We are almost at the end of the first leg of our world tour, which is southern of Africa. From here we head to Southern America. If you are traveling for a long time, what do you do with your mobile line? Do you disconnect it, throw it away and plan to get another line when you return home?We have no idea how much life can depend on your mobile line in other countries but we can tell you how important that line is for a Kenyan, even when you are miles away from home.
This is because a mobile line is basically our money management tool and information center. We receive bills, text from banks, and other important information on this small piece of card. We pay for everything using our mobile lines.
M-PESA is KING in Kenya.
You know or must have heard of M-PESA? If this is your first encounter with the word M-PESA click here for more. M-PESA is KING in Kenya. Besides us, many other people will tell you as much. Articles have been published by many regarding M-PESA. One Alexander Oswald said this on his TEDx talk in Vienna.
As Kenyans traveling the world and with two teenagers back in Kenya, we have to pay bills and send money every month. You must wonder how we do this from the road, or you may have some experience with it. From Kenya we have now traveled through nine (9) countries with different telephone service providers, good and poor connectivity depending on which part of the country we are in. We also have limited access to internet as in most countries we haven’t had local SIM cards which could help with data on the road. So, we basically wait till evening and look for accommodation with WiFi.
Our options for sending money and paying bills are: –
Bank transfer – everyone must have a bank account or a mobile number.
M-PESA transfer – our lines must remain active throughout our travel.
THE INTRICATE WEB OF MONEY MANAGEMENT.
We had no idea how complicated this is going to be when we left home. This is what we are talking about.
1.Our daughter must have a national identity card, MPESA or bank account!
Our daughter who is 18 going 19 had just cleared her year 12 two weeks before we left. She was going to be applying for her national identity card, get an MPESA account, PIN and get a bank account after we had left. Three months later, she has only managed to get the national identity card and no success with MPESA and bank account. She lives on her own and has to basically manage her own life and money. Before she got her national identity card, we had to always send money to other people to withdraw it on her behalf and get it to her. They too, have to look for her as they can not M-PESA her. That means time and money to meet for this handover. Then she got her ID and could receive cash on her line and withdraw but not send to anyone or pay bills. Payment of bills still remains our responsibility. That takes us to the next complication.
2. Our lines must be active to be able to use MPESA services!
If we want to use M-PESA, whether using the SIM toolkit or the App, our lines must remain active.
We have to pay bills such as water, electricity etc. We receive these bills through texts on our mobile phones that we had earlier registered with the utility service providers. All these bills can only be paid through M-PESA or bank transfer. For the bank transfer, you pay directly to the Pay Bill number, which again, is M-PESA integrated into the bank App. For either of the two (MPESA and Bank payment), our lines have to remain active. You might wonder why?
3. Why our lines MUST remain active!
If we are setting up beneficiaries on the online banking platform, we require an OTP (One Time Password) which is only sent to your registered mobile number.
When we use our Visa cards, we receive a text on our lines which is a form of security. Incase our cards are lost and used by someone else, we will get a text and can quickly get them blocked. We hate to imagine what would happen if we lost our cards and cannot receive texts on usage as this is the first level of notification.
If we need to receive the bills, we must have our lines active.
If we want to transfer money from the bank to a mobile number, our lines must be active.
To keep a line active, if it is on pre-paid plan, you have to keep loading airtime to ensure it remains active. You will need the line active to be able to buy airtime from your M-PESA.
For a line that is on post paid plan, the line will remain active but if you don’t pay your monthly bills (which payment is through M-PESA), some services will not be accessible. Services such as mobile banking on USSD.
WHAT HAS BEEN OUR EXPERIENCE SO FAR!
Using M-PESA worked perfectly well in Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zanzibar on both the App and the SIM toolkit. From Malawi down south we mostly used the bank App to get money directly from the bank and send it to an MPESA account. We had no signal in Malawi, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia .
It is until we reached South Africa that we had challenges using both the App and the SIM tool kit. We could receive the Vodacom signal. We could also receive text but could not use the M-PESA services. We sort help from a friend back home and were informed that for us to be able to use the services, we have to activate roaming. 😱 our faces when we think roaming charges. We activated roaming and are now happily using M-PESA 🤩
IS AFRICA THE END OF M-PESA JOURNEY WITH US?
There is only one way to to find out, follow us to our next destination ANTARCTICA
Because you are definitely coming to Botswana by the time you are done reading this blog. Lets first get you on the right track. The border process. Why? touring in Botswana is best and only best by road. If you choose to fly in, please land in Gabz – (Gaborone), then hire a camper and enjoy this beautiful country. Otherwise, bring your bike down because the bikers community here is awesomely amazing.
We crossed the border from Zambia through Kazungula border. We mostly choose to cross borders on Sundays as they are less busy. This one especially has many trucks crossing to either side of the countries. The crossing is on river Zambezi and it is the shortest ferry crossing distance you will ever do. Interesting it is also where four countries borders meet. Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia. The ferry is small and only takes two trucks plus one or two cars depending on their sizes. The cars may increase by one some times. We had two trucks, one car and two bikes and it was full.
Crossing through this border is better on a less busy time (early morning) or Sunday. Its quite busy.
However, they are building a bridge which will make the border crossing such a cup cake affair.
We cleared with Zambia side first – of cause. To note; don’t throw away your tax payment papers until you exit a country. At the Zambian side they actually had a good look at those receipts. May be because we always keep them in the Carnet booklet but we could imagine if they asked for them and we had already shredded them. They scrutinized the documents more than other exit borders we have passed through.
Crossing the Botswana border once you clear with Zambia is a supper quick and efficient process.
City Council Fee exit Zambia – Kshs 400/- for both bikes
Ferry crossing to Botswana – Kshs 1,000 for bikes and us.
Bike permit, Road permit, Road fund – Kshs 6,420 for both bikes.
We are now in Botswana, woohooo, so excited about all the animals we are going to see by the road sides, the good roads, the sandy ones too and all the places we are visiting. Lets NduThis. We are also excited about meeting up again with our travel family in Maun. We parted ways with Bahar at the border to reunite in Maun.
We started off and on the first day we had the spectacular cat-walking by two elephants. This ones we even got to take pictures. We enjoyed the road which are a spectacular tarmac. Our first day we rode 310 kilometers and slept at a small town called Nata. Nata is a village located in the Northern part of the central district of Botswana. It lies along the Nata River which carries its seasons flows to Makgadikgadi salt pans. We did not go to the salt pans something we terribly regret. Anyway, the good side of this is that, thats a firmed up trip back to Botswana. Please don’t be us. Don’t miss the salt pans.
The following day, we left for Maun. We were looking forward to the Okavango Delta and meeting up again with our friends. It was another 302 kms. From Nata, there is about 20 kilometers or slightly more of extremely bad road. It is a tarmac section that has completely been washed off and is now just loose gravel. After that section, it is all very good tarmac road all the way to Maun.
We had a rare moment when some two ostrich on the road side decided to have a race with us. Unfortunately we were not able to film this. 🙁 . They were either scared or did not like the sound of the bikes and the more we got close, the faster they ran, so we decided, well – its an Ostrich vs BMW race. Epic.
We are notorious for not making any prior bookings for our stay but on this one we already had David and Chris in Maun and since we were going to be camping, we only needed a camping space oh and mattresses. We arrived in Maun early and headed straight to the Old Bridge backpackers. Thanks God the road was tarmac with just a small section of deep sand that we managed to walk the bikes through 😉
We get our camping space at Kshs 1,800 per day for both of us and an extra Kshs 600/- per day for two mattresses since we have never bought mattresses. We have been lucky to get them at camp sites for free and laxed on the purchase bit. This price was ouch!!!. We settle in the lounge. Bahar has also arrived and we all gather there for a drink and planning for the following day.
THE OKAVANGO DELTA
We are finally about to tour this long awaited delta. Chris and David have already booked a package. Bahar has a deal through her host which saves us 50USD each and we go for this one. However, we all meet at the mokoro departure point for our individual packages. Bahar and the tour organizer arrive on time but Dos and I are still not ready (bah!). We quickly fix some sandwiches and grab some fruits to carry as our snacks and lunch.
The Okavango Delta is a vast inland river delta that covers about 18,000 square kilometers. It is known for its sprawling grassy plains that flood seasonally becoming a lush animal habitat. Dugout canoes known as “Mokoro” are used to navigate in the delta where wild animals such as hippos, elephants, crocodiles, buffalos oftenly graze. Domestic animals such as cows, goats, horses and donkeys also graze in the shallow areas of the delta.
While David and Chris took a power boat from the backpackers to the Mokoro area, we drove to the place. The drive was quite an adventure. There are no roads. Where there is a road today could be a flooded area tomorrow. There is very deep sand in the dry land and some places you have to drive through the swamps. You therefore need a good 4WD car and a local to take you there. Otherwise, doing this on your own is a recipe for getting lost and stuck in the swamps.
It takes about 5 hrs on the waters in the Mokoro with an hour break for lunch and a short hike to stretch your legs. There are many small islands and that is where you do the hike. Your guide will chose one island on your ride and stop there for the lunch and hike. If you take the tourist packages, lunch is included but if you go for an option like ours, you have to bring your own lunch. If you don’t bring it with you from home/hotel/backpackers, you can always purchase something at the departure point. There are many vendors with various foods from home cooked to sandwiches, sodas and water available.
While at the Old Bridge backpackers, we met with Ivan and Jan who are on a world tour using their two Triumph scramblers. Their world tour is scheduled for two years and at the time of this blog they had already celebrated their first year on the road. They have been to North America, Latin America, South America, Africa and heading to Australia then Europe.
It was really great exchanging notes on the routes and SIM cards (yes SIM cards 😉 ). Looking forward to another meet up and a ride. Coz travel buddies paths will always cross again.
We had an amazing time in Maun, we even had our laundry done. For Kshs 500/- we got all our clothes machine washed and had a day to see more. It’s time to hit the road again. Next destination Ghanzi.
It is 277 kms to Ghanzi from Maun. The distance not one to wake us up early and so we had an easy morning. The road is pretty good and we had even figured where to sleep courtesy of iOverlander. We get to Ghanzi and look for the entrance to our camp. We had chosen this particular camp because it was stated they sell game meat and we had planned on a “game meat feast night”. Having had a light breakfast and no meals in the day, we were looking forward to the game meat.
Our first turn to the camp, according to google maps was wrong. We did not know till we rode on gravel and then got in to really deep sand. A bukkie pulled right next to us and the family asked us where were going. We gave them the name of the camp and they told us we were on the wrong road plus its extremely bad for our bikes even if we had wanted to use the long way there. We turn back and use the given directions. We get to the entrance gate and hardly 500 mtrs in, the sand is as deep. We debate whether to go further and find out if it gets better or to look for an alternative. After consulting with each other, our hunger and time, we decide to get back to the tarmac and look for an alternative.
We head to the town center and get into the Kalahari hotel.Walking in with our dirty gears, sweat, tired faces, we inquire for a room. The lady at the receptions tells us, they are fully booked and so is every hotel in town because of the annual “Kuru Dance Festivals”. She asks if that is what brings us to town and we say no, we are on transit to Namibia. She is so nice and she start calling everyone she knows to see if she can get us a place. At this point we tell her. We have a tent and all we need is a camping place. Her face lights up and she says, we have space for one tent left. We tell her we need mattresses as well, she say, we don’t have those unfortunately. We set up our tent and went to the shopping mall to look for camping mattresses but found none. For two nights, we were to reshape our bodies by sleeping on the hard surface. Wamuyu used to wake up asking if her hips are still there. 😉
Our plan was to spend one night and head to Namibia the following day. However, on this evening, a couple of cruiser bikes pulled in to the hotel parking. Their sexy loud sounds getting almost everyone in to the parking. Dos was one of them. He meets with the moto girls on the bikes and calls me. I reluctantly walk there thinking, well, more guys and no girls but you can imagine my face when I saw three girls. All the screams, dance and begging to stay for another day. After a chat, we get invited to their charity event the following day and my begging to stay another day is sweetly approved.
Two events happened on this day. One was the biker’s charity event and because we stayed for an extra day, we got to attend the Kuru dance Festivals.
Two biker clubs Three Chiefs MC and YOLO MC had come together to give prescription glasses to about 50 students of Ghanzi Senior Secondary School under their annual charity ran “RESTORE VISION, SECURE THE FUTURE”. The charity is geared towards ensuring students with vision impairment are not disadvantaged in school. It was such an honor to see the fruits of a long process that involved getting an optometrist to check the students eyes, diagnose, prepare prescriptions, glasses and eventually have them handed over to the students. With some of the students scheduled to sit for their high school final exams this year, you could see their faces light up with a ray of hope.
Halfway a sumptuous lunch prepared for us by the school, we were informed that the President was on his way to the town and we needed to meet him immediately at the airport. We had to bolt and leave. On our bikes and off to the airport, we left. His security team was surprisingly easy and we were let it in a few minutes and briefed on how to proceed. It is during the introduction that he asked how the Kenyan traveled to Botswana and he was told we rode our bikes from Kenya. The rest is history, he asked to see our bikes and signed both of them.