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Last Updated
Monday 02 August 2021, 21:48 pm.
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The nightmare of travelling by road to Kasane

KASANE: Just the other day, I was assigned to carry out some work in Kasane and its periphery; I had never set my foot in Kasane.
By SIKI MOTSHWARI JOHANESS
Correspondent
(GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: The nightmare of travelling by road to Kasane








I had mixed feelings about the trip. The prospect of seeing live the waters of the mighty Chobe River, among other things, heightened my curiosity. 

There were feelings of apprehension about the trip to Kasane, on the other hand. My fears stemmed from my recollection of bits and pieces of information about the journey and the village itself. Vivid in my mind were possibilities of contracting malaria, encountering the unusual road block mounted by the boss of the road - the elephant. Above all I was worried about the distance factor - negotiating a 500km journey in unfamiliar territory can never be an easy thing. Despite my initial apprehension I had to undertake the trip partly to fulfil my curiosity and to respond to the call of duty. 
The journey kicked off in Francistown. It was about 11 minutes past eight when the engine of an Iveco mini bus roared to mark the start of the journey. Aboard were 25 passengers. Listening to the sound of the engine plus its shabby body told me the bus must have miraculously passed a road fitness test. Knowing that I allowed myself to ride in a bus with a questionable roadworthiness compounded my fears about the journey. But what choice did I have? Kasane route has limited transport. People going to Kasane do not have the luxury of choice of transport like those heading south. In fact I felt lucky to have found this particular bus. All the same off we went. The first stanza of the journey, a 200km stretch from our point of departure to Nata, was largely uneventful. Save for the minor potholes, which the driver skilfully avoided, this part of the journey was swift and smooth. There was a deafening silence as the bus was cruising. The less said about the journey ahead the better, said a woman next to me when I tried to get her to talk about the remaining kilometres to Kasane, which is on the border with Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Typical of any travelling by public transport, it was music galore to entertain passengers aboard. All including a handful of whites seemed to enjoy various hit songs by our local traditional music groups such as Culture Spears. The music seemed to have had the effect of taking everybody's mind off the journey, thus easing the anxiety. Just when we were about to reach Nata there was a smell of a burning tyre - that is if my sense of smell was in order. Thinking that I was probably paranoid I became too scared to let the driver or any one else know my suspicions about one of the tyres. I was too scared of reducing myself into a laughing stock of the rest of the crew for raising a false alarm. After a two-hour drive we made a stopover at Nata to refuel, replenish our supplies and stretch our legs. Every body tried to have an all-day meal to prepare for any eventualities.

Having stocked our supplies we embarked upon the last leg of the journey. The signpost read Kasane 383km. As I was soon to discover this was to be the most harrowing part of the trip. Just about 5km beyond Nata the driver stopped the vehicle for what he preferred to call a routine inspection of the wheels. It turned out that one of the rear tyres was flat, confirming my earlier suspicions about the road-worthiness of the vehicle. As the tyre was being attended to there was

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some crewmembers hinted at the prospect of being confronted by the kings of the jungle - lions. Seeing that we were in the middle of nowhere was hair-raising. However, in no time were back on the road after a tyre change. Driving was reduced to a game of ducking potholes. Driving at minimum speed became a must due to multiple potholes to contend with. It was so painfully slow that even a hearse could have done better. Some of the potholes were so big and wide that one could be excused for mistaking them for abandoned excavation sites. One moment the vehicle would be swerved to the right, centre or left. Another moment it was swerved off the road when there was no available option on the road. Passengers were kept on their toes. Who could afford to relax in such a life- threatening environment? We were holding on to our dear lives and every body was alert and focused. 

The pounding and swerving proved too much for a woman passenger upfront who had a minor mishap of being throwing out as the bus was in motion. The bus conductor informed us that it had become a regular occurrence for one or two passengers to be thrown out during the course of the journey thanks to the poor condition of the road. This meant another 15 minutes of unplanned stopping to attend to the poor woman. There were times when we feared for the worst only for the driver to steer the bus back on course. One needed to possess the skill and driving prowess of Michael Schumacher to successfully negotiate the many potholes. This particular driver seemed to master the art of pothole ducking. The state of the road is not helped by the fact that it is always busy. The volume of traffic on this particular day was unbearably high. I lost count of the number of heavy trucks going to or from Kasane. Occasionally the driver ran out of options except to stop to allow on coming right of way.

On a different note my curiosity got satisfied when somewhere along the way we spotted some two elephants by the roadside. The jumbos appeared unconcerned and indifferent. I came to realise how far-fetched my thinking was that elephants were vicious animals ready to pounce on anybody in sight, without the slightest provocation. Happily the elephants did not mount any roadblocks and we passed without any incident.

By 3pm it was with a huge sigh of relief that we reached Kasane. We were all fatigued. The trip was both tiresome and hazardous. It was a case of surviving death by a whisker. What was otherwise supposed to be a five-hour journey was stretched by two hours. This was all because of a narrow, pothole-infested road. One wonders why the road was allowed to degenerate to a state of disrepair. At the end of the journey I came to appreciate the challenges that public transport operators are facing on the road. The condition of the road makes public operators incur unnecessary maintenance costs. 

The corrugation experienced on the road was perhaps the reason why the bus I was travelling in looked shabby and un-road worthy. Surely the Francistown-Kasane highway is a road of death. Something urgent has to be done to avert loss of lives on the road. On a positive note, I immediately fell in love with Kasane especially the sight of the mighty Chobe River, also known as the Zambezi River.

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