Wednesday 2 July 2008 - Wednesday 2 July 2008
After arriving back in Katima Mulilo, cramped in Number 1's combi, we began the task of finding a ride to Kasane, Botswana. The Caprivi strip of Namibia, where Katima is located, is at an intersection of Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe - so we did not have far to travel as the crow flies. About 2-3 hours.
We found the "hike-point" just on the edge of town and were immediately swarmed with offers from combis and taxis to take us to Kasane. The whole situation was very uncomfortable as there were about 5-10 black africans also waiting for rides, many of which were older, carrying large loads or babies on their backs. White people, especially women, attract a lot of attention here, which was very surprising to me considering the toll that white settlers have had on this region and Africa in general. And this situation in particular had nothing to do with money, as few white people travel this way in Africa, and the ones who do almost never pay any more than the blacks.
We eventually bargained with "Mr. Cool", as he calls himself, to take us to Kasane for 50 Namibian dollars (9 USD per person). Although, because he wanted to wait until his combi was full we opted for a nother driver who was ready to leave then. The ride was relatively comfortable. Crystal, Steve and I snuggled up in the back seat, and Corrie sat in the middle on the floor on a pile of blankets. It wasn't until we were about 1.5 hours in that I realized some poor sap had been stuck holding in his lap a large basket that I had purchased in Katima. I aplogized to him, but he seemed not to be bothered by it.
It took us only a short time to cross the Ngoma Bridge border crossing to enter Botswana, and had no problems here. We arrived in Kasane around 2pm that afternoon. Botswana is a very wealthy country by African standards. In fact, it has the highest per capita GDP on the continent. The major industries here are diamonds and tourism, and the fact that tourism is important shows. The lodges here range from anywhere from $20 USD per person per night to over $1000, with the majority falling on the high end of that spectrum.
There wasn't much to Kasane itself- mostly dirt sidewalks, run-down buildings, tin-roofed houses, and the occassional very clean/modern looking shopping center that was flooded with white tourists. However, the buzz of prop-planes, rows of safari-agencies, and trucks filled with white people dressed head to toe in green and kacki (and yes, the occasional pith-helmet) was enough to tee you off to what this town is all about. However, there was still a wildness about it that makes Africa so unique... the crowds of people wearing bright head scarves and shetanges (african cloth skirts), the fact that we had to stop the combi on the highway to allow zebra and again later elephant to cross the road, the warthog we saw running down the street while standing in front of a very modern grocery store that sells any "western" commodity you could want. These are the times when we look at each other and, for a moment, wonder where in the hell we are.