Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Travel in Africa

We've travelled a lot in the United States. You cross the border and note in your mind that you are now in a different state. It was more important when Henry and I were entering states for the first time.

In Africa there are many countries-each wanting control its own border. At Kazungula four countries meet on the river - Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia. Over the last four days we have had gone through 8 immigration stations. On Saturday the 15th we flew to Livingstone where our driver met us. We drove around an hour to get to the Zambezi River. Our driver led us into the immigration office - our departure forms were already filled out - all we had to do was sign them and fill in our passport number. We waited for our small passenger ferry boat to arrive. We then loaded our baggage and were boated over to the immigration area in Botswana.

At Kazungula, there is a major ferry for large trucks. However, there are only two boats that can hold one large truck and a few small cars as well as walk on people. Needless to say the trucks back up. There are also lots of people crossing the border here. They all seem to have big carry sacks - sometimes plastic sometimes materia, usually with handles for easy carrying. When entering Botswana, you go through the immigration office, then you must step in a wet cloth to disinfect the bottom of your shoes. I'm sure it must be effective or they would not make you do it, but I can't help but wonder - we just get back in the car we were in - seems like the germs would still be on the floor board where our feet rested before. Henry seemed to think it was to prevent the spread of hoof and mouth disease - certainly an important endeavor.

The next two nights were spent at Chobe Game Lodge. About 10 minutes up the river by boat is Chobe Savannah Lodge - both owned by the same company. However, when it was time to transfer, one loads up one's baggage and drives to still another river crossing. Once again you enter a small building, fill out a departure form, and an official looks it over and goes STAMP STAMP on your passport and on the form and initials both. Our belongings have been loaded on a still smaller boat and off we go. There were two boat loads of passengers making this move.

We reach a spot on the opposite shore. The boatman points up a hillside and says we need to go up there. Mind you, there is NO building in sight. Here we are, eight people trudging up the hill, having no idea where we are going - hoping our baggage is safe back at the boat. Finally we see a small building, yes, it IS a customs building - looks like it is also part of the Impala Conservancy. It was interesting to note the posters on the walls. On one side were beautiful posters with photos of the animals - elephants, giraffes, impalas, etc. On the other wall were two photos with what looked like unexploded ordinances - with instructions in German(? ) - don't touch, notify the authorities! We have our forms stamped, our passport stamped and back down the hill to the boats. Nearby is a wonderful stork rookery. I've only put the 28-105 lens on the camera but that was close enough to get some fairly decent stork nesting photos.

About 30 minutes later we arrive at Savannah Lodge for two great nights.

Today we left Savannah Lodge. Anja had filled out most of the Namibian and Botswana forms for us. We went to still another different immigration station - up a very deep sandy hill - I felt I was back in the sand dunes as my feet sunk down in the deep sand. Soon we were stamped out of Namibia and on our way again. Once again there were other people waiting for the boat - this time with buckets and basins of dried fish - complete with flies. Back into the boat and off we go again . . . this time I recognize the Botswana station - we've been to this one before - on our way to the Savannah lodge. One of our other new friends said I must be sure to look at the poster on the right hand wall. (We had discussed with them the posters of the animals and landmines) Gentleman in his living room watching TV - thinking about a girl and sex - with the strong recommendation that masturbating was a good thing (and if you are trying to combat HIV . . . ) Our baggage was transferred to a safari vehicle and driven to the next Botswana immigration station to check out of Botswana. We'd been to this one when we FIRST entered Botswana. We did not have to touch our shoes this time going out. Back onto the small boat ferry - we are greeted by the Wild Horizon transport people and we are loaded onto a small bus this time. We wait a little bit for another couple of passengers. Our driver takes our passports and checks us back into Zambia. He calls to check if we have a Visa waiver from our guest house - we didn't, but then again, we'd already paid the $100 visa fee - so we can come into Zambia for three years without having to pay it again.

Whew! I was smart enough to bring water . . . I drank most of it along the way!

We'll be in Zambia almost two weeks - so we won't have to go through immigration for awhile.

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