Sunday, October 14, 2007
Our first night in the camper
was very comfortable. It got down to 60 degrees overnight, and I
to get up and turn off our battery-powered fans, which would prove
invaluable later in the trip, and get out a warm blanket that I never
thought we'd use. The night was comfortable but
noisy. We were near some train tracks. The sound of the
trains themselves weren't a problem, but the train horns sounded
periodically through the night, and I didn't figure out what the horns
were for until morning. It sounded like a safety horn at a rock
quarry, and each time it sounded, I awaited the blast which never
came. Even worse than the trains was the local rooster, which
needed a good killing. Had I gotten up and retrieved my earplugs,
things would have been better, but I never did. Regret!
Palapye, Botswana, to Maun, Botswana
Camp Itumela has a thatch-roofed, outdoor, self-catering kitchen (with
potable water), and I used their kettle for our first cup of coffee
this a.m. Then the overlanders swarmed in and crowded us out, and
we used the gas stove in the camper to heat our second cup. This
morning, like most mornings of our trip, I had peanut butter and bread
for breakfast with my Malarone anti-malaria pills, which must be taken
with fat to be effective. I took my malaria meds in the a.m. and
Tom took his in the p.m. so we wouldn't have side effects at the same
time. The Malarone made Tom light-headed and woozy, and it gave
me stomach trouble. But malaria is supposed to be a pretty rough
business, so we kept taking the meds.
After breakfast, we scoured the
campground and came up with a short
length of electrical wire and rigged up a short-term fix to the problem
of our stairs falling down. We'll see if it works! We left
Camp Itumela and went into the town of Palapye. We struck out at
finding a washer to fix the leaking sink, even though we stopped at a
plumbing store, but we did find an ATM and got some more pula.
Camp Itumela, Palapye,
Tom did all of the driving
yesterday, so today I had to help.
This was very exciting for both of us, as I had approximately one hour
of driving experience with a stick-shift previous to this, gained just
two weeks earlier
in anticipation our trip. After weeks of searching, we finally
found a manual-transmission vehicle to borrow for me to learn on,
which I practiced driving around the parking lot of the local high
school. With that, I was no doubt well prepared for driving in
Africa. On the left. I'd driven on the left in New Zealand,
so at least that part wasn't completely new. There isn't much
traffic on the highways of Botswana, thankfully, but the cows, goats,
and donkeys constantly wandering into the road demand constant
concentration. Anyway, except for occasionally shifting into
5th when I meant to shift into 3rd, I managed pretty well.
Bashful turtle, north
The road we took from Palapye to
Maun wasn't the most common route
through Francistown and Nata, but the lightly used,
recently paved road past Orapa and through Rakops.
There was tons of livestock wandering in the road and quite a few
donkey-drawn carts sharing the highway. Soon after we left
Palapye, we saw our first monkey, and we had our eyes peeled for
wildlife the rest of the day. We passed many rondovals (round
huts). Then as we got further north, we started to see some
of the rondovals surrounded by thorn bomas and high fences.
that's to keep out the wandering donkeys or more threatening wildlife I
couldn't tell you.
There were four veterinary
control checkpoints between Palapye and
Maun. Sometimes at the checkpoints guards confiscate meat and
dairy products to supposedly combat the spread of hoof and mouth
disease, but that's generally for traffic going from north to south and
not vice versa. At two of the checkpoints today the guards just
waved us through, and at two of them the driver had to show a driver's
license. It would have been helpful if our driver's licenses said
"USA" on them and not just "Tennessee." We had to explain that we
were from the United States, and that Tennessee is one of the
states. Our driver's licenses actually say Tennessee's nickname
of "Volunteers" as well, and the guard at one of the checkpoints
thought we were with some kind of aid organization!
Botswana has the largest salt pans in the world, the result of an
ancient evaporated lake. At Njare Pan, a small pan along the road
Orapa and Rakops, we turned on our GPS for the first time since leaving
home, and it took over 15 minutes for the GPS to get over its confusion
from having moved 9,000 miles since its last use.
At the time of its independence
from Britain in September of 1966, in
the entire country of Botswana, there was only 12 kilometers of paved
road. Then in 1967 Botswana discovered diamonds in Orapa.
Other mines followed. From 1966, Botswana has had the fastest
growing economy in the world. But this diamond bonanza has a very
short expected lifespan, perhaps another 30 years or so. They
hope to make up for the lost diamond income with high-revenue,
Several times today we could see diamond mines from a distance, then we
missed a turn by about a kilometer and ended up at a large gate
guarding the closed-to-outsiders town of Orapa. This place looked
like it had tighter security than the Pentagon. A new shift of
workers was arriving by bus as we did a U-turn out of there and got
back on track.
One of many large
diamond mines in Botswana
Between Mopipi and Rakops
several dust devils whirled their
way across the flat, dry landscape. This part of the road has
been paved for the first time fairly recently, and the cows and donkeys
meandering about seemed a little surprised to see us.
Alongside the road in
tree? I'd say cut it down.
At Rakops we stopped and got a
couple hundred pulas' worth of fuel, to
be sure we'd have enough to get to Maun without fooling with the jerry
cans. This is one of the very few places along this road where
fuel is available.
An hour south of Maun, we saw two ostriches by the side of the
road. To see them outside of a national park and just wandering
around was too cool. I got a couple of decent photos, but when
Tom tried to take a video, his video camera wouldn't work.
Earlier, he'd charged his camera by plugging it into the cigarette
lighter, and now it was fried. So no video for this trip.
Our first ostriches
At 4:00 p.m. we arrived in Maun,
the only town of note in this part
of Botswana and the last place to get provisions before heading out
into the bush. We needed enough food, water, and gas to last
until reaching Kasane in five days.
The first grocery store we tried was closed for inventory;
consequently, the next store was packed. I hadn't planned ahead
what food to buy because I didn't know what would be available, but
there was a pretty wide selection. We got steak, bacon, lunch
meat, cheese, bread, bell peppers, potato chips, etcetera. Oh,
yeah, and lots of water.
Once again we tried to find a washer for the camper's leaky sink, with
luck. Then we tried to use the Internet, but the Internet place
we saw was closed. The national parks office closed early today
because it's Sunday, so we'll have to go there tomorrow morning.
With nothing more we could accomplish this afternoon, we topped off
with gas and found a campground for the night.
Maun Rest Camp is an idyllic, no-frills campground just outside of town
on the bank of the Thamalakane River. There's no bar at this one,
just campsites and an ablution block (toilets and showers). It
was nice and peaceful. After last night's trains and rooster, I
some quiet. We got to the gate just before dark, and a gentleman
emerged from somewhere and let us in. He said to claim any site
we liked and pay in the morning.
Giant camping pitch,
Maun Rest Camp
The view from our
I fried up dinner on the
camper's gas stove, delicious strips of steak and yellow bell pepper,
served with fresh bakery bread.
We'd skipped lunch, and Tom was feeling pretty sick till he ate.
While we were eating, all
lights in the camper suddenly went
out. The auxiliary battery, powering the camper equipment, was
located in the camper under the bed. We traced the problem to
water in the battery compartment, then found a LOT of excess water in
the vehicle. This wasn't from the leaking sink, because we hadn't
used it at all. This was a new problem. The excess water
was hot, so it had to be from the water heater. For some reason
it had drained. Tom shut off the water heater, and between that
problem and the leaking sink, we ended up not using the camper's water
for the duration of the trip. Nor did we have lights in the
camper after this for the rest of the trip. From here on out,
each night we set up camp and cooked dinner by headlamp.
Exhausted, we did the dishes, showered, and went to bed. Tom and
I each shared our shower with a big, nasty spider, something we got
used to over the next several days.
Shower buddy, Maun Rest Camp
612 kilometers Palapye to Maun.
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