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Road trippin’ (Part 1) January 5, 2007

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Namibia, Out of the city, Peculiarities, VSO.

Distance travelled: 6136km.

Transport method: Mazda 323, 1991 model, 1.3l engine, red aka ‘Red Rachel’.

Countries visited: Namibia, Zambia,Malawi. Countries viewed from a distance: Angola, Zimbabwe, Mozambique (and nowhere near DRC!)

Whole days spent in the car: 10.

No of times the car broken down: None!! (although we did have to visit a mechanic on day two…).

Speeding tickets: 1.

Obscene taxes paid at border crossings: too many (carbon emission tax anyone?!?!).

No of creatures that suffered their fate at the bumper/windscreen of Red Rachel: sorry, but it was us or them!

Our beloved mode of transport, Red Rachel

Before embarking on this perceived-‘unachievable’, ‘dangerous’ and ‘reckless’ Christmas adventure, friends, family and strangers urged me to keep them up to date with our progress, and to share our adventures on our return. Unable to do the former, I shall begin with latter. And following complaints that I write too much (you don’t have to read it all!!), I shall draft it in bite-sized chunks, starting with a summary, and eventually filling in the details of people met, sites seen, lessons learnt, and unforgettable experiences never to be forgotten.

I was back in the UK for the two weeks before I left on this trip. When asked why I wasn’t staying for Christmas, I would share our plan to drive from Namibia to Lake Malawi in 5 days to be there in time for Christmas, in a car almost as old as myself. Friends generally cast out cries of ‘wow, you lucky thing, that’ll be amazing, etc’, whilst my family and most people over 35 exclaimed ‘are you stupid? Do you know how far that is? Do you have a death wish?!?!’. I will only admit now that I was hugely concerned about this trip, which I had whimsically thought up when other Christmas options in Namibia seemed rather bleak (everyone was leaving town!).

It was really my frightfully concerned mother, who I have worried sick with silly adventures over the years, that got me really worried but also pretty prepared. Her constant questioning and fretting forced me to come up with a wealth of worse-case-scenario-solutions and justifications for why this trip wouldn’t end in a sombre phone call from the Foreign Office. So Thanks mum. And may I add a slightly smug, ‘I told you so’, since we made it, with little incident and only one known potentially-fatal illness.

And so to the trip, here is our rough itinery…

Day 1, 20th December: my dear companion Joost and I left Windhoek in a fully-packed Red Rachel, heading to Rundu, 700km away in the north. We were joined by Hesron, a student from the College of Arts, who had no money for petrol for his journey back to his home in Rundu for the holidays, but in return allowed us to camp in his family homestead by the Kavango River, with a great dinner and breakfast included.

Day 2: after a stressful visit to the mechanic (details to follow), we drove  from Rundu, 500km across the Caprivi Strip to Katima Mulio, and the border to Zambia. Here we got scammed and ripped off by various officials, including my visa (I had to haggle a price! N$540, down from N$1000), Council Development Tax (N$75), and Carbon Emission Tax (N$100) for all the carbon we will emit during our time in Zambia – how could we have not thought of that!!

We were slightly shocked find out that our destination, Livingstone, was a further 200km, not the 70km that some joker had previously told me! We made it to Livingstone around 7pm, checked into the lovely and very helpful JollyBoys Backpackers.

Day 3: We left Livingstone along pot-holed roads, and had the most enjoyable drive 580km to Lusaka, through the lush rolling hills of
Zambia. We passed beautiful and vibrant towns, and I fell deeper and deeper in love with the country with every km we made. In the contrasting dirty Lusaka, we stayed with Hilary and Hannah, and were joined by Rachel, all other VSO YfDs for a chilled evening of delicious food (courtesy of the VSO cookbook) and laughter-filled catching up.

Cruising through the Zambian countryside

Day 4: Crawling through the Lusaka Saturday morning rush-hour, we made it onto the winding road 700km to Chipata, passing many a jack-knifed lorry and flipped car – we took the roads vigilantly! In Chipata, we stayed with Sally-Anne and Henry, two more YfDs, and shared a charming evening with them and Henry’s Zambian boss and his wife. 

Day 5, Christmas Eve: after having got brutally ripped off by black-market money-changers, we left Chipata and drove the 20km to the Malawian border. This was less eventful, and almost enjoyable, and then drove through to Lilongwe, the capital. I stupidly had left the directions to the beach on my email, and desperately needed to find internet – in a developing country, on Christmas Eve – er…nice one! Whilst inquiring at a hotel, the receptionist informed me that the resort we were heading to was closed after a drugs bust. £$%*!!! We found internet, which bared no emails from my friends saying the resort was closed, got the directions, and set off to the lake. We arrived just before dusk, to meet yet more YfD volunteers and the most moving sunset over the lake. After a well-deserved swim in the warm waters of Lake Malawi, we scrubbed up and joined the others for a hearty meal and celebratory drinks in the beach bar. We were a party of 9, with Pete, Hill, Hazel, Kat and Anna from Malawi, Li from Mozambique, and Alexa from Zambia, and of course Joost and I.

Day 6, CHRISTMAS DAY: woke up in paradise, and opened the presents from my brothers that I had saved to open on the beach – what a treat! I spent the morning learning to play Bao, a popular African board game, with a local guy called Andy from Kande, whilst freaking out that the clothes I’d given to another local were being washed in the lake and left to dry on the sand (they came back way dirtier and I paid £4 for the privilege!).
After lunch, the resort’s scuba instructor, Stu took Hill, Joost and I out on canoes to Kande Island, for exploring, snorkelling and a little cliff-jumping. There were so many fish, of all colours, like swimming in a big fishtank. Such a treat! Some of the girls went horse-riding along the beach. A beach football match broke out when we got back.
In the evening, we had a huge traditional Christmas dinner at the Soft Sand Café, with crackers and turkey and even Slade and Wham! playing in the background. After dinner, we migrated to the beach for fireworks, a bonfire, some dubious ‘local wine’ and lots of drumming and drunk Malawian men.

Day 7, Boxing Day: what a lazy day, spent lounging on the beach, although I did manage to get burnt in the shade in SPF 40! A half-arsed attempt at a volleyball started around sunset, and then we retired to the bar. An early night was had by all.

This is as far as I can write for now, as I feel a wave of nausea and the shakes starting up again. Part Two shall come shortly, followed by more details of the weird and wonderful encounters we had on this adventure.

Go to my Flickr link to view pics….



1. Nick - January 6, 2007

Well, here’s one member of your family (just a shade over 35!) that doesn’t say, “Are you mad?”

Having been round the globe a couple of times myself, I’m a great believer in the old dictum that, “Travel Broadens The Mind” and I’m full of admiration for young people who get out and explore for real instead of sitting in front of computer getting all their experience from zapping Pokemon and Google Tours.

Particularly brave when one is perhaps a tadette more accident prone than others, maybe?

Get well soon, Izzy – at least you got those new loos installed in time for your salmonella; which reminds me, how does a vegetarian get salmonella, which one normally acquires from eating meat

2. isabelleinnamibia - January 8, 2007

Ah, the truth behind the salmonella story shall be published soon…..

thanks for your support nick! Happy new years.

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