25-Aug-2002 -- The border between Botswana and Namibia was defined entirely by international agreement, and does not follow any geographical feature. Instead, working south from the Caprivi strip, the border follows longitude 21E until it reaches 22S. It then does a dog-leg to the west until it reaches longitude 20E, and continues south along this line until it reaches the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. On our recent trip to Namibia we determined to visit these two rather special confluence points. (See also 22S 20E).
According to the Confluence FAQ, "Confluences exactly on the northern and eastern borders of a state, province or country will be included in that state, province or country. Confluences on the southern and western borders will be included in the bordering state, province or country." 22S 21E has been allocated to Botswana, so we visited it from the Botswana side. It would be extremely difficult to visit it from the Namibia side, as it forms a far corner of a private farm, and is at the apex of a right angle formed by the border fences. There are no roads which even come close to it. Why would anyone want to visit a point which leads nowhere? We did notice that there were tracks which followed the fences, sometimes on one side, and sometimes on the other. Presumably these are used for patrolling the fences, but they are not proper roads and would be slow travelling.
According to our map of Botswana, the road from Tshootsha to Ghanzi passes very close to this point. We had been driving all day across Botswana, intending to get through the Namibia border before nightfall, and were already very tired. Before we reached the turnoff to Ghanzi we came across a sign which said "Strip line": Wonder of wonders, there was a strip line running exactly north-south very close to 21E. Although not a road in the normal sense, this gave us the shortest route directly to the confluence point. Picture 4 shows the (extremely sandy!) strip line with many tire tracks.
Some interesting driving in deep sand led directly to the border fence, complete with corner. However, where exactly was the Confluence? Picture 5 shows the exact point at which the border fence makes a right angle turn, but according to my GPS, set up on WGS84, the confluence point was about 100 metres NNE of this point. This is not surprising as various different reference points and transformations have been used over the years to determine latitude and longitude. A second candidate is the tower shown in Picture 6, which was about 50 metres away from the corner, but also not at the Confluence according to WGS84. There are many of these trig beacon towers in Botswana, as it is an extremely flat country. I climbed up the tower to get the view in Picture 7 of the Confluence area. This view shows a second fence on the Namibian side of the border fence, as well as the strip line approaching from the south.
Pictures 1, 2, and 3 show views from the actual confluence point at ground level.
The sun was setting as we arrived at the confluence point, and unfortunately we had to drive in the dark the last 120 km to the Namibia border, which is on longitude 20E. The road is tarred and there was very little other traffic, so what could be the problem? There are very few fences along the roads in Botswana, and driving at night is a no-no because of all the animals. Goats (Picture 8), cattle and donkeys are a serious hazard... They prefer to graze along the verge of the road, where the bush has been cleared, and unaccountably they like to stand in the middle of the road after dark. Perhaps they enjoy the warmth of the tarmac? Suffice to say, the sensible driver will stop and camp until daybreak. However, we had to press on and were reduced to driving at below 60 km/h right up to the border.