WE ARE THE WOMEN WHO TRAVEL TO AFRICA (8) / by Mariam Harraz

Kasane is a town in Botswana, close to Africa's 'Four Corners', where four borders meet: Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

We arrived in Kasane late afternoon just in time to rest and go on the river cruise. Bostwana’s atmosphere was pure joy, we were all in high spirits, enjoying the nature and the locals. Our tents became easier to put up regardless of the weather or the sand. 

Before we knew it we were at Chobe river which is located on the Northeast of the Chobe National park. Similar to Etosha National park, it’s a major spot in the dry season to see animals for the reason it being a place to cool down and drink water and also most concentrated in wildlife. 

Literally a minute after we left we encounter a family of monkeys surrounding the trees cautiously watching us from every view point they can get. Chobe river was broad and curvaceous, the sky was so blue that the river reflected it’s colours, and the suns gleam shimmered the rivers crest. 

The boat was two levels, the lower level packed with seats on each side, separating us from what seemed like our ‘rivals’ another group that told us off every time we were too loud. The upper level completely open with no seats allowing you to see a higher point of view.

Chobe riverfront was a mix of floodplains, forest thickets and vast woodlands. It was as if the river divided it, the forest thickets on the left and on the right the open woodlands with a few floodplains. 

It was our first time seeing a Hippo so close up, three quarters of it’s body laying in the water and the other quarter including it’s ears and eyes just above water keeping an eye out, but a Hippo had nothing to worry about being one of the most dangerous and deadliest animals. Not far from the river there were a pod of Hippo’s and each of them had a bird or two right beneath or next to them. The reason for that is because there are so many flies that are encircling a Hippo which makes it easier for the birds to feed, it’s quite funny because the size of a Hippo in comparison to a bird is amazing yet they work together to benefit each other.

After an enjoyable cruise spotting different species and enjoying each other’s company, we went back to our campsite to have a delicious dinner and an early night.

The next day we were heading to Zambia, finally we would have wifi and four days in one campsite which meant we could sleep past 4:30am and relax for a few days. Except it started off badly (for me quiet funny). Zambia is known for the Victoria Falls, known as the largest waterfall in the world, which spams across Zambia and Zimbabwe. In the dry season it meant that the river on the Zambian side would be extremely dry but if you were to go 20 minutes down from our campsite you would be in Zimbabwe and would be able to see the wet waterfall. So as we were told that it was possible to get a uni visa to enter both countries, allowing us to see it from the other side and spend a day in Zimbabwe. 

When we arrived at the Zambian border (which normally doesn’t take us more than 30 minutes for us to cross over) we waited an hour until Colleen came to talk to us to inform us of the change that they no longer provide the uni visa that was only made yesterday! She was waiting to speak to the manager, because of course things work very differently in Africa. 

In the midst of us boiling to death, we had locals nagging us to buy anything. Woulter who I would describe as a very odd person, but odd in a great way, his sense of humour was very different and always made us laugh. He stood shirtless his elbow leaning on the wall and a man came to sell something to him, he appeared disappointed, frustratingly he looked at him and slowly trying to not shout under his breathe said “why will I buy something from you, when your government won’t even let me in your country.” It was hilarious because even when he was angry it made us laugh, proving to us that at times he was the light in the midst of the darkness.

As I went in to the office to check on Colleen (secretly I was just trying to get some air-conditioning) she threw her hands on the counter laughing but quiet agitated she said “Mariam! Your father just called me!” Needless to say all fathers are worriers but my father is a different story. My phone hasn’t been working for a few days and as I mentioned to him several times, there will come times when I have no signal or battery but will try to message whenever I can. Apparently that wasn’t enough and when he called, Colleen thought it was the manager who she was patiently waiting to receive a call from who was asking to speak to the immigration lady at the counter (her name was extremely similar to mine). Colleen misunderstood and passed the phone over to the immigration lady who spoke to my father and got him even more distressed because of the language barrier making him think I couldn’t get into Zambia and there was a really big issue. They finally both understood that it was my father and shut the phone without confirming what was going on, all my friends found out and till this day I am reminded of the day my father spoke to the immigration lady in Zambia, some never spoke to their parents for weeks. 

After hours of waiting at the border post we finally entered with a visa only to Zambia and in such despair sat in the truck patiently waiting to reach our campsite in Livingstone. We were told now that we were going into East Africa the chances of withdrawing cash is basically close to nothing, and all of a sudden we had the worry of taking out a large sum of money within 3 days for the next three weeks.

Zambezi waterfront campsite was exactly what we needed. Two pools, one situated next to the open restaurant/cafe that was right by the river and the other between the trees. Our tents finally were set up on grass, but a day later that was no longer a good thing for us, it poured down rain like never before, the air still so humid and our tent windows shut, I thought I was going to suffocate at one point.

The next day Wouter, Jasmine and I decided to sort out our cash issue first then head to the waterfall, thinking it wouldn’t take us more then 30 minutes to go into the city and withdraw money from an ATM machine. We were wrong, it took us more than three hours, every ATM we went to had a queue so long that the wait was more than an hour or two, apart from that they weren’t even working. The system has either failed or the banks didn't have cash. Another reason it went awfully is my bank card got blocked so I panicked even more over the course of two days trying to sort out how I’m going to survive for the rest of the trip. The day before we left I finally cleared it all up.

I forgot to mention that half the group was leaving, there were only 8 of us from 22 people who were continuing all the way to Kenya, so we spent every minute we could together. The morning of the day they took off we went to swim in Devil’s pool, an infinity pool on the edge of Victoria Falls. I was extremely anxious, for me it felt even more terrifying than skydiving, until we got there. The most eliminated, rich rainbow I have ever seen, so close, standing right by the waterfall it made every second I was frightened, wonderful.

We swam till we got to the edge of Victoria falls, the water rushing pushing us so hard but thank god for the rocks, we were allowed to lay stomach down at the edge of the fall to look down as the water plummets vigorously downhill, my heart raced. I left whilst every inch of my body was shaking.

Saying good bye to friends I have gotten to know so well during three weeks of adventures was the hardest goodbye yet, some I don’t know if I’ll ever see again but I will forever cherish our memories.

Next stop Malawi, the poorest country in the world yet one of the most beautiful. After 4 days in Malawi we would be at our last stop for the trip: Tanzania. And just like that 40days were almost going to be over.

For the Arabic version: 

http://www.huffpostarabi.com/mariam-harraz/story_b_9737270.html