Today I sit at Windhoek airport waiting for the start of the long flight home. So much has happened, and I think it will take a while to absorb.
Memories of places and people, smells and sounds…
I have made it back to the capital of Namibia, and my first city in many days. I have returned the camping vehicle, and now find myself in the strange confines of a hotel room…air conditioning!
It was a strange feeling to unload the truck and get everything packed again. The drive down was not one of site seeing, and I passed by all of the turnoffs people had told me to stop at, as I was just anxious to get there. I did go into town, but it resembled any other city, and I returned back after an hour. I feel lost without the usual tasks of setting up camp, and figuring out what to eat….looks like I will order pizza.
Tomorrow begins the long process of flying back to Cape Town, and then on to London, and finally on to Vancouver…back home
The last two days have been about covering distance…making my way back to Windoek, where I leave from on Monday. My last Internet connection was in Kasane, Botswana. I started the day on Friday morning early and headed through the top of Chobe game reserve to the border with Namibia. I planned to enter at a small border post and travel along the Caprivi strip,mthe narrow piece of land sandwiched between Botswana and Angola. It was sunny with little traffic when I hit a police road block. This seems to be common throughout my travels and usually is fairly quick, with the usual drivers license inspection and sometimes a look through the vehicle. Somewhere through the sand and water crossings I had lost my front license plate, which is an offense. I had to spend about 20 minutes filling out forms, and they wanted payment before I left the country. After some “negotiations” I paid 100 Pula, about 12 dollars…
The border crossing was easy, but I got nervous about not having a license plate. As most of the road blocks were ahead, I simply changed the back plate to the front..no problem so far.
The Caprivi strip is an interesting piece of real estate. It has been in the middle of several conflicts, most recently the Angolan civil war, when the Namibian government allowed Angolan military access through here to fight the rebels across the river. Even though the war ended about 10 years ago, hardly any tourists venture up here. It is a beautiful drive with the road hugging the river, and many small villages along the way. It seems really desolate, and there is hardly any traffic. I stayed in an interesting camping area, run by a south African couple. They have lived here for thirty years, and had some incredible stories to tell. They mainly get “birders” as guests, as this are is well known for many species and migrations. They said birders come, whether ther is war or not!!!!
Today I made the drive from Rundu back down towards the centre of the country. My first stop was for gas, but the power was out and they were not able to pump. It seems that the entire northern part of Namibia has no power, as apparently the main high voltage line had 6 of their steel towers “fall”over. It is a big deal, as they have to build a bypass, and need the materials from South Africa. There the truckers are on strike, so no one is sure what will happen. The next town I came to was entirely in the dark, with only a few places open with portable generators.
THIS IS AFRICA!!!!!!
I am planning to be back in Windhoeck tomorrow, where sadly the journey will end..
The afternoon ended with tea at the Victoria Falls Hotel, a trip back in time into a past that seemed frozen. This old imperial British hotel still had porters dressed as they were 100 years ago in the time this town was a destination from Europe. The old decor is perfectly intact and you would not know where you are until you emerge from the carved ebony lobby and trophies mounted on the walls into a world of street vendors trying to sell you the old Zimbabwe dollars in notes of 1, 2,10 and 20 billion dollar notes. Their out of control inflation had caused a disaster, until they finally adopted the US dollar in 2009. That’s all that is accepted or used here and there are no cents, so everything is to the nearest dollar….
I’m on the bus back to Botswana, and will be on my way to Namibia again on a long drive through the Caprivi strip. Unfortunately time is running out and the rest of the trip will be mostly about driving….
I made it safely to Vic falls, and stood exactly where I did in 1972, with my parents and grandfather. It was a strange feeling. The town is a strange mix of tourists and armed police, as they are trying to get tourism back after a couple of bad incidents.
The falls are spectacular, and awe inspiring even though it is the dry season, and the water level is low. You still get soaked from the spray, and the vegetation is like a rain forest. This changes back to dry desert within a few meters….
We are returning back to Botswana in the afternoon…this time with no vegetables.
Pictures to follow
Today I am in Zimbabwe, visiting Victoria falls. Hard to believe, I found wifi in the back of a curio shop.
Well the story of the day….
It started well: sun shining, and on my way to Victoria falls. The border crossing was easy, save a long wait. I immediately noticed something different in Zimbabwe: no animals on the roads. They must be fenced in and hidden in the bush…I missed them!
Until now I knew you could not carry any meat across veterinary check points. Well I had e bright idea to take a cucumber with me as a snack. The first vet checkpoint showed up, and I was asked “any meat or vegetables?”….well I remembered back to everyone saying”don’t declare anything”, but being on a bus I thought I should declare it. “a cucumber” I said. Well that was the wrong answer. I was off the bus and in a small shack with an armed guard. He pulled out a 3 page form and started me writing.. Why did I have a cucumber?, where did I buy it?, how long was it?…and on and on. By now the bus had left, leaving me alone. After about an hour of paperwork, I was told the cucumber would have to go into quarantine, and I would not get it far at least 2 days.
I asked if there were any other options. The officer said ” just throw it into that pile and you can go”…..,,I did.
I have left the Moremi park and made the long trek around the sand roads through Nata to Kasane where I am staying in Chobe national park beside the Chobe river. The drive was a recollection of driving along roads and through towns sitting in the back seat of our Volkswagon beetle with the dog staring endlessly into miles and miles of Africa. The names all sounded familiar, as I remember this trip when I was 6 years old. Botswana had just become independent, after being a British colony, and celebrations were underway. I learned something about the currency today: the Pula and the Thebes, they mean ” rain”and “drop”, and reflects this people’s connection to nature.
I recall what seemed like driving for days through flat dry desert and salt flats on dusty gravel roads through clouds of billowing dust thinking we would never get there. Today this road is “paved”, although the many pot holes are a way to stay focused on driving. The 7 hour drive took me through small villages displaying bundles of thatch for sale, and finally to the lush riverbank of the Chobe. I got there in time to get out on a small boat with a riverbank filled with elephant, buffalo, water buck, kudu, crocodiles, and an abundance of birds.
I have tried to find wifi service, but it appears to be down. I am off to Victoria falls in the morning and will try to connect. I have decided to take a bus into Zimbabwe after hearing about the hassles of bringing a vehicle in.
By mid afternoon the other campers had left and I was about to spend the night totally alone. It seemed ok until the sun went down, and all of the night sounds started. My imagination started to free fall as every breeze moved trees, branches and my tent. I had seen an elephant in the adjoining camp site, and he moved close during the night. His slow rumble and footsteps were a little unnerving at first, but I decided he was probably a good body guard. I slept with my leatherman….not sure why, but it seemed better than nothing. I made it through the long night and heard my centurion move off at about 3 am.
I had been dreading the drive out, and decided to ask a local about a better route. He perused my map and “explained” a longer, but easier route. It seemed fairly simple, after all I had a good map and a gps….but this is Africa. It’s about noon here, and I left at 6 this morning. That’s 112 km in 6 hours. I somehow took a wrong turn, and ended up going through a number of water crossings ( not for the faint hearted” but I was following some sort of road. There are no signs at all and after a while the roads are not even where that appear on the map anymore. For almost 3 months of the year the park is totally closed due to flooding. Roads are all under water, and must be reestablished after the waters recede. So maps and gps are just guidelines. I did eventually run into a safari truck, and he pointed me in the right direction. I decided to go back to Maun and detour around the park to Kasane, as I was advised that the route I intended to take was “very bad”.
I decided to take a day and rest after that crazy road. There were many tracks to explore, but I was happy having a casual breakfast and reading. I took advantage of the location and took a boat ride into the delta…what an experience. I’m not sure how the driver knew where he was going, but we spent 2 hours traveling through the narrow inlets, occasionally coming into larger pools filled with hippos. It’s an incredible sight to see a river spread and slowly sink into the dry desert. The wildlife is phenomenal and there appear to be hardly any tourists here.
My return was to a bunch of baboons who had found a way into the back of my truck and stolen my food. This was a problem, because I was at least 6 hours from anywhere. I have survived on Windoek lager, which contains all of the food groups.
Today was one of the most harrowing drives of the trip. The day started with getting the permits to travel into the park, located about 112 km from Maun. The game ranger said it would take at least 4 hours, depending on conditions. The “road” is a 2 track sand route winding through the delta. The only advice I was given was not to stop in the deep sand. I was on my way and there was no tuning back.
I recalled the words “would you like to think about this” from Dana and Maya, but here I am in Africa!!!!!. I had a four wheel drive, but I never made it past second gear. It was an incredible and magical ride swerving through the dunes and brush, confronted by wildlife of every shape and form. I had to remember ” don’t stop”. Giraffe, elephant, hippo, wildebeest, springbok, kudu to name a few. All in the space of 4 crazy hours. There are some other vehicles on the road, but this still seems untouched by the typical commercialism I am used to. The whole route had 1 sign, and about 20 turnoffs. Luckily I had a track gps from Henk from the bike trip which saved me lots of wrong turns. I reached the camp site, and the first thing they said was ” we’ve been having trouble with elephants, hyenas and baboons”, not sure what that means.
The campground (all 6 spaces) was full, so they gave me a tented platform. It’s an incredible site to see, with a double bed and ensuite. Look at the pictures. I’ve had an amazing shower, and am heading out into the delta by boat later. I’ve decided to stay 2 days, just to avoid the drive back…..