Monday, October 22, 2007
Our truck was due back at the
rental depot outside Johannesburg tomorrow by 5:00 p.m., so we had two
long days of driving ahead of us. Unfortunately, our early start
was for naught when we only made it 3/4 of a kilometer from our lodge
before we stalled and could not get restarted.
Livingstone, Zambia, to Francistown, Botswana
Besides the inconvenience, this was not the best place to be
stranded. Lonely Planet says, "Don't walk from town to the falls
as there have been a number of muggings along this stretch of road,"
and at the lodge, located between Livingstone and the falls, it was
posted not to walk either direction as it was not safe due to
Two young guys who had been walking by stopped and waited with us while
we were stranded. I didn't know if they were there to help us or
to rob us. I mean, can people who have nothing better to do on a
Monday morning be up to any good? I was ready to pepper spray
them at the slightest provocation. After the first hour, though,
I gave up on them trying to mug us and was grateful for their company.
The truck has two batteries to give it enough juice to power the lights
in the camper, which hadn't worked in a week, and the fridge, which
gave out a day and a half ago. Since it was a standard
transmission, we were able to push start it, but it would just stall
again. It seemed the alternator was trying to charge both
batteries at once, and it didn't have enough power. A passer-by
even stopped and gave us a jump, but it just wouldn't work.
Eventually, we hailed a passing taxi, and I got a ride back to Maramba
Lodge while Tom stayed with the truck. A manager from the lodge
then gave me a ride to a mechanic, who sorted out a tow for us with a
pickup truck, a metal bar, and some shackles. Once the mechanic
had us to his shop, it only took him about 20 minutes to sort out the
problem. He unhooked the second battery, replaced the 10-amp fuse
that had blown two days before, and charged our main battery.
That one little fuse had confused the entire electrical system, drained
the battery, and wouldn't let it charge back up until the fuse was
replaced. $75 later, at 10:30 a.m., after a three-hour ordeal, we
were finally on our way and running very late.
One the way to Kazungula there
were two roadblocks. At the first
they asked if we were headed for Botswana, and when we said yes, they
collected a consul levy fee of 10,000 kwacha. At the second one
they just waved us through.
Waiting to cross the
Zambezi River, Kazungula, Zambia
The passage back across the
border at Kazungula was much easier
traveling this direction, especially since we halfway knew what we were
doing this time. The procedure is as follows:
- On the Zambia side, park wherever you can, giving some uninvited
volunteer a small tip, if you must, to watch your vehicle.
- Go into the pontoon ferry payment office and pay for ferry
passage. It was $20 for our Nissan hardbody pickup truck.
- Proceed to immigration, located in a different building, sign the
book, and get your passport stamped.
- Proceed to customs and get a gate pass.
- Get back in your vehicle and drive up to the gate, hand over the gate
pass which they will keep.
- Bypass the line of trucks and pull up to the ferry landing and wait.
A drunk and/or crazy guy tried to "help" us with ferry boarding.
At first we gave him some of our paperwork, thinking he was some sort
of official. He was not. At least he gave our paperwork
- Unlike when we crossed two days ago, this time when the ferry
arrived, an official worker directed the vehicles on board. Two
pickups drove on side by side, then a big cargo truck, then they
managed to squeeze another pickup onboard, and then us. Our truck
was precariously perched, but it worked.
- The passenger gets out of the vehicle before the driver loads the
truck and boards the ferry with the other foot passengers.
- On board the ferry, the driver must show the receipt where ferry
passage has been paid and sign the register.
- On the Botswana side, after the 400-meter ferry crossing is made, the
driver unloads the vehicle, and the passenger walks off.
- Park wherever.
- Proceed to immigration, fill out their form, and get your passport
stamped. They will give you a gate pass.
- Get customs to stamp your gate pass.
- The driver then goes to the cashier's window, just past
customs. Here you pay a tax to get a road permit for the vehicle,
50 pula. We had to pay again even though we'd just paid when
entering Botswana nine days before. You get a nice looking,
very official permit, and I think they stamped the gate pass here also.
- Get back in your vehicle and proceed to the exit, where an officer
will collect your gate pass.
- Drive through the dirty pool of disinfectant on your way out.
This is a
hoof-and-mouth disease control measure. Also, if they feel like
it, officials will confiscate your meat and possibly dairy products for
the same reason. No one questioned us about any meat, and we went
on our way.
It was nice to be back in the seeming innocence of Botswana after the
rat race of Zim/Zam. As soon as we left Kazungula, a baboon ran
across the highway right in front of us. It was like coming home
By the time we crossed the border and filled up with gas, it was 1:10
p.m. We drove south like mad all day long. The first 100km
is a good tar road, then south of Pandamatenga it got really rough,
eventually smoothing out again as we got closer to Francistown. I
did much of the driving today once we reached Botswana since I hadn't
taken a turn at the wheel in over a week. Driving a stick-shift
down a lightly traveled, paved highway isn't too bad.
A village by the highway,
There were several vet control
checkpoints throughout the day. At
one of them we had to drive through dirty disinfectant again and stamp
our shoes, including any extra pairs from our luggage, on a mat
impregnated with disinfectant. Again, this is supposed to stop
the spread of hoof and mouth disease. Also, at two of the
checkpoints they were confiscating meat and dairy products, even
crawling into the back of our camper to check our fridge, but with the
fridge busted, we had nothing for them to take. It was kind of an
ordeal for us, as it was a big production each time we had to
unwire the back steps to open the back door, and one of us would try to
stand in front of the missing taillight at all times to avoid
Just north of the turnoff for
Sebina, we stopped to take a photo of
some interesting rocks, and a lady and her two daughters talked me out
of 5 pula. Supposedly she lost her goat, and they're hungry, and
they need a ride to their village, sob, sob, sob. Anyway, I'd
taken a picture of her house, so I gave her the money.
North of Francistown
We'd hoped to make it to Palapye
to spend the night at Camp Itumela
again, like on our way north, but by the time we reached Francistown,
it was almost dark, and we had to stop for the night. Francistown
is Botswana's second largest city, population 95,000. The whole
country has less than 2 million people. Compare to France, of a
similar size, with over 60 million people, and you'll get an idea of
how sparsely populated this place is.
I went into a Super-Spar to get groceries while Tom waited with the
truck. Then we stopped at Marang Hotel to camp, highly
recommended by our Lonely Planet guidebook. The camping was
atrociously crowded, and try as we might, we could not wedge our truck
in anywhere. So we moved on to Tati River Lodge, described in our
book as lacking the character of Marang, and the place was
fantastic. The receptionists were very cordial, a well-dressed
bellman showed us to the camping sites, the ablutions were very clean,
and the camping pitches were huge! When we got there, we had the
camping ground completely to ourselves, then shortly afterwards, one
arrived. Camping here was 40 pula per person, so
80 pula for the two of us.
Tati River Lodge,
For dinner I stir-fried a
superior cut of steak and boiled an instant
rice and vegetable mix that had the consistency of gruel but tasted
580 kilometers Livingstone to Francistown.
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