“50….no 100……no 150 thousand elephants.”, Kasane, March 6th, 2011

Thursday, March 3rd, begins with a heavy reminder that I am south of the Equator now and that it is March, meaning rainy season. It’s pouring down crazy but only for one hour while Louis and I have breakfast. Enough however for us to decide to make the trip now instead at night (to save hotel costs) and so at 1pm the bus takes off from Lusaka to Livingstone in the very south. What a good decision and what a TIA experience. First a truck has flipped and it takes a while to clear the street but then at one town along the way we get stopped by other cars and a lot of people. Chelsea and Manchester United (they played a couple days before) fans are in heavy fights with each other and the police has lost control. Supposedly they have taken parts of the city under their control or at least it is not safe to go through. A man on the bus comments with “they are disturbing the city.” So the big bus takes a detour via dirt roads through fields of corn and we are getting stopped again and again by big crowds of people. Partly they are carrying sticks and other “things” usable as weapons. It is hard to say if they are the bad hooligans or just people trying to avoid the trouble. In any case Louis and I get scarred and from time to time we hide – them seeing foreigners / smelling money in this uncontrolled situation is not funny we believe. Maybe we do them injustice but I do not want to take any chances. The whole circumstances are even more strange as very normal things happen and traditions occur at the same time. Business trucks make their way to factories, women go to work at the fields and this the many many people on this one tractor are singing loud on their way to a funeral ceremony.

At 7pm we reach our backpackers hostel in Livingstone, named after the explorer who, at first glance of the water falls, gave them the name of his Queen. The very next morning, away from the adventures of Hooligans, we are regular tourists again, amazed by the power of water, the Zambesi river and the 3 minutes we spend in Zimbabwe without a VISA.

We meet two English girls and one of them, being English, is crazy of course. She decides to do the bridge bungee jump.  I wanted to do the sky dive but they are cancelled in off season times. Too bad……… . While watching her jump I hear “Hey, Frank, is that you…???” and as I am Frank I turn around. Her are Yasmine and Andrew with who I done the Gorilla trekking in Rwanda. How cool is that, the world is a village. Finally I get my chance to impress Andrew with my Congo experience, yes.

At night I have a great dinner with Louis before heading out to party with some other people from the back packers. It’s a nice and friendly atmosphere and I enjoy it till about 2 am. Saturday becomes a great day of doing nothing and everything. Sleep long, upload a post, eat twice at the same fast food place (“Hungry lion”) swim in the pool, wash clothes and finding people for yet another safari. Of the big 5 (lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino, leopard) I have seen all but a leopard. Chobe National Park in Botswana is supposed to be good to see them. Besides that this safari would take me to Botswana (and across the hectic and dangerous border) as well. So I look for people to join as the backpackers only organizes it with 2 or more people and Louis only gives me a “maybe”. I find Bernd, a relaxed German, who quickly likes the idea and signs up for it.

As I walk through town I meet this taxi driver. I can not get enough of his funny way of talking and as he seems to like me as well we spend quiet some time together. He takes me to the different cemeteries (detailed descriptions of that in a different post) and tells me a lot about the local life and difficulties. Basically everybody has relatives dying young of Aids.  Later I get his chita teeth necklace as a present.

à video cemetary

Sunday morning Bernd, Louis (maybe has become yes) and I take off early for our Chobe National Park tour. Suddenly I do not believe my eyes and ask the driver to turn around. I get confirmed…………………….

Soon later we reach the shortest border in the world. In the 4 country corner of Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana the latter 2 share about 70m which are on the Chobe river. Being with a tour we cross it quickly and without any issues. Even the foot and mouth disease precautions I know from German TV view years ago.

Our safari is split into a boat ride in the morning and a game drive in the afternoon. The boat ride is amazing. The weather great, the water fantastic and the game we see unbelievable. It starts with a national geographic scene, deer wanting to drink but a croc lying at shore watching them carefully and a tree that would not have surprised me if it had started to talk to me.

Then the impressive numbers of Elephants are visible everywhere. The first guide starts with 50.000, at lunch we are told 100.000 and later it is 150.000 alone in this national park. It really does not matter, they are a lot, almost too many. Only the fact that they go into water and have little baby’s among them keeps it interesting after the first 2 hours.

Botswana has decided to focus on wealthy tourists rather than back packers which I will learn later that day. But for lunch it is great. Via the safari we are booked into this very posh hotel in the middle of the park and enjoy an all you can eat buffet. Bernd and I try hard to make it a negative calculation for them eating everything from lamb to vanilla pudding. Then we go onto the game drive to see more elephants but also a big giraffe and all sorts of antelopes.

Around 4pm it is time to say yet another time good bye to a travel partner. While Louis and Bernd go back to Zambia I stay in Botswana. Its been 10 days with Louis and I will miss his humour and energy. They drop me at one of the hotels that charge 150 Dollars for a bed as a “special offer”. The funny part is, that is really is a special offer, regular prices go up to 600 Dollars a night, including breakfast. So I walk into Kasane asking around until I find an English man, in charge of a construction site, who gives me advise with the following result:

After a pool swim, a nice pizza and a pool game with some locals I fall asleep watching football and wondering what Botswana holds for me and how I will handle with the prices here vs my budget………………………

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