It was a long hot slog north to the Angola border. We needed WiFi to see if a friend was near us, so it was KFC for lunch.
A friend had put us in touch with a mate that was traveling in an old Defender, kitted out for adventure.
“Named a NatGeo traveler, Aric Queen is an American author, photographer, former radio host, former producer of the internationally renowned ChinesePod (named one of 2006’s Top Ten Podcast by Time Magazine), and memoirist. He is best known for his revolutionary podcast, The Shanghai Diaries, in which Queen was subsequently dubbed as the leader of Shanghai’s “creative rebirth”.” (*) Needless to say his life has been a rollercoaster of ups, downs and adventures. He was easily one of the more interesting people I have met, and that list of people is quite extensive.
Aric was at the Shametu River Lodge & Campsite, along the Caprivi strip of Namibia. As we traveled we had been just missing each other, criss crossing the other’s paths, time and again. Setting up our camp in an adjacent site, we learned of the Black Mamba and Python that had been spotted a couple days ago in the trees just above our camp. They were suspected to be gone now, as the birds had become quiet again.
The next morning I discovered the plastic and hinges on the left BMW pannier had given up the ghost. I has opened it to get to my tire pump, and it separated into two separate parts. Im not quite sure why these plastic panniers are so popular as they break so easily and are really difficult to pack. Anyway, the plastic is just falling apart. I put it back together as best I could, duct taped it securely and then used my wire reinforced strap to hold it as best I could. My mate Michnus Oliver has a soft gear company, based in South Africa, Turkana Gear, that makes a fantastic set of soft luggage. They are also sold in the US. I will be buying a set for my bike when I return. If you want a look at them, find me somewhere in the US/Canada this summer. I’ll be at a few overland meetings, or at Gypsy’s Retreat when home.
The second evening there, Melanie and I went out on an afternoon cruise on the Cubango river, which feeds into Botswana and the Okavango Delta, to the south. As we lazily drifted on the river we saw many birds and crocodile, of which didn’t move, even as we came close enough to touch them. Then, at a split of the river, the hippos. Our captain turned the boat up current and slowly inched our way to just meters from five hippos. Sometimes they just looked. Sometimes they seemed agitated we were close so close. Quick movements and grunts with a noisy splash as they again submerged, moving quickly under water. Luckily, we left before they became downright pissed and decided we were too close.
The Captain of the boat was a young man of the local tribe. He had started working for the resort just out of school, helped them grow, and was now a boat captain. We had a nice discussion about the villages we had seen along the way. Happily he passed on to me the way of life in the villages. Each family has a property that is surrounded by a fence made of reeds or sticks. This provides protection from wind and animals, and gives them privacy. The multiple huts and small buildings are living, cooking and sleeping places. The entire extended family live here and all take care of and provide for each other. Water is drawn by rope and bucket from wells in a central location of the village and carried back to the homes. Schooling is mandatory until 6th grade. Then, the ones with potential and allowed to move on, all the way through 12th grade. Finally, the best move on to university. A very small percentage have any vehicle at all. This makes walking everywhere you need to go, a way of life. Interesting though, there are many smart phones, charged at a central location, and hooked to a very extensive internet network. It makes you wonder about their life now, verses 20 years ago. Sometimes I have too much helmet time.
Packing up after a couple of very interesting days with Aric, we headed to Botswana, a very easy crossing, to stay in Kasane, before heading to Victoria Falls. We were going to cross into Botswana at Ngoma Bridge, and the entrance to Chobe National Park. The main road to Kasane crosses through this park, meaning if you are riding a motorcycle you may also ride through this park. All the animals are here also, including lions and elephants. We stayed below the speed limit looking for animals, seeing many elephants. One in particular I wanted a picture of, so we turned around and went past him again and did another U-turn. As we got near again I pulled in the clutch and coasted to a stop. The massive bull elephant was headed back into the woods, but stopped as we stopped. Turning slightly, he looked at us. Then, with a loud trumpeting, he charged straight at us, smashing small bushes in his assault. With Melanie yelling “GO, GO, GO”, and me yelling to her to get a picture, I dropped the clutch and sped away. We made it away, but the picture was of the road.
Finding a recommended place for a couple nights, we made plans to go to the falls. We wanted to go to the town of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, to see the Victoria Falls. On the way we stopped for some lunch, pulled in and saw a group of bike from Poland, on a tour. We got to talking and of course had several mutual friends. This little area we were in is a pass through area for travelers as three countries all come together here. While we were eating, another bike came in and joined them. I went back over, thinking this person was part of their tour. It wasn’t. It was solo female traveler Henriette_fortheloveofwheels, from Denmark. She was traveling Africa and was sort of on her way north. We also knew of her from social media. Then, another couple, Karen and Tiennie Riekert, aka BorderTown Nomads, from Kasane, pulled in. They also follow Henriette and we ended up all going out for a couple drinks at a very cool resort on the river. What a great afternoon, but back to the border issue.
That day the Zimbabwe government announced that the CoVid tests were no longer needed, if you were triple vaccinated. Great! That would save us US$160 in testing fees. The next day we arrived at the border and checked out of Botswana, crossed no man’s land, and arrived at the border of Zimbabwe, only to be turned away. Get this. Even though the government had issued this statement, until that crossing had received the official letter, it wasn’t true.
Deciding to go to Livingstone, Zambia, the next day was a good choice. Not only did Zambia not require a PCR test to enter the country, but, because of the high water flow, the Zambian side was best for viewing.
Let’s talk shit border crossings for a second. If you have ever travelled through Central America you know what I’m talking about. The first indication was being mugged by the “fixers”. Oh boy, here we go. We told them we were good and didn’t need any help. Okay, that backed them off, but one followed us anyway. About an hour in to the process, it seemed no one knew where to go, except the fixer. Ok, I need help as Customs is closed.
Fixer: “You have to go to a different building”.
Me: “How much will you cost to help?”.
Me, frustrated: “Okay”.
In one place we were back and forth between three windows three times. Question, pay, stamp, next window, repeat. Then, after the registration (VIN) had been read, twice, to another place, wake up the grumpy official, and read the number, again, officially. Well three hours later, and 15 stamps on various pieces of paper, done. The process had recently been streamlined. Both border crossings are in one building. I wonder how bad it was before.
The following day we headed to Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. I wasn’t even prepared for what we saw. The falls were magnificent. There is a walkway that runs parallel to the falls on the opposite of the gorge. We rented a couple ponchos and a dry bad and it’s a good thing we did. Try and imagine a hurricane without the wind. The mist from the falls came at you from every direction. Within minutes we were totally wet, everywhere. The mist came down, up, across and sideways. Sometimes it was even difficult to see, much less have a photo of anything but water. Just an amazing experience.
Cheers, and happy we didn’t drown,
*(credit to everybody.wiki.)