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Category “English – Victoria Falls Tour”

Part 1 – Cape to Kasane

Friday, 2 July, 2010

[Also in Afrikaans @ http://pgjonker.co.za/?p=192]

BOTSWANA & ZAMBIA TOUR 2008

Part 1

(by PG Jonker)

Preamble

For years my wife and I have been dreaming about a trip to Vic Falls.  So when we heard that family and friends of ours are planning a tour to Vic Falls, this seemed like the time to do the tour.

Cape to Kasane in three days

Departure

Day 1

Our time of departure is somewhat hampered by the Department of Education and Training.  Two of the scholars on the tour must still write exams on the Thursday morning of our departure.  So we only leave after 11h00 from Durbanville.  Of the seven vehicles on the tour, only two will start their travel in convoy.  The rest will each be travelling on their own.  We’ll see where we meet up with the rest of the crowd.

By late evening we reach Kimberly, without having managed to catch up with any of the other vehicles in the convoy.  Half past nine on a Thursday evening we could find no take-away outlet open, and make do with the few day-old sandwiches left.  We get comfy accommodation at the Kalahari Lodge just South of Kimberly, pay a night watch a R50 tip to look after our packed bakkie, and get a wonderful night’s sleep.

Day 2

After an early breakfast at a petrol station in Kimberley, we travel to our destination somewhere way past Lephalale.  We hope to catch up with at least part of the convoy by then!

Our route takes us through the old Western Transvaal and through some towns that now apparently have rate payer’s boycotts.  I can understand why.

In the rural areas the landscape looks, well, less green than, for instance, the Boland in winter.

In Rustenburg I cannot help but wonder why they have traffic rules.  I’m the only one that sticks to any of the traffic rules and to the speed limit.  However, it turns out that these rules are for my protection.  If you stick to the speed limit of an absurd 80km/h on an open road, it is a lot easier to prevent a head-on collision with an oncoming taxi overtaking another taxi on a blind ascent.  This happens on a few occasions, with the occupants of the taxi appearing totally unfazed by the occurrence.

Eventually we reach Lephalale.  We establish cell phone contact with the rest of the convoy.  In spite of the town not being very big, various attempts to join our convoy turn out to be unsuccessful.  So we decide to go wait outside town for them to pass.

Shortly after we fell in at the back of the convoy it becomes dark.  The leader of the pack is driving pedal to the metal, and it takes some doing to keep up.  After a few turn-offs we were later not quite sure whether we were still following the right convoy.  Eventually we arrive at Mareba lodge, some 137km past Lephalale, finding ourselves to still be part of the right convoy.

The thing with these long distance travels is that one gets so absorbed that the whole day passes without you really taking much cognisance of what is happening around you.  As a result, after two full days on the road, I have only two photos to show for it.  Each of the reading on my GPS at the end of the day, indicating that we have travelled 953 and 958km’s respectively!

Botswana

Day 4

After a day of relaxation at the Mareba Lodge, we depart for Botswana.  We enter Botswana at the Zanzibar border crossing.  No, we were nowhere near Zanzibar, this is one of the crossings between Limpopo and Botswana.

It takes a while to do the paper work for the seven vehicles.  The low-water bridge takes us through a few inches deep water.

Limpopo

At the Botswana side Henk realises that he …

Part 2 – Kazungula to Livingstone

Friday, 2 July, 2010

[Also in Afrikaans @ http://pgjonker.co.za/?p=151]

BOTSWANA & ZAMBIA TOUR 2008

PART 2

(by PG Jonker)

Kazungula ferry

Day 6

According to my watch, today is the 31st of June, but I think it might not be exactly correct.

Our convoy of seven vehicles leaves early morning from Kasane in Botswana to try to get as near as possible to the front of the queue at the Kazangula ferry.  The plan is to enter Zambia with the ferry over the Zambezi, rather than to do two border crossings:  one into Zimbabwe, and then another one into Zambia at the Victoria Falls.  Also, I am told, this is the real Africa experience.  No easy peasy entry through Zim, bru.  Real men do ferries.

Up to now I have been touring Botswana on 300 Pulas and my credit card.  Before I left Durbanville I tried to buy Pulas and Kwachas, but could find none.  So with my borrowed 300 Pulas wearing thin, my credit card, and some US$ tucked away, I am to tackle this border crossing.  Up to now the credit card was pretty much accepted everywhere.

The formalities on the Botswana side take only a few minutes and proceed without incident.

The Botswana side

From there you drive down to the Zambezi river.  The GPS makes it sound very simple.  The girl tells you:  “Drive 600 meters and board the ferry”.  Sommer just like that.  She has not been to this ferry yet.

We arrive there with the two queues in relative chaos.  The one ferry just had a breakdown.  Those vehicles heading for the now non-functional ferry all want to get back into the other queue.  And not everyone in the other queue is as welcoming to receive them back as they might have hoped for.

Fortunately there is a separate queue for non-truckers.  I mean, falling into the back of the truck queue would be enough to dampen anyone’s spirit.  I nevertheless considered going for the front of the queue.  I know, there is someone there already, but likewise, there is already someone the back of the queue as well, mos.  Acting upon the advice of my wife, though, we decide to join the queue in the conventional way, which is at the back.

Amidst this chaos various agents approach you to offer their services.  Jacob tells me that he will take me through the whole process, for which service I only need to pay him R20.  This sounds too good to be true.  I feel my knuckles become white as I hold on to my purse.  One never knows.  However, Jacob is a very persuasive gentleman, and I hire him.  Admittedly, this is one of those services that gets sold, rather than bought.  I take a picture of Jacob and his partner for future identification, just for in case.

Jacob & Associate

Jacob and his assistant, whose name I unfortunately forgot, stays with me all the time, advising, encouraging and instructing.  At one stage Jacob instructs me to pull my bakkie into the queue where he indicates.  I do so.  Not everyone in the queue appears thrilled with my presence, but I decide to rather ignore them.  Jacob seems like a man with authority, and I just do what Jacob tells me to do.

I make small talk with a tour operator who advises me rather not to make use of these agents.  It’s a waste of money, he informs me.  However, it turns out that this tour operator himself greases the palm of an agent who works on the ferry.  Given that I got on the same ferry as the tour operator made me feel I got my money’s worth.

The ferry itself is a rather interesting experience.  Two ordinary vehicles in front, one truck in the middle, two further vehicles at the back, a load full of passengers, and off you go.…

Part 3 – Vic Falls and Livingstone

Friday, 2 July, 2010

[Also in Afrikaans @ http://pgjonker.co.za/?p=144]

BOTSWANA & ZAMBIA TOUR 2008

PART 3

(by PG Jonker)

Vic Falls

The Smoke that Thunders.  Indeed.  No picture that I have seen of the Victoria Falls could prepare me for this majestic sight.   It simply defies description.  I will not even endeavour to do so.  I simply do not have the linguistic skills to do justice to this.

 

The rented poncho’s and jiffy bags to keep cameras dry are essentials for this outing. 

 

Also, if you have a six-year old with you, the thunder that the name alludes to will probably scare the living daylights out of him.  I had to hightale it from under the mist and thunder with Chris-Jan, my six year old, as it left him panic stricken. 

PG with Chris-Jan

 

Sales Talk

The Victoria Falls in itself is something really awesome.  No, majestic, even sacred.  No picture can really prepare you for this sight.  I would assume that professional writers would be able to put in words what I’m trying to say, but I’m afraid the above is as good as I can get.

So it’s somewhat easier to rather relate some of the more mundane side shows that I have experienced.  Well, it felt more like I have fallen victim to one of these mundane sideshows, so let me enlighten you about, and warn you against, the extreme sales acumen of some of the locals at Vic Falls.

At the entrance to the falls you find the usual craft market where you can buy stuff that you do not want.  So I decided to go on a little reconnoitre of my own to see what there is with the idea to take my kids there later.  I want to be forewarned of what there is to be found, hence the prior recce.

Big mistake.  Now take heed of good advice.  Do not come near that place.  Do not make eye contact with any of the vendors.  Do not appear to show any interest.  Do not enter the vendor’s stall.  And above all, do not allow the guy to sit you down for a chat!

Isaac explains very nicely to me all his wares on display.  So I explain to Isaac that I’m just looking.  So Isaac then explains to me: “I’m from Zambia, you from South Africa, we’re from the same continent, I give you a good deal.” So I explain again to Isaac I’m not buying, I don’t want a good or a bad deal, I want no deal at all.  Isaac says he understands completely, but just look, here we have the king and the queen of some or other tribe, carved from wood, he proceeds without missing a beat.  Very exotic.  Yes, I understand, but I don’t want to buy anything.  Now because we are from the same continent, Isaac proceeds unfazed, he will give me this very special deal of US$50 for this very cool set of two sculptures.  So very patiently I explain again that I’m just looking, I’ll be back later.  Then Isaac introduces me not only to the king and queen, but also to the son and daughter of said king and queen, carved from this very special wood that you only find in Zambia.

Now there comes a time when one has to admit defeat.  It was now inescapably clear to me that Isaac does not understand what I’m telling him, so I decide it’s time to leave, rather than to be rude.  From a semi-squatting position I try to extract myself from Isaac’s stall, to which Isaac props up one of his little stools underneath me.  I’m not quite sure how this happened, but the next thing I’m sitting instead of leaving, with Isaac facing me on a similar stool.

Now that’s much better, reckons Isaac.  This is our custom to negotiate like this, he explains, and proceeds …

Part 4 – The long road home

Friday, 2 July, 2010

[Also in Afrikaans @ http://pgjonker.co.za/?p=134]

BOTSWANA & ZAMBIA TOUR 2008

PART 4

 (by PG Jonker)

Katima Mulilo and Caprivi

Day 8

Today we will travel on the Zambian side of the river to enter Namibia at Katima Mulilo.   The borrowed Minus 40 in the back of my bakkie has stopped functioning, and I now have a huge ornamental box taking up space. 

But first we would like to have a look at the falls from a distance.  At the border post to Zimbabwe you receive a free pass, a little scrap paper with a number on it, indicating the number of people in your group.

Bridge between Zam & Zim

We walk halfway across the bridge to get a nice view of the Victoria Falls.  What strikes one is the lively trade apparently going on, with vehicles and people crossing the bridge with wares for sale.

 

 Two of our travel mates each buys themselves a Z$50 000 000 000.  They were advised that this would go a long way to purchase a hamburger and a cool drink.  Quiet, brothers, there goes my billionaire friends.

 Eventually we depart for Namibia.  As we exit Livingstone in a Westerly direction we get charged an exit fee of R30 each.  In Rand, nogal.  We aim for Sesheke, but the GPS voice insists that I should turn around and drive through Zimbabwe.  I ignore her.  When we pass the turn-off to the Kazungula ferry, the voice implores me to take the turn-off, but I ignore her. 

After each such turn-off that you miss, the GPS recalculates the remaining distance to your destination.  But once I passed the Kazungula turn-off the GPS now calculate my distance to Katima Mulilo as 1100km’s.  It bothers me slightly.  Surely the GPS should know there is a border crossing at Sesheke / Katima?  We enter Sesheke.  I do not see any border post.  As we travel through the town I can eventually see Katima getting smaller over my left shoulder, and still there is no border post.  I’m running out of fuel.  Could the GPS know something that I do not know?  For instance, like that there is no border crossing at Sesheke?

Eventually I give a sigh of relief when I find there is indeed a bridge across the river into Namibia!   

The control office is badly marked.  In fact, I don’t think it was marked at all.  A few locals, upon spotting vehicles with foreign number plates, give welcome unsolicited gestures in the direction of the building where you need to attend to when they see you aim for the border without stopping.

The officials on both sides are friendly.  They did confiscate our long life milk, though.  On the Namibia side there is another (unmarked) building where you need to pay your road tax before proceeding. 

Being back in Namibia it feels like back home again.  People speak Afrikaans, you pay in Rand, and the shops look the same as ours.  Ja nee, die Kaap is weer Hollands.

After replenishing our stock and refuelling we head for Namashushu lodge on the Kwando River. 

At the lodge you have the option of staying in luxury bungalows, or to camp.  The ablution to the camp site sports a notice that warns against hippo and elephant movement at night.

This is the last evening for the whole crowd together.  We have a nice potjie and braai, even a few speeches and some farewells.  Indeed, a nice tour was had by all.

Kwando, Rundu, Grootfontein Otavi

Day 9

After a nice breakfast in the lodge we depart the next morning as part of a three vehicle convoy.  We plan to fill up again at Divundu.  Arriving at Divundu there is no petrol station any more.  Eish!  Fortunately we find another petrol station not too far off.  Even a 24h service station.  Well, sort-of. 

 

Some local boys, clearly school going age, …