Travelling in Africa can do some funny things to your mind, obsessions start to form, sometimes on the most mundane subjects. Take onions for example, we have taken for granted that fresh onions are always readily available, and all the way down north and west Africa, we have been able to buy these by the bucket full (literally sometimes). You see, onions can grow in almost any sandy soil condition (as we saw in Senegal), and because of this we have got used to having a fresh, sliced onion as the basis of every meal we cook, curries, one pot stews, even a parcel of veg always has a sliced onion in it. But hang on, where are all the onions? Jac has become obsessed with finding onions, and it appears that they don’t have onions in the Caprivi Strip (well non rotten ones anyway).
We set off down the long road to Kongola, which is about half way along the Caprivi Strip, leaving behind the Okavango River, and headed for a camp spot on the Kwando River. On the way we stopped for a quick pee break (and get a fresh bottle of water out the fridge, to top up our pee), and across the road appeared a few children, very curious, but also very nervous of us. We have found that if you want the kids to be more accepting of you, the thing to to is give them a little “wiggle of the hips”! So after a quick boogie for them, and them in fits of giggles, they approached us slowly, so out came the toy box again. With old toys donated by our nephews and nieces, Hannah, Oskar, Albert, Herbie, Jess, Max and George (Ronnie and Reggie), they instantly rewarded us with miles of smiles.
Such simple little toys, give so much pleasure to these kids, smurfs, dinosaurs, dolls, cars, it doesn’t matter, its the fact that they have something.
The camp just outside Kongola, was a very quiet place, and again right on the river bank again, with just us there. Just us, and Timothy (the local lad that lights the “dolly boiler” for your hot shower), the Kwando River is a much quieter river than the Okavango that we left behind at Ngepi Camp.
But the bird life here was stunning, including this little fella, an African Golden Weaver, that was attacking itself in the mirrors, and windows of Colonel K, even after we chased it away, it still came back for another go, I not sure if it was looking for a mate, or was being territorial.
And there were quite a few Little Bee-Eater’s about especially in the morning.
There was a lodge as part of the campsite, with a bar and a restaurant, but you have to take a boat to it, and as we had plenty of food and drink (but no onions), we didn’t bother, and stayed all alone on the campsite. The facilities actually weren’t too bad here, with hot water for a shower (obviously only river water), and although there is no electricity here (in fact there is no electricity in the nearby village of Kongola, despite huge power lines running along the main road), they do have possibly the worlds smallest solar panel to power the bulbs inside the ablution block.
From here we wanted to drive the long bottom loop that runs down to the Linyanti Swamps, and then back up to the border town of Katima Mulilo, we really didn’t know what to expect on this route, and thought it might mean an overnight stop somewhere en-route, we were gobsmacked (and a little disappointed), to find that the entire route had recently been tarmac’ed. But it was a lovely day’s drive and there were literally hundreds and hundreds of tiny village communities along here (I guess thats why they surfaced the road).
Following a few good reviews on “i-overlander”, we decided to try the ‘Caprivi House Boat Safari Lodge’ for camping just outside Katima Mulilo, but not before doing some shopping at the new Pick-and Pay Supermarket, and guess what, they’ve got onions!!!! So we stocked up on all sorts of fresh fruit and veg, it was the best supplied shop since we left Tsumeb, we even got some nice bread and rolls here. The campsite here really is a lovely chilled place, it only has four camp spots, but again we were the only campers here. Oh and they have 3 lovely dogs, including the very friendly Great Dane, Ceaser, and a Labrador cross that the owner Kurt rescued. We stayed here for two nights, and had our “fill” of canine affection.
The lodge is right on the Zambezi river, and across the water is Zambia, with this particular river flowing very hard, and in flood at the moment heading towards Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe/Zambia border. We hope to visit the falls after driving through Botswana (from the Zimbabwe side), and I guess its going to be in approx 1-2 months time, I just hope that the Falls at that time are as impressive as they must be now. Although all these rivers are in flood, its certainly not wet here at the moment, all this water is what fell many months ago in the faraway mountains in Angola. Much of this water will just fizzle out into the Kalahari Desert to the south.
Whilst here, we went on an evening boat trip down river for a few hours, once on the boat you realise how high the water levers are currently. According to Kurt, the temperature of the water is currently high enough for the crocodiles to remain in the water, and don’t go onto land until night fall (they can remain under water for 45 minutes before they need air).
Again the birdlife was spectacular, including this flock of White-Fronted Bee-Eaters.
And this Blue-Cheeked Bee-Eater
And this bizarre African Open-Bill Stork.
We had a few beers on board, and shared the trip with three expat’s from Zimbabwe and Zambia, they were quite a laugh and had many tales to tell.
After settling our bill (including the honesty bar), which was less than £50.00, including the boat trip and camping for two nights, it was back on the road again to do the 330km trip back to Ngepi Camp, near Duvindu and the Botswana border post that we want to take, but not before a quick trip to the liquor store in town, to stock up on gin, tonic’s and wine. The detour around the Caprivi Strip was just over 800km’s, and although it was mostly boring tarmac, it was well worth doing, and again we met some great people along the way.
We had been away from Ngepi Camp for 4 nights, and as we got to about 2km from the lodge (down the sandy track, we were faced with this scene. This landscape here can change very very quickly!
Not too bad, we suggested, its only a flooded track, so on we went through the water which was only about 300mm deep up to this point. Then we took a slight detour through a small village and in front of us was what appeared to be a 4×4 car park. After stopping and chatting to a couple of members of staff from Ngepi, we were told that the causeway to the lodge is completely underwater, and is waist deep, oh and is flowing quite strongly. The lodge were laying on boats for guests to reach the site, but obviously we needed our truck to camp in, so after receiving detailed instructions from “Mr Chelsea Shirt” to stay within the canes with the Coke cans on the tops, we set out into the flooded river! Wow that was deep, our front winch was submerged, and out lower lockers were under water, I guess at its deepest it was about 1.0metre deep, that seriously got the adrenaline pumping. Then we got across the causeway only to be presented with this track to the lodge.
And this is the area in front of the lodge, completely flooded right up to reception, it meant getting out of Colonel K and knee deep in water (the lodge is in the far right of the photo).
It appeared that we were the only vehicle camping here, and so set off to pick a nice dry site. Amazingly the next day we walked to the reception for a quick beer to find about 3 other vehicles that had attempted and made it across the flooded causeway, all had their carpets and mats out drying in the sun, and of course the Landrover Defender was having trouble with his flooded electrics!! Africa really is split down the middle as far as 4×4’s are concerned, you are either Landrover or Toyota, and this is perfectly explained in this photo (obviously put there by a Toyota guy).
This is the entrance to one of the lodge’s “tree house’s”, as you can see the walkway to it is completely underwater.
The noises at Ngepi Camp are non-stop, especially the Hippos, that are hiding out in the reed beds, but occasional we could hear the unmistakable roar of Elephants of the far bank of the river, but as its very thick deep bush we never saw them, until one evening there was a huge group between the river and the trees.
We have seen the hippos in the water, blowing like a huge whale’s as they come up for a breath, but they seem reluctant to come out on to this bank to graze for some reason.
To give you some idea of the amount of flooded water there is, this photo is across to the track that we drove down, this is the “causeway” that is under water.
And to get to the bar……. Well, it requires a small amount of determination.
I spent many an hour trying to get a photo of the Go-Away Bird (yes thats its proper name), and although they are quite common here, they proved quite difficult to get a decent photo of, especially with the magnificent crest up (cause they go-away? sic). I still didn’t manage it really but after all that effort this was my best shot (a small obsession maybe?).
While at Ngepi camp, we encountered a very rare thing indeed, British overlanders! This was two couples, who have driven the whole of the western route, and managed it to Namibia in six months, that is seeing Africa at high speed. It was great to catch up with them and hear some of their many adventures. If you are interested they have a Facebook page “where to next africa”, and the funny thing is we have been watching their posts on FB (and they have seen lorrywaydown), and then you bump into them, its a small world eh. They are travelling in two very well sorted and equipped Landrover Discovery’s.
It was time for us to finally leave Namibia (mind you the Caprivi really does feel like another country), and so we set off across the flooded land again, the river was slightly higher and running a bit faster now but the Daf took it all in its stride. Check out Colonel K, phone in hand, already to call Dangermouse should the worst happen!
After a short drive through the national park, we arrived at the Mohembo border post, wow what a pleasant experience (its all relative), we were through both borders in about 45 minutes. The Botswana side even let us pay for our 3rd party insurance, road tax, and vehicle permit with our left over Namibian Dollars (all less than £16.00 for up to 90 days), and she gave us change! Lovely people, working very efficiently. After a chat with the Immigration Officer we were given 60 days in Botswana, and then if we want to re-enter later this year we can have another 30 days then. There were no costs for the visa.
After clearing the usual checks we drove to the nearby town of Shakawe, to find a ATM to get some local currency (Pula, approx 15 Pula to the GBP), and try to get a sim card for the mobile. We managed the currency ok (a Barclays Bank there with an ATM), but there was no-one selling local sim cards, this will have to wait until we get to Maun.
While in Choppies “supermarket” we brought a loaf of bread, and as is usually the case we looked around for the bread slicing machine with its operative standing nearby, nope no slicing machine, but thats ok we have a bread knife. When we got to the checkout we saw that the bread slicing machine was strangley located just inside the door, so after paying for our groceries we headed for the evil looking machine. No operative! No finger guard! No Instructions! After a few minutes of struggling how to work the machine without the twenty or so completely exposed blades taking my fingers off, two young local girls took over, and calmly pushed our loaf through, laughing all the time that the stupid white guy was scared of the blades. Her finger tips were so close to those blades, first pushing from one side then pulling from the other. Health and Safety ha!
We are now camped at a place called Drotsky’s, again on the Okavango River, its got a very tight and heavily forested way in (the Colonel got a few bumps to its top rails), and there are Vervet Monkey’s everywhere, we’ve never seen so many, so everything has to be locked away (these little blighters look cute but will dash in and steal anything).
Drotsky’s is a lovely camp, and the cabins here look amazing, but we are only going to stay one night and then head on the the Okavango Delta “town” of Maun. Loving Botswana so far……..
Thanks for reading