Day 280: Into Botswana

Mon. 20th May 2013

San Bushmen around the campfireIt’s just another one night stay for us in Windhoek and we are loading our bags into Janis once again. There doesn’t seem to be too much to see or do in Windhoek so we aren’t too sorry to be moving on – anywhere would be an anti-climax after Etosha so perhaps our feelings aren’t too surprising. The pace does continue to be breakneck as Nomad have to fit some big distances into a short time.

Not only do we say goodbye to Namibia today, but also to Bastien & Vanessa and Manny & Renee who are finishing here in Windhoek. Thanks for being great company and safe travelling. Our party is now down to 10 tourists plus Zenzo, Thembi and Marie (the German translator). We all take the opportunity to spread out around Janis.

A snapshot of Africa - strange plants, an Acacia tree and folk selling stuff by the side of the roadNamibia has been magical – such spectacular scenery and amazing wildlife (not all of which have we been able to capture in photos). It may even have overtaken Bolivia as the most photogenic country we have visited. To think that our original plan involved flying straight to Windhoek – we’d have missed out on so much. Without the Nomad tour, we might have missed the dunes at Sossusvlei and would certainly have skipped Hammerstein and their big cats. Even Etosha would have been harder to do.

A very quick lunch stopThe drive to Botswana takes all morning and the early part of the afternoon. We have a quick stop in Gobabis for a coffee and to spend the last of our Namibian Dollars & SA Rand (the two are interchangeable in Namibia). Lunch was even briefer, a very quick picnic in a layby. We want to beat Nina and the campers to the border in order to be ahead of them in the immigration queue (there are twice as many of them as us). At one point we find this jack-knifed lorry blocking the road ahead of us. Fortunately, we could get past it on the verge and we press on.

In Africa, expect the unexpectedThe border crossing itself was very straightforward once again – no hassle or delays either checking out of Namibia or into Botswana. I still suspect that not every African border crossing will be this easy but I’d be very happy to be proven wrong! Zenzo has briefed us that Botswana is a country the size of France but with a population of less than 3m. He also explained that the country (if not necessarily the people) is among the richest in Africa due to the discovery of (non-conflict) diamonds in 1967 – a year after the Brits left!!

Fortunately these weren't our hutsBoth the sparseness and the (relative) wealth are apparent as we zoom along a well made tarmac road through the empty countryside. We are crossing the northern end of the Kalahari desert, which covers 70% of the country, but wouldn’t have known it if we hadn’t been told. It’s by no means green but there is much more vegetation here than in the Namib desert. Our destination tonight is the Trailblazers Lodge outside the small town of Ghanzi. We turn off the main road and bounce down a dusty dirt track – almost getting bogged down in the sand at one point. Marker boards count down the kilometres to the camp with the last one marked ‘Nearly There’. Just as well, or I would have given up long before we got there.

Our little huts in GhanziThe folk from Nina have got ahead of us somehow and are pitching their tents when we arrive. Unlike them, our accommodation is in individual little thatched huts – a small bedroom in front of a bathroom where a quarter of the roof has been cut away to give a view of the sky. These bathrooms open to the elements wouldn’t work in the UK but seem appropriate here. When I went for a pit stop in the middle of the night I was treated to an amazing view of the night sky – perhaps even clearer and more dramatic than in Lake Titicaca. So many stars and the Milky Way a pale white swirl across the sky.

Audience participation was compulsory for someOtherwise, it is quite basic here. Even the electricity is on a generator that comes on around sunset and is switched off soon after 10. So, no late nights for us then! Still, everything is clean (apart from the fine, dusty sand that gets everywhere) and the food, which we eat in the restaurant in the lodge, is tasty and plentiful.

The sky in Africa always seems to be specialAfter dinner, we gather around an open campfire for a display of traditional dancing by local San bushmen. For once it is the men who do the dancing while the women sing and clap out a rhythm. The dances consisted mostly of shuffling and stamping around the fire, the stomping amplified by the rattles that the men wore in bands around their legs. We were told by an interpreter that the dances were a mixture of healing dances (each named after a big game animal) and entertainment dances named after smaller animals. Not really our cup of tea but we enjoyed being by the fire as the evening grew cold. Welcome to Botswana!

This entry was posted in Africa, Botswana, RTW Trip and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *