Through Botswana to Namibia
I was a bit late leaving Vic Falls, what with hanging around in the Post Office in queues then being horrified at the cost of postage to Oz for a parcel so I refused to post it, and getting fuel ready for the day's journey. I'd already previously been told by a local that it would be far cheaper to post a parcel home from either Botswana or Zambia, as Zimbabwe postage was expensive.
The road west to Botswana from Vic Falls is through the Mazuma Pan National Park. Here we go again, I thought, possibly lions! But I saw nothing at all in the way of wild game except 4 warthogs. It is only 72km to the border crossing, so it didn't take all that long.
Quickly processed out of Zimbabwe then through the no-man's land to the Botswana Immigration and Customs counters. No problems with Immigration, as no visa is required by Australians. Moved along to the Customs counter and got the carnet du passage completed. Gathered everything up and started to walk out, only to be called back. Curious, I asked what the problem was.
" Madam, you must pay for a Temporary Import Permit."
"But I have a carnet, and shouldn't have to pay anything," I answered.
She insisted, so I agreed to pay it. However, she wouldn't accept US$$, only 120 pula (Botswana currency) or 160 rand (Sth African). She eventually offered to hold my carnet hostage while I went 2km forward into Bots to the ATM or money bureau to get the required change. So I tootled slowly along so that my jacket (which I'd taken off at the border) wouldn't blow off from where it was draped over the back of the bike. It was very hot weather today.
Fortunately I was going slowly, coz I had to stop. There were some elephants crossing the highway about halfway to the township. I could see roughly 35-40 of them on both sides of the road, of all sizes and ages. They left a gap across the road, so I continued on to town and got the money changed, it being US$19 = 120 pula. And this for riding a whole 125kms in Botswana!!!!
On the way back, I could see a stream of ellies heading way out across the paddock and all the way back to the road, with still more crossing, so I had to wait again. So I guesstimated I'd seen about 65-70 of them now. Once back to the Customs office, I had to wait a while, then she processed the TIP and took my money. Outside, I chatted for some time with some Germans who were travelling on a truck tour to Namibia, as they wanted to take photos of the bike.
Back towards town again. Yep, still MORE ellies skulking in the bush, as well as more crossing the road! Sheeeeeeesh, wall to wall ellies!! A car was stopped taking photos almost right where they were crossing, so I pulled in front and slowed down, but decided discretion was the better part of valour and kept moving, as some of the mummas were flapping their ears at the vehicles. I didn't fancy mumma ellie stomping on me and the bike! At a conservative estimate, there were probably at least 110-120 of them all told, with another group of about 8 much closer to town, not part of that big herd.
It being after lunch time by now, I pulled back in to the servo to have a bite to eat, then realised that I had no more pula, as I'd only changed sufficient for the TIP. As I was about to get back on the bike and leave, a BMW X-Challenge rolled in, loaded for travel. This being the only bike traveller I'd seen since leaving Jungle Junction in Nairobi (apart from 9 KTMs leaving Vic Falls as I arrived) I decided to wait and have a chat with him. We chatted, posed for some photos then moved on to the eatery near the money bureau, so that we could have a sit-down meal.
Dominique (from Belgium) had plenty of pula, so I swapped him some US$ to pay for my meal (such as it was), and we sat and chatted for quite some time. He was heading north, as I was heading south (well, the long way round type of south!) and eventually we parted, as time was passing, and I needed to cross through another border, into Namibia, then get to Katima, the closest town with accommodation, before dark.
The road west from Kasane (the border post) travels mostly through the upper reaches of Chobe National Park. Here we go again, I thought. Saw several more herds of ellies before reaching the Nat Park, so all up about 140-150 ellies OUTSIDE National Parks. Once into the Nat Park, I was beginning to think I wasn't going to see anything at all, but ended up spotting a herd of about a dozen kudu (large antelopes); 2 groups of 4 warthogs; a sole Red-billed Hornbill; 2 more of the rare and endangered Ground Hornbills, of which I'd seen 2 in Masai Mara; 3 duikers (quite small antelopes); 3 zebras; another single bird, possibly flightless, as it ran, not flew, away (I'd seen another earlier in the day, and it ran away, too); and then, in the distance, I saw ellies crossing the road in front of the 4x4 in front of me. I'd guess there were about 35 or so of them, on both sides of the road. So a good few animals and birds in the Park after all.
To Ngoma, the border crossing into Namibia.
Above: Looking across the marshlands from Botswana towards the border control in Namibia. Sorry about the STOP sign! It was quite hazy or smokey, too.
Got processed out of Botswana rather slowly, as they had ONE person handling both the entry and exit Immigration counters, then the Customs guy stuffed up the carnet bit by writing on the wrong page!!!!!!! D'Oh ! Got that fixed and left there about 5.10pm or so and rode across the bridge over the marshlands of the upper Zambezie River to the Namibia border control. Again, there was one guy doing all the Immigration work, and he was a "pecker" - a one finger typist, who seemed to have a lot of trouble with the passports of a Kenyan family of 4 in front of me. Finally got the stamp, then crossed to the Customs counter. Here the lady was a bit more efficient, although I had to tell her what to do with the carnet. But at least she wrote and stamped it quickly. Then I had to ride to the gate, and write down ALL the same details as the carnet has, in their book!!!!! One can only wonder at the efficiency of their bureaucratic systems.
I ended up leaving the border control at 6pm (which I found out later was when they close for the night!!) Naturally, as sundown is 6pm, I had to ride in the twilight and dark for 75kms to Katima. Fortunately the speed limit was 120kph along here. In Katima, I pulled in to the Total servo to get fuel ready for the long probably fuel-less leg the next day to Rundu. As the guy was filling the tank, I suddenly realised that I had no Namibian currency at all! I admitted this to the guy and offered to give him US$25, till I went into the town and got some money from the ATM. He accepted, fortunately, and after getting some currency, I promptly went back, paid the Nam$98 (AU$14) and reclaimed my US$ from him.
I'd heard from a Sth African guy with whom I chatted at Kasane that the Eagle's Nest had good accommodation - rooms and camping - and I'd spotted this place as I went through town to the Total servo. So rode back. Sorry, full up. But I said I'd camp, and we walked around to check out camping spots, then the nice lady owner remembered and mentioned that some Sth Africans had booked in for a room but not turned up yet, so she kindly rang them, only to find out they were not coming, so now I have their very nice room!
The owner ordered a Hamburger for me for dinner, to be delivered from somewhere in town. Well, I suppose one COULD possibly call it a "hamburger". It was a cold bread roll with a thin slice of ham (?), a slice of tomato and some lettuce, with a small, very oily side salad of lettuce, tomato, onions and olives! OMG!
[No wifi internet here, so unsure when this will get uploaded.]
On the road relatively early the next morning (Wednesday) I took it very easy for the first 110km, conserving fuel in case there was none available, as the Sth African guy at Kasane had mentioned he "hadn't seen any servos across the Caprivi Strip". Two travelling BMW R1200GSs, each two up, went past the other way with much waving of arms, so I reckoned there must be fuel available, as they wouldn't be getting anywhere near as good consumption as the Wee gets, knowing the R12GS as I do. Rolled into Kongola and there - across a wide expanse of SAND - was a servo! Managed to get in and out without dropping it, much to the delight of all the onlookers! So filled it up and set off a bit quicker now, as I realised that, logically, there must also be fuel at Divundu, as it is the major road junction in northern Namibia, roads coming from the south, west and east.
My logic was working OK. The servo duly appeared and I took a sandy track down off the highway to it, with a bit of wiggling and wobbling. All the guys hanging around came over to look at the bike, as per usual. I filled up and parked it there on the apron in the shade while I went to the supermarket/cafe to have some lunch. But I could still see it! Leaving the servo I found that there was a tar driveway off the highway at the other end of the complex! D 'Oh!
All the way across Namibia. there were these signs warning of elephants - always two: the elephant, then the 80kph one after 100 metres.
Not an ellie to be seen today. The only things I did see were a group of 6 kudu does, then many kms later, a single male kudu.
Rundu was my aim for the day, another major city at a road junction. There would surely be a camping ground here. I'd not been using the GPS, as it's a straight road right across the Caprivi Strip from Katima to Rundu. Why bother? So I switched it on and did a search for camping spots. Nothing at less than 200km radius! But I quickly sussed out the problem - apparently I had missed loading a small mapset into the GPS, hence no info available for that area.
Just as I turned off the highway onto the city road, there was a large Engen servo, with attached Wimpys fast food outlet. Filled up, then grabbed the laptop, ordered a large coffee, and reloaded all the mapsets for the remainder of Africa still to be travelled. Mmmmmmm, they DO have nice coffee. Forget Macca's rubbish! The servo manageress (Afrikaaner) came and plonked down opposite me for a chat for a while. She recommended the Ngandu Resort for camping, it being the nicest/best park in town. And she thought it had wifi, too - a bonus! Was there any sand involved? I asked. Oh, just a little from the highway into the resort, was the reply.
Wobbled through some quite deep sand just at the entrance gate. It must have been the memory of that wobbling effort which made me ask Reception if there was any sand into the camping area. She said there "wasn't much". But I decided to go walking for a looksee for myself. Strolled along the lovely paved avenues till I came to the end of the pavers - and took only about a dozen steps in the deep, deep sand before turning back, and asking for a chalet!! I'm really getting wussy about sand, aren't I? Oh well ...
Little did I know but Angola is just across the river below the resort. As Angola is not on my itinerary for a variety of reasons, I contented myself (as many others have done, apparently) with taking some photos from the upper deck of the now stationary tour truck and the outdoor bar area, as recommended by the bargirl.
Above: The tour truck viewing deck upstairs and Below: buildings in Angola in the evening glow.
Above: The light of sunset here in Africa is fabulous! Below: Sunset reflected on the cliffs further along the river.
Above: The sun sets on Angola
Above: A nifty lounge seat, made from a modified dugout canoe. Below: One of the many examples of tribal carving showcased around the resort, this at the outdoor bar.
Above: The artwork beside my room entrance.
It had been a long day, and I was ready for bed.
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