A Travellerspoint blog


11. Up a Caprivi Without a Paddle

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Caprivi Strip, Namibia
Saturday, November 20, 2010

After calling last night to find out my pickup time for this morning (9:00am), I pack, read a bit and sleep soundly until almost 6:00. Breakfast at The Kingdom is lavish...a buffet which is the same as are lunch and dinner. All meals cost $22.00 U.S. not including your beverage. Service is on African Time so making it a buffet is wise.

I check out after breakfast and there is a problem. To be able to sign for anything on your room, the hotel insists on, first, charging your Visa card—don't bother to offer anything else because they don’t take it—and letting you consume food, beverage, laundry, internet or whatever until you use up that $100 and then you go and let them charge more. Well, I only spent $79.00 U.S. They don’t really know how to run a $21.00 credit and they won’t give me cash so we have to go through three layers of management to figure out what to do. We finally work it out. The moral: pay cash and don’t use a credit card.

I am picked up promptly and driven back to the Botswana border—about an hour away—using the very same road I traveled yesterday. Clearing immigration is the same...out of Zimbabwe and into Botswana. Then, a new driver takes me to the river Botswana immigration point at Kasame. There, I check out of Botswana. I get into a fourteen foot outboard speedboat with my next "driver" who is Calvin from the Impalila Lodge. We motor for ten minutes or so down the Zambezi river to the Namibian immigration point at Impalila. There, while Calvin watches your luggage in the boat, you walk a hundred yards or so into the bush and turn right to get to Namibian immigration. Again, there are forms and much stamping. Then, walk back to the boat and it is another thirty minutes or so up the Chobe River to the Kasai Channel to Kamavozu Channel, the site of the Lodge.

I am greeted by Ben and Zulu. Zulu shows the around. I meet “Toff” who is the proprietor but he is off by speedboat to somewhere or other. I’ll get to know him better later, I suppose.

Now, I am in Africa. No more big hotels. No more televisions in the room. Actually, no more rooms. I am in a thatched roof hut of sorts (No. 3), built on stilts, just above the Kamavozu rapids which provide a constant background noise that we can only obtain by buying a programmable noise machine back home. Two sliding screen doors and a mosquito net will protect me in the night as I lie in my kingsized bed which overlooks the rapids which I won’t be able to see (they don’t call it “darkest Africa” for nothing). Oh, there is also (mostly) no more electricity. The have a generator and they run it from six to nine in the morning, twelve to two in the afternoon and six to nine in the evening. Otherwise, there is no power.

When the generator is on, there is wireless internet. Can you believe it? I just logged on to see how it works. My old AOL dial-up of about ten years ago was faster. There may be no photos with my dispatches from here. We’ll have to see.

On the way up the Kasai Channel we spot crocodile and hippo along with countless species of birds, the largest of which was a Goliath Crane. Your guess about how big it is would be correct. We also see cattle along one bank. I ask Calvin about cattle and crocodile and he says that when they drink the owners must provide close supervision. I suppose so.

There are some “tourist” fishermen and “native” fishermen along the route. When I arrive at the Lodge, I am the only non-fisherman in residence. The other five guests are after big fish, which I am sure I will learn more about over dinner.large_f447a780-2fee-11ea-a99c-d7e826842ec3.jpglarge_f4444c20-2fee-11ea-80b6-ff8396a47c0d.jpglarge_f4402d70-2fee-11ea-810c-5f0d7db9a6ea.jpglarge_f42f1670-2fee-11ea-b9cb-83295e312673.jpglarge_f428fbf0-2fee-11ea-80b6-ff8396a47c0d.jpg

For now, I write this as Zulu tells me I can have lunch whenever I wish...it is one o’clock. There is a thunderhead in the distance and the rumbling of an impending storm coming from somewhere...I don’t know north, south, east or west just yet. You can find me on a map if you look for the only place in the world where four countries share a border at the same spot (much like the four corners in the United States). Here, it is Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia.

I may just sit and read this afternoon. We shall see. I am going to shut down for a few hours now to conserve battery power in this laptop. Re-charging may be difficult...

After shutting the computer down with the earlier words just written safely saved, I opened my book. I decided that this afternoon would not be best occupied with "an activity." A lack of activity beckoned. I opened "Atlas Shrugged" and began to read. The distant rumbling of thunder was somehow perfect for the day. Soon, the skies darkened and lighting appeared on the horizon. A thing noted here: many if not most of the roofing material is thatch. There are no shingles or tiles; instead, roofs are made of perfectly thatched reeds. High above almost all of these stands a lightning rod. I can only speculate as I haven't asked but it seems to me that the rods are the defense against a catastrophic fire resultant from a bolt hitting a roof. The roof of #3 is thatch. There is no lighting rod.

The lighting is closer now and the sky has turned black. Now, what was foretold by the sky and announced by the thunder: torrential rain. It is beautiful. I'm in a spot not far from yesterday's dry and dusty roadway. I can only imagine what is happened there to tourists who are but a day's time behind me. Do the elephant sleep through this or do they answer the rumbling sky with their own unique low frequency base notes? Or, do they ignore it as they do our safari vehicles, too powerful to be bothered by it, a thing seen before countless times by the matriarch and perhaps never before by the newborns? This place is full of questions. Many of them best left unanswered, I'd say. Wondering is sometimes better than knowing.

Me? I gaze out my windows at the rapids listening to the rain and the thunder, my book set aside. A better story is outside my window than between its pages. Life is good in the rain. I wish you were here.
Where I stayed
Kaza Safari Lodge - Eastern Caprivi Strip, Impalila Island, Namibia

Posted by paulej4 14:08 Archived in Namibia Comments (0)

12. Hippo Pot of 'em

Caprivi Strip, Namibia

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Caprivi Strip, Namibia
Sunday, November 21, 2010

I slept as well last night as I have slept since March. The sound of the rapids and the breeze blowing through the mosquito net must have been the perfect sleeping aid. With all the curtains open, I am up with the sun hearing the sound of passing hippos. My boat companions later on this day will
describe the sound they make as what gigantic frogs on steroids must sound like. The croak and then they trumpet. That's one fine wake up call.

Today, I see more hippos than anyone has ever seen in a single day...at least any American who is not floating on the Zambezi River. They are everywhere. The river is wide but shallow. You must watch carefully as you cruise so that you don’t hit a hippo. Big ones, small ones. In coves, near rocks, in eddys, in the middle of the channel. They are everywhere.

You cannot effectively count hippos. Some are on the surface while others are submerged. At one point, I counted seventeen heads in one pod (I think that’s right—pod) but then four submerged and three surfaced and then...well, you get the picture.

Today was also about people. Along the Chobe and Zambezi Rivers, people make their homes...such as they are. Thatched roofs over walls of sticks, families live here and work to find their daily meals. Fishermen plow the river’s edge in dugouts powered by their backs and long poles. Moms bathe their children in the river. Kids line the banks. All are friendly and happy to wave as you pass.

One wonders about the families and the hippos. And, of course, the crocs. I suppose the children are well educated about the dangers of these animals. They must be.

At this "Camp" or “Lodge” there is a group of five South African fishermen being hosted by an Indian guide, a German couple, an American couple and me. I have lunch with the Germans and dinner with the Americans. Everyone is friendly and all have stories to tell about what they’ve seen, what they hope to see and how they came to be in Africa...Namibia in particular.

After a morning motor down the river, we come back for a late breakfast and I dive into my book by the pool. It is hot. I’m in the water and back on the chaise; in the water and back on the chaise. I skip lunch due to the late breakfast and am ready for the afternoon cruise on the river but the skies are again threatening. “The rainy season has arrived,” says Toff, the proprietor of this place. The rain skirts us so we (the Americans and I) tromp to the dock and board our boat and away we go. With the overcast skies and the plummeting temperature, I wish I had worn my coat. Literally falling twenty degrees in a matter of minutes, the weather does not deter us.

However, the skies and the rain have deterred the animals. We see the omnipresent hippos but not much else. Yes, there are birds aplenty but I’m not much of a birder. No elephants. I am crushed. Soon, however, we see a dark shape on a river bank far ahead and it is moving. As we come nearer, it is—darn it—another hippo. But, wait. There is something else there. It’s a newborn. Our guide suggests that this calf is a month old but I’ll bet it is younger than that. Unsteady on its feet, it chases after a bird who’s job it is to peck ticks from it’s mother’s body. Mom grazes unfazed. The baby wobbles and romps. We could watch this for hours.large_08114ef0-2ff0-11ea-810c-5f0d7db9a6ea.jpglarge_08296ad0-2ff0-11ea-a829-c9017a1fc49f.jpglarge_07951a10-2ff0-11ea-a829-c9017a1fc49f.jpglarge_07ee0f80-2ff0-11ea-a829-c9017a1fc49f.jpglarge_07960470-2ff0-11ea-810c-5f0d7db9a6ea.jpg

We’ve been told countless times about how dangerous the hippo is. In two situations, they are very dangerous. If you get between them and the water and they feel threatened by that, they will attack you. If you get between them and their babies, they will attack you. Here, the hippos are on the ground and we are in the water. Our guide feels that we are safe and we approach more closely than we would had these “river horses” been in the water. Mom pays us no heed.

Everybody likes babies. Well, baby hippos are no different. They are lovable—from a distance.

Darkness begins to fall early due to the weather. We head back. It is about an hour with the throttle wide open. It is cold. It is OK.

As I write this, I am listening to the streaming audio of KCFX and the Chiefs are ahead 14-3. I don’t know how long the generator will remain on so that I can listen. This is unreal. I am on an island in Namibia where there is no sign of modern development anywhere hear...certainly no electric lines. But, the internet is on via the Lodge’s WiFi and I am listening to a Chiefs game. Bizzare.

I leave at 9:30 tomorrow morning for the complicated trip back to Johannesburg. Here’s how that will go. I will leave the Impalila Island Lodge by boat. After a 20 minute ride, we will stop at Namibian immigration’s dock so I can walk up the road and legally leave the country filling in a form and having my passport stamped. Then, back in the boat it will be about a 10 minute ride to Botswanan immigration where I will legally enter their country by filling in a form and get my passport stamped. Then, I will be transported by a car of some sort to the Zimbabwe border. That will take about another 20 minutes. There I will have my passport stamped by the Botswana folks, get in the vehicle, drive 100 yards or so to see the Zimbabwe folks, fill in a form and get my passport stamped. Then, I will enter another vehicle and drive about an hour to the Victoria Falls Airport where I will fill in a form and get my passport stamped prior to boarding my international flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. I am getting pretty good at this border crossing stuff. I spend the night at the same airport hotel in Johannesburg where I slept...what was it...a month or so ago?

Posted by paulej4 11:10 Archived in Namibia Comments (0)

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