Day 5. Wed 21st April
We are up at 5:30 and on the road by six, as we hope to have time to visit
the Mkgadikgadi Pans this evening. But first we must cross the Zambezi
into Botswana. Looking at the map it appears that four countries, Zambia,
Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe, and two rivers, the Chobe and the Zambesi,
all meet at a single point at the tiny settlement of Kazungula. In fact
the border is between Zambia and Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe being a
few miles west and east respectively and crossing the Zambesi is done by
We arrive at Kazungula around 7:25. There is a huge queue of trucks
waiting for the ferry, but we go straight to the front - each trip takes
one large lorry and one or two small vehicles. There is only on ferry boat
running, the other apparently sank! Even this one was apparently out of
commission for a while and has only been running since Tuesday. Just as
well for us as the alternative is a journey of several hundred miles back
down river to the bridge at Chirundu, followed by all the problems of entering
The boat is just setting off as we arrive, but it does the round trip
in about twenty minutes so we do not have too long to wait. Unfortunately
the load before us contained two coaches full of people, so when we reach
the other side there is an enormous queue at customs and immigration. There
is a huge problem with foot and mouth in this area and no meat-based food
products can be transported - we will not be able to stock up with fresh
meat until Ghansi. Luckily the customs officials do not make us unpack
everything, and once we reach the head of the queue, and immigration have
managed to find a stamp-sized gap in Ken's passport, we can paddle through
the disinfectant trough and get on our way.
Like most countries "south of the Zambesi" Botswana is relatively rich,
its primary source of income being minerals, in particular diamonds. Prices
are significantly higher here than in Zambia, but so is the general standard
We stop off at Kasane to buy Pula, the currency of Botswana, and food.
We are getting into the pans now and after the heavy rains the ground is
We have not booked accomodation for tonight. Ken wants to try a new
place just outside Gweta called Planet Baobab. We arrive around four and
are greeted by the Manageress, a South African called Amanda with an incredibly
throaty voice (probably due to the amount she smokes), and she and Ken
are soon gabbling away in Africaans. She tells us that with the ground
so wet it is impossible to visit the Mghadighadi pans today as it will
take at least 5 hours to get in and out - that's assuming we don't get
stuck completely, so we grab a couple of beers and take a walk into the
bush and have sundowners amongst the frogs and listen to the jackals crying.
The lodge is very tastefully set up, with a thatched roof, a lovely
bar with pictures of Africa on the walls and chandeliers made of Ansell's
lager bottles. It is twice the price that Ken has budgeted for, but he
stands the cost. The "mud hut" chalets are basic but comfortable, set well
away from the main building. As tour guide, Ken stays for free, but gets
a grass hut, which is very basic, with a mud floor, hammock bed, and no
windows or "en suite". They want to charge a supplement for singles, so
Blondie and I throw propriety to the winds and bunk in together.
After a shower we sit around the open fire until supper. Amanda has
recommended curry, and what Amanda recommends is what you get! She also
recommends her special home-made apple pie. This is a strange concoction
with no pastry and a very odd flavour, which is explained when she tells
us that she made it with pears because she was out of apples.
The mosquitoes are out in force tonight, which is strange this close to
the desert. Ken says he has never seen it so green.
The bar doesn't stock Jack Daniels, so we get an early night.