Botswana / Namibia:
Cultural Sojourn

Bicycle Africa / Ibike Tours


Dispatch 7 - Duvundu


Trans-Namibia power lines from Kariba Dam in Zambia/ZimbabweBack on the highway, the power transmission line stanchions stretched to the horizon in both direction, like frozen soldiers of the industrial era, carrying electricity to distant homes, farms and factories.  These power lines that stretch beyond the length of the Caprivi Strip, come from Kariba Dam on the Zambezi , 600 km to the northeast, and head to the cities of Namibia 1200 km to the southwest.  At Kariba, Zambia and Zimbabwe share the river, lake and dam.  We were told that Namibia buys their power from the Zambia side of the dam.

It was good to see that there was also local power distribution (right). In other places is not unusual to see transmission lines going overhead and the villages below being off the grid and unserved.

Between Kongola and Duvundu are about 210 kilometers of not very much besides savannah.  At about the midpoint, 110 kilometers from Duvundu is Chetto, with enough of a concentration of building to pass for a town in these parts and get its name on some maps.  Rather than ride back-to-back 100-plus kilometers day with not much more to offer than the very occasional wild animal, we opted to hitch-hike. 

Once again there is a gate where vehicles must stop for inspection so it is not to hard to engage the drivers.  Within minutes of our arrival, an empty bright red tourist bus, with a luggage trail, pulled up.  Perfect!  It was deadheading back to Cape Town after having left its last group of clients in Zambia.  To our amazement the driver was agreeable and said he would take us through the Caprivi Strip.  We popped the bikes in the trailer and clambered onto the bus.  I had the impression that the driver was willing to take us as far as we wanted to go -- he seemed to welcome the company on what was going to be a couple more long days of relatively uninteresting driving for him.  The bus was complete with airline-style seats, air-conditioning, reading lights, an electric cooler to keep drinks cold, tinted windows and a sound system.  We called it the "party bus," though we hardly partied and were ready to get back on the bikes after a couple hours.  We were all so excited about it that no one took a picture, but it was real.

Mak Veto Bicycle Sales and Repair, Duvundu NamibiaWe disembarked from the party-bus just past the buffalo fence at the west end of the game park.  The first thing we noticed was "MakVeto Bicycle Sales and Repairs."  This certainly warranted closer inspection -- a bike shop in the middle of nowhere.  The simplified story as it came out is something like this: The container full of used bikes came from the chain of bicycle shops in California called "Mike's Bikes."  Mak Veto bicycle tool set, DuvunduThe container also included a pretty full set of tools and some spare parts to jump start the business. So far so good.  But the location is ten kilometers out of Duvundu because that is where they could get free land. If location is important this seems like a bit of a draw back.  To support the donation of the container, a Namibian bicycle project called the Bicycle Empowerment Network Namibia (BEN-Namibia) was providing the mechanic and small business training.  It sounds like there is still a need, and a desire, for some more training, both on the crews' bike mechanic skills and to help with business management. We were told that more training has been promised, but it is not box of helmets, Mak Veto Bikes, Duvundu, Namibiaclear when the trainer will be returning.  They are waiting for the opportunity to take advantage of the rest of the training -- doing some repairs on their inventory that they don't currently know how to do.  There are a few other misconnects with the project -- probably the most noticeable is their inability to move the road bike, that came in the container, out of their inventory.  They have sold about 200 mountain bikes, an average of about one bike per day, since November, but scarcely a road bike has been sold.  They are hoping to find a bike project or bike shop in a larger city that has a market for road bike and trade them for mountain bikes or something more suited for their rural clientele and roads. Recently they received a box of yellow helmets.

Okavango River swollen with water, Duvundu NamibiaOut of the game park, and closer to water -- the Okavango River -- agriculture returned to the land-use mix.  In fact, on many maps the area of Duvundu is labeled Bagani, which is the name of a big agricultural research station in the area.  Because of a heavy rainy season in Angola a few months back the Okavango River is now swollen with water.

Our actual destination was Popa Falls, 8 kilometers south of Duvundu.  It is a good thing that we weren't planning on camping and didn't have high expectations for Popa Falls.  The camp ground was flooded (left) and Popa Falls was washed out under the high water (right), but they still had a nice sound to them.

In spite of, or because of, the high water it was a beautiful area to walk around and admire the natural vignettes.

Hippo foot print, Popa Falls NamibiaIn what the literary people would call foreshadowing there were hippopotamus foot prints (right) to be found in the muddy soil at the river's edge, where hippos come on land at night to graze.  We never saw the hippos but we could hear their cacophony of grunting and snorting most of the night as they ambled about.

Having thought that I had mastered Thimbukushu 200 kilometers to the east, I come to learn that the greetings are a little bit different at the western end of the Caprivi Strip than they were to the east: The morning greeting is "moro." The afternoon greeting is "metaha." And thank you is "natumera."  Once again I was ready to make friends on the road side.
At Kongola junction there are several craft shops - location, location, location.  At least one of them is a cooperative.

The poster in the shop demonstrates the ten characteristics of a good basket.



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