International border crossings have become standard practice for us now and generally pass without incident or effort. It was with this complacency that we floated across the Zambezi River – on a platform of questionable buoyancy – toward an area of the world that can probably be considered as expert-level border crossing. Standing in Botswana, with Zimbabwe to our left, Namibia to our right and Zambia directly behind us, the passport stamps were flowing thick and fast and the currency touts seemed to pounce whenever we paused to get our bearings. This situation ultimately saw us entering three countries within sixty minutes; the final of which involved a short boat ride to what turned out to be the surprise package of Impalila Island, located at the very eastern tip of Namibia. In a much anticipated visit, Fran’s parents had kindly made the trip from South Africa to introduce us to this area, which would have otherwise gone unnoticed.
Our days of rest on this trip are generally spent fixing things, washing things or tending to admin and usually leave very little time for much else. Thankfully while at Impalila this was not at all the case. In addition to the invaluable catch-up with family news, trying (in vain) to summarise the last nine months of our lives, and enjoying the abundant wildlife, we also indulged in the activity for which the area is famed: Tiger fishing (although our party of four certainly experienced varying degrees of success in this regard). Riding through Southern Africa it is easy to see that one is spoilt for choice in this region when it comes to national parks and areas of natural beauty in which to allocate your time, but overlooking the serene setting of Impalila Island would have been an error.
The planned route after leaving the Island was through Chobe National Park (in Botswana) towards the Namibian border. However, upon reaching the park gate it became apparent that this was not a road commonly taken by cyclists. Despite our protests and pleads to ride through, when the opposing argument included that ‘many lions and other animals, make it not safe for you’, our stance became somewhat weakened as we slowly retreated to Plan B. This unfortunately involved our first major backtrack of the trip – to Zambia – which in turn, meant floating once more across the Zambezi.
Finally, in some bicycle news, one of our rides has unfortunately been operating as little more than a single-speed for the last 500km. And not a single-speed in the cool hipster sense of the word, rather more in the exhausting, heart-attack-inducing sense. As such, the bike shop which apparently waits only a few hundred kilometres away cannot arrive soon enough.