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.