My laptop is up and running again. Thanks goodness because all of my pictures that were on my camera (which is now at the bottom of the Zambezi River) are on my laptop. The computer technician said that some of the wires had literally melted in the desert because it was so hot. It’s been a long time coming; with no further ado, I give you Beautiful Botswana!
To get into the country of Botswana we took a ferry across the Zambezi River at the point where Zambia, Zimbabwe, Angola, and Botswana meet After immigration we walked through a disinfectant and dipped the soles of our shoes in the liquid to prevent the spread of foot and mouth disease. At various points through Botswana we had to repeat this process and the truck-trolly had to drive through big puddles of disinfectant. One of Botswana’s major exports is beef so they need to ensure that the cattle stay healthy.
During our first night in Botswana we camped at Thebe River Safaris. We spent the afternoon dominating the pool (a trend that would continue throughout the trip) with extreme versions of childhood games such as 500 up and MarcoPolo. These were later to be known as “Danger” activities. This inside joke followed us throughout the entire trip. I love the people I’m traveling with, they’re hilarious! In the afternoon we went on a River Safari where we were welcome to bring a cooler of our own booze (Hobo win!). We saw many animals up close such as crocodiles, hippos, buffalo, elephants, and we ended the safari with a beautiful sunset over the water.
The next day, after a short drive we stopped for lunch at a place called Elephant Sands. It was named accurately because Luzinda (our driver) had to gun it to get us through the sand so we didn’t get stuck on the way in. We were doing well until an elephant blocked our path and refused to move. Eventually we got to the lunch spot where the elephants had taken over. There is usually a watering hole but it had dried up because the elephants smelled the water coming out of the pipe and they broke the pipe with their trunks. The dominant male elephant had claimed his spot at the swimming pool bathing and slurping up the last of the water that existed in the area.
After lunch we had a quick stop of the grocery store then we hit Planet Boabab. This camp was scattered with many Boabab or “upsidedown trees”. In the past people believed that God gave every animal a seed to plant. The hyena was given the Boabab seed and because hyenas are jerks they planted their seeds upsidedown, which is why it looks like the roots grow from the top of the tree. Planet Boabab is home to one of the oldest and biggest Boabab trees in the world. It is at least 1500 years old!
The following day we traveled to River Safari Campground. We were excited to find a pool again but when we went to jump in the staff told us it was being cleaned at the moment. Around 2:00 we asked again if we could go in the pool. The staff attendant leaned over the pool (I thought he was going to do a pH test) but instead he sniffed the water, took a taste, and told us it was good to go! That evening we took care of any business we had on the rare, free wifi and prepped for our outing into the Okavengo Delta.
The Okavengo Delta is a river that starts in the highlands of Angola (the country to the North) and travels down to Botswana where it splits into tributaries. Beyond the tributaries the water simply disappears and evaporates into the desert. This gives you an idea of how HOT it is here. There was one point where I peed on the side of the road and there was actually steam rising from the ground because my urine was so much cooler than the scorching dirt. Our trip into the Okavengo Delta was true bush camping. We took only what we needed and hopped aboard a boat which wound through the twisting tributary for an hour until we arrived at the Poleing Community.
At the Poleing Community we transferred our items to Mokoros which are dugout logs that act as little boats. Each team got a “poler” and we set off weaving through the reeds as our poler used a giant stick to push the boat along. As you sit in the Mokoro you are pretty much even with the water level. You can’t make any sudden movements because the Mokoro will tip over. It was so much fun to wisp through the reeds and enjoy the gorgeous sunshine.
We reached our destination and set up camp. In the afternoon we swam in the crystal clear delta water and tried our luck at balancing and steering our own Mokoro. It was much harder than it looked! If you weren’t in the water that afternoon, you had to be in the shade. That day was the most intense heat I’ve ever felt in my life; I drank 5 litres of water and still felt dehydrated. Once it “cooled off” around 4:00 we took the Mokoros down the Delta so we could go on a walking safari. We had to wear pants so we didn’t get spiked by the thorny vegetation. We walked in silence for 2 hours and saw a Tsessepe which is a rare antelope that can run up to 70 km an hour. We also saw some giraffes running (they are so awkward with their gawky, long legs), a hyena nest, and a giant termite mound.
Upon returning to our bush we got to sample a traditional Botswana meal which consisted of a hearty, thick beef and vegetable stew served over milliepop which is like a thick porridge-mashed potato mush made of ground maize. Since it was a traditional African meal, it had to be served like a traditional meal. Each girl in our group had to pick a boy to serve. We were expected to know the proportions that our man would want and then had to serve it to them while kneeling down in front of them. Only after all the males were served could the females go help themselves to dinner. We spent the evening around the campfire listening to the locals sing traditional songs, dancing with them, and playing campfire games under the desert stars.
Upon our return to River Safari Campground the next day we all hopped into a much-needed shower and hit the road again. Our next stop was a secluded quarry campsite that we had all to ourselves. The old quarry was filled with a beautiful green water that was perfect for swimming. Later that evening we went for a walk with the San Bushmen. The San people talk in a click language so we had a translator. They took us through the shrub of the desert and taught us the medicinal use for certain roots they dug up. The San people are trying to keep their traditional way of life so they still dress in minimal animal skins and hunt and gather their food. The San people found giant caterpillars in cocoons for us to eat and they cooked them over a fire they started by rubbing two sticks together. To wash down their meal they drank water from a hollowed out ostrich egg that acted as their water bottle. The San people are SO resourceful and fascinating; it’s amazing how they survive.
Compared to the other African countries I have been to Botswana is very forward thinking. The tourism industry is based on “high quality, low impact” which basically means they jack the prices of tourism up so less people will come which leads to a healthier impact on the environment while still gaining financially. The President of Botswana is the son of a previous president who was exiled from his own country for marrying a white woman. Now that the current president from the original family is back in power the national animal of Botswana is the black and white Zebra to represent the acceptance of interracial marriages and families.
The next day we crossed to border from Botswana into Namibia, but I’ll save that for another post. Ka-a-os (good-bye in Damara) for now!