12 days, 5,453 km, 4 countries, 2 tents, and another VW: Part One

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I’d been back in Windhoek barely an hour after my week exploring some of the highlights of Namibia when the next part of my Southern Africa trip began. I was chatting to the people in my dorm when I met Céline, a girl from Belgium who was travelling alone and happened to have a rental car. As we talked it appeared we had similar plans and she asked if I’d like to join her.

I never book anything too far ahead when I travel because I like the flexibility. That gave the chance to travel with Céline. The only slight glitch was she was headed north to Etosha National Park and I’d just returned from there. We decided to meet up in a few days, which unfortunately left me stuck in Windhoek longer than planned. Windhoek is like the African version of Auckland. There’s not a lot to do.

Leaving Windhoek meant another trip in one of the long distance taxis. However, in order to avoid the chaos of the usual taxi place I was taken to an alternative site right in the middle of the Katutura township. It then took another 3 hours just to leave the city – I was starting to think I’d never get out.

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My view of the Katutura township from the minibus as I waited to get out of Windhoek

The day after I met up with Céline and another girl, Louise from Paris. Our first stop was Waterberg Plateau. One of the few places I still hadn’t visited in Namibia. We were camping for the night, which luckily I was prepared for. Kind of. Before I left Windhoek I bought a cheap tent and camping mat. I skipped on the sleeping bag as it meant more to carry, plus I didn’t really use one when I’d camped previously in Namibia. Turns out that wasn’t as well thought out as I’d hoped.

Waterberg Plateau was amazing. Stunning views and after the last few days spent in cities it was nice to get out into nature again. The night wasn’t so good, even with the blanket I’d borrowed from Céline it was pretty cold. I could also hear baboons constantly fighting nearby. Earlier whilst sat around the campsite pool, with its own deer pool attendant, we discussed our plan and what the three of us wanted to see. Victoria Falls was the main one and as Louise had to be back in Windhoek in just over a week we made a vague plan.

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Waterberg Plateau in Namibia has some incredible views

The next day involved driving. A lot of it. This was to become a feature of the next 10 days as both girls wanted to get as much in before they had to leave. For today our target was Rundu in the north, half thinking that we wouldn’t get that far in one day. However, we arrived mid-afternoon before locating a campsite for the night. This was my first taste of driving in Africa. The roads are long, straight and it’s difficult to keep your concentration at times. As we got closer to Rundu we passed through countless villages, all with the same basic houses, fruit stalls, schools and animals.

Rundu is situated on the border and from our campsite we watched the sunset across the river in Angola. I would have been tempted to swim across but for the warnings about hippos and crocodiles.

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From Namibia we were so close to Angola. Another typically stunning African sunset ending a first day on the road.

The next day of driving was across the Caprivi strip to Botswana. This area of Namibia is so different to what I’d seen already. Everything was so green and flat. We stopped for lunch in a small village. Enjoying fruit and sandwiches as we sat on the floor amongst the locals who looked a little confused by the tourists. We didn’t have too long to sit around however as we only had until 6pm before the border at Ngoma closed. We made it with time to spare and entered Botswana late afternoon. The fourth country we’d seen that day after Namibia, Angola and Zambia (the last two spotted just across the river as we drove).

There’s something exciting about crossing into a new country, especially by land, and the border between Namibia and Botswana is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen. It was so green and full of wildlife, including a small herd of elephants drinking by a river between the two countries. We passed through customs surprisingly easily, despite hearing about many potential problems, and entered Botswana directly into Chobe National Park, greeted by buffalo, elephants and more.

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Just across the border from Namibia. Fortunately the Botswana welcoming committee weren’t too strict

Unfortunately we got a little carried away and didn’t see the police with their speed gun. Céline was driving and the police officer ‘calculated’ the fine she had to pay. But as we’d literally just entered the country we had nothing of the local currency. Although we did ‘promise’ to pay later.

We drove to the nearby town of Kasane and spent three nights there. Including a day trip to Zimbabwe to visit Victoria Falls. We then headed south to the magnificent Elephant Sands before turning westward to reach Maun and the Okavango Delta.

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Not only were we sat on the ground to cook pasta, but we had to borrow the gas to do it

End of part one…

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