Saturday 27th November 1999
Driving a slow old Landrover, I have found it essential to leave as early as possible, so one doesn't have to push too hard - which also saves a lot of petrol. So, at 02:00, I set out from Johannesburg, taking the main road north past Pretoria to Pietersburg and then on to Messina. Arriving at the border post at 08:00 it is still relatively cool, and in less than 20 minutes I was across and leaving Beit Bridge for Harare. After changing some dollars for Zimbabwe dollars at one of the new service stations, I was able to reach Harare comfortably by 15:00, and so continued to Chinhoyi on the road to Zambia. Stayed at the Orange Grove Motel, which has an excellent campsite.
Sunday 28th November 1999
This time I could afford a somewhat later start, and so left at 06:00, reaching the border post at Chirundu at about 09:00. Here it was already getting warm, and arriving much later can be very uncomfortable indeed. Again the border post was very easy, and I was through in under 30 minutes. Luckily it was a Sunday, because otherwise the traffic jams in Lusaka are dreadful, but it took less than 20 minutes to get through. On the north side of Lusaka one hits some nasty potholes, but the road soon improves again, with only scattered potholes on the road to Kapiri Mposhi. If you are looking for Zambia's only endemic - Chapin's Barbet - an hour's side-trip off this road will give you an excellent opportunity to find it
Turning east just after Kapiri Mposhi, there is an excellent new road, and I was able to each the Forest Inn at Mkushi by 15:00. The Inn has a very nice camp site, with hot showers, etc. Bird-watching in the garden as I relaxed, I started to see the first species not covered by the South African field-guides, such as African Thrush. If one has time, there is a superb miombo woodland in the Mkushi FR approximately 30 km to the north, which is well worth a day's excursion - if you can’t afford longer and camp there.
Monday 29th November 1999
Another reasonably early start was required to get to Shiwa Ngandu as early as possible to get in some bird-watching in the miombo on the entrance road. The road from Mkushi past Serenje to the turnoff towards Lake Mweru is excellent. After that the tar deteriorates a bit, although until Mpika all potholes had been filled, and crews were busy filling the rest to the north. Zambian potholes are the most frustrating of any I have come across. The road is virtually perfect for 10 km, when suddenly there is 20 to 50 m of potholes that you have to slow to walking pace for. This is fine in the dry, but as I drove north there was scattered rain, which meant that you couldn’t tell how deep the puddles were - 1 cm or 50 cm. This resulted in my having to slow right down, and cruise along at about 40 km/h, hoping that I could spot the bad potholes - not always successfully. In the dry, one can easily cruise along at 100 km/h! There were many police road blocks - although on this trip north, they only wanted to know where I was going. Pale-billed Hornbill was seen flying across the road at one point.
I arrived at Shiwa Ngandu (the turnoff is well sign-posted), and started down the gravel road. After a few km one reaches the boundary fence, and some well-developed miombo woodland. This is an excellent spot where I found Miombo Pied Barbet, White-headed Saw-wing, Böhm's Flycatcher & Miombo Grey Tit, as well as many other southern African birds. Of course, the Anchieta's Barbet and Bar-winged Weavers that I really wanted were in hiding.
Before dark I continued to the Kapishya campsite, which is rather basic, but is right next to the hot springs. After a very relaxing time in there, I wandered over to the adjacent lodge for a cold beer and a chance to look out over the river which often has Peter's Finfoot on it.
Tuesday 30th November 1999
Woken up by the incessant calling of a Broadbill, which allowed yet another 06:00 start. The road continued in its frustratingly potholed state, but with no rain, I could drive much faster. By 10:00 I had reached the border post. This took about 45 minutes, but only because there was a lot of walking to do between the various desks. I was most disappointed to learn that they understood the GP number-plate to stand for "Gangster's Paradise" - although this was made up on my return when GP was now thought to be "Great Place". One has to remember to move one's watch forward by one hour at this point.
An Ethiopian trip: 27/11/1999 to 17/01/2000Giles Mulholland 31 January 2000