Mongu, ZambiaJuly 2, 2017 in Zambia
We now know why Chobe is so crowded. While crossing the border from Botswana to Zambia at Kazungala, just outside of Kasane, we observed boatloads of day-trippers coming from Livingstone in Zambia and dozens of safari trucks waiting to take them all into the park.
We had done this crossing a few years ago, in the opposite direction. Long story short is that it’s easier getting out of Zambia, than in, at this particular border.
The crossing requires taking your car on a ferry and then going through Zambian immigration and customs. The whole process took about 2 hours with the help of a ‘fixer’ (a local Zambian to help us through the process). It cost us about $6 to use the fixer, but entering Zambia was expensive at ~$250 for both of us. Immigration was easy with no forms to fill out and the stamps were promptly issued as soon as we paid our $50. After immigration, there were many steps that needed to be done in order and yet the shed/offices were in non-sequential locations with very poor signage. The steps included filling out forms and paying: road tax, carbon tax, local council tax, permission to import a vehicle, and third party insurance. Some fees needed to be paid in US dollars and others in Zambian Kwacha. The trick was you can’t get Kwacha before you enter Zambia and are therefore forced to buy the currency at ridiculously bad exchange rates (especially on a Sunday that was also a holiday). We could have gone through the entire process ourselves (and have done so before), but the ‘fixer’ definitely halved the amount of time it took. Though we have nothing to complain about. Miles of trucks are lined up on both sides of the border and sometimes wait a week or more to get a spot on the ferry and cross.
Once we cleared the border, we headed up to Mongu where we planned to spend the night before heading into Kafue National Park. The first 80 km took us >2 hours because it was the WORST road we’ve ever driven – even worse than the famously awful roads of Mozambique back in 2007. We will try and attach a video so you can see what we mean. Once we cleared the bad stretch, it was a perfectly maintained road and an interesting drive up to Mongu. We passed multiple small villages, often with sweeping views of the Zambezi river, and noticed many more people walking on the road than we’d seen in Botswana or Namibia. There were also more bicycles than we’ve seen elsewhere. We suspect there was some sort of development project to provide bikes to villages as the distances are long and public transport and taxis would be too expensive and are virtually non-existent.
We had a bit of a weird experience when at one of the many police checkpoints that are between each district, a man in a military uniform with a big gun, mirrored sunglasses and very shiny handcuffs that he was twirling around his fingers, decided he wanted us to give him and his friend a lift to the next town so he could arrest someone. John bravely and firmly explained that it was impossible as our insurance didn’t allow us to take passengers and that we couldn’t possibly help them – they’d have to wait for another car. He was not happy, but luckily did not insist so we drove off as quickly as we could as he gave us the creeps and we weren’t entirely certain of his intentions.
Got into Mongu late and found a brand new, clean and modern hotel to stay. We seemed to be the only guests, but since it was a holiday weekend, there were many (wealthy) locals taking advantage of the resort’s bar, restaurant and kid’s playground. A very festive scene.
It’s common to see (mostly) women and girls carrying water over what appears to be very long distances between villages and water sources (we read that this chore is the main reason for girls not attending or completing school in rural Africa). On the morning we left Mongu, John was taking a hot shower and looked out the window to see a family carrying buckets of water along the path outside the property line fence--- reminding him and us of how ridiculously unevenly wealth and access to water is distributed, and how easy it is for us to take for granted the big and small luxuries we enjoy daily.Read more