Southern Tanzania in winter was a lot chillier than we had expected, so we shivered our way through a weeks worth of lovely campsites and farms as we travelled from the Usambara Mountains to Matema Beach where we dropped down to 300m and finally it warmed up. Matema Beach is at the northern tip of Lake Malawi, 40km along a dirt road that is rough enough to keep the majority of people away. There is still an air of old Africa here as the people paddle around in makoros (traditional wooden dug out canoes) and produce pots sold all over Africa. We felt we needed some R&R so checked into the moderately priced and really rather comfortable Matema Beach Resort where we stayed for a few days and recharged our batteries. Seeing the guy’s paddling the makoros we thought it would be fun to see if we could take one for a paddle. How hard could it be right? After much confusion and a few hours we managed to find a local who was prepared to let us hire his canoe unchaperoned and we set off on a rather ambitious route along the shore to the nearby village. It took no more than 10 meters before we discovered that these canoes were not as easy to paddle as it looked, and as the owner and his mate fell about laughing on the shore we paddled in circles for a few minutes before we finally got the hang of paddling in zig zags. No straight lining here then. A while later we realised that paddling all the way to the village was never going to happen, particularly as it was now the middle of the day and very hot so we aimed for the beach opting instead to walk the rest of the way. Cue the next bout of hysterics from the local onlookers as we tried to paddle onto the beach. Finally making shore we embarked on the next humiliating leg of the journey as a local woman pretty much single-handedly hauled the boat onto the beach after watching our inept attempts. Man those things are heavy. The return trip was somewhat better as we worked out a plan that one paddles and one uses their oar as a rudder, which meant a straight line back and into the beach like a couple of pros.
Leaving Matema Beach we headed back into the highlands and shivered our way across the border into Northern Zambia where we found some wonderful locations, camping by stunning waterfalls and near hot springs, until we ended up in Muntinondo Wilderness where we spent a few days hiking around the dramatic wilderness there and paddling on the river watching the kingfishers whizzing around.
It was also in Northern Zambia that we were able to start having fires in the evening which was not only a wonderful way to finish a day (especially when accompanied by a whisky), but meant we were able to stay up past 7pm and kept us warm to boot. We have therefore had a fire pretty much every day since entering Zambia and long may it last.
Leaving Max the dog and the beauty of Mutinondo behind we dropped into Kasanka National Park where we saw a few Sitatunga (aquatic antelope!), then headed down to Lusaka and 600km east to South Luangwa National park. Camping on the river just outside the park was fantastic, and the night drive and walking safari gave us a new view on the bush. Still no leopard, but we saw a genet which was absolutely beautiful, and at the top of my wish list, to I was pretty happy.
We’re now in Lusaka getting the head gasket replaced on the truck, then the plan is to cross into Zimbabwe for a canoe safari and our latest adventure - a 700km off road trip around the southern shore of Lake Kariba…..