Katja Lachmann
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ZAMBIA
06/09/2004

Trip to South Luangwa National Park

 

Monday morning, at 10 a.m., we - a German couple, Anke & Mario, and me - went to the bus station in Lilongwe to catch the bus to Mchinji. This is a little town before the border to Zambia. The cost for the bus have been 200 MKW (ca. 2 $).

Once starting, it was extremely hot that day and we were squeezed onto the last bank of the mini-bus. Sitting four in a row - as it is common - it was hardly bearable. Usually, it is ok but that day it was just too much. I rang for air. The most uncomfortable in our situation was, that the whole exhaust gases from the mini-bus were somehow filtered into the bus. I never have problems with feeling sick when going in a bus etc. but this time I felt VERY sick! We started to cover our faces with clothes, hats and whatever we could find in our little bags. Though, it did not help much. We ran two times through a police control, thus we were happy to get out of the car.

Not yet having arrived in Mchinji, the car broke. The motor did not start working anymore. Thus we had off from the terrible exhaust gases for about half an hour. After that the bus was working fine and we went on to Mchinji. From there we took a taxi that we shared with two more customers. Thus six people in a normal car, whereas 4 were sitting in the back. It was tight, but we at least did not breath anymore exhaust gases.

On the border we just checked out of Malawi, were brought by the same taxi to the Zambian border and checked in. We asked about rates of Zambian Kwacha (ZKW) and found out that we could take a car to Chipata and asked the driver to wait until we changed money in the bureau. Just to be sure the money is no fake (what easily can happen). We also found out the price beforehand for the taxi, that is 10.000 ZKW (2,2 $) per person. The first taxi driver approaching us offered a price for 50.000 ZKW (11 $) when leaving immidiately. We discussed the price and then another guy came and offered a trip for 40.000 ZKW. As we still had a chance to catch the truck to Mfuwe, the city near South Luangwe National Park, we just accepted and did not wait for other two customers.

In Mchinji we went to an Exchange Bureau but had to find out that 5 and 10 Dollar notes, as well as 20 Dollar notes have bad rates. It was the first time I experienced that they treat smaller notes different to 50 and 100 Dollar notes. As I did not agree with that I decided to leave the bureau and asked the taxi driver to bring us to Barclays Bank. There we changed money with the same rate for every kind of Dollar notes. It took us some time, but everything worked out fine. So if you come to Zambia, better do not change in bureaus beside you have just big Dollar notes. I also changed my traveler cheque as we were told that in Zambia it is hard to pay with Dollars. Although it is possible, we were told it is better to change as most people are not used to work with Dollars. I changed, was charged a high commission of 60.000 ZKW!!! (13 $) and regret when I came to South Luangwa. But to that case later.

Having changed the money the taxi driver was so kind to help us finding a truck to Mfuwe. It was difficult as it was already 2:30 p.m. We found out that about 10 minutes ago 3 trucks left to Mfuwe. We were a bit disappointed but the driver did not give up. He brought us to a very busy traders street and asked around. Then he met a friend uploading a truck. He asked him and happily this one was leaving to Mfuwe the same day. Just the time was not known - as always. I had to buy food as I was told there is nothing than expensive food from the restaurant available. As I could not afford that, I left my luggage on the car and went off for food. Although it was a trading place, it was hard to find any food. After 30-40 minutes and checking about 10 shops I came back with a bit bread, apples, bananas, yogurth, water, sardines and cookies. I had still a bit peanut butter, what is always useful when traveling in Africa ;P

When I came back I could not find the truck anymore. I thought they might have left without me although the German couple for sure would have hold them back. When starting to ask around, one of the Germans came to me and asked what I am searching for...'For the truck...maybe???' We were laughing and I sat beside them arranging my shoppings.

The truck came back, filled with petrol but missing many other things. We went to some bakery, tire shop, brewery ... and everything had to be load on the truck. After 2 more hours we left Chipata. We drove into the night, stopped many times, sat in terrible positions, jumped up and down, stopped many times because of little catastrophes like oil all over the ground and when somebody left the truck in the middle of the bush. They had to search the whole load as the little bag of that person was always at the ground of the whole load of goods, no matter which person left us. At around 11:30 p.m. we arrived safely in Mfuwe and were brought directly to FLAT DOGS, the camp we stayed in South Luangwa National Park.

After a short dinner we had a shower and as I was left alone at around 1:30 a.m. in the bathroom, I was a little bit worried what makes such terrible noise out there. When trying to get to the tent, before I left the bathroom, I remind myself the words of the night guide explaining that we are in a wild area, and WILD ANIMALS are running around regularly, especially at NIGHT! I was scared, my heart was beating, but I was happily brave enough to walk fast to my tent. I jumped inside, closed it and fell asleep.