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Sihle Khumalo

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

New Year’s Trip to Vic Falls

On the last Friday of 2007, I – together with my nine friends – decided on continuing with our ritual of celebrating New Year in another African country. This time we decided to visit Victoria Falls. Due to reported unavailability of fuel in Zimbabwe, we thought of – instead of using the direct route – driving the two cars through Botswana.

We rushed through Rustenburg, Zeerust and got to the Skilpadshek border gate which – thank goodness – had extended its operating hours until midnight because of the festive season.

We got to Botswana’s capital City – Gaborone – just before midnight and drove throughout the night to Francistown. We left Botswana’s second largest town at sunrise on our way to Kazungula border which was still more than 500 kilometres away. About forty kilometres outside a non-descript town called Nata, we hit a massive pothole which led to – due to the bending of the rims – the puncture of both front and rear left tyres. Another car had to go back to Nata where we were helped by a young man operating on the side of the road. He basically, using an old hammer, hit and straightened both rims. Unfortunately one rim cracked and that meant we were not going to have a spare tyre. Although we had been delayed for more than three hours, we were all in great spirits again as we continued – albeit slowly – heading to Kazungula. Now and then we stopped and let the elephants – at their own pace – cross the road. Only in Africa, I know.

From the Kazungula border we had to use public transport because – due to our not having vehicle ownership certificates – we were not allowed to leave the country with our cars. Very strange if you consider that they do not ask you for those certificates when you enter the country. That meant we only had to take essentials (like alcohol) from the cars. After crossing the Chobe River with a ferry and taking a bus on a 80 kilometre ride, we got to Livingstone-Zambia where we dropped anchor.

Over the next couple of days we bungee jumped, visited the Falls and took a sunset / booze cruise. For New Year’s Eve Party, we decided to attend a ‘One night in Las Vegas’ themed party at Fezbar which turned out to be the lowlight of the trip. The club played 80’s pop as well as some rock and roll music. Soon after midnight, we decided to check out another club called Fermont. After being told that the entrance fee is 40 000 kwachas (approximately R80, 00); we went back to our dormitory to enjoy our own drinks at leisure.

Heading back to Mzansi was a hassle free process – except that about 170 kilometres before Nata, we hit a pothole which also caused the rim to bend and – since we had no spare tyre – we were stuck. We were helped by a farmer from Ventersdorp, at least that is how he looked like. He gave us a hammer and a footpump. Within an hour, we were on our way again.

We had to drive slowly through Nata to Francistown, where the road vastly improved. However due to loads of slow moving trucks, countless police and disease control check points; covering just more than 400 kilometres took more than 6 hours. We rushed through Gaborone and got to Lobatse border at 22H30.

As I was filling in the car details at the custom counter; I remarked to the custom official ‘You know sometimes when travelling in other African countries you just cannot win. We did not go through Zim because of fuel shortages but were hit by massive potholes in Northern Botswana.’

‘At least you did not travel on the Kalahari Highway to Namibia because you would have collided with a donkey,’ he said as he continued playing computer games.

‘Eish but Africa,’ I thought to myself.


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