Having had a magic sunset-lit dinner the night before, followed by a good night’s sleep and a great breakfast at Gloria’s in Livingstone, we hit the road early, towards the Kazangula border post and the Zambezi River crossing.
This border (certainly on the Zambian side, when leaving) requires quite a bit of preparation (have every conceivable personal and vehicle document with you, as well as extra copies), taking a deep breath before you launch yourself through the various unnecessary “helpers”, and then a bit of patience with the bureaucracy. You’ve got to do the usual immigration procedures, also the temporary vehicle export procedures (requiring an up-to-date Interpol report that your chariot is not a stolen one, along with registration documents, etc.) and then you need to pay for the ferry and the “Community Fee” for the Kazungula Community. I must say, however, I’ve now done this a couple of times, and if you have patience, have all your documents, and if you’re polite, the service from the Zambian officers is also polite and efficient.
With that done, we drove onto the concrete loading ramp and waited for the right ferry. (Past experience had taught me that one needs to use the Zambian ferry when leaving and the Botswana ferry when returning. I am not sure how that works, because I never see any ferries crossing empty, but there must be something I don’t understand.) The ferries are loaded more or less carefully to keep the load balanced, especially since there are usually large trucks involved.
The diesel-powered ferries chug across the rather wide spread of the Zambezi at a leisurely rate, more or less level.
There are many horror stories about capsized ferries and drowned trucks, crocodiles eating the passengers, etc., but I’ve never seen any real evidence of that – no wrecks visible, no bloody drag marks into the bush, etc. Not even a single crocodile watching the ferries with anticipation.
The arrival procedures on the Botswana side of the river were (as usual) quite efficient and quick. Once again friendly officers assisting with immigration and temporary vehicle import and to receive the road tax payment which also covers the obligatory insurance.
After that, having driven through a shallow trough and having stamped our feet on a wet blanket to prevent the spread of foot-and-mouth disease, we drove into the dusty but bustling town of Kasane, just a few kilometres away and on the edge of the Chobe National Park. Here we topped up with petrol and bought supplies to sustain ourselves through the days ahead. The town is quite busy, so once we’d done what we had to, we hit the road in the direction of Francistown. This good road passes through a forest reserve and more or less hugs the border with Zimbabwe, on the north-eastern side of Botswana. We had reserved space at the Panda Rest Camp, keen to experience our first night of camping. The reception here was very friendly and the place, on the outskirts of the not-so-bustling Pandamatenga, was quiet, with few other visitors.
As a result, there was really too much choice for the location of our vehicle and tents. This would also be the first night for camping out together and we were not yet sure how near or how far apart we wanted to be to each other. It would of course be nice to be close together, very cosy, but we understood that W snores very loudly, so some social distancing was probably required… This would at least shield Marina and me, and A should be very much used to it by now. There was also the need to be on level ground, not near any obvious ant nests, etc. After some deliberation, we agreed on the best possible location for our Prado+rooftent combo and for the ground tent, and got settled in.
This is a good opportunity to say something about the rooftop tent. We’d ordered a model that is now called the Hardshell Plus, a so-called “quick-pitch” tent that opens very easily with the help of gas-filled pistons. This “Plus” version also has a roof that folds open a second time, to provide more space inside, and gauze windows all around. The tent was built by Custom Leisure Tech in Pretoria, South Africa, where we’d had great service from Paul Lydes-Uings in selecting the model we wanted, and getting it delivered to friends in Pretoria, who arranged the delivery to Zambia. Erecting and collapsing the tent is a doddle and takes less than a minute. We’d chosen for this somewhat heavier and more expensive type of tent compared to others that are on the market, since we feel we’ve earned a bit of comfort after all this time.
Before too long, both tents were erected and we all were enjoying the sounds of the bush (some animals roaring in the distance) and a great braai.