(68) To the waterfall and beyond
Monday 29th July
We both woke from strange dreams in the campsite (which we can no longer blame on the anti-malerials we were taking!) and still feeling tired the sun was just rising. With all our things not in their right place it was going to take a bit longer to pack. We finally got the bikes loaded and sat and had breakfast. We had said goodbye to Yang and Du a couple of days earlier as they were staying with friends in the city – they were heading to Zimbabwe. We spoke to a few friendly guests who were staying at the hostel before squeezing in the last of the mountain of food we had brought into our food bag. In fact we probably could have fed a small village. We still had to go to the supermarket as we had forgotten coffee so after a short trip we were off along the busy highway heading south for Livingstone.
Shaz on the busy highway
Our first town on the way was Kafu which had a large river running through it. A young guy rode alongside us and we asked how far it was to the town. He replied 100 km (64 miles). Tim replied don’t you mean 10 km? He said yes. The same happened with a gorge also on the way. The guy told us it was 900 km and Tim said don’t you mean 90 km? Once again, the answer was ‘yes’! Think we’ll stick to the map! Just before the town we rode through some ‘burning off’ of scrub-land and had to take a deep breath!
Sharon was feeling tired so after reaching the river we pulled over and cooked lunch on the grass next to the water. While we ate the tasty noodles sent from home, we watched a couple of fishermen in a dugout canoe paddle around in a large circle ramming a weight on a stick into the water making a big splash. We found out from some locals that they were driving the fish into a net. It was a method that we had never seen before and was quite amusing to watch. After eating delicious banana bread and custard we rejoined the road, crossed the bridge and rode to the junction where we turned off to continue south-west towards Livingstone and Victoria Falls – we were getting excited!
Seeing the sign for the falls – getting excited!
The road climbed 200 metres up to 1,100 metres and then dropped down the other side past a large village. We stopped for a coke and a few people were enjoying the local liquor a bit too much. They were asking for money for beer to which we replied – ‘we are ok for beer thank you but it’s very kind of you to offer’. Although they didn’t get a beer they seemed pleased that we thought they were offering one to us and they wondered off to bother someone else.
We descended a little more before the road began to climb again heading north-west following a short stretch of dirt road. We crossed a railway line where Sharon got stuck – instead of helping, Tim of-course got his camera out!
Following the dirt road
The hill was ok to start with so we filled our water bag and bottles only to find a few more short steep climbs rising above 1,300 metres. With the sun quickly dropping we tried to look for a good camp spot. There were plenty of them the only problem was that they were behind mile after mile of cattle fencing.
Looking for a camp spot along miles of fencing
The road slowly dropped making our going fast but with nowhere to camp we wondered how big the farm must be. We rode for about 45 minutes finally reaching a building which turned out to be a shop so we asked if we could camp there. A lady kindly showed us to a piece of ground set back from the shop. It was in view of the road but she assured us it was safe so we bought a couple of sausages to add to the mountain of food and set up camp.
Tuesday 30th July
After a good night’s sleep only interrupted by thinking there was someone outside the tent and finding there wasn’t, we woke to a windy day. The owner was right when she suggested our camp area would be out of the wind. We packed up and once breakfast was finished we rode onto the highway. The dust was being picked up with every gust of wind and we were soon riding at speed with the wind behind us. We knew it wouldn’t last as once we reached the town of Mazabuka the road would turn 90 degrees giving us a cross/ slight headwind.
Dust blowing across the road in the strong wind
Passing a crashed truck – one of many we saw on the roads in Zambia
We reached the town and stopped for a coke. Tim was looking for a USB charger with different attachments to make charging our phones etc easier. A guy who had a stall nearby ran off and came back with what was needed and wanted 250 Kwatca for it (around £38). A little while later after some hard bargaining we agreed on 50 Kwatcha! While Tim was sorting this out Sharon managed to get her sleeping bag liner sewn up for 50 pence and we were soon ready to go.
We soon passed a delicious smelling bakery and after trying to keep our handle bars straight with no luck we turned towards the pasties. It was run by an Italian lady which added to the flavour. Once we were full of delicious food, we rode on along the long straight road as it gradually climbed, passing our 13,000 mile mark.
We were so chuffed we had made it this far but found it hard to think we had done it. We continued on until 1 pm, stopping by a small pond to cook lunch. It was good to get out of the wind but the longer we stopped the harder the wind blew. Although it wasn’t a full head wind it was still tiring. We cleared up and continued to follow the railway line. The road would head west at times giving us a break and soon we arrived in Monza. There had been a lot less villages this side of Lusaka and much less of a local feel however Monza and its people were nice and we managed to pick up a few bits from the shop along with a couple of snacks to eat. We noticed there were a lot of people selling second hand clothes on the side of the road so we stopped to ask if they had any pillow cases – Tim had needed one for a while but they were always so expensive or came with a duvet set that didn’t match the colour scheme of the tent. The lady who ran the stall said yes and fetched a pink one. Tim asked if she had a different colour as he wasn’t a girl to which she laughed and revealed a Toy Story one with Woody on one side and Buzz Light year on the other. It was perfect and we were soon 80 English pence lighter, Tim rode off shouting “to Cape Town and beyond!”
Our nephew Lennon will be very proud!
The sun was getting closer to the horizon so we rode on another 8 miles and spotted a good place to camp just before the next town. We waited for the road to clear of traffic and bumped across the fields into a group of bushes. While Tim put the tent up Sharon had an early wash then put dinner on while Tim washed and finished loading the tent. It was so nice to do this early as washing after tea meant the air was cold. Tim discovered the new mini solar light that we picked up in Lusaka was missing and tried to work out where it must be. He retraced his steps back to the road following the tyre tracks with no luck only to find it on his return. It was brilliant and took the pressure off having to charge battery’s in our head torches. We sat enjoying tea ready for the rest of the banana cake and custard for dessert.
Evening camp- nice to stop early
Wednesday 31st July
We woke feeling tired from a long day yesterday. We packed, finished breakfast and got on the road. The wind was blowing hard on our side making it hard going. After 20 miles the road turned west giving us a slight tail wind. It was easier going but being tired we stopped after crossing a railway line in a small town for a cold drink. There were a lot of women selling fresh fruit and vegetables on the side of the road whilst braving the wind. There were also stalls with loads of wood carvings and other souvenirs but with no space on our bikes we just waved and commented on how good they were. We rode on to the town of Chombe which was a lot bigger than we thought it would be and we picked up a mirror for Sharon’s bike and loads of veg.
Tim buying lunch
We rode out of town to look for a good lunch spot and ducked under a tree for shelter. We managed to cook up a great fresh vegetable soup.
A great lunch spot
Tim collecting water to do the washing up
We re-joined the road with the wind still blowing but this time helping us out. The scenery didn’t change as we followed the railway line, gradually climbing with large areas of scrub with long yellow grass. It was still nice to look at but in the strong wind it was harder to enjoy.
A pretty village with a good look-out post!
The unchanging view
We stopped for a short break and picked up bread for the morning. We called in at a garage for water but soon got going to cover a few more miles before sunset. The wind had dropped and we managed to cover another 10 miles before pulling off the road and found a spot behind some trees. It was a good spot but as the temperature dropped it started to feel quite chilly. Hoping to get some more good miles in the following day, we got the stove going and headed to bed for a good sleep.
Thursday 1st August
It had been cold in the night with the first few spots of rain. It didn’t last long but we wondered if the rains would come early – they were due around September/October. As the sun came up over the scrubby land it felt and looked more like an autumn day at home with the sky full of cloud lighting a cold colourless landscape. A few cows wandered through the field, led by a large bull who seemed to be grumbling a lot with no sign of a herdsman. Maybe he was getting some grief from his ladies. We wrapped up warm and made toast trying to eat it before it got cold.
We made our way back onto the highway and with the wind in our favour we made great progress along the highway to Kalomo. We had covered around 30 miles in 2 hours so spotting a garage selling ice-cream we bought a tub along with a couple of cold drinks and sat watching the world go by. It was only midday so we rode on picking up a couple of lollies to pass the time although they were pretty tough to get in to. Tim rubs his against his front wheel to melt a bit of the plastic – where there’s a will, there’s a way – especially when it comes to sweets!
Passing another crashed truck
We covered about 5 miles and spotted a good place to cook next to a felled tree. There was enough dry bits of wood to make a quick fire and we were soon cooking an amazing omelette.
The wind had dropped which was great as our direction had changed too making our going much quicker. We managed to get to the town of Zimba by 3.30 and picked up a cold drink. It was starting to get cold again with a chilly wind cutting through the town and we could have easily stopped there but we wanted to cover another 15 miles as this would leave us with just 35 miles to Livingstone the following day and would give us an easy ride.
Look at my horns!
As we rode along we noticed that the verges were getting a little greener with the odd brightly coloured flowers poking out, giving the first signs of spring and the rainy season. The road out of Zimba was amazing; with a wide hard shoulder and super smooth Tarmac that looked like it had only just been finished.
A great road
We continued up and down the short sharp climbs and descents. We soon covered the miles and with only 20 minutes left before sunset we spotted a track that headed towards the railway line with tall grass either side. We tucked ourselves away and made another small fire to keep out the evening chill and cooked our meal. We were looking forward to arriving in Livingstone as Victoria Falls was another huge milestone on this little bicycle ride. As the embers died out we packed away our pots and got ready to wash with no moon – we had enjoyed the light of a full-moon in the past few days. It was pitch black by now and the road had become almost silent with only the odd truck passing by. Suddenly we started to hear movement in the woods and couldn’t tell if it was an animal or a human. Tim still bravely washed outside but it left us a bit nervy after hearing a man was killed by an elephant just up the road only a week earlier. Although nothing appeared from the bush, it didn’t help our sleep with any sound making us fear the worst. It was just lucky Tim had his Buzz Light Year pillowcase to keep him safe.
Friday 2nd August
After another cold night with Sharon shivering in her sleeping bag, we thought it may be time to get her a new one like Tim’s down bag before South America. We both slept ok even with the odd animal moving through the grass and the rumble of a train passing through in the early hours. The sun soon came up and without a cloud in the sky it shone through the tall yellow grass and gave a warm glow to our tent.
Tim got up and put all the bags out of the tent ready to load. It was one of those days that felt like a warm spring morning with the smell of a hay field. We cooked a relaxed breakfast knowing we didn’t have far to ride and got on the road.
The wind was still light making it easy going on the good road. The scenery was strange with patches of green trees in full leaf and fresh grass shoots, next to woodlands of leafless trees surrounded by the tall yellow grass of a savanna.
We made great progress with no villages to tempt us to stop until reaching the outskirts of Livingstone. We tried out the weighbridge for trucks – there was a $2000 fine for missing it so we had to try! However, no matter how much bouncing up and down we did, we couldn’t get it to register – the staff were looking a little bemused at us so after a short while we decided to ride on. We spotted a young girl selling cold drinks on the side of the road so went over for a quick break before riding into the city. After a coke, a beer (to celebrate getting to Livingstone), 3 fresh andazzies (doughnuts) each and a game of drafts with the girl we were ready to ride into town.
Tim challenging the locals!
We stopped at a Spar and picked up a few bits which included a few bars of chocolate (only because of the weighbridge disappointment) and headed off to look for somewhere to stay. The first place wanted £7 each per night and with no movement on price we went off and found a place just as nice for £4 each (it may not sound much but with the savings we could buy 6 more bars of chocolate). We pitched the tent and celebrated with a beer and beans on toast. The rest of the afternoon was chores as usual with a little relaxing in between. With our names down for the free bus to Victoria Falls the following day, we showered and changed and enjoyed the rest of the day thinking of how far we had come. In the evening, we met 3 teachers from Surrey in England (apologies that we can’t find the note with the school name) – they were in Zambia on a school expedition. Kate was the expedition leader who worked for a company called True Adventure and accompanied the school. It was great to chat with them and share stories – we’re hoping Kate will join us for a ride in Canada/Alaska! They asked us if we wanted some things that they would be leaving behind such as shampoo – we gratefully accepted!
Saturday 3rd August
The following morning we found all sorts of goodies outside our tent – shampoo, cornflakes, water purification liquid, clothes wash and even chocolate 🙂
Lots of goodies!
Saying goodbye to the girls who were heading back to the UK
Half an hour later we climbed aboard the free bus laid on by the campsite heading to the Victoria Falls and met a lovely family from America who were living in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). We soon arrived at the site and paid the entry fee of 10 pounds each.
Victoria Falls or Mosi-oa-Tunya meaning the Smoke that Thunders is a waterfall on the Zambezi river at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Zambezi is Africa’s 4th longest river and the largest flowing into the Indian Ocean. While the falls is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, it is classified as the largest, based on its width of 1,708 metres (5,604 ft) and height of 108 metres (354 ft), resulting in the world’s largest sheet of falling water. Victoria Falls is roughly twice the height of North America’s Niagara Falls and is a truly stunning sight.
The stunning falls
Where brave people do a bungee jump from!
We were interested to find out that the falls are actually receding – it is explained below in an exert from Wikipedia –
‘Over at least 100,000 years, the falls have been receding upstream through the Batoka Gorges eroding the sandstone-filled cracks to form the gorges. The river’s course in the current vicinity of the falls is north to south, so it opens up the large east-west cracks across its full width, then it cuts back through a short north-south crack to the next east-west one. The river has fallen in different eras into different chasms which now form a series of sharply zig-zagging gorges downstream from the falls. Apart from some dry sections, the Second to Fifth and the Songwe Gorges each represents a past site of the falls at a time when they fell into one long straight chasm as they do now. Their sizes indicate that we are not living in the age of the widest-ever falls.
The falls have already started cutting back the next major gorge, at the dip in one side of the “Devil’s Cataract” (also known as “Leaping Waters”) section of the falls. This is not actually a north-south crack, but a large east-northeast line of weakness across the river, where the next full-width falls will eventually form’.
A copy of an aerial photo showing the different gorges as the falls have receded
Needless to say our visit to the falls were as spectacular as we had expected – and the fact that we had cycled here was beyond our own belief!
Who’s the monkey?
We headed back to the campsite, cooked dinner and joined some of the guests for a beer. We met a lovely Dutch girl who was volunteering in a school there and spent the evening chatting with her.
Sunday 4th August
We enjoyed a lie-in and spent the day relaxing, catching up on the blog and even found time to watch a film before cooking and heading to bed for an early night ready to head into Botswana the following day.
Monday 5th August
After a good night’s sleep and a couple of days rest we woke ready to get back on the road. Everything was spread around the tent which took longer to pack than usual. We managed to send a few emails, have breakfast and say goodbye to more lovely people by 10 am which at our speed was superfast. We rode up into town heading for the border to Botswana.
The road was good with only the odd steep climb which followed the Zambezi river. We stopped a little early for lunch and not being too hungry we finished the remainder of our bread, a packet of crisps and a yogurt. There was a light breeze on our back which was nice when we were stopped, cooling us down but we still felt the heat when moving forward. We reached the junction where we turned south to the river crossing to see a long line of trucks that we later found out can wait up to 7 days before catching the ferry.
We were soon stamped out of Zambia and went looking for someone to change the last of our money. We met a South African guy called Casper who was great. He got us a good deal and offered us a place to stay in South Africa. It was great to chat but needing to catch the ferry we headed on down to the pontoon only to find we needed to buy a ticket and they only took Zambian money. With all ours changed we now had to change some back to have enough for the crossing. It didn’t take long and we were soon back by the edge of the Zambezi waiting for the pontoon to arrive. A local guy chatting to Sharon asked his mate to come and meet ‘his sister from another mother’ referring to Sharon which Tim found hilarious and asked if he was a ‘brother from another mother’.
The pontoon ferry
We crossed the short stretch of crocodile infested water and rode up the slope on to the road that led to the immigration department. Before we even reached the building warthogs ran across the road past where some monkeys were playing. It really was like entering a game park. We went to stamp into Botswana and the immigration lady asked for our bikes registration number. We replied that we didn’t have one, explaining they were bicycles but she couldn’t believe it!
Entering country number 21 – Botswana!
We were surprised and a little nervous to see this sign!
We rode on and turned right to the town of Kasana and on our way rode past a small family of elephants. It was amazing to see them but we also kept our distance as they had young calves with them. Female elephants are very attentive mothers and therefore it’s important not to get too close as they can become aggressive when protecting their young.
Shaz and the family of elephants
We rode into town to get money and picked up a couple of bits from the supermarket. As Sharon appeared from the shop a large warthog walked confidently down through the arcade and went to walk in. It was hilarious. With the warthog swiftly shown the exit, we headed back down the road to a safe camp site.
The meat really is fresh here!
As we rode in, we met a couple of lovely girls from Holland who were on holiday and got chatting with them for so long it had got dark. We said we would join them later but just needed to check in and found that the campsite was fully booked. The receptionist suggested we try the next campsite a kilometre down the road. We quickly explained that we were on bicycles and we had been strongly advised not to ride in the dark as it was dangerous due to the elephants. She fortunately understood and told us to check with one of the overlander camps if we could pitch our tent with them. At that time an Australian guy overheard the conversation and said we could join their group as they had loads of space. It was perfect and once he had checked with the rest of the group, we were soon pointed to a spot to pitch and cook. We went over to say hello after we had eaten and got chatting to some of the guys. They were all great and one even went to the same university as Sharon and was doing a similar degree. Small world. With a long day ahead of us we headed to bed full and happy to meet such nice people.
Zambia had always been a country we had looked forward to but a few said that the scenery wasn’t that interesting. This may be true in some places but the people really made up for any short fall in the views. We had really enjoyed riding with Andrew, visiting an amazing game park, meeting a kind and hardworking nation that were proud to be Zambian and to have it rounded off by the Victoria falls was like the cherry on the cake. We will miss it!
Entering Botswana had always worried us as the first 150 miles would be like riding through a game reserve and being told that there were lots of lions and elephants was unnerving – it was going to be an interesting ride……
Hope you enjoyed it – thanks for reading!