Monday, May 2, 2011

The Caprivi

Daryll writes:

Since leaving home, now 8 months ago, we’ve always traveled on our own, so being in a group of 3 other riders is all new to us.  Each one of us has our own rhythm, but we seem to blend with each other.  We normally plan a few days ahead of where we want to be and what we want to see, set a start time for the mornings and normally stop along the way a few times for breaks so that all riders can catch up.  Pat is always up ahead while Ang and I or Dom and Tom follow at our own pace, so Pat & Chris end up being really patient and waiting for all of us.

More and more of the campgrounds that we are finding now are of the rustic kind as compared to the ones we stayed in while in South Africa and Namibia and they tend to be near rivers with lots of warning signs.  The funny thing about these warning signs though is that people tend to just ignore them and camp right next to the sign.  We have been guilty a few times as well. 

Not sure where to camp
While in Swakopmund, we started taking our Malaria pills as the mosquitoes are starting to get really bad in the evenings.  We haven’t noticed any side effects yet, so hope that we can stay on them without any side effects later after a few weeks on them.  After leaving Swakopmund and entering into northern Namibia, we were concerned about the conditions of the roads as the northern parts of Namibia had received record amounts of rain over the last few weeks.  The rains just seem to follow us regardless of which continent we are on.  We stopped to talk to several overland travelers and they confirmed that the roads we were planning to take were passable, so we headed for the Caprivi Strip.  200km of highway runs through the Caprivi National Park, one of the few parks that we can actually ride our motorcycles through and heard that we could spot wildlife as we traveled through the park. We were all excited and planned our route so that we hit the Caprivi early in the morning when it was cooler, so the chances of seeing wildlife were greater.  The speed limit through the park was 80km/hr, however we sat on about 60km/hr for most of the 200km and peered left and right as we rode to get a glimpse of an elephant or possibly a lion.  To our disappointment though, the only elephants we saw were on the road signs warning us of elephant crossings, so when we got to the end, we were tired and grumpy.  The one consolation though were the children from the small villages located in the park.  I was surprised as well.  The children would hear the roar of the engines and come running out of their kraals with waving hands and the broadest smiles I’ve seen and their white teeth glisten in the sun against their dark skin.  Most kids would wave as we passed through their villages but we did encounter a few that held their hand out as to beg. 

Local kids keeping an eye on us
The Caprivi Strip was a big disappointment for us, so we decided that we would continue to the next town (Katima Molelio), even though it was a border town with Zambia and Botswana and cross early the next morning into Zambia to see Victoria Falls.  At our last rest stop before heading to the border town, I started up a conversation with a few locals who had suggested that we rather stay in their little town vs. going up ahead as many of the campgrounds along the Zambezi were flooded.  Dan, who conveniently owned a campground and ran river safaris offered us a good price and suggested that we would be the only ones on his property for the evening, so we followed him to his piece of land.  We followed Dan in his bakkie (4x4), while his friend Lisa followed us at the back in her bakkie.  I later learnt that Lisa was studying Hyena behavior patterns in the Caprivi and lived on a piece of land next to Dan.  We followed Dan for about 12km down a dirt road and then we turned off, thinking that we were there, but we had another 2km of sand, our favorite riding conditions.  Again, our hosts were patient with us and it took a while for all of us to finally get to his place.

Photo courtesy of Dom Giles

Dan, an Englishman came to Namibia to do a tracking course 4 years ago and decided to stay and now leases some land for his campground that he runs in partnership with the local community and does his own river safaris.  Prior to us getting there, he did mention that he had a group of orphaned children there the night prior, but they were packing up and would be gone that evening.  The children were from an orphanage from Katima Molelio whose parents had died from HIV Aids.  It is estimated that 51% of the population of Katima has HIV.  The kids were out when we arrived, so we ended up having a nice cup of tea in the mean time, before we could set up our tents.  A few minutes later, the children arrived and were all curious when they saw us and the bikes.  I can’t imagine their hardships, but they seemed so happy to be there.  Dan had taken them out on a river safari earlier that day and he said that’s his way of giving back to the community.

Children from the orphanage
Dan also managed to convince us to go out on his boat for the afternoon/evening which was a magical experience.  We were on the Okovango River that flowed into the Okovango Delta and with the rain, the river was higher than normal.  As Dan maneuvered his boat through the papyrus reeds, we came across our first group of hippos as they waddled in the water.  We kept our distance as hippos are extremely unpredictable and do not mock charge like elephants or lions but attack voraciously.  It is estimated that hippos are the cause of death of more humans than any other animal in Africa.

As we ventured deeper through the waterways of the Caprivi, we came up close and personal with a male elephant.  I’ve seen elephants before, but being in a boat and watching them from the water’s edge gives a different perspective of game viewing. 

Young male elephant
We didn’t see too much more that evening, but Dan was extremely helpful and gave us a ton of suggestions of where we should go and places to stay.  We caught another brilliant sunset as we made our way back to camp while he had his staff get the hot water heated by a wood fire for our showers and had the dinner table laid out with a nice warm fire going as well.  He had to go out that evening, so we stayed up sitting around a fire into the night whilst listening to hippos in the distance.  Dan did warn us though that elephants usually wander through camp in the evenings and early mornings and if we do stumble upon these giants, give them the space they need and back away.  We heard hippos and elephants all night, but didn’t catch a glimpse of any.  If you ever in the Caprivi Strip, look Dan up as he has a wonderful camp, runs amazing river safaris and is really passionate about what he does and it was a pleasure meeting and spending some time with him. 

Sunset over the Caprivi

New photos added to the Namibia photo album.
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  1. Greg writes... OMG it's been 8 months! wow! those pictures are fantastic. ride safe and tent safe! LOL.. greg and Jill

  2. More to come over the next few days.