12 January 2013- Maun, Botswana
We were both a bit queasy this afternoon after an amazing flight over the delta. Wow! The plane was tiny (I thought so anyway!) with room for four passengers (it was just the two of us though), I was a bit worried about feeling claustrophobic but once we got in and got going it was amazing! Brilliant to be buzzing around up there, we didn’t go up very high so we were able to get a bird’s eye view but still see details, like a boat on one of the tributaries, the paths in marshes animals use and lots of animals! We saw heaps of hippos, elephant, buck and some giraffe. It was great to see the mighty delta from the air and really get some perspective of all the water, and it’s not even in flood at the moment. It was a splurge but a great one! With the plane being so small and noisy as well as HOT and the pilot doing some manoeuvres to show us things turning on our side, we both felt pretty shaky and queasy when we got off, that faded quickly though and it was worth it!
We arrived in Maun a few days ago. Maun is one of the larger cities in Botswana (although not big at all) the perfect size to get things done- it has all the services we need but is small enough to get around and find things easily and safe to leave landy parked around etc. We have been doing some jobs- we got a new tyre, got something welded, picked up some parts Olly wants to take with us and have stocked up on food etc. The shops have more choice than we have seen for a long time. We went in and saw fruit and veg (v exciting!) and several types of cheese, I was standing there saying ‘look at the cheese!’ as well as other delicacies like noodles, so we are full to the brim with food as where we are going as of tomorrow there will be no services for a week.
We spent several hours this morning organising our camping and permits for the national parks we will be in over the next week. It seems in Botswana the campgrounds in national parks are privately operated so we had to go to three different places to organise our camping then we went to the Wildlife Office to organise our permits for the national parks. So four places all up- two of them twice because their credit card machines were down so we had to go get more cash. The thing is unlike elsewhere we have been you can’t just turn up to a national park in Botswana and enter, they must be pre booked, which is tricky if you are like us and don’t plan ahead much! It certainly cuts out spontaneity, if we like a spot its nice to be able to spend extra time there. The national parks here are very very expensive! Botswana has chosen to go with high cost, low number tourism (to reduce numbers and impact). Where we are going costs heaps and you need a 4×4 the whole way as well as a long range fuel tank (or jerry cans of course) as there is no fuel for the over 600 ish km (without doing any side trips) so I would imagine it would keep numbers down. Anyway it wasnt hard to get everything booked, just a little running around in the heat. One office had a/c so we were happy for her to take her time!
We crossed the border a few days before arriving in Maun. The border was easy- passport etc and a quick look in the fridge (no meat or milk allowed to be taken over) and we were on our way. Our first few nights in Botswana were spent at Tsodilo Hills which rise sharply from an otherwise flat surrounding area. The hills have some 450 rock art sites containing over 4000 pieces of art. We were the only visitors there and enjoyed a few days of peaceful camping (one nights the dogs did go off, we found out the next morning there had been an aardvark around) and took an excellent guided walk with a local guy to see some of the art. Brilliant! The guide was knowledgable about the art as well as the area and the art itself was fascinating and such a reminder we are in Africa seeing paintings of rhino and giraffes instead of kangaroo! We really enjoyed hearing the stories both of the art and the local area.
Olly arranged for an older guide to take us out at night (they don’t normally do other guided activities besides the walks) and we picked him up at his house for the drive. Fortunately we ran into our walk guide from the morning on the way there- the local football team (soccer) had been training for an upcoming match and were walking back to the village. The brother of the guy we were looking for is on the team and hopped in landy to show us where we were meant to be going, just as well as we would have never found it! We pulled up to a simple hut lit by a single candle with a family sitting in front of a small fire outside. Zontae, was happy to show us around and certainly knew every track to take us down, we didn’t have any luck seeing anything but we enjoyed the experience of being out in the cloudless night driving through the bush and interacting with the local villagers.
After we left the hills we just made our way to Maun, the roads are tarred but a little narrow with large potholes and lots of animals on the road so although the speed limit is 120 (which I can’t imagine doing on these roads!) we kept our speed much lower, landy doesn’t do 120 anyway! Tomorrow we are starting to make our way to Chobe NP via Moremi and Savuti. We will be a week with no way of being in touch but will no doubt have a blog or two to post when we reach Kasane.
Really looking forward to heading off tomorrow!
L and O