Crossing with the Kazungula ferry from Zambia to Botswana over the Zambezi River is fun – if you have a strongly developed sense of humour and aren’t a person who easily gets stressed.
Luckily, a ‘fixer’ latched on to us before we could make too much of a fool of ourselves.
In fact, about five of them did, some wanting to exchange pula for us as we crossed into Botswana, others just promising they could get us through the border in ‘ten minutes’. When we insisted we already had pula and weren’t in any hurry, only one stayed the course and was polite enough to convince us.
Our man was true to his word. We got our passports stamped, filled in the required forms, paid for the ferry and were driving onto it in around 15 minutes whereas everyone we’d spoken to had told us it would take two to three hours.
We parted with good wishes all round, and the only thing I felt bad about is that I had no more kwachas left over to buy a rather well-executed wood carving from an artist determined to be our last contact on Zambian soil.
‘Oh no,’ our fixer waved his hand dismissively, ‘they’re waiting for papers.’ Seems they can sometimes wait there for two to three weeks before said papers come through. Ouch.
Ours was the only vehicle to head off on the ferry into the middle of the Zambezi River on that run, although it had been laden with a huge truck, three cars and a muddle of pedestrians on its way over from Botswana. Midstream, we looked back sadly to the Zambian shore and saw two Zambian ferries parked a little way upstream.
‘Not working today,’ was the ferry driver’s comment, though I suspect they won’t be working any time soon either.
Sad as we were to leave Zambia, we were buzzed at our whirlwind border crossing. On the Botswana side things were a lot more organised – and a lot more boring.
A Kenyan overland driver who was also waiting to get through the border said they had made his guests unpack everything to get at their second or third pairs of shoes a few weeks earlier.
Maybe sometimes they will, but that day three guys were sitting around on old chairs chatting, not even really caring if we did the pair on our feet or not.
We smiled fondly; perhaps there was still a touch of Zambian disorder on this side of the border after all.
[Update May 2021: A spanking new bridge crossing the river has now opened, making the ferries a thing of the past.]
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