Country : Zambia (Bridge Camp to South Luangwa Park)
Distance : 283km
Due to our late arrival the previous evening we were unable to appreciate the siting of Bridge Camp. However, the next morning we were greeted by the Luangwa river gently meandering through the valley below our rooms. An early start (we were up at 5:30) saw us leaving the camp at 6am for what we thought would not be too long a drive.
The previous evening we had discussed our route with the owners who had tabled the option that we take a “shortcut” from Patauke to Mfuwe (which is the town outside the main park entrance). They briefly warned us that the road, while 100km shorter, would take a bit longer. “… only and hour or two…” was the remembered comment. I’ll come back to this later…
So, just before sunrise we set off to what was a beautiful drive out of the Luangwa valley on the main road to Chipata and the Malawi border.
Our first stop was 60km down the road where we saw a petrol station that had fuel so we did what one must : refuel. As we were finishing, the lady on the tractor in the picture below chugged up. When I took her picture she called me over and she showed me pictures of her tractor, her maize crop and kids. We had a long chat about her farm – it seems she is doing very well, one of the few people I saw that was trying to farm land in a more modern way (as opposed to the traditional methods we saw all over where only a small parcel of soil is hand tilled and planted.) I wish her luck – and many more tractors like the ‘cute’ one she now owns!
Barely out of town we ran into some roadworks. The policeman there looked concerned and told us the road was bad. Being the explorers we are we brushed off his concerns and continued. Although the road was fairly corrugated and had sections that were quite eroded we were making good time (approx 50km/hr) and were not too concerned.
Passing through one village we noticed a guy on a bicycle gesturing in the opposite direction. We checked the map while continuing and decided we were still fine. Beside, there were power lines alongside the road so it must be the correct one, right?
10km later and a guy walking on the side of the road made the same gesture so we stopped and chatted. It then dawned on us that we had missed a turnoff in the last village so we dutifully doubled back to the village – Go There Come Back – where we checked with some locals who pointed to us in the right direction.
“Its a good road!” one said with a big smile… that should have tipped us off there and then!
We passes several villages that had these small cotton crops. Most had recently harvested and bales of cotton were stacked waiting for collection. There seemed to be very little else planted so I imagine this is what provides them with whatever income they can get to purchase dietary staples.
The road is littered with ruts and dips which reduces the average speed to little over 20km/hr. At points it even reduces to barely more than a cycle path.
Eventually we reached a point that was officially part of the park (no fences) and finally had our first glimpse of the Luangwa river (the same one we had woken up next to 6 hours earlier and 150km downstream).
10 and a half hours after starting out in the morning we finally arrived at our destination – Wildlife camp on the banks of the Luangwa river – and quickly set up camp just in time to enjoy the sunset over a few sundowners.