Monday, September 10, 2007

Contrasting Customs

Chobe Game Lodge is on the Botswana side of the Chobe River, and Chobe Savanna Lodge is on the Namibian side of the river, actually within sight of each other. Today we moved from the Game Lodge to the Savanna Lodge.

First we loaded up all eight people into a Land Cruiser, with an attached trailer for the luggage and drove out of the park into town. At least that's what we started to do. One person yelled "Oh, No!" He'd left his passport in the room safe, so the driver did an impressive three point turn, with trailer attached, on the one-lane road that was eight inches deep in sand, and drove back to get it.

Arriving at the Immigration office, we went in and filled out the little, almost universal, form that includes name, passport number, and assorted other info and checked out of Botswana. Tourists and luggage was then loaded up on two aluminum outboard motor boats and drove down river a couple of miles where we got out and hiked up a dirt road into the trees where a Namibian Immigration office was hiding. We filled out a duplicate set of forms and hiked back to the boats. Then, we rode upriver back into the park, stopping to check in at a dock-side registration office, and then on to the Savanna lodge.

It was a nice trip, for traveling in circles. There were picture opportunities with an elephant crossing and herds of cape buffalo and the usual wart hogs and lions.

But what made an impression on me was the two contrasting Immigrations offices.

Botswana: On the walls were several free condom dispensers with a large bulletin-board sized illustrated poster advocating masturbation.
Namibia: On the walls were several wild animal and bird identification posters, plus a poster that showed how to identify abandoned shells and other unexploded ordinance.

Africa is a place with its problems, no matter how beautiful.

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