Zambia - Kasangula Ferry
Tue 23 Sep
By the first morning light it was already looking more like the Africa I know (and love). Mud huts with grass roofs, people, people walking along the road, people walking with loads on their heads, ant hills, tree stumps, sandy pathways, dead ground – exhausted from over-planting, grazing or football, goats, chickens, dried mud and termite mounds.
By breakfast time we had reached Katimo Mulilo, the last town in Namibia. From here there is a ferry across to Zambia, but the road is reportedly a lot worse, so it’s generally thought better to continue into Botswana and cross at Kasangula. However, I had heard a few days before that the Kasangula ferry had sunk! Partly out of curiosity, and partly for information, I emailed Jungle Junction in Livingstone who told me that only one of the ferries had sunk; the other was operating a "normal service". Also they could collect me from the ferry, I could stay on their island in the Zambezi, and when I was ready they’d take me on to Livingstone. They’d also arrange to have the US$50 visa fee waived. It all sounded too tempting and I decided to treat myself to a few easy days.
As I queued with fellow passengers to use the first toilet of the day I noticed a barbershop across the road. (I’d not had my haircut since a drastic "No 1" in Zanzibar 10 weeks previously – my hair was taking longer to dry and getting unmanageable. I was going to have to do something soon: either buy a comb or get it cut! The haircut cost US$2 – a fair price and as the day was already beginning to heat up I was soon feeling the benefit.
The bus moved on and soon we crossed the Botswana border. The land seemed different, fewer people, thicker tree cover, we were now in the Chobe National park and soon slowing down to take pictures of a family of elephants.
As we left the Botswana town of Kasane the coach dropped me and about eight other Europeans with backpacks. We set off on the 1km march to the border post and ferry beyond.
I’d cleared the ferry and Zambian border post by 1300. My lift was not due till 1600 – ok so this was the downside to the deal. I found a little market and a locals’ café. There, I met a Belgian drinking beer, he was working for the Red Cross in southern Zambia, in particular "overseeing" the team that had come in response to the ferry disaster. Apparently an articulated lorry carrying an estimated load of 125tonnes of cobalt drove on to the pontoon ferry which then, unbalanced, tipped the lorry and its load into the deep water quite near the shore. Sadly foot passengers already on the ferry were spilled and some were trapped. There were apparently five bodies found but another 15 unaccounted for (although there was no passenger manifest).
We went to take a look at the scene. We passed the lorry cab – looking slightly dented on one side and the trailers were lying on the shore where they had been hauled in. Diving teams from Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia were working to clear the water and recover bodies. They were loading a wire cage with cobalt and other debris that was being lifted out of the water and back to the shore by an enormous mobile crane apparently costing US$120/hour. I think there was some friendly rivalry to see which team could recover the biggest load – but it was exhausting work. All the while a speedboat was whizzing back and forth to frighten the crocodiles away (nice job if you can get it?). Under a nearby tree was the Red Cross kitchen. This had been set up to feed the rescue workers and the waiting relatives of missing passengers. Unofficially it had found itself feeding the police, customs and immigration workers too!
Zambia - Kasangula Ferry