Sunday, 29 April 2007

Caprivi - between Angola & Botswana

We dropped the car back in Tsumeb at noon, and spent a useful afternoon doing our laundry, getting some money, acquiring a hessian bag to wrap our sleeping mattresses in, and, oh yes, watching the Australians destroy the South Africans in the cricket world cup semi final.
So, we were ready to head to the western Caprivi. The Caprivi strip is part of Namibia thanks to a territorial swap agreed between Britain and Germany (who ran German South West Africa, as Namibia was then known) in 1890. Britain got Zanzibar in return. I'll let you know who I think got the best deal!
Today's travelling was going to be a series of hops - firstly we walked to the local "bus" depot about 1km away. Buses in this part of the world mean anything from an overloaded car, to a minibus with a trailer, to a regular bus - but for our first leg, a short one to neighbouring Grootfontein about 50km away, it was the car. An older lady sat in front with the driver, and Max and I and three small children (though not nearly small enough!) sat in the back. I've said before how good the African children are when they travel, and these three sat quietly, ate their biscuits and generally looked adorable. I ended up with the six year old on my lap, a real flyweight, and their older brother solemnly told me their names and ages in his best English. Very cute indeed.
We were duly delivered to Grootfontein's bus depot, and quickly collared by a minibus driver for the next leg to Rundu, a trip of about 250km. He told us he needed four more people, and that they'd phoned to say they were coming. Yeah right!! After a couple of hours, rather than more people coming, he lost a few customers to a bakkie (aka ute) that passed by. It took another hour and a half before he had sufficient passengers to contemplate the trip. Luckily the roads are pretty good around here, and the trip only took about three hours. From Rundu we needed (well, wanted) to get to Bagani, on the turnoff to Botswana. We knew there was a camp near there that would pick us up. It was about 4.30 when we set off from Rundu, and we had about another 200km to cover. I sat next to a rather earnest young man, a teacher trainee who was going to be teaching English and agriculture. He, and the bloke next to him who was older and had been a fighter in Angola (by this stage we were travelling virtually along the Angolan border) told me all about the area, the trees, what Namibia needs, how good it has been since independence (in 1990) - most of which I actually understood. I borrowed the teacher's cell phone, called Ngepi Camp, and arranged the pick up. Somehow, after about 10 hours of travelling, we were delivered to Ngepi, just in time for dinner.
A slow start today, in fact a slow day. We enjoyed a late long breakfast, wandered along the Okavanga River (the camp is along the riverbank), read our books, had a snooze, and at 3.30 roused ourselves for a mokoro (dug out canoe - these days made of fibreglass for environmental reasons) trip to see hippos, crocodiles and the birdlife. It was very pleasant indeed, accompanied as we were by a knowledgable guide and a cooler full of drinks!

We got back in time to see an overland truck had arrived, depositing 20 or so loud young things from Ireland, England and Australia (somehow, we haven't come across too many Kiwis on this trip). Quite a different vibe tonight from last night as they pretty much took over the place. We spent a while chatting to an English couple who have been traveling in South Africa and Namibia for 9 months in their 4wd, and also to Kasper from Latvia and Renata his Brazilian girlfriend. Kasper had motorcycled down from Europe, and Renata had just recently joined him. There are people here doing the most amazing things, and I do think that if we were to come back again we would seriously consider a vehicle - we have missed a few things simply because you can't get there unless you have your own transport.

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