Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Caprivi Strip

I always thought I'd be leaving Namibia with memories very different from the ones I actually have. It's a country I'd always wanted to go to and considering it's low population density and great desert scenery are definitely my kind of thing. In the end, we didn't really see much at all and my overriding memory is of waiting for truck repairs..... We ended up staying in Windhoek a full 2 weeks and in that time there were at least 4 robberies (or attempts) at knife point within a couple minutes of our hostel that happened either to people staying there or to locals whose screaming actually woke us up in the night. Lovely place..... Actually, we could've gone crazy waiting around that long but it was nice to kick back and read again and the last week saw the beginning of the Euro Cup so Kerry and I got the football fever. Leaving Windhoek we lost Kerry finally too. We did keep Bre, though we promised her to meet up with Ben and the others at some point again. It IS possible...
With a full group of 9 crazy travellers in a single "repaired" truck, we took off northeast into the Caprivi strip region of Namibia. We are no longer in a rush so don't drive like maniacs and take a lot more stops now too. It's nice but I am still used to getting up and going in a hurry so the slow pace is a little frustrating at times. On the way up to the strip we stopped to see the world's largest meteorite. It's 3m by 1m but 80% iron so is shiny and somehow weighs over 50 tons.
I didn't really notice it before because when we first entered Namibia the whole thing seemed so developed and civilized, but the northern part of the country is fenced off from the lower part allowing the people in the north to live a more traditional way of life, while the lower can fence itself off for the ubiquitous cattle ranches and farms. When we crossed it and got back into the north it really did feel like going back to "real Africa" and once again there were mud huts, little villages and traditionally dressed and obviously poor people.
We took a few days getting through to the end of the strip, camping at lodges right on the banks of the Okavango and then Zambezi rivers. On the Okavango river near Popa falls we could hear and see hippos and lots of birds and even went for a quick boat ride to get up a little closer. The Caprivi strip is just a politically odd, narrow strip of land that sticks off the northeast side of Namibia, ruining its otherwise squarish shape. The narrowest part of the strip is actually a 190 km of protected game park but we only saw a few small deer :(.
We made it to 2km before the Botswanan border when we were stopped by a tour group truck stuck in the sand. We did our nice guy bit, tried to pull them out and after about 1 minute of that broke the bolts on the gearbox underneath the truck and couldn't go anywhere ourselves. Grrr... It seems the guys in Windhoek gave us the wrong kind of bolts so a few angry phone calls and 4 1/2hrs later we were backtracking to Katima Mulilo where we spent the next 2 days waiting for the truck to get fixed yet again :(
Finally got out of Namibia today. At the end of the Caprivi strip is the only 4 country corners point in the world, with Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana all coming together. We drove into and straight through Botswana (we had to transit a short stretch of Chobe National Park, with the densest population of elephants in the world) and saw a large group of elephants just outside of the town Kasane rather than in the park itself. We crossed Botswana as quickly as possible (we'll be back) and entered Zimbabwe as far as Victoria Falls town. We will see Vic Falls tomorrow and then probably head back to Botswana.
I'll have more on that later but gotta run now. Internet is still hard to come by or crazy expensive here.


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