Jen – In our last update we left you on the Zambia side of Vic Falls in Livingstone. Our main goal was to get the Disco a little Western style TLC. African TLC generally makes for a very unhappy Ben when various things are found not tightened, not working or generally done in a way that causes future problems. Foleys is an English Landrover overland company with a workshop in Zambia so it was great to opportunity to get a couple of things sorted. The only problem was that Nick (the main man there) was stacked up and we would have to wait a week to get our slot – it looked like Ben and I would have to do what we’re not very good at and sit and chill out for a week. As it turned out it was a lot easier than we thought and we had a very nice week relaxing and were also able to revisit Vic Falls.
Vic Falls was just as impressive from the Zambia side as it had been on Zimbabwe side. Crossing “Knifes Edge” bridge we got absolutely soaked through. It was funny that the other side was practically deserted, all the tourists who’d flown half way round the world to see one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World obviously didn’t want to see it too closely as it involved getting so wet
Ben – As we had time to kill I treated myself (well you have to when life is this hard) to a microlight flight over the falls, Jen could not be persuaded! Since my foray into the world of Hand gliding back at Uni (a couple of years ago now) I’ve always fancied a go in one, and what a place to try it. It was incredible. You feel barely strapped on at all, and with the wind literally in your face, a views for miles in all directions, I don’t think you can get a better perspective on the falls. You can see how the falls have progressed along the plain over the past thousands of years as new gorges get cut by the torrents of water, and you can see where the next chapter is stating to be cut too. A flight back over Hippo, Giraffe and fighting elephants topped the experience off nicely. A rather shaky and lop sided landing did get the pulse up a bit though.
After a week of relaxing with lots more drawing and reading (Bens now half way through his one book of the trip!) we got the Disco back as promised. We were on our way again to African country number 14 – Botswana.
We had a relatively easy day to the border, crossing on the Kazungula Ferry where Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia all meet. As we travelled south into Bots we had to resort to some smuggling… we stashed the very nice piece of fillet steak and pork we’d just bought into the back of our disco – safely out of the fridge and out of the way of the very well fed staff that police the notorious Foot & Mouth Checkpoint. The meat smuggling was pretty successful, unfortunately we left a few good things in the fridge that were apparently ‘dangerous’. Ben was rather upset when our bacon disappeared whilst I had to ponder what on earth to cook without my staple ingredient of a butternut squash.
We headed for a campsite that had been recommended to us. As we pulled into Elephant Sands we were greeted with the sight of a bar full of people and 5 or 6 elephants all lined up before them. Elephant Sands has a waterhole which keeps the elephants arriving day and night and you can sit and watch them for hours, literally just metres away – absolutely fantastic!
From Elephant Sands we headed South to Nata and then turned out onto a dusty track towards the Ntwetwe Salt Pan and another recommended spot called Kubu Island. After a couple of hours we could see the white haze of the salt pan on the horizon to our left. We continued driving and ended up at Kubu Island which sits on the edge of the pan with some massive boulders that spring up out of the greyey white haze. We decided that we didn’t want to pay $20 each to camp and that we’d find our own little free bush-camp spot somewhere in this deserted area. We continued and drove out onto the pan where the white haze stretched out to the horizon. We had the quietest night of our trip where we could literally hear nothing but our ears buzzing.
The next morning we continued past some very old baobab trees and onto a different part of the pan where we drove through what seemed like talcum powder, we thought our car had been dusty before but nothing came close to this!
We had a lovely morning tea stop just looking over the vastness of the pan before continuing on to Maun the main town in the centre of the Okavango Delta, Botswana’s top visitor area.
We camped up next to the Okavango River and the next day was spent trying to remove the talcum powder from every nook and cranny in the car. The following day another British couple of overlanders Noel and Ping arrived (we’d met them previously for one night in Maputo, Mozambique) and we had a lovely couple of days with them, catching up on their travels. Ben tried to offer some mechanical advice on some vehicle issues they were having whilst they returned the favour offering Ben guidance on what painkillers he should take when his back started playing up and was unable to stand up straight. We took a fantastic scenic flight over the Delta which was amazing in the sense of perspective it offered over the area, we could also see elephants, hippos and giraffes from the air.
Ben – Note: Strong back-pain relieving pain killers & an hour’s swooping around in a tiny plane can lead to use of the sick bags kindly provided. The cool dude bush-pilot wont look too impressed though. Think I preferred the Microlight!
Being squashed in a very small plane proved to Ben that taking a two day Mokoro (dug out canoe) trip onto the Delta from Maun was not a good idea with his back so after a couple of extra days in Maun we said our goodbyes to Noel and Ping and continued up the “Panhandle” (the Delta is kind of frying pan shaped when viewed from above, the river flowing into it down the “handle”) of the Delta towards Namibia. We stopped at a campsite/ lodge called Nguma Island enroute. The road into the lodge was good fun with lots of soft sand and then big water crossings where you couldn’t always see where you were going to exit the water. Fortunately some white sticks kind of marked the way and we made it up to the lodge without any dramas, I even enjoyed my off roading (probably because I managed not to get stuck anywhere or let the car conk out in the middle of the water).
Ben was feeling a bit better with his back and thought he was up to a one day mokoro trip. We had an amazing day out on the delta. Again made all the more special by our new found interest in all the beautiful birds. We first took a motor boat where we stopped to look at lots of different birds – fish eagles, bee-eaters, kingfishers and storks. We were then “poled” (Ben: Punted if you’re a good Oxford boy like myself) on the mokoro through the reeds past lots of water lilies into the middle of nowhere again stopping off to see the abundant birdlife all around us.
It was then a relatively short drive up to the border on the West of the Caprivi strip and into Namibia where we’ll spend a month or so before returning to South Africa. Coming home seems to be getting closer and closer and we’re looking forward to seeing everyone again but talk of job interviews, commuting and the prospect of a dark, wet, cold British winter is all a bit strange!
Ben: Our quick jaunt through Botswana was great, but it was quick. Its not the cheapest place to be, and after hearing so many great things about Namibia we were itching to get there. We’ve been here a few days and its not disappointing so far, Namibia tales coming soon.