Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200702 2 Namibia Zambia Botswana

FRIDAY 16 FEBRUARY – Following the lion getting into this camp two nights ago they are now patrolling continuously in vehicles with floodlights making sleeping difficult.  We’re all up early and ready to leave camp when the gates open.  Head off around Fischer’s Pan where in addition to things we have seen before we get our first sightings of a Cape Fox, African wild cat, lesser flamingos, black shouldered kite, tawny eagle, dung beetle and a giant millipede approx 20cm long.   Breakfast at Klein Namutoni pan before exiting the park.  It’s about 100km to Tsumeb where we do a huge shop at PickNPay, attempt to do Internet and fail then check onto the Municipal Caravan Park.  The site is about 1km from town and so lush and green that it’s hard to believe you are in Africa.  There is no one else around and this makes it difficult to select at site.  Finally make shade the number 1 priority and settle in the centre of the area.  A tree on one of the perimeter stands is attracting attention from the guard and gateman.  Soon after a council vehicle arrives with 2 occupants.  They jump out and one has a rifle.  Immediately he begins shooting up into the tree.  After a few shots there have been no sign of a leopard or anything else dropping down so Steve ventures closer.  There are 2 boomslang snakes in the tree and he manages to shoot one down then bash it with a stick.  It’s very long and still wriggling.  The second one he has shot but it is hanging over a branch, he says it should fall down within about ½ hour.  Apparently they were alerted to the snake’s presence by the birds and they are not all that common here, thank goodness.  It’s extremely hot but Judy & I venture into the van to clean out all the dust in the hope that we have finished the dirt roads.  Steve cooks up steak on the braai before another couple that have arrived to camp joins us.  Nigel is English and his partner Henny from Germany.  Both are well travelled and used to live in Africa so have lots to tell us including the fact that lions will not attack people inside tents.  There are lights on each of the sites but there are still dark areas so I use the torch to head to the toilets.  Ever mindful of my weak ankle I point the light downwards as I climb the step into the entrance of the ladies toilet.  (Rather than having the main door straight out onto the site they have built 2 walls to give privacy before you get to the main door).  I look up ready to open the door as a cobra rears up at me from the corner, less than the width of the door away.  I scream and jump backwards and begin hobbling shakily back towards our site.  Steve has already leapt up to come to my assistance and I babble an explanation to him.  The campsite security guard and Steve arrive at the toilet entrance at the same time.  By now the snake has gone into the toilets and is slithering along the drainage channel that runs behind all the toilets and showers.  The gateman also arrives, assesses the situation and goes off to fetch a spear.  Stan keeps going too and fro to bring us a running commentary, meanwhile Steve is chasing the snake along the channel trying to chop it with a garden hoe.  The gateman returns and spears the snake.  To reassure me, Steve brings me the dead snake dangling on the hoe but I am much more comforted by my glass of whiskey.  For a place that doesn’t normally get snakes it seems amazing that there have bee3 here today.  The toilet bucket certainly gets good use for the rest of the night and needless to say I have a very restless sleep with bad dreams.


N$62 (£4.95) site + N$16 (£1.20) pp


SATURDAY 17 FEBRUARY – We’ve all had a bad night.  The guard walking round patrolling has disturbed us as he walks on the gravel path, there has been at cat under the van and near the tent meowing and dogs barking in the distance.  In spite of all this we will stay another night.  Next to us is the Cultural Village, N$10 (80p) entry, and this was created when the town was twinned with another in Norway.  The central area is marked out like a map of Namibia with each replica tribal village located in the corresponding area.  We ask the girl to show us round and she takes us through a few of the villages explaining the differences.  Many of the houses are falling down and some complete tribal areas have collapsed and it is all suffering from a distinct lack of up keep.  At least it gives us an overview of some of the tribes.  The receptionist offers us a lift back to the site, which we gladly accept as it, is extremely hot and surprisingly humid.  Stan & Judy then head off into town whilst I do some washing.  The campsite is really busy with day visitors, young local blacks are partying and a white family are holding a birthday party for their 13 year old daughter and have had a huge bouncy water slide brought in.  Unfortunately it doesn’t get quiet until midnight.



SUNDAY 18 FEBRUARY – Call in to the nearby Wimpy for Internet before leaving town.  North of Grootfontein we detour to Roy’s camp but at R55 (£4.40) pp are not tempted to stay overnight.  Further north we cross the “red line” agricultural border and immediately feel like we are in another country.  Suddenly instead of there being nothing for miles we encounter lots of small Kavango villages and people everywhere.  The cultural centre guide yesterday explained to us that each community is one extended family with the main man having many wives.  Craft stalls littered the roadside with wooden canoes available from pocket sized up to ones big enough for 2 people to use on the water.  Cows, horses and goats graze on the roadside often herded along by young boys no bigger than a pile of halfpennies.  Two youths are having fun riding on a cow.  Rundu is an incredibly busy and bustling border town with the narrow Kavango River separating it from Angola.  It’s dusty, hot and humid and feels like deepest Africa.  On the outskirts of town there is camping in the grounds of the Ngandu Safari Hotel.  The pool by the bar is appreciated, as is the DSTV screen in the bar.  After tea the others walk down to Sarasunga Resort on the banks of the river.  The van would make it down the road but there are supposed to be many other similar places further east.


N$35 (£2.60) PP + N$35 (2.60) van


MONDAY 19 FEBRUARY – We thought the town was busy yesterday but today it is heaving.  There are plenty of supermarkets but still we can’t get everything we want.  Sparks Internet gives us a chance to E-mail about our Zambian visas.  We get lost heading out of town due to the total absence of signs.  End up doing a tour through the outer suburbs before eventually finding the main road.  East of town we turn off and end up going about 9km on terrible roads to get to Kaisosi Lodge.  It was recommended by some German motorhomers but at N$60 (£4.80) pppn much more expensive than they led us to believe.  As there is no one else staying there we ask if a discount is possible if we stay for more than 1 night and the receptionist thinks so and calls the manager/owner over.  He is actually quite shirty about us having asked and does not have the business sense to negotiate at all.  Based on his attitude we would not want to stay anyway so continue along the bump dirt road to the next resort N’Kwazi Lodge, 20km from Rundu.  The last 3km are through fields and past small villages to get us to the river.  It looks lovely and whilst I go to reception to ask about the price, Steve and Stan have a young lad introduce himself and show them to the camping area.  We are immediately given a reduction of N$10 (80p) pppn making it N$40 (£3.20) and made to feel very welcome.  Frequented by overland trucks, Nomads are here at the moment.  Swatours Safaris set up camp and set out to explore the area.  There’s a restaurant overlooking the river and next to that a swimming pool with bar and lounge area behind it.  Settle down for drinks and to take in the ambience.  With lots of wooden huts in the garden it feels quite tropical and more like Asia.  A second overland truck arrives late afternoon and we do feel a little crowded.  Watch a lovely sunset whilst taking our sundowners by the pool.  Power is by generator, which comes on in the evening but after that we have a quiet night.


N$50 (£4) pppn


TUESDAY 20 FEBRUARY – It’s quite noisy early on, first with 30 tents zipping away and then the packing up.  By 8am peace is restored.  Spend the morning doing odd jobs and the afternoon relaxing.  At 5.30pm we set out for a sunset river cruise with Simon N$50 (£4) pp.  He is also the barman and has prepared a cool box with our favourite drinks.  The boat is made from two mokoro’s (canoes) have been joined together with a wooden platform and garden chairs to sit on.  We chug up the Kavango River past small villages where many locals are at the waters edge bathing.  Disembark on the Angolan side to have our photos taken with a sign saying “illegal in Angola”!  Just before sunset Simon turns the engine off and we drift downstream soaking up the atmosphere and listening to the distant sounds from the villages, an excellent trip. 



WEDNESDAY 21 FEBRUARY – It’s a slightly easier drive out of the camp, as we know what lies ahead.  Back on the main road we head east along the Caprivi Strip.  It’s about 200km to the next town of Divundu where we turn off towards Botswana.  Ngepi campsite has just won the Getaway magazine award for the best southern African campsite.  It’s 4km off the main road but signs at regular intervals assure us we will not get stuck in the sand and that the water will not damage our tyres.  They were wrong on the first count as we make a bad decision at a road junction and end up bogged.  Luckily we manage to push Millie out and reach the campsite without further ado.  Following the award their prices have risen dramatically with no possibility of a discount.  Manager Neil from England directs us to select from one of 8 lovely individual private sites on the grassy banks of the river.  The overland trucks use a different area of the camp and they also have accommodation.  One of the big features here are the ablution blocks with lots of different themes but all open air and rustic.  On the banks of the river there are loos with a view including the kings and queens thrones.  There’s also an open-air bathroom with the tub facing the river.  Wandering round the site we find the accommodation quite fascinating, tents on stilts (N$150, £23 pppn) open fronted rooms with double beds facing the river (N$250, £20 pppn) and others up on stilts with en-suite bathrooms underneath (N$300, £24 pppn). On the edge of the hippo and croc infested river is a floating cage surrounded by a platform enabling you to swim safely or “cage dive with the crocs” as one sign promotes.  The other sign warns “no urinating in the pool, or you will be drinking it later in the delta”.  No doubt it is the uniqueness of the place that has led to the award.  We get some showers late afternoon but it’s fine when we walk to the bar and meet up with the Dragoman Overlanders.  We want to find out about trips to the Okavango Delta but disappointingly we learn that in this the low season there are no packages and it is nigh on impossible (and very expensive) to arrange on your own. Exacerbated by a fall out between the co-operatives we would have to tie up a 1 ½ hour boat journey to Seronga, a 4×4 across to the delta then a mokoro to take us to the camping island and accommodation once there.  Having been told there is little wildlife at the moment the main thrill seems to be from being punted through the reeds on a mokoro and camping bush overnight.  We unanimously agree to dump it in the “too hard to do” bin.   


N$70 ($5.60) pppn


THURSDAY 22 FEBRUARY – Stan & Judy’s tent was good in the rain other than Stan feeling a bit claustrophobic with the fly sheet closed but better that than chance a hippo popping in.  Steve chats to a fellow Brit who has rented a 4×4 with a roof tent, R880 (£70) day for a clapped out vehicle with no instructions.  He’s just come from the east and says it was pouring with rain yesterday.  It may be dull and cloudy here but at least it is not raining so we will stay another day.  In the afternoon Steve & I share an open-air bath, totally bizarre.



FRIDAY 23 FEBRUARY – We continue along the 500km Caprivi Strip with just the fuel station at Kongola to break up the journey.  Katima Mulilo sits the banks of the Zambezi River opposite Zambia.  We camp at the Zambezi Lodge on the riverbank and only then realise that the bushes we are looking at are actually treetops as the river is so high and swollen.  In fact it is 6.41m (over 20 feet) above its normal level and still rising.  There’s a storm coming so we put up the awning to enable Stan & Judy to pitch their tent underneath.  A couple of brief showers and the storm passes but leaves us with a spectacular sunset and views of distant lightening.  Stan & Judy feel a little unsettled when a local tells them they should have pitched the tent behind the van to be further away from the crocodiles!  As with the last few places we have visited the water supply comes from the river but at the moment it is undrinkable so we have to boil and filter it all and hope for the best.


N$45 (£3.60) pp + one off N$40 (£3.20) vehicle admission fee


SATURDAY 24 FEBRUARY – Our campers survive the night and we didn’t get any rain.  Stan & Judy take a walk into town whilst we stay on site.  The swimming pool looks lovely in the brochure but in reality is a bit murky but I am assured it is only sand in the bottom and quite safe to swim.  Paddling along and coming face-to-face with a mouldy dead mouse blows away all the reassurances.  The management assure us the pool was cleaned this morning but that doesn’t explain how not only a dead mouse but also a mouldy got overlooked.  Although part of the Protea group this resort has only recently been taken over and the manager admits they have a lot of work to do to bring it up to standard, we agree as we suffer from broken toilets, no hot water and electrical failure.  The river is noticeably rising so we may have to consider camping on higher ground at our next stop.  Should make Victoria Falls really spectacular.  Early evening a large group of people arrive and they braai and play music until midnight, seems to be the done thing over here.



SUNDAY 25 FEBRUARY – We’ve had a noisy night and coupled with all the other problems Steve feels a need to report to the manager.  Turns out he had absolutely no idea that people were being let in to party and taking all our other problems into consideration he refunds us for last nights camping.  Head to the Zambian border and reach a T-junction signed right to Zambia, left to other Namibian towns and in small print also for border formalities, would have been very easy to miss that.  We begin in the passport control office where we avoid paying £35 for a visa by having pre booked accommodation in Zambia.  Jolly Boys Hostel offered us a package of 2 nights in a dorm or 3 nights camping, 2 meals plus a beer for US$25 per person.  .  Next we have to buy 3rd party insurance for the van at N$250 (£20) for a month.  Council tax must be paid to a lady in a caravan and she wants Kwacha 50,000(£6).   Zambian currency is Kwacha and it seems there are around 8,000 = £1 but the moneychangers give us considerably less.  Another person comes over and says we must pay a motorway toll but this we point blank refuse, as our journey will not take us on any.  We are ready to leave when a customs man bobs his head in the van and says we must pay him a visit.  What he actually wants is K150, 000 (£20) for carbon tax, but the good news is that we this covers us until the end of the year!  Finally escape from the circus ring and take the new bridge over the Zambezi.  There are no other control points so had we not seen the signs we would be driving in ZAMBIA oblivious to having jumped the border.   The first noticeable change is in the number of people on bicycles and cards being pulled by oxen as opposed to donkeys.  It’s about 200km to Livingstone where we easily find the backpackers.  Stan & Judy are camping in the garden and we are staying in the motorhome at the back of the car park.  There’s a lovely swimming pool and garden area but most of the other areas are a bit neglected.  After lunch Steve & I set out to explore the small town of Livingstone, being a Sunday we are spare a lot of hassle as there are few roadside vendors around.  Our free evening meal is a very palatable roast beef.



MONDAY 26 FEBRUARY – I’ve had another restless night due to my bad back.  I got up at 2.30am, delivered Judy’s birthday card to their tent then had a swim in the pool to cool down.  We’re all up by 7.30am and Judy has lots of cards for her 64th birthday, excluding the one that Stan cannot find from him.  Set off to drive to the falls and immediately spot the clouds of spray in the distance.  It’s not far to the Victoria Falls World Heritage National Monument site protecting one of the 7 natural wonders of the world.  Admission US$10 or K40, 000 (£5) gets you closer to the falls along a number of trails.  Our first glimpse is superb with water thundering over the edge then coming back up as mist.  Venturing further along the track we get closer to the falls and end up having to put on our waterproofs or in Steve’s case strip off to his bathers.  This area is known as Rainbow Falls and it’s easy to see why as we have many fabulous sightings of single and double rainbows.  Crossing the swing bridge we get absolutely drenched and a real feeling for just how powerful the falls are when the river is in full flow.  A sheer buttress known as the Knife Edge is the end of the track.  From here we look down into the gorge with the bridge to Zimbabwe across the top.  The spray occasionally eases off sufficiently for us to view the falls.  They are incredibly wide and make a sheer and dramatic drop into a crevice that runs along the front of the falls and emerges into the first of many gorges.  Twice as wide and twice as deep as Niagara it is definitely more impressive and far more atmospheric.  The photographers’ walk gives us views from the dry side and also down to the “Boiling Point” cauldron.  A quick visit to the Sun Hotel and we’re finished by lunchtime.  Driving back we get a torrential downpour so obviously timed our visit just right and also missed most of the crowds.  We get another downpour in the afternoon but Stan & Judy’s tent remains dry.  For happy hour we crack open a bottle of bubbly (well the nearest thing we could get which is lemon and lime sparkling cooler) and light a candle for Judy’s birthday.  They have offered to take us out for a celelebratory meal and chosen an African themed restaurant called Ngoma Sanga a 1km walk away.  Two people in Tonga traditional costume crouch down and clap a greeting as we enter.  The menu is brief but interesting and we order mpani worms to nibble on as a starter.  They are actually very small and crispy and taste a bit like pork crackling.  Stan & Judy are a bit less adventurous than Steve and only try one each but I eat quite a few and Steve polishes them off.  All the main courses are accompanied by your choice of 2 vegetables the choices being mainly a selection of leaves which all end up looking like a cross between spinach and stir fried sea weed.  A great place for atmosphere but the food is average.  After all the walking today my foot is aching so we splash out K8, 000 (£1) on a taxi back then continue the celebrations at Jolly Boys with Steve & Stan enjoying playing pool.



TUESDAY 27 FEBRUARY – We’ve really seen and done all we wanted here but as our 3rd night is included in the price and we are already ahead of schedule we decide to linger.  Get a late afternoon storm but the rest of the day is fine.  Kim & Sue who own Jolly Boys also own Fez bar where we can use our meal vouchers.  Happy hours from 5-7pm so we arrive in time to partake before ordering our meals.  The burgers are piled high and the food is tasty.  We set off to walk back but Kim is also on her way to Jolly Boys and gives us a lift.  Steve is very happy to round off the day watching football in the bar.



WEDNESDAY 28 FEBRUARY – After a quick check on the Internet we spend the last of our Kwacha at Shoprite.  It would appear that they rarely have a fresh fruit & veg delivery but one has arrived today and locals are coming out with literally trolleys full of cabbages or bananas.  Just outside Livingstone we get pulled over and asked to pay council tax.  We show him that we have already paid K50, 000 but he says that was for another district and he wants more.  Tell him we have no currency left as we are on our way to the border where we will use US$ travellers cheques.  He eventually agrees to let us through but says we must pay the tax at the border in order to leave the country.  Arriving at the chaotic Kazungula ferry crossing we get through passport and customs formalities surprisingly easily and don’t have to pay anything more.  Our vehicle is registered in South Africa so this means we can pay the R160 (£12.80) ferry fee in that currency.  Again it is noticeable just how high the river has risen as the ferry practically docks in the muddy car park.  It won’t be long before they have to stop the ferries completely meaning a 150km detour with 2 bridges via Namibia.  At the moment one of the two ferries is stuck as a truck has broken down whilst boarding.  They can only take one truck at a time but other vehicles get preferential loading so we are soon driving through the muddy water and ascending the steep ramp onto the ferry.  It’s just a few minutes crossing until we drive off into BOTSWANA.  Here the currency is Pula approx P11 = £1 and ZAR10 should = P8.3 but in the customs office they exchange our Rand at ZAR10 = P7!  P50 (£4.50) for a short-term single entry permit plus 20 (£1.80) road safety levy fee until the end of the year but the total is R100 (£8).  Next stop is an area where we have to drive Millie into and reverse out of a muddy puddle before dabbing the soles of all our shoes into a sponge soaked in some sort of odourless disinfectant.  We are free to leave and set off towards Kasane.  One of the first things we notice are goats everywhere including sleeping in the road.  Thebe River Camping is P55 (£5) pppn but half the campsite is under water and the rest is muddy and dull and dark beneath the trees, totally unappealing.  In town we find a shopping area where we draw money and buy some groceries.  Meat is about 1/3 of the price of South Africa and said to be very good.  A beef fillet is just P40 (£3.60) kilo and we can’t resist.  Check out the cost of river and land safaris before moving on.  Fuel is P4.78 (42p) litre; we didn’t buy any in Zambia, as it was twice this price. Chobe Safari Lodge also offer camping but part of their site is also under water and they won’t let us on with our van as we would take up too much space.  Other than being about 10km from town Toro Lodge is a nice site with each pitch having its own ablution block.  The river is rapidly rising towards the reception area but at least the campsite is higher and dryer.  The small swimming pool looks quite pleasant until I spot a dead frog floating on the top.  Maybe this is the African way of testing the ph levels?  We chat to Janet & John, from Johannesburg, on the site behind us and in the evening our new neighbour Anthony introduces himself, he’s a Doctor on the way to Livingstone to do 2 months work with HIV patients. 


P45 (£4) pp + P30 (£2.70) motorcaravan


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