Three times ‘water’

Drie keer 'water'After the great five-day safari through Ethosha, we take our bikes from under the sail at the lodge just outside the park. They are there exactly as we had left them and start without problems. Great! We pitch our tents on the campsite of the lodge and sink into a chair while we have a look at the pictures of Etosha with a smile on our faces. We use the rest of the afternoon for the administration and the laundry and then bend over the map to plan the remainder of the trip. There are three places we would like to visit with Dick: the Chobe River in Botswana, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and the Okavango Delta, again in Botswana. Three times to the water!

After five days in the car with Dick, we are excited to get back on the bikes again the next morning. It will be nice to ride again. The ’car days’ have been very convenient for me though, because my right ankle had swollen so much after the fall I made a few days earlier that I could not even fit my motorcycle boot anymore. The days in the backseat of the car have been good for the ankle, because this morning the swelling was almost gone and I could fit my motorcycle boot again.

Drie keer 'water'Shortly after we set off we leave the paved road and hit a gravel road which brings us to the east a bit faster. The road is in good condition and winds through the dry Namibian country. On both sides of the road are small trees of just a few feet high. They are the same trees as we saw earlier in Etosha, only these ones have not been visited by elephants and are still intact. We pass several farms where they keep cows and sheep. Along the way are signs that warn for stray animals. Every few kilometers we drive over a cattle grid that keeps the animals from walking to the land of the neighbor. Elsewhere a fence has been placed on the road, with a sign on it with the request to close the gate again if we pass. We take turns getting off the bike and out of the car to open the gate and close it again after we have all passed again.

Drie keer 'water'We drive nearly 300km and make a little detour in Grootfontein to the Hoba Meteorite. It is a huge lump of iron of 6 m3 and is the largest meteorite that was ever found on Earth. The lump of metal weighs about 50 tons and fell from the sky about 80,000 years ago. That must have been some hit! After we have been sitting there for some time to look at the metal rock, we move on and find a campsite not far from the crater at ‘Meteorite Campsite’.

The tour we ride from Etosha, to the Victoria Falls and through Botswana back to Windhoek, is 3.000km long. We think it will take us two weeks, but we will not ride every day because we also want to visit some places. The days we do drive, we do a lot of kilometres. That is not only because of the long distance that we want to cover, but also because the distances between the towns is so big. From Grootfontein to the next town of Rundu is no less than 281 kilometres! In between these towns there is just a handful of settlements, all of them too small to even form a dot on our map. We plan our route so that we arrive in a larger town every day, not just for a campsite, but also for a gas station and a supermarket.

Drie keer 'water'From Grootfontein we drive on the B8 in one long straight line to the north-east. It is one of the few paved roads in Namibia, which makes it faster and easier to drive long distances. After a very hot day we find a campsite in Rundu at one of the lodges on the edge of town. From the hills on which the lodge is built, we look out over the Okavango River and to the neighboring country of Angola. I had never thought that we would be so close to it.

From Rundu we drive through the ‘Caprivi Strip” further east. The narrow strip of land reaches 450 km to the east until the Zambezi River and the point where the borders of Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe meet. With one glance at the map it is clear that this strange tail of Namibia was designed on a drawing board. In 1890 the former Chancellor of Germany and German South-West Africa (later Namibia) traded the island of Zanzibar in Tanzania with Great Britain against this strip of land and the island of Heligoland in the North Sea. As such Namibia gained access to the Zambezi river of which Von Caprivi had hoped that it would connect the country to the trade routes in East Africa. The river appeared barely navigable and has never yielded the economic benefits hoped for. Now it is especially interesting for the Namibian tourism industry and the many travellers grateful use the long asphalt road in the strip as it is a fast connection between a number of large game reserves.

Drie keer 'water'Away from the city and the touristy places elsewhere in Namibia the country is different here in the Caprivi Strip. Much more like the Africa we saw earlier during our trip, with small settlements where people live in very primitive conditions. No big houses but huts of reeds or clay. No extensive buffet with schnitzel and bratwurst, but porridge and sometimes vegetables. No big SUVs, but a donkey or on foot. This is Africa. Although we saw this before, it again is confronting after all the luxury we saw in South Africa and Namibia. Maybe it touches me more today, because I see it through the eyes of my father who is riding behind me in his Land Cruiser and has not seen this before during his trip.

When we stop at one of the parking areas along the highway to eat some lunch, we have a visitor. A man in rags and barefoot looks at us from a distance. While we make our sandwiches he comes closer until he stands at six meters from our table and without saying anything just looks at us. I struggle to finish my sandwich and think of the advice in our guidebooks: “Give nothing, because it encourages begging and prevents the development of the local population.Drie keer 'water'I think that is good advice when it regards children, who might choose a day begging over a day at school, but in this case I cannot follow the advice. While we pack our stuff, I give the man an apple. No idea if that is what he needs and maybe it is still too little, but it is something. He puts the apple in his pocket and continues his walk. When we pass him later, he holds the apple up in the aire while he waves to us with his other hand. I am speechless and I realize once again how fortunate we are that we were born in Europe.

Drie keer 'water'We drive over 200 kilometers that day and stop in Divundu to go to Ngepi Camp, a campsite that was recommended to us by many travelers. Not only because of the nice site, but mainly because of the special toilets and the spectacular pool. We are pointed to a nice spot on a green lawn overlooking the Okavango river. If the tents are pitched, we go looking for the toilets. They are all ‘bush toilets’ with just a fence around it and without a roof. Each bathroom has its own theme and they are indeed very special. A toilet ‘for her’ with pink woolen blanket, a toilet ‘for him’ where the seat is held up by a large padlock, a toilet in the woods called ’Boskak’ and a ‘loo with a view’ where you look out over the woods from the seat because walls are missing (!). The pool also meets all expectations. It is a huge cage in the river where we can swim out of the reach of crocodiles and hippos in the Okavango river! Drie keer 'water'A scary thought to jump in there, but it is so hot that even I will take the change. With a big splash I jump in the water to join Peter who had already jumped in the water. The water flows through the cage quite fast and we just remain in the same spot if we swim. Very special.

We stay two nights and enjoy our first real day off since we left Cape Town. No sunrise or wild animals to see, so no alarm clock this morning. Peter checks the bikes, I work on the blog and Dick takes about a kilo of Namibian dust from his car. The next day we drive fresh and rested through the Caprivi Strip to the east. We camp in Katima Mulilo at a campsite next to a nice hotel. As in Rundu we find a camping spot on the river, but this time we look out over the Zambezi river with Zambia at the other side.

The next day we drive to our first ‘water destination’: the Botswana town of Kasane, where we want to take a cruise on the Chobe river. It is a short drive of only 125 miles, but we still take off early because we have to cross the border from Namibia to Botswana. You never know how long it takes  to complete the paperwork. The Namibian side of the border does not take much time. After only fifteen minutes we have a stamp in our passports and drive on to the Botswana side of the border.

Drie keer 'water'Before we can continue to the customs office, we have to stop for a veterinary inspection. Both Namibia and Botswana are divided into various veterinary areas. It is not permitted to take raw meat and fruits from one zone to the other. In Namibia, Peter and I were just waived through at these kinds of checkpoints. Only Dick was asked to show the contents of his fridge. In Botswana, the controls are more serious. Peter and I have to disinfect our motorcycle boots by stepping into a container of disinfectant and then have to drive with the motorbikes through a large pool of the same stuff. Dick have to open his refrigerator, but also has to give up food this time. The tomatoes and courgettes from Namibia are not allowed to enter the country and are thrown in a big dustbin. After that he has to disinfect all his shoes and also drive with the car through the pool.

A little further we come to the next stop: the Ebola control. Next to the customs office is a green tent with a flag with a red cross on it. From the infirmary a nurse in a white suit walks our way. She is wearing rubber gloves and says that we can only enter Botswana if we pass the medical examination. Fortunately, the rubber gloves appear to be unnecessary, because the examination only includes a quick glance at our passports to look for stamps of the countries where Ebola has been found. Drie keer 'water'That is not too bad. Once we are at he customs office the formalities are very fast. We each complete a form to get a stamp in our passports and pay road tax to enter the country with the bikes and the car.

From the border we drive through Chobe National Park to Kasane where we find a place to camp at the campsite at the luxury Chobe Safari Lodge. After lunch we walk to the lobby to inquire about cruises on the Chobe. There it appears that, if we hurry, we can even join the boat that leaves that afternoon. We hurry back to the tents to get our cameras, slide our credit card through the machine to pay and are the last three to get on the boat. It is a large flat boat with tables and chairs and a large freezer in the corner from which a waiter takes cold drinks. It looks more like a floating deck and we are not surprised that this pleasant boat trip is also known as the “Booze-cruise”.

Drie keer 'water'We have only just left when we see the first animals on the islands in the river. Everywhere we look are elephants, we count more than 40 of them! The boat calmly continues, getting closer all the time, until we float a few meters from the elephants. They seem to take no notice and just flap their ears, trudge through the grass and even swim around the boat. At the edge of the island some elephants are in the water up to their ears while they eat the grass. You can see exactly where they have been, because they make a beautiful trail in the swamp. More than three hours we float on the river while the guide tells about the animals we see. Besides the elephants we see African buffalos, crocodiles, hippos, impalas, warthogs, kudus and many different birds. At the end of the afternoon we even see four hippos grazing on the land. Drie keer 'water'Very special, because they usually only leave the water when the sun has set. They are truly strange animals, with their huge heads and short legs bearing their heavy body. It really is a fantastic boat trip, which ends with a beautiful sunset. Though I do not know what I like more, the beautifully colored sky or the smile on the face of my father who visibly enjoys the boattrip.

The next day we go to the second ’water destination’: the Victoria Falls. Besides seeing elephants, a visit to these waterfalls was high on the bucket list of Dick. A few months earlier, Peter and I visited the falls from Zambia when there was a lot of water in the Zambezi river and therefore a lot of water that fell down at the falls. At this time of the year the water in the river is lower and less water falls down. As there is also less mist in the canyon, the view from Zimbabwe should be very worthwhile. From Kasane we can go back and forth in one day. We leave the bikes and our tent at the campsite, crawl into Dick’s Landcruiser and leave early to the border with Zimbabwe.

Drie keer 'water'The formalities at the Botswana side of the border are handled quickly, within fifteen minutes we are back in the car. Immediately when we park at the Zimbabwean side of the border we see a long queue at the entrance to the customs office. That does not look good. We join the queue and after half an hour we are at exactly the same spot. Around us buses full of tourists arrive, all heading for a day trip to the falls. From every bus comes a guide with a thick stack of passports in his hand that enters the customs office through the back entrance. While we are still in the same long line, the guides come out one after the other with stamped passports. No wonder we are here for so long!

Peter and I chat with the Dutch couple that are in line with us while I see in the corner of my eyes how my father is getting pretty tired of waiting. When most of the buses with tourists have left the line we are in starts to move forward painfully slow and after another hour we finally reach the entrance of the office step by step. It is a chaos in the office. The people in the front on the line argue with the guides that continue to skip the line, a soldier shouts by way of command that we should keep our passports ready, a radio blares music and in between we hear the customs officer stamp some passports with a loud bang. A typical African border post that clearly does not do my father any good. The only way to avoid getting completely crazy here is to stick to the principle: “Do not get annoyed, just be amazed

Drie keer 'water'After a long time, it is finally our turn. The customs staff behind the counter work on autopilot and does not even look up the great us. We give the papers we had already filled in while we were still in the line and pay $30 per person for a visa. Our details are written by hand in a big book and then we are sent to the next window with a receipt of our payment. The visa sticker is also completed by hand and then stuck in our passports.

Once the passports are ready, we must ensure that the car of Dick can also enter the country. As on a few other borders, we also see some ’fixers’ here, men that assist you with the paperwork for a fee. They often pretent to be just very helpful, to then only ask for a fee for their help after the job is done. While I am waiting to have the visa sticker stuck in my passport, I see how a fixer approaches my father and points to a green form while he is looking at the paperwork from Dick’s car. As soon as I can, I join Dick. The man tells some hazy story about an insurance for rental cars. When I ask for an explanation his English is suddenly very poor, while he is able to tell me how much we have to pay in perfect English a bit later. We have to pay 50 US$ for the green form and another 55 US$ for some taxes. Drie keer 'water'A lot of money, especially when you consider that we will not even be in Zimbabwe for more than 12 hours! Moreover, it is still not clear where that green form is for. After some negotiations we eventually get a ’discount’ of 10 US$ on the green form, but we still have to pay 95 US$ in total. By now we are fed up and no longer want to wait any longer. We pay the amount and can finally leave after two hours. We do have a sour taste in the mouth, because we feel tricked and some people made a lot of money very fast. Welcome to Zimbabwe.

We drive a long straight road towards the falls. It is like we are the only ones here, we see no villages and hardly any other traffic. That changes quickly when we arrive at the town ‘Victoria Falls’ at the end of the morning and drive onto a long street lined with hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops and lots of tourists.

Drie keer 'water'We park the car and can already hear the roaring falls from the car park! Excited we walk to the first lookout point where we are once again overwhelmed by the breathtaking waterfalls. The ravine is shrouded in a haze of small droplets and each time the sun shines through the clouds it creates a wonderful rainbow. On the edge of the ravine it always rains, creating a beautiful green rainforest. From the Zimbabwean side we can see the falls from the side and when the fog clears, we see almost the full length of the falls. Really nice! We had to pay a fair bit to come here, but it is worth every penny.

Drie keer 'water'After we have looked at the falls from all angles and have taken all the pictures we wanted, we go back to the car for the drive to the campsite. We drive from the busy village, through no-man’s-land and arrive at the border the second time that day. While it is exactly the same border post, it seems like we are in another world. There is no queue to the counter and no screaming soldier in the hall. On the radio sounds a merry tune and we find a smiling customs officer who chats to us about the role of Louis van Gaal at Manchester United. Within five minutes we are back outside with all the stamps we need! The formalities at the Botswana side also go smoothly. This morning we had left the meat and the new tomatoes in the fridge of our neighbors, so that we would not have to hande  it in at the veterinary control. This time it are the (Botswana) bananas that are not allowed back into the country. We eat all of them on the spot and drive the final stretch back to the campsite where we throw our preserved meat on the braai.

Drie keer 'water'IIn our planning we had reserved one full day for a cruise on the Chobe. Since we were able to join the boat on the first day, we now have an unexpected day off. We decide to stay in Kasane. We enjoy a lazy morning and feel like being on a safari while we are still sitting in our seat when the warthog, bushbuck and mongooses scurry about on the campsite. That afternoon Dick steps onto the boat one more time for a second safari on the water while we relax by the side of the pool and use the fast internet. A wonderful day!

Our third and final ’water destination’ is the Okavango Delta which we will visit from Maun. From Kasane it is still 650 kilometers to Maun, a distance we will cover in three days during which we will stop at a number of special campsites that were recommended to us by other travelers. We drive along a long straight asphalt road to the south, through an area where many elephants and other wildlife roam. At one of the parking areas next to the road the Botswana government has placed a disclaimer which states that we are driving in a nature reserve where wild animals live and we stop here at your own risk. Drie keer 'water'I was already careful to find a safe place for a bathroom break, but now decide to just squat beside the rear wheel of the car in stead of walking into the bushes.

At the end of the day we see a sign next to the road for Elephant Sands Lodge, the first campsite that was recommended to us. The name of the lodge was just right, because that is what we see: sand and elephants. The last four kilometers to the campsite are on a sandy road. I have trouble keeping my motor upright in the sand and work my way through the deep tracks frustrated. I say a little prayer hoping that they have a pitch for us, because I do not want to ride this road again today. With a red, sweaty head I arrive at the reception where Peter already arrived some time ago. He did have fun in the sand and had already heard that they indeed have a place for us to camp. Nice! I take of my helmet and look at the smiling face of Peter: “Have you seen them? Those elephants?Drie keer 'water'I had been so busy riding the sand that I had not even seen the elephants at the waterhole next to the reception!

The lodge is built around a large watering hole, which is visited by elephants. From the terrace of the bar we can see the great giants very good. And also from our camping spot which lies a little further we can see the elephants. It looks a bit like Etosha, but there is one big difference: there is no fence around the site! Elephants can come and go as they please and could in theory just walk past our tent. We find a suitable camping spot without too many elephant dung and pitch our tents.

It is very warm. We only pitch our inner tent, so that the wind can provide some cooling. After a quiet evening with a nice campfire we crawl in our tent. A few hours later, I wake up to rumble resembling thunder. If it should start raining we should put the fly over the tent as well. But I am mistaken, the rumble comes from the huge elephant that stands only five metres from our tent! I am instantly awake and sit straight up. Drie keer 'water'I gently wake Peter. Once he has seen the elephant, he lies down again to immediately fall into a deep sleep. I remain hypnotized at the window in the tent watching the elephant. I can see him really good in the light of the moon. He pulls some branches from a tree and lets go four huge droppings. After a while he trudges away slowly and disappears into the bushes. It takes a while before I fall asleep. When I open the tent the next morning I see the dung only a few meters from the tent. So I really was not dreaming!

The second day we drive a shorter distance to Planet Baobab, a beautiful campsite with some huge baobab trees. We are early in the camp and have enough time for a refreshing dip in the pool. The third and last day we drive in one go to Maun. From there we will go to our third ’water destination’: the Okavango delta. We pitch the tents at Old Bridge Backpackers and book a boat trip for the next day.

Drie keer 'water'The next morning we are taken by a van to a boat that takes us further upstream at high speed along the winding river. After half an hour we arrive at a small village. On the waterfront are all mokoros, large dugouts with which we float over the Okavango. Every mokoro can take maximum two passengers. At the end of the mokoro is a poler; a man or woman that uses a big pole to push the boat forward.

The three of us take two mokoros. The poler in the mokoro of Dick is a strong woman who pushes the boat forward with a brisk pace. It seems like we are going the wrong way as our poler steers our mokoro right into the reed, but it soon turns out to be precisely the right way. The open waterway is too deep to be able to put the pole on the bottom. Drie keer 'water'Moreover in those deeper areas are many hippos and we do not want to encounter them now. Through the reeds is a narrow waterway where the mokoros can pass. But even where there is no waterway the mokoros can easily pass, the branches bend with no problem.

Now we are no longer in the fast-moving motorboat we can hear how quiet it is on the water. All we hear is the boat that glides through the water and the pole that is lifted out of the water. The water is very clear and everywhere grow water lilies. Our poler shows us different animals that live in the reeds, like a funny white frog, a huge spider and different birds. After a few hours we stop on an island for a walk and a siesta. The latter especially to give our polers a rest. During the walk we see zebras and antelopes. It is very warm and even the animals do not seem to want to move. Drie keer 'water'They continue to graze while we watch them from a distance. After the siesta we get back into the wooden boats to float back to the village. It is all going at a slow pace and seems almost slow motion. A whole different way to escape the stress in the big city.

We stay one more day in Maun before we continue driving towards Windhoek. The end of Dick’s holiday in Africa is near. We therefore use our day off to exchange photos and to sort out the stuff he will take to the Netherlands for us. From Maun it will take us three days to drive to Windhoek. The first day we drive to Ghanzi where we camp in a large nature reserve where we celebrate my birthday the next morning. During breakfast I am surprised to find a birthday card and a gift from my sister!Drie keer 'water' From Ghanzi we drive to the border and after a smooth border crossing we are back in Namibia. That night in Gobabis we celebrate my birthday with a kudu steak, a large pot of beer and the new ear stud my sister gave me! Great!!

From Gobabis is only a small trip to Windhoek and after a few days in the Botswana bush we are suddenly back in the big city. There is a lot of traffic on the road, there are traffic lights and people are in a hurry. We pitch the tents on a beautiful campsite in the center of town and go out to find some souvenirs in town for Dick.

Then the end is there, the last day of Dick his visit. He joined us for six weeks; drove over 6.000km through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe; crossed five land borders with all the associated paperwork; slept in his rooftop tent for five weeks; saw the elephants that he wanted to see and a lot of them; Drie keer 'water'ate boerewors and biltong; saw the luxurious villas in Cape Town and the townships around it; stood on top of Table Mountain and next to the Victoria Falls; and experienced Africa as we have for so many months with great pleasure.

Dad, it was really great that you came to visit!

Distance traveled to Windhoek: 31.829km (19,778 miles)

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| Leonie | AFRICA, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe

3 Reacties (Comments) - Three times ‘water’

  1. mieke

    Prachtige foto’s en verhalen van die 6 weken samen met Dick! Ik moest nog even wat berichten van jullie inhalen. Dadelijk lekker verder lezen :)

  2. Jan en Mariët

    Fijn dat het goed afgelopen is met je enkel!
    Dikke kus uit Eemnes. X

  3. Mirjam

    Wauw, prachtige foto’s weer!

    En wat onwijs gaaf Leonie, dat je pa de stap heeft gezet om een deel van jullie avontuur mee te beleven! 😀

    Liefs, Mip