Snapshots from Botswana Bush Camping

While in Zambia I travelled with a girl who happened to meet a couple of NY Times Journalists who were cutting through Botswana to get to Namibia. They offered her a ride, and since I was heading to Botswana as well, I decided to tag along. The guys came to pick us up at our hostel around noon. That’s when I realized we would be sitting in the back of a covered pickup truck on top of their stuff. Always up for a new adventure, I climbed aboard. When the other girl got in, however, she accidentally stepped on the valve for the spare tire and broke it. Without their spare tire, the guys weren’t about to head into Namibia, so they were going to have to stay the night in Kasane, Botswana. On our adventures together over the next few days, I took a series of snapshots. So, I’ve decided to share them for a little bit of bush camping storytelling!

Climbing into the back of the truck

I sat against the back of the cab, on top of my backpack.

What's a grown-up?

We discovered that there was a door on top that opened. Driving down the ride as we hung out the top was like Disney World goes to Africa.

Time to board the ferry!

When we got to the Zambia-Botswana border it was a bit crazy. There were truckers lined up forever. You see, when you cross the Zambezi River there are four countries that meet here: Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, and Botswana. For the 2 minute ferry ride that can only carry one 18-wheeler truck and a few cars, you would think they would have a bridge to resolve the traffic jam. However, Zimbabwe refuses to agree. Why? Because they hope to divert traffic from Zambia going to Botswana to come via Zimbabwe. Therefore, there’s always a long line here.

The ferry between Botswana and Zambia
Glimpse at the trucks on Botswana's side waiting on the ferry.
A clever sticker on the truck.
Parking in the bush

After we got into Kasane, the journalists really wanted to bush camp, so we thought ‘Why not?’  We stopped at the grocery store to pick up meat and headed out into the bush. Not 5 minutes after parking the truck, we heard elephants. Time for a bush walk!

Elephant poop
I promise it's an elephant butt!

We spotted the elephant. And then another. And then we realized we were semi- surrounded by them.  Time to head back to the campsite and cook dinner. Little did I know that these rough looking journalists (one of them is a self-proclaimed redneck) were actually food connoisseurs when it comes to camping. We had ox tongue as an appetizer and steak with stuffed gem squash.

View from my tent
Heating water for tea before we pack up!

After a nice breakfast, we packed up our junk and cleaned up our camping area. The truck did not want to start this morning, but after some TLC by the owner we were on our way. Getting out of the bush was an adventure (I took a video and one of these days I will post it). We stopped once we reached the road to take the truck out of 4 wheel drive. And that’s when we realized that we had lost our front license plate. The driver thought we may have lost it when we were heading into the bush yesterday so it was time to retrace our route.

Back into the bush to search for the lost license plate

Sadly, we did not find the front license plate and the guys wouldn’t be able to cross the border without it. So, we asked around and found out that there’s a tour company in town that can make a license plate for you in a few hours. Apparently it’s quite a common thing to get new plates made.

Warthogs walking in town? Sweet!
A tour company makes license plates?

The plate would take an hour and it turned out that this tour company was offering a better deal on the Chobe River Cruise than a lodge we had asked. So, the journalists decided to stay another night and go on the river cruise. One of the journalists has done this cruise five times and said that this time around was the best yet. Stay tuned to read about the Chobe River Cruise tomorrow! (Btw: I ended up camping with these guys again for another night but we stayed at a campsite to have a shower)

Bush Camping Info:
In Namibia, it’s quite common to camp freely along the road. In Botswana, I think it’s slightly more strict. If you decide to bush camp, make sure you get far enough away from civilization that people won’t see your fire. ALWAYS take everything with you that you brought into the bush. And have someone with you that’s experienced at this sort of thing. Someone should sleep near the fire in case they need to scare away an animal. In general, you should never get out of your tent if you hear an animal (especially if you hear a lion in the area as we did).

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