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Friday, October 22, 2010

The beautiful people of South Africa…

So I arrived in Gaborone 30 minutes earlier than planned. My bus driver was awesome he got me there safely and early! What more could I ask for? When we arrived, I asked him if he thought there were still buses that were leaving for Joburg. He said that there should be and pointed me in the direction that the buses usually wait to fill up before making the 6 hour drive across the border. It was all the way across the parking lot so with all my gear, I made a mad dash for it. I would have loved to stay and see Gaborone but not only was it rumored that Gaborone was expensive, but the hostel listed in Arlene’s Lonely Planet was located about 10km outside of the city so…it would be a similar situation to this morning where I’d have to wake up at the butt crack of dawn, arrange a taxi to come get me and get to the bus stop early. I suppose I would also be able to take a later minibus but I was trying to get out of Botswana early because I wanted to spend as much time as I could in Johannesburg since it was already Wednesday; I was leaving on Saturday and wanted to try and have 3 full days there: Thursday, Friday and Saturday since I missed it coming in 2 months earlier.

So I ran across the lot and after hitting up a few wrong buses, found the last bus going to Johannesburg that night. So, if we left at 3:30PM (it was still 3:05PM)…I’d get in at 9:30PM. That was a decent hour and I could probably have Karen come and get me…that would have been a great plan if we actually left that early! We waited around for an hour and a half! I felt sorry for the family with 3 young children sitting next to me…they were there since 2:00PM! The bus ride was SAR180…which I had but wanted to get rid of my Botswana Pula…I tried to only withdraw the amount that I needed but I had BP30 and tried to pay my fare with a combination of Pula + Rand but the guy told me to change my money. So I found a couple of ladies sitting on the side who offered me money. I questioned why they gave me so little and I guess their math wasn’t too good because then they gave me extra money back; I took it and left. Paid my fare and waited for us to leave.

I think after my arrival, there were about two more seats that needed to be filled. In order to make these runs profitable, these minibuses or combies as they call them do not leave until they are completely full. So we waited. With each person that came, people’s faces started to brighten up because we thought we were finally leaving! But the whole waiting process took 2 hours!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A night in the Okavango Delta

So the following morning, I got up bright and early and had a taxi come and get me at 6:15AM; due to some miscommunication, the driver, 'Small', went to the place that he was supposed to drop me! Good thing that I had him come early…he ended up coming to get me at 6:40AM instead and we went back to the Okavango Delta Lodge so that I could start my tour on the Delta.

Back in Windhoek, I had met up with two Kiwis and they had just come from Botswana and were very kind to give me a lot of detailed information. They told me how I could go about organizing my own Makoro trip on the Delta. The only challenge with their advice though was that I would need to find my own transportation to the Buffalo Fence which is located on another island out in the Delta. The only way that I could get there they recommended, was by way of 4 wheel drive. I later found out though that an alternative option would have been via boat. However, since I couldn't figure out how to get there and being pressed for time, I just ended up joining a tour. Either way, I think I would have only saved $20 which is a lot of money but not worth all the work that would have come with trying to organize it on my own.

I ended up getting paired up with another lady who reminded me a lot of my University buddy, Tess. She was an older lady (60?) and traveled every year for 4 months out of the year. She was older but a bit crazy, freaky, wild…if you know my friend Tess then you'll know what I mean…I am at a lack of words in trying to describe Tess' wild and entertaining energy when you're around her…crazy, freaky wild is the best I can come up with (all in a GOOD way, of course)! Anyway, it was a nice surprise to be paired up with an American. We were equally cheap and resourceful so she really gave me a run for my money! She told me a story about how she had managed to get a free ride on a tour bus and recommended a good restaurant to them and then relayed to the owner of her success in bringing this big group over and that she deserved a free pizza. She got it! I have never tried that one! I was actually learning some new tricks! And I'm usually the one dishing out the advice!

We were going to be going on a Mokoro which is a hand-carved wooden canoe that is used to get around through the Delta. I didn't really know what to expect only that many people that I had consulted strongly encouraged me to make a trip out here. It was good that I was paired up with Arlene because obviously she had done her homework and being the outspoken American that she was, she made sure that they didn't give us a fiberglass boat (which is how many of the Makoros are made out of nowadays) and that we had the best guide that would give us a good tour. Thank goodness she was there to sort us out otherwise, I would have probably been quick to jump in a fiberglass Makoro, not knowing the difference, and being happy with just a quick ride around.

This here is a web catches all the spider webs....

The boat ride was awesome; incredibly relaxing! I got to sit in the Makoro barefoot, stretched out with my feet hanging over the edge, soaking in the sunshine as we maneuvered through the reeds in the Delta. It was a nice relief because up until then, I had many cold days in South Africa, Lesotho and Namibia. Our poler/guide, Julius, navigated us around the Delta with remarkable ease. We stopped at one of the islands and had our lunch there. Camilo had actually taken me to a take-out place the day before and it was a good serving of local Botswana food…not to my surprise, the restaurant was run by Chinese! Since I couldn't finish my food the day before, I brought along the leftovers with me and ate it for my lunch…it was still good the next day!