The Caprivi Strip is a panhandle that extends eastward from the NE corner of Namibia. The Germans traded land with the British in 1881 to secure this strip of land for a future railroad that they hoped would connect then-Tanganyika to the Atlantic coast. That railroad was never built, but a modern “tarred” highway passes the entire length of the strip, which requires a long day’s to drive from end to end. The Caprivi Strip resembles the rest of Namibia as much as southeast Alaska resembles Alaska’s Interior: not at all. It receives much more rainfall and thus is more green and lush and has a lot more people. It is one of the poorest areas of Namibia, where subsistence agriculture and fishing provide the livelihoods of most of the people. HIV/AIDS is rampant here where an estimated 50% of those between 15 and 40 have the disease.
At its narrowest point, the Caprivi Strip is just 15 miles (~25 km) wide. Angola, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe are just a stone’s throw away, while Windhoek is a hard two day’s drive! Not surprisingly, the languages and cultures of Caprivi are more closely related to those of the nearby countries than to the cultures of the rest of Namibia.
I couldn’t wait to see this unusual part of the country that people call “the African part of Namibia!” Its lush fields and woods and large populations of elephants, hippos, Cape buffalo, crocodiles and leopards make it more like tropical Africa than the desert lands of Namibia. Fellow faculty member Dave Joubert and I left at noon on Feb 8th for Rundu on the Angolan border. We drove a Toyota bakkie that had seen better days. It takes 9 hours to get to Rundu, the first leg of our journey to the Caprivi. On the way, we bought some of the famous huge mushrooms that grow on termite mounds in the north. The termites essentially “farm” the fungi inside the mound and each year these enormous mushrooms “bloom” on the outside. Locals sell them by the side of the road for about $2 US each.
- Ablution Block = building in a campground with sinks, showers and toilets, often made of reeds (and often frequented by spiders and snakes)
- Bonnet = hood of the car
- Boot = trunk of a car
- Braai = barbecue
- Mossies = mosquitoes
- Torch = flashlight
- Vors = sausages