Through the Caprivi, across the Okavango River, and now sundowners at the Cunene River

"Into Africa" More than a Motorcycle Adventure
Howard Fairbank
Mon 17 Feb 2014 18:58

17:54.5S 19:46.5E


17th February, 2014


Well, our dinner last night, at the lodge, 2km away from our campsite, was a very enjoyable affair… Good, real food, and presented very nicely, all in a great bush environment. Having enjoyed the 2 Kilometre walk from the campsite to the lodge, we had brought headlamps and were looking forward to the night walk back. Well, when the manager heard we were walking back he reacted sternly, saying: “You can’t walk back alone, it’s very dangerous at night with hippos around, and we will give you a ride back.”  We protested, but when he finally said: “I would never walk back myself, at night”, we decided to take him seriously, and ended up in the Landcruiser for a short ‘night drive’, but fortunately or unfortunately, we didn’t encounter any wild life.


Throughout the night, I could hear hippo, but quite far off. The sound of wild dogs quite close was more disturbing. Anyway, after a very luxurious tent sleep, complete with full moon, I woke this morning to the sound of a pair of carmine bee-eaters, starting the day as a loving couple, tightly cuddled together singing in the start of the day! I’d never heard the bee-eaters doing this, and it was very special.


Rob was out for the count, and I felt really bad, being the bad cop having to wake him to meet our early morning leave plan. We had decided to leave before sunset, so we could be in the Caprivi Strip, wild life sanctuary as early as possible.


We managed the sand road back to the main road without drama, but Rob did throw a fist in the air once we were on asphalt again!


Our early morning leaving strategy didn’t seem to be paying off, as half an hour into the ride, and all I had seen were two warthogs. I recalled my bicycle trip where in the ‘first minutes’ of Caprivi Strip, I had to deal with a mature bull elephant, facing me right in the middle of the road, as a come around a blind corner. A few minutes on Rob, and I were handsomely rewarded for our early departure. First two impala darting across the road about 150 metres off Rob, who was leading, and then seconds later a cheetah in full stride, clearly focused on one of the impala for breakfast! By the time the cheetah was crossing the road, we were less than 100m from it, and sadly, put it off course, and, ‘those two humans’, will definitely be blamed for its interrupted breakfast hunt. I realise many reader would have had much closer, and ‘more special’, African wild experiences, but to us what was special was just being free, out there on the bikes and being treated to something quite rare in the big picture of the busy world today, and it was our own viewing, not constructed by a guide, etc.  


Entrance to exit the Caprivi Strip is some 210 kilometres, and what hit me, was how much more human development there was along the road. In 2007, I remember feeling like I was totally alone on the bicycle, now Rob, and I stopped, and were able to buy a cold, yes fridge cold, Fanta.


I guess the road is just a road through a wilderness area, and it’s pretty straight, flat and it’s not as though you see wildlife everywhere. But, just being out there, special trees all around, long grass, and then a contrasting, deep blue sky, and ever ‘inflating’, cumulus clouds building up on the horizon, makes for me, a real African picture, of specialness.


The road was full of small yellow butterflies, almost pure yellow, save for a thing black line that emphasizes the wing’s delicate shape. There were thousands of them, and once we rode by what must have been a home or community meeting place, as we disturbed them, and hundreds flew off, spirally upwards to escape our temporary cyclone.


Getting to the end of ‘the strip’, the vegetation got noticeably, even greener, and soon ‘a river’ came into view, The Okavango River, that river that creates the famous delta, and unlike almost all other rivers, doesn’t flow into the sea or a lake, but just commits suicide, in the desert, forming the greatest, and most spectacular, inland delta in the world. There is a new bridge over the river now, and both Rob and I commented on how big and fast flowing the river was, given that it ‘dies’ not that far, south of where we were….


As my last nostalgic visit, reconnecting back to those bicycle days, I persuaded Rob, that we turn left, and head 4 kilometres south towards Botswana to have a late breakfast at Papa Falls, resort, where I stayed in 2007. Wow, what a change, the place was a backpacker type camping place, perfectly placed on Papa Falls, a rapid of the Okavango. Using its special location it is now a medium / upmarket resort.  Just great for two hungry motorcyclists, and one wanting to reconnect with his very special memories!


From there were returned to ‘our course’, and another two hundred kilometres of open wilderness, saw us arrive at Rundu, right on the Cunene river, another of Africa’s big ones.


That’s where we are tonight, and we have just returned from a great sunset dinner, looking west right down the big river!


Another day gone, and another new dawn awaits…!