Our first trip to Botswana was ushered in through the border crossing at Kasangula Ferry. This border crossing is arrived at after a one hour road trip from Livingstone, Zambia. Our guide and driver was a wealth of knowledge on the culture of the area, and listening to him describe the details of what we were seeing as we passed through village and town over a nicely paved and maintained road was worth every minute of our transfer.
We were not prepared for cacophony of sights and sounds of what appeared to be a frontier town that was out of a cross between a Spaghetti Western and a Star Wars movie. Here is the meeting place of four countries, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, and Botswana, created out of the partitioning of their colonial past.
At first we were struck by the conglomeration of the largest number of tractor trailers that we had ever seen. Parked row after row waiting patiently to garner a spot on the truck ferry, actually a large one vehicle barge, that would eventually take their heavily laden vehicles of goods and materials on a short voyage to another country, there to help supply the needs of a growing population and to build the infrastructure so desperately needed in this part of the continent.
Laundry hung from every vehicle, adorning the trailers as multicolored flags, and giving the area a look of a permanence that certainly wasn’t its purpose. When asked, our driver said that they were waiting for their crossing documents, and that it could take 3-4 weeks to receive them. So, with nothing better to do, cleaning laundry in this sub tropical environment was an important duty.
Once stopped at the river edge, no dock, just a place for the ferry to beach itself, we were accosted by a host of peddlers selling an array of native made wood and stone products at prices much cheaper than what we had seen in the more civilized city stalls of Cape Town and Stellenbosch. Pitchmen of the classic variety, they could hold their own in Cairo or Marakech, dealt in a multi currency financial environment, and could tell you exactly how many Pula, Dollars, or Rands it would take to complete the sale. Here our guide and driver left us for the crossing.
Once the “ferry” arrived, and I use the term lightly, actually a 12 foot aluminum fishing boat, we boarded, baggage and all, pursued by the peddlers right into the water, and proceeded across the Chobe River. After beaching on the Botswana side, we were met by our new guide and driver, passed through customs and immigration without incident, other than having to step into a puddle of some chemical that is supposed to prevent the spread of hoof and mouth disease, and off we went to Kasane Airport to begin our adventure in the Okavango Delta.
All in all, an interesting part of the Africa experience, and one of the more unexpected events that makes foreign travel so memorable.
– by Jerry Lankin