Experiencing The Four Corners of Africa
My Thirty-First with Many Firsts in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia
This year has been a year of firsts and crossing out some places I had added to my destination list. One specific place was added to the list because of a beautiful bridge I had seen on my Twitter timeline. The Kazungula bridge connects Zambia to Botswana. The bridge passes through a quadripoint — a point that touches the border of four distinct territories; Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. After reading about this amazing location, Zimbabwe was added to my destination list.
Fortunately, I have a friend based in Zimbabwe. So, I shared the Tweet with them and the rest was history.
The initial plan had been to visit Zimbabwe and then drive to Kazungula where the four countries( Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia) meet. However, as the planning ensued my friend became ambitious and added Namibia and Botswana. In my mind this was unattainable but I went along with it.
It dawned on me that we would do all these countries once my friend shared the ‘mildly challenging, but totally achievable if approached in a logical way, road trip’ map. Even then I was still sceptical…very much in my doubting Thomas energy.
Despite my doubts about how far we would get on our trip, I invited another friend to join us. So, the road trip of two became the road trip of three.
Zimbabwe and a pinch of Zambia
The beauty of a road trip is you get to see the lay of the land and Zimbabwe did not disappoint. From the slightly busy streets of Harare, and busier streets in Bulawayo…to the less busy farmlands of Gweru. It was a beautiful sight to see all its landscapes, people and farm animals.
Our first activity in the country was visiting one of the greatest wonders of the world…Mosi-oa-Tunya which translates to the storm that thunders. Pictures cannot capture how majestic Mosi-oa-Tunya is…but it is one of those waterfalls you have to see and experience in real life. I was able to view the falls in Zimbabwe and Zambia, and the experience in both countries is very different and unique.
In Zimbabwe, you get a chance to view almost all the parts of the waterfall and various flora and fauna. As well as rainbows in each corner you view the waterfalls. Every corner I saw the waterfalls left me speechless or mouthing a lot of ahhhs and wows. There is also a barrier that allows you to leave a padlock of love for yourself or your loved ones — we left a string from my friend's mask since we did not come prepared.
In Zambia you get; to be rained on the knife-edge bridge, have a better view of the bridge that separates the two countries and to seat in the park watching where the water begins to fall, as you secure your bag from being nabbed by the baboons.
You will need to pass through border control if you plan on seeing the waterfalls in both countries. Border control was fairly easy for us because as Kenyan citizens you do not need a Visa to visit the two countries.
The cost of entry to see the waterfalls varies in both countries, In Zimbabwe, it will cost you $30 as an international traveller and $20 in Zambia. We were charged as international travellers. I cannot wait for the day that tourism in Africa will be affordable for all Africans to experience. I was quite jaded paying $30 and being classified as an international traveller.
Before leaving Victoria falls we got to do a sunset boat cruise on the Zambezi river for $30 inclusive of light snacks and drinks. It is a very calming boat ride which allows you to see the beauty of the Zambezi river, hippos, elephants, crocodiles, and some birdies.
When in Zimbabwe be sure to have their local food sadza, which is ugali. You can either have it white or brown and be sure to have it with some road runner chicken stew.
Once we were done with Victoria falls, we started our journey to Kazungula bridge in Botswana.
The primary legal tender in Zimbabwe is the Zimbabwe dollar (ZWL), however, given Zimbabwe’s economic challenges tourists can use the US dollar, South African Rand or the Botswanan Pula. If you plan on using your debit cards ensure that the establishment accepts foreign cards.
Kazungula Bridge — Botswana
We entered Botswana through Kasane town. The border control in Botswana is very interesting — as a passenger you will have to disembark and step into a puddle of water and your car will also have to pass through it. This puddle is essential to combat foot and mouth disease in the country as cattle farming is important for the country’s economy.
Once we got into the country we took a boat ride to Chobe River — it was $20. This boat ride allows you to experience the four corners of Africa and where the Chobe River meets the Zambezi River.
The moment we stopped to experience where the Chobe River and Zambezi River meet my heart was complete, I had achieved a massive milestone on my bucket list and been to the four corners of Africa. The trip could have ended here and I would have been ok. However, our captain restarted the boat motor and took us to the shore under the Kazungula bridge. Here we got to see and enter the ferry that would allow people and goods to cross into Zambia before the Kazungula Bridge was built.
The entire place was like a dream come true and I did not want to wake up. But this was just the beginning of the most exciting trip in my life so far. We left the Chobe river happy tourists and headed out of Botswana and into Namibia.
Namibia was on my destination list, but I wrote it as a by the way, not knowing that I would ever visit it. When we got through border control I had to kiss the ground to know I was not dreaming.
Our first stop in Namibia was Grootfontein, this was one of the longest drives on our trip, we got here late into the night. Waking up the next morning was probably one of the saddest moments of this trip…because even when you are enjoying life bad things still happen to the people you love and they did. This meant that we had to re-route our trip for my friend to get to the closest international airport in Namibia which was in Windhoek. Before getting to Windhoek we did a game drive at Etosha National Park. Here we got to see; Giraffes, Zebras, Ostriches, Hartebeests, Impalas, Jackals and Elephants.
Being a Kenyan means I have seen most of these animals before, however, the Zebras and Giraffes look slightly different from those that we have in Kenya.
Despite the sadness, we had woken up to, Etosha National Park was able to give us a few moments of laughter and joy.
After dropping my friend at the airport, we started our journey to Swakopmund. As you drive to Swakopmund you get to catch views of the Namib desert.
Swakopmund is a coastal town with short palm trees and sandy beaches that face the Atlantic Ocean. I got to experience my first and last sunset overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on the Jetty Pier. Last, because the following days in Swakopmund were cold and cloudy— I will go back to experience the sunrise.
We also got to drive quad bikes to the Namib desert, as well as visit the snake park and the National Marine Aquarium.
Swakopmund town was established by the German colonialists, the buildings are very German and the town is full of a lot of white people. Most black people live in townships. If you want to experience the authentic people and culture of Namibia visit the townships — here we got to eat game meat and their local food pap(more ugali).
Our next stop was the Cape Cross Seal Reserve, home to the largest breeding seal colony in the world. On the drive here you will get to see the pristine coastline and pass by stands with salt crystals. We had to stop to get some. There is no seller on the stand so you put your money in a tin, the price of the salt crystal is indicated on the stand.
I have only seen seals on TV but at Cape Cross I was surrounded by what looked like hundreds of seals, before you get to the colony you will be hit by their pungent smell and the sound of goats. Yes…seals sound like goats.
After the Cape Cross, we started our journey to the Skeleton Coast, a place I first heard of when we were planning the itinerary.
The Skeleton Coast — part of the Namib Desert, is a 40 km wide and 500 km long coastal stretch in Namibia, a hostile but fascinating area- named for the whale bones and the hundreds of broken ships that litter its beaches.
My friend explained to me that the coastline usually has shipwrecks from ships that were unable to navigate the hostile waters and unable to see due to the thick fog. This was our reason for visiting the coastline to catch a glimpse of the shipwrecks. However, a flat tire deterred our chances of this and we only got to see the IDECO oil drilling rig.
The skeleton coast is the most deserted place I have ever experienced. There is close to no human traffic and not more than 5 cars passed us. If you are lucky you will get to see some animals; we only saw one lone Giraffe.
Given, that we were using a doughnut (spare tire) the thought of getting stranded in the park or on the road to Khorixas was not appealing. However, we experienced some of the most beautiful landscapes ever with the; different hues of the Namib desert and hills that will make you think you are on Mars.
Luckily, we made it to Khorixas very late in the night and with close to sub-par affordable accommodation options.
Because our initial route had changed we circled back to Windhoek after Khorixas. Windhoek is a very clean town — it is the capital of Namibia but compared to Nairobi it is less congested, clean and has no traffic. Here we didn’t do much but visit; their largest mall- Maerua Mall, a local pub- The Corner Pub and Grill… and Joe’s beer house which I felt was like Geppetto’s workshop. As well as get some curios at the Namibia Craft Centre.
The Namibian roads we experienced were amazing even in most interior parts, we only experienced gravel roads from Skeleton Coast to Khorixas.
The primary legal tender in Namibia is the Namibian dollar. Unlike Zimbabwe, your debit card can be used anywhere in the country.
Our last country on the itinerary was Botswana. We had only passed through it to see Kazungula Bridge but we circled back to visit Ghanzi, Maun and Francistown through Gobabis in Namibia.
Ghanzi is a town in the middle of the Kalahari Desert. Unfortunately, we did not get to experience the Kalahari desert. Maun is the centre for safari and game drives — we were all game-driven out after Etosha. Francistown is the second largest town in Botswana after Gaborone. It is one of the oldest towns- here we got to visit the Supa Ngwao Museum — as a history buff, I found the place quite underwhelming.
As you drive through some parts of Botswana you will pass wild animals. We got to see more Giraffes, Zebras and Elephants, as well as lots of cattle and horses- I think I can now say I have seen a real African cowboy. The local food here is pap(more ugali) like in Namibia.
To be quite frank the best thing we did in Botswana after seeing the Kazungula bridge was drive to Namibia and Zimbabwe. This is because the Okavango river was dry and so we could not do a boat ride, and we were not doing another game drive. Had we planned better we would have gotten a chance to visit a mine…but we didn’t and that’s ok.
Word of caution, if you get a sim card in Botswana do not get one from BTC.
The primary legal tender in Botswana is the Pula. Unlike Zimbabwe, your debit card can be used anywhere in the country.
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Overall, the trip was one of many firsts, the best birthday and experience in my life. All this would have not taken place without my friends; Andrew who accommodated us in Zimbabwe and drafted the itinerary and drove 6,500km to get through four countries; Jozzie who brought the energy and laughs and Wangeci for not breaking down or being problematic on the roads.
None of us wanted the trip to end but…
…Good things must end for better things to happen…..