Monday, 8 August 2011

"Karma moves in two directions. If we act virtuously, the seed we plant will result in happiness. If we act non-virtuously, suffering results." -- Sakyong Mipham

Male dancer using a traditional whistle
Saturday July 30th, 2011 - Sunday July 31st, 2011

"We got up early and walked to Ditshwanelo to meet Mr. Kashweka at 7:00am. Today he was running on Botswana time and didn't turn up until a couple hours later. We spent the time chatting about future trips and current, planned, and future tattoos. With his arrival we squeezed into the donkey of the day - a small sedan - and started on our journey. Driving through Chobe National Park to the Ngoma Bridge crossing I was caught unaware and not camera ready by the sudden bound of a huge male sable antelope two metres away from our car. Double checking the name with Mr.Kashweka I was buzzing with excitement at seeing something rare and new but Chloe and Lyndsay seemed unfazed. I guess they have become used to the drive through the park. That was it for animal sightings though, the rest of the drive only producing the usuals: elephants, warthogs, impala and baboons.

Layers and layers of colourful petticoats
"Border crossing was very easy. A customs form and new stamp in my passport on each side of Ngoma Bridge and we were officially in Namibia. I was intrigued by the small villages that we rushed past. The usual mud and thatch round huts but all surrounded by fences made of straw. I thought that the fences were reassuringly clean cut; no big bad wolf would be able to blow these down. After driving for about thirty or forty minutes we arrived in Bidaku for the "national cultural celebration" that Mr.Kashweka had been invited to. I could spend hours describing the colours and dresses and dances but I know that I will not be able to do them justice. This time the pictures will have to speak for themselves. I will say that I feel extremely lucky to have been able to watch the celebrations. Spending less than 24 hours in Namibia we were able to look through a window into some of the essence of the culture, and really appreciate the difference from Botswana.  It was more evidence of the unfair homogenisation that people brush across Africa. Less than 5km apart, separated only by the Chobe flood plains, North east Botswana and the Caprivi Strip of Nambia proudly display their unique cultures, traditions and beliefs.

Singing Loud and Proud 
"Heading towards Katima Mulilo we managed to flag down a hitch before even getting all of our bags out of Mr.Kashweka's donkey - surprising him with our female prowess. In Katima we fell on Shoprite like hungry vultures, grabbing way too much food for just the three of us. We then gracefully repelled the advances of a sketchy duo of young male backpackers to join them at their campsite. While Chloe and I persistently haggled with a cab driver to bring his price down from N$50 to N$45, Lyndsay played the voice of reason and pointed out that there was no point in turning down a ride for a difference of 50 cents Canadian. Namwi Island Campsite was...too much for me. Words used to describe it over the weekend: clinical, sterile, manicured. Big patches of lush green grass were separated by brick paths and lit by lampposts. But I did enjoy and take full advantage of the real, standing up, hot showers! We chose a site right in the corner, as far away from everything else as possible, and pitched the tent with the door opening up to a view of the Zambezi River which was priceless.

The muscles they used to dance..unreal
"Cooking was back to over an open fire. Four flavours of ramen noodles, four types of beans, lentils, tomatoes, onion, green pepper and chakalaka were thrown into the cast iron pot and proved to be a delicious mix. The sunset was quick and the colours left behind beautiful. The night was cold. Without a sweater and with the moisture from the river I froze without a sweater and was ready to get up much earlier than 5:00am. Blissful 6:00am showers were cut short after 40 minutes when we realised our ride out was expected in 10 minutes. Our quick exodus proved unnecessary though, as Joseph the cab driver failed to show up. Katima Karma for plotting to steal a steak the night before. We started walking the 14km into town with no other choice. About 1km down the road our knights in dirty safari jeep showed up. The Namibian guides who we had been talking with the night before drove up behind us and questioned our sanity. You could literally see the gears turning in their heads. On one side of the road: Us. Packs, sleeping bags, and tent. On the other side: Their jeep. Filled with every piece of equipment possible for their upcoming trip to Livingstone, with zero room for us. "Want to hang onto the back?" So on we got. The three of us, side by side, packs on, bare hands with a death grip on the roll cage and feet balancing on about three inches of bumper. They went slow of course, no faster than 50km/h, and we laughed the whole 13km to town at the insanity and adrenaline of the whole situation.      

View of the Zambezi from our tent
"Walking through town trying to find the bus stop I found myself repeating every couple hundred feet "I hope the bus is still there", which I'm sure annoyed Chloe and Lyndsay. Turned out it was, but there were no more seats. After being yelled at in turns by the taxi and combi drivers that surrounded us, we were finally swayed by an official looking paper into the the waiting seats of a combi to the border. Two customs forms, two stamps, and lots of getting in and out of the van with all out bags we were back in Bots. But I still had a long way to travel back to Francistown and wasn't out of the water yet. A rude South African couple turned our plead for a ride to Kasane down with an "It's impossible", but Karma played the part of great equalizer once again and we later overtook the couple on the road.

View while cooking dinner after sunset.
"In Shashake, outside Kazungula on the Nata road, Chloe and I waited for a hitch for me. Talking with a solo Swiss backpacker I learned that he was going to Nata with a Journalist from The Voice and figured I might as well start my trip and go with them. The Swiss guy and I squeezed in the front seat; me straddling the gear shift but with my legs in the passenger side so I wouldn't get in the way of the clutch. The driver - the Journalist - had some very strong opinions about white people, the government, and the state of Botswana on a whole. It was interesting to hear his thoughts, and only got uncomfortable the few times the conversation swayed towards marrying a white girl. At the veterinary gate outside of Nata the Journalist left us, saying that the Architect from Gabarone would take over driving and go all the way to Francistown. And that I should pay now. At this point I should have been suspicious, but I just gave him my 90 pula and was happy to have a ride all the way home. Spoke. Too. Soon. No further than 500 metres outside of Nata we were pulled over by a policeman and the vehicle was impounded on the spot. Apparently it was under a rent contract up until Friday, at which point the Journalist just hadn't returned it to the owner. Whoops!

Lyndsay's fear pre-Bots: being eaten by a hippo. Now: NO BIG!
"So there I was in Nata with less than an hour until sundown and no ride for the rest of the 2 1/2 hour trip to Francistown. I started walking back to the rest stop and was happily greeted by the last bus of the evening coming from Maun and headed straight to Ghetto! The Architect from Gabarone and his wife also got onto the bus. I rolled into Francistown just after 7:00pm and the boys were there waiting for me with Amantle; slow motion running towards me in fact. Driving home we eagerly spoke over each other trying to talk about our own weekends and ask questions about the others', and the 5 minute drive was extended as we chatted parked in front of my house."

Because the hippo danger wasn't enough
What started out as a plan for the girls to get to Namibia and add a stamp to my passport turned out to be a learning experience and weekend of firsts. First time to Namibia. Learning about cultural differences. New way to ride in (outside of, to be more accurate) a car. First girls only trip of the summer. First time hitching by myself. And first time having car I'm in be involved in roadside seizure.

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