12.04.2014 - 20.05.2014 35 °C
We did a 2hr game drive in the morning before heading out of the park. As soon as we left the campground gates we ran into one of the cars that we had seen with the Hilali cheetah yesterday and they were watching a big male lion crossing the road. We pulled up and tried to get in a good spot to see but we were leap frogging with the other car as the lion was on the move. He wasn’t one bit fussed about us but preferred, I think, to be away from the noise of leap frog so relatively soon after we arrived he was deep in the bush.
The rest of the ride was relatively uneventful but we did get a few more moments up close with zebra and saw quite a number of giraffe off in the distance, silhouetted by the rising sun. We filled up on gas (we have a double tank that takes a total of 160L of diesel), paid our park fees and headed East.
Our goals today were to acquire food (we had eaten almost everything we had while in the park) and to make it at least to Rundu. We also had several veterinary checkpoints to cross, marking the unusual shape of the veterinary enclosure. At one previous checkpoint we had to give them all of our raw meat and not wanting this to happen again we delayed buying meat until we had reached the panhandle.
We spent the night at an NWR (Namibia Wildlife Resorts) Camp at Popa Falls.
We made it much farther than we had anticipated and were just outside a town called Divundu at the start of the panhandle. Popa Falls and rapids are not as impressive as Epupa falls- in fact we were there for such a short period we only saw the class 1 rapids at the camp Jetty bar. This was a lovely and new NWR camp. It opened just under a year ago and was still undergoing some construction. We arrived at sunset and grabbed a Savannah cider (the drink of the trip) and watched the end of the sunset on the Jetty. It felt like no one else was around and we found a quiet campsite up the hill from the river.
The next morning I had a leisurely hot shower (something of a luxury on the trip), washed my hair with real shampoo (I lost our bottle and we had been using one of those 2 in 1 from the hotel in Terrace Bay that didn’t even make suds and just tangled my hair). All this to say I felt very clean and refreshed and spent from 7 to 8am on the deck over looking the water outside the restaurant working on this blog and drinking coffee.
We headed out around 8:30 and had a long day of driving. We made it the entire length of the panhandle, passing through Bwabwata National Park and into the Caprivi region. Others we have met on this trip saw elephants in this section and there were certainly signs warning you of such but all we saw were people, cattle and farmland. If you are wondering why Namibia includes the panhandle, a 280mile strip connecting Namibia to the Zambezi river consider reading this funny tongue in cheek article on the subject. I got totally side tracked writing this blog post reading more about the Namibian panhandle and other panhandle regions in the world. http://geocurrents.info/geopolitics/problems-in-the-panhandle-namibia’s-caprivi-strip (this link had a title too long to hyperlink..)
We passed through Katima Mulilo, The Namibia/Zambia border town, early afternoon and were finally able to acquire a map of Zambia. You’d think maps would be available at gas stations but that is not the case in what we’ve seen in Africa. The border crossing took ages. We easily exited Namibia but then spent about 2hrs in the entry office for Zambia. It was completely unclear what you needed to enter the country. There were desks to purchase or pay for the vehicle emission fee, the vehicle import permit, the foreign registered vehicles insurance, and the immigration desk. Two of the four desks had cryptic labels and it was unclear who (ie. which type of visitors) needed to visit which desks. Locals were coming in with a piece of paper that I assume takes the place of a passport, having it stamped by the immigration office, and in about 3 seconds total were on their way. We, as foreigners, with a non-Zambian registered vehicle, had to make stops at all four desks. The car rental company had actually asked Don if he would video tape our border crossing so they could tell or show others what it was like. To this Don responded “absolutely not” and left out the question ‘are you crazy?’. That would definitely cause us trouble at the border. We will email them to tell them about our experience, because a bit of advance knowledge about what you are supposed to do, considering there is very little in the way of helpful personnel, would be useful. On the way out you additionally pay another fee (it only later became clear this was to the local area) to exit the customs area. In total we paid 5 different fees in 3 different currencies, and not because we wanted to pay in different currencies. Have available USD, Namibian dollars and Zambian Kwacha. If you don’t have Kwacha a bumpster outside will exchange your money for a horrendous rate.
We crossed the border, immediately turned the wrong direction because at the border exit point there were no signs (see the photo below..). Once we figured this out and got ourselves turned around we crossed the Zambezi river, about 200km upstream of Vic Falls. This is also a cow crossing.. The road between the Namibian border crossing and Livingston is riddled with potholes. Big ones. A couple we had met in Halali, when asked if there was anything we should know about traveling in Zambia, had immediately replied that the potholes were enormous, and often marked by branches placed inside. On this section of road you get clear sections but you don’t dare push it beyond 60km/hr because the potholes come up quickly and more often than not span the entire road, so that there is almost a secondary dirt road the entire length of this stretch of highway just to the sides of the paved section.
We arrived in Livingston just after dark. The policeman at the checkpoint outside the city (Zambia has a lot of checkpoints) had directed us to ‘Jolly Boys’ camp site when we asked for camping options. A white guy we saw on the street suggested Livingstone Backpackers, which we opted for on his recommendation. This was a great little place. There was, however, a bar across the street so if you set your car tent up in the parking lot at the front gate as we did you can expect to fall asleep to bar music. For dinner we unexpectedly found a wonderful little pasta place, Olga's Italian Corner, just down the street from the hostel. Olga’s is a community training centre for at risk youths in the Livingstone area supported in part by this restaurant. We stopped by because it was close, we were exhausted and starving, and they advertised that their pizzas were ready in 10 minutes. I was very impressed by Olga's project, their efforts to train youths and give back to the community.