Just fly into Kasane and hitchhike to Katima-Mulilo. No problem!

So, this one time, in Africa…

I made a pretty stupid decision about return flight arrangements – and barely survived it!

Mind you, this was in the days before Google and Tripadvisor.  I had flown home to Mississippi for the Christmas holidays, and was looking for the cheapest way back.

Their school year begins in January, and I was already a few days late.  My mom and I looked at a map, and determined that Kasane, Botswana is geographically the closest airport to the Caprivi Strip of Namibia – where I was headed to the village of Katima-Mulilo.

Fabulous!  I flew from New Orleans to New York, spent a day or so with a buddy, then flew to the Netherlands.  From there I flew to Jo’berg, then completed my trek to Kasane.

I had a year of teaching in the bush under my belt.  I had hitched hundreds of miles, toured many countries, worked at a safari lodge.

The year before, being pretty clueless,  I had packed terribly for the first trip over; but this time I was loaded down with all of the clothes and items I really wanted for the next year of work.  Besides my trusty rucksack, I lugged a giant rolling box of awesomeness (in the days before homeland security and baggage restrictions).  It was about as big as I was and weighed about the same.

Wow, what a dumb American.

kasane to katima
I flew into Kasane (bottom right) figuring to catch a ride around the Chobe floodplain, cross the Ngoma bridge (bottom center) into Namibia, and on to Katima-Mulilo (top left). No Problem!

Kasane is, on a map, the closest place to Katima-Mulilo, but what I failed to note in my itinerary prep: the land between the two is a giant, unnavigable swamp called the Chobe floodplain.  All I had to do was hitchhike 80 miles (128km) around it…

With giant luggage… In one day, because the borders close at dark.

Now, mind you, young blonde American girls are usually not long waiting for rides.  When the public transportation runs only twice a week, and the vehicles for hire are usually driven by intoxicated idiots, hitchhiking was always the safest way for this American girl (with long blonde hair and fetching curves) to get a lift.

chobe road to nowhere
Chobe road to nowhere

On this particular Sunday, by the time I made it around the swamp, I was hungry and extremely sunburned (who needs sunscreen in the summer in sub-Sahara Africa?) and there. Was. No. Traffic.  No cars. No bikes. Nothing for miles.

Just me and the wild African bush.  One road.  One dumb American girl.  Oh, but there were trees full of baboons and monkeys, elephants in the distance, and lions!  I could hear them all.  It was beginning to get dark and I was getting nervous.

If I did not get a ride soon, the animals would feast on sun-dried American girl that night!

The thing is, if I learned anything from my time in Namibia, it is that God is always with me.  Him AND two or three guardian angels.  I could fill a book (or a blog) with adventure after misadventure that could only have been survived because of Divine Intervention.

This transfer was one such instance.  A local Afrikaaner headed to her game farm stopped and told me how stupid I was.  She also promised to come back and see if I had gotten a lift at dark – she would put me up for the night if I was still alive by dark.

old white bakkie

Sometime after that, minutes before dark, a white bakkie (pick up truck) sped into view and came to a screeching halt beside me.  They had no room in the truck, but one of the guys sat in the back with my mountain of luggage to make room for my lobster-red self up front, and we headed toward the border.

They were hours late, driving crazy fast to get to the border before dark, but they were headed to the exact location as I was.

ngoma border crossing
Ngoma border crossing. Remind me to tell you about the time I got stuck here with nothing but an apple and an orange after meeting Bill and Hillary Clinton! (That’s a story for another day!)

Many times over the next ten months I shared meals and beers with those guys, my rescuers!

The moral of the story, keep the faith.  God has a plan for me and wanted me to live through that trip.  But the safest way to honor the big and small miracles is to meet Him halfway – plan well, pack properly, and be prepared.

Hakuna Matata.

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