Botswana to Mozambique

Nata to Tuli (Botswana) where Pete let us sleep in his bushcamp 100m from the border at Pontdrift.

Then across the Limpopo into SA, to Punda Maria in Kruger via Messina and Pafuri.
Then 2 nights later into Mozambique via Giriyondo and Massingir.
We slept north of Xai-Xai at Chedunguela.
Big distances, pre-sunrise wake-ups every day, lots of kms on the clock, the kids are troopers…

Three culinary delights

1. Biltong
We’d planned on zooming through the harsh South African town of Messina, where there are roadside signs as you enter saying “Don’t stop, criminals are in operation here“.

But finding biltong on these trips can be harder than finding lions, and so when we caught sight of a Biltong Shop on the far end of town… Suffice it to say it was AMAZING! (Mila the vegetarian munched on red peppers and Top Deck chocolate.)

2. Caterpillars
We went for supper in our Livingstone campground/hotel. Bea had spotted that local Roasted Caterpillars were on the menu earlier in the day and was genuinely disappointed when they were not available to order (1 day’s notice required).

3. Apples
At the border entering South Africa from Botswana, we were going through the usual customs/car checks. The police told us we weren’t allowed to take fruit through and ordered us to remove any from our car. As these burly policemen were instructing Ralph and I, we heard Mila’s little voice from in the car (she loves apples) “But…wait….apples!”
“Mila! These are… THE… POLICE!!”

We all laughed, especially the police, and then we all spent a little while eating up all the apples!

On the road in Queen Zambezi

From Zambia we’re zipping through Botwana and South Africa to reach Mozambique.

With very little debate we have named our car Queen Zambezi. She’s a she and she’s been christened with masking tape and sharpie name tags.

We realised we’ve seen elephants every day of this trip but one, even though we’ve only been in the parks for 6 of the 20 days. They are just roaming around Southern Africa! “Ellies at 11 o’clock” and “Ellies 3 o ‘clock” and also, “giraffes at 2 o’clock”. Lots of beautiful giraffe moments.

Kariba to Vic Falls (Livingstone) to Kazungula

Amazing Vic Falls and ellies everywhere. When we visited Victoria Falls from Zimbabwe in 2012, Bea whispered “It’s a new realm” and it was just as glorious this time from Zambia. We LOVED the vibe in Zambia and the positive energy after Zim.

After a couple of days we went west to Kazungula where we crossed the Chobe River into Bots on the ferry.
S-Korea is building a bridge so the legendary Kazungula Ferry will soon become history.

We have all fallen in love with Zambia! We have already begun planning our return to this country as we only have 2 days this trip.

Zim-Zam Border

Leaving Zimbabwe was a big relief. There is a small border you get through driving along The Damn Wall.

We never felt unsafe in Zimbabwe, but we were self-conscious every moment.

We left Zimbabwe easily but got stopped on the other side (Zambia) for a couple of hours because we were missing South African police clearance to be moving the rented car across borders (not required at any other border). The Zambian official worked the perfect border trick – making us feel grateful to pay $200 for printing a form we didn’t need.

I’m reading Graham Greene so fully feeling the parody and the power of the African bureaucrat. \

That Damn Wall

The Kariba Dam was completed in 1968. 56 people died in the making of the dam, including 16 Italian workers who fell into the wall while and so are part of the structure to this day.

In the first few years as the dam waters began to rise, islands of land began to form in the new dam, with animals trapped on them. Conservation groups around the world initiated Operation Noah, to rescue the animals. $1,500 was spent per animal rescued, whereas the average relocation expenditure per person (60,000 Batonga relocated) being $75.

Mana Pools, Zimbabwe

Even though only ten days into our 5 week trip, Mana Pools feels like the centrepiece. Zimbabwe’s best National Park, far up in the north beside the Zambezi. We booked the best campsite almost a year ago, improbably named “BBC Exclusive”. It’s also a place no Lazar has travelled, so scoring high on the deepest darkest scale.

In fact Mana is very accessible, 3 hrs from Kariba Town on good roads.

Every single baobab is a treat.

Our flat campsite stretched for a hundred meters in each direction, perfect for game viewing. After Ralph remembered to go sit on a termite mound, it was hard to get him down. From there he could see elephants, impala, warthogs, baboons, hippo, crocodiles and waterbuck.

Lions behind you
When we checked in to BBC Exclusive, the Ranger told us, “Oh, there’s a pride of lions there at the moment”. But when we arrived other cars had already scared them off so we drove in search. We found the lions a little way off, doing their usual daytime thing ie nothing. Sitting under trees and yawning every once in a while to keep our hopes of action alive. We went back to our campsite and realised we could see them easily with binoculars, about 500m across the grassy plain.

You’re allowed to walk in the bush at Mana Pools and at around 5pm we saw a group of camouflaged safari clients carefully making their way into the grasslands, RIGHT where we’d seen the lions. We jumped up and down gesturing “Lions behind you” ie they thought we were crazy and ignored us. So we drove over and were relieved to see the lions still under their trees, oblivious. Obviously the camouflage worked.

We stayed to watch the lions as dusk fell, along with every other car in the park. But it was a gentle and respectful scene, unlike the aggressive safari operators and swarming vehicles we’ve experienced in Botswana. Most of the visitors were Zimbabweans. We were godsmacked when an elephant sauntered past and then stood, casually, centre stage for the cameras.

Lion upstaged, below.

Why do we only go on early morning drives when we’re in the bush? Magic happens at this time wherever you are.

Elephant families everywhere, jewel green flashes signalled a flock of Lilian’s Lovebirds, three striking hyena sightings on an early morning drive, and a short-necked warthog.

The girls have been reading, writing, drawing, and, for about twenty minutes one game drive, bird-watching. (Aside from that, I simply can’t get them to care one jot when I spot a new bird. Rightly so. Love of bird watching comes with age, like eating mushrooms and enjoying clipping your nails.)

This is one of the murder mystery games Bea made for us to play, and Mila’s drawing of a Crested Barbet.

We have been excited to see waterbuck all over Mana Pools, usually so shy. One male stood sentinel for days and nights at our campsite. We felt looked after. There were dozens of hippos, chilling in the Zambezi so in our conversations to find spirit animals for us each this trip, I have landed on this big bottomed creature. Ralph – fish eagle. Bea – giraffe. Mila – waterbuck or elephant.

We’d never seen elephants lift their trunks like this, to reach the lowest leaves. Most trees were sporting elephant length leafdos.

Elephant photobomb at BBC Exclusive.

Keeping busy on the road

On the long drives and carefree, gadget-free days days, the girls have been creating super-detailed islands. Here’s a taster, Bea’s then Mila’s.


Ralph memorised this sign 35 years ago when he visited Caribbea Bay as a child. Obviously he has been reciting it whenever possible since. When he told the receptionist at the Caribbea Bay Hotel it had been 35 years since he’d seen it, she said “Finally you have returned! We’ve been waiting. We can take it down at last!

Kariba Town: Closed until further notice

Kariba town, a place Ralph visited many times with his family as a boy, is all but abandoned. Almost all the resorts, and the only supermarket in town, are closed. Road signs are non-existent or broken. You can’t get change for $5. Things break, and they just simply can’t get fixed.

We’d had a car-conversation trying to work out the correct context to use the word “literally”. We finally had the perfect example: “Zimbabwe is falling apart, literally”.

Thanks to the economic devastation Uncle Bob has wrought in this beautiful country, even the dollars used in Zim end up looking like they have no better place to go than down the toilet.

Kariba has always, magically, had wild animals cruising through and that much remains. In a lakeside resort (now closed) we were greeted by young zebra chasing each other across the grass, amongst the broken buildings. Unreal.

Above photos of Kariba:
Mila at The Heights in front of the shop – they used to sell polony. Remember that pink polony??
Ellies own the town and cruise through like they should.
Merry-go-round on the front lawn of Caribbea Bay.
Empty supermarket shelves Рlike Warsaw and E-Berlin 1987, and Mah̩ in the Seychelles in 1999.
Entrance to the Bay View Hotel – closed and in ruins.
Another abandoned lodge, over-run by ellies, hippos and zebras.

We found temporary refuge in the entirely pink Caribbea Bay Hotel.