Botswana to Cape Town


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Africa » Namibia » Kalahari
April 4th 2010
Published: April 4th 2010
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Botswana & Namibia

After having concluded our affairs ain Livingstone it was time to head to Botswana which meant going over the river in a boat, here I use the word boat in the loosest sense of the word. On the approach road to the ferry for about a mile and a half the sides of the roads were lined nose to tail with trucks and lorries waiting to cross the border. According to our driver it can take weeks for the necessary bureaucracy to be in place, and if the truck doesn’t weigh the same as it did in Livingstone where it also has to be weighed then they are sent back to be weighed in Livingstone with an extra fine, which makes it surprising that any business at all is conducted between these countries. The matter isn’t helped by the closure of the border to Mr Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, so everything must cross the border to Botswana this way by ferry. Our guide explained that crossing would be relatively simple as tourist traffic has priority over goods vehicles. After about half an hours wait in the scorching midday heat our number seemed to be up as the truck was in position to drive onto the ferry. However, corruption intervened and the truck was ordered to reverse away to make way for someone else in a lorry, most of us had to leg it onto the ferry, but some were too slow, and those that failed to jump the gap were left in Zambia whilst the rest of us chugged across the river to Botswana. This has to have been the shittest ferry I’ve ever laid foot on, I was initially sat by the engine, but moved when one of the guys started pouring in water, shortly after which, boiling water started spluttering all over the place. Miraculously, we made it to the other side and then in the absence of our truck had to walk a few km to the border post, devastating. After an eternity, the others turned up, and after another eternity the truck turned up and we headed for Kasane.

Upon arrival in Kasane, tents were set up and then all our old group rocked up in another truck on their way to Johannesburg which made for a fun final party before some sad goodbyes. The following morning we were up at 05:00 BC to go on a game drive round Chobe national park. This came as a nasty shock as I hadn’t managed to go to bed until 03:00. I managed to crawl onto the safari jeep in my sleeping bad, which turned out to be a great decision as it was bloody freezing! Despite the hardship I was glad I went as no sooner had we driven through the park gates we saw a pride of fairly large lion cubs all play fighting together which apparently a very rare sight in Chobe. The remainder of the day was spent by the pool, which was a funny green colour, so we didn’t go in. That evening we took the remainder of our drinks stash to enjoy whilst on our Chobe river cruise (a much more civilised affair than the Livingstone sunset cruise). We had a good guide who pointed out African Fish Eagles, Kingfishers, and Monitor Lizards, after which we were lucky to see some elephants playing by the river, and plenty of hippos, generally being lazy and not doing much at all. However, the sunset at the end was beautiful.

After the Chobe it was time to head to the Okavango delta, one of the world’s only inland river delta, apparently the river just fades into the Kalahari because the land is so flat. The delta is huge although we would be seeing a small part of it through travelling round the narrow lily strewn waterways bordered by tall green reeds. We travelled to our bush camp on a mokoro, which is a sort of long thin canoe traditionally made from a hollowed out tree trunk, although nowadays they have fibreglass ones which are better in almost every way. We camped on a very remote island in the delta, where the toilet was literally a hole dug in the ground. That afternoon was spent lounging around at the swimming spot which is supposedly free from hippos and crocodiles; we had a laugh using lily buds as small water pistols and the cool clear water was a welcome break from the relentless Botswana afternoon sun. That evening we headed in our mokoros, through a pool of hippos, to another island where we would do our bush walk. Prior to the commencement of the walk we received a short safety briefing covering the necessary evasive action in the event of an encounter with: lions, elephants, rhinos, and hippos. In the case of hippos running up a tree was best, and the same for rhinos. For lions you had to stand still and not shout or scream and gradually retreat. For elephants we were supposed to stay downwind of them so the didn’t smell us (we were not told what to in the event of being charged). The bushwalk as good and at one stage we were just 20 metres away from a small herd of elephants (downwind) so we had to do a tactical retreat until they passed then head back to the mokoros, which would take us home for dinner.

Whilst the Okavango delta is without doubt an area of immense natural beauty, it is also a mosquito infested swamp. That evening the malaria monsters were out in full force, and I was unfortunately in for a shoeing! When we arrived back at camp we were very hot and sweaty so headed for a quick dip, unfortunately there was a swarm of mosquitoes waiting for us which when not under the water savaged us. That evening we had some food by the fire and were treated so some local songs and dance from our guides, about 9 a huge thunder storm came in with lots of rain, which put an end to the evening’s festivities. The next morning we were up early for a bush walk, which sadly yielded very few animal sightings. Upon our return we had a quick breakfast and headed off back to the mainland on our mokoros.

The next day it was time for the drive to Windhoek, Namibia’s capital. We crossed the border into Namibia with out any of the corruption shenanigans that blighted our crossing into Botswana. Here we had chance to go shopping in a fully developed city which was a welcome change from East Africa. Also that evening we went to a game restaurant called Joe’s Beer house where I enjoyed an amazing combo dish of Zebra, Ostrich, Crocodile, Kudu and Chicken. The day after we had a hot drive to the Etosha game park, but we went for quite a long game drive on the way in and were fortunate enough to see some Giraffes, Oryx (the national animal of Namibia), and plenty of Springbok (national animal of South Africa). That evening we camped in a place on the edge of Etosha with a very nice pool. It also had a very nice man made watering hole where you could watch animals drinking, whilst enjoying a beer. That evening the sunset was amazing, with a herd of Zebra taking on water whilst the sun went down, although I missed most of it as I stayed in the pool too long. The following morning we went for a rather uneventful game drive, although one highlight was what may have been a black mamba (it was certainly the fastest snake I’ve ever seen) which Paulie, or driver managed to skilfully keep us in sight of for a few minutes. On the same drive we also saw a sort of retard Zebra which was very strange; rather than stripes it had kind of blotchy black bits, and it was kind of sad to see it shunned by the other zebras. We also drove to the edge of a huge empty lake which was pretty spectacular. The afternoon was mainly spent in the scorching sun by the pool, the campsites had been improving remarkably the further south we travelled, and the afternoon’s game drive was exchanged for more sunbathing (they saw very little). However, that evening we were treated to a rhino at the local watering hole which was really cool as it was by far the closest to a rhino I’ve been on the whole trip.

The following day we had a medium length drive to Sptizkope which is a giant rock formation in the middle of the desert, the drive there also took us past some pretty amazing Kalahari Desert scenery. The place is in the middle of nowhere but thankfully we had the whole afternoon to go exploring, this was great fun as we found some cave paintings and there were all sorts of huge rocks that we could climb up. That evening we had lamb steaks which were excellent, after this we headed up to one of the high rocks to watch the excellent sunset. That night, as we were in the dry desert most of us opted to sleep outside in the open which was amazing because that night probably had the best view of the night sky and the milky way that I’ve ever seen. The next morning we headed of to Swakopmund, a Germanic town on the Atlantic coast, which is Namibia’s activity capital (skydiving!)

On the way to Swakopmund we headed to a place further north where there is an enormous number of seals generally taking it easy on the beach. Whilst seals are generally quite cute animals, especially the baby ones, they smell far from pretty. For this reason we headed off pretty quickly, also it was quite cold. A few hours later we arrived in Swakopmund, which is a relic of the second Reich on the Atlantic coast. We stayed in a place just off Bismark Street, and there we a large number of German hotels complete with signs in gothic writing, there was also plenty of Germans about. After a nice lunch of game stew we headed down to the sea which was incredibly cold, and nothing like as nice as the bath like Indian Ocean. That evening we headed out for a group meal, where I had an awesome kudu steak, I don’t think I’ll ever tire of eating game meat! The day was skydive day. It wasn’t in the budget but after having not done the bungy jump in Livingstone it seemed like I would be making a great mistake in not doing the skydive. I was also given extra encouragement by Hannah and Penny. We drove off to the ‘airstrip’ which was basically some flatter sand out in the desert with a few beers packed for afters. We quickly dressed in out jump suits, and after a short safety briefing headed out to our small plane, which promptly set off. We climbed quickly, and had an amazing flight where we could see the sand dunes turning into beach, and Spitzkope in the distance, after climbing to 10,000 feet it was time to go. Penny was first out, she just dropped out of the plane like a rock! Hannah was next, then it was my turn, I tucked my legs underneath the floor of the plane facing out the door as instructed and the next thing I knew we were hurtling towards the floor at about 200KMpH! This lasted for about 30 seconds, and the feeling is incredible, its not like a roller coaster where you can feel it in your stomach. I definitely recommend skydiving to anyone who is in the least unsure. After 30 seconds we pulled the parachute and slowed down so fast it felt like we were going up, I had a quick go on the controls as we went down, its abit like a kite, and you can get some pretty fast speeds if you dump all your wind. We landed safely and enjoyed some well deserved beers whilst the others did their jump, an amazing day.

After this it was time to begin the journey to South Africa, we first headed over to Fish River Canyon, a vast canyon not so grand as the grand canyon, but still quite grand. On the way the road ahead of us turned into a sandpit, in the middle of which there was a digger. Our driver took one look at it and decided ‘we no go through here’, this was backed up after a short conversation with digger man who had been there for two days. We turned round and found another way. That evening we headed to the canyon and enjoyed champagne and cheese as the sun went down, which was spectacular. The next day we crossed over into South Africa and stayed at the Orange River, which was in fact not orange at all, I felt robbed. We heard later from one of the other trucks that they had attempted to cross the sandpit, only to be stuck for seven hours….gutted!

After a messy night we headed down into the wine region of South Africa, where we were treated to some wine tasting, which was very civilised until later in the evening when we’d all had abit much so reverted to our usual selves. That night a foolish decision was made to sleep outside. Not only was it freezing, but we also got very wet from the dew, bad times. The next morning we embarked for our last stint on the truck and headed to Cape Town. This is by far the biggest and most developed city I’d been to on the whole trip. We stopped of first at Cape View where you can look across the bay at the legendary Table Mountain which that day was complete with ‘tablecloth’ (clouds). Then we went for a Township tour which involved visiting on of the areas that the black population had once been confined to during the apartheid era. This was really interesting as we saw some of the wretched places that huge numbers of people had been forced to stay in, in some places three families in the same room. There was also the much nicer houses by the main road to the airport to fool visitors that the places weren’t so bad at all. After this went into a few homes where we tried a special type of beer brewed in the townships, it was very sour and nasty. Although we went on a Sunday morning, a large number of the people we saw were drunk almost to the point of being wasted, which seemed rather odd. It also turned a little nasty when just down the road from us someone smashed a bottle onto someone else’s head. After this we headed for lunch at a local barbecue grill place which was excellent. The next few days involved taking it easy, walking round the town. One evening we headed up Table Mountain for the sunset, remembering to bring champagne and cheese, this was absolutely spectacular. We also spent plenty of time down in the waterfront. It was also nice to catch up with Paul who is doing a medical elective in Cape Town, old friends are always good when that far away from home. So now this great African Adventure has come to an end, time for India!


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