Travel Through Zambia on a Harley-Davidson

By Peter & Kay Forwood

Zambia on a Harley (21/10/00 - 3/11/00)
Distance 2422 km (204268 km to 206690 km)

This is part of the Seventh section of our around the world trip.
Complete Trip Overview & Map

Coming from  Botswana

  21/10/00 The divide in sub Sahara Africa through Victoria Falls and Harare is economically as big as the northern divide. The influence of South Africa seems to end and the "real Africa" begins north of here. We crossed the Zambezi river into Zambia. No bridge, just a rickety old ferry capable of carrying one truck, two cars and a motorcycle. The officious efficiency of Botswana gone and the slackness that portrays the bureaucracy of further north commenced on the Zambian side. Small things like Kay needing to sign her own immigration form and front at a window to be seen at a Southern African border crossing gone. She can now wait at the motorcycle unseen watching its luggage while I alone process both immigration forms and passport stamps. No-oneVictoria Falls from the Zambia side checks the details I write in the vehicle transport book to see if the engine, chassis or registration number is correct, back to the "real Africa". Overnighted in Livingstone, yes that place named after the explorer who only just over 100 years ago came upon Victoria Falls. Isn't white Africa very young.

22/10/00 Zambia side of the Falls, a more relaxed affair than its Zimbabwe brother with just $US 3.00 entry, curio shops and drinks sold within the park. In the dry, like now, we can walk to an island in the middle of the Falls, swim in the waters just above them and while carefully swimming, look over the 100m drop. Upmarket lodges set up gazebos right on the edge for sumptuous lunches. An almost permanent double rainbow in the mist just sits at the bottom of the gorge waiting to be photographed oblivious to the people on the Zimbabwean side who wonder how we can be where we are.

23/10/00 At $US 1.30 per litre and over twice the price of petrol or diesel in surrounding countries it is amazing how this African economy can survive. Seen as an easy way to raise taxes and limit foreign currency flowing out of the country it has crippled transport. Taxi's are stationary, buses don't run on time but wait till they are full and very few private vehicles run. Imagine the outcry if petrol in the west was half a days pay per litre. Smuggling near the Botswana border occurs and we could buy black market petrol for $US 1.00 per litre.

24/10/00 There is a group of sixteen of the world's best kayakers in town for the first ever Zambezi gorge competition. The event is purely for TV as there aren't many spectators around as getting near theSwimming at the top of the falls gorge rapids is difficult. We were the only two spectators along with some wives and half a dozen judges and more camera men to watch them first bungy swing into a gorge then kayak rapid seven through slalom gates. By evening the editors had pieced together a video that we watched in the bar.

25/10/00 470 km to Lusaka, no traffic, good road for Africa. Not usually on the tourist route but now developing because of the Zimbabwe problems. We ran into a German couple, Wolfgang and Angelika, riding two Suzuki 350 cc off roaders. They came down from Tunisia, Sudan to Cape Town in 1999 and during their annual holidays are slowly making their way back up. It's great to see an increase in local population services like occasional take aways or coffee shops. Without an economy that has extra cash and density of population you won't find anything other than Marie biscuits, Coca Cola and local fruit and vegetables, if anything at all.

26/10/00 It's lucky weMaking road gravel the hard way live in a mainly capitalist world where we demand products and services and service or we will take our business elsewhere. It's also a shame that a countries first representation is usually their embassy and the arrogant staff member you need to see. Having no alternative, no choice, you have to deal with them politely or your visa application may disappear. The Democratic Republic of Congo, a $US 7.00 form fee, if approved seven day visa $US 30.00 or one month $US 70.00. Fill in the form and come back tomorrow. For the Central African Republic and Gabon visas we have to visit the French Embassy and for Australians, two weeks wait while the papers are sent to the relevant countries and returned to Lusaka. But after almost pleading they would, condescendingly, have the response sent to the French Embassy in Uganda.

27/10/00 Lusaka, while a nice city, doesn't have, other than friendly people, much to offer the tourists. A return to the French Embassy together with photocopies of credit cards, passport and travel insurance for the final processingYoung boy repairing pot holes hoping for some money occupied the morning and a rejection from the DRC because we had visited Rwanda and Uganda (stamps in the passport), enemies of the government and supporters of the rebel forces occupying the north of the country, took up the afternoon. We will use the other passport if we apply again. Thunderstorms hanging over the city letting us know the wet is about to begin here and we must pass through it heading for Uganda.

28/10/00 500 km to the north, through 13 police checks to add to the 8 already from Livingstone. Usually a cursory wave through or a stop for a polite chat and a look at the motorcycle. But twice they required documentation for the motorcycle. A police check every 40 km's seems a bit excessive, the most we have had. Still the road was good most of the way and where it wasn't young boys were out filling potholes with termite mound dirt and asking motorists for a few Kwatchas (money). The termite mounds in this area are enormous. Some seemingly have been here forever with large trees growing from them. They need to be fenced and ploughedNursing a baby chimpanzee around and are used as vantage points for a roadside stall, rest spot or even a local pub. Camped at Chimfunshi about 65 km from Chingola where it seems all the world's orphaned chimpanzees come for a new life away from circuses, experiments and zoos.

29/10/00 Run by an elderly couple the 70+ chimps are now housed in three groups. Two family groups of 20 each on 200 hectares of fenced land and a third group, single males, young chimps and problem animals in cages and a smaller enclosure. The great tourist attraction was to walk with the chimps in the forest, however the people and the chimps played too rough together so the walks needed to be stopped. Now occasionally you can hold a baby orphan or just watch feeding or admire their intelligence. Not being a native area for chimps supplementary feeding will always be required. Large amounts of aid have been donated by the Germans and Norwegians to care for our closest relatives.

30/10/00 640 kmBottle feeding a hand raised hippo with more police checks about every 30-40 km, some at intersections, others in the middle of nowhere. Check insurance, check indicators, talk about the bike. At least all the vehicles on the roads here seem roadworthy, unlike other countries without police checks. We had been told that DRC visas might be available at the border, just 40 km out of our way, but on checking only truck drivers delivering government bought goods and those who have been to the DRC before can get a visa here. We had already checked out of Zambia assured by a tout that he could get us a DRC visa, so we had to check back into Zambia. The consul in Ndola no great help and we were informed that no tourist visas were being issued. We don't need to visit this section of the DRC but it would have been interesting. So we headed around the DRC peninsula jutting into Zambia where there is nothing but African flatland and trees with a few grass hut villages with children in western discards, handed down here from child to child till the elbows are gone, buttons broken and big holes appear and you wonder what use there is in wearingSelling charcoal and gourds roadside the garment. In the evenings they sit by the road watching the occasional truck or car pass by on their African TV and occasionally a better show appears, like two mazungu (whites) on a big bike. It is probably discussed and like everywhere exaggerated until a bigger event occurs to surpass it. It was after dark when we headed down the 13 km track to Kundalila Falls near Kanona. A small local run camp at 3% the cost of last nights.

31/10/00 340 km after a pleasant breakfast. The locals offering us bananas and eggs for sale. Zambians away from tourists are a very friendly and cautious people. They reservedly approach us and the motorcycle in more remote locations. The wet season is almost here with deciduous trees newly fully leafed, almost autumn colours. The left over tall grasses not eaten by stock or used in house building have been burnt and riding through a couple of thunderstorms we had the full aroma of rain on hot burnt soil and cool air. Shiwa Ngandu, the manor house and surrounding workersShiwa Ngandu, an incongruous sight in rural Africa huts. Lost in the middle of Africa this mansion built in the 1930's from all local materials stands incongruously dilapidated with white ants enjoying its timbers. Now slowly being renovated into a hotel. 20 km further into the dirt are Kapishya hot springs where bath temp waters bubble up to be enjoyed by dusty motorcycle travellers.

1/11/00 Another hot dip before the 45 km of dirt track onto the main road to Mpulungu and 370 km today. As the ferry up the longest and second deepest lake in the world only leaves Friday it was either hang around for a week or hurry a bit. We are not much good at hanging around so off the cool plateau and down into the rift valley at the southern end of Lake Tanganika. Here the MV "Liemba" heads to Kigoma in Tanzania. This steamer, built in 1914, but was sunk intentionally during the first world war, raised and refurbished in 1922 and still doing the trip 86 years on. Such is the slow pace of change in some parts of Africa.

2/11/00 MpulunguRelaxing in hot springs after a long ride is quite a large town but there is no piped water to many houses. Even the well dressed bath in the lake. Selecting a spot, made private by reeds and early morning, fully naked washed themselves and often their clothes, drying themselves in the breeze. The wealthier tote a bag with mirror and body oils. Though their clothes may look dirty from excessive use, they and themselves are usually very clean. It turns out we are staying in the same place and same hut that Dave Barr stayed in on his around the world trip on a Harley-Davidson some years ago. The Indian owner remembered him distinctly. As mentioned our boat runs every Friday but to get information here it is very difficult. There is no real agency and last week, scheduled to leave at 6 pm it left at 12 noon. The price to carry a motorcycle is unknown and the port fees just increased from $US 10.00 to $US 20.00 so there is confusion here. You can't buy a ticket until after the boat arrives and then sometimes ticketing is done on the boat and sometimes in town. Arrive at 8 am to see what happens we were told. 

3/11/00 As expectedLoading the motorcycle onto MV Liemba for the trip up Lake Tanganyika things progressed "Africa style" slowly, without any organization but eventually it happens. Today ticketing was done on the boat after we waited two hours in town. We were charged $US 10.00 port loading fees for the motorcycle then just before loading another $US 10.00 as the fees went up two months earlier but no-one told anyone else. And to add to the confusion they wouldn't accept my $US 100.00 note as it was counterfeit. It seems I got caught in a scam in Lusaka changing money in the street. You buy local currency, hand over your US currency where upon it is switched for a counterfeit note with a slight tear in it. You are asked to exchange it for an untorn one which I did ending up with the counterfeit. I guess I can either frame it or try to pass it onto someone else, which is maybe how the money changer got it in the first place. But you learn, the genuine note's numbers change from green to black as you tilt the note, not so the counterfeit. The boat left at 1 pm, five hours early.

Move with us to Tanzania or go to our next visit to Zambia




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