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Breakfast in Botswana, sundowners in Namibia: succumbing to a land of plenty

Breakfast in Botswana, sundowners in Namibia: succumbing to a land of plenty
Victoria Falls is where the Zambezi River plunges more than 100m over a wide rock face. (Photo: Bridget Hilton-Barber)

On this leg of an epic 40-day, 10,000km road trip to Rwanda and back, lucky Bridget Hilton-Barber and her friend Hugh Fraser enter a new portal and experience one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

On the fifth day of our road trip we passed by the quadripoint, the meeting place of four countries. Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe all meet at the confluence of the Chobe and Zambezi rivers at Kazungula in Botswana.

The wider region is dubbed the four corners of Africa, and it’s a heady mix of rivers and waterfalls, sundowner cruises and safaris. The sense of possibility is wonderful and the signs are fantastic: Zambia this way, Zimbabwe that way, Namibia this way. Botswana’s Chobe National Park, Namibia’s Caprivi Strip and the Zambezi River and Victoria Falls in both Zimbabwe and Zambia are all within easy reach of each other.

(Photo: Bridget Hilton-Barber)

The tranquil Zambezi River, in Namibia. (Photo: Bridget Hilton-Barber)

It feels fabulously Pan-African and we really did have breakfast in Botswana and sundowners in Namibia. The Namibian roads are better than those in Botswana, with fewer potholes and more robust shoulders. Just watch out for cows with cowbells, baobabs and bikers: we met several Germans doing Namibia by motorbike.    

We’d exited Botswana by taking a slow Sunday cruise through Chobe National Park, crossed over into Namibia and were now on the banks of the Zambezi River having our minds blown by the proverbial Great African Sunset.

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The proverbial Great African Sunset, seen from the Caprivi Strip. (Photo: Bridget Hilton-Barber)

Oh my, the Zambezi River gives good sunsets. (And sunrises.) We listened to the call of the fish eagles and the sound of drumming, chanting and festivities from across the river on the Zambian side. It had been going on for weeks, apparently, to mark the death of a Lozi king, the Lozi being an eastern Zambian tribe. It would be the signature tune for our stay here.

We had definitely crossed the metaphorical quadripoint and entered a new portal.

rwanda road trip

Caprivi River Lodge. (Photo: Bridget Hilton-Barber)

Caprivi River Lodge is old-fashioned and homely, a jungle of greenery overlooking the Zambezi River, Africa’s fourth largest, a lifeline for greenery and wildlife. The closest town is Katimo Mulilo, a hot and dusty but friendly sprawl. By 10am the temperature was hitting over 30°C, so we laid low. The lodge’s rooms are pleasant and really comfortable and its bar is retro – spot the fake elephant foot ashtray, icon of 1970s kitsch.

Healing powers

The idea here is to take it easy on the Zambezi, explained Riaan Bester from Caprivi River Adventures, who took us out on a sunset cruise. Some people come here for the tiger fishing; others for game viewing by boat; many just to kick back and relax.

rwanda road trip

A man poles a craft called a Makoro amid lush scenery in Namibia. (Photo: Bridget Hilton-Barber)

It’s a great safari region. The Caprivi is being restored as a corridor for elephants moving from Botswana and Namibia into Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The hotel has international guests, he said, mainly German and Dutch, and the South African market is strong.

There’s a haunting melancholy here that we didn’t feel in eastern Botswana. The Caprivi was a war zone in the 1980s when Namibia, Angola and Zimbabwe were fighting for their independence. But the healing powers of the Zambezi are strong, and the four corners are only in one’s mind, after all.

We saw cormorants, white-fronted bee-eaters, pied kingfishers and fish eagles. We saw hadedas – Hugh cursed them for reminding him of Jozi – and we blissed out on Zambezi River eye candy: golden reflections, traditional mokoro boats, drops of condensation on our G&T glasses…

In the spirit of the four corners, over the next few days, we exited Namibia, re-entered Botswana, exited Botswana and entered Zimbabwe, exited Zimbabwe and entered Zambia. It was sweaty. Borders are generally grumpy and bureaucratic.

Entering Zimbabwe involved archaic paperwork, several different counters, annoying hustlers and forlorn-looking foreigners. To get from Zimbabwe into Zambia was the most bureaucratic, although its customs and immigration staff are polite.

We were driving Hugh’s Subaru Forester and we had a Carnet de Passage en Douane – basically a passport for the car to get it in and out of customs. But we still had to pay fees and taxes.

Here was the actual four corner rub: we paid R371 in cash to enter Namibia; BP80 (Botswana pula) to go through Botswana; $50 in road accident fund and carbon insurance tax to enter Zimbabwe, paid by credit card; and to enter Zambia we paid $20, plus ZMW210 (Zambian kwacha) plus another ZMW180, and ZMW378 for car insurance, all only payable in cash. We used moneychangers at the border, who sold us slightly short but were helpful.

Power of development

There’s been a massive improvement since the Kazungula Bridge was built in 2021, finally linking Zambia and Botswana over the Zambezi River – from landlocked to land-linked, as they say – and its opening was attended by more than 15 African presidents. The South Korean-built road replaced the infamous Kazungula ferry that winched trucks over the river, two at a time.

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(Photo: Bridget Hilton-Barber)

A new ring road also now leads from Botswana into Zimbabwe and – taraa! – One week into our Epic Road Trip we were standing, elated and exalted, in front of the Victoria Falls, the world’s greatest sheet of falling water. One of the seven natural wonders of the world. Mosi-oa-Tunya, the smoke that thunders.

The Victoria Falls is where the Zambezi River plunges more than 100m over a wide rock face, and I wish everyone could see it – it’s so beautiful.

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Victoria Falls bridge spans the Zambezi from Zimbabwe to Zambia. (Photo: Bridget Hilton-Barber)

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Victoria Falls, the smoke that thunders. (Photo: Bridget Hilton-Barber)

The Zambezi was at its highest level in ages, and there was a wild whiteout with spray and clouds where you would normally be able to see its spectacular width. There were crowds of excited international tourists in raincoats laughing and chatting and doing endless selfies. What a joy to see amazement on the faces of one’s fellow travellers.

We fell into the arms of the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge on the Zimbabwean side, a fabulous thatch hotel with gorgeous views of a waterhole and distant stretches of the Victoria Falls National Park. The hotel was packed with tourists and I shall be forever grateful to its spa therapists for ironing out all the driving knots in my back.  

Whereas the Zimbabwean side shows the falls in its panoramic width, the Zambian side has more close-up drama in the form of the Knife Edge Walk, a suspension bridge, and the Boiling Point, which is a clamber through the forest down to the river’s edge. Look up to the Victoria Falls bridge perchance to see a bungee jumper.

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Camped at the lovely Baobab Camp and Cottages outside Livingstone. (Photo: Bridget Hilton-Barber)

rwanda road trip

Baobab Camp and Cottages. (Photo: Bridget Hilton-Barber)

In Zambia, we finally camped. We pitched at the lovely Baobab Camp & Cottages outside Livingstone and finally did breakfast, lunch and dinner all in one country. Baobab Camp & Cottages has a charming restaurant deck overlooking the spray of the falls; Hugh did an impromptu helicopter flip while I lay feebly in the shade of a tree.

The campsites here are excellent, featuring a lock-up kitchen with electricity and running water. We lay gratefully upon the earth that night, tucked into our canvas four corners, a long way from home, listening to the sounds of elephants trumpeting and lions roaring. DM 

Fast facts:

Caprivi River Lodge:
www.capriviadventures.com

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge:
www.victoria-falls-safari-lodge.com

Baobab Camp & Cottages:
www.uaczam.com/accommodations/livingstone

Our Epic Road Trip was sponsored by ClemenGold Gin.

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