THE CAPRIVI STRIP:
After a false start due to a cock-up on our camping bill we exit the north gate on our second attempt. Our map shows a long haul up to the strip so halfway to Tsumeb we gibe and take the rum line across the Huila Plateau. On the map it looks a good ploy saving buckets of kilometers. All goes well until we arrive at an unmarked T-junction. After some discussion we head off down the dirt track unknown to ourselves in the right direction. It not long before that famous and world-renowned invisible person named Doubting Thomas raises his voice. We put in a U-turn after taking some directions from two locals who like all Africans say Yes, Yes to any direction.
Arriving back at the T-Junction we decide that the GPS of our African friends is in their buts rather than their heads. We are saved by a passing lifeboat a Toyota, which Fanny flags down. It comes to a hesitant stop some five hundred meters up the track. Four sturdy white faces march back to greet us. “Yes back down the road is good.” “You are going to the monument.” “The biggest Baobab tree in Africa.” Take a right at the first gate after that there are thirty odd gates to open and close.”
By gate ten all the saved kilometers are vanishing fast. Fanny is driving and I am on gate duty. By gate thirty it looks like it going to be a miserable pitch for the night out in the middle of nowhere. Gate forty we hit the main drag and there up the road is a motherfucker of a baobab tree. Monument it is with is very own plaque. Pitch No 82 is under an enormous branch as thick as the trunks of many a larger tree. The main trunk is all of 9 meters. A hemispherical mass of foliage gives shade up to a diameter of 45meters.
Baobabs trees are unlike other trees each is unique with its own individual style. We fuel our campfire with the husks of monkey bread as large as a small melon the fruit of the Baobab that has a white pulp inside with a very acidity chalky taste.
To our surprise morning breaks fresh and cold. Without the hassle of opening another gate we arrive in Rundu by midday. Ten kilometers outside the town we camp on the roof overlooking the Cubango River. Across the water is Angola once more. Pitch No 83. We’ve not quite yet reached the mouth of the Strip, which is another good day’s drive away. We are not in any rush Florence’s birthday is on hand. Our well-chosen campsite at the Kavango Lodge is compliments of our bible. It has an excellent bar, hot showers, and a small restaurant. A birthday cake is arranged with an African evening trip down the Okanvango River followed by dinner in the lodge makes a birthday we hope she will remember.
A visit to Rundu bank in the morning turns out to be an experience. Crammed full to the door the waiting clients watch one cashier counts a bundle of filthy notes oblivious to the mob. After one hour I leave with a soaked tee-shirt and a large thirst empty-handed. God knows how anyone gets any business done. We stay another day just enjoying the river activities.
The Caprivi once a highly militarized zone patrolled by South African forces until 1968 has many game parks. There not an animal left in any of them. Bordered by Angola and Zambia in the north with Botswana to the south it does have two of Africa best know rivers flowing through its thirty-five wide and one hundred and eighty kilometers length > The Zambezi and the Okavango. It came into existence after a deal between Britain and Germany and is named after Georg Leo, Grat von Caprivi (1831- 1899) It’s now a limbo land owned by Namibia. A poacher’s paradise with nothing left to shoot other than your own foot.
We move up river to Popa Falls our next pitch No 83. As to how they qualified to be called falls is anyone’s guess. A large weir would be more fitting. Rather than pitch in the designated camping site we drive right down to the water edge. Fast water with no menacing eyes about but the girls feel safer on the roof. We have hardly set ourselves up for the night when down the small track leading to the river comes a red ford van.
Its two Etosha punters who had bored the long john’s off us each evening by showing us their video footage. Blue skies, the inside of the video camera bag when they had forgotten to turn the damn think off. Lions that went into focus elephant’s leg that panned out to the backside of a zebra. All topped off with a running commentary. “Not again I cry, hide, hide.” We are saved by the narrow rut of the track the van reverses back up the track without spotting us. The girls hit the sack early. Snuggle under their mossie nets; I take a wander down the track to see if our unwanted intruders have camped and to be put on alert of an early morning visit. No sign of them. Instead I find Daza and his merry band from the Brandberg. A broad open smile and firm handshake makes me welcome to the campfire. They have just come from doing the Etosha thing and are on their way up to the Okavango Delta.
Over more whiskies than I care to remember, I get to meet Daza group of Overlanders. Coming from far and wide they are a mixed group mostly in their late twenties. I don’t remember much about the campfire conversation except putting the following question to the group. What African sounds have you heard that you like the best so far? The roar of a lion, the bark of a baboon, and the trumpet of an elephant came the answers. “And You “For me it is the sound of a solid shit in a long drop. “How about you Daza?” He thinks for a minute and says with that wonderful smile of his > “My mother calling me in for dinner. I stagger back up the track oblivious to any sounds.
Daze team of two provide three meals a day erect the tents each night and according to him put up with every whim and whimper. He is the Tour leader, driver, and mechanic. The trip is thirty-nine days in all starting in Cape Town ending in Nairobi. Popa falls is day eleven.
Breaking camp is slow and arduous. We decide to follow last night’s Daze advice to leave the strip and head south to Botswana and the Okavango Basin. By the time we arrive at the Botswana border I am not much better suffering from slow eye disease. I struggle with the form filling. It’s a long flat bumpy drive to Maun. The girls, god love them struggling to put up with my ill temper as we drive through the strips main game reserve which I am more than critical about.
TO BE CONTINUED