Before rays from the new sun managed to penetrate the darkness of early morning I was up and about; bright-eyed and eager to get moving to a new destination. I was leaving behind the town of Victoria Falls and heading into a more rural Africa. I had no place in mind where I would next be sleeping. No place in mind for my next drink or meal. I was going to hitch-hike and let the cards fall where they may.
With backpack secured I closed the zipper on my tent, bid farewell to the meerkat who had been my companion, and headed out into the dawn. The meerkat winked from his slumber as I left. As sad as it was for me to leave him behind I am doubtful I was anything more to him than another source of food, passing through town.
My hitch-hiking got off to a good start. No sooner had I made it to the main street than a car pulled up and offered me a ride to the junction. The driver was heading straight; I would be veering right so our journey together was brief however the day was starting out as a success for someone new to the game of traveling as a guest of others generosity.
From the junction it was another 70km to the border. The sun and temperature began to rise as dawn morphed into day. Fortune remained with me. A jeep slowed, passed by, checked me out, and came to a stop a short distance in front of where I stood. The offer of a ride to the border was made and off we went.
I had not thought much more about my transport following arrival at the border but assumed this would not be a problem. Most borders are busy places. This border was anything but.
In my journal I wrote the following;
An hour and a half later I was there. The Botswana countryside lay in front of me, flat and desolate. Not a moving car in sight. I began to walk in the late morning heat laden with a fully stocked backpack. I walked for about an hour passing through a troop of baboon who paid absolutely no attention to me though I thought they might. Kind of glad really. Ever since seeing a male baboon reprimand a junior family member I have been less keen to get too close. The barking and hollering was horrendous and must have struck the fear of God into the younger ape.
I reach the Kasungulo Junction around noon. The sign staring at me delivered an obvious choice. The town of Nata was left; 305km. The town of Kasane in the opposite direction was 9km. I head towards Kasane.
This time my walking only took me a couple of hundred yards before I notice a bus stop. An African lady was kind enough, quick enough, to give me 4 Pula (Botswana currency) for my 50 Zimbabwe Dollars. I find out later I got short-changed by half; the fee of ignorance I guess.
On my arrival in Kasane I found a hotel to drop off my bag and began to explore. It was a busy enclave of commerce and slaughter. Women and children sold all manner of food and trinkets roadside, many men were drinking in the “Central Bar”, and those who weren’t were cutting dark red bloody strips of meat from a dead cow that lay spread-eagled on a blue canvas out front.
The flies were all over. These were not a deterrent to the buyers as much as you would think. I guess the guy who’s cow it was had sold quite a lot already as pickings seemed to be getting slim. The blood which covered the carcass, canvas, and concrete had turned a dark red and become tacky. I am thinking if meat is purchased using this method then an early start while temperatures are cooler is the way to go. I passed when an opportunity to purchase a slice was offered.
I returned to the Chobe Safari Lodge where I had left my backpack, made my way to the road and once again extended my thumb. It was the town of Nata where I was now heading and had only the afternoon and early evening in which to get there.
A family heading to Francistown picked me up and for a charge of 20 Pula would drop me in Nata. This was a common occurrence in Botswana. Anyone with a vehicle became a part of the public transport system. On arrival I discovered that Nata was less a town and more a crossroads. I decided over a meal of sampa, meat, and fanta that I would go for broke and continue my journey by thumb.
It is 4pm now and I am heading to Maun in the heart of the Okavango Delta. I wait at the corner with dozens of locals all with the same destination as me. There is no bus to Maun so hitch-hiking is the only option.
It is a strange feeling to be miles, hours, from the nearest town with no certainty regarding onward transport or where you will sleep once the sun settles below the horizon.
At 7pm a car finally pulled over and offered me and Robert, one of the locals I had met in my 3 hours of roadside chatter, an onward ride. It was now very dark. It was 11pm when my campsite appeared out of nowhere; a single light bulb shining in the blackness. Fortunately we had picked up others en route to Maun and Robert had made a love connection in the back seat so he was all set with his accommodation.
The camp bar was open; I stayed and talked. Exhaustion set in shortly after finishing a beer and my eyelids began to succumb to the pull of gravity. I lay down in a small tent loaned to me from an Overland Tour Group even though it was already occupied by a chattering East German who became my roommate. A big change from the silence of the meerkat the night before.
I have never met anyone from East Germany before so even though my eyelids flickered I did my best to listen as the stories were interesting and I wanted…zzzzzzzzzz.
I was dead tired but I had hitch-hiked across Botswana and was now in Maun. My adventure in the Okavango Delta was about to begin.