Up a Caprivi without a paddle

Trip Start Nov 10, 2010
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Trip End Nov 26, 2010


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Where I stayed

Flag of Namibia  ,
Saturday, November 20, 2010

After calling last night to find out my pickup time for this morning (9:00am), I pack, read a bit and sleep soundly until almost 6:00. Breakfast at The Kingdom is lavish...a buffet which is the same as are lunch and dinner. All meals cost $22.00 U.S. not including your beverage. Service is on African Time so making it a buffet is wise.

I check out after breakfast and there is a problem. To be able to sign for anything on your room, the hotel insists on, first, charging your Visa card—don't bother to offer anything else because they don’t take it—and letting you consume food, beverage, laundry, internet or whatever until you use up that $100 and then you go and let them charge more. Well, I only spent $79.00 U.S. They don’t really know how to run a $21.00 credit and they won’t give me cash so we have to go through three layers of management to figure out what to do. We finally work it out. The moral: pay cash and don’t use a credit card.

I am picked up promptly and driven back to the Botswana border—about an hour away—using the very same road I traveled yesterday. Clearing immigration is the same...out of Zimbabwe and into Botswana. Then, a new driver takes me to the river Botswana immigration point at Kasame. There, I check out of Botswana. I get into a fourteen foot outboard speedboat with my next "driver" who is Calvin from the Impalila Lodge. We motor for ten minutes or so down the Zambezi river to the Namibian immigration point at Impalila. There, while Calvin watches your luggage in the boat, you walk a hundred yards or so into the bush and turn right to get to Namibian immigration. Again, there are forms and much stamping. Then, walk back to the boat and it is another thirty minutes or so up the Chobe River to the Kasai Channel to Kamavozu Channel, the site of the Lodge.

I am greeted by Ben and Zulu. Zulu shows the around. I meet “Toff” who is the proprietor but he is off by speedboat to somewhere or other. I’ll get to know him better later, I suppose.

Now, I am in Africa. No more big hotels. No more televisions in the room. Actually, no more rooms. I am in a thatched roof hut of sorts (No. 3), built on stilts, just above the Kamavozu rapids which provide a constant background noise that we can only obtain by buying a programmable noise machine back home. Two sliding screen doors and a mosquito net will protect me in the night as I lie in my kingsized bed which overlooks the rapids which I won’t be able to see (they don’t call it “darkest Africa” for nothing). Oh, there is also (mostly) no more electricity. The have a generator and they run it from six to nine in the morning, twelve to two in the afternoon and six to nine in the evening. Otherwise, there is no power.

When the generator is on, there is wireless internet. Can you believe it? I just logged on to see how it works. My old AOL dial-up of about ten years ago was faster. There may be no photos with my dispatches from here. We’ll have to see.

On the way up the Kasai Channel we spot crocodile and hippo along with countless species of birds, the largest of which was a Goliath Crane. Your guess about how big it is would be correct. We also see cattle along one bank. I ask Calvin about cattle and crocodile and he says that when they drink the owners must provide close supervision. I suppose so.

There are some “tourist” fishermen and “native” fishermen along the route. When I arrive at the Lodge, I am the only non-fisherman in residence. The other five guests are after big fish, which I am sure I will learn more about over dinner.

For now, I write this as Zulu tells me I can have lunch whenever I wish...it is one o’clock. There is a thunderhead in the distance and the rumbling of an impending storm coming from somewhere...I don’t know north, south, east or west just yet. You can find me on a map if you look for the only place in the world where four countries share a border at the same spot (much like the four corners in the United States). Here, it is Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia.

I may just sit and read this afternoon. We shall see. I am going to shut down for a few hours now to conserve battery power in this laptop. Re-charging may be difficult...

After shutting the computer down with the earlier words just written safely saved, I opened my book. I decided that this afternoon would not be best occupied with "an activity." A lack of activity beckoned. I opened "Atlas Shrugged" and began to read. The distant rumbling of thunder was somehow perfect for the day. Soon, the skies darkened and lighting appeared on the horizon. A thing noted here: many if not most of the roofing material is thatch. There are no shingles or tiles; instead, roofs are made of perfectly thatched reeds. High above almost all of these stands a lightning rod. I can only speculate as I haven't asked but it seems to me that the rods are the defense against a catastrophic fire resultant from a bolt hitting a roof. The roof of #3 is thatch. There is no lighting rod.

The lighting is closer now and the sky has turned black. Now, what was foretold by the sky and announced by the thunder: torrential rain. It is beautiful. I'm in a spot not far from yesterday's dry and dusty roadway. I can only imagine what is happened there to tourists who are but a day's time behind me. Do the elephant sleep through this or do they answer the rumbling sky with their own unique low frequency base notes? Or, do they ignore it as they do our safari vehicles, too powerful to be bothered by it, a thing seen before countless times by the matriarch and perhaps never before by the newborns? This place is full of questions. Many of them best left unanswered, I'd say. Wondering is sometimes better than knowing.

Me? I gaze out my windows at the rapids listening to the rain and the thunder, my book set aside. A better story is outside my window than between its pages. Life is good in the rain. I wish you were here.
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