We wanted a trip with a bit of a challenge, something to get our teeth into.
Zambia stepped right up to the plate and shoved it down our throats.
And every day thereafter we were challenged and rewarded.
If you want riding bliss, Zambia is it.
Livingstone to Sinazongwe
It was to be just two of us, me and my pal Hennie. Neither me nor Hennie had any experience of Zambia, but we had heard good things, and we were keen to do a trip with a difference.
Normally our trips are at the end of the dry season. This helps with the terrain and the game viewing. But I have grown weary of the dusty, dry and mono-chrome surrounds. I wanted some greenery, moist sandy tracks and the odd thunderstorm to pretty things up. So we planned to hit Zambia at the end of the wet season.
Our first target was to ride the length of Lake Kariba on the Zambian side. So we started from Livingstone and the first 60 potholed kilometers claimed my number plate.
As soon as we swung off the main road towards the lake, it became clear that we were gonna get what we came for.
I have never been able to ride mud, and I doubt that it is a skill that I will ever acquire. This red stuff however turns out to be not too bad. It’s scary stuff to encounter and it makes you build up a sweat in no time, but after a couple of kilometers you can actually ride it pretty effectively. It’s almost like sand, just let the bike move around and do it’s thing, the throttle can get you out of most situations.
Rivers are running fast and high. Not really a good sign because we intend crossing a variety of rivers that are only passable in the dry season. Zambia had a proper wet season this year; three weeks before we came, there was news of 12 people having drowned in floods.
When we get to a village we stop for some refreshments. Have a look at my headlight and screen on the X and the headlight and screen on Hennie’s 800. We had just ridden the exact same road. Now please explain to me how BMW finds it appropriate to fit an ornamental fender to the most off-road biased model in their range?
It turns out that this village has no beer at all. Well, not commercial beer. They do make a home made jobbie from milk and maize though; chibuku. Now this is upsetting news for us, we are on the first day of our trip and already there’s a beer issue. We may have to learn new vices if this is indicative of how things are going to be for us further on. So we have some chibuku. It turns out to be an acquired taste. We will have to put some effort in if we hope to become regular imbibers. On the plus side, it’s cheap, around $0,15 a glass (or plastic container). There, it tastes a lot better already.
After climbing a rough track we finally get our first view of Lake Kariba in the distance.
We have left the road by now and the track we are on is proving to be very enjoyable. Stopping at a stream to cool down I take the opportunity to clean some of that mud off my radiator.
We are by now riding parallel with the lake but the track is several kilometers inland so we never get to see the lake. Good riding however, crossing streams and the like every so often.
We get some quality riding in and by late afternoon we notice that we are within striking distance of a lodge called Kariba Bush Club. Seeing that we are tired and dusty this looks to be the ideal spot to overnight. When we get there, there is a sign at the gate that they are closed for a private function. We try our luck anyway but are shown away without so much as an offer of a cold one as consolation. The cherry on the cake being that the guys in charge stand there with beers in their hands. To be fair though, they were really civil about it.
The next lodge is 60 km away. A bit of a tall order as it is late afternoon already, but I reckon we can make it. I’m wrong of course, like I always am when it comes to getting somewhere before dark. And so it happens that on the first day, in the dark, we have to cross a river where the bridge washed away. Although it is not too deep it is flowing and has a sandy bottom (‘spoelsand’ in Afrikaans). I make it some way in before the back wheel buries itself.
Excellent, wet boots for tomorrow then. To our relief extra hands appear out of the night.
They are experienced in these matters too and we are sternly instructed by an 11 year old to shut the bikes down and put it in neutral. By pushing the bikes they are able to stay largely on top of the sand and although it is hard work and I have to take a short break to get my breath back, we manage to get both bikes across.
All this takes place just 3km short of our destination. And the last 3km we have to find our way through a flooded floodplain which can be tricky in the dark.
When we finally get to Lakeview Rest Camp, we are the only guests. Being tired, filthy and wet, we opt to take a bungalow and with an icebucket full of beers and Fanta we retire to our stoep to reflect on Day One.
We are mightily impressed with Zambia. It’s seldom that the first day of a trip gets out of the blocks so decisively. We are well satisfied, this was not a day wasted.
:rillaBring it on :super
:thumb :thumb Yeah !! You're back for another round:clap :clap :clap
I am looking forward to this adventure. :lurk
Have a great ride, Good luck.
Another amazing place and another real world insight on an 800 i want so badly!
My sister has been to Africa once an I'm still yet to make it there... but when I will, it must be on a moto.
Thank you for taking us along! :clap
:clap:clap I rode across Zambia in '05. This ride report can only be a good one! I wish I could go back! Have fun guys............
Cool Pictures and good luck on your adventure.
I'm jealous, I want to go.
Viele Gruesse Trepeir
Sinazongwe to bush camp
The next morning we get to see what Lake View Rest Camp looks like.
I unpack my saddle bags that got flooded last night to dry stuff out and also strap them up high, it looks like water crossings are going to be par for the course from here on.
I also do some waterproofing to electronics.
After a good breakfast and a chat with Keith, the manager, we get going. As we pass through Sinazeze we buy petrol out of 5l containers, as we won't have the opportunity to fill up for some time from here. They rip us R20 per litre ($2.60).
Anything with wheels can be a victim of the wet season.
Even caterpillar tracks in stead of wheels are no guarantee.
This proves also to be the last intact bridge, the next one and all thereafter are washed away.
From hereon only foot traffic. And of course us.
Wet boots for the second day.
It is really pleasant riding, good gravel and crossing streams every so often.
As we come around a mountain we see a river through the trees to our right, and it’s a big one. This could be a problem. After crossing a washed away part of the road on a footpath we come upon a Hilux bakkie that has been parked in the road for months. Clearly caught between the washed away road and the river. And when we get to the crossing our fears are confirmed, the bridge have been washed away.
I make myself comfortable under a tree and Hennie goes to walk it. Things don't look too good.
We are not keen to backtrack for two days, so we sit down and start working out ways of dealing with this dilemma. The thing about rivers is that the longer you spend with them, the more you get a feel for them and what can and cannot be done. If you take your time, a solution will invariably make its appearance. We watch a local cross the river on a very different line and we walk the river a couple of more times to check the best lines. Finally we believe that it can be done and we offload the bikes.
It’s not too deep, but the force of the water can easily wash the bike out from under you. With local help and a towrope we go for it. We figure that if we are able to stabilize the wheels ,we should be able to get across.
It's hairy, the river is flowing strongly and the bottom has large rocks.
After getting the bikes across we also carry our luggage across and take a well deserved cool down.
We are quite chuffed to have made it across.
Luggage strapped on again and ready to go. Close to the end of this rocky bit I go down and the bike falls on my leg, painfully so. It takes a couple of attempts from Hennie to get the bike lifted high enough for me to pull my leg out.
I am increasingly getting a dislike for the air shock on this bike. When you put a foot down to steady the bike and unload your weight on the seat, the shock pushes you right over because it has such immense travel.
Immediately after we cross this river it becomes clear that we are the first vehicles to travel here since the beginning of the wet season last year. We also again learn the value of Tracks for Africa as the main route has been abandoned, even by pedestrians. Something serious must have happened further on if even the locals do not use the route anymore. With the grass having overgrown the alternative route we have to go down to a 80m scale on T4A to find where the track begins, even so we ride past it four times without seeing it.
The riding turns technical and we have a ball.
This well has a plaque that says it was sponsored by Canadians, and I just want to thank them, they made my day a lot better.
I am generally against outside aid but I must say, these wells make a huge difference to the quality of life of the people living here.
We continue riding and get a wide range of terrain to play on, rocks, sand, mud, clay, ruts, cambers, water crossings, everything your heart can desire. We spend the whole afternoon on the pegs just basking in riding nirvana.
Because everything is wet we get a lot of practice riding all kinds of slippery surfaces, and we learn a new skill. We are used to using the clutch to control the power output on the back wheel. Here however, we learn to modulate the throttle only. Using it to get the weight off the front but being careful not to overdo it so that the back wheel does not start slipping, because we are continuously riding the center ridges between ruts as well as cambers.
Looking for a place to camp proves to be difficult because everywhere is wet.
We finally find a small sandy patch, still wet, but at least not muddy.
I find that with all the falling over during the day, my spare engine oil popped it's cap and everything inside the pannier is now well oiled.
The kids from some nearby huts come to have a look at us but keep a respectful distance of about a 100m. This is new to us.
We've just had the best day. We conquered a river, we rode the most entertaining paadjies possible and we both agree that even if we were to crash and end the trip tomorrow, it was already worth it. We are damn happy.
That night we lie down to the sounds of drums and singing, beautiful female voices. Very atmospheric. During the night we have a rain shower passing through and I am glad that I am sleeping off the ground on a stretcher.
Looking forward to riding along! But first, I am going to go for a ride, thank you!
woo hoo a MetalJockey RR!!
Wow!:clap Your images are fantastic, and your writing style is very easy. Thanks for bringing us along so far.:freaky
I have got to ride in Africa someday...........................
Muyende bwino bwana!
I'm in! I launched a 25,000 km ride from Lusaka on a Dakar in 2003. Never ventured so deep into the bush in the rainy season though! All those water crossings are wild!
I like it. More please.
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