The Road to Harare: Outjo to Bana Ba Metsi
My journey to Africa started back in January of 2012. I was to spend 8 months as a volunteer working at a rural primary school in the Kunene region of Namibia. What I wanted to get out of this was to get to know the local culture and the people of Namibia during my time in the country. Throughout the first 3 or 4 months, I spent the vast majority of my time at the school getting to know the Namibian ways of life better. Looking back, this was very useful for my travels through Namibia and Botswana.
As the school holidays arrived I still had very little idea as to where I was going to go for my 3 and a half weeks off. All I knew was that I was meeting up with 4 of my friends who were other volunteers based around different parts of Namibia: Scott, Stewart, Cat and Jordan. We had a rough idea of the places we wanted to go but such is life that these plans were thrown to the wolves later on. I was still waiting on my passport and had organised it to be sent via a courier to Rundu, the first stop on our journey. Rundu is a small town at the very north of Namibia on the border with Angola. Our original plan was to catch a ride on a school bus that was taking the children from the school back to their hometown on the border. From there we wanted to head to Zambia and visit Victoria Falls. Following the falls we would travel to Harare in Zimbabwe for the Harare International Festival of Arts. We also toyed with the idea of heading into Mozambique if time would allow. So with a rough plan in mind, on April 21st we set off.
At 7:30 in the morning we left the school at Otjikondo and travelled 20km to St. Michaels, the school I was volunteering at. At the road’s end there was two combis or mini buses that would take us to Rundu with the kids. We decided to split ourselves between the two; Stewart and I took the second. On the long journey north the bus dropped off kids in different towns which gave us a chance to stretch our legs. When we started the journey, we were unaware how long it would actually take! The journey north also meant that we had to start taking anti-malarial medication. Having run out on previous travels, Stewart bought some cheap Doxycycline in town and washed it down with a nice cold beer. 5 minutes later he passed out and woke up around 3 hours later. To this day we both think it was not actually doxycycline that he had bought! The journey was great, there was amazing views and the country began to get greener the further we travelled north. We passed the time listening to music and playing cards. There was also a number of checkpoints we had to go through on the way which worried me every time as I didn’t have my passport on me. This could have caused some issues, but thankfully we were never asked to show them. We finally arrived in Rundu as the sun began to set and after a full day sitting in a fairly cramped little bus, we were ready for some food and a comfy bed. We found a nice little Bed and Breakfast and got three rooms between us. The original plan was to wait with me in Rundu for my passport but that changed and Scott, Cat, and Jordan decided to head to Victoria Falls the following day. Stewart decided to stay with me until we got my passport and then follow them up. However, Stewart had already visited Vic Falls and we later on changed our plans. We spent the day walking around Rundu and found an amazing wooden craft market where all sorts of masks, carvings, knives, axes, etc. were being sold. Later on we went down to a fancy hotel and walked down towards the border of Angola. We stood and watched the sun set over the Okavango River which was incredible. As we stood there, we contemplated going over to Angola the next day but quickly decided this probably wasn’t the best of ideas. We headed back to the B&B and had a few beers and discussed our plans for the next day. We decided that we would head to Botswana and visit one of the other projects there, Bana Ba Metsi. I was a little bit gutted that I wouldn’t get to see Victoria Falls but at the same time we were starting our own adventure.
The following day we went to get my passport which had finally been delivered and began our journey. We got to the road that would eventually take us to Divindu, near the border with Botswana and started the long process of hitchhiking. It took us a while to actually catch a lift and we made a video diary at the side of the road (no wonder people weren’t stopping for us). But we eventually got a lift and again it was an amazing road to Divindu; we crossed different rivers and were constantly on the lookout for crocodiles. Much to our disappointment we didn’t see anything. Once we were dropped off in Divindu we managed to catch a lift fairly quickly that agreed to take us to the border with Botswana. From there on we would have to walk. I was beginning to get quite nervous about the border crossing as I had over stayed on my tourist visa and did not want to have any problems in the middle of nowhere. However, it was not even mentioned and I was now in Botswana!
After walking across the border and into Botswana, we managed to get a lift from one of the border officers to a river boat that would take us towards Bana Ba Metsi. We had to wait for quite a long time before the boat took us across the river. Once we were across it took even longer to get a lift. However, we were completely unaware that Max, once of the volunteers at Bana Ba Metsi, was coming to pick us up in the truck. We bought sweet reed to eat as we waited on a lift to travel the 50km to the project and the sun was going down. It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. We watched the sun set over the Okavango until we were offered a lift in a pickup truck full of people. We threw in our bags and jumped on. By this time the sun had almost completely set. As we were driving I saw a sight I will never forget: the sun was setting behind these small settlements that we would pass, and all you could see was the silhouette of the traditional houses in front of the setting sun. I remember thinking to myself that I was so completely happy and just living for the moment. A bit further down the road, we saw Max drive by in the truck but he did not see us and we felt slightly guilty, but to our defence, we had no idea he was coming to meet us. Along the way we dropped off people at these small settlements and the temptation to jump out and join in with all that was going on was incredible. However, we continued on and into the bush as we took the road to Bana Ba Metsi in the pitch black of the night. We had made it to our first destination. From there on out, it was taking it as it comes with the hope of ending up in Harare.
By Jack Wilson