Botswana 2019 travel blog


Internet is patchy at our lodge on the river at Kasane. Yesterday I wrote four paragraphs and lost everything. Today I am going to try saving as I go along, and cover the same period, Wednesday February 27 to Friday morning March 1. At some point I will try to get some photos inserted, but for that I have to use Sara's computer, and it will have to wait until we reach a place with a better internet connection.

It is an hour's drive from Vic Falls to Kasane, which is where Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia all meet. Between the two there is bush on both sides of the road - with not a house to be seen, certainly not a road turning off to left or right. I cannot recall another well vegetated place I have visited in the world with absolutely no sign of human presence. Apart, that is, from the trucks, mostly Zambian, of which we must have overtaken a dozen or so. I learned this morning that the construction of the bridge from Botswana to Zambia has been much delayed, and that the ferry can be out of commission for long periods, leaving trucks waiting to cross for weeks or more. The alternative is the bridge at Vic Falls, but that has a severe weight limit. The result is enormous trucks carrying small loads of heavy goods, primarily building materials.

We went through four immigration points in an hour - Zimbabwe out, Botswana in, Botswana out, Namibia in. The last was the most interesting. We had just crossed the Chobe river to the Namibian side, on which all the houseboats are registered and moored. There is a little landing slip from which a path bordered by the normal trappings of rural life (chickens, a crazy dog, a little vegetable growing, a shack, a wooden boat being loaded with evergreen plants) meandered uphill under a blazing sun to the immigration building. As we walked there were little exhortations on the side of the path to keep going as we were almost there. It must be the most relaxed such place in the world.

Relaxed immigration is high-stress compared to the two days on the houseboat. We are joined by four other inmates - two Afrikaans-speaking South Africans, and two Australians. Add us in and we were celebrating 50, 60 and 70 years of life respectively. Everybody was immensely mellow. I wonder if we are all normally like that. There is no communication with the outside world, no conceivable chores, just sit back and enjoy. Let the world happen to you for once.

We struck up quite a relationship with the South Africans in particular, batting life stories, children stories, worldviews and world perspectives around like ping-pong balls. A shared distaste for Donald Trump breaks a lot of ice.

Two days of sitting followed, whether on the mother-ship or the game tour boat. The only time we went ashore was to visit a Namibian village, and that was our least entertaining and ultimately illuminating experience. On parade is subsistence life as demonstrated by those who live it, but whose main source of income in reality comes from the tourists who pay to see them subsisting. Still, this is the kind of activity which sustains the Botswana tourists want to see. I should not sniff at it, as the alternative for them is a much tougher existence. The child of today's villager is tomorrow's guide, whose child in turn is the doctor of the future.

Most of the time on board the houseboat is agreeably spent sitting and looking (and chatting and occasionally dozing). All sorts and sizes of elephants engaged in all sorts of activities - bathing, trudging, running around if small, a bit of argy-bargy if young and male, plus one serious case of rutting with intent. (No, that came this morning, a day later.) We got a similar range of behaviors from the baboons - We saw lots of hippos doing what only hippos can do, though one took a particular interest in our boat, and we had to take evasive action. No big cats, but most of the rest of the mammals one would expect to see. I deliberately leave the birds to last. Lots of lovely ones, and my lifelist is ticking along quite nicely.

As I relax, I admire the efficiency of the team which makes it all happen. Up until now (actually the afternoon of March 2), everything has happened exactly on schedule, every request has been satisfied, every response supplemented with the warmest of smiles.

Time to close out. I am not happy with the quality of what I have written. I should try to catch up and do it contemporaneously, when it is all fresh in mind. Now, I am thinking of today's stuff while primarily writing about the day before yesterday.

Tomorrow we rent our car and hit the road.

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