It was time for a new country and a rare long day’s drive. We are trying to restrict these long days on the road as much as possible. Normally most visitors would want to explore the rest of Namibia far more widely than we have done but this is home territory for us and we have explored it thoroughly on previous occasions. The most notable omission has been the Caprivi area and we have now filled in some of the blanks. Judging from our present experience a special trip in the future will be on the cards, including using the border post directly into Zambia via the Sioma-Ngwezi NP. We would then approach from the west and meat confiscation would not be an issue. Perhaps we would include Kaudom NP in Namibia as well as Buffalo and Mahangu NP including a visit to the Horseshoe area. I would like to time it for some time in late November, just before the rains, to catch Liuwa Plains in southwestern Zambia during the wildebeest and Zebra migration which we were a little too early for in October 2012.
We were on the road just after 07H00 and details of the route are in the Geeks post for today. We noticed from the register at Rupara Campsite that we were only the third visitors to this campsite for May, I hope the nearby private campsite is not taking too much of their business. When we passed through Katima on the way to the Wenela Border Post and Zambia we had completed the full loop (anticlockwise) from Katima Mulila following the B8 and using the newly tarred C49. This is a very attractive route and I would encourage all to use this to visit the Kwando River and Namibian side of the Linyanti Swamps. It did not have the most vibrant game numbers during our visit but I suspect it would be far more productive in the dry winter when the permanent water would pull the animals in.
We found the Zambian side of the border slow, inefficient and frustrating, but in fact would be lucky if this is in any way close to nearly the worst border crossing we will experience down the line. Another feature was the badly potholed tarred road between Sesheke at the border and Kazangula. From Kazangula to Livingstone it has been resurfaced and it seems as if work is beginning on the preceding section, not too soon either!
We chose Peregrine’s Nest Bush Camp on past recommendations. It is part of the Taita Falcon Lodge and lies to the southeast of Livingstone and the Victoria Falls. The feature here is the really very spectacular view into the Batoka Gorge that the Zambezi River has carved out downstream of the Victoria Falls. This is the section where the renowned white-water rafting takes place and I had seen the lodge perched on the very edge of the gorge on one of these rafting adventures. The lodge and its chalets are indeed right on the edge of this spectacular natural phenomenon and the view from the bar deck is worth the trip and stayover. Unfortunately the campsites do not have anything like the same type of vantage point. We were in Kanniedood site, the closest to the gorge and all we had was a view into a ravine leading into the gorge.
There are 3 campsites, rustic but well organized. We received a very warm welcome from the staff at the lodge, where one has to check in and later the long term lodge owner Fanie (Fourie I think), also popped into the campsite to welcome us. He informed me that the rare Taita Falcons are only reliably sighted in the gorge from the lodge, during the breeding season in August to October. There is the normal fire pit, but there is the luxury of water at a tap, and in the reed ablutions there is a wash basin, flush toilet and shower. The locality is attractive set amongst the typical trees of the area. The campsites are widely separated and private with plenty of shade. There are no electrical points but when the generator runs from 18H00 to 21H30 there are effective but subtle lights in the camp.
That night I, me, myself, Stan Weakley, cooked a delicious chicken stew in the cast-iron pot on the coals. Wood is provided free of charge, literally as much as you like from a huge pile. The camp assistant is very helpful and ensures that you are well set up. His name he told us was “Renny”, when I asked him to spell it he said L E N N Y. The southern Zambians (Toka tribe) and those in the west also along the Zambezi (including the Lozi in Namibia) cannot pronounce an L, instead it comes out as an R, Rupara/Lupara National Park; Renny/Lenny. Why for the life of me would one choose a European name starting with a letter you cannot pronounce?
Campers can have full use of the lodge facilities including the bar and restaurant by prior arrangement but there is a prominent notice that only residents are allowed to use the swimming pool. It must be because we are the great unwashed! The restaurant prices are reasonable and a dish of Bream and chips was K75 (US$ 10) on the a la carte menu.