Sunday, 4 September 2011
We ended up spending a couple of extra days in Livingstone.. This was due to Erika not feeling well. Jollyboys was as good a place as any to lay low and help her recover. The town of Livingstone is quite modern and a far cry from what we had been used to in Nkhata Bay. They even had a FULLY stocked supermarket replete with milk products, a bakery and a meat counter. We were in HEAVEN! After a number of days of resting we finally decided to try and make a move. The next destination was going to be Kasane, Botswana, the gateway to Chobe National Park. There was a bus to take us to the border town of Kasungula scheduled to leave at 12:30pm. Naturally the bus did not show up until just before 2pm. We were able to change our remaining kwacha into Botswana Pula at the 5th and final bank that we went in to as none of the others had any pula. We bordered the near empty bus (it was just us and 2 other people along with 3 bus employees), the ride took only about an hour to the border post. Just before the border we passed what seemed like a couple of km's que of trucks lined up on the side of the road. It turns out that these trucks can wait up to a month to cross the river to the other side. We breezed through Zambian customs then made the 200 meter walk down to the river front. We boarded a "ferry" along with one semi and a couple of cars for the 5 minute crossing to Botswana. We grabbed our now engorged packs and in the mid day sun made our way towards the immigration post. Not knowing exactly where to go, we followed the crowd of locals for a couple of hundred meters, each step became more cumbersome between the weight on our backs and the intense heat. We must have looked absolutely spent, because a car pulled along side of us and offered us a lift to immigration. Good thing they did because it was at least another 700 meters to passport control. We exited the car, bags in hand, the driver said we could store our bags in the boot while we went through immigration. We hesitated knowing that THAT was rule number one (never lose sight of one's backpacks). On instinct and with the driver assuring us that he would follow us inside we took a leap of faith. It only took us 5 minutes to fill in the proper forms and get our entry stamps. Luckily, the car and our packs were still there. The two people offered to give us a ride all the way into Kasane (about 15km away), it turned out that one lady worked for the anti-poaching office. The short drive in was great as we passed several elephants and warthogs crossing the roadway. We were fascinated at this sight but to the two locals it was like passing by a traffic light (ho hum...) She took us directly to a lodge that had been recommended to us by a couple of peace corp. volunteers that we had befriended in Livingstone. As we pulled up to the entrance both of us thought that they brought us to the wrong place. The lodge was quite ornate with all the amenities and luxuries of a 5 star hotel. We meekly entered in our shabby clothes and asked at reception if indeed we were in the right spot. They assured us that we were and escorted us past the luxury villas and rondvels to a dusty area about 50 meters from the river that was there campsite. We found our designated spot, set up our tent under the only two trees available. As soon as we set up camp we made our way down the main road towards town. We wanted to book a game drive for the next morning. Our peace corp. friends had given us a rough idea of costs so we could shop and compare the different offerings. We split up and shopped a couple of different tour offices. We reconvened about 30 minutes later to compare notes. We decided to go with the booking agency called NKWE. Tebs, the manager seemed friendly, straight forward and honest. We woke up the next morning around 5:30am, got dressed and made our way to reception. We were greated by Lungo, our guide for the morning. We picked up two more people, a father and daughter who happened to be from Rhode Island and made our way into Chobe. The first half of the 3.5 hour drive was rather unspectacular. Chobe has been devastated by the over 100,000 elephants that call it home. Most of the entry area has been turned into a sandy desert with only a few thorny bushes remaining. However, as we moved further into the park we were able to see much more animal life. Giraffes, hippos, baboons and lots of elephants. Finally we came upon a small pride of lions that were munching on a baby elephant they had killed during the night. By the time we arrived the mama lions had seemed to have eaten their share while the younger cubs were fighting over the scraps. We watched for a very long time as the younger ones ripped effortlessly through the flesh like a hot knife going through butter. It was incredible! At one point, one of the lions approached the vehicle coming only a few feet away. We took a short rest after that along the riverfront. Afterwards we returned to the pride to find all of them in food coma as the heat coming off the savannah looked to take it's toll. On the way out of the park we passed several more animals including a large herd of elephants chomping their way toward the town. We wandered back to our camp and took a short nap until our tent became as hot as a Swedish sauna. Then we ventured into town to do some shopping and have some lunch. The afternoon portion of our excursion was by boat along the Chobe River. This trip on a small 8 seat boat was by far our favorite to date. Again, we were paired with the two Americans along with our guide Vincent. Vincent proved to be extremely knowledgable in the various animal, reptile, and bird life that clung to the banks and inhabited the river. Hundreds of hippos lay partly submerged in the shallow depths avoiding the afternoon heat. Massive crocodiles swam undisturbed in the murky waters while several other crocs lay on the banks. Several of these crocs were MASSIVE measuring more than 5 meters long from snout to tail. Needless to say, even though we were extremely hot, swimming in the river was not an option. We saw several colorful bird species including storks, fish eagles, and egyptian geese. The highlight was as we made our return journey back towards the campsite's jetty. By this time the sun was slowly setting towards the far reaches of Namibia, several huge herds of elephants were slowly making their way towards the river bank to make the nightly crossing to the Namibian side of the river. We were able to circle around the small grassy island as the HUGE red globe filled the sky. With dark silouettes of hundreds of elephants stretched out before us, it was magic!