Tuesday, July 27, 2015
On our walk from our room to the hotel breakfast this morning we saw a herd of zebras, baboons scampering from branch to branch and two giraffes munching on treetops. This was a great start to a safari day.
We left for the hour-long drive to Botswana, riding in a modern shuttle bus with two honeymooners from Italy. The road was recently paved, smooth and straight. Our guide told us that the contractor had narrowed the road, pocketing the extra money, making it difficult for cars to pass. The road was fairly busy and ran through a national park and some traditional villages.
After we dropped the newly weds at the small Livingston airstrip to catch their bush plane to northern Botswana, we headed to the banks of the Zambezi. Along the way we passed a line of 18-wheeler trucks, 40 or so, pulled off to the side of the road waiting their turn to cross the river on the ferry. The wait is three to six days. Truckers sleep on the ground and cook food using charcoal made by the local villagers, sold along the road for $3 for about a bushel. There are a few food stands, a bar, and a picnic table or two. The World Bank has funded 50% of the cost to build a bridge, with the remaining paid equally by Zambia and Botswana. It is supposed to take five years to build, but the only sign we saw of progress was a lot of land being cleared for new housing for the future bridge-builders. I think they’re coming from Korea.
Fortunately we did not have to wait to use the ferry; the seven of us climbed on a small motor boat. We arranged ourselves in the plastic chairs bolted to the bottom of the ….(sorry, I can’t move the picture to the right place!)
boat in staggered rows of three, (two chairs on one side and one chair on the other, alternating rows) to balance the load evenly, then pushed off. No life vests, no safety talk, just the smell of diesel fuel and the put-put noise of the motor. A local man in a dug out log canoe docked as we left. I guess the river is about 250 meters wide there, it’s 40′ deep, and flows smoothly. Fortunately we made it safely.
Crossing the river meant we crossed into Botswana. We had to get our passports stamped in a small government building. Blue-uniformed workers with elaborate shiny gold badges looked at computer screens while the fluorescent light bulbs in bare fixtures flickered and buzzed on and off overhead. They stamped our passports with barely a second glance. We had to step into disinfectant against hoof and mouth disease, then climbed onto a Toyota Land Cruiser, and were on our way.