Border Crossings

Southern AfricaFormerly known as German South West Africa, current day Namibia is a peculiar shape. In the northeast corner is a 500km long, narrow salient, rather like a pan handle, sandwiched between Angola in the north and Botswana in the south, and running eastwards towards Zambia. This land was granted to Germany in 1890 following a deal with the UK to give Germany access to the Zambezi River and Africa’s east coast. We got Zanzibar. This salient is known as the Caprivi Strip after the then German chancellor General Count Georg Leo von Caprivi di Caprara di Montecuccoli. What a name! No wonder they stripped it down to Caprivi. 😆

Unfortunately, the Zambezi River proved to be unnavigable owing to the precipitously majestic VIctoria Falls. OOPS!

It was Victoria Falls that we were now setting off to see. Today was billed as a long day, with maybe 9 hours of driving, depending on time taken at border crossings, so we set off at 06:00 following an early breakfast and bidding farewell to Capt. Sam and his houseboat.

Since the roads don’t directly match the land acquisition, there were to be an alarming number of border crossings or, at least, queues for border crossings:

  1. leave Botswana;
  2. enter Namibia;
  3. leave Namibia;
  4. re-enter Botswana;
  5. leave Botswana again;
  6. enter Zambia.

These, of course, came with paperwork, most notably the endless Covid-19 health questionnaires (have you got a cough, sniffles, fever ..?) accompanied by flashing your Covid-19 vaccination certificate. Most of the crossings “should be quiet” but entering Zambia “can be a lengthy process”. At least #5 & #6 were combined in the same facility though the earlier ones were separated. Poor ol’ Bibi was going to have to join 6 queues at the last to include vehicle formalities.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGiven the length of drive, Bibi wasn’t hanging around so there was little in the way of wildlife photography en route, by me, anyway. We did see quite a bit of game as soon as we entered Namibia but even IBIS would have trouble with a bouncing Landcruiser truck. Further along the Namibian tarmac roads, we saw what I think were our only examples of Sable Antelope by the side of the road but check out the middle one with a very wonky horn. Normally very handsome antelopes, I should zoom in on one that looks right. 😉

The first few border posts were, as suggested, quite quiet, though #1 and #2 still took an hour, but then we coincided with a small convoy of Sarth Efricans with families and off-road camping trailers in tow. It was apparently the beginning of their school break. Some of the border officials weren’t the speediest, either. At one border crossing an elephant bypassed any queues and simply sauntered through without so much as a by-your-leave – didn’t even get its passport stamped.

We knuckled down to the tedious part of travel and eventually arrived at the final port of call to enter Zambia, which required the purchase of a single-entry tourist visa for $25 [USD]. Those with a particular fondness for waterfalls purchased a $50 multiple entry visa permitting entry across the Zambezi River into Zimbabwe and back again – as if they hadn’t done enough border crossings already – enabling them to view the Victoria Falls from the other side. With money burning a hole in your pocket, those with an extra-special interest in waterfalls and a strong stomach could splash out about $500 on a 20-minute helicopter ride over “The Smoke that Thunders”. Nein danke!

I was unsure what to expect of Livingstone – high rise modern or collections of shacks African? The bit we visited turned out to be more the latter. Being a major town, I also thought that wandering in search of fresh water for odonata might be a possibility. That idea was scotched as, driving towards our hotel, a group of four elephants wandered across the road in front of us. Urban elephants instead of urban foxes. Great! 🙂

Waterfront Chalet (1 of 2)Waterfront Chalet (2 of 2)With some relief after a long and arduous day, we finally arrived at the Victoria Falls Waterfront Hotel at about 17:00. Francine and I lucked out I think; our allocated chalet was right beside a lovely little pond, dammed to retain more water. It was shaded at this time of day but looked very promising. The room was spacious and felt luxurious, too. We were here for two nights.

In a further stroke of luck, today the excellent riverside bar at the hotel was hosting happy hour with drinks at half price. Two double G&Ts each – the barman was a very effective salesman – have honestly never tasted so good, with the crowning glory being sipping them whilst watching sunset develop over the mighty Zambezi River.

Zambezi sunset

Posted in 2019 Sri Lanka
2 comments on “Border Crossings
  1. Steve says:

    When you entered Zambia, was this by a way of a bridge over the river. When I was there, we traveled from Zambia to Botswana by road and ferry. As we approached the river there was a queue of trucks. Apparently the queue was three days long.

    We bypassed the queue. The taxi van dropped us off at the river and we proceeded by foot ferry across the river to be picked up by another taxi on the other side to be delivered to our new lodge.

    The Chinese were busy building a bridge nearby.

    The microlight flights were well worth doing over the falls. Alot cheaper than helicopters and a fabulous view of the falls from above. R and I should have got a finder’s fee, we persuaded 10 sixty+ New Zealander women to take that flight. They were thrilled by the experience.

    • Franco says:

      Yes, we drove over a smart and relatively new bridge. We did spot the old ferry paraphernalia, though.

      A microlight flight is most definitely NOT worth doing, for me anyway – I’d toss my cookies in no time flat. Ditto a helicopter, I suspect, though I’m yet to try one. Paying to throw up is not something I’d consider. 😉

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