Botswana and beyond

My journey around Botswana, country 125, began in Gaborone, the country’s capital! It’s much warmer and dryer than the UK! Relaxing in nice surroundings, birds chattering outside :). The trip began with a long flight to Joburg, South Africa, where I stayed with a lovely South African guy, Niel for a night. The following day it was an 8 hour bus ride to Botswana. People were friendly, kind and helped me cross the border, I didn’t even have to leave the bus! Immigration staff came to me! A Batswana lady kindly helped me change money and 40 minutes after departing the border, I was in Botswana’s sprawling capital. I stayed in a nearby village called Tlokweng, with a lovely lady from Zimbabwe. We walked around the small neighbourhood one hot afternoon; followed by wandering cows and a few dogs! On another occasion, a guy named John, originally from England, but who grew up in Nigeria and I visited one of Gaborone’s markets in Riverwalk. John showed me some of the clothes the local women buy and several interesting souvenir items. Happy to be travelling again!
Arrived in Maun, central Botswana, very early Tuesday morning, 10th March. The plan is to experience a little of the Okavango Delta whilst here! Relaxing in a nice hostel at present, motsebe Backpackers. Very peaceful, birds and chickens singing and squawking in the background! Hot and sunny :). I arrived from Gaborone via a 9 hour night bus. It was a good ride; the journey was uneventful, although one large lady did almost sit on me! The Motswana people are helpful, kind and friendly. The trip is going well. Met several locals in Maun who recognised me from the Ethiopia BBC Travel Show Documentary, 2019! the staff at Motsebe Backpackers looked after me splendidly. One guy: Pako, was really kind and friendly. He helped me cook food, made tea for me, escorted me to and from my safari tent and took me to town on several occasions. I ventured into the Okavango Delta for a day and a night. A large water system that begins in the mountains of Angola and winds its way into mid Botswana. Unlike most deltas, the Okavango evaporates in the Kalahari Desert. Many of the rivers are navigated by Mokoro (simple canoe). I had my own cook, a guide and a ‘Pola’, the guy who steered the Mokoro. The river we travelled along was an hour’s bumpy drive from Maun with our starting point for the Mokoro trip at the village of Maru. Once aboard the canoe, our adventure began. The Pola guy guided us through dense reeds and hippos were spotted standing on the river bank grazing. Once on Downari Island, the camp base for the night, the safari tents were set up whilst I relaxed in the shade. Pedro, the cook, arranged a buffet lunch before relaxation recommenced! It was very hot by then, mid 30s dc. As evening neared, Pedro prepared to cook the main meal on a wood fire. However, a terrific storm rolled in with fantastic claps of thunder, very loud and close. Suddenly the rain poured, the wind rose and all hell broke loose! Somehow, in the mid of all this, Pedro managed to cobble together a kind of meal, tasty chicken, pasta tubes and small potatoes and pumpkin – delicious. The storm was amazing and the tent became a little dirty as we ate inside! Once night fell, the birds fell asleep and the frogs came out and made a racket, anyone hearing them would think they were at a nightclub! Next morning, rose at 6 am, had a quick breakfast and headed off with George, my guide, for a 3-hour bush walk. We pounded along narrow grassy trails, stomped through thick grass and attempted to avoid muddy patches. Our first sighting was aardvark tracks, but they only led into holes. Then George saw 3 Warthogs together and ran off to get me pictures. Warthogs are, apparently, black pig-looking animals. We trekked on: walking far into the bush, sunlight becoming warmer on my face. 7 Giraffe were spotted and we followed them for a way. Later two Zebras, a male and female joined the Giraffes and they wandered along in harmony. After a short break, George showed me the carcass of a Buffalo that had been killed by a lion, only the skull and horns remained. According to George, it had been lying there for at least 5 years! We continued our walk and eventually spotted a single male buffalo walking alone. Impala and Red Lechwe (a type of antelope) were spotted in groups. Finally, we wandered back to the Mokoro and poled our way back to Downari Island, seeing more hippos along the way. More tasty food for lunch before returning to the canoe and heading back to the Mokoro Station at Maru. The following morning Pako helped me find a local bus and, 3 hours after departing Maun, I arrived in the small village of Gweta, where I’m staying in another lovely hostel.
Stayed in a wonderful new and almost unknown backpacker/camp near Gweta, north Botswana between 14th-16th March. The accommodation is called Chaixara Backpackers and is owned and run by Jake Ford from the UK an his business partner, Lesh from Botswana. The basic accommodation is on large grounds, roughly 2 km from the small tourist village of Gweta. The village is notable for having the world’s second largest salt pan: Ntwentwe Salt Pan. Famous baobab trees can also be found. Chaixara mainly caters for campers bringing their own tents and has campfire cooking facilities. However, there’s room for approximately 6 backpackers at present with one double room, and one dorm containing 4 beds in bunkbed construction. Beds are provided with thick blankets in stead of sheets. The camp has toilet and shower blocks for both males and females. The main building with its traditional thatched roof has a bar, pool table and comfy seating. Free WIfI is accessible in the reception. An outdoor swimming pool is available to guests. This accommodation run by wonderful, kind, helpful and friendly staff: Kessy, Lesh and Booster is a new project in the heart of Botswana and will only expand and improve. Go check it out. Jake is a wonderful guy with a fascinating back story. Info about the camp and backpackers can also be found on the Botswana wikitravel page. On my second day there, I went on an early morning excursion to experience the salt pan and other nature. There were 3 or 4 other tourists, but they were mostly quiet. Our driver guide told us about the Mopani (butterfly) Tree, named for the shape of its leaves. A tree of hard wood, it has multiple uses; firewood, and also used for furniture and as fence posts. 3 ostrich were spotted in the far distance and 2 or 3 horses grazing on the savannah. We stopped at large baobab tree, standing tall and proud in the hot and dry terrain. I touched the tree’s thick bark; dry and nobbily, as hard as concrete! The trees roots which largely grow above ground were very large, containing volumes of water. Sadly, both the water and the tree’s wood is useless to humans. The drive continued to the vast salt pan that stretch into the far distance like a huge white tablecloth. The guide described it to me as vast quantities of dry flat deposits of salt. In the afternoon, Jake took me to inspect more large baobab trees. One such tree had roots so long they resembled the tentacles of a giant octopus! After three delightful nights at Chaixara in peaceful surroundings, I was the only guest, Jake put me on a local bus bound for Nata, a bigger village but with less interest. After an hours’ bumpy ride, I changed buses for Kasane, a tourist town on the Chobe River in far north Botswana. I stayed at the Elephant Trail Guesthouse and Backpackers in Kazungula, roughly 7 km from Kasane. Another delightful accommodation with more wonderful Motswana staff. They helped me navigate the open area with its tiny pathways, showed me to the toilets and shower, made sure I was always ok and helped me book day trips in the Chobe National Park. I took an early morning Game Drive, my guide describe the various animals he spotted whilst driving through the huge park with its extremely rough terrain and river. Hippos, crocodiles, endless numbers of Impala were seen, plus all kinds of birds. Eventually and remarkably, my guide discovered two lions, male and female, lion together in a clearing – magical. Obviously, I couldn’t see them and appreciate them in the same way as a sighted traveller, but just being there in their presence and having them describe was special and more than enough for me. The male lion finally woke up and licked his balls! The same afternoon I took a boat cruise on the Chobe River, again, searching for more wildlife. The tourists described the various birds spotted, crocodiles and hippos seen, plus Elephants, which had not been found on my game drive. I relaxed on the boat as we almost drifted along, feeling the hot afternoon sun on my face and arms, hearing other tourists exclaim at each animal viewed, the amazing colours and flights of the birds, the size of different lizards etc. Nature at its best. The following morning I took a shuttle bus, organised by Elephant Trail, to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. I could have taken a taxi to the nearby border and caught a public bus from the Zim side, but I figured having the organised shuttle, would make life easier. The driver helped me get a Kata Visa, allowing entry into both Zimbabwe and Zambia. He also dropped me right at my couchsurfer’s door, saving me the hassle of searching for a taxi and explaining my final destination to the driver. My hosts were a delightful Zimbabwean couple. I visited Victoria Falls, first sighted by missionary, Doctor David Livingstone of Scotland on 16 November 1855, from what is now Livingstone Island, Zambia. It’s the world’s longest waterfall and, at present, is full, so visibility is zero at the top! There are 16 viewing points including, the Devil’s Throat and Devil’s Pool – They were visible. From viewpoint 9 onwards, nothing could be seen, only dense spray and mist. I simply enjoyed the tremendous sound of crashing water. My guide and I walked to all 16 viewpoints, getting drenched along the way. The viewpoint was of Victoria Falls Bridge, begun in 1903 and finished in 1905. The idea of Sessel Rhodes, British explorer and philanthropist . However, he died before it was completed.
A lot has happened since I was drenched at Vic Falls just over a week ago. On Saturday 21st March, my CS hosts walked me across Victoria Falls bridge from the Zimbabwe side to the Zambian side. Once through immigration, I was met by my next host, Ethan who resides in Livingstone. He was with friends. After a 30 minute drive, we arrived at Ethan’s small, but delightful home. The following morning, after various phone calls to organise several excursions, Ethan and I were collected and driven to Elephant Café on the Zambezi River, about a 15 minute rive from Livingstone. We were off to have an elephant interaction! Normally, two tourists are needed to do this hour-long activity, but since Livingstone was void of tourists because of the Coronavirus panic, I paid double and Ethan was allowed to accompany me as my guide. It was amazing, we met two fully grown males and fed them some kind of dry crop or plant. They became a little aggressive when feeding! Sucking the food out of my hand with their muscular trunks before searching for more! The two elephants were huge: 3.5 metres (over 10 feet) in height with enormous tusks. The keeper, named Africa, said they eat up to 16 hours per day, imagine that! It was wonderful; feeling their muscular trunks, stroking their hairy body and sensing their huge size and strength. Unfortunately, it was over too soon. In the afternoon of the same day, Ethan and I, plus a guide-driver and a park ranger went walking with rhinoceroses! We were driven around a nearby national park in a huge 4 x 4 vehicle, attempting to spot wildlife. Ethan saw a couple of giraffes and also several zebra. Impalas were also seen. Eventually, we climbed out of the vehicle and began our bush walk. The guide told us about different trees and plants, how bushmen used them to survive in the bush. We followed a narrow rocky and muddy trail, hemmed in by tall bushes and plants on both sides. The ranger spotted a rhino footprint and I bent down to touch it. A massive footprint with 3 toes clearly visible in the mud. Later, giraffe droppings were found and later still, rhino dung. The ranger kept following the trail and, finally, 4 rhinos were discovered eating grass. At one point, I was less than 10 metres (30 feet) distance from those magnificent beasts. We tracked them for almost an hour before finally losing them and returning to the vehicle. Being out in the real bush with wild and, potentially, dangerous animals was fantastic and a moment to remember for a long time. What a day we had! 😊. On the Monday, I took a long, 8 hour bumpy bus ride south to the village of Sioma to visit the Ngonye Falls. The accommodation I’d booked on the internet was named Sioma Camp, Sikumbi! This became confusing, as I was unsure if the camp was in Sioma village or in Sikumbi. The bus conductor was also unsure. I was dropped on the highway near where the camp was thought located, but I had no way to get there, being on a road, surrounded by bush. Therefore, I was told to re-board the bus. This happened a second time and the bus driver asked several locals if they new the destination. Finally, I was dropped in Sioma itself and took a taxi to the camp. A roughly 20 minute drive. Then the fun began! I was welcomed by a huge, quiet, friendly Zambian named Brian. He took me to a room, but when I asked for my pack, it was missing. I suddenly realised it might still be in the taxi! I’d assumed the driver had brought it in as I heard a car door slam, obviously not. Luckily, Brian new the driver, contacted him and several hours later, the driver returned with my bag – for a fee. Brian arranged with the driver to take me to the Ngonye Falls the next morning. I spent a quiet evening at the camp, being the only gust. I rose early the next morning to begin my tour. Sioma Camp is a nice place on the banks of the Zambezi River, some 6 km (4 miles) from Sioma and roughly 10 km (6 miles) from the falls. The taxi driver and Brian accompanied me to the falls, driving inside the national park and parking within touching distance of the crashing water. It was high (rainy) season thus, the falls were invisible. However, this was unimportant to me as I couldn’t see them full stop. The magic for me was the sound of crashing water and what a sound! Fantastic. We walked a ways down to the river and I took photos and videoed away, enjoying the sensation and energy of the wonderful waterfall. Eventually, we returned to the vehicle and, after finally finding someone to change my UK pounds to Zambian Kwacha, I caught a bus back to Livingstone – another bumpy ride on extremely rough roads. A day was spent relaxing in hot and humid Livingstone, before I attempted to cross into Namibia. Ethan put me on an afternoon bus bound for the Zambia-Namibia border. After some 6 hours of bumping, rolling, bouncing, the bus arrived at the border. I didn’t have much time as the border closed at 6 pm. I was taking a chance as I’d not been able to discover if Namibia was letting in foreigners due to their panic over Coronavirus. They only had 4 confirmed cases, but it was, seemingly, enough for the President to issue strict measures. A Zambian guy helped me into a building to complete Zambian immigration formalities before he walked me, at breakneck speed, across a long area of rough ground to the Namibian immigration. This consisted of a large metal gate occupied by Namibian immigration staff and police. I announced I was from the UK and that did it. I was denied entry into Namibia. Cursing, I returned to the Zambian side and my companion helped me find a cheap guest house for the night. Next morning, the Zambian guy returned and helped me find an early bus back to Livingstone. I’m now trying to discover how to return to the UK, my flight from Johannesburg on 12th April having recently been cancelled. All part of travelling. Please keep buying my fascinating Ebooks. and have a wonderful day, evening or night. Many thanks, Tony :).