Botswana – what a place! So good & …

Elephant Sands, Botswana

I found one version of my Paradise here in Botswana.

Getting to this Paradise resulted from some measured impulsiveness, for my plan had been to cross the border next day (31 Jan) into Zambia, and nearby Livingstone.

Background:  I was happily sitting in my open air restaurant at Vic Falls Rest Camp, enjoying the views: 

    

scenes from restaurant where I used wifi

 Requesting to share the power outlet, a young woman sat next to me who was on the Intrepid Overland Tour which was camping there. 

She was a talker, and although I was focused on my machine, she spouted forth about all the elephants she had seen in Botswana, at a place called Elephant Sands.  They live there, she said, amongst the guests.  While she was sleeping, they wandered about and campers could hear them and feared being trampled.    All Botswana, as it turns out, is one huge unfenced game preserve.

Next day I inquired of  guides

 a) could I get there from here, given that I have no car;

b)was it affordable. 

Yes to both. 

½ hour later I had reserved a shuttle to the border and 2 hours later I was on my way.

Getting there from here:

–          Took Shuttle to border – not far

–          Ride from James, an exceptionally helpful  shuttle passenger who happens to be a  guide working at the Thebe Safari Lodge at Chobe National Park.  This is  2 km before  Kasane, the  first town you get to after crossing the border at Kazungula

–          James volunteered to  call every lodging in Kasane trying to find me inexpensive accommodation:  IMPOSSIBLE TO FIND

–          Cheapest lodging cost $43/night, way over my $30 max budget, and it was 12 km from town   my $43 room

–          Confirmed at Kasane tourist office that ALL lodging in Botswana is VERY EXPENSIVE – there is NO budget lodging – except for camping (I don’t have tent).

I was ready to flee back to Zambia.  I phoned Elephant Sands  (ES) and found out they have available tents already standing that they rent out for $14/night. 

After 1 full day in Kasane doing 2 tours in Chobe National Park (the River Tour was fabulous),

    Mr. Croc is about my age                  

 like a pointer dog,  I was on my way.

Got 6 a.m. bus that departed at 5:50 a.m. when full, heading to Nata 

typical Bots road:

When reserving, I was told to get off the bus at Gwasha Gate, and someone would be there to meet me.  Just call when the bus departs.  I did.  I told bus driver to drop me at Gwasha Gate and he looked at me blankly and said “Get on the bus.”  After 2 hours on the bus, I spent the next hour looking around intently for Gwasha Gate, certainly not trusting the bus driver to remember my request – that is, if he processed it.

Three hours into the bus ride that stopped no where, bus stopped, everyone grabbed their belongings, and got out of the bus.  We were at Gwasha Gate! 

                -This is an agricultural control point.  They go through your bags making sure you have no fresh animal products, and you walk through and dip the bottoms of all  shoes into disinfectant.  Purpose:  control Foot & Mouth Disease. 

When done with inspection, a smiling man walks up to me and says “I’m your ride.”  It was Lawrence, a wildlife videographer, and Ben, the owner of ES, come to fetch me.  I could not believe how welcome they made me feel, and the place did NOT disappoint.

I’ll let the photos tell the story.  I will simply add that they have a well functioning restaurant and bar, and my excellent buffet dinner each night cost me $12 – with lots of salad and veggies & yummie deserts and even game sausage  (I apologize to the vegetarians, but that seems to be very popular here).

 view from inside tent

my tent

elephants at Elephant Sandssiesta at Elephant Sands

snake eating lizard at ES

in the bush seeking game to video

checking out an ant hill

Lawrence scoping out the bush

The only down side:  I could not walk anywhere because of the animals that might surprise me.  I thought that was ridiculous, I would never panic if an elephant walked up to me.  However, I heeded local advice.

Then, my last night, in my tent, I heard a lion roar.  Later that night, I saw an elephant outside my tent, and heard him rubbing his skin on a nearby tree.  Both these events struck fear into my city-girl consciousness.

I would have stayed longer, but the buffet dinners combined with inability to get any exercise prompted me to move on.

I am currently in Maun, Botswana, stayng with a Servas family for 3 nights.  (This is an extraordinary experience.  More about this later).   I am making my way overland  via public transport to Namibia.  I begin my 13 day tour in Swakopmund, Namibia on 11th February.  It ends in Livingstone, Zambia.

My plan is to make my way overland through Zambia, to Malawi.  From there to Tanzania.  I’m now thinking I’ll end my African journey in Ethiopia, then fly to Viet Nam to meet my daughter at beginning of May.

There are clearly some flights within Africa in my future, so if anyone knows of bargain airlines here, please let me know.  All suggestions are welcome.

Any ideas about cheap flights to Viet Nam from Africa?

XXX

MMM

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