Text Bill Torbitt
Add character to your passport
For most people a border crossing point has a ring of excitement, anticipation and drama. For tourists it holds the prospects of new experiences, exotic culture, food and pleasure, and for refugees the frontier signifies the reaching of sanctuary and safety, while the main international road border posts, complete with two-hour delays, petrol fumes, clogged columns of impatiently waiting truck drivers and sullen immigration officials, do somewhat take the edge off the excitement.
Even less enticing are the ‘ports of entry’ we normally use: stressful, congested international airports with their exhaustive security checks and overpriced coffee bars.
Nevertheless, if you plan your road journey to utilise some of the lesser-known, more remote but legal border posts for your journey in and out of Namibia, you may still preserve that tingle of excitement and discover way-out crossing points with atmospheric and romantic names, whose stamps will add character to your passport.
Many frontiers and crossing points
Due to the multiplicity of countries – 11 in the SADC Region – and ‘line on the map’ colonial boundaries, there are a lot of frontiers and crossing points in our part of the world.
For instance, if you’re coming to Namibia from the Cape, instead of the main crossing at Vioolsdrif/ Noordoewer, or the busy commercial border at Ariamsvlei, why not bisect them and try the border post of Onseepkans with its narrow and venerable single-track bridge across the Orange River, from where you can explore the small historic town of Warmbad, not seen by most tourists.
Many of these ‘minor’ crossing points connect the new transfrontier national parks. For instance, if you are exploring the Richterseld National Park in the far north-west of South Africa’s Cape Province, you should continue your exploration through the dramatic Namibian landscape via the Sendelingsdrif crossing with its somewhat rickety pontoon carrying a maximum of two cars across the river at one time.
Meeting point at Union’s End
Coming from the north-eastern parts of South Africa’s Cape Province, try some of the remote border points deep in the Kalahari Desert, for instance Klein Mannasse/Rietfontein, or the recently opened Mata Mata.
These crossings will enable you to make a proper exploration of the Kalahari Transfrontier Park, overlapping Botswana and South Africa, and adjoining Namibia. Some of the roads in this region are glorified (or literally) dry river beds, such as the Nossob River course that forms the ‘pointed’ boundary between Botswana and South Africa.
Drive up this ‘road’ and enter Namibia through the ‘tip’ of South Africa, appropriately known as Union’s End, which is one of those interesting topological features where three countries (Namibia, Botswana and South Africa) meet in a single point. Unfortunately this is not a designated border post.
Traditional and river border crossings
Namibia also has a point that is the boundary between four countries: the extremity of the Caprivi Strip, with Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana.
This theoretical point (Kazungula) lies in the middle of the Zambezi River, but is not an official border. Along the border with Botswana is the ‘normal’ border at Buitepos on the trans-Kalahari road route, and the post of Dobe connecting Namibia’s Tsumkwe area with Botswana’s north-western regions and ithe Chobe National Park.
Travelling from Zambia to Namibia’s Caprivi Strip, you will use the Wanela crossing, near the newly constructed bridge across the Zambezi. With Angola there is the main road border crossing at Oshikango.
For variety you could try the frontier post at Katitwe, near one of Namibia’s most remote towns, Nkurenkuru, which will convey you across the Okavango River. Further west, to cross the Kunene River into Angola, there is the impressive crossing at the Ruacana Falls and hydroelectric power station.
Designated land crossing points
There are 17 designated land crossing points into Namibia from its neighbouring countries, many of them in remote areas where 4×4 vehicles are essential, and they are not open 24/7!
Customs facilities will also be limited, and some crossings in the transfrontier parks carry a requirement for actually staying in the park.
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This article appeared in the August 2012 Edition of FLAMINGO Magazine.