30-Dec-2021 -- While planning a trip from Kasane to Shakawe, we observed that 18S 22E had not yet had a completed visit, and with hubris borne of Googling around it, we resolved to attempt a visit during our 2021 festive season holiday.
The Trans-Caprivi Highway approaches the confluence quite closely (<5 km) as noted previously by Peter and Jocelyn Hers in 2002, but Google shows a “road” approaching within a few hundreds of meters, this proved to be a little misleading as the road is mostly little more than a track.
Departing Kasane at 0900 with a plan to divert off the excellent Trans-Caprivi Highway by the most direct path, we successfully navigated the COVID-19 impacted border crossing and made good time until we missed the turn (really easy to do) for the track towards the confluence. Turning back and swallowing our surprise at the poor quality of the road, we committed the Subaru to the challenge and pressed forward. After just over 10 km we noted a firm, well used road that appeared to connect to the village of Omega that may have presented a better initial access option.
After 32 km of picking along the “alleged road” with threatening tropical storms, Google suggested we had “arrived” and had a short walk remaining. Mis-interpreting the scale, what was originally believed to be ~80 m walk in the bush, eventually turned into about 1,000 m (one-way) in the Bwabwata Game Reserve. This made both of us a little nervous having spent the previous few nights camping within earshot of large predators in the Chobe Game Park.
However, after some time circling in the Mopane woodland trying to get the GPS and Compass apps to agree (or James’ interpretation to make sense), we discovered a well-defined elephant path that was heading in the correct direction with no evidence of recent use, filled with new confidence we charged off (who knew elephants were into Confluence hunting! :D).
After tracking the elephant path for nearly 1 km, we had to divert about 40 m into the bush and found the confluence in a small clump of Mopane that had been burnt some time before but was beginning to regenerate. Using a GPS test app and a compass app to narrow the location, we closed to under 2 m.
The area is reasonably dense Mopane woodland based on a very sandy, low nutrient soil that locals advise us can get quite challenging in wet weather. On the drive in we saw several tilled fields being hand sown with corn and evidence of well-built but abandoned villages that appeared empty or partly/infrequently occupied that may have declined when the sealed highway was put through. It is difficult to judge how much game was around as although it is in reserve, we saw no large wildlife and recent storms had erased all spoor on the paths.
Key photos taken, and after a sweaty walk back to the car, we realised we were tight on time as our planned stop for the night was in Shakawe in Botswana and the border crossing was closing at 1800. This led us to keep an eye out for opportunities to cut back to the main Trans-Caprivi Highway, and we lucked on a track that seemed to offer a very sandy but much quicker path to our rest stop.
Trusting the Subaru again we waded forward without much trouble until stopped a couple of times by fallen trees across the road, fortunately between the two of us, and some splinters in hands, we managed to drag and roll them out of the way but noticed a slow leak in a front tyre that would be very hard to change in soft sand. Keeping a close eye on the problem tyre, we made it to the highway probably at the point noted earlier by Peter and Jocelyn Hers, changed the tyre (huge camelthorn in the shoulder) and proceeded to our rest at a friend’s place.