Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Day 122 - Zelda Guest Farm, Namibia, to Maun, Botswana

RobC:  Sorry folks, but we are a bit behind on the blog due to, one, being out in the African bush, two, Internet being kind of scarce out here and, three, there just aren't enough hours in the day to do all the long stretches of driving, sight-seeing and adventuring. But don't worry please, we will catch you up on all the events and you will not miss out on anything.

Africa continues to be a delightful continent and the further we are removed from countries like South Africa, Namibia and Botswana, which are all well-developed, extremely hospitable and well-run tourism venues, we are finding such countries as Zimbabwe to be more the kind of Africa we had imagined, with lots of poverty, unemployed people on the streets, people asking for food or money, etc. It is also a continent with a great variety of languages in each country, with English serving as a marginal trade language (and I have a feeling that people do not really understand each very well), diverse cultures, physical features and typical dress. People seem to be very relaxed and peaceful and when you raise your voice ever so slightly for any reason the people will react startled and scared. Lastly, the ubiquitous signs on HIV/AIDS prevention remind us that this area of Africa is battling a serious and widespread epidemic.

We just ride into and out of the villages and the lives of the people and I wonder what they think of us with our shiny machines, our multiple bags and our space suits in the sweltering heat. When we finally make an effort to speak and laugh with the natives they sometimes quite formally and seriously ask us, "And what is your mission?"  To which we sheepishly answer, "Well, uh, to see your beautiful country, the people and the flora and fauna, as part of large and fascinating world," or something along those lines.

Back to the particulars.

RobT:  I woke up this morning around 5 am to grunts that sounded like they were outside my tent.  I had originally thought it was a stray pig or a warthog.  As it turns out it was the leopard inside the fenced-in compound 10 meters from my tent.  I guess he was looking for breakfast. What do I know about wild animal grunts.    

 My 5 am wake-up call.

We had an 8 am appointment to visit Courtman, a 69-year old Bushman living in the bush on the Zelda Farm 20 km from the Botswana border.  There are still 2 extended families living on the property, with most of the younger people working either on the farm  or at the guest facilities.  This place belongs to the Van Niekerk family, Afrikaners living on the land. Courtman and his people still live the traditional way in huts in the bush with an agreement with the farm that all the money he makes from the tourists through his artwork and Bushman walks goes directly to support the school 80 km away that was set up strictly for Bushman kids.  His small settlement was located four kilometers from the farm, at the end of a dirt road.  We went for an hour long walk during which he pointed out the various medicinal and edible plants, fruits and roots used in their day to day lives and he showed us around the village and some of the typical Bushman activities.  

 The Bushman village.

 Courtman, our Bushman guide.

 RobC learning the Bushman ways.

Some of RobC's flower photography along the Bushman trail.

Courtman in typical Bushman hunting attire.

RobC seeing trying his skill at archery with the small Bushman bow and darts.

Digging for a root.

After the Bushman walk, we packed up and left for the Botswana border.  We stopped to get fuel and a drink.  Some boys outside the store asked RobC for bread to eat.  When we were done with our drink Rob bought a half loaf of bread and gave it to the boy who eagerly accepted it with gratitude.  The two boys made quick work of that half loaf of bread. 

The border was a very small post along the Trans-Kalahari road.  Very efficient .  Immigration, customs and then the insurance (240 Pulas, roughly 35 USD), all one right after the other in the same building ...  an hour later we were on the road to Maun, Botswana.  

 Trans-Kalahari Border Post

Well, the road turned out to be long and boring.  500 km (320 miles) of long and boring to be exact. Nothing but flat land and low shrubs for miles and to make sure you stayed awake, cows and sheep grazed along the roadside, as Botswana typically does not have fences along the highways.  Several times we had to brake hard to avoid eating supper early as the animals crossed the road unexpectedly.
We stopped at Ghanzi, a small town along A3, for fuel and met a couple on a Suzuki Enduro from Scotland who were heading the same way we were, towards Kasane and onward.  They had traveled our route a few years earlier.  They told us the “real” Africa starts in Zimbabwe.  As he put it, “The southern countries are the easy Africa.”  We shall see.

We ended up in Maun on the shores of the Okavango Delta at the Audi Lodge and set up camp yet again. RobC made some comment about only liking camping because of the price.  Maybe they will raise the prices and he’ll be totally discouraged. :-)

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