Waking up in Windhoek was especially nice – not only having the luxurious king sized bed, but knowing that we were going to be treated to a breakfast that was a touch fancier than we had grown accustomed to since living on the truck for the past 12 days was something I’m sure that the remaining 13 of us were definitely looking forward to. We were treated to a lovely buffet spread put out by the Hotel Pension Uhland staff and took in the last few moments of available WIFI (I swear we’re NOT pathetic and addicted!) before we would make the long journey from Windhoek to Ghanzi – including our 2nd border crossing of the tour into Botswana.
With Harrison packed up and everybody ready and raring to go – we hopped on board and settled into our seats – excited to meet the 3 new guests that would be joining us. Our first stop was the Hotel Safari – where we had dropped off Diletta, Heidi and Raymond the previous day – and here we met our three new compadres – a married couple from Germany and a quiet girl, also from Germany, who was traveling on her own. With our newest family members getting comfy on the Nomad Adventure Tours truck and Sandile at the helm – we were off, en route to the Botswana border by lunchtime!
As we sped along the last few hundred kilometers of Namibian roads I busied myself by dancing on the bus – probably absolutely SHOCKING our newest members– reading, and gazing out the window at the ever-changing scenery. With Sandile busy trucking us along, Shingie took the opportunity to tell us a little about the differences we could expect in Botswana – such as the fact that it seemed to be a bit more prone to petty theft – and that we should keep our expensive items locked away or out of view, and that the roads and infrastructure tended to be a bit better than what we had grown used to in Namibia. No more gravel roads meant no more relying on sticking Tiger Balm up our noses as soon as we took our seats on the truck in the morning – a ritual I had initiated once we had crossed into the dust-riddled country known as Namibia.
Once we hit the border we piled off Harrison, passports in hand – just as we had when we left South Africa ten days prior. We lined up in single file and the two Namibian passport control officers gave us our purple departure stamps and let us go forth towards the Botswana entry station. As we entered the no-man’s-land between the border control buildings we immediately noticed a difference – there were large billboards displaying condom advertisements. This commercialism was pretty non-existent for the whole of our time in Namibia (minus our half day stop in Windhoek – which was mostly spent at the hotel, restaurant or sleeping.), and I can’t speak for anyone else, but automatically it gave the country a different feel –almost tainted by westernized ideals.
We breezed through the Botswana border as quickly as 18 people can and before we knew it, were back on the road – headed for our rest stop for the evening, the Ghanzi Trail Blazers camp with the San people (formerly known as the bushmen).
The ride was long and uneventful. I’m pretty sure we covered about 500km or more that day. We arrived at the Ghanzi camp just as the sun was starting to set, so as on other days when we made a late arrival to camp, our first and most important mission was to get our tents set up before nightfall. I remember Shingie telling us that if we wanted to upgrade to a cabin or hut, we could for an additional fee- but to my knowledge nobody did. In my very honest opinion, the huts didn’t look all that appealing as the “door” didn’t close completely – thus potentially allowing bugs to get in.
Night fell and we were treated to another one of Shingie’s amazing meals which was followed up by an amazing performance by the San people. We approached an area that had two massive campfires raging. Us Nomads were told to make ourselves comfortable in the plastic chairs that were placed around the empty campfire. Across from us was the other campfire with no less than twelve San people huddling around the fire – keeping warm, as it was extremely chilly that evening and they were dressed in their traditional animal skins fashioned in loincloths or skirts or capes. Needless to say – I don’t know how they were comfortable being dressed in that manner, cause I was in my merino wool thermals, long trousers, hoodie and had a hat and gloves on and was still FREEZING- then again I’m a baby when it comes to the cold.
For the next hour or so we were entertained by these people who put on a wonderful display of theirtraditional story telling through song and dance. The men and boys would dance around the fire and group of ladies and children who sat there singing and clapping. One particularly entertaining bit was when the elder woman got up and started dancing in what we were later described to as the giraffe dance. It was both compelling and sidesplittingly funny! Despite the obvious cultural and language differences, everyone that I spoke to thoroughly enjoyed the performance.
Once it was over, we returned to our campsite where some decided to crack open a cold beer and hang out around the campfire. I on the other hand decided to make this an early night, as I was chilled to the bone – the temperature had dropped quite low that evening. So while I heard the laughter and chatter of those around the campfire, I was much more content snuggled up in my sleeping bag.
Upon waking up the first thing I noticed was my breath in the air.
“UGH! I hate the cold!” I exclaimed – waking Sue up in the process. I opted to not attempt to have a shower that morning –figured I’d save it until we got to the camp in Maun (our next stop) – rather I stealthily got changed in my sleeping bag- shimmying about as I wiggled out of my thermals and into my Lululemon trousers for the day.
As I emerged from the tent, leaving Sue behind – she was adamant that she was NOT going to be participating in any bush walks that morning, and rather would stay toasty in her -17 degree rated sleeping bag – I joined the few others who were already up filling up on hot coffee and the usual tour breakfast of bread and cereal. As I finished cleaning up my dishes I noticed one of the young men from the previous night’s performance walking over to our campsite – clad in the traditional animal skin loincloth he had been wearing the night before. I ran up to him insisting that he wear my sweater cause it was absolutely freezing that particular morning. At that moment, I didn’t quite care if he was ‘in costume’ for the bushwalk – it just seemed cruel to make him walk around like that for our entertainment! Whether he understood my English or not, is another thing, but he kindly smiled and handed the hoodie back to me and seemed to convey the message that while he was uncomfortably cold, he’d be okay.
While I carried on this little scene, the rest of the members of my tour who were participating on the walk had made their way over to the small group of us that had gathered around the boy. He then led us along a worn footpath that lead to a clearing in the tall grass where five other bushmen and women were huddled trying to soak in whatever warmth the sunlight was providing. For the next hour and a half, with the help of a translator, the six men and women of varying ages taught us many of the traditional uses and healing properties of the different plant roots found in the area. Everything from how one plant root could cure a urinary tract infection to an upset stomach to backaches and more. It was very interesting to learn of all these primitive remedies used by the bush people. The tour ended off as they demonstrated how to build a fire, and unlike on Day 1 at the KhwaTtu center, these guys prevailed in their fire building attempts and relished in the heat that it produced – a few of the boys even stuck their feet in the fire to help warm them up.
Upon arrival back at our campsite, we quickly took down the last remaining tents; stowed away any of our personal items back in our lockers on the truck and took our seats as Sandile started the engine. Harrison jostled us about in his truck-way through the bumpy 5km (or more) uneven terrain from the campsite out to the main road. Then it was onward to Maun! We were told that we should arrive to the city – and gateway to the Okavango Delta- by around 1pm, shortly after we had our usual roadside lunch stop.
This particular lunch stop sticks out in my memory particularly because of not the donkeys that roamed aimlessly along the side of the road, or the beautiful “Zazu” bird that had sadly flown into the animal grate on the front of Harrison and hung there very dead until Sandile removed it and gave it a more humane resting place. No. It was marred by the elderly woman and 4 young children who seemed to have appeared from beyond the bushes and sat under a tree a mere 10 feet away from our lunch table. It was a very passive way of begging. But I remember it making me feel very uncomfortable – to the point where I felt guilty for enjoying my afternoon meal. Others felt the same way. Sue refused to eat – insisting that she give her portion to the woman and children. It was a heartbreaking eye opener that put a bit of a damper on our afternoon. The majority of us ate the bare minimum and before we left we handed over a few plastic bags full of food.
It was back on the truck for the last hour or so before we hit Maun. Once we hit Botswana’s fifth largest city we were free to roam about – picking up any necessary supplies we may require for our 2 days bush camping in the Okavango Delta. Again, we were told to bring at least 5L of water – and of course Sue, who hates water, went out and bought a half litre bottle, and a large supply of easy drinking vodka coolers! I spent this free time running about, changing my American dollars to Botswana Pula, stocking up on snacks and purchasing much needed replacement flip flops and sunglasses as I had previously ruined my only pairs of both!
This afternoon, there was an optional excursion to do a scenic flight over the Okavango Delta. I would have liked to do this, however at a $300+ price tag, I simply could not justify such a luxurious splash out. However there were five lucky and adventurous Nomads who piled into a little Cessna and got to see the beauty of the Okavango from above. While they were out enjoying their flight, a number of us set up shop at the bar across the street from the Maun airport and enjoyed a few cold ones on that particularly warm afternoon.
Once all Nomad Adventure Tour members had their feet firmly planted on the ground, it was back onto Harrison and to our campsite for the evening. Once we’d arrived and gotten our Okavango Delta bush camping talk from the campsite owners – whom I suppose also ran the excursion through their company – our late afternoon and evening consisted of everyone showering, putting up tents, packing our daypacks with all the necessities of bush camping without any facilities whatsoever for two full days. Later we enjoyed some dinner and a few beers in the bar all before calling it an early night as we were told the truck that would take us out to the mokoros (small traditional canoes) would be there before sunrise! The next few days we would be at the mercy of mother nature and completely cut off from the outside world. I couldn’t wait!
**DISCLAIMER: While Nomad Adventure Tours did provide me with a discounted tour, all expressed thoughts, opinions and experiences remain my own.**
*An extremely special thanks also goes out to my fellow Nomad, Christina, for being kind enough to share her photographs from those two days*
**If you would like more information about Nomad Adventure Tours and their products – contact me!**