The Journey - Gabarone to Maun

25th of August 2018


I am awake, and I am inspired. 

At 5am, we left our Air BnB in Gabarone, the capitol of Botswana, on the South border of South Africa and made our way to the bus port station, which thankfully was quieter than the hectic hustle and bustle of puzzled chaos we checked out the day before. Consequently we could see our bus already sat, engine on, ready to go. We boarded, and I slept. 

Now I am awake and I want to document what I see on the road from South to North Botswana, through the Okavango Delta to Maun, the capitol city of the North. 

The land is barren and the tree’s are stark with the occasional green leafed champion standing taller than the rest. The earth is dry and dusty littered with rocks and scorched yellow: all lite with the romantic warm hue of the burning relentless sun. 

At occasional intervals the trees either side become enclosed in wiring, I assume to mark ownership of property and enclose the wildlife within. Where these wires disappear, the landscape remains mostly the same. 

Here and there are shacks made from corrugated iron for the roofs as well as for walls with their owners, farmers perhaps wrapped in various hemp scarfs: skin painted the darkest by the incessant sun light that beams even in winter, perched outside. Sometimes circular structures made from brick and thatched, big enough for perhaps, to sleep two.

The occasional wonderer can be spotted sat in the sheltering shade of a tree, accompanied often by an animal friend, a goat, or dog, or seen to be walking far in the distance, perhaps tending to land or cattle. 

In terms of animals, thus far I saw the gangly neck of an ostrich I thought could have been the trunk of an elephant. A few mules, and cows and chickens are plenty. Strangely there seem to be many albino cows, I wonder if this is a reproductive evolutionary reaction to the heat, in an attempt to keep the animal cooler. - (EDIT, turns out as a guide told me “No, that’s just their colour”  - ha).

The journey is lonesome, barely passing another. The ride itself is comfortable enough, stripped of luxuries, leaving only the bare necessities (including the use of a toilet, and much more impressionably - lack of arm rests). As we rattle down the progressively bumpy road, an overturned truck serves as a stark reminder of the dangers in driving surrounded by free-roaming wild-life. The mind wonders what sad fate caused this incident, perhaps a run in with a cow, or larger, a rhino even? Not unheard of in these parts. 

A pathway etched out in white chalk runs parallel to the tarmac road we ride upon. Here we can see plenty of cattle wondering to and fro. 

I’m listening to my playlist prepped for my next ‘Electric Dish’ podcast which is focused on chilled out, relaxing music, mostly from Africa. It’s truly warming my heart and I can’t wait to share it. 

People disembark at seemingly random hostile spots with no noticeable infrastructures. I wonder where they are going to and for why? For work? Farming? Family? They walk off, backs to the road into the obis of trees, wrapping scarfs around their head for heat protection as they go. 

On the way various excitements: slowing for a wild pack of dogs as the driver skilfully hoots his horn repeatedly and weaves between them. Most randomly, someone riding a horse. 

A small village with circular clay looking houses with thatched roofs. On a few occasions, actual small villages, a collection of concrete buildings, plastered flat and painted the colour of the earth, a sandy orange. I can see small children wondering with a half deflated ball, youths gathered sat by the side of a house, and adults equally perched in the shade of a tree or in front of their homes.  These small communities perhaps have no more than fifty official structures, and the larger perhaps up too two hundred, each with it’s own corrugated shack communities on the periphery of the sturdier structures. Cars are few and scarce here. Some places such as the mini city of ‘Kange’ are more built up with stores and communities, advertisement, such as: ‘Liquerarma - For The Good Times’ in these places we stop multiple times for people hopping on and off in various areas.

A slightly less charming aspect of the journey is with the various groups of people embarking and disembarking from one community to another, comes a variety of sales pitches: “here here, try my billtong, and pay me”, “gimme money” as they parade a box of chewing gums and bananas under your face with sheer insistence you give them money for their offering, no matter how much you protest, and regardless of if you even have money or not. The least pleasurable of corse, is when they to ask my male companion if: firstly I am his girlfriend, and then regardless of the answer, pursue me with the same insistence, often demanding my non-existant phone number and or a picture with me.

“I am African, I am big, perhaps I can take her for a test ride” , “She very pretty maybe I can have a go  to” … for example. 

The terrain is as flat as they eye can see, and for hours all the eye could see is this terrain of  tree’s and then patches of no trees. As the journey progressed, the day got longer and the sun got hotter, the bus temperature rose to near unbearable when stationary. When moving, one could open the window and have nice, but aggressive breeze to cool the sweltering temperatures. 

Nine hours in, the hottest it’s reached, the bus breaks down. A lady turns and says to us 

“You are lost in the land” then with a cheeky glare “There are Lions around” - fantastic delivery she had, really gave us the desired creeps. 

Having only so far seen an ostrich as far as anything out the ordinary, seeing a lion doesn’t concern me, but melting in into the fabrics of the bus concerns me. Nevertheless, what’s a delayed 10 hour coach ride… We’re off again after twenty minutes or so of a customer crawling under the bus. No worries. 

The sand turns form yellows to dark oranges and the trees from scarce to thick in density. The road becomes newly tarmacked and it’s yellow lines become more vivid. The trees grow taller and more lushus, it’s clear this never ending bush must be approaching a city. 

The first signs of water appear approximately half an hour out of Maun, and then disappear again for the remainder of the journey. 

Let us not forget the obscure ‘Foot and Mouth Checkpoint’ procedure, where they empty the coach of luggage and passengers,  to merely ask if you have shoes in your bag, no search as you just shake you head say no, then to return your bag, after which you must stand on a moist cloth on the floor… anti-bacteria? I’m not sure how effective the search point is, but all I know is I had no cow hooves on me. 

Another short ride, more of the same, and we arrive at the Maun bus station. 


Gabarone to Maun 

25th of August 2018


After a short and extremely sweet stay in Jo-burg: visiting the creative all-inclusive area of Maboneng, and the historically rich Soweto, finishing off with a stunning jazz concert in the equivalent of South Africa’s ‘Jazz cafe - London’, we had to start to make our way to our final destination: Maun, North Botswana. 

In order to get to Maun, one must take a 6 hour bus ride from Johannesburg to Gabarone: the capitol city of Botswana located on the South border of Botswana and South Africa. So that we did (it must be said, after missing our first coach due to bad hangovers mixed with bad traffic - whoops). The event started at the shiny Jo-Burg bus port and upon a shiny double-decker we boarded. It was much to my excitement the front seats up top were un-occupied, so a scenic and comfortable journey we had indeed. 

Upon researching Gabarone, we found it rather humorous to read on the official website, their description for the capitol city: 

“Depending on your perspective, low-key Gabarone (or Gabs as it’s known to it’s friend) is either terribly unexciting or one of Africa’s more tranquil capitol cities. There aren’t that many concrete reasons to come there - it’s a world of government ministries, shopping malls and a seemingly endless urban sprawl - and most travellers can fly to Maun, or cross overland elsewhere. Yet it can be an interesting place to take the pulse of the nation.” 

Coupling this with the Google knowledge that THE most visited tourist destinations in Gabarone was - a statue monument of three dudes. 

…we were rather looking forward to experiencing this place for ourselves and to see what all the terribly uninteresting fuss was about. Being our rather hilarious selves, we thought the experience would be a laugh… would be a ‘funny’ kind of crap. 

We were wrong. 

Upon entering Botswana, you proceed down an American style free-way, and on either side, industrial sites pop up, and a massive mall to the left. A little further and one can see… exactly the same, “urban sprawl” and - another mall. We stop 15 minutes or so in from the border at a ‘Shell’ petrol station, disembark to find our Air BnB host waiting to give us a ride to the place. 

We continue to drive through urban sprawl, looking like a mini version of Dubai, but certainly not impressive in anyway. Our accommodation is located in ‘Block 10’ (seemingly all the housing areas are named by soulless numbers). The majority of homing sections we could see where gated communities, each home with it’s own fortress off remote control gates (triggered from inside the car of course), complete with electrified fences upon the high walls. 

Although it didn’t seem to look dangerous to us, there was no shortage in safety warnings, such as not to walk anywhere after dark, to make sure your taxi’s legit, to not follow anyone anywhere. 

After settling, our host dropped us off for some food… in a mall, this one called Airport Junction. Here we ate a mildly satisfying meal in a commercial corporate business, surrounded by Wimpys and Nandos. Rather sad at the reality, we accepted a ride home, as our host picked us back up and drove us the 5 minute ride to the enclosure. 

After settling in, we wanted to go out to look at the stars, however: it was here upon trying to leave our room, we made the unfortunate discovery we were in fact locked in, and the door had broken from the inside! On top of this, as we had just entered Botswana in the evening, and therefore didn’t have a local sim yet - we had no phone, no contact.

Refusing to panic, we decided to calmly wait for our host, who had said she would pop by in the morning to offer us a lift, and so an uneasy sleep proceeded. On top of this, my friend and I were incredibly un-happy with the toilet that had no door… That’s too close for comfort. 

After a watch of Harry Potter from the hardrive, as you guessed it, there was no wifi, and a sleep… the morning came about, and quite unable to believe the situation we both set to work attempting to open this door, but to no avail. 

After 45 minutes, our lovely host came to our rescue, and with bated breath we passed her the keys through the (electrified) window, and crossed our fingers as she attempted to open it from the other side. Success. We were free. 

Relieved we had regained all our human rights, mainly the ability to move… we embarked on finding out about the next part of our journey, from Gabarone to Maun, after a frustrating run around, and much mis-information, we had walked for a couple of hours and found the bus port, where we were told no booking is required, and we merely turn up before six am to board the ten hour bus. In an attempt to feel some security in our movements of the 6am coach, we decided to find it’s specific docking station in the chaos of the bus port. 

The bus port was the only sign of life we saw our entire time in Gabarone, the hectic chaos of street vendors, locals grafters, anyone and everyone in the city who was trying to earn a buc seemed to be here. The messy puzzle of vehicles: like a horizontal Jenga of buses and taxis: noisy as hell and filled to the brim. It reminded me somewhat of the hectic-ness of the bazaars in Morocco. 

Once we found where the bus would be however (through no signs, but word of mouth), we decided it was time to visit the no.1 tourist destination: The Three statues. After a further thirty minute walk (we walked specifically to kill time) we arrived. 

Terribly uninteresting indeed. A nice statue it must be said, three tribal chiefs, with six information boards mapping the history of Botswana and it’s independence. Read in around two minutes. We wondered what the hell people do her sin Gabs…. 

With that we returned to a Mall…and we drank. 

Gabarone was some what soul sucking in its relentless “endless urban sprawl” and stringent lack of character or personality - whereby city had popped out of nothing but baron land perhaps as an economical reaction to it’s location between South Africa and the rest of Africa… Lacking in culture and civilisation even. Not even a cinema. 

Indeed we couldn’t wait to leave, and left at 5:30am.