Driving into the Caprivi Strip
Divundu, in the Caprivi Strip is a welcome sight; it has a fuel station and it seems that all roads lead here. Lots of opportunity to chat and also stock up on food and fuel. We have now been on the road for a few months and are beginning to learn how to deal with different situations and how to get information. One lesson in particular we have learned the hard way. Don’t ask closed questions! The African people, for the most part, love to help but will often say “yes”, as they think it is what you want to hear. Or maybe they are just saying it to get rid of you. But either way it is much more helpful to ask open, specific questions. Here in Divundu, however, Keith forgets this simple rule and asks the lady in the garage if they have an air pump for the tyres. “Yes”, she confirms. After a short delay it becomes apparent that no further information is going to be forthcoming so Keith asks, “Where is it?” (Always a very dangerous question – it is always “over there”, which can be 10 metres or 100kms “over there” ). But we duly drive round the back of the building and find the air pump. After shunting back and forth to get close enough, Keith finally jumps out and attaches the air pipe to the first of the wheels. Nothing. After much swearing and bashing of the machine he just can’t get it to work. Back in the shop he locates the same lady and informs her that the machine doesn’t appear to be working. “Oh, no, its not working at the moment”. Great! So, lesson learned – be specific. Ask if they have an air pump and then ask if it is working.
The Caprivi is very different to the rest of Namibia, much more like Botswana and Zambia and it even has different time! The rest of Namibia changes its clocks by an hour in Spring and Autumn but Caprivi sticks to the same time as South Africa and Botswana. We only realise this after wondering for a few days why people kept giving us times with the caveat of “South Africa time”. Most bizarre.
Great Campsites with plenty of character
The main B8 which runs through this area is a good, straight tar road and we can cover some good distances, which means that we get to the Ngepi Campsite on the C48 near Papa Falls in time to set up in daylight. This is a great place. Funky little touches, big pitches and quirky bathrooms (including a toilet perched on top of a tower-like structure called the “long drop”), make it a fun place to spend some time, and the bar and gardens right on the Okavango River are perfect. http://ngepicamp.com
One of Ngepi’s funny little signs is a bit cheeky though. There are two tracks in, one a little tougher than the other, and the owner (Toyota driver) has set up a little challenge to we Landrover owners:
As you can see our Landy copes fine with the Toyota track.
An early start today as we want to get to the river front in the Mahunga National Park which is on both sides of the road to the border crossing to Botswana and it is well worth a visit. It has beautiful scenery and lots of wildlife and it so quiet.
We see red lechwe, impala, kudu and giraffe and much to our delight we even see a baby giraffe. It is so cute and as these beautiful creatures are my absolute favourite it was a very special moment to see a gangly little one running along behind its mum.
After a couple of nights at Ngepi we decide to try a campsite a little further up the road. Nunda Camp is wonderful and the owner, Cameron, is such a great host. He is also a Landrover owner and has this sign outside:
We decide to join everyone in the restaurant this evening and it is a lovely atmosphere where a set menu is served to everyone at the same time and the owners join us too. A lovely evening with great company and a tasty dinner. We love it here.
Cameron is so knowledgeable about this area and he tells us we must visit “the horseshoe” which is an oxbow lake on the other side of the river and part of the Bwabwata National Park where there can be huge herds of elephants coming down to drink and bathe. He also tells us about a campsite near Kongola on the Kwando River, run by an English guy, which he says is a must, so that’s where we are heading.
Bwabwata National Park
Heading up to the Kwando on the main road is an easy drive ,although the distance here can be deceiving – it is a long way. We decide to start the day in the park on the other side of the Okavango river and there is plenty of deep sand, and also, strangely, some areas of steep rock. But the views over the river are fantastic and we do spot a few elephants. Driving through the bush we pass through the remains of the old South African Army camp and suddenly spot a tiny baby elephant just off the track under a small acacia. He is clearly badly injured, his foot limp and swollen and as we watch him he falls down, exhausted. It is very upsetting and we decide to jot down the GPS coordinates and on the way out of the park we give them to the ranger at the gate who assures us that they will go and take a look. Hopefully they will put the poor little mite out of his misery as he clearly isn’t able to keep up with the herd.
The best campsite in the Caprivi?
We arrive at Mashi River Safaris in the afternoon and as we can’t find the owner, Dan, we set up on one of the pitches. It is stunning here, with the site right on the river with little huts for a kitchen, bathroom and even a dining area overlooking the hippos in the river. Dan comes to find us a couple of hours later and we immediately get on well – he is our kind of a guy! Passionate about the area and the wildlife and enthusiastic about the business he is running here with the help of the local community. He runs great boat trips from here and we decide that this is the place to come back to in November when we have family coming out to join us.
But for now we are content to chill out here and watch the hippos (which are only a few feet away). After enjoying a lovely camp fire and a few beers we lie in bed and can hear elephants right outside the tent. They are so close we can hear them breathing and in the morning Keith clambers down the steps to find a big bull elephant a few feet away. He gets back up the ladder pretty damn quick! The morning ablutions will have to wait.
We head off to the horseshoe area that Cameron and Dan are so enthusiastic about. We can see why. It is beautiful and we park up overlooking the river and just enjoy the view and wait to see what turns up. We don’t get to see the large herds this place is known for but we vow to come back again.
Another perfect evening and no close encounters tonight. But there are still lots of night noises to lull us to sleep, especially hippos. The morning finds us jump starting Dan’s car as he heads off to a friends wedding and we head to Mudumu National Park, a very wet place, like a mini Okavango Delta. The village here is clearly quite affluent due to the tourism and there are a few high end places to stay. We take a drive around and then find a lovely campsite to stay where we have private ablutions and a lovely view of the wetlands. The next morning, during another game drive, we bump into Dan, taking a group of wedding guests out for a game drive in the lodge’s Landrover. At least he is driving a decent car this time.
We are heading next to Botswana, a place we have visited before and love, and we even have time to spend a couple more nights a Nunda Camp. The people we have met in Namibia feel like friends to us now and I have a feeling that we will be back.