You are here
Home > Posts tagged "Botswana"

Five Pula, Please

"I would really like you to taste my stew."  This from a heavy-set Botswanan woman who was sitting at a little table selling some homemade goods in front of the grocery store.  "It is made from waterlilies."I had just bought four soft-ball size balls of fried dough from her to do a little tasting of a homemade local dish and share among all of us in the truck as  we drove from the Okavango Delta north to the Caprivi strip near the Angolan Border.  I paid for these massive doughnuts with some money that was  sent to us by a dear friend of my mother who had visited this area over twenty years ago.  When I tried to give our Botswanan friend the 5 pula bill, she looked a little confused and asked "Where did you get this?"  Turns out this currency has been taken out of circulation years ago and is not used anymore.  But it did get passed around to everyone standing nearby who were quite amused to see it and generated a lively conversation.  And, apparently, the goodwill also bought us a taste of waterlily stew.  The stew itself did not look particularly appetizing.  The brown-grey stringy stuff in the pot looked like it might be a recipe for a dose of antibiotics and some quality time in the bathroom.But the prospect of a little gut distress rarely stops me when the alternative is offending someone offering a gift.  So I stuck my hand out and she carefully spooned a golfball sized glob in my hand.  I took a healthy pinch - delicious.  Mom is watching at my side.  She won't touch sushi and likes her meat well-done because she's so worried about food sickness.  I know what she's thinking when she sees me take it and

Don’t Camp Under the Sausage Tree – and other survival tips

Spending three days with our mokoro guides was an incredible way to learn about the local plants and how the local people live with the teeming life in the Okavongo Delta at their backdoor.  Many people were forced to leave the islands where  we camped and move to higher ground due to climate change causing more flooding, but they still fish and travel these waters daily.  They made wonderful teachers, and I learned enough to have a fighting chance should I ever be stranded on an island in the middle of the great Okavongo Delta. Demonstration on how to drink clean water through a waterlily stemDon't Camp Under the Sausage Tree.  Sandy, one of our mokoro pollers during our two days bush camping in the Okavango Delta is holding a footlong seed pod from the tree behind us, aptly called a sausage tree.  The "don't camp under this tree" seems obvious when we feel the solid weight of that pod - it would punch through any tent top.  The pod looks like an enormous narrow sweet potato.  The tree trunk is used to make a very good mokoro.  The inside of these pods are spongy and can be soaked and used for washing.  In traditional medicine, women who aren't producing enough milk will have their breasts cut and juice from the pod put into the cuts and blood from her breasts put into the pods.  This is the traditional remedy.  I think if nothing else the breast would weep for mercy.Sausage tree podsAvoid open water while in the mokoro if at all possibleAs I was getting slapped in the face by reeds and plants scooting along through the thick plants in our little Mokoro, I wondered why we were in the reeds instead of the perfectly open reed-free water nearby.  We learned after

Okavango Delta

I turned on my flashlight and poked my head out of the tent.  Peered left - all clear.  Peered right.  All clear.  So I stepped outside and cautiously turned the headlamp around the back-side of the tent.  Clear there, too.  Despite the snorty grunts all around us throughout the night, there is not a grazing hippo or wandering elephant in sight. The middle-of-the-night constitutional got a lot more interesting when we headed out for two nights of bush camping on the Okavango Delta in Botswana.We left the Kalahari and headed north - a long drive - for a fishing camp on the Okavango Delta panhandle.  The only real excitement was getting stuck in the deep white sand on the way into camp to the bemusement of a truck load of entertained Botswanans who turned up in a huge truck to pull us out.  Apparently, this happens all the time.The next morning we packed up and took a motorboat to meet our Mokoros and head into the reed-filled waters of the Okavango delta.  The Delta is a geological anomaly ... a huge wetland in northwest Botswana where the Okavango river flows down from Angola and ends spread across a large land-locked swath of arid land looking like a hand print slapped across the desert.  In the wet season the water is inches to several feet deep.  In the dry season the water recedes, and the islands that are scattered all though the northern panhandle of the delta grow larger. PapyrusThe glamorous wildlife watching of the Delta is to the east of us in Moremi game preserve - a dry area where wildlife is concentrated and tourists spend thousands of dollars a night for luxury safaris into exclusive lodges.  We are choosing to visit the Delta differently, and have come to the Panhandle and

Kalahari Transformed

Small trees and grasses and shrubs emerge from reddish-yellow sand for as far as you can see.  Occasionally we saw a Kudu, a red Hartebeest and other creatures as they crossed the road and ran into the bush.  We are in the fabled Kalahari Desert in Western Botswana.  Home to the infamously fierce black-maned lions of the Kalahari.  The huge expanse of dessert that encompasses most of Botswana, and it is mostly empty to our eyes with the exception of occasional livestock grazing free-range and one straight-line road heading East across the southern continent.  To me it looks beautiful as a large expanse, but monotonous as the miles roll on and on.We have just left Windhoek, Namibia on our two week camping safari.  We are in a comfortable vehicle with two other guests - a fun couple from Australia - and our Namibian guide Marcus and the camp assistant/cook Joseph.  Our first day was a long drive, and we rolled into our campsite a couple of hours before dark, set up tents, and settled in for a tasty supper.This camp is actually a game hunting camp that is owned by a South African and where people pay to come and hunt - ostrich, Kudu, springbok, etc.  We have passed many similar game farms on our drive - there are clearly a lot of people willing to pay well to hunt these animals to support all of these hunting venues.  This farm is managed by a local San headman, one of the well-documented Bushmen we have all seen so frequently featured on National Geographic.  He comes to our campfire to tells us stories of his people the night we arrive (see the post "A Bushman's Tale: The Lion and the Jackal".) He came back at 7 AM to take us on a

The Bushman’s Tale: The Lion and the Jackal

We are in the Kalahari Dessert camping under an incredible star-clogged sky.  Our guest silently walks into camp.  His name is not even writable in English, and is pronounced with a Click from the tongue popping from the roof of the mouth.He is tall and thin, with long bare legs sticking out from a western oversized fleece shirt.  He wears a little flashlight shaped like a large plastic sunflower around his neck.  His hair and small beard are greying, but his copper skin shows few lines and is pulled tight over high prominent cheekbones and hollowed cheeks.  He speaks quietly, exudes dignity, and smiles with his eyes.He is one of the San people, the Narrow San, specifically.  Known broadly as the Bushmen of  the Kalahari dessert who are scattered in small, tight communities here in southern Africa.  He is here tonight to tell us stories of his people. He explains that stories are to teach children the broader truths in the world, and to teach them awareness and caution.  And he tells us three stories from his people as we sit around the campfire on this beautiful night.  And he doesn't just tell the story.  The telling is full of gestures and sounds.   Expressions and inflections.  When a lion hunted through the woods our storyteller moved his arms in graceful rhythmical strides and made the Shhss Shhss Shhss sounds of a big cat moving powerfully.  When the ostrich laid her eggs he tilted his head back and closed his eyes and squatted down with an arched back and trilled coooo coooo coooo - the sound that ostriches make when they lay eggs.  And when the elephant drank his long arm became the trunk that reached forward and down to the pool of water you could suddenly imagine at his feet,

More Amazing Animals: Photos from Chobe National Park, Botswana

Two young lion brothers greet each other with play and a roar.  This is one of three prides in Chobe - a park known for its lions and where lions have been known to take down elephants.This bull elephant is washing his watergrass carefully before eating it.  Elephants have molers, and when the teeth have worn down and they can no longer eat, they die.  So washing the mud off the grass extends their life.  The egret at his feet enjoys the bugs and fish the grass pulling dislodges in a symbiotic relationship.These elephants came down to the river for a long drink.  They line up and protect the young elephants in the center between the adults.The river itself is beautiful and full of fish and life - a huge estuary of shallow brown fresh water that grows grasses and flowers and makes a haven for many species of birds.  The African Spoonbill fishes in the river estuaryA bird perches on the neck of this young male giraffe eating ticks as the giraffe grazes on the treetops.Three female impala graze in the female herd.  It's breeding season, and the dominant male is frantically running around trying to impregnate his hundred or so females, and run off all the bachelor males with growls and lowered horns.  Most births happen in the span of about two weeks. A female who is impregnated late will eat a poison bush to kill the fetal impala before it is born rather than give birth too late outside the window.  The poison does not hurt the mother.  Once a year the bachelor males come back to the herd to try and take the place of the dominant male.  Typically he is replaced ... he's too tired to win the fights after all his duties of guarding

Amazing Animals – Photos from Chobe National Park, Botswana

The monkey made a break towards the open porch screen door.  A spit second later I see him running out and screeching, double-fisted with loot.  Another successful raiding mission accomplished at Chobe Safari Lodge in Kasane, Botswana.  Other monkeys took their share of the prize with squawking and hitting in a family battle.  And after the spoils were consumed and paraded around for the rest of the monkeys to admire ...  the next raid began, despite the efforts of the employee armed with the slingshot whose job is monkey deterrence.   The monkeys clearly are winning the scavenge war. Note to self ... we will be keeping the screen door closed to our room.  And no drying the laundry on the porch either as I prefer not to see a monkey trying on my undies.And with that, i knew we had arrived in the Africa of the movies and the storybooks.  We are in Kasane, a small town in northern Botswana that is primarily a gateway town for the Chobe National Park - one of the best wildlife parks in Africa known for being the home of over 80,000 really big African elephants, a large lion population and a huge diversity of other wildlife.Not that the wildlife knows where the park boundaries lie.  Besides keeping company with monkeys, warthogs and mongoose, a four foot long monitor lizard freely roams the grounds.  And the caution signs near the water warn of crocodiles and hippos - and they mean it.  Awesome.One of Mom's bucket list priorities was to visit Victoria Falls.  So we flew in to that airport in Zimbabwe, got a double entry visa, and promptly went to Botswana to spend a three days at Chobe National Park.   But we'll be back to Vic Falls before we leave.  In the interest

Top