Published: October 26th 2011September 2nd 2011
Kate relaxing after another shitty day in Africa!
I caught the chef taking an unauthorized break from her duties. This was quickly resolved and I put her back to work preparing my sauages!
M – After we left Vic Falls we took a couple of days to drive down through Botswana back to the border with South Africa. As I mentioned in an earlier block on the Okavango Panhandle, having already had a great Mokoro trip into the Delta from its North West corner we planned to avoid the touristy Maun and were able to make good time going south by avoiding the 300km detour westward that most tourists who visit the Delta from Maun have to make. The road from Kasane to the South through Francistown is a little pot holed but compared to some of the gravel roads in Namibia it was bliss! What did cause a little stress though were the Food Checkpoints!
Just like the Red Line in Namibia, Botswana has Police/Agricultural checkpoints to prevent the spread of disease from North to South. The permanent checkpoints are to prevent the spread of Foot and Mouth southbound and are supposed to apply to uncooked cloven, hoofed meat. During our trip they had also added restrictions on the movement of certain fruit to prevent the spread of Fruit Fly.
The checkpoints can vary, anything from a barrier across the road
manned by a couple of ‘official looking’ people asking you if you have anything to declare and to show them what is in your car/trunk/ cooler to a full police manned check point and a chemical dip to drive the car through and chemical mats for the passengers to walk across. This is all well and good and we support it and the main checkpoints are marked on the road maps. This should make matters simple in that know the checkpoints are coming so you know to eat/cook your meat and not to stock up on the wrong food stuffs before planning to drive south and hence avoid the risk having your food taken away and destroyed ... or more likely sold on the black market.
The main problems are twofold:
i) in addition to the marked checkpoints that cover all the southbound routes there are a number of checkpoints not on the map and
ii) many of the people manning the checkpoints don’t really seem to understand (or want to understand) what they are trying to enforce and will attempt to take both cooked meats, non-hoofed meat (i.e. chicken) and take fruit that is not on their Fruit
To compound these problems, as you drive further south, and past the map marked checkpoints, the places to buy produce become few and far between. Worse, you don’t actually know when the check points are going to stop and the people selling you the meat don’t seem to know, or want to tell you, if there are any more checkpoints. After a bit you either have to forget fresh produce, or take a chance and assume that you are finally through all the checkpoints.
After around 3 or 4 ‘stop and searches’, some definitely legit and some looking a little more opportunistic we were getting more than a little pissed. We had actually planned ahead and eaten or cooked any products that could legally be confiscated but it was becoming a little tedious as we were still however subject to repeated searches and to randomly having perfectly legal products confiscated (although we did eat a lot of apples at checkpoints …).
Eventually we made the assumption that we were through the last of the checkpoints and it was safe to buy a few sausages and some more apples. The latter aren’t actually on the banned
The view from the shower
Botswana in the foreground and South Africa on the opposite bank. The Limpopo River, Crocodiles and Hippos in the middle.
list but the inspectors seemed to want them anyway despite Kate’s protests. FYI, Kate is the most law abiding person I know but she hates being cheated. We didn’t go too crazy though in our purchases and didn’t risk any steaks but we wanted some meat for the Brai, so we got some sausages. You’ve guessed it, we were wrong - another checkpoint!
This one looked a little dodgy so I decided to see if I could bluff my way through and use the ‘we’ve been searched 4 times already today’ speech and drive straight through. As I chatted and smiled to the inspector Kate held her breath and looked decidedly pale. I thought I was home and dry after the initial questioning but then the female inspector asked about my cooler and if she could see it. Hmmm. So I called her bluff.
I made a great show of complying with her request and with much smiling began getting all the stuff out of the back of the bakkie before finally pulling out the cooler and snapping it opened at her feet for her to inspect. At the same time I was hoping that
that the sausages in the cooler, although pretty well hidden, had not floated to the top!
To my relief when I opened the cooler it looked full of beer, milk, juice and ice and no sausages were immediately visible. To get to them the inspector would need me to empty quite a lot of ice and beer off the top of the cooler. I stood back to see what she wanted to do. I wasn’t going to help. By this time a small line of cars had formed behind us.
Either she had a sore back or she didn’t fancy getting her hands cold but either way she bought my mini-charade and didn’t ask to delve further into the cooler. Feeling pretty chuffed I repacked the trunk as calmly as I could and returned to the cabin of the bakkie where Kate was now very pale. Without any pause we speed through the chemical dip and continued our journey. Another 5 km, another checkpoint …
This time I thought Kate was going to pass out. I could see a number of stalls selling peanuts on the other side of the checkpoint so I sent her ahead
And we were told there were no bloody elephants ...
No surprise that we turned our car around at this point.
to leave me to deal with the inspectors as I thought her expression was going to give the game away and I wanted to hang on to these sausages! I also thought that if they found the sausages I could plead ignorance and blame it on a misunderstanding of the rules etc.
Anyway, initially this time the inspector didn’t want to see the main cooler in the trunk of the bakkie but wanted to look inside the cab. This didn’t actually surprise me too much as we were aware that people hide stuff under seats and in small coolers inside the car (we found out later that some even have secret refrigerated compartments built into their camper vans!).
Knowing they may look inside we had planned ahead and hidden a small soft cooler with our perfectly legal apples under our sleeping bags. Again, with a smile I opened the rear door to allow the man to do his job. The inspector looked at the mountain of back packs, sleeping bags and clothes on the back seat and for a moment I thought he was going to close the door. Then he started to dig into the pile…
This place sucks - just us and the Hippos
and of course the elephants that we didn't think were here ...
Fortunately a gallon bottle of water dropped out of the cab and bounced at the inspector’s feet. This made him jump, but more importantly he stopped his search! With a smile and an apology he waved me on and I was able to join Kate on the other side of the checkpoint where she was stress-eating her way through a very large bag of peanuts!
We didn’t hit any more checkpoints and after an overnight stop north of Francistown we headed for the Tuli Block on the north bank of the Limpopo River. The Limpopo River forms the border with South Africa and we planned to stay a day in the Tuli bock and then cross into South Africa. I wass looking forward to enjoying those sausages!
Our camp at the Limpopo River Lodge, itself at least 50kms on a gravel road from the nearest town, was so remote that after 5kms of off-road driving beyond the reception building deeper and deeper into the wilderness we began to wonder if we were doing the right thing. We final rounded a corner and saw the drop to the river and were rewarded with what was one of the best
camp sites we have had in all of our trip around Africa. Further it had an outside shower to rival the one we had on Little Corn Island in Nicaragua!
As a result we kept extending our stay and stayed 3 nights, and just in case you are interested, those ‘illegal’ sausages tasted great!
There are more photos below