Trip Start Aug 21, 2009
52Trip End Nov 09, 2009
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Where I stayed
Island Safari Lodge
Botswana was formerly known as the British Protectorate of Bechuanaland. It was granted independence in 1966 and renamed Botswana. The country is about the size of Texas and 18% of its area is reserved for conservation and tourism.
Botswana is a very safe place. They have no crime. You know why? They have the death penalty for murder, rape and even for robbery in certain cases.
From the border, we head east then northeast on a paved road towards Maun, some 500 km. (300 mi) away. The terrain is extremely flat. Apart from some cattle ranches to break the monotony of sand and desert plants and trees. There are many donkeys, goats, and sheep along the road which frequently slows us down as we wait for them to get off the highway.
A very light mist starts to fall, just enough to wet the road, and occasionally becomes a major drizzle. It’s ironic that we are traveling on the periphery of the Kalahari desert and it is trying to rain. Our biggest worry is that it will be raining in the delta. We hear that when it’s cold, it can get quite cold (so pack fleece tops and bottoms). And if it’s damp, you never seem to warm up. On the other hand, if it’s hot, it’s really hot and always humid. We’ll have to wait and see what weather awaits us. On average, this is the hottest month in Botswana and right now is also the hottest time of the month.
Some of the seats in the front row of the truck are wet due to water leakage coming in from the window frames. (yes, this old Mercedes Benz copy keeps getting more impressive). By noon, however, the mist and drizzle stop, the sun peeks through, and skies turn to blue. Consequently, the temperature and humidity rise considerably.
Of course we have to stop for a picnic lunch, today consisting of tuna pasta salad and self-made sandwiches.
We are stopped at a foot and mouth checkpoint. While the truck’s wheels are being sprayed, we exit to tramp across a foot bath to treat our current footwear, and then it’s back on the truck. Cattle production has become very important to Botswana’s economy as it is its main export to Europe and this measure has become a necessary precaution to ensure its quality and quantity on the markets.
We stop at a couple of towns for a rest break and the difference with Namibian towns is obvious. Botswana prides itself as being the most environmentally sensitive country in Africa and, in particular, its conservatism in its National Parks and Reserves is practiced to a fault. However, this environmental enthusiasm does not appear to be considered or practiced where there are humans, whether it be a house, a settlement or town, or a picnic area. Namibian towns, on the other hand, regardless of size, are practically spotless. It’s an interesting distinction.
There is a general election in Botswana tomorrow and the streets are filled with campaigners, either traveling on trucks or on foot, blowing horns, shouting slogans, and generally revving up the populace for the vote.
We arrive in Maun at 3:30 PM and spend the next hour gathering some supplies to get ready for our trip to the delta. This includes extra water, another headlamp (previous one bought in Cape Town broke down in Etosha), plastic zip bags to keeps cameras and other items dry in case of rain) and beer and scotch (as it weighs much less than beer). We do try the three beers made in Botswana (St. Louis Light, St. Louis Export, and Lion Lager), all made by the same brewery in Gaborone (the capital of Botswana). None of them really stand out though.
It’s 5 PM when we check into the Island Safari Lodge. Each room is a chalet bungalow. They seem to be about 30-40 years old. It’s a good size room with twin beds and air conditioning. We have a quick dip in the pool and then get ready to meet the manager who will provide further details of what to take to, and what to expect in the Delta.
We enjoy a really nice meal of beef cabonade and chicken pineapple, and then back to the bungalow to finalize our backpacks. Okavango Delta, get ready, 'cause here we come.