Day Seven – Self Drive Safari

Best: spotting an elephant just standing beside the road #totallynormal

Worst: how hungry I am right now. And knowing Nicole is heading into an emergency caesarean while I’m sitting by a pool in a fancy Lodge waiting to be served a delicious meal. #lifeisnotfair

For Tomorrow:


Personal Goals: drink 5L of non-alcoholic beverages

Steps: 8880

Have I mentioned that I drove the clinic SUV, two days ago? To grab my bag from the airport? Anyhow, true to its Commonwealth history, Botswana vehicles drive on the left side of the road: accordingly Trevor’s interior layout isn’t what I’m used to. He has also decided against such fads as “power steering” and “working seat belts”.

Maun refrains from flicking on their street lights until they are absolutely SURE that the sun is down and so there is this magic window, (which we managed to find), where it is too dark to see the cattle and people just inches from the road, but obviously not dark enough to turn on the street lights. Of course, I say “street” and “road” but can we be clear and call them minor highways? I was going 80km and was honked at and passed at speed. I don’t actually know what the speed limit is, I had too many other things to concentrate on to read pesky road signs. Oh! Not to mention it was the last Friday of the month, (payday), and every single car in the district was on the road with us. Going 80km an hour in the dark with surprise cattle wandering in front of you while you’re driving on the wrong side of the road definitely felt like a form of Safari. It certainly warranted similar concentrations of adrenaline in my blood stream.

Today though:

Accomplished my goal of going for a walk this morning! Saw a red something or other hornbill: a little over thirty centimetres, black and white spotted with a reddish toucan-like beak. Was a little exciting.

The rest of the morning was spent getting ready to leave for the out-clinic: first stop Gweta!

The drive to Gweta was … warm. Actually, it was awfully authentic. The potholes were legendary. That highway has a speed limit of 120kph… we were easy going 20 for long chunks of it. Even then it wasn’t .. “comfortable”. And that is no smeer to Vicki’s driving, she was a miracle behind the wheel. There is a reason they call highway driving in Botswana the “free African massage”.

While driving along the highway a person gets pretty used to seeing all manner of goats and cattle and donkeys making a living in the ditches. Okay, fun, fine, common enough in lots of non-North American countries. Until no big deal but THERE’S AN ELEPHANT standing at the side of the road. Move over moose, there’s a new Road Hazard Number One in town. Now, Vasco, (one of the Batswana employees at MAWS), assures me that, while seeing elephants (and giraffes and oh my god could highway driving get anymore exciting?) is reasonable common, collisions with elephants are not. I wonder if that is because of elephant intelligence, because people don’t drive at night, (and it seems difficult to miss an elephant standing in the middle of the road during the day), or because people are driving so slowly for pothole reasons, that only a blind driver and a dead elephant would ever collide. An important note should be made here: there was not one vehicle stopped at the elephant. You know how when there is a bear on the side of the road in the Rockies there is a pile up of cars and people all staring and taking photos?? No one stopped for this elephant. Nuts. The subsequent three separate ostrich sightings were exciting but admittedly they had a tough act to follow.

The only other event of note on the trip was going through a FMD [Foot and Mouth Disease] border. Apparently the Maun area is FMD positive, and the eastern part of the country is negative. The disease control consisted of a wet sponge where one wet the bottoms of one’s shoes, and a ditch, of what was presumably disinfectant at one point but now looks simply like a mud pool, that one had to drive through. I hope extensive fencing is also employed otherwise I cannot possibly believe that the disease status of the two areas is different. Anyhow, Personal Trip Goal: do not bring FMD to Cuba.

Arrived in Gweta to a warm reception by the Managers of Gweta Lodge, who specifically requested that we come. They, or rather, Shayna, performed extensive fund raising in her small community as well as recruitment of owners to bring in their dogs and a few cats for sterilization. I specify all this because I am writing this post retrospectively and it was a very different reception in Nata.

Our digs were lux, I feel and felt, very lucky and grateful.

Our Hut
Sleeping Hut
Communal area w pool
Communal area with pool – much needed after three days of 8+hrs working in 35+C heat.
Inside the Hut
Sleeping Arrangments

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