Wildlife on the Chobe River

Day 94, Stage 71, 85km,

Start, Zambezi Waterfront, Livingstone

Finish, Thebe Rover Lodge, Kasane, Botswana

We had a relatively easy ride this morning of about 70 kilometres to the Botswana border. We crossed the border on the small ferry across the Chobe River that sits at the corner of four countries – Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. There is no bridge. That would take the agreement of too many people in too many countries. So all the trucks that want to go to Botswana from Zambia without passing through Zimbabwe or Namibia line up at this border crossing and wait to get onto a ferry that can take at most two big heavy goods vehicles but most often makes the crossing with only one.  A trucker can wait for two weeks. The line up tails back for many kilometres. On our bicycles, of course, we go straight to the head of the line and get onto the first ferry that docks.

We were in Kasane, where we camped for the night by noon.  Botswana is relatively empty with a few larger towns. Kasane, a dozen kilometres from the ferry, is one of these few towns. But Botswana has a small and relatively affluent population. There is a SPAR Supermarket and a KFC in Kasane. So before going to camp we went into town, bought SIM cards and stocked up on cold drinks and snacks. We are still in Africa but it doesn’t feel sop African anymore. In the Sudan when you want a coke it comes in a classic old coca cola bottle that has been used and refilled a dozen times. In Botswana you get you coke in a shiny new and disposable 440ml tin. In the Sudan the warm bottle of coke that came to you out of a clay pot filled with water; in Botswana it comes to you out of the cool drinks fridge covered in advertising in a 40,000 square foot SPAR supermarket. In the Sudan the coke costs you the equivalent of about 25 cents. In Botswana it costs a dollar or more. In the Sudan you might get a sweet or a biscuit for change if you don’t have the right money (which if you do have is filthy and falling apart). In Botswana they give you the exact change in shiny new coins.

We camped today on the Chobe River at a commercial campsite, with bar, toilettes, showers, tv. The campsite offered various safaris and tours. Several of us took a Chobe River Cruise.  We cruised up and then back down river for about three hours and reached the dock just after sunset. This was a very different cruise than the skin full of gin booze cruise at Livingstone. First, if you wanted a drink you had to bring your own. Second, they were serious about wildlife and a proper guide was on board. Bob and I brought what we thought were the right supplies – some popcorn and a 2 litre container of grapefruit juice. Darragh showed us the error of our ways. He had a bottle of Captain Morgan’s rum and a six pack of coke. We were happy to share our popcorn.

This was probably one of the best wildlife excursions I have ever had. Huge crocs, enormous numbers of elephants and hippos (including a recent kill on the banks of the river), impala and kudu, birds of every feather. This was all capped off by the most amazing sunset on the Chobe. Spectacular – and a fair price.

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