Saturday, October 20, 2007
The weather was very warm when
we went to bed, but it cooled off to a pleasant temperature
overnight. A bright light shined into the camper from the
anti-animal perimeter illumination, but with the eye-masks we'd
received on our Delta flight, it didn't phase us. I got up before
Tom and made use of the very nice ablution block here at Chobe Safari
Lodge. The showers had hot water as well as cold, and there were
even lights. How extravagant! Also, the toilet stalls had
their own paper; you didn't have to BYO. Fancy.
Kasane, Botswana, to Livingstone, Zambia
Watch out for the
Chobe Safari Lodge ablution
block, Kasane, Botswana
By 9:30 we left camp and headed
toward the Zambian border at Kazungula,
8km to the east of Kasane. Here Botswana and Zambia share 1.6km
of border along the Zambezi River which can be crossed by
ferry. Someday they're supposed to build a bridge here, but the
two countries have yet to come to an agreement.
On the way to Kazungula, we stopped at Haskins Hardware and
finally managed to procure a nut and bolt to secure the back stairs of
the camper. The man waiting on us reckoned we needed to buy a
spanner (wrench) for our repair, but Tom offered him a few pula if we
could just borrow one. He soon agreed and even put the nut and
bolt on for us. In total it cost us 26 pula, just over $4, to
affix the stairs, which had been annoying us for days. The guy
helping us perked right up when he learned we're from the USA.
He begged us to take him to America.
Haskins Hardware helper
Approaching the Kazungula ferry,
we came to a line of cargo trucks as
far as the eye could see. After a moment, I proposed that we
bypass the trucks and see if cars and light passenger trucks like ours
might be treated differently, which thankfully turned out to be the
case. There are no signs or persons to tell one what to do, and
the procedure was a confused muddle on both sides of the border.
Tom wheedled our way past the line of trucks in the oncoming traffic
lane and on the "shoulder" of the road until we reached Botswana's
immigration and customs building, where we parked the 4x4 and went in
to be dismissed from the country, again with a form for each of us to
fill out and a very important looking stamp for our passports.
That was the easy part.
Back in the 4x4, we reached the ferry landing, where the confusion
continued. It was unclear where exactly we should wait.
There was no official person there to direct us, but one of the foot
passengers motioned us to an area near where the ferry lands. The
gentleman then came over and began telling us of all the different
requirements and payments to be made once we reached the Zambian side
of the river. He offered to walk us through the crossing, for a
small fee, of course. Thinking it was a scam, we at first
declined, but we did offer him a couple of bucks if he could get us on
the next ferry. He agreed and then described in more detail the
different fees and paperwork on the Zambian side. Having read
that getting a vehicle into
Zambia could be onerous and confusing, we had a change of heart and
decided we wanted all the help he could give us. The man
introduced himself as Columbus Malele and showed us his ID. He in
fact is a border agent, off duty, and we were glad to have his
The crossing of the Zambezi River is only 400 meters on a rather small
ferry. One large cargo truck can fit on the ferry each trip, with
however many passenger vehicles can squeeze in around it, no more than
four, but more reasonably one or two. A ferry comes every 10 to
15 minutes. Columbus did indeed get us on the next ferry, as
promised. It was our turn anyway, but that doesn't mean we would
have made it on without him!
On the Zambian side of the
river, all was a mass of confusion.
There is no real parking area, and you just have to abandon your
vehicle wherever it will fit while you visit the ill-marked
jumble of bureaucratic buildings to get your paperwork in order and pay
the various required fees. Columbus and one of his friends guided
Tom and me through the maze of administration. Sometimes we were
together, and at other times we separated to save time in visiting all
the different offices. They got us through in about 30 minutes
what would have otherwise taken us most of the day and caused endless
Here, in as excruciating of detail as I can muster, are the
steps necessary to cross from Botswana to Zambia at Kazungula with a
- On approaching the border on the Botswana side, bypass the huge line
of trucks, park, and
proceed to immigration. Fill in the forms supplied. The
immigration officer will stamp your passport and give you a gate
- At customs, the driver is to sign a book, and the officer will put an
additional stamp on the gate pass.
- With the gate pass, get back in your vehicle and proceed. Give
the gate pass to the officer at the gate. He will keep it.
You have now officially left Botswana and are in no-man's-land until
you fulfill all the requirements on the other side of the border.
- Squeeze your way around more trucks and pedestrians until you reach
the river. If there are other cars there waiting to board, get
close behind them, but be sure they're actually waiting to board the
ferry and not just there waiting to pick up foot passengers. If
there are no other cars waiting to board, position your vehicle as
closely as possible to the landing, leaving barely enough room for the
vehicles on the ferry to exit.
- When the incoming ferry has emptied, drive on board. There
necessarily be anyone to tell you to proceed, but if they aren't ready
for you, presumably, they'll stop you. One car, or possibly two
cars side by side, will drive on, then a cargo truck, then possibly one
or two more cars. Car passengers must get out and board by foot;
only the driver is permitted in the vehicle when loading onto the ferry.
- Once on board, the driver exits the vehicle and signs a book.
Then you make the grand voyage of 400 meters across the river before
getting back in the
- On the Zambia side, any vehicle passengers exit on foot. The
driver gets back in the vehicle, drives off, and parks anywhere he can,
trying to leave room for others to get by, if possible. This is
pretty tricky, and Tom had to leave immigration once and go move the
4x4 to let a cargo truck by.
- Go first to immigration, where you get your passport stamped and pay
for a visa. If you are going only as far as Livingstone to see
Victoria Falls, it's possible to get your visa fee waived if you make
reservations at a lodge in advance. The lodge must arrange the
waiver for you. I told the immigration officer we were staying at
Maramba Lodge in Livingstone and should have a visa waiver, and he
checked a "Maramba Lodge" three-ring binder and found the proper
documents, so we got in free. Otherwise, as Americans, it would
have cost $100 each to enter Zambia. Sheesh.
- Fill out a CIP (Customs Import Permit) at customs, which is in the
same little building as immigration, at the next window. Here you
will have to show either ownership papers or, in our case, a Letter of
Authority from the rental company saying you have permission to use the
vehicle and cross into other countries with it. Pay a "consul
levy fee" of 10,000 kwacha ($2.50). (I actually paid them 10
pula, which seems like it should have been 15 pula considering the
exchange rate, but that's what they asked for when I proposed paying in
pula.) I believe this fee was paid at the customs window, but I'm
not certain. Get a receipt.
- In a different building pay for the ferry. The pontoon ferry
payment office is reasonably well marked. It was $20 for our
vehicle, a Nissan hardbody pickup truck. Tom did this while I was
paying the carbon tax. Get a receipt.
- In yet another building, at a somewhat hidden window, pay the carbon
tax (Thanks, Al Gore) for your vehicle. The fee is by engine
volume. I guessed 3 liter (turns out it was only a tiny 2.3
liter, but it's the same price either way). The fee was 150,000
kwacha ($38, but they wanted kwacha). The officer didn't ask for
any paperwork to verify the engine size. Get a receipt.
- Also, Zambia requires third-party motor vehicle insurance,
conveniently available for purchase right there at the border. A
three-month policy is the minimum available, and we paid 225,000 kwacha
($56, but they wanted kwacha). This "office" was in a shipping
container with a spray-painted sign on the side. They need the
registration number and chassis number off your paperwork from the
rental company or your ownership papers. They gave us a one-page
certificate of insurance. There were other
shipping-container-based third-party insurance offices as well, so
maybe you can shop around and get a better deal.
- Columbus had fronted us the kwacha to pay the carbon tax, so we had
to pay him back 150,000 kwacha, plus we needed 225,000 kwacha for the
insurance. The currency exchange office at the border was
closed, perhaps because it was Saturday, so we had to do a black-market
exchange right there in the third-party insurance office. In
Livingstone they were giving 4,000 kwacha per $1, but here where we
were captive customers, we got only 3,500 kwacha per $1, so the 375,000
kwacha cost us $107. At this point I gave Columbus 30 pula,
though he'd asked for only 20 pula. Money well spent.
- All that having been done, in a little phone-booth-sized building
next to the officer at the exit gate, I signed a book and filled in
information again, then got back in the 4x4 with Tom, who had pulled up
to the gate. Columbus's friend spoke to the officer, and he waved
us on through without asking us any questions or looking at any of the
multitude of certificates, receipts, and various bits of papers we'd
- This is the end of the border crossing. We made it.
Yippee! It cost us $130 in total to cross into Zambia with our
vehicle. The four fees were the ferry, consul levy fee, carbon
tax, and third-party insurance.
From Kazungula to Livingston is about 60km. I say "about" because
sometime today our odometer quit working, along with the speedometer
and temperature gauge. We stopped at a roadside lay-by to
investigate, and Tom traced the problem to a blown fuse under the dash
labeled "meters." Now how am I supposed to obsessively keep track
of our kilometers without an odometer?
While stopped to check the fuse, I made a couple of sandwiches, and a
group of children happened by and stopped a few meters away and watched
us eat lunch. When we were finished, I asked if I could take
their photo and pointed to my camera, and they started cutting up and
doing silly things like kids do. As we pulled away in the 4x4,
one of the kids shouted "Run, Forrest Gump, run!"
"Run, Forrest Gump,
We drove through two Wildlife
Authority checkpoints on our way to
Livingstone. The first one was just a wave-through, but the
offcer at the
second one stopped us a few moments to chat about the weather before
letting us pass.
The road to
At 1:30 p.m. we checked in to Maramba River Lodge,
Livingstone and the Victoria Falls, for two nights in a chalet.
The chalet was $105 per night. Camping is much cheaper,
naturally, but they don't provide a visa waiver for campers.
Since the visa would have cost $100 each, the chalet practically paid
for itself! Anyway, we didn't mind a couple of days to spread out
after so many nights of staying in the back of our little truck.
Maramba let us pay with traveler's checks, which was good since we'd
spent so much of our US cash getting into the parks in Botswana
because of the ATM problems in Maun. Getting kwacha wasn't
necessary since US dollars are so widely accepted in the
Vic Falls area, and we'd only be here a couple of days.
Our excellent chalet,
Maramba River Lodge
Maramba is situated in a lovely
setting on a side stream that feeds
into the Zambezi River. They have a nice bar, pool, and
restaurant. There are signs about the property warning "Beware of
Crocodiles" and "Beware of Hippos," and they're not kidding.
From Maramba River
We went into Livingstone in
search of AAA batteries and a replacement
10-amp fuse. We'd brought lots of batteries from home, but we'd
gone through a ton of them for our flashlights since the lights went
out on the camper on night 2. The batteries were easy to find,
but they were very weak and only lasted a fraction of the time as the
ones we were used to. We struck out totally on the fuse. We
looked a number of places with no luck, and the one store we were
directed to closed early today since it's the weekend. We figured
it wasn't that big a deal, since it only controlled the gauges.
Maybe we could pick one up on our way out of town Monday.
The town of Livingstone itself seemed unsafe, though we didn't go into
the city center, which I've seen described as "charming." I was
glad we were staying at Maramba River Lodge, a few kilometers out of
town. There were signs at Maramba warning guests not to walk
along the road, either toward town or toward the falls, because it's
unsafe due to muggings.
Zambezi River, above the falls
We didn't have time to visit the
falls today, but we drove out to where
we could see the gorge. The best view we found was the location
of the Zambezi Gorge Swing, where one can jump out into 54 meters of
nothingness. What a crazy thing to do! Of course, we did
the same thing in New Zealand, but that doesn't make it sane.
Actually, I would consider doing it again, but this isn't that kind of
Site of the Zambezi
At the Super-Spar where I got
the batteries, we bought snacks and food
for dinner. A guard outside watched our car for $1 while we went
in. He was very nice about it, but I didn't feel we really had
Back at Maramba, I made diced steak with pasta and spaghetti sauce, and
we had a nice bottle of South African wine. There was enough food
over for tomorrow night's dinner as well. Later in the evening, a
cute little bushbaby was sneaking around our porch trying to thieve our
The bushbaby got my
There were loads of mosquitoes
in Livingstone, more than we'd seen the
rest of the trip combined. We'd been taking Malarone malaria
prophylaxis, but with its sensitivity to extremes of temperature, I
don't know how well it's going to work. So we sprayed the DEET on
thick, lit several mosquito coils, and eventually retreated
indoors. A temperature-sensitive medication is a very bad idea
for malaria-prone areas, where it's invariably hot outside.
The odometer failed, but I'm calling it 100 kilometers today, around
70km from Kasane to Livingstone, plus 30km extra sightseeing and
searching unsuccessfully for a fuse.
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