The road from Katima to Popa Falls was upgraded to a tarred road in the 1980s by the SA Defence Force to give easy access right along the border and into Angola. It goes from East to West and is absolutely flat and straight for 500kms ending at Rundu.
This is the mokoro we tried, unsuccessfully, to row
Even though the road itself was uninteresting the scenery around it was quite interesting. The vegetation was thick and green due to the heavy rains which had been experienced right across this region. Every now and then there was a small road off to the left showing either a little local village or a lodge offering accommodation for tourists. The reason they were all in the left as the border of Angola was on the right hand side.
Caprivi settlement which we passed
We were almost at the point for us to turn south to Popa Falls, about 200kms from Rundu, when we crossed the Okavango River. We stopped on the far side of the bridge so that I could take some photos when I received a real surprise. We had noticed that at each end of the bridge was a sentry box but believed these to be relics of the bush and civil wars. Nope! There still are sentries there and I had hardly opened the car door when out came the sentry with an AK47 in his hands. In no uncertain terms he insisted that I get back into the car. I said that all I was going to do was take some photos of the bridge and river but this made him angry and he came closer. I decided that discretion was certainly was definitely the better part of valour and got back in and closed the door.
With towns few and far between it was important to ensure that the car was in good order and to travel with extra petrol and fortunately we were prepared as you can see from this photo of Trevor having to fill the fuel tank.
Filling up with fuel at Popa Falls Resort
We turned off the beautifully tarred road down another muddy dirt road and just under 20kms later arrived at the Popa Falls Resort. It was a beautiful spot with a number of thatched cabins. We knew that none of the cabins had bathrooms and we would have to use a communal ablution block but that many years ago we did not mind. It is not a place I would recommend for older folk unless you are happy to get up in the very dark of night and walk out to the ablutions knowing that there are no fences to the property.
Trevor outside our unit at Popa Falls
We didn’t see too much of the campsite as it was late afternoon when we arrived but the next morning we took a walk around and visited the falls which we were surprised to find were not very high or deep but long. The falls consist of a length of the river with water flowing over a number of levels, very fast at this particular time because the river was full. Apparently, most of the time, it is possible to walk across the river in the dry seasons as there are plenty of rocks above the normal water level. We considered ourselves fortunate to have seen this in full flow. Overall this was a beautiful, peaceful place for a stop.
Popa Falls in the flooded Okavango River
Vicky at Popa Falls
On the 2nd morning we continued south on the dirt road to the Muhembo border post to cross from Namibia and into Botswana. Not only was I able to take photos of the buildings and flags at these posts but at the Muhembo post even the staff posed for a picture!
The staff of the very quiet Mohembe Namibian Border Post
On entry to Botswana, as happens at every border post in the country, we had to get the soles of our shoes disinfected by walking through a solution of disinfectant and had to drive the car through a similar solution for the tyres to be sanitised. This is deemed necessary as cattle farming and wild animal tourism are the main sources of income for the country and Foot and Mouth Disease has to be avoided at all costs. They are also very strict in not allowing any meat or other fresh products to be brought into the country.
Over the border and what do we immediately see? Donkeys! It was quite amazing how there were none in Namibia but, here they were, right at the border. This time we also saw them in groups which we had not seen previously. Something else that was different here from the Eastern part of Botswana was the greater number of settlements. Maybe this has to do with the greater availability of water from the delta and/or the greater number of tourists who bring much needed money into the area.
A group of Botswana’s donkeys
It was also fascinating to see how homes were identified. People had used old tyres painted various colours, car doors and even poster boards with patterns on them. The whole area was ‘busier’ than in the East with donkey carts being driven along the road and people walking or standing on the road. There did not seem to be any form of public transport, even minibus taxis. How or whether the locals made trips to the towns was not very clear.
Our destination for the 3rd to last night before getting home was at a small hotel in Maun, S. Botswana.