|The Okavango Delta in Botswana is a huge area where the river floods over plains creating a surreal landscape. We entered on speedboats and then got around on Mokoro's (dug out canoes), the delta is teeming with Hippo's and Croc's and lots more animals on the many islands although we didn't have much luck on our walking safaris, there was very recent signs of elephants and leopards, but all we saw was antelope, monkeys and a few warthogs, still a good experience. It was real wilderness camping in the delta, the spade became very important for personal business and there was no showers for a few days. Proper roughing it and I was the one who picked up a nice bug when leaving.
Over the next few days my body rejected everything even water, I was never far from a toilet! Still it didn't stop me enjoying Chobe with its huge elephant population it was great stuff seeing them messing about in the river as your boat cruises close by. Also a mega mob of Baboons added to the entertainment crazy lot. Before we knew it we were at Victoria Falls, truly stunning one of the 7 natural wonders, a huge gorge 1.7km across. A enjoyable few days were spent in Livingston before the group all went their own ways.
After spending $70us! on Zimbabwe Visas, me and Ray decided to give it a go and travelled down to Bulawayo. Zimbabwe is currently in the news and the burning of homes (or clean up operation as they call it) is still going on. Mugabe says their criminals and squatters but they also happen to be strong holds of the opposition support which is the real reason behind it many believe, pure intimidation. Zimbabwe made the headlines 4 or 5 years ago when the land of white farmers was forcibly taken over and since Zim ha been shunned and sanctioned by the West. This has lead to economic chaos. It used to be 50zim dollar for 1 us dollar, now its officially 9000zim for 1 us, but we got 20000zim for 1 us on the black market, and you have to as prices are based on the black-market rate. There's also a fuel shortage with no one supplying them. We didn't really know what to expect but one thing that's clearly welcomed and encouraged here are tourist (although there's none). It felt far from the lawless and dangerous place your lead to believe. It was interesting to hear some Zimbabweans views supporting some of Mugabe's ideas, but even they had to agree hes gone about things the wrong way and forceable land-reform and the current burning homes is not on. But hes 81 and cant have too long left so hopefully things will change for the better soon, it wont take Zimbabwe too long to get sorted again, its got the infrustructure and resources (it used to lead Africa for wealth) and no doubt the tourist will come back asap. We visited a couple of things around Bulawayo, cycling 44km return one day well no other way, and managed to hitch out of town to Botswana as there was no buses.
So we made it to Botswana and I caught up with my mate from work Matt who was getting married in Gaborone (just amazing timing that I was passing close by at the same time), a great weekend. Then it was back up to Zambia, back to the 'chicken buses' and other hassles that you face on the road, and once out of the relatively developed Southern African countries, you soon realise that everything is a challenge & adventure and nothing more so than getting around. You have to grab any mode of transport going and I got myself through Zambia and Malawi by a combination of the most packed minibuses (how do they fit 30+ inside?), most chaotic and slow coach journeys, hanging on the back of matolas (pick up trucks), lorries, ferry + speed boat, light aircraft, and ambulance (don't worry no injury it was just the only lift out of town). Managing to survive a bus station is a battle in itself, the crowds and shouting no logic or order and been pestered by opposing touts to get in their already packed minivan.
Then you have to deal with 'african time' which is not an over used cliche, it's a part of life you just have to accept. I have waited over 2 hours numerous times for a bus to fill and leave, they do not leave until the last seat, no I mean space is gone. And if you ever wanted something in a hurry then you would be in trouble because if they even remember their slow about it, and as for sticking to a meeting time, no chance.
Zambia prides itself on being 'real, raw Africa' relatively untouched by mass tourism and western development, most people live a simple rural life. As for its national parks and bush land they are all unfenced and open to the wild including the campsites (more on that later). The journey to South Luangwa National Park was a cultural experience in itself. As the only 'mzungu' (white person) in the minibus I got the privilege of a front seat, thank god because there was 25+ other crammed in the back and hanging out the windows, and it was a bumpy and battering ride along the dusty tracks. On the way we stopped at numerous villages where I doubt they see many westerners as I received a lot of curious stares, and even made some of the kids begin to cry if I looked at them! By the end of the journey I was covered in a thick coating of dust (everyone was joking I wasn't muzungu anymore) but I was a little worried about the lung full of dust I had as I could barely breath. Still an amazing insight into how Zambia lives.
I spent the best part of a week at the Flatdogs camp sight by the Luangwa river, one of the best stays in my trip. By now I was getting used to camping (I brought my own in Botswana where it paid for itself by the savings it made in 1 nights accommodation costs!), and as with the rest of Zambia the site was unfenced open to wild. I wondered why no one had taken the prime floor spot just 100m from the rivers edge and was to realise that 1st night when the deafening spurts and roars of hippo's kept waking me in near terror and then at dawn my tent was checked out by passing elephants (there's no danger as long as you stay in the tent but it don't feel like that at the time!), well next night I took a treetop platform like everyone else, the monkeys and baboons felt a lot safer option to deal with.
South Luangwa was a fantastic park especially the walking safaris which its famous for, and Flatdogs camp site a safari in itself, along with a good crowd at the time and comfortable facilities and as well as trying to put off the no doubt chaotic journey back out, it was hard to leave. The only way out was on the back of a pick-up truck, but the ever hospitable Zambians let me sit up front although it was far from comfortable wedged up against the gear stick one side and 3 other people (on our 2 seats) the other, I would have rather stood on the back. Still interesting chat and then after the 3rd flat tyre within an hour! - no joke - and the spare and all inners now used we were all stranded in the middle of nowhere at night. Just as I was about to set up my tent by the roadside a heavy goods vehicle came by and once again being muzungu I was one of the lucky few who got into the cabin and a lift back to Chipata.