A Botswana Appetizer: Part 3

Our trip, taking our friends to see a touch of Botswana had started well: a caracal at Lekhubu Island and we had the best campsite in Kasane. What more could one ask for – maybe a hassle free trip to Zimbabwe and Zambia would have been one that comes to mind.

On paper Sue had a brilliant plan: go to Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls, then on to The Royal Livingstone, in Zambia for lunch, then to finish off the day, catch the ferry at Kazungula back into Botswana. So 3 countries in one day.

I had also contacted somebody I know who lives in Livingstone for all the in’s and out’s of doing such. Her response was very informative, accurate and positive. The only thing she didn’t mention was DO NOT DO IT.

It might be the right time to mention that I do not like border posts, and generally will avoid them at all costs. I was, however, given no option about doing the trip and after all it did sound good.

We passed through the Botswana side of the Bots/Zim border with no problems, but were met with huge crowds on the Zim side. Passport control, even though it took some time, was hassle free. To get our car into Zim was another story.

I was taken by a very helpful man, who seemed to be part of the staff, through a door marked “Buses Only”. He took my car papers and was very busy writing out forms and then got into the long queue. This was looking promising.

Other tourists got into a screaming match with my guy’s friends about the forms and procedures, etc. It got so heated into almost became a fist fight. I just stood in the corner, where I was told to wait, and minded my own business. Sue and our friends kept looking through the door to make sure I was ok.

Eventually my guy was next in line at the counter. He asked me in what currency I was going to pay in and when I responded Pula, he said it was P800. So I gave him the money. When he was at the counter he said I should join him. The official behind the counter told me in no uncertain terms that I was being procedurally incorrect and that “my guy” should not be there and only I  should be present.

I apologised profusely and when he had relaxed I asked him I much I needed to pay. The response was P700. I took my P800 from “my guy” and very nicely I told him he should remove himself from my presence. After and hour and a half we got through the border and were heading to Victoria Falls. Did I mention that I do not like border posts.

For me it doesn’t really matter how many times you see the Falls, it is always an amazing experience.

I have seen Victoria Falls on 4 occasions before this trip, once when there was basically no water coming over, once when there was so much water, the spray made it very difficult to actually see the falls themselves. The other 2 occasions were somewhere in between.

For our friends this was their first visit and they just stood amazed at the sight. Water was flowing at a reasonable rate on the Zimbabwe side, but pretty much dry on the Zambian side.

The Falls had refreshed our spirits and it was now just to cross the river for lunch at The Royal Livingstone. Yeah right.

Leaving Zimbabwe was pretty plain sailing, we crossed the Victoria Falls Bridge and went straight into the Zambian Border post. Like earlier there were many “friendly people” around to help, but having learnt a lesson at the Zimbabwe border pos,t I politely mentioned that I could do it myself. They followed anyway.

Passport control was very straight forward, however the car once again proved to be the stumbling block. The first step was to get a temporary importation permit, this took about an hour and a half and included a physical check of the vehicle. This permit had to be paid in cash in Zambian Kwacha. Which of course I didn’t have.

One of the “friendly people” took me around the side of the building to an ATM – but of course it didn’t work and of course he would exchange money for me. He also mentioned that I had to pay a Toll fee in US$ and road tax in Kwacha. So I had no choice but to make a deal.

Looking back at the whole ordeal the most classic part of the whole thing was the purchasing of the road tax disc. The friendly person called a man, who came across with a briefcase, sat down under a tree and pulled out some papers and started writing, this just blew my mind. But I got the road tax disc.

It was well over 2 hours that we finally had the necessary paperwork to get into Zambia. However I still had a problem – that being paying back the friendly man. He only wanted Kwacha. He told me that there was an ATM at the hotel around the corner, but as we were packed full, we didn’t have room for him to sit. I mentioned he must catch a taxi, which did not please him.

As I approached the final border gate I could see him talking to the official. I was crossed questioned by the official about what I wanted to do in Zambia and my story about just going for lunch was not working so well as it was already 3.30. Finally he was satisfied and then asked me what problems I was having with the locals. I explained the whole story and he said I could go.

Friendly man, seeing he was not getting any luck ran off and when I turned the corner there he was with somebody with a rifle. Lucky enough rifle man had a big smile on his face. We squashed friendly man into the car – who wasn’t that friendly any more.

Of course the ATM wasn’t working at the hotel and they wouldn’t exchange money. The only place would be in the city of Livingstone, some 20km away.

Now approaching 16h00 I was not going to cheated to at least a lemonade at The Royal Livingstone. What an absolutely stunning hotel and right on the banks of the Zambezi a meer 100m above the Falls. With all going on none of our party even took a photo – so I refer you to google images of the hotel: Google Images.

With the Kazungula ferry closing at 18h00 we found ourselves in a mad rush. We found money for friendly man and sped to the border which was over a 100km away. At the border there was another friendly man helped us get on the last ferry of the day. What a pleasure being on that ferry knowing that next time we were back on dry land it would be Botswana.

Did I mention that I do not like border posts?

For me the highlight of the whole trip was going to be exploring Chobe National Park, by car and boat. That’s all to come in Part 4……

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About PeteMorrie

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1 Response to A Botswana Appetizer: Part 3

  1. S Viljoen says:

    Having a quiet chuckle. I have worked on many border posts in Africa and they never change. Well done you for all your controlled patience that has given us a smiley story 🙂

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