Duration: 70 days
Distance: 15 707 km
After 70 days of travelling we arrived safely in Malelane.
Was it worth it?
Every minute, every cent.
Anyone with a reliable high ground-clearance vehicle can do this trip. And there is nothing to be afraid of.
We felt perfectly safe everywhere along this route, walking in the midst of crowds in those crazy towns, driving alone on the road, parking next to the road for a coffee, sleeping in the tent with the local village a few meters down the road. No visible attempts to break into the vehicle when left alone.
Corruption and bribery:
We had read horror stories about corrupt officials at road blocks and at borders. We encountered none of them. Not one, despite travelling through more than 200 police stops and road blocks throughout the trip! All officials were friendly and we never had issues and arguments about anything. We received four legitimate fines for SPEEDING – one was for driving at 56km/h in a 50km/h zone. We blatantly ignored the runners and touts at the borders, locked our vehicle, went into the buildings and completed the processes. We asked the official where we were busy what to do next, and we went through it without problems.
Road conditions on the roads we travelled:
Tanzania roads were perfect (tar as well as gravel), except for the roads inside the national parks, which were horrendous.
Zambia roads were perfect where the new roads have been built (tar as well as gravel), but the eastern section of the Great North road is starting to disintegrate and the short section from Liuwa Plains before Kafue had disintegrated to potholed gravel with small tar patches.
Malawi roads were good. Tarred, narrow with ragged edges, or wide and perfect with shoulders.
Mozambique roads: Perfect in the south, perfect in the west, sections of the N1 north of Vilanculos disintegrated to a nightmare (reportedly as far as Caia).
Tracks4Africa worked perfectly for the daily travel in all the countries, and if the destination could not be found on T4A, we entered the coordinates from Maps.me. Double check the proposed route on T4A with your preferred route from a map (printed map or google maps or maps.me), as the settings could interfere with the preferred route and send you on lengthy detours or on 4×4 obstacle courses.
Excluding the national park camps (outragously expensive), all camps we visited were affordable at an average of $10pppn with acceptable to great amenities and locations. All of the campsites we chose were referenced by blogs we read beforehand and where we had to find campsites on-the-go, we searched the region on the iOverlander app and confirmed with reviews on Tripadvisor.
The national park camp facilities of TZN are a disgrace. Totally run down and not maintained in years. Zambia national park camps were in a better condition, but not at all comparable to the park camps in RSA, Botswana and Namibia.
- Zambia have Shoprite and PnP stores in the larger towns across the country.
- TZN had no chain stores on our route, only small shops in the informal sector. We found two larger stores similar to a small Shoprite – one in Mwanza and one in Arusha where we stocked up on items such as longlife milk, weetabix, mayonnaise, yoghurt, tinned food, etc. In Iringa we walked into a tiny shop by change that had all the familiar brandname groceries. The problem is that we did not want to walk down these crazy informal shopping areas and enter each and every small shop searching for something. So we went without it if finished until we came across it by change somewhere else. TZN had almost NO bread for sale, so we had potatoes and pasta.
- Malawi have Shoprite in their 5 largest towns.
- The Shoprite (Zambia and Malawi) marked prices on items were approx 150% of the RSA prices, which is understandable, as all the RSA brands had to be transported there.
Items available everywhere at the informal trading:
- bottled water – no need to buy water filtration systems – these bottles are provided by reputable bottlers and are sealed
- cold drinks and beer
- sugar, rice and pasta
- in season fruit and vegetables
We did not buy meat outside RSA. According to other trip reports there are a handful of private butchers where one can safely buy excellent meat in Zambia and Tanzania. We bought excellent chicken and cold meats at Shoprite in Zambia.
We also did not want to sample the street food…
Inter Africa Bureau de Exchange inside the OR Tambo airport sells all the allowed African currencies (They did not have Malawian Kwacha in stock). We would advise anybody to exchange enough to at least get through the border and to the first ATM. Some borders have ATM’s but they are not always working.
- National Parks in both Zambia and Malawi accepted VISA and Mastercard credit cards and NO cash
- Fuel was paid with local currency cash everywhere except in cities such as Lusaka and other major towns where credit cards were accepted.
- Informal sector shopping was with local currency cash only.
ATM’s are available in all the larger towns, but largely accepted only VISA credit cards (mastercard more than often rejected).
We took too much USD cash. We took USDollars for the park fees (who turned out to be ‘cashless’) as well as for accommodation. We paid as many campsites as we could with dollars instead of local currencies as they did not have credit card facilities. Exchanging dollars to local currencies at a bank was a mission (we tried it once) – it was much easier to use an ATM. We informed the card section of the bank of the time away and the countries the card would be used in beforehand.
Muslim squat toilets in northern TZN with no other option nearby – pottery piece in the ground where one has to squat – we left our Oztrail camping toilet chair at home, but for a trip to eastern or central Africa it will be one of the first items to be packed – it will fit over this hole.
Mosquitoes – lots, but not so many that we considered using the mosquito net for our awning.
Tsetse flies – only in the national parks during game drives – we did not encounter them in camps.
One slow puncture in Tanzania which we plugged immediately and it is still going strong. Nothing else.
We did not want to risk mistakes during a service away from home and will be servicing the vehicle ASAP in Malelane – we read too many horror stories about vehicle servicing in Africa where major disasters followed a small service.
Very cheap, high quality connections throughout the trip. We bought a simcard in the first large town after the border at an official shop where you have to produce a passport to register the simcard. There we also bought enough airtime to convert to a data package sufficient for the time we planned to spend in the country (scratchcards in all the countries except Moz). Scratchcards to top up are available everywhere in the smallest village.
Advice for a similar trip:
Plan your whole route in detail. Read as wide as possible and concentrate on recent reports – situations in Africa change fast.
We had a spreadsheet with the destination/accommodation per day, distance per day, accommodation costs for the specific destination, alternative accommodation along the route if needed. Then there are sheets for border costs per item and park entry fees per item. Also a sheet with distances per country, current fuel price per country and fuel cost calculations, and a sheet with current exchange rates for the local currencies. All these information are available on the internet.
It helps to know that Tsh1000 = R6 or MKW1000 = R20 when you have to pay for something. The first charcoal bag in Mozambique was offered to us for MT1000, which is approx R230, and at the next stall we bought a similar one (same size) for MT90 (R21). These sellers also see the tourists come. Sometimes the sellers could not speak English and we did not understand the prices they quoted. If they realise that you do not understand, they may take advantage of you. My first purchase of vegetables in Tanzania was at a price 10 times of what I should pay, just because I did not understand what he said at first and then with the confusion did not make the quick mental calculation to ZAR before I paid. It kept bothering me afterwards until I made the calculation – too late. Since then we gave them a piece of scrap paper and a pen to write down the price if we did not understand each other.
Having the above planned details, we exactly knew what costs to expect wherever we went, as well as the total expected cost of the trip. And we completed the trip well within the budget.
We travelled during the low season (winter is high season in Tanzanian and Zambian game reserves) and we only booked the following beforehand:
- Kasanka as the visit was at high bat season
- Liuwa Plains – wildebeest migration in November – they were fully booked, and we had to change our dates to be accommodated
- We sent emails to places where we would spend Christmas Eve and New Years Eve to confirm whether they would be able to accommodate us on those nights.
We just showed up at all the other places and had no problem.
Welkom terug ek reeds vroeer verkeerdelik gedink julle is terug. Dit was great om die reis saam te beleef op jou blog.
Ai, Martin. Dit was so wonderlik, en die blog het vir ons gewerk om almal op hoogte te hou van waar ons is. Dit plaas ook die fotos in perspektief, want om net later n klomp fotos deur te kyk, is vervelig, want dis buite konteks. Sal kuier reël.
Baie dankie dat ons deur julle reisjoernaal kon saamreis!
Dit lyk my dis rerig n bucket list trip
Baie bly julle is veilig terug
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Dit was n besonderse ervaring. En dit was n plesier om dit met julle te deel. Goed om terug te wees sonder teëspoed.
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Welkom terug. So bly julle is veilig en alles het goed verloop.
Dit was wonderlik. En bly om veilig terug te wees.
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