Botswana   More information below videos.
 
 
AFRICA!  Windhoek to Livingstone Part 2
Features camping in the Okavango Delta using mokoro transport going on walking safaris and being entertained by locals around a campfire.
 
 
AFRICA!  Windhoek to Livingstone Part 3
Highlights wildlife along the Chobe River, crossing the Zambezi River on the Kazungula ferry & being at Victoria Falls the night of a lunar rainbow.
 
                            

July 14

Another border crossing, another stamp in our passports ... another free condom dispenser. Those who are trying to curb the increase of HIV/AIDS see transport, by its very nature of mobilizing people, as a carrier for the transmission of HIV/AIDS in Africa. Increased activity and investments in cross-border trade, although vital for Africa’s economic growth, also encourages even longer travel routes, which in turn, many believe, increases the reach of this disease.

Each place we have been in Africa has been touched and most often deeply affected by HIV/AIDS; from the orphanages in Tanzania, to the city of Johannesberg, to the daycare centres in South Africa, to the country schools in Mozambique, to the villages in Lesotho, to the ... in each place people are either suffering themselves or have lost / are losing family and/or friends. It is heartbreaking.

Donating money to help those in need is a needed bandage, but, from what we have gathered, only a bandage. Education, more importantly the acceptance of correct educational messages, is the only hope of curbing this ongoing destruction of humanity. Many people, be they in cities, towns or villages are confused. They are told by some sources that the use of condoms will help restrict the spread of HIV/AIDS; while other sources say the use of condoms is a scheme to reduce population in some segments of the populace to gain political power; some sources say HIV/AIDS can be controlled by Western medicines (when available) while other sources say only traditional tribal medicines will rid people of HIV/AIDS; while still other sources advocate new and dangerous superstitions to eradicate the disease from affected people. Some governments record deaths as a result of HIV/AIDS while other governments record deaths as pneumonia or heart failure, etc. without mentioning the deceased had HIV/AIDS; these lower numbers give many people in these countries the opinion they have little to worry about. It is a humanity problem that will not soon go away.

Just as we were seeing free condom dispensers at the Namibia-Botswana border crossing, we have seen them at each border crossing, in many pubic and commercial bathrooms as well as large signs promoting free condoms from health clinics ... in hope ... .

The Botswana flag shows five horizontal stripes: blue, white, black, white, blue in a 9:1:4:1:9 ratio. The blue colour represents water, more precisely rain, which was inspired by the motto on their coat of arms, "Pula" meaning "Let there be rain". The white and black bands represent racial harmony and also refer to the zebras which support Botswana’s coat of arms.

We stopped briefly in Ghanzi to buy some lunch stuffs and were fascinated by the goats. Lots of goats just walking down the street ... not herded ... just walking ... cars missing them, people ignoring them.

We crossed the street to the Spar grocery store just as the goats turned in and started picking through a garbage heap.

On the highway heading north-east towards Maun, goats, donkeys and cattle roamed freely. The goats and donkeys seemed to get out of the way as Joseph approached but cattle were more difficult.

Each time Joseph saw cattle near the side of the road he had to slow down to a crawl for they would appear to be heading off the road on one side when they would suddenly change their direction and head back over to the other. Most disconcerting. We were glad Joseph was driving.

Other delays along Botswana highways were the Foot and Mouth Disease Check Points. We would all have to get off the bus wearing our shoes and carrying any additional footwear with us. We would then be directed to step into a sponge box saturated with disinfectant and then step forward. Meanwhile the bus’s tires were being disinfected by a handheld sprayer. The bus pulled forward over the check point line and we all piled on board again. There were three such check points between Ghanzi and Maun.

Before checking into our accommodations at the Sedia Riverside Hotel in Maun, Guts and Gerda went grocery shopping in preparation for tomorrow morning’s start on of a three day, two night camping trip into the Okavango Delta ... no stores, no restaurants, no hotels, ... just water, reeds, islands, wetlands and wildlife. It should be fun.

July 15

There was no power at the hotel when we awoke. Because of the random power shut downs in African countries we had bought some candles and had already made use of them several times. We groomed as best we could using cold water and candlelight ... still a whole lot more luxurious than so many in Africa this morning.

Without proper light, we were grateful that we had separated our luggage last night before going to bed. One small bag and our daybag, along with our sleeping bags, were ready to go into the delta. Our regular backpacks would be stored in the hotel’s secured storage.

After breakfast, Guts directed the loading of two 4x4s with our edited belongings and G.A.P Adventure’s camping equipment and the hitching of a trailer which held tents and mattresses.

Joseph waved as we pulled out. He had two and a half days off ... finally.

"Stop!"  Guts leaped from the vehicle and ran back to Joseph. When he reappeared, he was carrying the plastic container with the pots and pans.

We all enjoyed teasing him about his "black book" moment, but we were glad he remembered.

Off the main highway we drove on rough gravel roads which became sandy double track paths passing tiny settlements and another check point for shoe dipping and tire spraying.

 

When we had gone as far as we could with the 4x4 we were at a "beach" crowded with people and boats. There was systematic chaos as gear was unloaded from the vehicles and loaded into dugout canoes called "mekoro" (mekoro = plural; mokoro = singular).

There are a number of different trees suitable for making a mokoro but these trees have to grow over a century to attain the sized needed. The lifespan of a mokoro is typically five to eight years. In the interest of conservation, Delta authorities have enacted a policy which states that as traditional wooden mekoro are pulled out of service, they may only be replaced with fibre-glass canoes.

We had read about the mokoro before leaving for Africa and had hoped we would be able to ride in a traditional wooden dugout before there were no more (other than old ones being used as art pieces).

We tried to mask our disappointment when we were directed to a fibreglass canoe. As we approached, Kelly and Stacey were having a discussion. "I don’t want to go in that boat," Kelly was saying.

We interrupted, "Would you feel more comfortable in a newer one?"

Kelly looked over to the one we were just about to climb in. "Would you mind?" she asked.

"Not at all."

"Oh, that would be great." she smiled. We thought so too.

We asked our polers, using pantomime as the language, if they would mind the switch; no problem.

There was a layer of fresh straw on the bottom of the old dugout. Two thin mattresses, which were to be used under sleeping bags, had been folded and bent to make comfortable seats. We waded out, calf deep, packed in our daybag, sleeping bags, shoes and water bottle; then gleefully climbed in.

Many of the polers were women. Our poler, Gladis, stood at the back of the mokoro and put her pole straight down through the water into the soft sand below and pushed backward, then lifted the pole up and forward out of the water and then down again ... over and over. The pole or "ngashi" being used to push the mokoro is commonly made from the silver terminalia tree. The straight growth of its young branches, coupled with the flexibility of the wood, make it ideal for the task.

The Okavango Delta (Okavango Swamp), is the world’s largest inland delta. More than 10,000 years ago the water empted into an ancient lake, today it empties into the sands of the Kalahari Desert.  (Good view on Google Earth.  See NASA photo below far right.) With rainy and dry seasons the amount of water swells and drops resulting in islands disappearing and reappearing.

Photo courtesy of NASA 

Gladis had been poling for over an hour and a half, through reeds and lily pads, when we came to an island.

There are no official camping spots; only some islands or areas on islands which are favoured with repeat visits. The spot Guts had been aiming for was already taken. The already tired polers now had to face more work. We pulled out one of our small water bottles and handed it to Gladis along with a cookie from the daybag.

At one point we skirted around a deeper open space ... a hippo pool. A hippo watched us carefully, prepared to defend its watery territory. We reached another island. Guts and one of the local guides ran their mokoro up on the sandy beach and left to check it out. He came back with thumbs up. "Just bring your own bags," Guts called out, "they will unload the rest."

We pick and cleared a spot for our tent ... knowing that a little more time getting rid of bumpy debris, makes for more time in restful sleep. Having pitch this kind of tent before, it took us little time to do so again, move in the mattresses from a pile the polers had stacked, spread out our sleeping bags and then helped out wherever we could.

   

After everyone was settled, except for two mattresses which had to dry out before anyone could use them, we gathered around the campfire to listen to the local head guide. He explained that we should not wander off on our own. "This is the wild country," he said. "There are wild animals here and some can be dangerous." He elaborated with particular mention of hippos. He then told us where the "toilet" was ... just outside camp, down a trail, a deep hole had been dug. "Take paper and the shovel with you."

 

Guts added. "Everything we bring into the delta we take out. Paper does not go into the hole, it goes in a bag hanging on a tree next to the hole; the shovel is used to put a little dirt over whatever you leave in the hole."

Let’s review this ... wild animals ... night time trips to the hole ... mmmm?

Some questions are asked. A few wanted assurance of their safety. "What about elephants stepping on our tents?"

"Don’t worry about the elephants," the head guide shrugged, "they are very agile. They can walk through a camp without knocking anything over. The chances of them stepping on your tent is very little." We felt better about the spot we picked next to two big trees.

A few went to use the hole, some felt better using the buddy system. One of the younger women disappeared down the path on her own and a short while later let out a gasping scream. A number rushed to her aid and met her halfway back down the path. "What? What?" We didn’t see any animal chasing her. "Are you alright?"

Her face was flushed red and her eyes reflected panic ... or was that embarrassment? "I dropped the toilet paper in the hole!" she exclaimed.

"Well, don’t worry, a little toilet paper isn’t going to do any harm."

"No, not a little," she almost whispered, "the whole roll." She sighed deeply and hung her head in shame. When she lifted her head and saw us laughing she added, "and I’m not reaching down to get it!"

Four local guides lead two groups out for safari walks. Our lead guide stopped at bushes and balls of dung. The Okavango Delta is a virtual apothecary of traditional medicines which will cure almost anything from sneezes to snake bites.

 

We saw few animals. We got the feeling our guide really didn’t want to find them, even though he climbed a termite hill to search the distance.

Colonies of termites choose treed locations to build their hills. Mounds, some reaching as high as 9 metres are virtual termite cities built from clay and a chemical substance secreted by the termites. The outer wall becomes rock hard and almost impregnable. The "city" has air conditioning, living quarters, food production and storage facilities; as well as highly organised and efficient labour, defence, traffic control and refuse removal systems.

The population consists of a single king and queen, who originally formed the colony, and up to a million or more descendants all hatched from eggs laid by the queen. The "flying ants" one sees after it has rained are flying away from their original nest; male and female get together to form a new colony.

We stayed out until the sun set.

 
 
 

Guts already had chicken on the braai and Gerda was stirring the pap while some of the other ladies were making a salad when we returned to camp. We sat on little stools and fallen logs to eat dinner. Why is it that simple food tastes so fantastic around a fire in the wild? In so many ways we would choose it over a gourmet dinner served with white linen, silver and crystal.

Our guides and polers sat on one side of the fire, while we sat on the other. The division made us feel a little uncomfortable and more so when they did not join us in eating dinner. We voiced our concerns to Guts and Gerda. Gerda told us not to worry. They prefer it that way, she told us. They like their traditional foods and their own conversation. Gerda hired one of the women polers to organize cleanup ... an opportunity for them to make some extra income which they could share with anyone who helped.

Walking to "the hole" away from the firelight, revealed a sky filled with brilliant stars and a nearly full moon. So bright was the sky that the palm tree right behind our camp was silhouetted against the night sky.

July 16

The sun had not yet risen when we emerged from our tent after a comfortable night’s sleep. The fire had already been rekindled and the kettle boiled; it was now simmering on warm coals. A breakfast buffet was presented on an overturned mokoro under the glow of a propane lamp: cereals, yogurt, fresh fruit, coffee, tea and Sherrie added her Milo ... a hot chocolate mix.

Before the sun breached the horizon, we broke into three groups and headed out on walking safaris. As we walked single file through the tall grasses, we were reminded to only walk in the footsteps of the person in front which ultimately meant those of the safari leader. If someone was going to encounter danger first (ie: a puff adder) it would be him. Our second guide was always at the end of the line making sure all were safe.

   
Photo by "Guts" 

The rich morning light turned yellow grass to gold and highlighted a herd of zebra who ran by us and stopped, deciding we were not a threat.

 

We walked and walked and climbed termite hills to search.  Without animals to photograph, we started taking hokey pictures of each ourselves.  At one point we heard elephant, but our guide did not want to walk in the direction of the noise but kept moving in one direction further and further from camp.

We had walked for what seemed to be hours ... oh, it was hours. We spotted more zebra, hartebeest, numerous birds and a family of honey badgers. What we needed were "elephant finding" salt & vinegar potato chips.

It was almost eleven when we arrived back in camp. The women polers were weaving baskets and bracelets. The baskets were outstanding. If we were completing our travels at the end of this G.A.P tour we would be dearly tempted to buy several, including large ones. One small basket in particular caught Sherrie’s eye and imagination. It was just in the process of being made. A small basket about 11 cm in diameter, natural beige with rose coloured accents. "What will it cost when it’s finished?" Sherrie asked Guts. He relayed the question on and came back with a quote. "I would like to buy it, but I would like her not to finish it. I would like it just the way it is ... with the thin lengths of wicker still attached." Guts again relayed the message. The weaver nodded and continued to work. Sherrie took her the money as a message she could stop now. Either she felt Guts had interpreted Sherrie’s directions incorrectly or she didn’t understand Guts; as she continued to add another row. "Please tell her to stop," Sherrie said with some concern. "I want to frame it along with her picture but if she does anymore it will not fit into the frame." Guts relayed the message again and this time one of the junior guides translated it into their local dialect. After listening to the guide and questioning the logic in doing such a thing, she looked at Sherrie for confirmation. Sherrie nodded and approached with both hands out. In universal body language, the woman smiled and shrugged her shoulders ... "whatever".

 
 

Another group, including the "Irish 4" arrived back at camp elated. They had seen zebra, hartebeest, warthog and had a close encounter with elephants.

It was much, much later when the last group returned. They were tired, sore and somewhat grumpy at having hiked for such a long time ... it might not have been so disappointing if they had had the spotting luck of the second group ... or even us. They reported they saw nothing except long grass and blistering sun. Their water had run out a couple of hours ago. Guts handled their feelings with understanding and tact. Perhaps a lesson learned by G.A.P  and local guides ... if they say it is going to be a three hour and thirty minute hike, then plan to be back in three hours and thirty minutes ... not six hours.

Tempers cooled and so did bodies with a dip in the delta. Was it hot bodies in tepid water ... or was the water really that cold? The waters of the Okavango Delta are very clean thanks to the lack of industry and agriculture along the Okavango River and the natural sandy aquifers through which the water passes. Locals, without hesitation, drink the water straight from the delta in cupped hands or dipped pots.

As evening approached we got into the mekoro and poled out to the hippo pond. We waited along the edge of the reeds; doing so allows a quick retreat to shelter and the depth of the water still allows the poles to reach bottom.

As we waited we came to appreciate why the straw was placed inside the mokoro. It was to help sop up the water that was leaking in ... just like our pants were. In a light bulb moment, we realized those wet mattresses must have come from our mokoro. Perhaps it won’t be too long before this mokoro becomes an art piece and is replaced with fibreglass. Wet pants or not, we were grateful for the experience.

 
 
 
 

Adult hippos can stay under water for six minutes before they have to surface for air. After waiting for what seemed like ten minutes the word was passed from mokoro to mokoro that it appeared they were not in the area. While deciding what to do a hippo surfaced on the far side of the pool, took in some air and disappear again. We waited. Six minutes is an awfully long time when you’re just waiting.

 

The sun sunk behind the reeds. There was smoke from a reed fire in the area and the pollution added to the African sunset’s intense colours. It was time to pole back to camp.

Guts and Gerda prepared a braai of kudu steaks and apologized that they were a little on the chewy side. Perhaps for a restaurant meal, but out on the Okavango Delta does a little chewy matter? There was plenty left over and it was offered to the guides and polers. We were pleased to see they accepted.

After everyone was fed and logs were added to the fire. Guts announced that the guides and polers were going to entertain us with some songs. It was quickly obvious this was not their first time singing together. Their voices blended in harmony and their movements were co-ordinated. It was beautiful to listen to and watch. We applauded. They sang another song and again we were impressed.

"Now," Guts said, "It’s your turn."

Question #1. "When a tree falls in the forest and there is no one around, does it make a sound?"

Question #2. "When foreigners make fools of themselves in the Okavango Delta, does it hurt international relations?" If so ... we apologize. Two enthusiastic G.A.P members hurriedly tried to selected a song they thought Americans, Canadians, Brits, Kiwis, Aussies and Irish might know. The closest thing they could come up with was, "Take me out to the ball game" ... certainly not a song known by the Africans and as it turned out also unknown to the Brits, Kiwis, Aussies and Irish as well.

After our gallant, though feeble, attempt, the other side of the campfire performed another song. By their exaggerated acting and laughter, we believe it might have been a song mocking our side.

"Can you do something that has a lot of movement in it?" Guts asked. We won’t name names (making it clear ... it wasn’t either of us) but someone (you know who you are) came up with the idea of performing "The Hokey-Pokey" ... that animated ditty that starts off "put your right hand in, pull your right hand out, put your right hand in and shake it all about ..." By the time our side got to "put your whole body in" ... the local audience had finished laughing ... only their mouths continued to hang open.

The sky glowed as though the sun forgot to set. We asked about the fire. The guides agreed it was a wild fire burning the reed grass ... but the wind was blowing in the other direction, unless it changed, we had nothing to worry about. "Unless it changed."

"We will keep watch on it through the night," Guts reassured us. "If we need to evacuate we will wake you. If we do," he added, "just come yourselves, don’t try to bring anything."

Bang. Thump thump. What was that? "An elephant," the head guide said. "He knocked some coconuts off the tree behind us."

Oh, great. Fire on one side of us, elephants on the other. We readied Ted and our two cameras by the zipper-door of the tent.

Nighty-night, sleep tight.

 

July 17

 

In the morning some of the group went on a morning hike while others began breaking camp. Getting the sticky burr-like balls of collected grasses off mattresses, tents and clothes, especially shoe laces, has been an ongoing chore in the delta.

Everything had to be taken out with us, from the bag hanging on the tree beside "the hole" to the bricks used to hold the cooking grate over the fire. There are no rocks in the delta ... only sand and hard termite hills ... so bricks travel with the grate. Remainders from our food hamper were given to one of the poling women to distribute as she saw fit. Once the mekoro were loaded, our last duty was to form a line and walk slowly across the camp site searching for garbage and other left items. The air was comfortably warm over the water, the sun shone brightly, the water was clear and cool to the touch, the water lilies bloomed, the poles dipped in and out in a rhythmic pattern as polers talked to each other with melodic voices. Only the desire to savour the experience kept us from drifting into sleep.

 
 

As we drew closer to the change-over point, the water channels widened. We slipped passed newcomers being poled into the delta just as we had been two days ago ... some were only going out on a day trip while others headed out for a camping experience. We were excited for them.

Once on shore we said goodbye and expressed our thanks to Gladis, stowed our personal bags in the 4x4, wiped the sand from between our toes and watched the activity of unloading and loading from a new perspective. For many polers and guides this is a family business. Children amused themselves, as children do, while parents conducted business ... mekoro also make good play pens for infants.

 
 

Life away from the delta continues. The merchant in the small concrete cube building with handpainted words, "Six Two Ten Street Vendor", still conducted business through his barred window. Along with other items, he sold paraffin, newspapers and cell phone charging. Ladies coming from larger markets carried bags in both hands and a third on top of their heads.

At the Sedia Riverside Hotel in Maun, we met up with a now rested Joseph, extracted our bags from storage, climbed on board the bus and drove out to the airport; not to take a flight but to have lunch at Bon Arrivée Restaurant and to take in the Imax film "Roar: Lions of the Kalahari".

   

London born cinematographer, Tim Liversedge, and his wife, June (who had lunch at the table next to us) have lived in Botswana for over forty years. Tim pioneered the use of 35mm film and high definition video for tv films. Roar: Lions of the Kalahari (released in 2003), his entry into large-format film making, was picked up by National Geographic.

We went to Tim and June’s studio across from the airport, where they have a small theatre, and watched the film. It really was moving and memorable and their photo gallery on the main floor contains the most incredible animal photographs. We were pleased Guts had suggested going.

The balance of the afternoon was spent driving to Planet Baobab near Gweta.

 

Seeing the entrance to Planet Baobab immediately conjured up the thought, "What were they thinking!?" Across the road from an oversized statue of an anteater is an oversized man-made termite hill with a sort-of-round rock (oh ... that’s the planet!) with metal rings encircling it with the words "planet baobab" written in script. Poking out from the "planet" are "things" and wiggly wires holding stars. Strange. Tacky and strange ... perhaps they are attempting to appeal to children with parents.

The accommodations at Planet Baobab were a vast improvement over our first impressions. Tucked among the baobab trees are individual, modern adaptations of Bakalanga huts with ensuite shower and toilet facilities. On either side of the large room are built-in single beds with a table and two chairs between. The thatched circular roof is constructed of spaced poles rising up to a centre peak. There are glass windows with shutters in the circular walls.

 

The original Bakalanga huts at Planet Baobab looked nothing like this.

 
 
 

Guts showed us one of the original huts. Opening the straw door, we could appreciate how very small the windowless hut was; barely enough room for two cot-sized beds. The wall/roof was as rough inside as it was out ... dusty and conducive to spiders. These original huts are no longer used by guests but are still used as sleeping quarters for staff.

 

The Baobab ... or "Upside Down Tree" ... is fascinating ... and very large. When they are without leaves it appears as though they have their roots in the air. No one knows how to date these trees as they have the ability to slowly repair damaged bark. The natural bark seems like it has been dipped into a concrete coating ... smooth and cool to the touch ... it hasn’t ... it’s just the way they are.

 
 
 

At sunset we walked out to the waterhole. There weren’t any wild animals visiting but three horses were drinking their fill while a white stallion kept his eye on the camera toting strangers.

After dinner management and staff invited us to the bar where they entertained us with singing and dancing accompanied by drums and rattle bracelets around their ankles. While the younger G.A.P Group members stayed on for several rounds of shooters, we headed back to our hut under the watchful eye and call of a sleek, black Fork-tailed drongo. This common, southern Africa bird will often take advantage of artificial lighting at lodges to catch moths late into the evening. We left him to his work and crawled under fluffy quilts.

 

 

 

 
 
 

July 18

Our morning started with three quick visits. Our first visit was to the oversized anteater at the front entrance. (No further comment.)  

Our second was a quick visit with an elephant picking up some breakfast.

We hadn’t travelled much further when we had our third visit with another elephant standing at the side of the road.

   

The growing number of elephants, with over 130,000 in Botswana, are in direct conflict with the increasing human population. Elephants destroy up to 40% of annual crops grown by subsistence farmers. The problem is a difficult one. Moving elephants to another location is no longer an option because most reserves are having difficulty managing the sizes of their own elephant herds; moving them to other open areas in the country only moves the problem to some other farmers’ fields.

Botswana is one of the few African countries rich enough to have a compensation program but it only grants 50% of the lost value and is paid slowly. The downfall to compensation is that farmers turn first to the government to solve the problem rather than finding ways of discouraging the elephants themselves. The problem continues and currently there are no satisfying answers as to how humans and elephants can share the land.

Sunflowers ... hectares and hectares of sunflowers. There is a huge demand for bio-fuels, especially in European countries. Botswana’s climate and vast tracks of red, loamy, virgin land is ideal for growing the drought resistant sunflower. Many white farmers, evicted from Zimbabwe, have brought their expertise to Botswana either at the invitation of the government or as joint ventures with established Botswana farmers. The future of these projects looks sunny and it is expected the rewards will be greater than just successful harvests.

 
Photo by "Guts" 
 

Our individual hut at Toro Safari Lodge, near Kasane, was on the banks of the Chobe River which, just downstream, flows into the Zambezi River and shortly thereafter pours over Victoria Falls. It took only minutes to drive to the luxurious Chobe Game Lodge (low season rates start at $377 USD) where we boarded our boat for a river game drive.

The most popular area of the 11,000 sq km Chobe National Park is the 15km stretch along the Chobe River. It teems with wildlife taking advantage of the continuous supply of water, a variety of habitat and its rich plant life. There are high numbers of elephants, hippopotamus, crocodiles, buffalo, antelope, including the rare Puku, monkeys, lizards, birds ... the list goes on and on.

 
 
Photo by Jill   
 
Photo by "Guts" 

There is an island in the centre of the Chobe River called "Sedudu" by Botswana and "Kasikili" by Namibia.

 

It was the subject of a long territorial dispute between the two countries. Ownership was decided by the International Court of Justice which ruled in favour of Botswana based on the river channel being deeper on the Namibian side; indicating a greater divide. Elephants don’t care who owns the island; each day many elephants swim back and forth to its lush green grass.


 

As the sun neared the horizon it seemed to signal commuting time. As with cities and suburbs, traffic flows in both directions; elephants on the island make their way back to the mainland while mainland elephants head to the island. To get there and back they have to swim.

 
 

They entered the water in single file and used their trunks as snorkels ... even the babies. We were so entranced by the spectacle, we didn’t notice our boat was drifting into their path. Someone, without a camera up to their eye, called out and the captain threw it into reverse before any damage was done.

Park regulations stipulate that boat traffic on the river must cease mere minutes after sunset or the captain and the company will be subjected to penalties.  Our captain stalled as long as he dare, so we could shoot the quintessential African sunset scene, then put it in full throttle and raced up river to reach the dock in time.

Wow! ... another incredible day in Africa.

 

July 19

Guts warned us, "I want to apologized now if today I do anything which might seem rude to you. In some circumstances, like crossing the Botswana - Zambia border it is impossible to do what I need to do unless I exert myself. I hope you will be understanding." Positive ... and polite ... what a guy.

 

As we approached the Botswana - Zambia border, Joseph pulled the bus around a long line of commercial semi-trailer trucks. A very long line ... about 1km. They were waiting to cross over on the ferry ... the same one we were hoping to catch. "The trucks at the back of this line," Guts explained, "could be waiting here for as much as twenty-six days."

 We wanted to ask, ‘why then are we skirting around them?’, but we didn’t. We just kept our mouths shut and watched.

When we got near the front of the line we saw a "beach" littered with people, packages, cars and buses. "Everyone stay in the bus please," Guts said firmly. We watched through the window as he had an animated conversation with three individuals. They were not wearing uniforms, nor anything else which would set them apart as having any authority in this mish-mash of metal and man.

 
 

When he boarded the bus again he told us we could get off. "Just stand by that tree, don’t wander off and, if we get the bus onto the ferry, make sure you get on the ferry too. Only the driver can be on the bus when it pulls onto the ferry."

     

 
 

We got off and joined the throng of waiting people. Some stood under the shade of dusty trees; others sat on the trunks of fallen trees or cardboard cases of Autumn Harvest Crackling ... "a crisp, semi-sweet, natural perlé wine ..." so the advertisement said. Some women carried babies on their backs while other women were loaded down with cases of SunStar cooking oil. Each case held twelve 2 litre bottles. It would seem a load of 24 litres would be enough, but they also carried another 24 litre case along with grocery bags. It’s moments like these which cause us to rethink our image of "luxury" ... a shopping cart would be an item of luxury to much of the world.

 

The pontoon Kazungula ferry crosses the 400 metre wide stretch of the Zambezi River between the border posts of Kasane, Botswana and Kazungula, Zambia. It is one of the largest ferries in south-central Africa, having the capacity of 70 tonnes. There is no dock, just a packed sand landing area. As the ferry neared our side of the river, we thought the positioning of our bus was a good one. In the last minute or so, a man waved his hands at the captain and the ferry veered and landed at another spot.

 Groans could be heard, a frustrated word or two and a bit of hand waving but the scene quickly returned to normal. A different line of vehicles now had "first crack" at getting onboard and people scurried to carried their goods over a hump of land in an attempt to put themselves in position once the vehicles were loaded. The ferry will hold one semi-trailer truck, a couple of medium sized trucks, several cars and then, like water into a bucket of stones, people pour on to fill up the spaces.

 

A few men take the chaos around the ferry landing as an opportunity to make money. For a fee they will make your passage quicker. We figure they must be in cahoots with the ferry captain and that is why the sudden change in landing location. Some people agree to pay a bribe to these fellows while others just block traffic, when they can, and wiggle their way to the front of the line.

Our G.A.P itinerary read, "Approximate Distance: 150km. Estimated travel time: 2 Hours (depending on border crossing)." We were beginning to understand and looked at the delay as a cultural experience. It has only recently been like this. As a result of the unrest in Zimbabwe, commercial trucks from South Africa heading north to Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania are bypassing Zimbabwe through Botswana and this is their only exit point north from Botswana, even though it means waiting for two or three weeks in a ferry line. Go figure?

In geography, a quadripoint is a point on the earth which touches four distinct regions. This short stretch of the Zambezi River joins four countries: Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe . One could argue that it is not a true quadripoint, as is the point where the states of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico meet, but it’s close enough.

 

Guts decided it would be best if he took the next ferry and start the paperwork at Zambian customs on the other side; Gerda would stay with us.

This time the ferry docked closer. It was absolute madness to see how trucks, cars and people were trying to find a way off the ferry while at the same time trucks, cars and people were jostling for position to get on.

 
 

Joseph was not going to get on this one either.

We watched the ferry go and waited a half hour or more for it’s return. Gerda decided we would take the next ferry, even if Joseph didn’t make it with the bus, as our time would be better spent going through customs ... which could, at times, offer as much delay and confusion as the ferry crossing.

 

The ferry pulled into the same place again and we called out encouragement to Joseph when a space opened up, but he was out-manoeuvred and we piled onboard the ferry without him. Sherrie managed to get a seat at the side rail and offered it to women with babies, women with packages, older women and even a man but they all smiled at the gesture and declined.

 

In 2007 the governments of Zambia and Botswana agreed to build a bridge to replace the aging Kazungula ferry. It was scheduled for completion in August 2008. Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe have not even got a feasibility study underway due to "Zimbabwe’s financial difficulties". Botswana and Zambia have managed to secure enough funding for a "detailed study". We expect the fellows on the banks of the river don’t have to worry about losing their extortion income any time soon. We have to admit, from a travellers perspective, the experience was well worth the wait.

   

    

    

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