I had to be in South Africa by the 16th of June to meet some friends and watch the first of my matches and I was in quite a quandary in how to get there on the right date – should I fly from Vic Falls to Joburg (expensive :S), go through Zimbabwe (would need another visa :S) or go through Botswana (notoriously set up for rich older Europeans and Americans). We heard a rumour that the visa for Botswana was free so that made the decision for us, and off we went to the dodgiest border crossing i have seen in a while…
Got a cab from Livingstone to Kazungula, the town bordering Botswana and from there my initial presumptions that this trip through Botswana would involve nothing more than a couple of buses through Francistown then Gaborone (the capital) then jump over the border and Joburg suddenly went a little less regimeneted, although that is certainly not a complaint.
The tone was set when we crossed the border the wrong way around by walking through immigration from the wrong side therefore inadvertently missing the hordes of Botswaneans surging through the correct entrance but, predictably in Africa, the immigration officials didn’t bat an eyelid and began process our exiting from Zambia. I then got stamped out by a seemingly blind border guard who looked at my 6 foot 2 English friend with black hair, then back to my passport photo, then at him again then nonchalantly shrugged and stamped him/me/us(?) through. The quirkiness continued when, busting for the toilet, I realized I had no local currency but luckily enough the paying toilets became free when we allowed the toilet dutyguard to sing us a song on my friend’s guitar while everyone relieved ourselves – “welcome to Zambia, thanks for visiting my peaceful country full of joy” and so on and so forth until everyone was finished!
We then crossed the smallest international border in the world apparently via a very dodgy boat – 700m of water separating Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana to and Namibia.
To cut a long story short, we crossed the river and got told there were no buses going through Botswana after 8am (it was not 9.30am) so we got dropped off on the highway and began to hitch-hike the 500km to the next destination Francistown. The search wasn’t looking fruitful until a guy came charging up in his car, flung open the door and when a load of Botswaneans approached him for a lift he declared “No no no no, I am here only for the whites” and waved them away! He was one crazy dude – also, he had lost his right arm in a car crash a few years ago and now drove only with his left arm. We naturally used that as a bargaining tool and before long Daika, our onearmed chauffeur, was caning it down the highway to Francistown.
His driving wasn’t too bad (:S) and we managed to avoid the elephants and giraffes and boars and donkeys that insisted on crossing the road at the seemingly most inopportuned times but things got a bit hairy when his mobile phone rang and HE ANSWERED IT with his left hand, going 120 km/h when it struck me, if his left hand is on the phone and his right arm is stting on the side of a Bostwanan road after his crash – what bloody arm is he using on the steering wheel?!!? After a few more occasions like thise we finally reached Francistown, got dropped off at a campsite, pitched the tents, said goodbye to Daika (crazy dude) and headed into restaurant to watch the football.
The other guys watched outside on the bigscreen while I checked my emails inside alone. 2 guys and a girl asked could they watch the football with me, of course I agreed. It transpired that one of the guys was the recently retired former Botswana football team captain, record caps holder with over 125 and national hero! He had just come back from England last month where he was playing at Stamford Bridge and St James Park with John Terry and Alan Shearer. I spent the evening with these guys, they bought me booze, dinner and then… his mate has offered me a lift to the capital city 500km from here and I can stay with him and his family tonight. Tomorrow he will help me arrange my passage to Joburg – I hate to generalize but Africans do seem amazingly friendly, I really am falling in love with this continent!