Bulawayo, Zimbabwe to Windhoek, Namibia
03.07.2010 - 09.07.2010 0 °C
Watching the World Cup from the t.v. in my "real" hotel room (with real hotel price), in Francistown, just over the Zimbabwe border in Botswana. This morning I took a minibus from Bulawayo that surprisingly only stopped a few times on the way to the border, then passing through immigration and the foot-and-mouth shoe cleaning station, waited a while for another bus on the Botswana side. My first impressions of Botswana - people here actually use the garbage cans! I see very little litter on the ground in Francistown... I asked some local about this, and it seems there is a hefty fine for littering, so people don't do it. Now, if that logic could be spread across the other 50 countries on this continent... well, Rwanda being the exception. No real interesting sites to speak of here in Francistown - in fact, seems to be too many modern strip malls and fast food places - but, having paved sidewalks instead of dirt is a pretty welcome change!
I'm technically not in Maun, but rather Matlapaneng up the road - this camp site I'm staying in is about the cheapest option around (but not that cheap). Maun is certainly not geared toward independent travelers backpacking without tents/personal transportation, as each campsite is a couple km's spread out! I took a minibus this morning from Francistown here to Maun, then crammed into a local minivan minibus to the camp site. Wouldn't you know, they don't organize trips to Okavango Delta. So, I was referred to another camp site about 6-7 km further down the road. Fortunately a Dutch couple with a car happened to stop by, also inquiring about trips to the Delta, and gave me a lift over to the site which organizes tours. Booked a tour for tomorrow, then jumped in the minibus and made it - barely - to the supermarket before it closed, to stock-up on food for a couple days. Now heading next door (meaning about 1 km away) to the sports bar for dinner and a 4th of July celebratory drink.
Okavango Delta, Botswana
I'm roasting marshmallows while swatting away mosquitos sitting by a campfire here in the Okavango Delta, beneath about a billion or so stars (and equal amount of frogs burping). This morning, unable to get a minibus to stop, I walked the 6 km or so - backpack, daypack, and groceries - to the campsite I booked this trip with. Staged my pack and had maybe 10 minutes to charge my camera battery, before the Dutch couple and I took the motor boat trip down Boro River to where all the makora dugout canoes were staged, along with a lot of locals and their luggage. While tourists pay top dollar for a poler to "drive" (as they say) us around the Delta in the makora, the locals still rely on them and the river Delta for a reliable method of transportation. As the polers navigated the makora through the reeds, the tourists (in the front) were being covered in spider webs and minute flies - this is certainly a swamp land! Arrived here on one of the few permanent islands in the Delta, pitched tents and then back out on the makora to the other side of the island to look for wildlife. But, other than lots of birds, mosquitos and spiders, not many animals can be seen during the flooded season. Fortunately, there are pretty sunsets to compensate...
Back in Maun (Matlapaneng), but this time staying put at the more convenient campsite river lodge where the tour I was on, originated. This morning in the Delta we got up early and headed out on the makora to a different part of the island.
Very peaceful and tranquil feeling cutting through the reeds in the Delta, with pretty water lilies all around.
This time, there was a bit more wildlife we were able to spot, like kudu deer and elephants - sometimes getting uncomfortably close!
We headed back to the camp, rested a bit, packed up and went back to the makora "taxi" station where we waited for our motor boat transfer. While waiting for the transfer, our poler volunteered to take the Dutch couple and me on a tour of the village. We were introduced to shake shake, the local fire water,
and got to see the local houses made out of recycled beer and pop cans - bizarre!
I'm enjoying a nice sunset view over the Okavango River from my camp site lodge.
Earlier today, I wandered around a bit in the small town of Maun - the local minibus I took from the river camp site lodge expertly avoided running over the many long-eared donkeys spread out all over the roads and in town.
I stopped by the Nhabe museum expecting to see exhibits on the history and cultures of the Delta. Well, instead I found a shop selling crafts... what the heck, like I don't see enough of this already?? At least some permanent sculptures were still on display.
Now, heading to the bar for another World Cup match.
Well, I'm in Gobabis, in eastern Namibia. Just had quite a hike here to my rest camp, the sign said 1 km from city center where I was dropped off from my pickup truck ride (yeah, right!.. more like 3 km). The town is similar to those I saw in Botswana, in that it is about as spotless as far as African cities go... trash cans all over, and people use them! This morning back in Maun, I went to the bus station for the relatively late 08:30 bus to Ghanzi. We passed a random checkpoint along the way for a foot-and-mouth shoe cleaning stop(?), and after arriving, changed to a minibus for the ride to Mamuno at the border. During the ride, passed through the hot, dry and dusty Kalahari desert.
When the minibus dropped us at the border, I checked out of Botswana and walked about 2 km to the Namibian border post - helping the local lady with her luggage along the way. When I asked the immigration officer where to catch a connecting bus to Gobabis, I was told there were none, only hitchhiking! Well, I didn't count on that, but - unsurprisingly - soon found vehicles serving as shared taxis pulling up to the border post, a pickup truck carrying a few women dressed in the traditional Herero outfits,
were crossing from Namibia into Botswana and dropped off at the border, so the woman with the heavy luggage and I hopped in the back of the truck and took it back into Namibia 150 windy km as the sun was setting - glad I had my jacket and winter hat available!
I'm here in the capital city Windhoek, cooking up the traditional backpacker dinner - pasta with marinara sauce. This morning in Gobabis I checked out of my inconveniently located camp site and grabbed a shared taxi to Windhoek. Not surprisingly, the driver tried to quote me double of what I know the rate should be. Once I got him down to the correct rate, along the way he tried to change the negotiated price, saying I needed to pay more.. yeah, right! Didn't happen. Arrived in Windhoek, got checked-in to a pretty decent hostel, then started making some inquiries about joining up with other tourists to rent a vehicle - the only real way to see Namibia's classic sights other than booking an expensive tour, as no public transportation seems to exist here. I posted notes looking for other travelers in both mine and another hostel on the other side of town. Then, spent a little time walking around the touristy areas of town, like Post St promenade with the famous meteorite display. Tonight, predictably, will be at the bar for World Cup.