Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.
|Wednesday, November 07, 2018 22:40:25|
Africa SW 2018: 6 Windhoek, Namibia to Pom Pom Camp, Botswana
Sunday, November 4, 2018
After the farewell drinks we had with Michael & Daniela we had no problem diving into bed. Although I carefully set the time to wake up, I neglected to turn on the alarm. Fortunately Marilynn woke up to find we had half an hour before departure. There was a bit of a mad scramble but we arrived 5 minutes ahead of time.
A representative of Kovos Rail had arranged a lunch box and transportation to the airport for everyone including us, even though we were travelling independently. There were no leg room seats available, so I went to the ticket office to see about an upgrade – the original flight we were booked on had only economy but this flight had business class. The kind lady moved two people out of the front row seats and put us in.
There was a delay in boarding as they were refueling, something I would have thought they would do before boarding time. Once on the plane we waited another hour and 10 minutes, as the mobile boarding stairs brake had locked up. After various mechanics had a go at it they hooked a car to it, but it didn't budge. Then a forklift was brought along, and had no success. Finally an aircraft towing tractor was brought and attached to the stairs with strapping. With the forklift pushing and the tractor pulling, they got it to move a short way. More strapping was added, the performance repeated, and finally we were able to take off.
The seats arranged for us at the front of economy had more leg room than I could use. The 1 ¾ hour went by without incident, and when we landed in Harare, Zimbabwe the pilot announce those of us going to Victoria Falls stay on the plane. This was followed by another announcement some time later that we must leave the plane, pick up our luggage, then clear immigration and customs.
A bus took us to the terminal to walk up a long, broken down escalator. As a group we filled out immigration forms. No one could proceed alone, we had to wait until the last person was ready. There were lines for immigration, we all had to stand in the same line. It took a good 10 minutes to process each person, made even slower by frequent power outages which stopped processing. We had to buy visas – for Marilynn and I it was an unexpected $US 150. Customs was fairly quick, then there was the line for security – here it is belts, shoes, watches and almost everything else off. Altogether it took a good portion of the afternoon.
Our group was last on the plane, where I found someone had taken my seat. I complained to the stewardess, and she just said "take another seat". We did – in business class, which caused a real commotion. It became clear that if we didn't go find another seat in economy we would not be flying. The final shot against Namibian Airlines was on the takeoff roll. Before the plane rotated to get airborne it began to swerve dangerously. The pilot pulled the nose wheel off the ground, and was able to get into the air, however being a pilot I put the problem down to only two possibilities- one that there was a mechanical problem with the front wheel causing it to veer off in different directions, or the pilot inadvertently pushed the rudder pedal then over corrected when the plane swerved. It made it a tense landing, as if it was a mechanical problem the nose wheel could fold up. That didn't happen, so that leaves pilot problem. In any case, I would not recommend Namibian Airlines if there is any other option available. Fortunately we don't have to fly them again this trip.
We said goodbye to the German group at the airport, and took a taxi to the Victoria Falls Hotel. The fare from the airport is $US 30 – the US dollar is standard currency to hyper inflation.
The hotel room we had assigned was on the second floor, up two flights of stairs. There is no elevator in this classic hotel. They quickly readied q lovely room for us on the main floor. We had an easy afternoon and evening drinking on the patio overlooking the Zambezi River bridge just down from Victoria Falls. After a walk around the property where we photographed warthogs, monkeys and mongoose we came back to the terrace for dinner. Neither food nor service was great, which we mentioned to the bar manager.
Monday, November 5, 2018
From this morning on our trip was organized by Evi Marais of the South African Tourism Company. We had an amazing breakfast served by friendly waiters in an outdoor restaurant. Our driver arrived at the hotel an hour early, so by the time we were packed and checked out we were still half an hour early. We stopped to purchase insect repellent and a couple of other small items which cost $67 US dollars – about four times more than in Costa Rica or any of the surrounding countries. The driver gave me a 50 billion dollar bill in Zimbabwe currency. It apparently would not buy a quart of milk.
Our driver was an interesting fellow, previously a teacher for 9 years but couldn't feed himself on his salary, so he left his parents in Bulawayo and moved to Victoria Falls. He was a great source of information on the country. It seems everyone here believes the presidential election was rigged.
He saw us through Zimbabwe customs where we met our next driver who saw us through Botswana customs. They don't take vehicles across the border due to long delays. We were dropped off at the modern Kasane Airport, and after going through security met our pilot who said we would be delayed as the airport fuel pump has broken down. Our noon flight got away at 1:30 PM.
The first 1hr 15 minute flight was on an 11 seat Cessna 208 single engine turboprop. The seats were very close together, but as there were only 8 passengers I was able to put my feet in the narrow aisle with my knees bent in. At Linanti Camp we changed to a GA8 Airvan made in Australia. It is a very basic single engine aircraft with 4 passenger seats crammed into an area designed for 2. Only a child under 5 could have got their legs in front of them. The 45 minute flight seemed like hours. By the time we arrive I was in real agony.
We were picked up at Pom Pom Camp airstrip in an open safari vehicle for the 10 minute drive to the lodge. There things took a decided turn for the better. We were greeted by the manager and staff who had cold towels and cold drinks. After a short tour I visited the well stocked self serve bar where everything is included in the price. I promptly downed a whiskey and a beer to numb my aching knees – at least that was my excuse.
We were show our tent, something which gave tenting an entirely new meaning. There was a furnished patio overlooking a lake where numerous birds and several Impala were gathered. To get into the tent required undoing two upwards zippers and two bottom horizontal zippers – the tent has double covering as a defense against baboons. The first room held a desk and chair, plus two easy chairs. Through a closed screen door were beautifully decorated twin beds with side tables and a high headboard separation from a bathroom with two sinks and a separately enclosed toilet. Through another screened door was an open air shower with lots of hot water. This kind of roughing it I can manage!
At 4 PM tea is served. This is actually a full course meal. Then we were off on our first safari drive. There was seldom a moment when we could not see wild animals, mainly of the various deer type species, but there were also a large number of elephants with babys. Monkeys were common as were zebra and warthogs.
The countryside has a lot of water, as expected, but no jungle. There is a lot of open grassland with large leafy trees, and some dense clumps of bushes. Throughout were uprooted trees and torn down branches where elephants had brought things down to their height to eat the bark. There were four of us riding in a 9 seat Toyota Land Cruiser safari vehicle, so Marilynn and I each had a row of seats to ourselves. A tracker and driver, who was also a skilled tracker, sat up front. Our companions are a German couple from Baveria..
Lion tracks had been spotted. Eventually we came across 3 female lions with 6 cubs. The guide said 4 clubs belonged to one lioness, 2 to another and the third was pregnant. Lion cubs will feed off any available female. We drove to within 3 meters of where the lions lay, and watched for at least 20 minutes while the lionesses lay on their backs to provide access for the cubs to feed, and as they licked each other and even lay their paws across each other as they snuggled in the grass. In the meantime the mischievous cubs pounce on the adults tails, or scrambled on top of them. They never stopped rolling around and jumping on each other the whole time we were there. What an incredible experience!
In an open area a table was set up and cold drinks were set out while we watched a bright red sunset before heading back to camp and more food. We were totally exhausted when we fell into our comfortable beds.
Tuesday, November 6, 2018
This morning we were woken at 5 AM with cold juice left in our tent reception area. Breakfast was at 5:30 and we were off in the safari vehicles by 6 AM. Again we crashed through bush following faint paths or sandy tracks across the grassy plains. There were a lot of elephants, with the bulls flapping their ears and making threatening sounds at us. Having seen what the could do to large trees, we had no problem heeding the warning. We added cape buffalo, one of the most dangerous animals in the world, to our sightings, seeing several of them. There are also hippopotamus in most of the lakes, including the one in front of our tent.
The tracker picked up leopard tracks which we followed unsuccessfully. There were hundreds of the deer family animals as usual. We did stop for steenbok, the tiniest of the deer family. The first two fled before they could be photographed, however the third was slightly less shy.
At mid morning the driver set up a table with coffee and tea so we could have a break, then after another hour we returned to the lodge for lunch. The morning was cool and cloudy, but this afternoon is very hot and sunny, so we retreated for siesta.
Instead of going on the afternoon safari we opted for a boat trip. We didn't start until 4:30 when the sun was less intense. There were two forward facing seats with the driver behind swerving along the narrow channel through marsh grasses. There were dozens of bird species, and we got quite close to an elephant who was standing up to his waist in water eating and bathing. We were also close to a family of three hippopotamus in the lake right in front of our tent. Our first hyena of the trip was lying in front of us on the road as we returned..
Evi of the South Africa Tourism had arranged a bottle of good champagne for our anniversary, and we were surprised by having a private dinner in a forest setting with our own server. The chef went carefully over the offerings and we were served from a personal table with a warmer for the hot courses. It was a very good four course dinner with a selection of wines. Many thanks, Evi.
Tomorrow we fly back to Kasane.