05 August 2009

Month One roundup

I didn't get a chance to post a Namibia roundup, or a Botswana roundup, so here is a Month One recap:

After the mad dash through South Africa Namibia seemed like a dawdle, we stopped in a bunch of places for two nights or even three. this gave us time to get our heads together and sort out the car, and just slow down to consider how we want to travel. We made some rules (which frequently get broken), like not driving more than 300km in a day or if we do, stopping for two nights; like making sure we have breakfast before we leave and that we stop for lunch; getting to the camp site before dark with enough time to put up the tent; etc.

Namibia was a long straight road, lined by high yellow grass bending in the wind, occasionally with mountains on the horizon that never seemed to come closer. It was cold mornings and hot afternoons that cooled down drastically as soon as the sun went, specially in higher altitudes like Naukluft. Namibia was German and cake and a time warp to the 50s and neglected towns that are still the pride of the locals even though they will be nothing like they were ever again. It was Kudu crossing the road at dusk, jackals circling our tents in the dark, hearing my first hippo snort and elephants having testosterone tiffs at the waterhole. It was our first theft and having a wisdom tooth extracted and falling off a horse. It was making eggs while watching the sunrise over Fish River Canyon, doing the washing up in the Namib desert, and paddling on the Orange river.

I was very clear about the places I wanted to visit in Namibia, even though we didn't get to all of them. When we reached Botswana I felt myself beginning to be vague. The only place I really wanted to see was the Okavango Delta, but we soon realised that the lodges deep in the delta were way out of our range of budget, plus they were only reachable by plane. Thanks to some people we talked to and the Bradt we found two camp sites that were reachable by car (Guma Lagoon and Moremi Third Bridge), so we did get to the delta. The rest of the places we visited were kind of incidental, like Tsolido Hills in the Northwest and our three day stay in Maun. We really spent time at each camp site, so it felt a lot more relaxed when there was time to get the hang of a place. We consolidated our travel routines, specially after having made some more space in our luggage, and gave up on some ambitions like capturing footage as we go along and editing little films for your delectations. Between keeping a diary and blogging and mapping and calendaring there would be little time left to really see the countries we drive through, so that is going to have to wait.

Botswana was green and wet and dry at the same time, with swamps and channels of water and dusty shrubby plains spreading across the base layer of the Kalahari. It was calm and relaxed and a little fuzzy. It was driving through deep sandy tracks, wading through the occasional flooded channel, flying over the maze of water and reeds in a plane and swishing through it in a boat, and wondering if I am going to get eaten on the way to collecting firewood. It was begging dogs at the dinner table, baboon attacks, fluffy donkeys and big horn cows by the side of the road, lions making out, grumpy crocs and smooth baby elephants, and the eternal harrumphing of the hippos at night. It was Andy the civil engineer turned hotel proprietor and his tales of plane crashes, KT the reticent Tsodilo guide, Greg of Postnet giving us extra bandwidth in Maun, Phil and Clare who were stuck in Moremi and then they were not, the angry Boer who tried to drive his caravan into the swamps, and the idiot Italians who left their rubbish for the baboons.

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