Ngepi is not very far from Drotsky’s (only 57 km), and the border crossing was completely painless. If anyone would ask me where to stay in the Caprivi, I would say Ngepi Lodge ̶ without any hesitation.
Especially if you’re camping. It is, like Drotsky’s, on the banks of the Okavango River. They have huge gardens with lush green lawns, and everywhere you looked there was something new to discover. Metal statues and quirky signs everywhere. All the campsites have large green lawns and are on the banks of the river, with a fantastic view. Ngepi also has treehouses on the river with en-suite bathrooms and bush huts.
They have the best bathrooms for campers I have ever seen and all of them have names and “instructions”. One toilet was built on high stilts and was called “Poopafalls”, after the nearby Popa Falls. Frankly, this one was much better than the real version.
When we asked the receptionist whether they had any monkeys, she apologetically said, sorry, no. We had to laugh! We were not sorry at all; a few days’ reprieve from monkeys was just what the doctor ordered.
On our second day in this paradise, we had to do laundry. Again. We also had to reorganise and tidy the trailer. The children kept themselves busy with sticks and sand and water and digging holes. They told us they were building traps so the hippos wouldn’t bother us. They almost trapped me when I stepped into one of their camouflaged holes. I guess they caught their hippo, then.
The lodge had a croc and hippo cage in the river, similar to the shark cages in South Africa. The Okavango River’s water was extremely cold, but Hugo and his two crazy kids felt brave enough to take on the water and the strong current. It was quite amusing to see them fight the strong current while trying to get from one side of the cage to the other. I decided that there was no way I’m leaving Ngepi and the only crocodile cage in the world without taking a dip in the river. I jumped in upstream and was out on the other side before I could catch my breath! The water would surely give you hypothermia if you stayed in long enough. Anyway, goal achieved!
An hour or so before sunset we set off on two mokoros (hollowed out tree trunk kayaks, steered by a guide with a long pole standing in the back). Hugo and Sophia in one and Gustav with me. There was no other motorised traffic on the water and it was an incredibly peaceful experience to just slowly float down the river. Gerard, our guide, proved to be very knowledgeable about birds and the environment.
Along the way we passed the ruins of the base of the old 32 Battalion, who fought in the Bush War. The following day we drove over there, and a feeling of sadness and loss overwhelmed me. So many young men were sent to fight in a war and lost their young lives, whether they survived the war or not. I’ve met some of them and I’m sure they wouldn’t wish those years on their worst enemies. The ruins told the story of a war that should never have been and was completely in vain in the end. Like all wars, I guess.
On our way back with the mokoros, Gerard stopped at a small island in the middle of the river where we could get out. The island was covered in the finest and whitest sand that made a weird squeaking noise when we walked on it. Gustav and Sophia tried collecting as much sand as possible in their gum boots so they could make their own squeak-sand beach. Do you know how hard it was to get it out of their socks?!
On Sunday, we decided to drive to Popa Falls for brunch, but first we had to make a fire in the hot water donkey to be able to have a warm shower. It took some time, but we made it in time to the Popa Falls Lodge for some sort of a breakfast buffet. We met Hein and Wilna Theron from Rundu in northern Namibia here and had a long chat with them about the economy, politics, and life in general. Hein told Hugo that there were no accountants in Rundu and the farmers had to drive all the way to Windhoek to see theirs. We almost started a practice in Rundu right there and then. The only problem was that the town has no schools and the children would have to go to boarding school. [Ed: And it’s WARM in that part of the world!] Maybe the idea will have more appeal towards the end of the year when we are sick and tired of each other. Maybe they will even go willingly…
Popa Falls was a bit of a disappointment. We went there in search of waterfalls, but found only rapids. It boggles the mind why anyone would call a series of rapids a waterfall. [Ed: Because to people who have dry riverbeds most of the time (Namibians), they will pretty much look like falls!] It was still beautiful though.
Back at Ngepi, we met more interesting people, Callum from Canada and Adaigh and Lex from London. Adaigh and Lex were contemplating relocating to Africa and Callum was on a tour around Africa with no time limit. On a motorbike. It made for excellent dinner conversation while we were enjoying a kudu potjie on the banks of the Great Okavango.
On Monday morning, we delayed leaving as long as possible. Once we were finally packed and ready to go, it was lunchtime. It meant we had to have some of their chicken burgers. For only about the third time.
We drove the 250 km to Camp Kwando with full tummies and heavy eyelids. One negative thing about Drotsky’s and Ngepi was that they set the standards so high that Camp Kwando, which probably isn’t that bad, was a bit of a disappointment. Only the chalets and luxury tents were on the river banks (with Botswana on the other side), and us mortal campers were banned to the back. Yet again we met a lovely couple, Stef and Mariana. They had the cutest little teardrop caravan, and we just had to go talk to them and hear their story. Only a bed fits in the caravan and each one has its own door ̶ you get straight into bed. It has shelves inside for clothes and a cute kitchen outside in the back. Perfect for people who love touring and don’t want to struggle with a tent.
Day 99 and 100 (2 and 3 June) saw us at Livingstone’s Camp in Nkasa Lupala National Park (the old Mamili). This camp has been newly opened and didn’t have offices at that stage, and the staff were using one of the five campsites. Each campsite had its own covered kitchen with enough space to dine, as well as its own bathrooms. Otherwise, very basic and no other people. We liked.
Again, we were on the river. It was here where I was trying to write the post about Moremi and was bothered by the hippos.
As we had dirty washing again, one of the local ladies came to my rescue and took care of it at a very decent price.
On Day 100, we drove to Nkasa Lupala Lodge on our way into the park. Gustav wasn’t feeling well and was a bit feverish. He vomited earlier, but bravely said we had to continue. The lodge was luxurious and beautiful ̶ a pity it was somewhat above Hugo’s budget.
We went for a drive through the park, which was beautiful, just like the rest of the Delta region. Green, wet, massive trees, sandy roads.
Back at the camp, Gustav’s temperature has climbed and he vomited again. This was the first time on our trip that one of us got sick, and Hugo was immediately worried about malaria. We decided to play it safe and do a test, which turned out negative. We made pancakes (crêpes) and mince for dinner, but he didn’t really eat anything. That night we put a bucket next to his bed in case he got nauseous. We woke up in the middle of a night with a confused Gustav standing on the ladder at the foot of our bed. I asked him whether he wanted to throw up and he answered by promptly vomiting on everything. From where he stood he just sprayed the ladder, his bed, mattress, pillow, blanket, duvet and the floor. He finished in the bucket and then came to lie beside me where he quickly fell asleep. The best husband on earth got the cleaning job, he even disinfected the floor. In the middle of the night. [Ed: OK, that’s more than redemption for the laptop screen!]
The following morning Gustav was back to his old self and we stuffed all the dirty things in black bags. Then we stayed in a hotel for four days, followed by two more camping grounds before we finally had the time and opportunity to wash it. Eeuw. Hint: I didn’t do it.
Livingstone’s Camp was our last camp in Namibia before we crossed the border to Zambia, where we stayed in the town Livingstone.
Tip of the day:
Get yourself a “piepiestoel”, aka a wee-wee chair. It’s a folding chair with a hole in it. It makes life so much easier when your little girl refuses to “go” in the bush when travelling for hours and there are no decent toilets until the next country. And for mum when it is pitch dark, you’re the only people in the area and there are hippos around. Saves those legs from squatting.