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

situation 2

I got a blog hit from an obscure remaining country

That’s where Jimmy McGill got his correspondence law degree. “Go land crabs” he said to Howard.

Here’s the second thing on our wish list. Chobe. It has the highest population of elephants in Africa. It’s in the middle of the blank spot on the OSM map

But the Tracks4Africa map shows a sand track, below
.

It’s a 6 hour drive, leaving in 2 hours, back in a couple of days.

NYE

At Maun football stadium. Rained out, left early

So, went back to the hotel bar over the river

Sometime after midnight

once

So we were in the bar last night (see picture in previous post) when things got strange. A typical table. I only had my antique iPhone 5c for pics

Our bartenders

This thing lands on my fave Namibian shirt

I didn’t recognize it. Then there are bugs everywhere for about 30 minutes. Not the best bar tune at the time

Then they fall to the floor and start shedding their wings. Dark sorry

A brighter still shot

And run for the exits really quickly

A lone straggler in the morning.

Termites. They emerge from their mounds after a big rain of their choosing, mate on the wing, and get back underground asap. They do this one night a year only.

situation 1

This is a pic from the web of Chief’s Island, Okavango Delta. One of the top several wildlife destinations in Africa and probably the most famous

I need to get from 1, Maun, below, to 2, Chief’s Island

There are difficult 4X4 tracks that will disappear with the coming rains. And there’s a small airstrip. The other way is by boat. I have a fast boat and driver lined up for the 12 hour return ride. But now we need rain as there are dry spots on the route.

Here’s the forecast for the next month, not good. But cooler

But the forecast changes daily, so we’ll see.

Random stuff:

I’m taking my malaria pills. I can’t believe I’m doing this. I’ve ignored them everywhere so far, but apparently it’s a big deal now

Here they are, 6 months worth

I walked to the river beach that’s crocodile free on Christmas Eve. I even had my swim shorts under my jeans, feeling enthusiastic. I was the only white boy. There were a lot of great things to photograph, but I left the little Sony in my pocket unless I had cover

It was nice

And some of this, later

I’m working on another river post with lots of birds, but I need to get out again to get a better shot of my favourite. But here’s a little bird from the bar 2 days ago

The bar. I take my laptop here in the morning when it’s empty

We’ll tell you about Situation 2 tomorrow.

into Botswana

For some reason the below track doesn’t start from Windhoek, but we started in Windhoek, headed for Maun, Botswana. A cool line, so I cropped it to show the width of Africa down this far south

And that’s our route, Windhoek to Gobabis to Ghanzi to Maun, through the Kalahari. A three day ride

The normal way into Botswana is via the extreme NE corner of Namibia, but we’ve already ridden to Etosha and didn’t want to repeat that much road.

Maun is at the lower corner of the Okavango Delta

Which looks like this. Depending on the season, it’s between 2300 and 5800 square miles.

There’ll be an Okavango post in a week, so we’ll leave more until then

sadamelik’s Botswana

A day and a half to the border. Big roadkill. There are donkeys, goats, horse and cattle beside the road frequently

Leaving Namibia. I set up for the border at a close town, Gobabis, so I was early and alone. Exiting Namibia immigration was virtually instant after filling out the standard short form. Closing the Carnet at customs was just as fast

I was expecting hell at the Botswana half because of the long list of theoretical requirements, all of which I had ready, but few were asked for. So I was through in about 15 minutes

Then the final guys. They check the form that shows you’ve seen immigration and customs, and if they want to, tear down the bike and you for carrying something you shouldn’t. They let me through with no fuss

Gas up

And into the Kalahari. A few landscapes


I rode along side an ostrich for a surprisingly long time. Long enough to get the camera out of the tank bag and start filming, which with one hand has to be done slowly and carefully, lol

Hot as hell, which is why we start early. Here the sun isn’t directly overhead, which it will be shortly. A donkey and baby

Cattle seem less fussed, but head for shade at about 38C

Big nests of big twigs. Not weavers probably

And into Ghanzi for the night

Sexanana bar looked inviting but dead mid-afternoon

So do laundry instead. Wall fixtures are easier than my micro-clothesline. Looks like I was a day behind on the underpants

Gas up the next morning

And more Kalahari and more heat


There were only a few roadside villages

I don’t know the tribe yet

And a small diversion into the town of Sehithwa. White sand, incredibly hot!

I was curious about whether the lake shown on the OSM GPS map was actually there, or seasonal

The tracks4africa map is more informative. I’ve been switching between the two as I ride along. The OSM has a lot more detail, the T4A is more overland specific

The houses are spaced out generously with random tracks between them

A store. I stopped to have a look. Just a few basic dry goods

Almost downtown

Downtown. General store, bar, post office, all that in this building

Other than the cage, the bar looks great. Standing and bullshitting is always best

Herero women!

This is a very big thing, and you can see why. The Botswana Herero fled here from Namibia during what they call the “Hitler war”. Those hats were designed to copy the effect of cows horns. From wiki:

The most distinctive feature of Herero women’s dress is their horizontal horned headdress, the otjikalva, which is a symbol of respect, worn to pay homage to the cows that have historically sustained the Herero. The headdresses can be formed from rolled-up newspaper covered in fabric. They are made to match or coordinate with dresses, and decorative brooches and pins attached to the centre front. Anthropologist Dr Lutz Marten writes: “A correctly worn long dress induces in the wearer a slow and majestic gait.” The overall intended effect is for the woman to resemble a plump, slow-moving cow. In photographs, Herero women adopt the ‘cow pose’, with their arms raised, palms upwards.

Incredible.

More fascinating detail here

But what you immediately notice is the Botswana hats have been pushed forwards into a bill, perhaps for additional shade. The volume of material in the dresses is sometimes huge

Sitting outside the bar, drinking water, and this group walks by

They’re community organizers, hence the vests. Check out the Herero woman gathering up all her material before sitting

So cool

I loved her.

Truth be told, to me African women are the most beautiful in the world. I am stunned several times a day

On both maps a road is shown crossing the lake graphic. I ride out

To the ‘coastline’ the GPS shows, but nothing, Dry I suppose for another month or two

A hilariously western looking gas station right in town

Converting from Pula, gas is $1.26 a litre CDN

And on for a few more hours. As we approached Maun the trees grew bigger and the avenue became impressive. It was impossible not to grin about something, undefined

To the first fresh water I’ve seen since the karst collapse near Etosha, and the first river I’ve seen since the flood in Maltahohe. This runs through Maun. It looks miraculous

Now here’s a thing, below, that’s a real problem for moto travellers in Botswana. A typical page from a tourist map book shows great landscapes, none of which are accessible on bike. Every page of this book is like this. Botswana is sand. I have fast learned from others that this is one of the great places in Africa, but you need a 4X4 and to be set up for extended camping. The alternative thing to do is go on guided multi-day safari which is incredibly expensive. I’m currently trying to figure out what to do about this

And we’ll end there for Christmas.

gnu 3

Open with 2 gnus

OK. Some stuff on Namibia other than natural history. All of this could be inaccurate or wrong:

1. Government. Here’s another article from The Namibian newspaper. This is the story. It’s completely beyond belief. The private sector is as bad. When it comes to money, Namibia is the Wild West, but from everything I’ve heard, better than most. The BMW dealership is huge and the first stop for fast money, nearly all black. The current thing is Range Rovers. It is probably no exaggeration to say, if you can get in on it, you do, or are.

2. Food

It’s meat. Sometimes they don’t even disclose what meat. Boring, but not quite as depressingly boring on the road as meat eating in South America. They’re big BBQ lovers, but without the creativity of the Americans

3. Namibia is the first and only entry on the list of countries I could live in. It’s largely a desert, not unlike the picture above, so you have to like that. There are no people here, I love that. The capital, Windhoek, feels like a big community, you know where everything is. Racially it’s peaceful. The same land redistribution laws are happening, and no white can get new land ownership anymore, Namibian or not, but you get the feeling that it’ll all work out (by comparison, very few think that things will work out in South Africa).

4.I had a friend here who I peppered with questions about the different ethnicities, or tribes. The Himba live in the extreme northwest where access is harder. Not many people venture to see them. I didn’t. Picture from the web

The Herero are incredible. Here’s lady, with the defining hat at a store in Windhoek

And another, on the right. More in the next post

The Ovambo are mighty (almost half the population) and the most westernized. Like South Africa (and I’m sure every country coming up), with the women it’s all about the hair and is fantastic. And they don’t want to talk about it beyond accepting a short complement. The anecdote here is that as young boys, brothers learned the hard way not to comment on their sister’s hair

The Nama are slightly disrespected as not as bright or hard working by the other tribes, yet accepted obviously as brothers and sisters. Being black is the thing, in a country with a colonial legacy

Then there are the “boers”. This is what blacks call whites with all the worst attributes of the least enlightened whites, as they see it, not necessarily these guys. I have seen some whites treat blacks like shit

And regular hard working originals

They learned to live off a difficult land. Here he’s showing me making table salt from raw salt he got from the coast

My apologies for all that being superficial. I’ll try harder.

5. Wifi (free) and cell phone coverage was excellent, considering the size and population

6. Cost. Namibia is expensive. Tourism, because the country is so easy in nearly every respect, is growing fast and everything is priced as if it’s a tight market. Some more competition in all areas would be good.

7. Safety

Safe, laid back. You wouldn’t wander off unwisely in Windhoek into the Katatura district, but that’s no different to any city on earth.