Thursday, 22 September 2011

Across North Luamba to Mafue

We reluctantly left the Hot Springs, filled up with diesel from plastic cans at the side of the road and set off with some trepidation for North Luamba park We had agonised for ages whether to risk this route as it included a descent down a steep escarpment and a pontoon river crossing. It all started fine we got into the park and were told that the road had just been graded, we got down the escarpment OK passing through dense forest with a few low branches to be sawn off. Progress was slow brut we eventually reached Buffalo Camp, a collection of grass huts on the side of the river.

Next morning Chris, Thomas and myself went on a Game Walk which was quite tame until we stumbled on a lioness and 2 cubs eating last nights kill.We then set off for the pontoon. Another slow drive got us there to find that the truck had to ford the river and the pontoon woul not take the Landie and the trailer at the same time. The landy got across OK after getting stuck in deep sand, then the traile was manhandled onto the pontoon and crossed OK. Next was the truck at this stage Thomas Florence and myself were spectators on the other side of the river. The truck set off across the soft sand and promptly got stuck, bitr of digging got it going again and then it stuck again. At this point 3 of the locals set off to wade across the river about 10 metres from a group of about 10 hippos. However both they and the truck eventually crossed safely. We spent the night in a camp at the side of the river surrounded by elephants and hippos.

Another long days drive averaging about 20k an hour got us to Luamba National Park. The camp we stayed in boasted the largest concentration of hippos in Africa, about 300 just in front of the campsite, needless to say it was not a peaceful night.

Our 4th day of off road driving proved to be the most difficult. This time the landy and trailer got stuck twice but both times were towed out by the truck. The previous 3 days had been through mainly dense bush with no villages but now we were out of the park and we passed more and more villages. Some of the villages were so poor it was unbelievable. The children were in rags and under nourished and the village would have nothing but straw huts, sometimes a borehole but often nothing but river water to drink. There seemed to be very few possessions such as bicycles or motorbikes. As we got near Mafue the villages became larger and more affluent presumably because they had access to the town to sell their produce.

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