Back in Botswana, and a 35 year reunion with Rob!

"Into Africa" More than a Motorcycle Adventure
Howard Fairbank
Mon 17 Feb 2014 18:49

17:47.6S 25:09.2E


15th February, 2014


Excited to be finally leaving, I was up early, and packed ready to go by 8am! Last good byes, a present for Moses, the loyal gatekeeper, and then last coffees at the Homebake coffee…Truly world class, flat white coffee, and always delivered with that special Zambian smile!


It is strange how in such a short period of time one can find one’s little niche place in a seemingly foreign town.


I was soon on the road to Sesheke, the Zambian border town, across the Zambesi from the Namibian, border town of Katima Mulilo. This was the route I took in 2007 on the bicycle, but this time, I was only going 60km along it, turning off at Kazungula, for the larger ferry across the Zambezi into Botswana.  I’d planned to meet Rob at Kasane, on the Chobe River, and this was the best way there.


Almost immediately as I got outside Livingstone, as the lush green, Zambezi valley, bushveld revealed itself, I felt this huge feeling of Freedom return. Wow, being imprisoned for all those days, I’d nearly lost the hope that something like this really would exist again… As a final goodbye, to Victoria falls, with the weather being perfectly clear, some 10 kilometres or more off, I could see the ‘steam’ clouds above the falls. This just as Livingstone described the sight, the first time he saw the unmistakable marker.


As my senses cleared with the growing sense of Freedom, I started feeling Africa at a deeper level again… Driving past an unlikely sign, just off the road, all by itself, in a lush long grass meadow, clearly marking a local guru’s home. The sign read: Snake man:   Cool Beast. I stopped, parked the bike an went to take the photo below. Nobody was around, the secluded house, hidden in thicker bush, and I wondered where this ‘character’ fitted into the surrounding society.



I bit further on my hungry senses, and purposely, slow speed, picked up a medium sized chameleon, engaged in its adventure of a life time, but maybe also, a life ending one: Crossing the tar road, the chameleon, clearly had run out of camouflage colour spectrum, and was fair game to any cruelly motivated motorist. It’s green with a some streaks of brown, in contrast to the black asphalt, were a poor advert for the chameleon’s ability to blend into the colours of its environment.  Once again I stopped, parked the bike and proceeded to observe this creature in what was a calculated, dice with death. Rather than scuttle across the road as fast as possible, the creature was taking two steps forward and then one back, and in between, rocking it’s body from side to side, in what looked like some strange cult walk. As I watched it, I saw a large truck approaching from the distance, dead on target for my friend who didn’t seem perturbed by his slow progress to safety. My altruistic side, kicked in, and decided to do the paternalistic, human thing, and give it some, traumatic, but lifesaving, unsolicited help. I grab it by its tail picked it up an flung it off the road into the long grass. To my utter surprise, it prepared for landing in the long grass, legs outstretched, and as it hit the grass, almost like an automatic vice, as they hit, the four legs wrapped around a grass stalk, and the chameleon just stuck, as though this was a, well-practiced, planned circus act. The truck sped past, the driver no doubt wondering what this strange, motorcycle riding, tourist had been up to in the middle of the road. As all altruists do, I felt good about my dead, but wondered whether this was a selfish dead, that was really just for my feel good?



The 60 km’s flew by as I sponged in everything around me, in between connecting to those feeling I had back in 2007, as I headed off, all on my own, on my bicycle, along this same road.


The border formalities at Kazangula were fairly painless, but whether I was out of practice, or the locals were more than usually pesting, I did get a bit irritated with the far too many, approaches I had for money, and food.


A short, pleasant ride across the swiftly flowing Zambezi, and I was soon through the Botswana customs and immigration procedures and on my way to Kasane.



It was only 20 or so kilometres before the signs came up, and I headed straight for Chobe Safari Lodge for lunch. This was also a good place to start my wait for my friend Rob Goulden’s arrival.


Somehow we lost communication contact, (Rob could receive my texts, but me not his) and so I ended up booking a room for myself, that could take Rob as well, at the Water Lilly Lodge. Well, by 630pm, I’d thought Rob had probably stopped at Nata, and would only come through tomorrow (Sunday).


I was pretty cool, with my accommodation, right on the Chobe River, wild warthogs grazing on the river bank, and a refreshing swimming pool, complete with bar and restaurant.


Around 7pm there was a knock on my door, and as I opened it there was Rob….Gee, what a nice surprise. We hugged like long lost friends, and at Rob’s insistence we soon  

we were clinking beer glasses, in celebration of our reunion, and the start of what promises to be a great adventure together. Rob reminded me, that almost to the day, 35 years ago we started our legendary South America overland backpacking trip from Punte del Este, Uruguay. I was only 21, freshly graduated from university, and Rob, being 5 years older than me, was very inspirational in helping me explore my adventure spirit in those early days.


To my complete shock, over dinner, Rob produced the original map of South America, that we used, complete with our overland path inked in on it! I was hit by emotion as we reminisced about those days, and how we struggled in the days of no email, and me with a South African passport in a continent that was openly hostile to my racist nationality.


     Here is the 35 year old map, with the black line our route!


As we both knew would happen, the wine flowed as the stories grew longer, and by midnight our reunion had been consummated, and we both slumped into our single beds.


A new day awaits tomorrow…!