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After our incredible shark experience we decided to do something a bit more low key with our remaining few days in the Mother City. I am slightly embarrassed to admit this but we bought tickets for the CitySightseeing tour bus. Yes those double-decker red buses that you see in New York, London and other world class cities. I have never been on one before and never thought that I would, but frankly we were a bit lazy and couldn’t be bothered to figure out the bus/mini-bus system here in Cape Town.
I was a bit sad leaving the cheetah sanctuary, not only because we were leaving the beautiful animals, but also because of the fact that I was not looking forward to having to drive almost completely across the country down to Sossusvlei and the Namib Desert. It was going to be at least a 9 hour journey covering around 950 km (the speed limit in Namibia is 120 on highways), so we figured leaving bright and early in the morning should give us plenty of time to make it to the national park campsite by sunset. Boy where we wrong – the day turned out to be the most frustrating, most horrible and most brutal of any of our 650+ days on the road.
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We arrived at the Cheetah Park in the afternoon after what had already been quite a full day of animal viewing at Etosha. I was truly beyond excited to be there. The park is an incredible place run by a family who rescues cheetahs from farmers who will otherwise kill them. Cheetahs have a hard time competing for food with the other predators, this coupled with an increasing loss of habitat means that they are often reduced to attacking livestock, which brings them into contact and conflict with humans. A huge number of cheetahs are trapped and killed by farmers each year, so this family pays the farmers for them and gives them a home in their park 200 km’s outside of Etosha. This is especially wonderful since cheetahs are endangered species.
For some reason I think that most of my posts start with “we arrived on an overnight bus…” or “after a long bus ride…” and this one is no different. The reality of long term travel is that you do in fact spend a lot of your time on a bus, or train or a plane. Or just waiting for a connection or for your selected mode of transport to finally depart. There is so much idle time that you really become good at killing time. It is true that travel in Africa really tests your patience, but you really just have to go with it and accept that it will take you forever to get places. However, having said that, it hasn’t been that difficult for us to find our way around. We have travelled great distances throughout the southern portion of this continent and it was actually easier than we expected! There are a lot of resources online, but word of mouth and information from locals was by far the most useful resource.
We set out early the morning of our departure from Kasane as we expected the Zambian border crossing to give us at least a few hassles but it all went surprisingly well and within a few hours we were already at our hostel in Livingstone, Zambia.
It was the first border in Africa that we crossed completely independently and I was slightly nervous at the possibility of shenanigans from border officials but it seems that if there is any corruption at the Kazungula border crossing we didn’t encounter any. We were made to pay the regular 50$ US visa charge, signed our names on an entry list, were given a receipt for our payments andwere wished a good stay in Zambia. I had printed and filled out all of the official paperwork that the government of Zambia claims you need to get a visa to enter the country but they asked for none of it and were satisfied with only a passport and some good old American cash.
When we arrived in Kasane we were somewhat let down to see that our chosen accommodation wasn’t very nice at all. Fair enough, we were camping, but the grounds definitely left something to be desired. There was no self-catering option whatsoever, no communal areas to hang out at besides a few picnic tables, and generally lacking facilities. For the equivalent of almost 25dollars a night we weren’t very happy. To make matters worse, it was boiling hot that day and our initial campsite had no trees or shady spots to shelter our tent from the blazing sun. Ugh. Although we were eventually able to move our tent beneath a tree let’s just say that it wasn’t a very nice first day in Kasane.
The bus from Gaborone to Maun took 10 hours in total and much to our surprise departed and arrived exactly as scheduled. I couldn’t believe it! I had expected to spend at least an additional few hours roasting on the crowded bus while waiting for every last seat to fill up before leaving, but no this was an incredibly efficient African bus experience. It was however crowded and very, very hot. The seats were tiny and there was no air conditioning with the windows only opening a smidge. It was just over 40 degrees that day and our route took us past one of the hottest places on the planet – the Kalahari desert- so this should you give you an idea of how hot it was. The driver was absolutely blaring down the road only stopping three times in ten hours. Twice for five minute bathroom/food breads and once at a check stop. There are many check stops throughout Botswana. They’re called veterinary stops (not entirely sure why?), but they are mostly checking to see if anyone is in the country illegally (ahem, Zimbabweans) and sometimes they take away fresh meat products or so I’ve heard. Our stop was just a passport/ID check, so we were wished a great stay in Botswana and sent back onto the bus. With typical insane African driving, we made it safely to Maun – but only just. There were many roadblocks of the donkey/goat variety that had to be dodged on the way and the bus didn’t feel like the most roadworthy vehicle I had ever been on.
We spent our second week in South Africa in the countries’ third largest city – Durban. We took the InterCape Bus from Johannesburg for a cool 380 Rand. This was one of our most expensive bus trips yet costing roughly 43 dollars. The seats on the bus were really plush and spacious; there was also air conditioning, and a bathroom on board making this a very comfortable 7 hour journey. The overall InterCape experience would have been great had it not been for the in-your-face religiousness of it all. I kid you not they blasted Evangelical gospel music the entire 7 hours we were on board. The only time there was a break from the music was when they put on one of their prayer videos. Ugh. We couldn’t really decide whether we found this hilarious or annoying beyond words, so we kind of kept alternating between the two. It was just SO strange. I would have never expected something like that from a major bus company!
When we arrived in Johannesburg we were met at airport arrivals by our South African hosts Janusz and his daughter Paulina. It was SO nice to have someone waiting for us at the airport and it was even nicer to have them waiting for us. We instantly hit it off with the whole Malek family and felt so warmly welcomed into their beautiful home. We would like to thank them so so so so soooooo much for their ongoing hospitality!!!
Even though we had an amazing time exploring Europe this summer, we were really anxious to get onto the African continent to start the next leg of our journey.