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Windhoek, Namibia to Ghanzi to Maun, Botswana with Nomad Tours – Day 13 & 14

From Windhoek, Namibia to Ghanzi, Botswana – Day 13

It's over.

It’s over my beloved.

We get an early start to make it to the Botswana border by early afternoon.  Everyone seems irritated today.  Maybe the honeymoon is over?  In fact, we have been going, going, going for two weeks now and people are getting tired and cranky.  Today we travel 440 kilometers.

In the morning, Morrison passes out our immigration forms so our stop at the Botswana border will be quick.  Hopefully.

Unfortunately, a mishap on the way slows us down.  Somehow, in an accident that could only be accomplished with Swiss precision, one of the Swiss girls drops her passport in a tiny windowsill crack and into the wall of the truck which for all intents and purposes means her passport has gone into a void that is as unknown and unreachable as Pluto.

Morrison and Mxolisi try to reach it but there is no hope without tools.

We arrive in a nameless town and Morrison rushes off to a mechanic who, after an hour of work, retrieves the passport.  Lucky girl.

While waiting for Morrison our group stands outside a supermarket like a white cloud.  Local men stand and stare at us, up and down, eying each purse, each backpack, each money belt worn on the outside (inside, people, inside!).  It’s the first time I’ve felt nervous in Africa and I’m glad to get out of this place.

We arrive at the Botswana border late but fortunately the crossing is seamless and easy.  The Botswana passport stamp is a boring one though.  Boo.

At the border, the strap of one of my beloved Crocs sandals breaks.  These are the same sandals I bought in Mallorca, Spain nearly a year ago, walked half of the Camino in, and have been wearing ever since.  They’re hideous, but I haven’t been able to let them go.  Clearly, Botswana says it’s time.

Some Botswana facts:

  • Botswana gained independence in 1966. Previously it was the British protectorate of Bechuanaland)
  • Botswana has a fast growing and stable economy with a strong currency (Pula).  Currently, the rate is 8.35 pula to $1 US.
  • 70% of Botswana’s land is in of the Kalahari Desert.
  • Botswana is just a little smaller than the state of Texas.
  • Botswana found diamonds in 1967.  It has the most profitable diamond mines in the world.  The country is also rich in other precious metals.
  • The population is 2 million people.
  • San People (Bushmen) were the first inhabitants of the country.
  • Botswana raises a lot of cattle for meat due to it’s extensive flat and grassy pastureland.

We arrive at a campground in Ghanzi, sometimes referred to as the “the capital of the Kalahari”.  A community of San people live nearby.  We are given the option to “upgrade” from a tent to a hut for $8 US dollars.  My Dutch friend Eline and I decide to splurge since it means no wrestling with our tents!

We are living large!

That night a small group of San people demonstrate their singing and dancing around the campfire.  During this beautiful show, the women sing and clap and the men dance, making percussion with beads wrapped around their calves.  Most dances tell the story of a hunt.

Living large in the hut.

This is what a soon-to-be-drenched Dutch person looks like in a hut.

When climbing into bed, I lift the mosquito net that I so carefully sealed only to find a moth the size of a bird inside.  How?

The thunderstorm started at 4 am and by 4:15  a virtual faucet of water was streaming through the hut’s roof onto my face.  So much for living large!

From Ghanzi to Maun, Botswana – Day 14

This was another big driving day covering 530 kilometers as we made our way to Maun, the gateway to the Okavango Delta.  This is the world’s largest inland delta covering 17,000 square kilometers (10,563 square miles).

Most of the group goes on a scenic flight over the Delta but I pass because I’m terrified of flying in small planes.  Not my cup of tea.

We set up camp and pack small bags for our two-day trip into the Delta starting in the morning.  The night brings more thunderstorms and wet clothes hastily packed in the morning darkness.

Official Itinerary from Nomad Tours:

Day 13 Botswana – Ghanzi

After an early start, we cross into Botswana and drive to Ghanzi. After setting up camp we meet with a local Bushman (San) community and experience some traditional tribal dancing. Optional activity: Bushman walk

Botswana

As we cross the Botswana border we’ll start to see villagers, cattle, donkeys and sheep along the side of the highway. Sometimes the donkeys and cows sit in the middle of the road and any amount of horn blowing won’t get them out of the road. Independent since 1966, Botswana (formally a British protectorate) has three of the world’s richest diamond mines and this has made Botswana quite a wealthy nation. Now 40 years old, it is known as the African success story. Politically stable and with the foresight to invest in education, healthcare, high economic standards and without the racial issues that have plagued other countries, Botswana has the best economy in sub-Saharan Africa. The government has employed a strategy of high income – low impact tourism. This is where they reduce the number of tourists entering any area of the country by charging a lot more than neighbouring countries, thereby making it more restrictive for the budget traveller.

Bushman (San) people

The San people, formally known as Bushmen, are indigenous to Southern Africa and have lived here for over 30 000 years. It is truly an incredible experience to get an understanding of what Africa was like in the past and how these people survived in the desert conditions, living in harmony with nature. It is said that the word ‘San’ meant ‘wild people who can’t farm’, however historically they didn’t have a collective word for themselves. They now call themselves Ncoakhoe meaning ‘red people’ but the term ‘San’ is still predominant. They were nomadic people – primarily hunter gatherers, moving to where the food and water could be found. It is estimated that there are only 55 000 San people left, with 60% of them living in Botswana and the rest in Namibia and northern South Africa. Many examples of their expressive and remarkable cave paintings can be found dotted around Southern Africa, tracking their historical movements. Sadly nowadays their traditional lifestyle has been eroded by colonial influence and they can be found in ‘squalid alcohol plagued settlements’ or on farms and cattle posts.

Day 14 Maun

Our journey takes us from Ghanzi towards Maun. Maun is the gateway to the Okavango Delta and this afternoon we will prepare for this excursion, packing small 2-night bags. There may be an opportunity this afternoon to take a scenic flight over the Okavango Delta. Optional Activities: Scenic Flight (time permitting)

Disclaimer: Nomad Tours offered me a discount in exchange for documentation of the experience.  I have complete freedom to share my thoughts.  All opinions are my own.

Photos of Days 13 & 14:

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