August 8, 2011
Today was a driving day; we made our way from Maun to Palapye with only a couple of stops in between. I mostly looked out the window at the villages and people and landscapes, or slept.
Few people in Botswana have their own vehicles, and so there are always people walking on the side of the road, often traveling long distances to get to their destinations (school, work, church, the market). The distance that some people walk, every day, is remarkable. We drove past a diamond mine, for example, and there were men five miles down the road, still walking home from work.
We stopped briefly at a small salt pan -- a few square miles of absolutely nothing but compressed sand. From what I've seen, Botswana is exceedingly flat -- the termite mounds seem to be the only things of elevation.
After lunch at "Bimbo's" in the tiny town of Letlhakane, we got back on the road, at which point David regaled us with some truly frightening tales told to him by mokoro polers living in the Delta... I guess if you live among wild animals for your whole life, you're bound to have some intense experiences. Rueben has apparently had his fair share... Not too long ago, he and his cousin were poling through the water when his cousin put his pole directly onto a hippo's back. The hippo surfaced, upturning their boats. Rueben swam to safety, but the other man was killed. Another relative of Rueben's died after being charged and trampled by an elephant. And somewhat recently, Rueben himself narrowly avoided catastrophe when he came across a mother lioness and her cubs -- the lioness charged Rueben, but he stood his ground and looked her in the eye, so she turned away. (Public service announcement: this is the only was to survive a charging lion. It has very strong prey drive, and will chase and kill you if you run... If you stay still, it will likely leave you alone. FYI... you know, for the next time you're attacked by a lion.)
Needless to say, I'm glad I only heard these stories after leaving the Delta. I'm not worried about Kruger -- we'll be in game vehicles and not on our feet.
The animals we saw on today's drive were donkeys, cows, and goats. They are everywhere. These guys are free range to the max. (What kind of expression is that?) It is very common to stop for animals crossing the road in Botswana (even very busy roads).
We're currently at a campground outside of Palapye. It has an open-air bar and lots of lanterns and twinkle lights and palm trees. Very nice. I calculated today that I haven't slept in my own bed for six weeks, which has actually been lovely. Don't get me wrong, I'll be very happy to climb into my bed and cuddle with the dogs when I get home, but it's been nice to spend so much time outside. It was super hot today (what must an African summer be like?) but it's already cooled down quite a bit. I'll be sleeping with lots of layers tonight.
P.S. I'm back after dinner to report that I ATE A WORM FOR DESSERT. In Botswana, mopane worms are dried and baked and served as a treat. It tasted like something dried and baked.
P.P.S. I realized tonight that while my plane ticket is on the 13th, the last day of my safari is the 12th. I'm going to extend by one day and spend an extra night in Kruger. Yay!