Day 5. Wed 21st April

Planet Baobab.

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 ferry.
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 Zimbabwe.
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.
Foot passangers onto ferry at KazangulaSugar cane sellers Kazangula
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 of living.
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 like swamp.
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 Bar at Planet BaobabKen's Hut at Planet Baobab
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.
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