namibia map

While on a trip in 2014 to visit our daughter and son-in-law, Lyn & Tyrone, in Swakopmund, Namibia I had thought about writing a daily travel blog but we were so busy travelling and rediscovering that I decided to wait until we were back home. 

namibia map

Map of Namibia – Katima Mulilo in the corner where Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia meet

Thinking about it a bit more and knowing that this could be our last visit to Namibia I have decided to write a series of blogs about each of our 5 visits to Namibia, a truly beautiful and relaxing country. I am starting with an introductory blog so as to set the ‘scene’ otherwise the 1st actual blog would be very long.

Before we went on our first visit to Namibia in 2004 I knew very little about the country. Most of what I did know had been gleaned from TV documentaries which emphasised the dunes, the dry land and the wildlife. In addition, I also had to rely on the information fed to us by the media about South African troops fighting in the ‘Border War’ and some of the young men on their return from duty.

I asked friends and family their initial ideas of what Namibia is like and I received a variety of responses. Some had the same understanding as I had, others knew more through research and teaching while there were some who had absolutely no idea what it might really be like. With them coming from different backgrounds, interests and work environments, there is a great variety of knowledge. As I write up these blogs I shall refer to some of what they had to say.

Our first trip to Namibia was when Tyrone had been posted to Katima Mulilo at the very North Eastern end of the Caprivi Strip (in German: Caprivizipfel) as we had come to know it during the “Border War”. At various times it has also been referred to as the Caprivi Panhandle, the Okavango Panhandle and the Okavango Strip. The word Okavango is part of the name because the Okavango River flows south through Angola and across the Western part of The Caprivi into Botswana. When Namibia gained independence in March 1990 the Caprivi and the port of Walvis Bay (on the southern coast) remained under South African control. In 1996 the South African Government recommended that The Caprivi become a ‘self-governing’ state with its own flag, anthem and coat of arms. In August 1999 Namibia gained its independence and after a brief skirmish, their forces prevented the full secession. The Strip was recently renamed the Zambezi Region in the East and the Kavango East Region in the West.

okavango river ridgeThe bridge over the Okavango River

After that brief history lesson, I will describe our travels to Katima Mulilo (often simply referred to as Katima), our first trip to Namibia in May 2004. Our son-in-law is a civil engineer with a large construction company. Currently there is limited road construction work in South Africa and so the construction companies are moving into other parts of Africa. The 300km long road built by the South African Defence force during the Border War in the 1970s needed upgrading and Tyrone’s company was granted the tender to do the first 100km from Katima. This was a 2-year contract and Lyn decided to resign from her job in Pretoria and accompany her husband in this move to a small town with a population of just under 30 000. It is the only town, and therefore the capital of the Caprivi. There are a number of villages along the 300km stretch and they include 6 different ethnic groups living in small villages.

 caprivi village

A small local village on the Caprivi Strip

Katima is situated on the banks of the Zambezi River which starts its very long journey in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Chobe River forming a natural border with Botswana. When we arrived, in May 2004, the river was in full flood and so created an amazing sight. Lyn & Tyrone’s home was not situated on the river but in the town – a beautiful 4-bedroomed home and a big garden for their dogs.

Lyn Tyrone outside their home in KatimaLyn and Tyrone outside their home

See my next blog to learn about the fun we had travelling to get to Katima and the wonders we discovered of this most North-Eastern corner of Namibia.