Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Ten days we spent, exploring the sand trails and mud pits of Chobe and Moremi. The rainy season has made a dramatically early entrance in Botswana. A lightning storm at sunset over the Okavango Delta is a sight to behold!

Almost every traveler we spoke to had been bogged in mud or sunk in sand. But not us, in our trusty, beastly Land Rover Defender! She plows ever forward through sand and mud, over rocks and bush, and swims in the rivers like a mad bull frog. An unbelievable machine .... now that she has been healed with a new fuel pump, that is. (and, ever cautious, we just avoided the major bog-hole roads. Who wants to travel in a vehicle that smells like a sewer?)

Nighttime in the unfenced wilds of Chobe and Moremi provided more adventure than slumber. Elephants rumbling and munching all around our tent-top Land Rover, hippos grunting and squealing, frogs that chirp like tiny bamboo wind chimes, hyenas skulking for random scavenging opportunities (they will eat anything - cameras, cooking pots, plastic bottles) baboons roosting in the trees, enjoying their morning constitutional from overhead at 4:00 am ..... (Have you ever smelled baboon poop? Ugh!) Lions roaring and roaring just close, their silent tracks in our campsite the next morning....

One day, when we returned to our camp, there was a young bull elephant feeding on the trees in our campsite. We parked a respectful distance away, watching him. He ignored us. After about an hour, we tired of waiting and drove carefully into our spot. It's quite an experience, making coffee whilst keeping a watchful eye on an elephant! He moved a little ways off, and a group of cheeky baboons moved in. Perry and I became distracted by our baboon wars - (The active engagement of throwing rocks and hot water at the critters that move in for a quick steal of bread or sugar or anything they might identify as food) As I was chasing one big baboon fella, there was our elephant friend, flapping his ears in warning that all of our frenetic activity was interrupting his feast! Whew - both the baboon and I changed directions at lightning speed!

And this. It is springtime in the African bush, and every day brought more babies out of hiding. Impala fawns, Bambi-eyed and lovely.... warthoglets, all punked out and jumpy, zebra colts, wildebeest calves, giant giraffe youngsters and tiny plover chicks. Sublime!

Botswana proves to be fascinating, frustrating, tedious and sometimes frightening. Poverty, apathy, friendliness, endless rubbish, half-finished but long abandoned construction projects... the "independent" backpackers trying too look .... independent... as they ride around in safari trucks on pre-set itineraries, ablution blocks filled with spiders, the African sunsets that ignite the last fumes of sky, women's enormous butts, men's skinny waists, our dirty laundry, the massive fires set to tame the forests, Germans, Germans, Dutchies, more Germans, those mysterious cat prints in the soft sand, the Land Rover's engine warming up against the cool morning of possibility in a new land.

So now, we rest in lonely and dusty outpost of humanity called Maun. Gearing up for the next exploration into the realm of the San Bushmen of the Tsodilo Hills.....

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


This is the lesson.

Stand in line.

Stumble around the clumsy language differences.

Sweat, hoping the temperature will to drop to a sleepable level.

Watch the mobile phone, trying to make that call during the random moments of service.

Wait for the fuel pump to arrive from Gabarone.

Wait some more.

Read old newspapers.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Godfrey of Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

A little bit more about Zimbabwe:

We spent a week in that country... after much debate, and querying other travelers, we decided not only was it safe, but it would be a shame to miss it. We are so close! So we endured the obscure bureaucracy of the border crossing, and in we went.

Oh my. Zimbabwe is a sad place. The people are bright and friendly, but the country is completely stalled out. Only US dollars or South African Rand are used, there are few jobs, there's hardly any food (people cross the border, bring back food and sell it on the black market for big bucks) and buying fuel is a joke. But we knew that, so we had plenty of food, water and fuel.

6 days we spent, traveling through Hwange National Park. 3 cars we saw. It once was a grand place to tour, but slowly it decays... almost ghostlike.

Each camp has an attendant, and at one camp the attendant literally RAN to meet us - he hadn't seen a car in 5 days. His clothing was faded and worn, he was thin. His second request, after asking us to stay in his camp, was for reading material. We offered a recent newspaper, and promised to return the next night. When we arrived the following day, this young man had dressed up for us in his best uniform, and introduced himself as Godfrey. We spent 2 1/2 days with him, sharing our food (he had only corn meal and dried meat....) and our reading material and good conversation. He was brilliant, well educated, very curious. His experience with the wildlife of Africa was incomparable. Much we learned in those 2 days!

I offered to make him a beanie, for the cold season, and he eagerly accepted. I suppose you might guess the rest of the story. A bright young man, hungry to learn anything new.... I taught him how to knit! He was fascinated and determined... and incredibly clever. I complimented him on being such a bright student, and he said, 'Then we are well met, an eager student and a wonderful teacher.' In 24 hours he had learned how to knit and had finished one beanie and was 1/2 way done with the next. I left him most of my yarn, sets of needles, anything I could spare. (and all of our sugar!) I intend to send him care packages as often as possible. It's a lonely life for a 25 year old man. But what else is there to do in Zimbabwe? He spends his days making sure the pumps are running so the animals have water, watching the elephants and lions and hyena, and keeping an eye out for poachers. Godfrey was indeed a friend well met.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

What will you do, Zimbabwe?

We have just returned from six days in Zimbabwe.  Truly, it is a "Failed State".

But.  The people we met have not failed.  Amidst currency collapse and violent turmoil, they were kind to us, honorable, and willing to work - hard.

Hwange National Park was once a gem of the African national parks.  We saw rangers ... thin, wary and hard from malnutrition ... tending the camps or on bush patrol with ancient AK-47's to protect the elephants and rhinos from poachers. Imagine this ... these rangers and attendants tried their hardest to make us feel comfortable .... and welcome in our visit.  Tragic.  Ironic.  Absurd.  It nearly overwhelmed us. We bear witness to the crime of poverty, the nobility of spirit in Zimbabwe.

We shall not forget it.