Nata to Livingstone via the legendary Kazangula Ferry!

9 Nov

A quick trip to Nata for some supplies and fuel and then we are on our way north again. It is extremely hot at the moment and the fitting of the air conditioning to Landy is starting to feel like a very good decision. The road to Nata is straight and pretty good, passing through bush on either side of the road with occasional signs warning of elephants and this is a real possibility on this road. Elephants, kudu, zebra, impala, springbok and bushbuck appear out of the bush to cross the road and the wide verges are essential so that you can see them appear up ahead and slow down accordingly. This is a highway north for humans but an important area for animals migrating between Okavango, the pans and Chobe in Botswana and Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. It is also of course just as important to slow down for all the cows, goats and donkeys we pass. It is all in the average days drive in Botswana.

Big Foot in the Bush

bushbaby Botswana
Bushbaby – cute!

We decide not to drive too far today, it is hot and we have plenty of time so we look for somewhere to stop and just chill out for the afternoon, preferably with some shade out of this sun. We find a little place with some little chalets, but they have a spot where they are happy for us to camp too. There is also a nice little bar that has nice sofas and is lovely and cool. Sipping on a cold beer, we hear a small thud and look over to see that something has fallen from the ceiling onto a cushion strategically placed on the dining table. “Don’t worry” says the somewhat eccentric owner, “its just a baby bushbaby, I’ll just pop him back on the beam”. Apparently this mother bushbaby has built a nest in the eaves that is too small for all her babies and every now and again one falls out. Humans place them on a beam and then the mummy comes down to retrieve them. Its repeated several times a day but it is a wonderful opportunity to see one of these gorgeous little creatures up close; usually you see them in the dead of night leaping around the trees.

Keith happens to mention to the owner that we spotted some huge human footprints in the sand near to our camping spot. “Do you have a particularly tall guy working here?” This is clearly a sore point! “Bloody hell, he’s back!” Apparently this place has been robbed a couple of times and the huge footprints are familiar. Of course we are very close to the Zimbabwe border and its fairly straightforward for unsavoury characters to hop across, steal stuff and they back in Zim before any is the wiser. But our host is not taking it lying down. He is up and out of the door with a shotgun and his wife makes a call to the local police office. Within half an hour he is back and the police have arrived. They don’t seem to bothered about his outing with a firearm, and promise to patrol around the place a few times during the night. Its all very exciting but we take the alarm and pepper spray up into the tent tonight just in case.


Next stop Kasane, the gateway into Chobe where we will be heading to in a few days with Dad and Chris. We decide to stay at Chobe Safari Lodge, which is a pretty up market place, but they do have a campsite. This is brilliant as you get to use all the facilities without having to pay for the rooms. We use the swimming pool and sun loungers and treat ourselves to some lovely cocktails. At the campsite we find another Landover with a UK number plate. This is a first for us; we have seen many European registered vehicles but none from home. This lovely vehicle is owned by an English couple,. Sandy and Kevin shipped their Landover to Cape Town too and are doing a six-month trip around southern Africa. So far it seems as if they have been following us, as we have been to pretty much the same places. They are heading to Zambia and Malawi next so we may bump into them again. One of the surprising things we have noticed is how often you come across fellow travellers on more than one occasion. Word certainly gets around about the best places to camp so I suppose its inevitable that paths will cross and with everyone sharing and connecting on social media it makes it relatively easy to keep in touch with like minded people that you meet in the bush.

Baby Warthogs in the campsite
Baby Warthogs in the campsite

After pampering ourselves for a day or two we head off to Kazangula Ferry, the crossing over the conflence of the Zambezi and Chobe Rivers. If ever there was a place that needs a bridge, this is it, and apparently one is being started soon. In the meantime either side of the crossing means hours of tortuous red tape and hassle by “helpers”. The buildings on the Botswana side have no signs whatsoever and so before the car has even come to a stop we find ourselves surrounded by men all saying they can help us. Now, we have done many border crossings, and you always get a bit of hassle and it can be difficult to work out what you need and where to get it, but Kazangula (on both sides) takes bureaucracy queuing and chaos to a whole new level.  On the Zambian side different documentation needs to be produced, purchased or handed in, all in different places and all whilst being hassled by “fixers” to do it for you for a fee. So this time we tried a different approach and hired one of the “fixers.” And it actually paid off. We were whisked from building to building and told to wait while he spoke to officials and got us to the front of queues. It was money well spent and after a couple of hours we were on our way. (We have heard of it taking five or six so this is good.)


12 Nov. It is ridiculously hot today. We park the car at Livingstone Airport and our feet sink into the melting tarmac as we walk over to the air conditioned terminal building to wait for Dad and Chris to arrive from Johannesburg.  Oh my word, it is so strange and lovely to see them! It seems surreal, almost as if our travelling is like another life and it is hard to imagine everything and everyone at home. It is going to be a great two weeks catching up and sharing this wonderful African experience with them.

First of all though, a bit more luxury. We check in for one night at the Zambezi Sun and enjoy gin and tonics around the pool whilst we chat about anything and everything. Dad confessed that when he stepped off the plane and felt the heat he did think “I won’t be able to cope with this” but we assured him that we will be out of the heat in the middle of the day, his truck will have air con, and hopefully it will rain a bit. It is surprising how we have got used to heat over the last six months. We take a walk down to the falls later but there is no water at all on the Zambia side so tomorrow we walk over to Zimbabwe to see what its like over that side.

13 Nov. After the most amazing breakfast we set off through the private access to the Victoria Falls, circumvent the pressurised sales techniques of the curio sellers and head to the border crossing on the bridge. We pass the bungee jumping adrenaline junkies and Keith has a few pointed words with some particularly annoying curio sellers. As much as we like to support people as much as we can you cant buy a souvenir from everyone and the problem is that if you do make a purchase the rest of sellers see you as an easy target and home in like bees round a honey pot. Border formalities on both sides are quick and painless but the sun is relentless and we arrive at the falls hot and sweaty and in need of refreshment. Is it too early for a beer?

The walk along the viewing area though proves to be cooler, the vegetation is tropical due to the fairly constant “rain” from the falls and there is a cooling breeze and fine mist which helps us recover. The falls on the Zim side are better and although it is nowhere near as impressive as it is after the rains it is still beautiful and definitely worth the walk.



Dad and Chris spend one more night in the hotel and we head back to a campsite where the partying carried on until 3am. Not the best nights sleep, but we are excited to be on our way back to Botswana and our itinery for the next two weeks is going to be busy but hopefully fun and rewarding. I just hope that Dad and Chris love it as much as we do.

Overheating and Freezing in Namibia

Driving into Namibia through Ai Ais National Park

27 May. As we board the little pontoon to cross the Orange River into Namibia we wonder what to expect of the roads on this side of the Transfrontier Park. The drive this morning, back over the tricky passes to the border post at Sellendesdrift, was tiring and dusty and we have a long way to go to reach the campsite at Ai Ais Hot Springs.

After disembarking we set off on what appears to be a fairly decent dirt road and we soon arrive at the tiny and unbelievably remote immigration, customs and Police post. The formalities are quickly dealt with and we are on our way. It is a hilly and rocky terrain and after an hour or so Landy’s temperature gauge begins to rise. This is a first for her and, even though it is hot, it is nothing compared to what lies ahead of us. It’s winter for goodness sake! So, a little worried, we stop every now and again to allow her to cool down. During one of these breaks a friendly South African couple (annoyingly in a Toyota) offer to follow us to the campsite to make sure we arrive safely. We gladly accept and take our time for the rest of the journey feeling a little happier.

The landscape surrounding us is flat and rocky with very little in the way of vegetation. During our frequent stops we step out and gaze around us, glad that we brought lots of water, fuel and food because if you do have car problems here you could wait a long time for assistance.

In Ai Ais National Park, Nambia, a cooling down stop.
In Ai Ais National Park, a cooling down stop.

A busy campsite

We arrive, relieved, to find the kind of resort we don’t usually stay in but today we are pleased to have shade, showers, a bar, shop and swimming pool. There are also plenty of fellow campers and travellers to swap information and stories with. Particularly interesting to talk to are the fit (and slightly bonkers) people who have done the four or five day hike along the canyon, carrying all their own equipment, including drinking water. We decide to give this a miss; maybe another time?

If you feel inspired go to:

Keith adopts the common, bonnet up, position for Landy and soon finds the problem. A small water leak is causing the overheating and he soon has it fixed.  We can now relax and take advantage of the facilities here. A short walk to stretch our legs (with a too close for comfort snake encounter) and then we head to the swimming pool for a lovely warm dip. The hot springs, however, are not for dipping your toes in; they are are a constant 65 degrees. (Ai Ais means burning water in the local language.)

Ai Ais Namibia Campsite
Snake on the path in the campsite at Ai AIs Hot Springs

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Serious off roading in Richtersveld

The Route to Richtersveld.

22 May. We decide to take the dirt road over Hellskloof Pass to the Richtersveld National Park, which forms the South African part of the trans-frontier park with Namibia, known as Ai Ais / Richtersveld National Park. This area is South Africa’s remotest park (and its only desert biome), and is accessible only with a 4×4, but the the harsh mountainous desert, studded with quiver trees and home to some seriously hardy creatures is well worth the challenging drive. It also has its own quaint little ferry and border crossing at Sendelingsdrift, to take you across to the Namibian side of the park and on to Fish River Canyon.

We discover that this road is serious off roading territory. A lot of it is either along rocky dry river beds, or running alongside them, and we wind and bump our way along the valleys, with towering rocks all around us. There are plenty of challenging parts which test the Landy and our driving skills but, of course, there are no real problems when driving a Landrover and we relax and enjoy the experience, stopping occasionally just to get out and stand in the silence, miles from other humans and we feel very small and insignificant.

On our way to Hellskloof Pass and Richtersveld
On our way to Hellskloof Pass and Richtersveld

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