Lusaka to Livingstone: off road to the mighty Zambezi river and the coming together of cool folk



- Distance: 610km

- Days cycling: 7

- Average distance per cycling day: 87.1km

- Total distance since London: 11454km

- Lowest altitude: 450m

- Highest altitude: 1325m



Lusaka. A big, noisy, churning city with divided areas of downbeat industrialized areas interspersed with luxurious havens. It was here that we slept in a brothel, had our camera and all our photos stolen, I broke a tooth and both spent a night unwell with fever, not to mention spending far too much money attempting to replenish our expired luck. With a journey such as this, you have to just roll with the good times as well as the bad, and so we tumbled and turned hoping that our luck would soon change. A week passed until the day came when we were ready to leave Lusaka, a sunny, warm day and I couldn’t get far away enough from the place that had brought us so much misfortune. A downward sweeping road, the sun on our backs and a return to buying fresh produce from local farmers soon lifted our spirits.


It was great being back on the road and before long we approached another mountain, the great Munali, and once again we anticipated a grueling climb. We had heard of its winding roads and relentless slopes but after 9 months on the road we now had the physique to take that bull by the horns and tame the mountain under our wheels. Well, this is how I would have liked it to have been. The monstrous Munali pass actually turned out to be no more than a 4km gentle incline, nothing like the insane mountains we traversed in Ethiopia and Tanzania. At the summit stood a plaque describing how Dr Livingstone stood at the very same point over one hundred years ago a saw Lake Kaufe for the first time (during his epic journey from Angola to Mozambique). Standing where this great explorer once stood was a special moment and so taking inspiration from him, we decided to get off the tarmac and explore the region in more detail and in particular to find our way to the mighty Zambezi river. After some 200km, we turned southwards. Surprisingly, the tar road spilled off into the surrounding bush for 60km, 15km short of the village of Sinazongwe which lies on the banks of the river. On our decent from 1200m above sea level to 550m at which the river lies, we met Kevin. Kevin is a young caucasian Zambian man whose family settled in these parts long ago and who owns and runs a crocodile farm. With extensive knowledge of the area, he warned us not to explore it too enthusiastically as there existed a serious risk of death if we were to get lost. He did however invite us to stay at his farm and informed us of another family run bush camp (Kariba bush camp) and crocodile farm some 100km away but warned us that the last 30km would be a ‘terribly rough’ stretch. Having initially agreed to visit him at his home and farm, we decided that it was too far off our chosen route and so sent him a text message gracefully declining his kind offer. We camped at the turn off from the tar road and in the morning pressed on having high hopes of discovering an isolated and traditional village beside the Zambezi River. We cycled 15km on the sandy, dusty roads, meandering through wooden thatched hut hamlets, dry river beds and mythical baobab trees until we approached, reached and passed the village we were aiming for, unknown to us until long after. Progressively loosing our bearings and orientation, we ploughed on through the dust only to be stopped by a young Zambian man in a pick-up truck. To our amazement, this stranger knew who we were and where we wanted to be. It took a few seconds to regain composure (being in such a remote place and to be approached by someone who knew so much about us is a little bewildering) we questioned him and his knowledge. As it turns out, the text message that we had sent to Kevin was never received and by 8pm the previous evening, having not heard from us, he decided to send out a search party. This lone stranger spent the night trying to locate us and finally found us going round in circles. Everyone saw the funny side of things and with his help we were soon back on the tarmac road. We were a little disappointed by our failed expedition and so tried to redeem ourselves by attempting to reach the remote village of Siansoa were the Kariba bush camp would be found, now about 80km upstream. Kevin had warned us that it lay some 30km off the road down a difficult stretch of sandy road, but after the antics we pulled off in the Chalby desert (northern Kenya), this was going to be a walk in the park. But alas, life is never as you expect it to be and the simple walk in the park became more of a super marathon. Deep sand, steep hills and the occasional warning from villagers of wild elephants passing through were the theme of the stretch. It took over 4 hours to get to our destination and we arrived just before the sun disappeared beyond the horizon. A beautiful resort with roaming game combined with modcons such as an outdoor pool, volleyball court and cocktail bar all set right on the banks of the mighty Zambezi. Not quite the traditional village we had set out to find but a very special place nevertheless. We spent the first night as the only guests at the camp and the tough day that had passed had left us weary and so we called it a night before 8pm. Brushing our teeth beside our tent while zebra and impala grazed behind us brought the wild right to our doorstep.


We planned to continue our journey to Livingstone by boat as so inquired about the possibility of hiring a canoe from Peter 'small dog' who runs the camp. Our overly adventurous idea was destroyed by words such as crazy, impossible and 'huge gorge”. As we ummed and ahhed and tried to form a contingency plan, Peter told us about a promotional video that was going to be shot over the next couple of days and invited us to be the 'tourists' for the shoot. This would involve a complementary crocodile farm tour, a sunset cruise as well as a night on their house boat, not to mention the three night party with the film crew and their friends. This proved to be one of the easier decisions that we've had to make and so speedily swapped our cycling clothes for our birkenstock dancing shoes and spent the following 72 hours in a daze of huge crocodiles, beautiful sunsets and shaky hangovers. We made some good friends here, Rob the glass blowing drummer from South Africa and his lovely girlfriend Beth from England who has transformed a local school, bringing it to the 20th century, Paul, a Zimbabwean who invests his time promoting renewable energy sources and generally saving the planet, and of course Tony, the Mancunian camera man. They all live and work in and around Livingstone and so we made plans to rekindle the spirit of he Kariba bush camp once we arrived.


Back on the road and about 230 km to Livingstone and the Victoria falls. A blissful stretch with the wind on our backs and predominantly downward slopes got us to our destination in only a couple of days. The plan is to visit the falls, meet with our new friends and try and stay off the booze for a while. Well, two out three wont be too bad.