Chapter 8
Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Botswana.
'Go West' or 'Take The Weather With You'

'Go West' or 'Take The Weather With You'

Stardate 21st Century


'Captain's Log, The Namib, Stardate 21st Century, Commander Bright speaking.'
I would like to thank the Pet Shop Boys and Crowded House for allowing me to use their song titles as the heading for this rip roaring instalment of the lesser life of the even less great Brighty.

There is a disappointment in store for all those who are expecting more crashes, dead sheep, collectable motorbikes, run-ins with bureaucracy etc etc. The only difference between now and a month ago is that I'm older, wiser, more good looking and that the wife has 6000km or so more on the odometer. We've driven from steamy Dar es Salaam, on the coast of Tanzania to wet Malawi, transited wet Mozambique, visited wet Zimbabwe, crossed wet Botswana and arrived in -so far, touch wood- not as wet Namibia.

Hurricane Eline


Yep, it's the rainy season. Not just any old rainy season though. Apparently the wettest one in 50 years. Great if you're in bed with a woman, but not if you're on a bike (called 'wife'?!) or fighting in the jungle either for that matter. The weather made my indecision about my further route seem positively decisive. I thought I was just outrunning a few rain clouds by heading west. It was only 10 days later that I watched the news and saw what havoc Hurricane (or was it ‘Tropical Cyclone’?) Eline has been causing.

The wife has been running like a dream. The terrain has been very changeable. Cold, warm, hot, sun, cloud, rain, flat, straight, curves, good roads (Tanzania and Zimbabwe), potholes, dirt, corrugations (Malawi and Mozambique) and the most boring straight trafficless roads ever (Botswana).

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Just didn't stop at his road block

I must confess one thing. Please don't tell another soul though! I nearly ran over a 6-inch lizard the other day, but I think I've learnt my lesson. Lizards are nice creatures and they eat mosquitoes. I also managed not to collide with a Tanzanian policeman who wanted to stop me for speeding (he had neither car, nor gun, nor radio and I didn't fancy trying to stop to talk/ bribe my way out of it, so I just didn't stop at his road block!) and a bull elephant and two giraffes in Botswana, who are rather nice creatures too, and also much bigger than me and the wife combined.


The last night in Dar es Salaam was spent drinking mucho beers with Greg Frazier. For an old bloke, he can drink like a fish. Being younger myself, the 2 days and 1200km to the border with Malawi were quite difficult. At the frontier I got the first taste of what was to come. The engine went from air-cooled to water-cooled and oil temperature fell from 110 to 80 degrees C faster than you could say 'Give Me Money' (as they say in this part of the world...).... The heavens opened.

Gay Darkies

In Malawi, the road up to Livingstonia, a quaint old Scottish church mission station was, shall we say, interesting. I drove up (and down again!) without luggage in first gear nearly all the way. Huge inclines, vicious switchbacks, monstrous mud and excellent views. In the museum there was a lot of old junk and also a gramophone record player with a record by the, don't laugh, 'Gay Darkies'! Three cheers for political incorrectness, that's what I say.


At Nkhata Bay I spent a week admiring the dramatic sunsets over Lake Malawi. Not! Two reasons... firstly the Bay faces east and secondly, it rained every day.

Before meeting up with Rob and Mike at Vic Falls again, I must admit I was getting very lonely. I didn't expect to be surrounded by millions daily, but having to fend off Africans whose sole aim seems to be to share my wealth with them (by menace, begging or inept trickery) or try to talk to largely Antipodeans and British kiddies on overland trucks is not really the be all and end all. Where are the other overlanders?

If you fancy a flutter, you might like to invest in the Malawian economy. The bank base rate is 47% and for 6-month deposit you'll get a fat 33%. Well at least they are publishing their rates.

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Threw the remote control over the fence


Somebody described Blantyre (the largest town in southern Malawi) as being like Milton Keynes in England. Wrong, Milton Keynes is better! The local hotspot for the expats is, wait for it...the overlanders' campsite, right next to the bus stand, where they listen to loud naff music all night. We won't mention the fact that sleep wasn't possible. By 4 am, I was p*ssed off enough to turn the loud TV off (there wasn't anybody around and I had been trying to sleep in my tent since midnight!) and threw the remote control over the razor wire fence into the bus park. B*stards.

Oh yes, there are no cinemas in the whole of Malawi! All in all, Malawi was 'nice' (what a poor adjective!) but probably better in the dry season.

The matey at Mozambiquan immigration was a star. He insisted that I give him US$5 to give me an entry stamp into my passport (I had already paid for the visa in Blantyre) and when I questioned this, he asked if I had a problem and confiscated my passport! Needless to say the 5 greenbacks made the passport reappear with the required stamp. I managed to fob off the blokie who wanted to flog me road insurance, short change the customs officer and drove round a barrier without paying the bridge toll over the Zambezi river at Tete, so in the big scheme of things I probably broke even anyway.


The transit route through the 'Tete Corridor' was different in a few ways. The people I did communicate with seemed friendly. The signs in Portuguese were photogenic and the size and location of the 'pot holes' took a while to work out. Huge things (now filled in, of course), the size of cars (or even tanks!), on the crests of hills and around blind corners. Normally potholes are on straight flat roads where vehicles are travelling at speed and their shock absorbers can do most damage. These ones were in the best ambush spots from the time of the recently finished civil war in this former Portuguese colony. Their other colony in Africa was Angola; also very safe...

Oh no, it's Mrs Hazeldine

Oh no, it's Mrs Hazeldine at Jacaranda House, she's got a shot gun and I'm wearing 7 raincoats (if you don't know what I'm talking about, read Tom Sharpe's 'Riotous Assembly'), ahhhhhhhhh.... Oh sorry, it must have been a dream.... the Larium...

The hostel in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe could have been just the Jacaranda House that Mr S describes. A very pleasant place too. Apart from this, dial-a-pizzas and shops to buy things in, Harare is a nasty crime-infested hole where everybody has to hide behind high walls topped with razor wire. Three cheers for Bob's kleptocracy... Not!


Mutare and Chimanimani in the Eastern Highlands, bordering Mozambique couldn't have been more of a contrast. Dramatic mountain scenery, friendly faces and surprise, surprise, it only rained twice in the 3 days I was there (including 2 days walking and camping in caves in the mountains.) There were storms around, but I did have an enjoyable time going the opposite direction to the clouds. Hence my movements were rather erratic. This has been the only exercise, apart from the routine 10km daily slog round Egyptian customs in Cairo, in the past 5 months, and I felt it.

Great driving roads: As Bob Magobe hadn’t paid his petrol bills there were no buses or trucks on the road. I had the whole thing to myself.

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Great Bulawayo Municipal Campsite Lake

As I was suffering from 'rubble-withdrawal-reaction-syndrome', the visit to the Great Zimbabwe Ruins was a good tonic (except the Bob-trained army of klepto-baboons), but camping in the lake known as the ‘Great Bulawayo Municipal Campsite Lake' was not endearing to my mood. My thermorest sleeping mat saved the night and kept me dry(ish) from the ankle deep water that covered every square cm of campground.

The Victoria Falls were majestic from both the Zambian and Zimbabwean sides. Saving US$10 by climbing over the fence on the Zim side at midnight and seeing the permanent rainbow under a full moon made it even better - I felt absolutely no guilt doing this, as the dix dolleros would only have gone into the budget for the Zim army to protect Bob's private mining interests in the Congo. And anyway, stolen fruits always taste better.

Smoke that Thunders


When I was here in 1992 there was a drought and barely a trickle dripped over the cliffs. This time it was definitely a 100% humidity job. Water everywhere. Truly magic. Mosi-O-Tunya, the Smoke that Thunders; and was it loud!

After some R and R, Rob and Mike, 2 pommies in a Landcruiser (whom I knew from England and had bumped into in Addis Ababa and Nairobbery) eventually arrived. At the exclusive Vic Falls Hotel we had to pay for the drinks up front on account of our motley appearance!

Botswanan highlights include having the whole of the Nxai Pans Game Park to ourselves (and even spotting 2 cheetahs) and taking a flight over the Okavango Delta. The pilot flew incredibly low and even impressed us with tight aerobatic turns over a herd of elephants. Top stuff!


I'll leave you today with a verbatim version of a diary entry. I don't normally do this, but I couldn't have written this better myself... (Hang on, I did write this myself!?....)

"It's a Tuesday in February, I'm sitting in room 2, it's 2.30pm and it's Year 9 French. Outside it's cold, dark, wet, miserable (like every day in Feb in nameless city in central England). The kids are playing up and I'm about to lose my rag."

Actually, I'm in Botswana, near Maun, it's dry (quel surprise!), hot and I'm 15 metres off the ground in the cleft of 2 branches of a centuries old baobab tree at Baine's Baobabs in Nxai Pans Park. The beers are being cooled by the wet cotton sock over the can in a bucket of cold water technique (thanks Curly!): Rob’s fridge is temporarily broken. My view pans the Pan (sorry about the pun, or is it pan!) 5 Oryx gallop gracefully across the six inch deep steamy water and high cirrus clouds cast intricate shadows towards the distant horizon. Why am I here? I could be in Blighty...'

.... Answers on a postcard please. I'm off for an ice cold Windhoek lager....

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