Up at 5 am this morning in order to do the 600 kms to Maun, it was our first day of rising early after a night in the cold and getting straight to work of packing the truck and then tent. The tent was fairly easy to pack. Jay, our thin but build English truck driver, had given John and Christine and Alisa and I a good demo of how to set up and take down the tent. The hard part was getting the clips that held the tent to the frame when they were already tight to begin with, but with my hands already growing numb, I had to don gloves in order to not damage my fingers too badly. I had made the decision to shower that morning, but that proved inadvisable as Alisa was left to disassemble the tent herself, and we were the last packed and on board the bus.
We were quickly asleep on the the truck as it pulled out and flew along the good tarred roads of Botswana. There were Elephants and Ostriches were out on their morning walks as well and looked spectacular as the oranges and reds covered the landscape. Our first stop was around 10am for another hoof and mouth checkpoint where we all disembarked and stamped our shoes. At this one, Sarah had us round up all of our shoes in our bags and dab them on the damp cloth as Jay ran the truck (named Matilda) through another standing pool. We piled back on the truck and while I didn’t fall back like everyone else it gave me a chance to gaze out at the insanely flat veld of Botswana. The highveld of Gauteng is quite hilly and mountainous and this was the first place we had been in a while where the flat horizon went on for miles. This is due in part to a giant salt pan that is left from a inland sea that sat over Botswana in prehistoric times.
We arrive at Maun at 1300, and are given two hours to grab lunch and use the internet. Starving, I forgo using the internet to go to Nando’s the South African food chain of chicken dishes using Mozambican peri-peri as their main ingredient. It is quite popular in South Africa, as it has moved up in class since we were here in 2007. Still there’s nothing all that uniquely South African about it besides their very clever advertisements, and see below:
This was my first time, and we sat down to chow on some hot food, and chips. While Alisa was waiting I went to the Orange shop in the shopping complex just behind Nando’s to grab a sim card, but was told it would reopen at 1400, so I returned and ate with Alisa. We headed off to Woolworths to check out what a store like that looked like in Botswana. It was a combo food/clothing store, but on a much smaller scale than the mega stores that are in South Africa. We grabbed some snacks for the delta, and wandered around to the Orange shop to pick up my SIM card. Upon the lady informing me that 3G was limited to Francistown and that 1 Megabyte would cost 6 pule (approx 1 USD), I started to debate whether this was worth the time or money to insert it into the iPad to use for data.
We headed back to the truck that was parked by the internet cafe, but after getting the very unpleasant woman running the cafe to allocate us a computer and time, there internet connection seemingly disappeared. One of our tour companions got a error message that the DSL connection was missing, and she told us that she was resetting the network. After waiting for about a minute, we take off to the other internet cafe to find that it ‘not working’ either. It appears Maun’s cable had been cut or disabled, and so we all made our way back to the truck. On the way, we stopped at the Barclays in town seeing if it would accept my Mastercard, but like every other ATM in town, it would not. Again we were fortunate that Alisa had her Visa from her California bank. Back on board, Alisa decided to go get water and drinks at the Shoprite just besides the bus, but I warned her that Jay had reminded everyone that if they were not back at the truck at the pre-arranged time that they would be left behind. Of course, Jay starts to pull out after the departure time, with still no Alisa. I debate jumping off to go find her (as she had not told me where she was headed) thinking something must have gone wrong for her not to be here by now. As Jay makes his way to the road, one of the Australian girls from the Nairobi trip comes running around the corner and boards the truck, but fails to tell anyone that Alisa was right behind her in line and that she was just behind her. So Jay keeps going, but Alisa comes sprinting around the corner just then, saving me from having to jump off the truck and fetch a taxi for her.
We make camp at Delta Rain and put down the thick new wool blanket Alisa had bought at one of the shops in Maun. It makes a difference as we now can allocated all of our blankets for heat instead of just padding. We get a briefing on our trip into the Delta, and sign up for the flight over the Delta upon our arrival back to Delta Rain after our two days in the Delta.
Dinner is again courtesy of the lodge, and we mingle around the warm fire before heading back to our cold tent. We departed at 715 to head to the makoro station, and spend the rest of the night shuffling things into our two backpacks and dry bag. It’s a tight fit, and start to wonder if the 40 oz Klean Kanteen I brought was quite appropriate for this leg of the journey.
We get everything to fit and Alisa bundles up with her wool hat and gloves, and I start to miss my UCSD beanie that was left on the train in Victoria Falls even more. We were told that the nights in the Delta were even colder, which makes Alisa and I both worry that our head colds will continue to grow….