Category Botswana

update

I’m helping a friend who has an operating deadline less than 2 months from now. Fortunately there’s something relevant I can contribute to, so we’ve been busy.

Our 05:30 start into the Delta. Recently I’ve been doing this a few days a week.

We see the animals and birds in dense concentrations around us when the sun comes up, like this

I’ve been learning the rules about encounters with the wildlife than can hurt you. In the above situation, they’re pissed because we’re between the water and where they want to get to, the trees to the left. The same is true of hippos in reverse.

The most dangerous are the gigantic buffalo. If you surprise one, they go into an instant fight-or-flight thinking process for maybe 5 seconds. The idea is to turn sideways and not directly look at them. If they charge, run. If there are a group of you, run in different directions.

If an elephant charges, run and rip off your hat or shirt. They’ll generally stop, grab it and smell it, before continuing, if they do, buying you time.

There are tons of crocs on the banks between the papyrus. They’re safe because the don’t chase backwards over land.

Below, a nice spot below where the elephants come to drink. They much prefer the mineral-rich muddy pools to the gin-clear water of the channels and lagoons. CN makes brunch, maybe 6 weeks ago. Something has changed since then…

Next post, we’ll talk about this

so 2

Here’s a beautiful hornbill, about 18″ tip-to-tip

I’ve been reading about each of the exotic birds I see regularly. They all seem to have an interesting trait or two. This Southern Red-billed hornbill is a bit unremarkable for peculiarities though, other than its beauty, except the ‘locked-up’ status of the female during incubation. From Wiki:

During incubation, the female lays three to six white eggs in a tree hole, which is blocked off with a plaster of mud, droppings and fruit pulp. There is only one narrow aperture, just big enough for the male to transfer food to the mother and the chicks. When the chicks and the female are too big for the nest, the mother breaks out and rebuilds the wall. Then both parents feed the chicks.

(just practicing posting…)

update 2

Just 3 micro-posts, something ahead of real reports soon.

First,

the most amazing road, between Mopipi and the A3 to Maum. To the left is the great Kalahari plain north of the pans. To the right the beginning of the greenery south of the delta. Storm ahead, like everyday somewhere over or around the Okavango in rainy season

In rainy season (now) the clouds appear out of nowhere fast. The dark cloud bottoms get close to the ground and above the sky roils. The storm lasts between 30 minutes and 4 or 5 hours. When the localized cloud above you bursts it is the heaviest I’ve ever seen, worse than the worst of Indonesian monsoon.

Here I’m running into whiteout. You can see how quickly heavy turns into very heavy and you have to stop the car

Edit: Car? Yes, not bike. It’s a one day 950K drive to Gaborone, where I’m working on something, which is twice too far for me, on my windshieldless enduro.

Second,

far to the north, on the Boro river channel, the largest of the delta tributaries. You can follow it to Angola for a few months a year. Right now the rainy season hasn’t reached the point the delta floods. Currently there is much more land than water, and a couple of months from now there’ll be much more water than land. Here we are, a few hours north of the village of Boro. Three fish eagles ahead

The village of Boro is classic yet vanishing Botswana. If you want to see what that looks like, click below

Thirdly,

Gaborone, the capital. Below (taken out a taxi window) is the tallest building in the country. Plus the picture tells you a lot more of what you need to know

Story to follow.

update

We’re in Gaborone (Gabs), the capital city. It’s at the southern edge of Botswana (Bots), almost on the S.A. border. We’re doing business, maybe, of all strange things to happen.

Since we last posted, a lot has happened. We’ll do the posts next weekend. Here’s a nice video of cows crossing the Thamalakane River. As a storm comes in they head for home

And since we’re on fauna, a cellphone shot outside my friend Miss T’s house of an 8′ cobra eating a 3′ cobra

It can’t bite at this point, so safe to get in close.

stickers and stuff

I’ve been going very slow or not moving for months and there’s an excellent reason for that to do with a couple of friendships.

Removed some stickers from the panniers. I keep trying to remove them all but I freeze at these last ones. The top left red one was given to me by the leader of a scooter club in Indonesia, so it has high gift value. The white motomavericks sticker is CJ and John’s. They’re from Vancouver and are the among the world’s boldest distance duos and good friends. Ms S and I got the CARP (Club Atletico River Plate) sticker after watching River beat Quilmes in Buenos Aires, so it’s sacred. The “OM” sticker was from China. Andrew and Jamil found it when I was off doing something else, so high gift value. The Bolivian sticker was from the ride group I met in Peru who gifted me my first ride coca, and I told them I would ride their sticker around the world for them, a weird commitment but we were pretty high at the time.

The CDN sticker is required by law in Africa.

So all the flags are gone, yay

I was in town yesterday and saw this hippo in a field. An unusual event within city limits, so that was cool

So, this morning in paradise, I walked along the river to see what the fisherman were catching

Two species. This

and this. I want to get this post out before lunch so haven’t identified them yet

Oh yeah, I washed my riding suit in the tub. Here’s the water colour. Not so bad for a couple of months. It would be like this in India in a week, really.

Back to the bike, my Tractionators are leaking air. The front more than the rear, about 2 pounds a week. I was so surprised by this originally I thought my pencil gauge was faulty. So I went out and bought another, this electronic one. Looks bogus, but it has a CE stamp, so it must be reasonably accurate. It’s light, less than my metal pencil gauge

And here’s my micro Aerostitch compressor to reinflate. It’s 6.5 years old and as good as new. It hasn’t done a lot of work in Africa so far. But (sometimes super old people like me are slow to change) I would get one with a pressure gauge next time, if I could find one nearly as light and small. Probably doesn’t exist

Big post next.

the river 3

There’s a bridge that crosses just south of our little stretch of river, with a tall termite mound (just so you know where they live, further to our termite mating post a week ago or so). Sorry about the confusing tree background

Surface detail. After the structure, the best part

And as luck would have it, we saw our biggest Shongololo yet. It’s a work of art

And eager to move. Watch this one!

That was the 2nd movie take. My friend ruined the first one

But back to the river:

This is the middle section of our little river stretch. It really is like out of a dream

The river’s main botanical interest are the water lilies

The first time the buds open they’re a light pink, then fade to white. They close each night

If you look carefully you’ll see a small water monitor swimming through the lilies here

Here’s a bigger one, maybe 3′, on land. About 60% of the size of the monitors in Bangkok’s canals, the same size as the beauty at Galvan’s Gorge, Australia, and less than half the size of the Komodos on Rinca Island, Indonesia

Which brings us to our first bird, the African Jacana

Check out the huge toes.This is how it walks across the lilies where it spend all its time picking bugs off the leaves.

It has a unique chick rearing habit: the male does all the work, and she’s polygamous so can have multiple families going at once. More detail on this here

Sometimes there are large groups of birds, maybe 5 our 6 species within a few yards of each other

This monster is the Goliath heron. He’s about 5′ tall

And he fishes for the big ones, like below

Ugly looking catfish on the right. A good fisherman catches about one fish every 10 minutes. The ones on the left show up ion menus as ‘bream’ which the Euro tourists understand as something meaningful apparently

These prehistoric birds are very hard to get close to. They’re African Openbills and are about 3′ tall. They eat snails primarily. They’re fat and happy. Anytime they want a snail they go to the water’s edge and immediately pull one out

Every time I get within 15 feet, off they go

One with a snail in its beak

Croc time.

A cow carcus near the water’s edge

And a 5′ croc sits a few feet off shore. I guess waiting for it to decompose a bit or something. They’re Nile Crocodiles, huge like in Australia, with verified records over 20′

Here’s a little one, about 3′

Egrets. There are 3 species. You can tell them apart by beak colour

And an amazing Pied Kingfisher. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to catch one fishing. Hopefully I’ll catch it before I leave shortly

This is a Black Crowned Night Heron. A beautiful little bird, about 10″ high

Cormorant

This perfect little jewel is the Little Bee Eater

I’ve saved half of the cooler birds for another post.

So I watched a bunch of “important” Botswana cultural videos with a friend. I thought you’d think this one was interesting. It’s about a girl who wants a white boy to take her away, haha. Note the corny Canada picture at 3:25. Matebele by Charma Gal

But no matter, “very Botswana” says my friend, of the couple of dozen we watched this week.

Change of topic:

(You know how in Australia they shorten words like sunglasses to sunnies. And BBQ to barbie. In Botswana it’s even easier. Botswana is Bots, the capital Gaberone is Gabs, etc)

Anyway

In both Namibia and Bots meat is the thing (cooked well done by the indigenous, never bloody). Because there’s a lot of it, like every member of the antelope family from Springbok to Oryx, plus beef and zebra, hippo and dried elephant.

Here’s the grossest thing I’ve eaten here, a plate of Mophane worms. An expensive local delicacy. The white blob is sourgum. Really boring and rubbery

Each worm looks like this, about 2 or 3 inches long.

Actually it was pretty good. The guts had been fried out, so you were left with this crunchy and tasty shell.

The worm is actually a caterpiller of a giant moth. Pic from web

This is another local delicacy, water lily. The part you eat is the junction where the leaf stems exit the tuber. It’s mixed in with crushed beef and has a pretty nasty texture overall. Not a favourite

the river 2

Some misc stuff to get me into the blogging mood:

1) we’re waiting for an envelope from Vancouver, story to follow. It’s a goody.

2) when I have to log in to this blog, the first image to the “my lucinda’ search is this, entitled “my child, my lucinda”. Creepy. But then again in the 1850’s Jane Eyre was for sure 18 and Rochester something undisclosed like 95

3) surprisingly close to the Victorian outfits above are some more Herero women we saw “downtown” a few days ago. There’s a positive feedback loop happening here with the Herero: they know the other tribes think they look cool, so they make their presence known, like walking in the road when others don’t

What does the town look like? Here’s the short central strip in downtown Maun. The taxi background tune is gospel music from South Africa

4) there are stick insects crawling everywhere right now. Maybe breeding season or something. This guy is about 5″ long

4) while watching Tottenham vs Man City last night last with the locals at an outside bar, this as usual, for an hour

So, now we’re in the mood I guess.

We go out on the river every couple of days. I’m collecting bird pics and will do a river birds blog when I get a good picture of my favourite, the African Jacana.

But here are a few pictures of people we see from the little boat. The river is only navigable, until there’s more water, for the 1 or 2K section below

About 2/3rds of the way up there’s a little beach people come to to cool off. This is the only crocodile free section. We’ve seen two crocs, pics later. A 10 year old boy was killed 100′ from where I’m writing this, 14 months ago.

Here’s where the boat leaves from. It costs 100 Pula for 2 hours. about $12 CDN

Btw, do you want to know how to get a crocodile to release you from its steely jaws? Here’s how, as described by Onks, one of drivers

If you didn’t hear that right, you have to bite the croc on its little toe. Below, cows and the river. If this looks like paradise, that’s because it is. Between the rain and the heat

Lots of this. But no shade

Handlining and sleeping

Fishing mastery

Deer Park mastery at the moment, news to follow

Poor kids fetching water. Onks was angry at them because of the croc risk

The broadest section

Kids here, keen to pose. After taking a shot with males you say “thanki rra” and to females “thanki mama”, or both just “thanki”

Families come down to fish and hang out, but not during afternoon heat

The croc “safe” beach. This is where the nighttime parties are, see an earlier post

Lots of beautiful people. The coloured boy on the right is a little unusual, I see maybe 1 coloured person per 100. More on the coloured variations in another post. There’s a strong Indian community here

It’s all good

Well, except for 2 things. China and South Africa.

Botswana has (relatively) sparkly finances. This goes back to the legacy of its first president, Seretse Khama, a remarkable man. Read about him here.

For example debt to GDP is 17%, 60 points better than Canada’s 77. Moody’s Bot’s credit rating is A2, Italy’s is Baa2. And the police force is the best in Africa. A piddly population of 2.3 million. A land of plenty with few to share. But they’ve just borrowed 1.9 billion from the Chinese for infrastructure. Just to the north Zambia has imploded and defaulted on their Chinese debt and may lose their national power company in lieu of repayment. Namibia to the west is losing mineral sovereignty. It’s the Africa story.

Who knows, maybe it’ll work out. Some here don’t think so. Maybe it’s paranoia.

The second thing is people here are seriously scared of the situation in South Africa, the neighbour to the south.

(why don’t I capitalize the word after 1) etc.? Because it’s ugly. Why don’t I have periods at the end of the sentence before a picture? Because then it bleeds. Why are there so many typo’s? Because I drink beer and blog.)

Okavango

Our safari to Chobe was cancelled at the last minute. In fact, in the parking lot. Due to the heavy rains the track through the Savuti marsh was flooded out.

But they had a backup for us, a track into the Okavango delta to Moremi to see something we wouldn’t see up in Chobe. I took my GPS along.

So here’s a complete safari story. Truck and passengers. Me, Solomon, Desa, Boka and driver

It turned out to be fantastic. Here’s the OSM map of the delta. Much better than the Tracks4Africa map in detail

This was the final 28 miles. The way points were the first sightings of some major animals. I forgot the most important, but you’ll see that further down

And the final mile or so

And the stats, one way. We averaged 14mph over 62 miles in 4 hours 20 minutes. Back was quicker 

The first long stretch took an hour. No animals. warm but not hot. Us up in the wind stream, very chill and nice

Then the corner north towards the south gate. Nicer

Then elephant poop. You can tell because unlike other big game, elephant poop is a bit stinky and massive. Each piece here is bigger than a cantaloupe

And here he is. A beauty. We all explode in applause

Solomon jumps out to take a selfie

Boka jumps out to take a pee (note 1)

The movie

And our first giraffe was a little hard to spot against the tree

Another elephant, how we see stuff from the truck. It’s very cool

Some impala on the road

As we pass

A giant elephant. We’re told not to get out of the truck this time

And another giraffe

The movie

It gets swampy and even more beautiful

Then the south gate. Everyone has to register here unless they don’t come out. We see why later

Here’s a nice delta map on the wall with our destination shown

And we’re off, now into the delta

Fantastic scenes

Gorgeous

About 10 miles of the track was very slow. It started with little pools

Then became slow work

We passed a broken down truck, assistance arrived

And later someone else, lost. No GPS

Past Maribou storks, one of my least favourite birds. You should see them attack a carcus, or a live animal. They’re the zombies of the bird world, way spookier than vultures, which manage to eat carcuses without looking evil

Close up

These are red Lechwe. They’re the fastest of the antelope family

More nice driving

A huge grassy plain, trimmed to perfection by the antelope

Carefree, as they can see the predator lions and leopards from a big distance

Then we approach a pond

And in the middle, about 30 hippos. My first ever

Here they are, noisy and stinky

The movie

We park in the shade to watch them and have lunch

Solomon and the driver eating chicken and cold French fries

Boka and Desa do girl things

Then we head home, back the way we came

A good giraffe movie

Then something happened which not many people see, a leopard

And here he is, doesn’t care as we get close with the truck

Then moves off

Further along, Zebras

Later, storms building

So, the Okavango seen. Editorial later. What I didn’t see here I’ll see later, close to the Zambia border.

Talking about carcuses, I stopped on my bike the other day when I saw a dozen vultures in the shade of a tree. Here they are, with one in flight. They’re waiting for the cars to pass

So they can return to this

note 1: permission from Boka obtained