Malawian Rice Vendor

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

On to Maun

We enjoyed our time at Chobe immensely. Our campsite is located close to the river so we were able to fall asleep to the sounds of laughing hippos each night. At times it sounded like several were lurking just outside our tent. Erika was awake early in dire need of a cup of coffee. She befriended a German couple that were on a private safari with a driver and cook in tow at the next campsite over. We ended up spending the better part of the morning with them listening to their tales of various adventures through Africa and enjoying a nice cup of jo. They were scheduled to leave that afternoon and the driver told Erika that he and his cook were headed back to Maun via the national park later that day. Brazenly, Erika thought to herself "what the hell" and asked if we might be able to hitch a ride with the two of them. The driver, Kilo, was more than generous and said after he dropped off his clients at the airport he would return to pick us up. We asked Kilo approximately how much the ride would cost, he responded that he would figure it out on his way back from the airport and he would let us know. We just wanted a rough estimate so that we could make sure we had enough Pula. This would be a great opportunity if it worked out. Public transport is virtually nonexistent in northern Botswana. We did find out that there was one bus a day that could take us to a town called Nata. From there we would need to change buses for the remainder of the journey to Maun. The bus left at 5am which would mean getting up before 4am to break down our tent and find a taxi to the bus station. It went without saying that we were hoping that Kilo would come back with a fair price. Kilo finally made it back a few hours later, he told us we could have a lift through the park to Maun and give him whatever WE thought was fair. We loaded our packs in the truck and took off. The first 40km w through this part of Chobe was great!
A freshly laid piece of tarmac afforded us the opportunity to make good time. even having left shortly after noon time we thought, at this pace we could cover the 350 kms and be able to set up our tent well before dark. Suddenly the car lurched as we veered off the beautiful asphalt. We left the pavement for what appeared to be a sandy one lane track, heading straight into the Botswana desert. Almost immediately kilo stopped the truck and proceeded to change the wheels to accommodate the deep sandy track. What we first thought would be an easy drive turned out to be quite an adventure. We drove along the dust strewn trail bisecting the parched park. We passed several large herds of elephants and giraffes that were hiding in the shade along the way. The occasional warthog would also scamper across the road. It was quite stunning as we slowly traversed the dry landscape. We drove for what would be several hours across the sands of the Kalahari. It was amazing as we only encountered about a half a dozen vehicles coming the other direction for the entire journey. Finally, we came to the end of the park just as the sun was sinking in the African sky. Immediately outside the park gates a huge herd of elephants strolled lazily alongside the road as if to bid us farewell. Shortly after the park gates the road turned to gravel and we were able to make better time. The final stop we made was at the buffalo fence. This is the fence that is several hundreds of KM's long separating the wild animals from the domestic ones. The gate guards wanted to make sure we were not carrying any meat for fear of foot and mouth disease. Naturally, we weren't. The final hour and a half of the drive was illuminated by the streaks of intense red and orange turning to darkness as we passed several villages along the way. Kilo was kind enough to take us all the way to Audi camp where we were able to pitch our tent. He was such an amazingly kind man, going out of his way to help us out. We have found such hospitality throughout our entire time on this incredible continent.

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