Ngonye Falls Community Camp
26-28 June 2018
Our departure morning from Namushasha was also Meg Philips’s 17th birthday, so while we were packing up camp, eating breakfast, the Lambrecht clan got us all together to sing happy birthday and watch her open her pressies.
Happy way to start a busy day. Last quick check of emails etc. at the lodge, and then we set off back towards Katima to the border.
We first had to buy some fishing equipment for Phil as he had left it all behind in Cape Town. We also had to fuel up and top up our cooking gas cylinder. A few more odds and sods, and then to the Wanele border post, where the Hindmarch family caught up with us. The party was now complete!
Leaving Namibia is easy…fill in the departure form, have passport stamped, and off you go…we had our Carnet stamped too. The Zambian side is slightly more complex…
1) scanned for fever
2) to passport control to have passport stamped
3) to Customs-Carnet stamped and pay Carbon Tax of K 200
4) pay Third Party Insurance of K 522
5) Road Tax of USD 20
6) District Council Fee, for Sesheke it was K 30, payable as you are about to leave the border area.
All went well, a little time consuming for all the hand written documentation, but the Zambians are so happy and friendly. Part of the delay was because the Road Tax guys were on lunch, so we had to wait about 20 minutes for them to return to the counter, wreathed in welcoming smiles.
A word of caution, and the Namibian customs official warned us that the touts between the two border posts should not be used to get Kwacha, as they provide you for false notes. There are unofficial money-changers in the Zambian border area which we used to exchange enough Dollars to pay the necessary Kwacha border fees. There is an AutoBank in the border post were we drew more Kwacha.
Our vehicles were not inspected, easy border crossings. First stop was the purchase of SIM cards… booths were literally just on the other side of the border boom. We purchased one MTN card for me and an Airtel one for Richard, as we were told that different areas have different coverage. These two operators tend to be the better ones. A SIM card cost K 12. All 5 vehicles were now ready to continue, and we headed for the district of Sioma, to camp at Ngonye.
The road north to Mongu is a good, tarred road that basically follows the Zambezi River to the Barotse Floodplains.
Beautiful bushveld, dotted with hamlets and villages where the houses and kraals are constructed of wood, reeds and mud. All very neat and organized. We had to pay another district fee of K 65, and then entered the Sioma District, where we turned off the M10 to get to the Ngonye Falls Community Campsite.
We arrived at the reception of the campsite around 5 pm – no one in sight, but after about 10 minutes a young man came down the road, apologizing profusely and welcoming us with that Zambian smile.
We paid the camp fees and community park fee, and headed down to the campsite, just set back from the river, below the falls. The camps sites are basic but clean – the one shower is heated by a donkey manned the whole day by the camp attendant, Freddy. The other shower is a bucket shower. The loos are flush toilets. Wood is provided – you pay for as much as you use and the money goes directly to the local community.
The Lambrecht’s made a delicious stirfry on the campfire for our dinner that night in honour of Meg’s birthday.
Great night’s sleep, and a relaxed start to the morning. At 10 am we met with Samuel who took us on a guided walk to the falls, explaining some of the history around the falls, including Livingstone’s visit to the area – he was there before he got to Victoria Falls.
The boat was not operational, but the men wanted explore and see the falls from the other side, so Samuel took us down to a beached area where a mokoro was kept, and ferried the guys one by one across the strong flowing Zambezi channel to the island. Finn and Scott swam across – well got in the water upstream and were swept across, more like it.
On the way back to camp, I had some retail therapy in the office – crafts are sold made by the community – bought us a basket to store our veggies in for the trip – much better than anything plastic as it allows air to move through the veggies.
Back to camp, lunch, then off went Richard, Phil, Scott and Pete for a fishing competition – Pete caught his first tiger fish! No-one else caught.
At sunset we all headed down to the most incredible beach – white fine sand that squeaked loudly underfoot. We enjoyed sundowners watching the water pouring over the falls and swirling down the gorge, while some local children played and rolled down the sandy embankment next to us.
While we were sitting enjoying our sunset drink, we spotted an otter in the water – very fleeting, but there was plenty of evidence of otters on the beach and in the rocks….also of leopard!