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mercoledì 5 ottobre 2011

Am I in heaven or in Botswana?

I arrived in Botswana from Livingstone, Zambia on a shared cab in the company of two ladies and a tank of some unidentified liquid.. Actually I just got to the ferry (more of a barge in fact) that in 20 minutes takes you from Zambia to Kasane on the Zambesi river. Fortunately enough, one of the ladies had a friend who picked her up from the harbour and after taking her to the airport drove me to find an accomodation in Kasane, which turned out to be a very difficult task. Everywhere was fully booked and the only place which wasn't was extremely expensive. Actually Kasane is not more than a street and from that street you can't really see the places. The only feasible one for me was Thebe River Safari Lodge http://www.theberiversafaris.com where everything was supposedly fully booked as well but after seeing my despair scene (with tears I swear) I was given a room. The place is very nice and organizes boat trips and early morning safaris. It also has a restaurant and bar where in the evening I was surrounded by a group of drunk kids who just got off the safari truck parked in the back and danced on the bar. They were the same who during the river trip drank and shouted all the time. However, ever they were a nuisance I just could not be bothered since these are some of the things I saw:
In the morning I had been on a safari in Chobe park at 5 in the morning still organized by Thebe and it had been cold and with the same noise in the back of the people from the safari truck but great nevertheless. Travelling alone can obviously have pros and cons and one of the pros is that you meet a lot of people.(not referring to the ones on the safari trucks) That day when I was resting I saw four very adventurous looking guys on a jeep with a flat tyre and later I learnt that they were studying giraffes so they were real explorer guys not like the safari types you see travelling around Africa. Yes for some reason during my trips to Africa I have met thousands of Indiana Jones look alikes who basically don't do much more than sit in a jeep with a guide and look at the nature. But these ones were the real thing. Finally ! I learnt about the the Giraffe Conservation Fundation http://www.giraffeconservation.org and here they were in all their splendour
Then I decided to go where apparently everybody was going : on the Okavango Delta. Usually people get there with their own vehicle or flying in little four or six seaters. But I couldn't do either : so I had to find alternative means of transportation. One of the cons of travelling alone is that you have to rely on public transport which sometimes means that you have to wake up at dawn and travel for hours. Actually I don't remember having travelled in such a civil and nice atmosphere anywhere in the world. Locals are the most peaceful and kind people on the planet and the journey was very pleasant. Actually another way of travelling around the country is hitchiking (by agreeing to pay whoever is driving a little something) and believe me if I say that you can do that there . I have never ever done it anywhere in the world and I still wouldn't but everybody seems to be doing it there and so I joined them and that's why I spent the other half of the journey in the back of a pick up
And that's how I got to Maun. The town itself is interesting but not too much. The first thing that stroke me was the quantity of wild donkeys walking everywhere but mot much more than that. I stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast a little out of the center owned by a dutch couple called Discovery http://www.discoverybedandbreakfast.com very very nice place with beautiful bungalows and excellent breakfast. Now what's there to do in Maun if you're alone and without a car ? Well first of all take a Mokoro trip which means to go by a wooden type of canoe on the Okavango river with an oarman. I think I hardly ever experienced such quiet, beauty and peacefulness. The sound of the water under the oar is the only sound one hears during the whole trip. I was surrounded by pure nature and amazing landscape. The oarman and I then took a walking safari. He told me in the beginning : " Now if you see a lion the only thing you can do is climb a tree (!) but if you see elephant and he charges you basically you have no choice than run but you 'll be stomped upon anyway unless the elephant changes his mind..." Well what a nice perspective ... I don't know what I prefer... I told him that I really didn't wish to make such an encounter especially since I was just planning to relax on the river and didn't know about this out of programme decision. However I just saw a lot of zebras and wilderbeests. Fortunately I would add.
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Another great thing you can do is take a scenic flight on the Okavango delta. Actually mine didn't start off too well : I had this very anxious american woman next to me who kept saying that she hoped we weren't going to die .. Me too but of course when I got on the six seater plane next to the Sarkozy-lookalike French pilot I wasn't too calm either. The fear just dissolved when we took off and for the whole hour I just couldn' t get enough of the things I saw. It was sunset the perfect time to see such a beautiful thing. The pictures don't represent truly the beauty of it all but give you a rough idea.
After Maun where I really had a great time I booked a three days trip thorugh an agency to Ghanzi and more specifically Planet Baobab Camp a very funky place situated on the outskirts of Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, famous for its baobabs of course http://www.unchartedafrica.com. I booked a trip called Meerkaats mania which included a visit to meerkaats of course, and a game drive in the park but was all about driving a quad in the pans(white salt desert) and spending the night around a campfire and sleeping open air under the sky in a luxury sleeping bag ( or more a bed with a matress, a pillow and all). What can I say about that? Look at the pictures and judge for yourself.
I would strongly reccomend to take this trip and also to stay in Planet Baobab. It's quite an experience ( a good one). Sadly enough after this three days in wonderland I had to head back to South Africa where I had my return flight and ended in Francistown (not worthy) and then to Gaborone (even less) to fly out of there. Since I had some spare time I decided to do something for my messy hair and went to a local hairdressers. While they were messing my hair up even more ( I looked like I had put my head into the mouth of a cow...) I was thinking about my trip and already missing the breathtaking nature, the incredible kindness of all the people who crossed my path and this wonderful light feeling of peace and beauty which stayed with me even months after I got back home. We know that if you're good in your life you'll end up in heaven and I have the feeling that it looks exactly like Botswana. .
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