Thread: Caprivi (S)trip
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Old 11-20-2012, 12:22 AM   #20
1NiteOwl OP
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Joined: Jun 2007
Location: Southern Africa
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Buffalo Soldiers

Despite the state of disrepair, the location and view at Bumhill are really appealing (not to mention the fee!). After a tranquil night we grudgingly clean up, pack up and turn west onto the Transcaprivi highway (B8) towards Rundu. As elsewhere, the tarred roads are ruler-straight.

The distances here are too great to supply water to the settlements from a reservoir, so itís boreholes and manual pumps.

During the Border War, South Africa had bases spread all along Namibiaís northern border. We pass Omega (former base of 31 Battalion). Its members were bushmen used as trackers by the Portuguese secret police (who called them flechas =arrows) against the Angolan liberation forces (MPLA, FNLA and Unita). When the Portuguese withdrew, the South African Defence Force absorbed them into combat group Alpha, later renamed Omega. hence the name of the base.

Sixty km further, we reach the turnoff to the former base of 32 Battalion or Bravo group. This counter-insurgency unit consisted of former FNLA soldiers trained and led by white South African officers. Since their insignia comprised a buffalo head, they came to be known as the Buffalo soldiers.

31 and 32 Battalion were involved in most of the major operations of the Border War. We decide to take a look at the abandoned base. The gate down the road is unmanned and wide open.

On the left of the road is the workshop and officers mess, on the right the NCO quarters.

The NCOís quarters consist of small huts. The furthest ones are next to the Okavango river.

Thereís not a soul around, and every last door frame, window and roof sheet is gone.

In the corner, spent 12.7 mm cartridge cases lie overgrown by weeds. The war is over.

Out of the 1791 SADF casualties during the 23-year conflict, 146 were from this unit. The cemetery is further down the road in what is now ironically called Buffalo Game Park but again, no bikes are allowed.

The names of the members who were killed in action have been engraved on plaques on the unitís Ere Stomp (Tree of Honour). This was moved to the Voortrekker monument in Pretoria when the base was closed down.

So far, the Africa Twins have been lavished with attention. Now the Dakar starts to demand its share, beginning with a disintegrated mudguard on the corrugations back to the main road.

Back on the B8 we cross the Kavango river before getting to Divundu. Signposts clamour for our attention- stay with us!

The local garage is out of fuel, but there is a welcome bakery selling fresh food.
We turn south from the B8 to head for Botswana. At the turnoff, a cow on offer in kit form. Not very appetising.

The lodges advertised further back unfold to our left, hugging the path of the river. Popa Rapids has a campsite and an entrance fee. For N$20 we are allowed to have a look, but not much is visible (or audible) from the riverbank, even when we ride up onto the beach.

Tour operators have pitched their tents at the campsite, but there's not much of an atmosphere despite the location.

We ride a few kilometres further to Camp Kwando, which was warmly recommended by our Swakopmund friends a few days ago. After a sandy approach we pull up in front of Cameron, a portly gentleman with a bushy grey beard and a welcoming smile.

There are three clocks at Reception, and the bottom one is local time: Nunda Time isÖ no time!

We get shown around the campsite by Mathilda and after briefly considering a tented camp (with en-suite bathroom), we plump for a plain camping spot near the river. Itís almost within sight of a pod of hippos, who apparently forage here at night, too.

After cleaning up (there is even a filtered water tap at the ablution block) we settle down on the deck for a sundowner. The light gently fades as we drain our drinks and settle down for dinner in the dining room.

Sundowns don't come much prettier than this...

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