp down on their biggest export, then why are they selling Rizlas, but no tobacco.  I tried to think of all the different uses for Rizla, but could only think of two.

Zomba used to be the capital of Malawi before Banda decided to move it to Lilongwe.  Zomba Plateau towering above the town is where people go to get high without being chemically impaired.  The cool altitudes are reached by a winding road.  We came here after hiking the Mulanje Mountains, to do some more hiking.  There are suppose to be some great walks through the Pine forests, with Queens View & Emperors View overlooking the town towards Mulanjes, Mozambique & beyond, but it was like playing darts blindfolded.  The mist had rolled in so thick, you couldn’t see the moisture dripping off your eyelashes.  Young maidens could have been bathing in the stream that ran past our campsite & we wouldn’t have seen them.  We had two days of this.  So what does one do in this kind of weather ?  Light a fire?  Blow the budget & drink Carlsberg?  See how many uses there are for Rizla?  We did all of the above.

Tea Estate at Mulanje Mountains

Zomba Plateau

Sunset - Cape Mc Clear

Cape Mc Clear
Campsite report

Karo O' Mula - Mulanges

Karo O’ Mula
Cost  -   R 115 pp                        No. of days Stayed  -  6      |  Wi-Fi  -  Yes   |       Electricity Point  - NO Reason for staying: Malanges Massive
Attraction: Hiking
Rating:  6/10
Comments : The place was really great.  Pool Bar, swimming pool & the camping area on grass, with lots of shade under magnificently huge trees.  Unfortunately they are not yet geared up for campers & should  have of charged accordingly.  There was no electicity, washing up area, taps near the camp area & the mens ablution was unusable.  Using the ladies wouldn’t have been a problem, except the place gets quite busy especially on the weekends.  The 2 campsites, were also slap-bang in the middle of the pool area.  This meant rowdy people drinking & thumping music till late at night.

A misty Trout Farm Campsite - Zomba Plateau

Trout Farm – Zomba Plateau
Cost  -   R 32 pp               No. of days Stayed  - 3      |  Wi-Fi  -  No   |       Electricity Point  - No
Reason for staying:  Zomba Plateau
Attraction: Hiking
Rating:  8/10

Comments :  Extremely good value for money.  If you want to get away from the African heat for a few days this is the place to go.  I was here 20 yrs ago & the weather conditions were exactly the same.  The plateau & forests were shrouded in mist.  The toilets & showers are a days hike away from the camping area, but hey, did I not come here to hike ?

Bushmans Baobab Lodge & campsite

Bushmens Baobab - Liwonde
Cost  -   R 85 pp             No. of days Stayed  -  3      |  Wi-Fi  -  No   |       Electricity Point  - No
 Reason for staying: Liwonde National Park & the Shire River
Attraction: : Liwonde National Park & the Shire River
Rating:  9/10
Comments :  An amazing campsite adjacent to the Park & over looking the Shire River

Nkopola Campsite

Nkopola Campsite - Mangochi

Cost -   R 109 pp             No. of days Stayed - 1      |  Wi-Fi  -  No   |       Electricity Point  - Yes
 Reason for staying: Half way stop between Liwonde & Cape Mc Clear
Attraction: This I where they have the Lake of stars festival, otherwise none
Rating:  5/10

Comments:  This is where the Lake of Stars Festival is held & it is what a place would look like after a rave.  I don’t know why we stopped here, should have pushed onto Cape Mc Clear.  Place is run down & grubby.  The lake was not much better.  The only thing going for it is that you can use the pool at no charge at Sunbird, which is about 1 km walk down the beach or a 3 km drive – a necessity, because I wouldn’t swim in that part of the lake.

Nkopola Campsite - Mangochi

Chembe Eagles Nest
Cost  -   R 105 pp             No. of days Stayed  -  4      |  Wi-Fi  -  Hotspot   |       Electricity Point  - Yes
 Reason for staying :  Cape Mc Clear
Attraction: : diving & snorkling
Rating:  8/10

Comments :  When we arrived, we knew that this place was owned & run by a South African who has done some camping in his life.  Everything a camper needs & wants was there.  Shady grassed patch with power points, braai, clean ablutions, washing up area conveniently situated, friendly & welcoming staff & right near the lake with great views.  The owner told us they would be putting in a pool next year.  This will really make this place attractive, as the north eastern & middle part of the lake in Cape Mc Clear has become quite dirty, with lots of bags, plastics & other floaties, which doesn’t make swimming there very attractive.

Sunset @ Cape Mc Clear

Steppes Camp site  -  Senga bay
Cost  -   R 60 pp             No. of days Stayed  -  3      |  Wi-Fi  -  Hotspot   |       Electricity Point  - Yes
 Reason for staying: Chill out by the lake
Attraction: Lake Malawi
Rating:  8/10
Comments :  This campsite is run by the Sunbird Lodge & is value for money.  It is situated at the end of a long road & has its own private beach with golden sands.  Being quite a distance from the village, the water is clear and unpolluted.  The place is shady & spotlessly clean.  Every morning they sweep the beach sand.  It does, however, come with a warning.  It is open to day visitors & on the weekends, be prepared for loud, noisy locals playing there Doff-Doff music at maximum volume.  We arrived on a Friday & every day- visitor had music blaring from their car.  The staff were extremely friendly & helpful & sympathized with the situation.  They allowed us & other over-night campers to use the old campsite, which was between the lodge & the new campsite.  Despite this weekend  irritancy, I would still recommend this campsite.  We had a look at another campsite in the area & this was definitely the better option.

View from our campsite at Steppes

Makuzi Lodge & campsite
Cost  -   R 115 pp             No. of days Stayed  -  4      |  Wi-Fi  - Yes - free   |       Electricity Point  - Yes
 Reason for staying: Chill out by the lake
Attraction: : Lake Malawi
Rating:  10/10
Comments :  There is no such thing as perfect paradise, but this place comes pretty close.

View of Makuzi Lodge & campsite

Lukwe Lodge & campsite - Livingstonia
Cost  -   R 77 pp             No. of days Stayed  -  2      |  Wi-Fi  -No   |       Electricity Point  - No
 Reason for staying: Livingstonia
Attraction: Lofty views of Lake Malawi & Livingstonia town
Rating:  08/10
Comments :  This green  eco- campsite might not be every-ones cup of tea, but you have to admire the owners for what they have done.  The campsite is spotlessly clean & you can’t help but noticing the attention to detail.

Bar at Lukwe Lodge & campsite
 Mikoma Lodge - Karonga
Cost  -   R 115 pp             No. of days Stayed  - 1      |  Wi-Fi  - Hotspot   |       Electricity Point  - Yes

 Reason for staying: Border Crossing
Attraction:  Close to Songa Border
Rating:  7/10
Comments :  This turned out to be a rather pleasant overnight camp.  It doesn’t really have an official campsite, but they allow you to camp on the beach or next to a chalet.    They opened up a chalet for us & we had full use of it. Showers, toilet, electricity, air-con & a TV with sound & no picture


Bongo Camp - Iringa - Ruaha - Iringa - Bagamoyo - Lushoto - Kilimanjaro - Dar Es Salaam - Zanzibar - Kilwa

Africa is burning, but help is on the way.

First we had Bobby Geldof, then we had Bono trying to save Africa.  Now we have every American that sets his foot on this continent, believing that they can do the same.  The difference is that these self-interested do-gooders, who have only realized where Africa is on the global map, want to refurbish the whole of Africa – ala American style.  So what do they do ?  They pay a fortune to a volunteer company  in America, so they can come out here & save the dying.  They each pay an amount equivalent to what 5 small schools or a small hospital would cost.  Mother Teresa did it the hard way.  We see them  driving around in the biggest flashiest SUVs that money can buy & having a holiday of a life time. Staying in the most luxurious accommodation & spending the equivalent of what an average African earns in a year on a boozy lunch. They say that $6 out of $10 goes to the people organizing these programs, the remainder goes to pay for some elites gold bathroom fittings & the starving kids still have flies in their eyes. Then they go back home & the only thing they have done, is create a lot of paper-work. They now know where Africa is, but still have no clue what it is about & Africans are no better off.

So where am I going with this story ?  Well firstly, I have to set the scene.  We were camping in Rauha National  Park in Southern Tanzania.  This is not Serengeti  or Ngorogoro crater, where the tourists outnumber the mosquito by 10 to 1.  This off the beaten track – 110 km’s off to be precise, of rough corrugated 4x4 dirt roads.  Here the lions don’t roar for the camera & when you  come upon a great sighting, the chances are that you will have it to yourselves.  No Germans in khaki or stadium seated safari vehicles photo bombing your pictures.  We stayed at Public campsite No. 1.  There is only one camp site,  they haven’t got around to building No. 2.  It is on the banks of the Rauha River & what an idyllic spot.  Below our camp was a raft of hippos  burping & grunting in the muddy river.  There was only one other vehicle and they were friendly & camping at a bend in the river behind some trees, so it was as if we had the place to ourselves.  There are no fences & the Eliies often cross over to wonder through the camp.  At night we would  hear the lions roaring on the other side & the laughing hyenas reminded us that this was rough camping at its best.  Later that afternoon, some dark clouds had started to build up on the horizon, but it was all piss and wind like the barbers cat.  A light sprinkling & it cleared up into a magnificent sunset.

 At about 7pm, we had just eaten dinner, cracked open our first Kilimanjaro Beer & lit the fire, when we heard a vehicle racing towards the camp.  At first I thought it was one of the rangers, as you were supposed to be in camp by 6 & the speed limit is 50.  A kitted green Land rover came roaring past in a cloud of dust & proceeded to the next camp site about 300m away.  We couldn’t see them, but I heard them do 3 high speed circuits around their camp before opening, then slamming their doors & noisily setting up camp.  Ten minutes later we heard what sounded like the packing up of camp, more slamming of doors & the landy raced towards our camp again.  As an after-thought, it abruptly stopped.  A well fed bloke jumped out & strode towards us.  When he saw me, he stopped and shouted  “Are you going to have that fire burning all night ?” in a nasal American  twang.  Not the traditional African greeting of“ Good evening”, “Hullo”, “Howzit” or “Jumbo”, but “Are you going to have that fire burning all night ?” 

Now how does one reply when being thrown such an unexpected question ?   “ Yes, we are trying to keep the lions from marauding our camp ?” or  “ No!  We are using it for lighting so we can climb into our tent – Just give us a couple of secs ?”

“Well not all night” I replied honestly & waited for a reply.

“ Your smoke is coming into our camp” he said. 

Unbelievably in Africa, smoke does tends to drift downwind,  as I am convinced it does in the rest of the world.  We had set up camp hours before they arrived & I hadn’t realised they owned the camp like they do the rest of the world.  Their camp was 300m away, surrounded by bush.  The fire was a small atmosphere fire, for Lynda & myself.  What smoke did manage to reach them, would have smelt like an angel farting in the wind to most Africans.

“Yesss ……and the problem is ????”

“I hate to see Africa burn!!!” he said & stormed off in search our another campsite upwind & beyond the other campers.

All was quite for a while between Lynda & myself, then we began to laugh at the absurdity of the whole situation.  They want to be in Africa, but they don’t won’t Africa to be in them.
Later that night, he came around again, but this time not to throw us some more trivial pursuit questions, but to apologize.  “I’m not used to public campsites “ was his excuse for his rude and obnoxious behavior.
Well that explains that & thanks for gracing us with your presence my honorable friend.  I am sure you are doing admirable things by just being here.  We should all be eternally grateful & may you continue to save Africa on your terms. Sorry you have to mingle with us public plebs. I just hope the real Africa doesn’t get too close and taint you.

Lynda asked him if he had had a bad day.  “No” he said, he had had quite a good day.  Well thanks for trying to spoil ours, but I am sure you don’t care.  Just like you don’t really care about Africa.  It is all about you & what you can brag about to your friends and family.

“Being born in Africa is the best thing that ever happened to me.”

PS .  Later that night the wind changed to the opposite direction & the friendly campers braaied till 11 that night.  Africa belongs to nobody & no one said it would be easy

 Firefly - Bagamoyo

 Firefly - Bagamoyo

 Fishermen & Dhows - Bagamoyo

 Fishermen & Dhows - Bagamoyo

 Dhows - Bagamoyo


 Fishermen - Bagamoyo


 Sunrise at fishing village - Bagamoyo

Zanzibarian Door - Bagamoyo



Fishing village - Bagamoyo

Lushoto - Usambara Mountains 

Lushoto - Usambara Mountains

 Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro

Campsite Report

Farm House - Iringa
Cost  -   R 75 pp             No. of days Stayed  - 3       |  Wi-Fi  - Yes - free   |       Electricity Point  - Yes
 Reason for staying: Stop over
Attraction: Iringa
Rating:  8/10
Comments :  Great place to stop over.  Has everything a camper might need. Value for money.

Rob & Angie Allanby & their 2 sons@ Iringa Farm House.  We ket on bumping into them from Malawi to Tanzania.

Chogela campsite
Cost  -   R 115 pp             No. of days Stayed  -  1      |  Wi-Fi  - No   |       Electricity Point  - No
 Reason for staying: Just outside Ruaha National Park
Attraction: : Ruaha National Park
Rating:  7/10
Comments :  Not a bad campsite.  We had a look at another one close by & this was definitely the best option.  Lots of space under large shaded trees on a sandy, but clean ground.   Ablutions were a bit tired.  I do think they are over charging & capitalizing on the Ruaha National Parks expensive camping fees, which are 3 times the cost. 

Chogela Campsite

Ruaha National Park campsite
Cost  -   R 920 pp including car fees & entry fee for 24 hrs            No. of days Stayed  - 1      |
 Wi-Fi  - No   |       Electricity Point  - No
 Reason for staying: Ruaha National Park
Attraction: : Ruaha National Park
Rating:  10/10
Comments :  Absolutely loved this place.  Rough camping at its best.  No electricity.  No Wi-Fi.  No fences & right  on the banks of the Ruaha River.  Lions roaring & hyenas laughing on the far bank.  Hippos grunting in a pool below & ellies wondering through the camp – what more could you ask for.  Just one thing.  Please lower your rates for South Africans & SADC countries.  We don’t earn dollars or euro’s.  Would have definitely stayed longer if the cost wasn’t so exorbitant & out of our budget.  Having said that, it is one of the cheaper parks in Tanzania to visit.  You don’t get the crowds or German tourist photo bombing your pictures, in fact if you came upon a great sighting, you would probably be the only ones there.  Not teaming with wild life, but I suppose we are spoilt with that down South. Definitely a great place to visit & highly recommended.

Ruaha Campsite

River-side campsite
Cost  -   R 115 pp             No. of days Stayed  - 2      |  Wi-Fi  - Suppose to be   |       Electricity Point  - Not really
 Reason for staying: Stop over from Ruaha National Park
Attraction: : None
Rating:  5/10
Comments :  This place has definitely lost its mojo.

Tan\Swiss campsite
Cost  -   R 115 pp             No. of days Stayed  -  1      |  Wi-Fi  - Yes - free   |       Electricity Point  - Yes
 Reason for staying: Convenient stop over on the way North or South
Attraction: : Mikumi National Park
Rating:  6/10

Comments :  Nothing special about the campsite, but it was functional as a stopover point.  In its favour it had fast & free Wi-Fi & a swimming pool.

Firefly - Bagamoyo
Cost  -   R 60 pp             No. of days Stayed  -  5      |  Wi-Fi  - Not yet   |       Electricity Point  - No
 Reason for staying: Coastal Town
Attraction: The old Town ( think smaller version of Stone Town – Zanzibar)
Rating:  10/10
Comments :   This was a hidden gem that one always hopes of finding when travelling.  They hadn’t quite finished with the campsite when we arrived, but they were kind enough to let us camp and use all the facilities.  We were told that the campsite would be ready in the new year.  The main house & accommodation is a large, airy Swahili mansion, which the owner had taken 2 years to repair &  renovate.  There is a large round swimming pool in the courtyard surrounded by palm trees.  There are scatter cushions and lounging seats which gives the place a very Bohemian/Zanzibarian feel about it.  Moroccan lamps are hung up in intimate alcoves.  The camping area is a large grassy area with a few trees & extends down to the beach.  A high palm woven fence surrounds the property.  The old town of Bagamoyo deserves a mention, this was one of my favorite towns on the mainland. Loved this place.

Firefly - Bagamayo

Irente Biodiversity Lodge & camping - Lushoto
Cost  -   R 70 pp             No. of days Stayed  -  2      |  Wi-Fi  - No   |       Electricity Point  - No
 Reason for staying: Usambara Mountains & cool climate
Attraction: hiking the Usambara mountains
Rating:  7/10
Comments : The cool and lofty heights of Usambara mountains are a great relief from the dry, hot & dusty plains below.  The small campsite is on a working farm & you can buy homemade jams, butter & some of the best cheeses I’ve tasted.

Views from the top of Usambara Mountains - a short walk from the campsite

Coffee Tree Campsite - Marangu
Cost  -   R 290 for a bungalow with veranda             No. of days Stayed  - 4       |  Wi-Fi  - No   |       Electricity Point  - No
 Reason for staying: Mount Kilimanjaro – spent Xmas here
Attraction : Mount Kilimanjaro
Rating:  8/10
Comments :  Even though they are called a campsite, it is not really a campsite, you just pitch your tent on a small lawn in front of the bungalows.  But why camp here when you can use their small but clean bungalows at a very reasonable rate.  Value for money.

A short walk takes you to these views of Mount Kilimanjaro

Peponi - Pangani
Cost  -   R 102 pp             No. of days Stayed  -  6      |  Wi-Fi  - Yes - expensive   |       Electricity Point  - Yes
 Reason for staying: Beach & new years
Attraction: : Beach
Rating:  10/10
Comments :  This destination campsite came highly recommended & it didn’t disappoint.  The campsite is right next to the beach in prime position.  With a lot of places Tanzania that offer camping, you are relegated to the back of the property as an after- thought.  But not at Peponi.  There is a swimming pool, 2 bars & they have amazing seafood platters& food in the restaurant at very reasonable prices.  My only complaint was the Wi-Fi, which was ludicrously expensive & inexplicably chewed up your gigs at an alarming rate.  We were told  by management this was unique to us, but after speaking to a few campers found this was a common complaint.  Tip Next door to Peponi is Capricorn Resort.  They have a delicatessen & make fresh bread every day (9am) – they also have free Wi- Fi.

Peponi Campsite

Makardi – Kigamboni ( Dar Es Salaam)
Cost  -   R 80 pp             No. of days Stayed  -  4      |  Wi-Fi  - Yes    |       Electricity Point  - Yes
 Reason for staying: Convenient starting point to get to Zanzibar
Attraction: : Dar Es Salaam & the beaches
Rating:  8/10
Comments :  This popular campsite has a bit of a Train Station feel about it, with lots of people coming and going.  A lot of people use this as a base for getting to Zanzibar.  You can leave your vehicle here for R 50 a day, while visiting Zanzibar.  There is a swimming pool & lively bar & restaurant.  It is on the South Side of the river.  They organize Tuk-Tuks when going to the ferry. 

Makardi Beach. The campsite is behind the cottages

Msemo Hotel  ( Southern Cross Hotel) - Mtwara
Cost  -   R 80 pp   |             No. of days Stayed  -  1   |           Wi-Fi  - Yes – Suppose to have   |     
 Electricity Point  - No
 Reason for staying: Border crossing into Moz
Attraction: : Border Town
Rating:  7/10

Comments :  A lot of expats working on the gas fields use this Hotel & its bar and restaurant is quite popular.  Great sea front position.  They allow camping, but it is very basic.  You use the restaurant toilet & there is an outdoor shower that exposes you to any-one walking past.  Not bad for a border town stop-over

At Msemo Hotel, they allowed us to camp on the lawn