I have crossed the Zambezi through different countries a few times in my life, but it still remains one of the most beautiful rivers. The border crossing went off without a hitch and on the Zambia side the customs official quite affably even completed my paperwork for me herself. It must be said that entering Zambia with a motorcycle is a rather costly enterprise, R1 780.00 to Namibia’s R250.00. I managed to reach Livingston nice and early and booked in at a backpackers lodge, a place I had stayed over at before. All the rooms were full, but fortunately there were still a number of campsites. Having already visited the mighty Vic Falls on three previous occasions I decided to skip it this time. It is always a worthwhile sight, but there was a lot I wanted to pack into my 90 days and was a few days ahead of schedule. I did a bit of shopping in town and treated myself to lunch at a restaurant. The crash of the Zimbabwean economy led to a large influx of tourists to Zambia, while it was clear to see that in Zimbabwe there is virtually nothing. Having toured through the country three times already I know it to be a beautiful country itself, which makes it truly sad that its people have to suffer so much (travelling distance: 450km).
The next stop would be Lusaka on a road I had travelled a few times before, but never in this direction. I overnighted close to Lusaka at a very affordable, but well-kept resort called Eureka.
I set out early on Sunday morning having experienced Lusaka’s traffic once before (absolute chaos). As with my previous visit, I again noticed how clean the city and streets are. The road north offers a range of interesting stops and since my budget was holding up nicely, I even treated myself at times to a good meal. Fortunately, I had a enough time to reach the harbour town of Mpulungu for the Thursday ferry crossing over Lake Tanganyika to Tanzania.
a bit early. I set up camp on a tree-filled site that provided quite old steam engines still in good enough condition. Being the only one there I wished other campers would arrive. The isolation kind of got to me and though not homesick, I missed the kids. It is a solitary way to journey and I always enjoy interacting with the people at my stops. My wish was soon granted It was at about 14h30, as I passed a pretty campsite called the Forest Inn that I decided to call it a day, even if when two 4x4s from South Africa pulled in next to me. Before long we got on like a house on fire and instead of a braai, we had ourselves a meal at the resort’s restaurant. Bright and early the next morning the women fixed us breakfast, after which they wished me well in prayer and we went our separate ways. Wherever I stopped for fuel or to stretch my legs and get something to drink, the locals struck up a conversation with me. Just like in the rest of Africa, the people of Zambia are enormously friendly.
Arriving in the town of Serenje I checked the research I’d done for a place to stay. Once again it was fully booked, but the owner allowed me to pitch my tent in the garden that had an outdoor shower and a gazebo where I could sit.
Not only was it really cheap, I also became friendly with some of the guests who invited me over for dinner in the evening. Upon their insistence, I stayed another day to do some laundry and look over my bike. I’ll never forget how a South African, Koos Bantjies, gave me cans of foods and will explain later how it came to my rescue. I even had my bike washed for a small “fee” by a man who remarked on its griminess at the local shopping centre.
The Wednesday I made my way to the harbour town of Mpulungu to catch the ferry MV Liemba over Lake Tanganyika to Tanzania. The picturesque scenery made it a pleasant ride, especially the rest stops with its interesting little shops and the friendly locals along the way. Finding overnight accommodation wasn’t a problem and the next day I headed to the harbour, only to learn that the ferry sailed every second week and had been there the previous week. I couldn’t wait a whole week for the ferry and to return would also cost me a few days. I sat head down in front of the customs office, trying to decide what to do. An official, knowing of my plight, suggested taking the sugar boat to Burundi and then the road to Rwanda. He even accompanied me to the captain of the sugar boat and after a bit of negotiation, I was assured of a ride to Burundi. Burundi is in absolute chaos and not a country you want to include in any journey, but I had little choice. I spent the rest of the day exploring the town, its people and the stalls along the lake.
The lake was buzzing with activity, from fishing to doing laundry to swimming, even though the water was filled with crocodiles.
The sugar boat was called Teksa and that Friday afternoon it set sail for the capital of Bujumbura (that I couldn’t cross on the MV Liemba ferry remained a great disappointment). The MV Liemba still plies its trade on Lake Tanganyika, even after 100 years. It’s worth reading up on the history of the ferry, which was built in Germany in 1913 and then sailed to Dar Es Salaam, broken up and packed into 5 000 crates for transport to Lake Tanganyika. It subsequently sank, but in 1921 Winston Churchill had it brought up and it has been going strong ever since. Perhaps one day I’ll get the chance to sail on it, who knows.
The sugar boat left late Friday afternoon, loaded with sugar, and I sat on its deck until dusk across the clean unpolluted waters of Lake Tanganyika. The lake is the divide between two countries, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania, with little industry or tourism on either side and hence no pollution. Sharing a compartment with some of the crew, I quickly made friends and was even allowed to join the captain on the bridge and to go see the engine room and generators, it being part of my work at Sentech. Also making the crossing was a German missionary working in the capital of Burundi, Bujumbura, with his wife and four children on leave in Zambia. I so enjoyed the voyage, just relaxing in the sunshine the next day and sitting on the deck for hours at twilight. We reached Bujumbura the next morning. I didn’t have a visa for Burundi and that’s where the problems started. If the German missionary hadn’t come to my aid, I would probably have been sent back to Zambia. Customs simply refused to believe that I wished to tour Burundi on a motorbike, since Burundi wasn’t really a tourist destination, and therefore balked at issuing me a visa. Eight hours and 39 offices later the German missionary and I managed to get me into the country.