When it rains it pours

It’s been a busy month. We left off heading East along the North of Tanzania to Dar es Salam. We tucked away the Defender in the basement of a hotel and took a ferry over to Zanzibar for a week on the beach. We are not very apt to beach holidays, so after a day or 2 doing nothing, we were itching to get back on the road and on with our adventure.

Next up was Malawi, this is where the rain started. We were now crossing the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone) The ITCZ is where the trade winds of the Northern and Sothern hemisphere converge causing a belt of low pressure that circles the earth near the equator. This area sees some of the biggest thunderstorms in the world and we got to experience them first hand.

We spent the week making our way down lake Malawi. During the days the weather was nice, with blue sky and very few clouds. But by the time the sun was setting, you could see the thunderstorms moving in and once we were in our tent getting settled for the night the rain would start and it wouldn’t stop until around 10am. It rained for about 12 hours every day for the whole week, and when I say rain, I mean RAIN.

These heavy rains cause havoc. Drainage isn’t managed well and roads turn into rivers in no time at all. The soil is very sandy so its easily washed away creating huge holes that are then often filled with water. The perfect trap for the unsuspecting 4×4 driver. We then have the problem of water crossings, what were tiny streams are now raging rivers. You can easily get into serious trouble if you don’t do it right, you can wreck your vehicle, your gear and your whole trip in the blink of an eye.

We approach all our serious water crossings in the same way. With caution! First off we assess two key factors; how deep is the water and how fast is it flowing. There is no rule of thumb for what is ok and what is not ok. For us, if the depth is below the top of the bonnet and you can easily hold your foot in the water against the flow, then we start to consider a crossing. A poking stick comes in handy and is a great way to find out what the bed of the river is made up of. Hard is good, soft is not so good. Lastly is to have a look across the river to your exit.

So when we are happy that; the water is not too deep, it’s not flowing too fast, the bottom is nice and firm and we have a decent exit point we take the plunge. Using a low gear, we establish a pace that creates a bow wave in front of us and we keep this going to follow the wave all the way to the exit point. Hopefully all goes well and we make it to the other side, but we are always prepared for something to go wrong and if it does, we keep calm and try to take things slowly. A rushed decision could easily put us in a to a tricky situation, but the key is to properly assess the crossing to begin with and avoid these situations in the first place.

After our wet week in Malawi, we moved West to Zambia. The ground was still saturated and flooded in many areas, but the rains had passed which gave us a bit of a break and a chance to dry everything out. We spent a few days heading down to Livingstone and the Victoria falls. After all the rain the Zambezi river was very high and the shear amount of water going over the falls was an absolutely incredible sight.

We took the chance to experience the sheer force of the water flowing down the river with a day of white water rafting. It was a fantastic experience and I’m glad to say, we survived the strong currents and the occasional crocodile.

Back on dry land, we had a very special encounter with one of the worlds most endangered animals. The white rhino. These rhinos are under 24 hour guard to stop them becoming victims of poaching. It’s so sad to know that our future generation may never get to see these wonderful beasts if the poaching continues.

From an incredible 14 days in Zambia, we crossed into Zimbabwe. This turned out to be an absolute disaster. After a problem with the ATM at the border, we were left with $150 in cash and no other way to withdraw more. With no other option, we spent our $150 on black market fuel, and took the long drive straight to the border of Botswana.

I’m glad to say we are having a much better experience in Botswana. We entered close to Francistown, before heading West towards Orapa where the largest diamond producing mine in the world is located. From there we took a little dirt road North and have just spent a night on the Ntwetwe Pan where we managed to get a few incredible shots of the stars. Our plan now is to spend a few days in the Okavango Delta before heading to the central Kalahari and crossing to Namibia.

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