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.