Rundu is the home to a clean, well-equipped campsite with grass, a pool, a bar, a restaurant, hot-watered showers, horses, and a river view. More importantly, the campsite is located on the Namibian side of the Okavango River right across from Angola.
The campsite’s close proximity to the open farmland of Angola across the river gave entrepreneurial locals a great business idea – why not charge the overlanders that stay at the campsite to take a boat ride across the river to Angola so they can tell all their friends they’ve been to Angola even though they have no stamp on their passport to prove it?
Well, I admit that I was one of the suckers that fell for this genius scheme. And I don’t regret it one bit.
I, along with a dozen others from our group, decided to dish out the $30 for an illegal boat trip to Angola.
Everything about our trip to Angola felt illegal. We boarded a large plank of wood on two canoe-type floats with a motor attached and sat on chairs that were taken from the campsite’s restaurant. We puttered along waving to locals bathing, swimming, and doing laundry on the Namibian side of the river.
We could see nothing on the Angolan side except for acres of empty farmland and a huge stream of smoke curling up past the farmland in the distance.
While our captain Hans guided the boat to the sandy Angolan shore, four teenage girls greeted us with a song. I thought this was a good sign – the Angolans were welcoming us! – but I soon found out that the girls were Namibians, also there illegally.
We climbed onto shore and enjoyed the Angolan scenery. Truthfully, it didn’t look much different from the Namibian side of the river.
We took turns posing for pictures with an “Illegally in Angola” sign. As an added touch, we each grabbed beers from the boat’s cooler and drank them in Angola. It felt even more mischievous to be drinking an alcoholic beverage while in a country illegally.
As we were reveling in our rebelliousness, we noticed a man with a machete storming towards us from inland. Now is probably a good time to re-board the boat, I thought. As we scrambled to get back into our seats on the barge, Hans began a heated discussion with the machete-yielding man.
Likely speaking Afrikaans or another local language, they were able to have a raging argument without us having any idea what the Machete Man was so mad about (although I could have guessed). I would have backed down to whatever a man with a machete was saying, but Hans stood his ground.
After a good ten minutes of vicious back-and-forth, Hans got back on the boat, started the motor, and guided our boat away from the Machete Man. What was that about?! we demanded. Hans told us that Machete Man was the owner of the farm we’d landed on and was upset that we were traipsing around on his land without being “registered” with Angolan authorities.
Well, I have to admit that Machete Man was in the right. I felt bad that we’d trespassed on his farm. But it sure was fun. And his appearance made our illegal Angola trip much more of a thrill.
We merrily arrived back at the campsite to a delicious steak dinner. (Oh Charles, how do you do it?!) The excitement of the day, a stomach full of beef, and a gloriously hot shower required me to crawl into my sleeping bag early. Luckily, I was already asleep when a cobra was spotted on the path to the bathroom. (The locals got rid of it before it could cause any damage.)
Now we begin our journey to the last game park we will visit, Etosha National Park.