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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Smuggling at the Border

After Victoria Falls we headed to Botswana. In his book about Africa Theroux writes that airports are a deception because on most trips to Africa you will be picked up at the airport in an air conditioned car, taken to a modern hotel, then the next day go to your safari camp that has great meals and hot and cold running water. The closest you will come to seeing real Africa in when you driver stops at his cousins souvenir stand when he drives you back to the airport. He says to really see Africa you have to cross the borders on foot. Every border we crossed was like street theater or in the case of crossing into Botswana, river theater. Borders were always chaotic and time consuming as you dealt the crush of people and the paperwork and bureaucrats. At some border stops you needed to take all your shoes and summit them to a disinfectant process with a white liquid, even the truck tires got the same treatment. Once I got in trouble when they found my shower shoes untreated. At each border you needed to get a visa which was priced depending on which country you were from and as some borders you needed to have your health cards checked. Crossing into Botswana you needed to take the ferry and some smugglers had cases of beer stacked so it could be off loaded fast. Just as the ferry arrived it was loaded onto a dugout canoe and quickly paddled away to a van waiting downstream, avoiding customs.

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