On the Lower Zambezi

Lower Zambezi National Park Travel Blog

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Matt and Clare arrived in their red Toyota after coming up through Zimbabwe and we caught up on ach others travelling tails.  They were going north from Zambia and we would go south, so we decided to take a trip over to the Lower Zambezi river as we heard some nice things about it, canoeing on the river, hippos, crocodiles … While we stayed near Lusaka we went into town to get some supplies and Paulina took me to the cinema.  This was the first time I’d been in a cinema for a very long time and we watch “Inception” with Leonardo DiCaprio, about planting ideas in people dreams, a good thinking movie!  On leaving the cinema which had taken me familiar surroundings for an hour and forty minutes, like back home going to the movies plus the movie being about living in a dream state.

  It made me feel I was in a dream world walking outside to the street, mine was called “Africa”. For Paulina one of the things more impressed her was that you find in these countries the same malls full of shops with the same brands clothes and shoes that you find around the world and full of services. But just a couple of km started the other real Africa, the poor people without minimum conditions for living. For her the difference between Latin-America and Africa is while in Latin America there are big differences between rich and poor people and Africa there are HUGE!!, a very small selected people leaving with all the social guaranties (for the money) while more than 90% can not arrive to 40 years old in Africa.

Returning to our trip, the Lower Zambezi river separates Zambia from Zimbabwe.

  The first camping was very quiet with a three legged dog, the owner told us he had lost the other to a crocodile by the river.  The next camping further on was also right by the river but up a steep banking (and we made sure no mice would get a chance to hitch a ride form this river spot!).  It was very picturesque, a cold beer watching the sun go down, BBQ fire to keep us warm.  We all booked a Canadian canoe trip down stream for the next day.  We were given the safety briefing about what to do if a hippo attacks – “swim to shore!” or if you fall in and there is crocodiles – “climb on top of the up turned canoe”.  (((What was that again? swim or not to swim…?))).

The river was choppy and took a lot of effort.

  Paulina was not having a good time feeling afraid with the water and on reaching the bank on the other side the guide came into our canoe with Paulina in the middle.  We saw lots of hippos and other river wildlife.  Passing the southern shore (Zimbabwe side) our guide pointed out a camp where for 25,000USD you could go out and shoot an elephant, they have to cull some to keep the Park from being overrun and destroying to much of the trees.  I wander how much of that 25,00USD went to the good of the National Park?  I’m sure there is a queue of people with their hand out lining their pocket.  Anyway, there’s no sport in shooting these animals but I guess it makes some people feel powerful and something embellish them over dinner to their guests (I bet they have small feet!).

Afternoon tea was setup and served on the river bank by the other guide with a large boat with an outboard engine.  We enjoyed a light paddle down the river, going from one side to another avoiding any hippo families.  Later in the day we ate and camped on an island in the middle of the river, we also had some visitors as we sat outside by the bush TV (the fire).  Some elephants camp right beside the tents as we all sat quietly, they can’t see well but can smell and hear to make up for it.  They carried on casually eating and I’m sure they could smell our camp but these were older elephants so more calm, it’s the younger ones with something to prove you have to watch out for!  We could also hear the hippos calling to each other out in the river, they would be soon coming onto land to eat the green grass and they would walk many kms to find food as they do elsewhere.

  We slept well that night in our flimsy tent surround by animals.  Next morning we returned to camp site by speed boat.

Feeling less afraid Paulina and I booked a half day cannon trip, she was feeling more comfortable with the hippos and crocodiles.  The group got towed upstream, four cannons.  This time we came much closer to the elephants that were right at the water’s edge sometimes, we paddled off the main river and down some smaller cannels and we both became use to manoeuvring the cannon to look at the animals.

We had another night with Matt and Clare when they returned, BBQ, beers and stories.  Next day we all set off, they had their sights north towards Tanzania and us Paulina’s Zimbabwe visa in Lusaka.  We travelled the rough dust track to the river crossing boat and then towards the main road north and with that parted company with the red Hilux.

  Up in Lusaka we got Paulina’s visa and driving through town we saw 4meter sheets of corrugated metal roofing sheets flying off the back of a small blue Chinese made truck.  About six of the sheets laid pointing upwards catching the wind over the cab spiralled in the air over the road and narrowly missed a couple of people walking, health and safety is for developed countries as here is costs more money than people can afford. 


Next stop was a day driving south to Livingstone.  Before crossing to Zimbabwe I was looking for a place to drill a hole to screw in an extra screw to my homemade internal lock on the back door, it was coming loose.

  Harder to find than you may think!  One young local guy I spoke to who did work with TVs sent his friend off to find one and as we talked he said Zambians were following the Chilean copper mines trapped down the mine, Zambia was also a country rich with copper and other metals.

We got talking about education and he explained he had to pay 15,000,000 Kwacha for a year (3,000USD) for a computer course at university and was saving hard.  Speaking about the local politics, as this was an election year, he explained how Zambian politicians came around to shake your hand during the elections only to shake your confidence later and we both laughed, but it was so true and only in Africa.

There was no drill but he directed us to another place to try and it took a few more places after that I had drilled and strengthened the lock with another screw.

Then headed to pick up more supplies before going to the Vic Falls border the next day.  As well as food and beers, we filled the Land Rover with fuel as it could be difficult to find and had been saving water containers, filled five 5liter plastic water containers and sealed them with insulation tape and put them on the floor of the back seat.  Not up to health and safety standards, this would be the only time we would need to carry extra fuel and this is Africa!

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Lower Zambezi National Park
photo by: MrDuck