I did not book my Okavango adventures yesterday as planned, because during some discussion with WAR staff, someone suggested getting some information from the Department of Tourism staff who work at a Maun park that I planned to visit today. That way I can get some information from a source that is not pushing a particular product.
I set out at 9 am and expect to beat the heat. I take a back pack for my camera, water and some fruit to snack on. I review my directions as the only map I have been able to find of Maun is put out by a consortium of businesses and it does not give detail that I want and need – surprise.
I hike steadily, taking pictures of interesting contrasts and sights, contrast of the modern with the traditional, the Mercedes for sale along with the donkeys and goats everywhere, the satellite TV dishes on the sides of one room homes, the one room homes next to monster houses that would look good in West Vancouver or Forest Hills in Toronto. It is hot but I remind myself that I have done plenty of hot hikes climbing in the mountains in the summer in BC and this is flat. Everywhere in Maun, it seems you are walking out onto a beach. The soil is really desert sand. We are literally on the edge of the Kalahari Desert.
After about an hour and a half I wonder if I have gone wrong in my directions. I come on the BWTI [Botswana Wildlife Training Institute]
[There are schools and institutes everywhere and usually they are proud buildings, notable in their setting as are all the city council buildings, court administration, government offices and even the prison. The focus in Botswana is to give everyone an education and government, with its diamond income, has made every effort to share that will the people. I am informed that there is universal health care that is better, more inclusive than Canada’s – that’s my judgement, based on what I was told. A great effort has been made to have everyone able to speak English and for the most part, most of those under 45 seem to do so. Some Batswana have observed to me that that largesse has made some of the Batswana complacent, not as competitive as their neighbours in Zambia and South Africa. People selling things do not do “sales”; they mildly ask and let it go if there is no interest. I have experienced that with the couple of street vendors that have approached me, which is in sharp contrast to my experience of beach vendors in Mexico the past few Christmases.]
At the BWTI, I ask for directions and am told how to go. Immediately a man generously offers to drive me as he is going there anyway. This is very consistent with the pleasant, helpful attitudes that I have experienced so far. As I get in the car, I smell a hint of beer and wonder if I am making a mistake. As we drive away, I do see a can of beer in his hand. However, his behaviour is polite and gentle and I thank him. He takes me to the park, drives me to information office and introduces me to the staff. I talk to them for about 10 – 15 minutes and leave. He has left – no expectation of anything – just helping.
I go back to my hike along the Thamalakane River, part of the great Okavango waterways. Here in Maun, it is much swamp area along the slow flowing river as it goes it final leg before dissipating into the Kalahari Desert to the south. It is wide and languorous, full of tall grasses and greenery, where you occasionally see an umbrella bobbing along as someone is making their way along a path in the blazing sun. I am told that in some years, it dries up after July, when the water from the rainy season to the north which ended in March, finally makes it way to Maun and runs out into nothing, with 90 – 95% of the water evaporating.
I go off the beaten, sandy path for a bit and immediately learn why no one does that. The plants I brush, quickly spread a lot of their seed into my shoes and socks in fertility rites [it is approaching the fall here, after all]. I stop to try and get some out and I am quickly covered with tiny ants, which don’t like me removing them and have a sharp little bite. I retreat and clean up.
I wander around a bit more, but it is getting after 11:30 am and very hot. I decide to head back to my retreat and get there, with no missteps by 1 pm. I am grateful for the apples and the water that I brought with me. My tee shirt has been completely wet for several hours and that is good. I sweat profusely for the last hour, literally battling to keep the perspiration from running into my eyes.
I get home and shower, spending siesta time in my ‘African chalet’ writing my blog to be posted when I get to the office on Monday as there is no wireless or hook-up where I am. I give in to my Northern Hemisphere climatic adaptation and allow myself the air conditioning to about 24C. I have no urge to be a philistine in this heat! It must be 37C and little is moving, including me. At 6 pm, we have a wonderful heat thunderstorm and downpour.
Factoid: Botswana means “All the People”. The people are the majority tribe: the Tswana and Bo [boh] = all, hence bo tswana or Botswana.