Category Archives: Botswana

“Do you have Ebola?”

“You cannot enter South-Africa with your dog.”
Even with a formal exit permit from the Namibian state vet, I dreaded the border with South Africa. They don’t allow the importation of pets accross land borders, only at Cape Town or Jo’Burg airport, where they have the appropriate quarantine facilities.
The lady behind the “Agriculture” desk at the border studies my papers, scrutinizes every syllable.
“Did you cross Angola?”, she wants to know.
“Yes, I did.” There’s no sense in denying it, with an Angolan visa in my passport.
“Then you can’t cross the border with your dog. You have to fly in to Cape Town or Johannesburg.”
“But I have an exit permit from the Namibian state vet, allowing me to enter SA.”
“Yes, but he should have told you that you can only import your dog in Cape Town or Jo’Burg airport.”
This is becoming a real Catch-22 situation. It will take me at least a week to drive back to Windhoek, arrange for Thimba’s transport and my own flight to Cape Town. And all that only to have a state vet screen my papers, conclude that they are in order, and provide me with an entry permit for Thimba.
“I would like to speak to your superior officer, plaese.” With a deep sigh she takes the papers into an adjacent office, returns 10 minutes later to start a series of telephone calls with the Namibian state vet. I discuss, negotiate, plead, explain, and try to remain calm and polite. After two hours she finally hands me a stamped and signed entry permit.
“It’s the two months’ stay in Namibia that saved you,” she says. “Had it been shorter, you would certainly have been denied entry with your dog.”
Relieved and exhausted I walk back to Thimba in the car and give her a big hug.
“The eye of the needle, Thimboektoe, the eye of the needle!”

What comes down, must go up.
And you can’t go further down than Cape L’Agulhas, Africa’s southermost point. And Mieke – my sister-in-law and trusted travel companion, who’s crossing South-Africa with me for a couple of weeks – takes a picture of this memorable moment.

A memorable moment!

A memorable moment!

From Lesotho to Swaziland is 40 degrees Celsius.
We are camped with a friendly farmer in a small settlement in Lesotho. Yesterday, the Sani Pass (the only border crossing from Kwazulu Natal into Lesotho) took us to over 2.700 metres and into a breathtaking mountain landscape, with temperatures well below zero and snow. The people we meet greet us with an unfriendly look, children beg by holding up their hands.
This morning there’s a thin layer of frosty ice on the inside of the car’s windows. We go off the beaten track and follow steep and winding gravel pistes all day, sharing many “wow” moments. A couple of days later we enter Swaziland, and the difference couldn’t have been more impressive: good roads, new shopping centres, and 35 degrees.

A cold morning in Lesotho

A cold morning in Lesotho

“Do you have Ebola?”
Hilde is an attractive German woman in her forties, who approaches me when I’m parked at one of Swaziland’s modern shopping centres near Manzini, the capital. She saw the car’s Dutch registration and asks about my travel plans. When I mention some of the countries I crossed, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria, she steps back and exclaims in a jocular way:
“Do you have Ebola?”
“Not that I know”, I answer.
She’s worked in Swaziland for several years and calls it “South-Africa light”.
You cannot travel through Africa now without in some way being confronted with the effects of the Ebola outbreak. More and more countries are closing their borders as a safety measure. Cameroon just closed its borders with Nigeria. In South Africa they screen your passport: a recent visit to an “Ebola” country means you will be denied entry.
I crossed West and Central Africa just weeks before the outbreak. It is now practically impossible to overland the western route. Some people have all the luck!

Elephants rule!
After Mieke flies back to Holland I continue my journey. Into Botswana, a long drive from Jo’Burg to Gaborone and Francistown. Not very exciting, either. But from Nata the A33 runs through unfenced wild life country. Elephants cross the road, ostriches throw an arrogant look. I camp at Elephant Sands. From where I’m writing this I can see the elephants walking accross the campsite. Amazing sight! Despite their weight (they can weigh up to 5.000 kg) they have an elegant walk, and I never get tired of watching them.

Elephant Sands, Botswana

Elephant Sands, Botswana

Elephant Sands, Botswana

Elephant Sands, Botswana

Huge bull crossing campsite, Elephant Sands, Botswana

Huge bull crossing campsite, Elephant Sands, Botswana

Angry Bird, Elephant Sands, Botswana

Angry Bird, Elephant Sands, Botswana