I do appreciate someone taking me seriously. I am obliged. Very few seem to, it must be my attitude. Nice map book. Did someone make your table out of an old pallet?
Top left of Botswana in the 2nd photo, Tsodilo Hills, amazing place. Used to be a deep sand track to get to it and was an adventure, now there is a good graded road and it's full of bloody tourists. Full of rock paintings and significance for the Bushmen peoples, paintings believed to be up to 20,000 years old. Worth a couple of days being there, at least.
The problem with Katima Mulilo is that the nearest Namibian town is about 500km away. The nearest Zambian town is a stone’s throw. This is why as soon as I arrived here it all felt Zambian. The town is stuck on the end of a long strip of land skirting the top of Botswana and this land, the Caprivi Strip is a result of colonial times past. The strip is about 450km long and 32km wide.
In 1890 the then German Chancellor, Leo von Caprivi negotiated a land swap with Britain so that Germany, the colonial power in Namibia at that time, had access to the Zambezi River and ultimately a route through to the African east coast and Tanzania, another German holding. Germany gave up any interest in Zanzibar and we gave them what turned out to be a relatively useless strip of land. And this is what I can’t work out, unless the Germans were a bit lacking in knowledge and the British not saying anything but – Victoria Falls were well known for 35 years or more at that time – and the falls are, to put it mildly, a bit of an impediment to river navigation.
Hence, using the Zambezi, or trying to use the Zambezi, turned out to be a damp squib. The strip has had a bit of history since then, the most recent being a movement to declare it independent by the CLA (Caprivi Liberation Army) resulting in 1999 for the Namibian Army to have to roll in and violently squash/quash the movement after they’d taken over a few key points in and around Katima Mulilo. In 1999 I was doing my overlanding job and was in this part of Africa and received instructions not to come anywhere near this part, even though it had been used to transit to different areas at times. A few months later it was all quiet again.
This is the road along the strip, and it goes on and on and on -
I filled up with fuel when I got to town and the pump attendant realised it was a Zambian car. Even though you can see Zambia across the river, he had little knowledge of the state of affairs in the country. He was asking me about how it is to live there. I related about the power cuts and low water levels etc and he asked if we have Chinese there. I replied in the affirmative, saying there are a lot, and he gave the reason why we were in such a predicament because of them. I asked why, thinking he was meaning the debts the country has, and he said it was because they were taking all the trees.
It is true Zambia has problems with deforestation because of logging and areas are being opened up by the government in protested areas and it does seem this was tried in the Caprivi Strip, but eventually a stop was put to it by the Namibian government. An interesting thought.
To continue – I arrived at my hotel, the Protea, which is a large chain of good hotels, and immediately I was struck by the air of neglect. I checked my room and found it to be of what I thought to be a poor standard. Not cleaned properly, or at least not for a week or so, stained sheets and pillow cases, lights not working, stained carpet, wire holding a window closed and poor security and so on. I went to reception and politely asked for someone to come and look.
First was the receptionist, then was the housekeeper, then the housekeeping manager, then the maintenance manager and all the way to the top here, being the general manager. I spent some time being polite but firm that I understood often the manager gets little money to update and maintain things, but some things can be done for virtually free, like sweeping up properly, using vinegar to remove mould between tiles etc. It all showed a lack of care, pride and being bothered at all – just like in Zambia, and in Namibia, it’s not something you often see.
I said a big impression could be obtained by just sweeping up all the dead leaves and detritus from around the buildings. It all looks unkempt. It is free to do because you already have the brushes, you just need the workers to actually do it. Funnily enough, as I went for breakfast this morning (the next day now) I saw two men with brushes standing outside in a corner talking together. Good, I thought, maybe they’ve been told. I ate and returned the same way after half an hour or so. They were still there gabbing away. You can lead a man with a brush to the dirt, but you can’t make him work.
The end result of my complaints was that I was upgraded to a better room. It wasn’t my intention to have this happen, more because I was hot, tired, irritated and disappointed and needed to say something – otherwise nothing will ever change. Maybe still it won’t, but I’ve done my bit. Plus considering the reviews of the place should have given them the clue before, that some things weren’t being done properly. I got one of the VIP rooms, the ones Government Ministers will stay in. It’s fine but a mish mash of stuff and somewhat impractical in its layout. But fine enough. This was my new key -
Mark you dear. I read about your Protea hotel room with interest and so glad you kicked up a stink. But even more pleasing was to read you suggest vinegar as a cleaner for mould! Yesterday I was on room inspection (as I do after every clean) and nearly fainted at the sight of black mould in one of the showers. To the young girl who had done the clean, this black stuff means nothing to her as she does not have a shower at home and probably no tiles anywhere. I got my old man duly dispatched with Bicarbonate of Soda and a scrubbing brush to remedy the awful sight but he couldn't complete the Jobe as his bony knees gave in on the hard mosaic tiles. We were having to have the room 100% by this morning for our French guest from Reunion. Now when she has left I will go back and do your vinegar trick to complete any remains of the black stuff. Thanks Mark!
K2, ahh I see. Photo number one of yours, bottom left hand corner, looks like a metal border strip. That's why I thought so.
Young tod, it won't work immediately if there's a lot of it and thick. It needs to soak for a while as well, just 15 mins or so. And maybe a couyple of applications if it is thick. Cheap but strong vinegar is good. Do you get 'Spirit of Soap' there? Careful with it if you do but that works well on chalk marks and build up. It's a strong acid. Also will work on mould.
Funny, I was seriously exploring the little peninsula of Namibia reaching towards Victoria Falls in Google Maps just a month or so ago. Hope to see more in this report, can't see myself ever visiting this part of the world first-hand.
There's nothing else to report I'm afraid. I shall be slipping out of the country straight away. I can say there are plenty of elephants in the small parks on the strip and some jackals but I've never seen much else here, meaning Big 5. I'm not sure though what there is as regards game in the area. There is also Popa Falls, which is more of a cascade than anything else, but very pretty.
I'm looking at that video and let me start by saying there are more of these companies in Namibia than you can shake a stick at and anything that calls itself "crazy" anything is not really my age group now. Craz Kudu is long established and one of the better known companies. They use the same kind of truck derived vehicle. The suspension is hard, as it is a truck, not a bus. The goldfish windows seem nice until it is hot and rarely do they have aircon, thus, like now, when it is hot, it is very hot. Opening the windows may help but it is like sitting in a hairdryer. Notice how in the morning, striking camp, they have coats on. good, it means it shouldn't be too hot during the day, but at night in the desert, as people know, it can be quite cold.
Solitaire - the best thing they didn't mention, the apfel strudel at the cafe/fuel station there, plus there is bugger all to see at Solitaire unless you do include the fuel station garden, which is full of old cars displayed and nice for me, but not for some.
They then go to Sesreim Canyon. Ok, good, but then have to drive and extra 100km or so to get there and back to the campsite. Agama camp is fine. Then re-trace steps back to Sossusvlei - now then, to climb Dune 45, the best time is as soon as the sun is rising, so considering it is 45km from the entrance gate, plus 50km or so from the camp site, I wonder what time they got up.
Two days out of a ten day trip in Swakopmund/Wlavis Bay - as I've shown, there is bugger all to see in Walvis Bay, so Swakopmund is good for a quad bike dune ride in the morning and a wander round town in the afternoon. It also means the company doesn't have to pay for food for the whole two days.
Jeez, Cape Cross - good to visit but it stinks to high heaven. I thought only once of doing a lunch there, one thought was enough. Every time I took a group there we'd leave and go another 20 - 25km away from it to eat. It took that long for the smell to come out of your clothes.
Drive and camp at Brandberg, yep, fine enough. Himba visit, yes, ok, but I always feel a bit uncomfortable with these tourist type visit things. They stay at the camp inside Etosha at Okaukuejo, which is good as it gives access in the evening to the waterhole on site.
Africat, I know of it and have heard good things but never been. It is just a couple of hours away from Windhoek I think so the last day would be quite short. In fact I don't think they spend too long driving each day anyway, which is a good thing, nothing like the distances I do.
In conclusion - yes, fair enough, about average, but I'd certainly do more research on companies to go with and especially try and pick the right time of year.
Probably we could rent a bus or something and do it ourselves.
Oh my; what a life you lead Mark , your report just cements my wish to see Namibia for myself. I have been exploring options for a horse riding holiday there which for me would be the icing on the cake. I need to do it sooner rather than later. Re the goatherd...My choice would have been to offer the luxuries.
I don't think I answered that. Yes, I gave him the nice stuff. One of the lodges I went to, called Roidina at Omararu did horse riding things as well as other activities. I saw the horses and they looked well looked after. There are a number of places horse riding can be done, even just around the capital, Windhoek. You can have short rides for a couple of hours, day rides or longer etc depending on where you go. I can see you though doing one of the two links to follow. More or less a horseback safari for several days. Something like those. Click also on the tab that shows the photos, see if it appeals to you -
"what a life you lead..." I'm not complaining. I have very understanding wife who is determined that since I don't work any more, I won't just sit around the house all day picking my toenails. I have to obey her, I mean, I'd love to be watching daytime TV, eating crap, feet up, etc but I am told to keep physically and mentally active or I'll die early from a sad and lonely life. It's a cross I have to bear.
I’m having a day relaxing before the entry back to Zambia. I’ve been trying to book a room at a place halfway home. I’ve been trying to do it in writing so I have a record of the booking – yes, I’ve had problems before in Zambia with verbal bookings and then nobody knowing about it as it wasn’t written down the in bookings book. Or whatever system they use. The hotel is part of a small chain of three or four and has a website, which is unusual enough.
I contacted them through the enquiry form on the website twice. I contacted them through the bookings form on the website twice, I contacted them through their Facebook page twice, I sent three different emails to their email address. All over the past two weeks. No reply at all. I had to resort to phoning them up this morning and was surprised they even answered the phone. Nice they did but I will enquire when I am there and also when back in Lusaka as to why they ignored all communication. It is a very common thing that a company will set up a website and then completely ignore it. As for checking their Facebook page or emails, no idea as to if they don’t or if they do and them just ignore it all anyway.
A man from Sweden I know, who is an IT expert and has lived in Lusaka for a decade or two, makes his living from repairing iPhones etc, said for a few years he ran a service setting up websites for companies. He says they were often shocked when he said that they needed to keep them updated regularly with phone numbers, prices, answering enquiries etc etc. Plus, paying for the website address.
I am fully aware there might be a bit of truth in Mrs M’s reaction to a comment I made once in frustration about the lack of professionalism in many fields in this country, as with in a number I’ve been to. After a particularly troublesome time trying to make some arrangements and dealing with bureaucracy, lack of communication, I said that many seem to feel that as long as they have a full stomach, everything else will take care of itself. She said it sounded racist. I’m on the fence as to if it just sounds realistic. But as ever, I abide by her feeling.
I am becoming, she says, more and more to be a “Stinkstiefel” – a grouch. I cannot disagree with her.
There is only one thing of excitement in Katima, a toilet in a tree. I’m not going to even bother trying to find it for you. So there. You’ll just have to put up with my ramblings. But, a few shots of my surroundings, my bungalow, the Zambezi with Zambia just across it -
Tomorrow I will get up early and start to make my way across the border, along a very bad stretch of road, and towards Lusaka. Or, I can cut back through Botswana, pay quite a bit of money for access just for a couple of hours, and then cross to Zambia back at the ferry I first crossed at. I’m not sure I can stand the hassle of that crossing though.
Post by cheerypeabrain on Oct 29, 2019 21:27:37 GMT
Intrepid explorer. Excellent report, entertaining as always Mark it's not something I could envisage doing myself, but I can appreciate your very knowledgeable and witty mini documentary. The photographs are brilliant too..(my favourite is the one you took of the map as you plan the trip!)
I was in a position where I could use one of two border crossings. But, one of them meant I would have to cross from Namibia into Botswana first before then entering Zambia. The other one was a straight run between Namibia and Zambia. The first would cost money as I would have to buy certain tolls and taxes to cross Botswana, just for a couple of hours. The second wouldn’t cost me anything.
The first would mean passing through immigration and customs to exit Namibia, again to enter Botswana, again to leave Botswana and again to enter Zambia - and even though I don’t really have problems, there is always the potential of something unexpected cropping up. The first would also mean I would need to cross into Zambia at the same crossing I entered Botswana at the beginning of the trip. It is chaos and busy and confusing for most people and bureaucratic and means queuing up for a ferry. Plus loads of touts on the Zambia side causing hassle and sticking their nose in where it’s not wanted, following you to get your business and so on.
But – even though the second option looks better, especially because you drive over a bridge and there are new customs/immigration buildings which create a certain order, plus I remember from years ago, there were less touts, you then have to drive for about 100km along a very bad tarmac and potholed road. The road, if covered properly, would take me at most an hour and twenty minutes. I drove along it a couple of years ago and it took me an extra three hours, so over four hours, nearly four and a half, to drive it. A tentative Plan C would have meant me driving a different way back to Lusaka, but there was no place to stay at a certain point and it would have meant me driving over 600km in one day and also along about 50km of bad road.
So in essence I could have an easy crossing but a bad road, or a hassley and expensive crossing and a good road. (Hassley? Is that a word? I vote it is now anyway). An added complication, welcome though it is, is that Mrs M, bless ‘er little cotton socks, has double sixed me (thrown a spanner in the works, scuppered my plan, thrown a spoke in the wheel, caused a problem with my timetable) by flying back to Lusaka a day early. We are moving to new accommodation as we’ve both been away for a while and it wasn’t economic to keep paying rent for somewhere that neither of us were there for. It is my job to get it sorted with making sure it is clean, stocking up with food, making a meal for when she gets back, unpacking stuff I’ve been keeping in the back of the car and all those other things. I now have less time to do it, a day less to be precise.
I decided to take the bad road option as I do have enough time and it would be stressful only in that it would be a simple and expected stress I can easily cope with. I’ve driven on a few bad roads before. I had a 5.30am start, nice and cool weather, filled up with fuel again as it is far cheaper in Botswana than Zambia, arrived at the border at 6.10, just enough time for the officials to arrive and grab a coffee, realised the exit process didn’t involve the dreaded gate pass where you have to have multiple stamps on it, so got my passport stamped out, ignored Customs all together, waved at the man who opened the gate for me and exited Botswana.
Drove over the bridge, slipped into the Zambia immigration office and I was reminded what it was like in the country with officialdom – it is as though the man has never seen a passport before, doesn’t know what buttons to press on the computer and it is the first time he’s ever sat in that seat to stamp people in. A thirty second job took over five minutes. He just needs to scan my passport, find a space on the page where my visa is or next to it, stamp it and give it me back. I was very close to asking him if he needed any help, but that wouldn’t have gone down well I’m sure, so I bit my tongue.
As this side there was also no gate pass needed, different to the other crossing, and it was early and the gate was open and nobody around, I again ignored Customs, no official in their booths anyway, and drove out. Yes, back into the country without any problems at any border crossing, apart from hassle at the first one on the second day of the whole journey. Then the bad road started. It is as though someone laid about 2mm of tarmac (which they probably did) and expected it to last, which it doesn’t when it rains like it does here.
Big potholes form within a month, they are left to develop, you then try and drive/step in between them on whatever tarmac is left, which sometimes is possible but mostly not – then, I remembered in 1998 when I drove the same road the first time, I wondered if someone had stolen the tarmac and just left all the joined up potholes. It’s still the same. There was light at the end of the tunnel though – several hours later – I arrived in Livingstone, it was now 11.30am (ish) and I’d not had a break properly, apart from the peeing thing at the side of the road, and my stomach was wondering if my throat had been cut – I was hungry – I could have eaten a horse between two bread vans – I’m running out of time to get these idioms/slang in so bear with me.
I called at a cafe I know and had two tins of coke zero, a full English breakfast with........ extra onion rings and chips. I undid a hole on my belt and waddled back out to the car. Trying not to burp too much. I had steady drive onwards for a few hours until reaching my hotel for the night. And, there is no power here. They have a generator but it’s only good for lights and internet. And it was 38 degrees Celsius when I arrived, now 32, and no aircon.
That’s about it for today apart from one observation about Police stop/checks – Between crossing the border back into Zambia and arriving at my hotel, 450km, I have had to stop for them six times. In all the mileage I’ve done in Botswana, South Africa and Namibia this time, I have to stop, or been stopped twice.
I’ve got a bit of distance left to cover, but it is normal in country travel, so of little interest really, which means I’ve a mind to leave it here. Just one more day to go, which will entail a compulsory stop at a nice cafe for lunch, one that was closed on the Monday I set off and was disappointed about. Crossed fingers it is open, but should be. A total distance, when I get back, of 11,200km. The same distance within a kilometre or two, I used to drive between London and Kathmandu. My arse feels like it’s been slapped with a cricket bat.
it is as though the man has never seen a passport before, doesn’t know what buttons to press on the computer and it is the first time he’s ever sat in that seat to stamp people in. A thirty second job took over five minutes.
That sounds like airport transit in Saudi Arabia, except that 5 minutes would be exceptionally fast.
"That sounds like airport transit in Saudi Arabia, except that 5 minutes would be exceptional fast." I once tried to enter Eritrea, handed over my passport and three days later I ended up flying back home. He still has it now.
"And that sounds like the roads in Cambodia 10 years ago." Can't remember where it was now, but he roads were so bad I converted my car into a hovercraft.
Cheery, it needs a massage. If you work your way up from my feet........
Back in Lusaka now. Staying for the night in a posh lodge, but a cheap room somehow, mainly because it is not the weekend and there are no conferences going on. Tomorrow take over our new place and sort it out.