Day 19 – Maun

5:30 am and it’s 22 degrees. By 3pm it will be 39 degrees. I leave Kasane past fleets of safari jeeps with 3 or 4 rows of seating on raised rear decks, each seat occupied by a German tourist dressed head to toe in brand new khaki trousers and photographer’s vests fresh from the camping & outdoors shops.

Past endless worn out old trucks straining to pull double trailers overloaded with bales of god knows what, lining up for the Kasane border crossing into Zimbabwe. They all spew thick clouds of soot that hang in the air like the dust from the scorched earth that hasn’t seen rain in months.

It’s a relief to get back out onto the open road and away from the town and population. It’s the journey that I enjoy the most, the changing scenery, geology, geography, the flora and fauna, the natural Africa, not the people or the concrete in the towns, even if I am seeing it all thanks to the man-made roads and trails that scar that natural landscape.

But Botswana isn’t being as good to me as Namibia, which spoiled me. The scenery is not attractive, the road through Botswana’s agricultural heartland is featureless. There’s little to look at apart from more of the devil crows. I don’t know what they are but they look like crows except with a big red beak and they are about the size of a pig. They look like an evil Jim Henson animatronic character.

Today is just a day for getting into position for the Delta, so I’m not expecting much. I occasionally have to slow to let things cross the road. Giraffe. Goat. Ostrich.

I also have to stop to once again pass through the animal disease control fence that stretches across the entire continent, separating the foot-and-mouth disease free south from the wilder north. Yet again, the Botswana official tries, clumsily, to extract a bribe, but goes quiet when I suggest that she wouldn’t want to found guilty of something like that, with the emphasis on guilty.

When you’ve faced corrupt officials in the stans and dodgy cops in eastern Europe, a bottom-rung gate-opener from the “department  veterinary safety” or something can’t really hope to intimidate you.

Then into Maun, gateway town for activities in the Okavango Delta. Namibia was so good that nothing would compare favourably, but Botswana is really not proving to be easy. Still being given the run around for my campsite booking so I still don’t know if I will be able to visit the game reserve. You aren’t allowed in on a self-drive unless you have a booking at the campsite.

That means running around trying to find a back up plan, but it’s hard to find a game drive that already has others booked, that I might join and only pay my share, leaving just the option to pay for the entire thing myself. Not only pricy, it’s turning out to be a challenge because I’ve accidentally arrived in town on the 50th anniversary of Botswana’s independence, and nobody is at work. They’re all out having a party. The very friendly staff at the Okavango River Lodge campsite are trying to find something for me, so fingers crossed.

I’ve booked a scenic flight, having to pay the entire cost myself, so at least I’ll get to see something. Not sure I’ll be able to show it to you though, because an aeroplane means photos taken through windows, but the photographers preference of doors-off low-level helicopter would have cost 3 times an already extravagant outlay.

Namibia was stunning. If Botswana fails in all aspects it won’t matter too much, but here’s hoping I can make something of it. Two full days here to do something, before heading on to Swaziland and the final leg of the trip back along South Africa’s south coast.

PS It’s pronounced ma-oon…

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