Discovering the traveler in me

Dear friends of ours are currently doing a massive trip through Botswana (follow their adventures here: gazandleighbucketlistadventuresblog) and it just took me straight back to my own adventures. It’s a distance memory and it’s been a very long time since I’ve thought about those adventures and even looked through all the pictures. It inspired me to rekindle those memories and look back on the awesome adventures I got to experience. I look forward to swopping our stories over some delicious wine when they return.

Some of you might not know this but I lived in Zambia for two years. It was quite a spur of the moment decision and seeing as I was still young when presented with the opportunity, I figured I had nothing to lose. Packed my bags and a couple of months later I was in deep dark Africa. This was probably one of the best things I could’ve done for myself.

Everyone has this inclination to always go overseas. And why not. It’s so beautiful over there and the culture is just something everyone has to experience (not to mention the food! honeymoon still has me drooling over the deliciousness my taste buds got to enjoy). But I also believe that every person MUST make the effort to travel Africa, because the rest of Africa (well the countries I’ve experienced) is NOTHING like South Africa. Nothing.

Africa is full of quirkiness that’s on a whole ‘nother level. I’m not talking Freedom Cafe quirkiness, but general every day quirkiness. One saying, that I absolutely loved, was whenever there was a car accident, they would describe it as: the one bumper kissed the other bumper. I mean some were like R-rated make out sessions looking at the state of the car, if you know what I mean, but they had such a positive outlook on most things. During my stay in Zambia I got to travel quite a bit, which is the main purpose of this post.

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one way of making a fire

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hope you got good eyes

I stayed in the capital city, Lusaka. I believe it has changed quite a significant amount since I’ve been there. Shopping centres have upgraded to double stories, which meant they got escalators. This led to school field trips to the shopping mall, just to get to experience an escalator. Life is simple in Zambia. That’s what I loved most about it.

Initially I flew to Zambia and eventually flew back home to drive back our Land Rover, so that we have transportation. Well, better transportation. Most cars there I’ve never heard of and let’s just say, we didn’t exactly splash out on the car we bought for the company.

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So, first road trip was through Botswana. We set off early and stayed over in a little town called Zeerust, just before the border.(800 km distance) I will most highly recommend to NEVER stay in this town. It’s not nice. Let’s leave it at that. With a quick hop skip and jump we crossed the border and spent the night in Gaborone to visit a friend. Distance wise you totally don’t have to stay in Gaborone if you’ve stayed somewhere near the border as it’s about 20 mins from the border.

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From Gaborone we ventured straight up north through Francistown and spent our first night a tiny little place called Nata (600 km in distance). We just stayed for one night but thoroughly enjoyed this place. A couple of months after we stayed there it completely burnt down due to a run away veld fire but am happy to report that they have rebuild it since. Curious to see what it looks like now.

nata lodge

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keep an eye on your shoes.

The further north you are in Botswana the much more wild it becomes as there are no fences. So you can most definitely expect to see plenty of these buggers on your long drive:

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this is NOT the kruger national park people.

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massive ground hornbill

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oh just a couple of sable on the side of the road.

If you’re not busy dodging wildlife on the roads, you busy dodging shocking bad road conditions:

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we were better off driving OFF the road

We then headed to Elephant Sands, which was actually an impromptu stay over as we didn’t plan on staying here but I’m really glad we did. (55 km in distance) We got ridiculously close to Africa’s biggest land animal, in fact, we had to ditch the tent and sleep inside the car. That might also have been due to the lions just on the border of the ‘camp site’. oh and did I mention that it was baby season, so every kind of bug, animal, bird, you name it, had babies. There were, however, some really drunk American tourists mucking about at 3 in morning trying to get himself back to his tent. We figured that’s safe bait for the lions. Because it was at this same point, that we had to try and get ourselves from the rooftop tent, inside the land rover, without getting eaten by lions, who were now uncomfortably close to our camp site.

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view from the fire pit

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really big ellie footprints, making it’s way right through our camp site.

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the little ones were very playful

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Next stop was the big bad Chobe national park (280 km in distance). What a magnificent park. This is wild Africa, in it’s purest form. You don’t get national parks like that anywhere in South Africa. There are no ablutions (at least not when I was there), the roads there were more of a guideline of where to drive. It was intimidating, raw, scary but breath taking all at the same time. We stayed in the campsite called Ihaha, which I believe has changed quite a bit since we were there. It was still new and under developed but I believe is a lot more tourist friendly these day. We were literally the only people staying at this camp which is quite scary really. There are no office staff etc. You are literally on your own. But as I say, this was many years ago, I’m sure some changes have been made.

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our humble home. the tent’s just for show. we slept inside the car. again.

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tiny baby elephant

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not so tiny elephant

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they see me rollin

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beautiful letchwe sighting

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we got charged quite a few times by elephants. lucky for us this was just a tiny mock charge

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Chobe stole a little piece of my heart. Although we had quite enough of aggressive elephants, making it quite clear they don’t want us around, and me fearing for my life every 5 minutes, I will happily return. In fact, now-husband and I are most definitely adding this to do our to-do list.

Next up was the Vic Falls (233 km in distance). I actually went there twice and it’s just a sighting you will never get tired of. What I loved about this place was that there were no restrictions. No fences and banisters and no-entry signs to keep you from experiencing this rumbling power. Which, when you think about it, is actually quite hectic. Our second trip through Africa we went to Namibia. This time round, my brother and dad joined us. I’ve mixed the pics up a bit, adding from both trips.

 

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you can see the spray from the falls from quite far away

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jip, that’s the edge right there

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scariest bridge to cross EVER

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Vic falls is situated in a town called Livingstone, and features in both Zambia and Zimbabwe. We didn’t cross over to the Zimbabwean side, although I believe the view is quite spectacular regardless of which side you are on. Livingstone is a very nice little town, slightly more up-market than Lusaka in my opinion. It’s very affordable to stay in tourist places like these if you are camping, and would definitely recommend it. We stayed at some amazing places which was only possible due to the camping option.

On our first trip, we headed back to Lusaka from Livingstone. There are no other places to stay between these towns and it’s about 6:30 hours drive. We did, however, take a little day trip to Zimbabwe a couple of months later. I didn’t enjoy it. Well, the scenery was beautiful and it was exciting to see, but the locals were very unfriendly. Almost threatening. It made me just want to get out of there. It was really sad actually. We didn’t go very far into Zimbabwe but what we saw was heart breaking. There no shops open because they had no supplies to stock the shops with. All the accommodation places have closed down. There was nothing. We eventually found a little place where we stopped and had lunch, but again, there was absolutely no one there. This was just our experience and I know Zimbabwe has a lot more to offer. You just have to find the right spot.

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lake Kariba

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On the next trip back home, we decided to explore Namibia a bit. My dad stayed there for a few years so it was nice to go and see him. On our way down, we stayed in the Caprivi Strip, where my dad and brother joined us (800 km in distance from Zambia, 1270 km from Namibia). This strip is squished between Botswana and Zambia, but still falls within Namibian borders. It’s quite close to the Vic falls, so we popped in there one of the days to show my dad and brother.

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We stayed in a place called Kalizo lodge, which has also had quite a few upgrades done since we were last there. Not that it needed it, as it was quite a lovely place. Although the road to get to it was quite horrendous actually. This place is super amazing as it’s literally right on the banks of the Zambezi. The tranquility and wildlife that this place has to offer will keep you mesmerized for days. I must go back!

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4 am wake up call and en route. not impressed.

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one way to never get lost

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might be small, but it still a tiger fish

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This was a wonderful holiday and will definitely make the effort to go back here. At least at this place we got to sleep inside the tent, and not the car, which was quite the upgrade.

From here we ventured off to Etosha (680 km). What a different experience. This place is nothing like any game reserve I’ve been to. Where you usually find dense bushes and trees to hide all the animals, you find open plains and a sense of vastness. It’s one of the most beautiful parks I’ve been to in my life.

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these lions were so far away. we took this shot with a 500 mm lense and could only just see them. But see how high above the ground they are – these are huge lions.

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it took us a while to figure out what this little chap was, and to our delight, realised it’s a tiny baby Gemsbok.

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This place was a real treat. Just because it’s so different to most game parks. The wild life is abundant and the setting picturesque. We didn’t end up staying over here, and was planning on staying over somewhere just outside the reserve. We didn’t really plan our trips and never made any reservations. Our only plan was that we had to reach a certain town by a certain time. I can’t quite remember the town, but we ventured about 100 km, making the decision that we need to set camp for the night. We drove and drove and drove and just couldn’t find a suitable place to stay. We did find a campsite but it had ‘rape alley’ written all over it, so we decided to move on. It was now getting really late and we desperately had to find a place to stay. We eventually stumbled upon a place called Uris Lodge.

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What a jewel. This place is just heavenly! Girls – make a plan to get married at this place! It’s out of this world. Well maybe I spent too much time sleeping in the back of a land rover but it was like the heavens beamed down on this place with angels singing. It was heaven. And way out of our price range. We got there, and due to heavy rains (yes, it never rains in Namibia, but WILL rain when we go there) the campsites were in bad shape and the donkey (pretty much a steel barrel with water in, over a fire, which makes hot water) wasn’t working which means no shower, and they had leopard sightings in the area which made it unsafe for us. But the management at the time was so amazing, and decided, after giving us a grand tour and showing us their amazing underground wine cellar, to let us stay there at half the price in their super luxurious rooms. I wanted to kiss his feet. It was a well deserved luxury after spending many nights camping.And not only that, we had to leave really early the next morning so I had to forfeit our breakfast, but when we got to the reception, they had packed us a little lunch bag to take with us, filled with sarmies, fruit, juices and some yummy snacks. Never in my life have I experienced such hospitality. And we got to see a little aardvark on our way in:

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We hit the road, revived and refreshed and made our way to Walvis Bay, which is where my dad lived at the time (600 km).Man I love Namibia. This place is just so darn beautiful and there is so much to do there! I went to Namibia twice so will add some mixed photos of both trips. The first lot of photos as when I went alone to visit my dad. We did so many things from sand boarding down dune 7 (google that) to four-wheeling in the deserts, going on catamarans, road tripping. It was such a wonderful holiday and am so glad I got to experience it.

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this is not a place where you want to get lost

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that’s a crazy wild seal people.

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restaurant called The Raft

I didn’t have nearly enough time in Namibia and knew I just had to go back. Which is exactly what I did:

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There are these caves in Namibia, that’s a natural phenomenon. It’s completely free and anybody can go there and camp out for the night. Of course when this is the case, you have to take extra care as to not loose that luxury.

Swakopmund has such interesting architecture and I really enjoyed taking photos of the pretty buildings.

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not much of a golf course

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people literally living on the beach, on the side of the road.

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The road literally splits the ocean from the desert and at any point can you pull over and make your way onto the beach.

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Once again, a visit too short. From here, it was homeward bound. Now, I’m not quite sure what happened, except the worst planning known to mankind, but we ended up driving a solid 25 hours, from Walvis Bay, all the way to Jhb. We cut across Namibia and headed for Windhoek. I’m not a fan of Windhoek. It’s just another city and reminds me of Jhb. Now, Windhoek is about 400 km away from Walvis Bay. That already is a fair distance but we decided to push on. From there we headed straight East to the Botswana border, which was about another 300 km. Where we entered there was nothing. Nothiiiing. But luckily the sun was still out so, we pushed on. We had nowhere to stop anyway. The sun was setting and it was now getting dark. Our options for places to stop over have rapidly ran out. Let me just say, never, at any point, do you want to drive at night in Botswana. Not because of elephants, but because of those dam donkeys. Donkeys love spending time on the road at night as the road is nice and hot from baking all day in the sun. You do not want to hit a donkey, on a straight open road, driving 120 km/h. We were a wreck trying to keep our eyeballs peeled for any possible donkeys, and there were quite a few. We’ve missed our chance to stop anywhere and pulling off onto the side of the road isn’t much safer either as there are no road lights and visibility is pretty bad even with your 20/20 vision. So, we pushed on some more. We had to choose a route that takes us to a 24 hour border post, which meant we skipped going through Gaborone. We’ve probably driven a good 20 hours as we were close to Jhb. We were exhausted, but even worst, our petrol was worryingly low and there are no places to stop and fill up. Luckily we had a long range fuel tank but even this has it’s limits. We reached Jhb. Well, somewhere in Jhb. We were horribly lost. Had no petrol and no money. We’ve just driven all over southern Africa, yet we will get lost in our country. We’ve hit panic stations. We drove around for three hours. It was about 3 am now. Eventually, we got hold of family members who came to rescue us. Never have I been this relieved.

25 hours of driving and approximately 1800 km later, I hit the bed, and slept for what felt like a lifetime.

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