We now find ourselves in Lusaka, Zambia, the capitol. We're doing a quick internet and grocery shopping stop before heading on to our campsite. But, let me back up a bit. Since our last update from Swakopmund, Namibia we've covered a lot of ground and had some climate changes. After a little more than a week in the scorching, dry desert heat of the Namib Desert we ventured further inland, crossed the savannah and found ourselves in the tropics. The Caprivi Strip is a thin arm of Namibia that stretches between Botswana (to the south) and Angola (to the north) and reaches all the way to the border of Zambia and almost to Zimbabwe. We felt like we had traveled from the Sahara Desert and ended up in Costa Rica.
The highlands of Angola has experienced record amounts of rain in Feb and March, promising much more in April when the rainy season actually starts. The result of all this rainis a tremendous amount of flooding in Namibia and Botswana. From the Angola Highlands the Okavango River runs east, inland, and south towards Namibia. It makes up the border between Angola and Namibia along a portion of the Caprivi Strip. We spent two nights camping on the river on the Namibian side. The two camps we went to are usually accessible by dirt road, but all the flooding made access a little bit tricky. We met up with another overland truck trying to get to the more remote camp with us. We finally had to give up getting to it by road after the other truck got stuck in the deep sand 4 times! It looked like we were the attraction of the day. All the local people came out to watch the spectacle of two truckloads of white people pushing their truck out of the sand only to get it stuck again, and again, and again. We got to see the sand ladders in action--two long pieces of metal grating to put behind each rear wheel to give the truck some traction to get out of the sand. They are amazingly effective. We were able to get the trucks in to the closer camp and set up our tents along the river. We were warned not to set them up too close to the river as the crocodiles and hippos sometimes come ashore there. Fortunately, we didn't see either at the camp.
The next day we went visited a local school that is partially supported by the two camps. The kids are taught in the local language until 4th grade and then everything is taught in English. So, the younger classes just sang a few songs for us. We were able to spend a little more time with the older kids and talk to them about what they are studying, where we are from, what they like to do, etc. They get quite a few foreign visitors from the camps, but they were still very curious about what we were doing. It was fun to have the opportunity to talk to people. Most of our trip to that point was passing through barren desert with very few people. We've definitely seen a huge change in that now that we are in Zambia...but more on that later.
We were able to get to the more remote camp by boat for our second night on the Okavango River. We left our truck parked at the first camp and piled into a little motor boat and cruised up the river to the camp. We arrived just in time to put our packs in the little huts they let us stay in before the heavens opened up and, in true tropical form, dropped bucket loads of rain on us. Our first rain of our trip. The camp had a great covered, open-air bar/eating area so we enjoyed the storm in relative dryness. It was beautiful.
Staying in camps throughout Namibia, Botswana, and now Zambia, we're getting used to African camps. So far they have been really nice, clean camps with showers (usually with hot water) and flush toilets and usually a nice swimming pool. The pools are really key in the heat. A quick, refreshing dip in the afternoon helps to keep us going. We often build a fire in the firepit to grill or cook dinner and sit around the coals after dinner listening to Snow strum a few songs for us on his travel guitar. And all the camps have camp dogs. Usually they are pretty big dogs, sometimes with a little dog as a sidekick--always amusing. They are very clearly there for security and most of them are very good at the security thing--lots of loud barking when they think something is amiss. But, most of the dogs are also very sweet and very used to getting lots of attention from visitors. They can pick out the dog-lovers immediately and follow a few of us everywhere. There was a family of boerbulls (a mama, a daddy, and their son which was bigger than both his parents) that protected the remote camp we stayed at on the Okvango River. They followed us into our hut and made themselves very comfortable on our beds. They were so cute, it was hard to get mad at them. Our first night in Zambia the camp dogs slept right outside our tents pressed up against our bodies. We felt well protected.
Our last night in Botswana before heading into Zimbabwe to Victoria Falls we were camping right outside Chobe National Park which is on the Chobe river, also at record flood levels. The camp where we stayed was 3/4 covered with water. It definitely limited our camping options. Apparently a hippo wandered into the campsite in the middle of the night. James, the very old, seemingly lethargic camp dog sprang into action and protected us all. Actually, I'm not sure he really protected us, but he did bark a lot and the hippo never got close to our tent. Ahh, the excitement of camping in Africa.
For those of you who are following our trip on a map, here's our route since leaving Swakopmund, Namibia. We headed a little bit north up the coast to Henties Bay, then inland to Spitzkoppe. Then headed north and little bit east passing through Otijiwarongo, then went northwest up through Outijo up to the south park entrance for Etosha National Park. We went east through the park exiting from the eastern gate. We went a little south through Tsumeb to Grootfontein, then headed north to the Caprivi Strip. The camps on the Okvango River, on the border with Angola are near Rundu. From Rundu we passed through Katere and Bagani and crossed into Botswana to go to the Okvango Delta. We parked the truck at Etsha (just north of Gumare) while we were in the Delta (see Snow's update for our adventures in the Delta). After the Delta we went back to Namibia the same way we came out and spent the night in a camp near Kongola. We made a quick stop in Katima Mulilo (east of Kongola) before heading south to go back into Botswana at Ngoma Bridge. Our night on the Chobe River was right outside Kasane, about 15 kilometers from the Zimbabwe border. Then we crossed into Zimbabwe at Victoria Falls, where we ended our first overland trip. In 3 weeks we drove 4835 kilometers from Cape Town to Vic Falls.
We said good-bye to our first group and Nomad Expeditions. In Vic Falls we met up with Phoenix Expeditions (a British overland company) and met our new group. There are only 6 of us, again, in a huge overland truck built to carry 25 passengers. A couple from New Zealand, and two Australian women. All four were living in England prior to this trip. One of the Aussie's is on her way back to Australia. We'll have more on this group and this new leg of our trip in a week or so.
We love all the emails from everyone! Thanks so much! The internet connections have been painfully slow, so we apologize for not being able to write back personally to everyone.
That's all for now...
Ciao from Zambia!