Why did we get here?
Updated: Apr 7, 2022
So here we are in Malawi, a month earlier than planned having been in the Caprivi strip 2 weeks ago – so how and why did we get here……
We originally planned to do a circular route round southern Africa starting and finishing in Durban. But then we discovered that South Africa will only grant a second tourist visa if you return to your home country in between, so that plan was ditched in favour of a route where we would finish up in Tanzania and ship from Dar Es Salam. However, as we got into the nitty gritty of booking our return, our shipping agent advised that all East coast Africa ports are in a total mess following the Suez canal jam from last year, and so containers often end up delayed by months. So back to the drawing board. In the absence of any official info provided by SA gov, we’ve sieved through all the forums and conclude that (hopefully!) we will be granted a 7 day transit visa for SA if we turn up at the border again. So we’re back to plan A of finishing up in Durban. But this meant that we were now running a little late, with a lot of miles to cover. And so began our attempt to dash across 3 international borders in 7 days.
Namibia to Botswana was super easy, but entering Zambia was a long-winded and painful process. The near endless number of certificates, signatures and costs for all manner of things takes hours. Last time we did it, back in 2011, we got so fed up we just got in the car and drove across the border without finishing the process. This time we stuck it out and did it properly but it took hours. I guess we’re now back in ‘real’ Africa.
A quick stop to see Victoria Falls, which is very impressive to see in the wet season, and we started on the 1500km drive across Zambia in 3 days. 3 long, boring days which we spent dodging fridge sized pot-holes, overloaded lorries, locals walking in the road and corrupt policemen. We listened to the Hobbit which definitely helped, but by the end of it we were all fed up and feeling pretty stressed. We had made it to the Malawi border, and were looking forward to slowing down, relaxing by Lake Malawi on white sand beaches and reaping the rewards of the long stressful drive.
Turning up to the border however, we were informed that visas for Malawi can now only be obtained online, not at the border, and that the application review process takes 5 days……
To make matters worse, we were in a remote border town, with very little internet, and the application process required all sorts of documents to be uploaded, including a letter of invitation from a ‘host’ in Malawi.
2 days later the visa applications had been submitted, and we headed to near by South Lungwa National Park to wait for our visas to be approved, where we found an amazing camping spot right on the river (the same spot we camped at 10 years ago), and met a lovely French family who were also travelling with children. The mood changed in an instant. The kids played, we sat by the river and watched hippos and crocodiles in front of the campsite. We played on the slackline, swam in the pool and toasted marhmallows. It was wonderful.
Finally, after 5 days with no visa approval we drove back to the border, sweet-talked the border official into calling the visa office to push through our visas and within an hour we were ready to cross. Another 3 hours of waiting, a return visit to Zambia to find a printer because (obviously!) the e-visa has to be printed on paper before they accept it, and we were finally in Malawi, a week after we had first turned up.