Excursion to Liuwa Plain National Park - The Journey There and Back
The journey there and back
Towards the end of October we set off on a trip to Liuwa. We were all very excited as this was a trip that we had been talking about for years. Packing began the day before and it took a long time to fit everything into the car – you have to take everything as it is difficult to buy along the way, and once there, there is nothing except you, the animals, the vast landscapes and the sky. Someone wanted to come along with us!
We left at 6:00 and the road was easy. It is always fun driving through the Kafue National Park, and we were happy to see impalas, puku, warthogs, and on the way home a magnificent male sable. We stopped for coffee and a chat to our fellow travelers at the bridge – the Kafue River will never fail to amaze me with its vastness and volume of water.
Once out of the park on the way to Mongu, the road deteriorates for about 20km just before Kaoma. There are sections of tar that have been removed completely, and the potholes are not great at all. Other than that, the road to Mongu is good. It took us 6 hours from Lusaka to get there.
Along the way it is interesting to see the different villages. The huts are made with wood and mud and are really quite small in comparison to other places in Zambia.
Mongu is an interesting little town. We had to stop at Shoprite which is a little way out of town. That was an interesting experience – it is in a large shed type of building, with shelves packed right up to the roof! Veggies are kept in a separate coldroom, but there wasn’t much on offer! Shoprite is moving to new premises in the centre of town and this should make a big difference.
It was interesting to see the buildings of different eras in Mongu, from the market type stalls, to a lovely old colonial building housing the court, and then a real old UNIP style NAPSA building.
Driving through the town you have to go up a hill, and it is quite an unexpected sight when you go over the top and see the Barotse Plains stretching ahead of you.
There is the new road running away over the plains - 35km of road with 26 bridges being constructed – and going to nowhere!! At the bottom if the hill, it is funny to see the land locked harbor with boats sitting in little puddles of water!
The new road is not completed, so driving is slow due to the detours. Construction is being done all the way along – from sections of the road being tarred, to work on almost all of the bridges. Some seem to be completed, but there seems to be a long way to go. It is meant to be opened in December, but I don’t think this will be the case.
We went past the Winter Palace where the Lozi Litunga (or King) lives during the dry months. We came across the Royal barges lying in wait for the rains to come and the flood waters to rise and to take the Litunga and his people to higher ground during the Kuomboka Ceremony which usually takes place in March or April, depending on the rains.
The bridge across the Zambezi is an elegant structure. Going there we were allowed to cross on the temporary bridge which is alongside the main bridge. It was fun to hear the clinking and clanking of the steel sections as we drove over.
On the way back we had to go on the ferry which was a new experience. It was rather hairy driving off as the height of the bank was quite daunting!
There are concerns that once this new road is opened, the charcoal and game meat industries will flourish, decimating a pristine environment. This will be extremely sad, as this is an amazingly untouched area. Let’s hope that this can be kept in check. Once it is opened though, the drive from Lusaka to Kalabo will be much shorter, making this drive to Liuwa a much easier one.
The trip from Mongu to Kalabo took us 1.30 hours because of the detours. Kalabo is a lovely little town where you check in at the National Park offices. The town is amazingly clean. Perhaps some of our other towns and cities should take a leaf out of their book!
We got to Kalabo after lunch, so some were having a siesta!! (it was rather hot!)
To get to the park you have to go across another ferry which is manually operated. Proir to crossing, you need to let down your tyres, as across the river it is very sandy.
Once over the ferry, we were on our last leg of the journey to Liuwa and to the Lyangu Community campsite. This last part of the trip also took about an hour. The R459 is a beaut road – there is just so much sand - 4 wheel drive is recommended!! There is no park fence, and we would not have known we were in the park had it not been for Google maps and GPS’s.
We arrived at the campsite at about 4pm. We were very pleased to get there, but then we had to set up camp…..
And that is all for now. Next time read all about Liuwa Plains National Park itself……
Until next time…