Posts tagged with “Botswana”

Part 1 – Cape to Kasane

Friday, 2 July, 2010

[Also in Afrikaans @]


Part 1

(by PG Jonker)


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.


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!


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.

At the Botswana side Henk realises that he lost his folder with all the passports and his car’s registration papers.  A short but frantic search fortunately renders success.  The bag was left on the rear bumper of the Isuzu bakkie, where it merrily made it across the river without falling off.  One should bear this little spot in mind for your mother in law.

By way of natural selection the convoy splits into three smaller groups, with driving habits more or less dictating into which group you fall.  We take the rear guard, together with two other vehicles, being the slow couches in the group.

Not having been able to obtain Pulas before we left South Africa, I pull in at the petrol station in Francistown with trepidation.  I show the pump attendant all my cards that I have.  He chooses his preferred brand, and fills up my tank.  With abated breath I watch the attendant processing the transaction with my credit card.  It is a huge relief to see the transaction go through without any problems!  A first of many happy encounters with my credit card at the pay points of Botswana vendors.

At Nata we fill up again, and then we hit the road for the last 300km’s to Kasane.  The road is good.  We should be in Kasane in no time.  Not so!  The broad tar road becomes somewhat less wide as we proceed.  Then there is a board that warns against potholes.  No problem, fortunately I mos drive a bakkie.   Not too far off there is another board that says “Severe Potholes”.   Mmm.

Well, to cut the long story short, eventually we find ourselves on an extended series of potholes, connected with stretches of tar in between.

It will appear that trucks that otherwise would have travelled through Zimbabwe now take this route through Botswana.  And it is clear that the road is not up to the task.

Progress is slow.  My wife has taken up position on the back seat from where she manages everything but the bakkie.  She is the crèche, nurse, chef and entertainer, all in one.  All I need to do is to keep the bakkie on the road.

Quite often a large truck will approach from the opposite direction on our side of the road, as this side appears to be marginally better than the other side.  All we can hope for is for those drivers to get back to their side of the …

Part 2 – Kazungula to Livingstone

Friday, 2 July, 2010

[Also in Afrikaans @]



(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.

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 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.

On the Zambian side things look even worse.  Trucks do battle passing each other in the somewhat confined space.  A few loud bangs and loud protests confirm that the space is, in fact, too confined for the number of trucks.

I got separated from the rest of our convoy, so my plan to borrow some Kwachas from some of my fellow travellers will not work. Jacob escorts me to the immigration offices.  I fill in the forms.  Then Jacob reappears.  Without me asking he props 200 000 Kwachas in my hands and points me to the direction of an official where I need to pay this money.  The official, though, is deep in thought as he reads the day’s paper.  Maybe he was slightly myopic that he just did not see me.  Before I could make my presence known to him in some alternative way, Jacob arrives again.  He marches me around the building to another window where he takes me to second from the front.  After the gentleman in front of me had his fee paid, I wait for the official to call “next!” or something to that effect.  It does not happen.  This official, too, turns to his newspaper.  Jacob arrives again.  He then demonstrates to me how it is done.  You push your head through the hole and shove your papers under the nose of the official.  The official then looks up, disturbed, sighs, and then issues your receipt.  Nogals neat, I thought.

By now I have come to trust Jacob.  From the receipts that Jacob hand to me I can see that he paid the US$20 for the ferry, the 225 000 Kwachas for insurance, and he also paid the 200 000 Kwachas for the carbon tax or whatever.  This means that Jacob already invested a cool R1200 in me.  Now I understand why Jacob is looking after me so nicely.  I’m his investment, and until such time as I have rendered him some proceeds on his investment, he’s not going to let me out of his sight.  Well, it works for me.

Eventually we have all the paperwork done.  At the gate where you leave the immigration area Jacob and his assistant await us.  The hour of reckoning has now come.  I soon realize that the R20 fee that I have agreed upon with Jacob was only a decoy.  He makes his money from the exchange rate.  Jacob makes his sum …