We landed in Zambia from Malawi on 12th August 2018 through the Songwe border. 

Country No. 6

12th – 19th August, 2018 (Day 41 – 48) 

If it’s not called Mosi-oa-Tunya in Zambia, it is called Mosi-oa-Tunya 😉 😉 Just remember that.

BORDER EXPERIENCE

We like to always highlight this as it is very important information for all the travelers.  You will note our blogs will always start with the border experience. In Malawi we paid for road access fee. In Zambia we paid for Tar Levy of Zambia Kwacha 70/- (Kshs 700/-) per bike. Please don’t ask us what is the difference in road levy and Tar levy, we too don’t know but you have to pay it anyway. Whether you understand it or not. Since we had the carnet and the COMESA insurance, that was all we had to pay.  The process was first and efficient.

NOW IN ZAMBIA 

We left the border for our first stop over for the night at Petauke. Having come from Lilongwe on the same day, our mileage for the day was 322 kms.  We had looked at the map and thought the best place to sleep was Petauke, not because we wished to cover that kind of mileage but because we thought Chipata may be a very small center and might not have accommodation. Its very near the border as well which could have given us the impression as other centers close to the border have been small and without accommodation.  To our surprise, Chipata is a well established town with street lights, malls, petrol stations and you can find very good accommodation. If you leave Lilongwe  and cross the border late, you should not worry about driving/riding far to find accommodation. It’s only 107 kms from the border and good tarmac road all the way. We however had enough time to get to Petauke and therefore did not spend any time at Chipata.

Zambian roads from the border to Lusaka.

Our way of finding accommodation is either by using iOverlander, asking from the locals or using referrals from other travelers we meet as we travel. We have been so fortunate not to end up sleeping by the road side because we did not make bookings in advance.  Something we don’t do. Once we arrive at our destination for the day, the first thing we do is top up fuel for the bikes and if we need help with the accommodation, we always ask the people at the petrol station. So we did that at the petrol station at Petauke and they all pointed to a lodge right opposite the station. We were tired and just rode in to the lodge called Chimwemwe lodge. We got ourselves a cottage as they did not have camping option. It’s a very touristic lodge just by the main highway. We are so used to our tent and being in a place that is social. That is why we love backpackers and camp sites.  Everyone talks to everyone. This turned out to be our movie night. Thanks to the TV in the cottage.

Chimwemwe lodge. Our home before Lusaka.

LUSAKA

it took us two days from Lilongwe to Lusaka.  From Petauke to Lusaka it is 403 kms. One thing to note is that the roads are really good.  From the border, for the first time we had a road without pot holes, bumps or cops. In all the other countries, we had at least 2 out of the 3 on each road. It is also a very long stretch with nothing much to see only big farms and  good vegetation. Zambia is very green. We however enjoyed driving through the Lower Zambezi National Park and crossing a very beautiful bridge with an amazing view of river Luanga.

The beautiful bridge
The river Luanga

We arrived in Lusaka and we had already picked our new home from iOverlanders as the Lusaka Backpackers.  We went in and got our beds in the dorm.  We always take a decker. It’s fun whispering to each other like we used to do in high school.  I know, you are wondering how a couple sleeps in a dormitory.  Our best experiences have been in the dormitories. We love them. They are also very pocket friendly but the best of all is making friends.  Our dormitory had 5 beds. This one had no deckers though so we were all on the same level. We were three of us in the dorm and did not meet the third dorm-mate Bahar till later in the evening. She is from Turkey and was traveling solo. We would end up having dinner and drinks together and became travel buddies for the next couple of places.

THINGS TO DO IN LUSAKA

We had a day to spend in Lusaka and all three of us spent it together. We avoid the very touristic activities as they cost more.  For example, you can pay a guide to take you for the Lusaka town tour which will include the museum and the Kabwata cultural village for USD 30. A friend from Lusaka organized transport to take us around Lusaka town.  After some errands at the Levy Mall and one of the best salads we have had since we left home from Living Healthy outlet, we left for the Museum and Kabwata cultural Village.

THE MUSEUM

Entrance fee – Zk-50/- per person for none residents. (Kshs 500/-)

No pictures allowed inside the museum.  The museum covers the history and culture of Zambia.  It has emphasis on the colonization and independence history of Zambia.  Opened in 1996, it has a modern layout.

Outside the Museum. The traveling family. Bahar with us
The only picture we managed to take inside the museum.

THE KABWATA CULTUAL VILLAGE. 

If you have been to Maasai market in Kenya, then, the Kabwata cultural village is similar to Maasai market.  The only difference is that, it is set up as a village.  It was a nice experience being here as they have items that we don’t have in the Maasai market but largely the paintings, carvings and some accessories were similar. They have the gemstones and old money (Zambia and Zimbabwean) which were quite interesting to see. You can also buy it there.

OFF TO LIVING-STONE. 

We left in the morning.  Bahar took the bus because we could not fit her suit-case on the bike, otherwise we really wanted her to seat at the back of one of us (perfect pillion). She had told us how she has never thought she could ride a motorcycle but the more we talked, the more we felt she is going to get one some day.  Destination, Livingstone. We were all looking forward to the Vic Falls experience. We arrived at Jollyboys  backpackers and booked our space in the dormitory. We found Christine and Virginia in the dorm and our traveling family had two more members. The dormitories here are very well designed.  Each bed comes with personalized amenities such as own light, own charging point, own locker and the design gives you the comfort of some privacy in your own little space. Here we were also meeting Chris and David who we have been traveling together from Malawi. It was going to be a big happy reunion.

Our dormitory

As soon as we all linked up and were now happy to be together again, we spent a really amazing evening together.  We were to part ways again the following day as Chris and David were leaving to later link up in the next countries but not without helping them make a tough decision on their next move in their adventure. Their transport out of Zambia was complicated and was going to affect a part of their travel. After a tough deliberation, they sort our help in making the decision. This was made by tossing a coin which Dos would be in-charge of. Turned out to be the best way to make a difficult decision. After hugging each other and Chris and David leaving, the three of us sat by the pool side.

See you soon moment to Chris and David.

We heard the roaring sound of a bike and like little kids, we ran to just see. There was a cute yellow BMW 1150 and a very knackered gentleman. We said hello and welcomed him. Chuchi joined our amazing traveling family and the four of us would spend the day at the Vic Falls the following day. He even named Bahar “Chingololo” (her Africa name now) and got us gifts.

We have met and made friends with the most amazing people in this world.  We have been blessed.

We spent the rest of the day talking and sharing our travel experiences, advices and any information that would be helpful to each other on our different adventures.  Chuchi was really helpful with the roads in Botswana and what to expect. The border crossing and planing as he has traveled this route several times on his motorbike. The best advice was on how to handle the world animals which occasionally cross the road randomly and more especially the elephants.  That was really helpful.

THE REAL MOSI-OA-TUNYA (The smoke which Thunders)

If you are still wondering what “the real Mosi-oa-Tunya” is, don’t worry any more.  This name means “The smoke which Thunders” and refers to the Victoria Falls.

Mosi-oa-Tunya

 

You can view Vic Falls from Zambia and Zimbabwe as well. However, we preferred the Zimbabwean side. It was more epic. You can walk across the border to each country and view the Vic Falls. If you need visas to both countries, you need to factor in the cost of visas as you have to pay it with each entry. However, you can get a multiple entry in to Zambia and only pay extra for Zimbabwe if you would like to view the falls from both countries which is possible in a day.  For countries that don’t need visa into the two countries, you only need to pay for entrance fee.

Kenyans – No visa required in to Zambia and Zimbabwe

Zambia entrance fee – USD 25 P.P

Zimbabwe entrance fee – USD 30 P.P

If doing both countries, give yourself the whole day and a walking distance of about 14 kms in total. If doing only one side, give yourself about 3 hours. You may need to hire a rain coat at the gate if you are afraid of getting wet.  We did not, we loved the showers of Mosi-oa-tunya. Have proper and comfortable shoes for walking otherwise you end up with your legs in the cold pool in a cold night like Wamuyu. Carry some drinking water, there are coffee shops and restaurants for a meal on your way out but you can pack your own lunch.  We packed our own lunch and had a picnic lunch in there which was really lovely. They have places you  can eat with nice benches and dustbins.

If you stay at Jollyboys like us, you get free transport to the Vic Falls and only need to get transport back to the backpackers. Taking a taxi by yourself will cost you Zk 60 but if you take a shared taxi, you pay Zk 10 and get dropped at the museum which is right across the road and walk to the backpackers.

There many shops and vendors where you can buy souvenirs at the Vic Falls. There is even a small shop inside the park where you can buy water and snacks.  There are very clean toilets and will only cost you Zk 2 to use, which ticket is for multiple use. The entire place is really well organized and worth every penny you spend.

Just don’t forget to go through the immigration. Get your stamp please.

We extended our stay in Livingstone with another day and the best decision ever as we linked up with Frank again who we had met in Senga Bay Malawi.

 

See you in Botswana. 

 

 

 We entered Malawi on 2nd August, 2018 through Kasumulu border.

2nd – 12th August, 2028 (DAY 31 – 41)

We are not the only ones who use this phrase “Malawi the warm heart of Africa”, many people do and there may be a book titled that too as well.  The people of Malawi are very kind, welcoming and loving to everyone. The make the country earn this title.

BORDER CROSING

Our last night in Tanzania was spent in Kasumulu (you can read all about our last night in Tanzania here) This was border no 5. Getting through immigration and getting passports stamped for both exit and entry has basically been the same process everywhere. What has varied so far is clearing the bikes at the customs.

What you need to know about the border crossing in Malawi.

All borders will demand to see your insurance. COMESA insurance is the easiest to have as it covers several countries down south to South Africa. It is best to purchase it before departure as this will save you a lot of time at the border. However, not all countries are covered and you need to check that when clearing your bike at the borders and purchase insurance for the country not covered at the border. It is illegal to drive without an insurance.

Malawi is covered by COMESA insurance but you have to pay “road access fee” of $20 per bike. This amount is only payable in dollars and you have to deposit it in the bank and present the deposit slip with the paperwork at the customs. The good thing is, the bank is in the same hall. There can be a long wait as everyone crossing the border with a vehicle has to go through the process. The bank is semi-automated and therefore each transaction takes a bit longer as most of the transaction involves quite some paperwork.  There is a forex bureau right next to the building so if you don’t have dollars you can change some money there.  And that means you have to have some cash on you as there is no ATM at the border. Same rules about dollar notes applies here, only dollar notes from 2006 will be accepted. We found a very helpful customs official who came to our rescue when our 50 dollar note was rejected as it was a 2004.

Another thing you need to know is, there is a bit of paper work at the Malawian border at the customs. Whether you have a carnet or not, you will be required to fill up some paper work. In essence, plan your time very well for early arrival and to allow for the paperwork and custom process.

RIDING THROUGH MALAWI

This is very important for everyone who plans to overland through Malawi. Riding or driving, please take time to read through this blog.

Malawi is very very beautiful no doubt about that. Lake Malawi is the main tourist attraction and therefore almost everyone will be using the M1, M5, M14 and M12 roads. We entered Malawi through the Kasumulu border coming from Tanzania.

Taking a break in between a day’s riding.

FUEL AND CASH ACCESS.

From the border, the next town with a petrol station or ATM is Karonga and it is 45 kilometers from the border. Make sure you top up fuel in Kasumulu and get some cash as well. If you miss topping up fuel and cash at Kasumulu, you can top up in Karonga but it would be a risk for cash as ATM’s are down sometimes or won’t accept foreign bank cards.

From Karonga, the next town that you can find a petrol station and an ATM is Mzuzu which is 218 kms from Karonga.  We did not have this information and we left Karonga without topping up fuel thinking there would be a petrol stations along the way and we could get more ullage in the tanks to take up more fuel.  We also did not have enough cash on us and we had no idea what the costs are like.  Our first two nights were going to be in Chitimba 160 kilometers before Mzuzu.  We stayed at a really nice backpackers called Hakuna Matata, where we took up two beds in a dormitory. Fortunately or unfortunately, we were the only ones in the dormitory and so it was just like we had our own room. There were other travelers though in the rooms and we ended up making great friends and traveling together for some time. The owner Mr. Willies was really helpful and he helped us get some fuel from a local vendor that was very clean. No problems at all.  There is always a way out ;).

After two nights at Hakuna Matata, we left heading for Nkatha Bay via Mzuzu.  We had ran out of money too. We actually even owed the camp some money.  We needed to get cash. Here is our other new experience. All Malawian banks will only dispense a maximum of 80,000 Kwacha (Kshs 10,600/-). Our daily budget so far is at Kshs 6,000/- (we are hoping to bring it down to Kshs 5,000). One maximum withdrawal only takes care of one day as we need fuel, accommodation and food. The other surprise was that most of the banks don’t accept foreign cards for withdrawal, only Malawi National Bank accepted all cards. The bright side of this is ATM withdrawals at  Malawian National Bank cost ZERO.  The ATM’s down time is also high and most of the time we would find ourselves waiting for a long time, or walking from one ATM to another hoping it’s working.  Our first experience was in Mzuzu and we were stuck in the town for sometime but we eventually were able to get some money.  Mzuzu is 50 kilometers from Nkhata Bay and therefore easy to ride to the ATM.

No caption

This remained the experience throughout Malawi and it is very very important to plan and budget well otherwise you ran out of cash and fuel with no access.

We also noted that most places do not accept credit/debit card payments.  We were not able to pay for fuel using the cards at all and the only place we used the card was in Shoprite supermarket at Mzuzu and Lilongwe.

NOTE:-

  •  Fill up your tanks and if possible carry reserve fuel depending on your route, distances and tank capacity.
  • Carry enough cash at all time.  Only cash payments in Malawi.  Foreign currency (Dollars and Euros) are accepted in most camps but not in shops and fuel stations.
  • Malawi National Bank is your best bet for ATM withdrawal but you may be lucky with others depending on your bank and type of card.
  • All main roads are good tarmac other than a section after the border where the roads are being repaired.  This should be done in a couple of months.  Towards Mzuzu there is also a section with many potholes but doable.
  • Most of the roads to the campsites are sandy with sections of deep sand. For bikers, you need the right tyres  although we made it with street tyres. 4X4 vehicles are perfect for these roads.
Getting into Hakuna Matata

BACK PACKING IN MALAWI.

There are some hotels along lake Malawi but we do not have the data at all. We never checked for hotels while planning our stay in Malawi. Reason being, they are beyond our budget. However, there are many lovely backpackers along Lake Malawi all the way from the North to South Malawi. Very affordable, awesome community and just the traveler heaven.

We have used dormitories, rooms with shared bathrooms as well as rooms with private showers.  You can never compare the prices to those of hotels whatever choice you make. Backpackers are way cheaper and are just the perfect community, amazing family set up and the best way to meet people, make friends, exchange information about travel and have an absolutely good time.

We have made friends and continued to travel together. Some for a couple of places and others a couple of countries.

If you would like to follow our route, below is where we stayed.

CHITIMBA – HAKUNA MATATA CAMP 

With Willies at Hakuna Matata.

Hakuna Matata is a small camp site. What we loved about this place.

  • The bathrooms are really nice and the designer put some good attention to details. The showers comes with a drying area which is well designed for all your items (a bench you can place your toilet bag and hooks for clothes and towel) The water is hot throughout the day. The sinks are well placed with mirrors and enough space as a shared bathroom.
  • Cleanliness – the camp is very clean, rooms and compound alike. We stayed in the dorm. The dorm sleeps five and has single beds and no deckers.
  • Warm and homely set up – Willies the owner of the camp hangs out with the guests and is very knowledgeable about the Malawi history as well as the rest of Africa.  He will seat with guests over breakfast and dinner and gladly share information about Malawi and entire Africa. Just ask him anything and he knows something very helpful.
  • Food – They have a small kitchen where you order food.  They serve breakfast and dinner but if around for lunch, there is always someone to fix a light meal.  Their food is freshly prepared and very delicious. Make sure to try the butter fish while there.
  • Accessibility – The camp is about 1 kilometer from the main road.  The road is a mix of shallow and deep sand. Our bikes have street tires and this was not easy, however, if you ride slowly you will make it in and out. We did, but the right tyres are better.
  • Activities – Enjoy the view of the Malawi “table mountains” from the beach, the sunrise and sun set is really beautiful as well. Take a trip up the Livingstonia mountains to the Mushroom camp, museum and more.
Hakuna Matata camp

BUTTERFLY SPACE – NKHATA BAY

The view of Butterfly space from the lake.

Butterfly Space is build on a hill or can we call it a cliff ? It extends down to the lake. You have rooms and bathrooms on the cliff and down at the lake there is a nice bar with the most amazing music.  Not forgetting the reception right in the middle and the kitchen with very delicious breakfast.

The pub is managed by young guys with an incredible collection of good music from all around the world.  We actually borrowed some and they gladly shared. You also get to play a game of pool and Bao with them. Your nights will be spent listening to the sound of the waters of Lake Malawi hitting the stones as if to sing a lullaby for everyone.

The lake sings you a lullaby

The bathrooms and toilets are all compost since you can not build septic tanks on the cliff and they are eco friendly as they are keen on maintaining a clean lake and environment.

We traveled down with our friends from Hakuna Matata and made new friends at Butterfly space.  We had some really fun nights at this camp till we extended our stay.

Access to Butterfly space is all tarmac.  The only one we saw that was tarmac all the way.

KANDE BEACH

We spent one night at Kande beach.  We were unfortunate to be there when there were no other guests.  Its really popular for over-landing trucks. A relatively modern camp. The road to the camp from the main road is mostly deep sand.  If riding, please make sure you have the right tires. Otherwise, you will make it, we did.

The good omen tree of Kande Beach

COOL RUNNINGS – SALIMA (SENGA BAY)

Just like the name, this place is purely cool.

Wamuyu, Frank, Samantha and Dos at Cool Runnings

We spent two nights at Cool Runnings and met Samantha who runs this amazing cozy and very homely lodge. There are en-suit rooms, dormitories and camping available (both own tent and their tent). Talk of attention to details everywhere, this place has every bit of it well thought for your comfort. Very very beautiful we must say.

Samantha runs a number of community projects and has volunteers coming in from all over the world.  The most amazing bit is that if you are staying there and would like to volunteer for a day or more, that is possible and very welcome.  We decided to take a day and just volunteer. We ended up having such a great time with everyone and learning so much.  We made more friends and loved this place a lot.

A day Volunteering at Toms (Samantha’s projects)

Accessibility – about 800 mtrs from the main road.  Partly sandy road.

MABUYA CAMP – LILONGWE

Our stay in Malawi was sadly coming to an end.  We were a bit behind schedule and we decided not to go down to Cape Maclear and Monkey Bay. Lilongwe was going to be our last town and stay in Malawi.  We were here for two nights and stayed in a en-suit room. When we called to book, we were given the price of 30 USD per night but we got charged USD 45 a night which we were not happy about. The backpackers is conveniently located walking distance to town.  We were able to walk to the shopping mall and do our shopping. It’s tarmac road all the way to the camp.  There is a swimming pool, self catering, restaurant and a bar. Although located in town, you have everything within the backpackers and will not need to think of a night out in town not unless that’s really what you would like to do.

Parked at Mabuya for our last nights in Malawi

OUR FAMILY GREW IN MALAWI

We made the most friends in Malawi and have continued traveling together. Malawi is beautiful, incredible, indeed the warm heart of Africa and the connection country.

We loved Malawi, we left filled with so much love from everyone we met and we now have a big loving fun family.

WHAT TO DO IN LAKE MALAWI

  • Snorkel and scuba
  • Water sports
  • Explore the villages
  • Drink Malawi gin
  • Soak in malawian warmth
  • Eat lots of fish
  • Try out the mice delicacy
Malawian mice delicacy

We are looking forward to answering many questions because we know yo are already planning your trip to Malawi.