We awoke between the Botswana baobabs on a very special day – it was W and A’s wedding anniversary! Since they are professional producers of cut flowers, Marina and I just had to collect a very special bouquet for them, probably like no bouquet they’d ever received before…
After a typical breakfast of muesli and milk, etc., we took off away from Chaixara Backpackers, towards Maun, hoping to see something of the pans on the way.
You will see that I am sometimes providing links to the various places we visited or where we stayed overnight. If you click on a link, this will open the relevant website on an extra page. So, while this blog will stay open, you can get some more background on places visited, if you’re interested. (And if you ever plan to travel through these parts, these are really worthwhile places to visit, unless I’ve mentioned otherwise!)
First stop on the road towards Maun, was Nxai Pan National Park. After entering the park (and paying the daily visit fee) we drove northwards towards the pan itself, over a few extremely sandy roads that had us worried at times whether we might get stuck. But the friendly guards at the gate had laughed off that possibility, even though they also mentioned how they do rescue people when they do get stuck. Obviously we just looked very experienced to them :). We did have a few exciting moments, though…
Being ever curious, we drove up to one of the campsites in the park, but that was a great disappointment. I think the best word I could use to describe the collection of buildings, is, well… broken. (Or as we learned to say in Ghana: “spoilt proper”.) Toilet cubicles with doors hanging on one hinge (or no doors at all), empty water tanks lying on the ground, loose electric cables snaking across the ground, plastic rubbish and random pieces of wood everywhere. I just cannot understand why the staff who work there can just sit in their little offices, just managing their books to record visitors, no doubt hot and bored, without doing even the most rudimentary cleaning up and maintenance, etc. They were not really unfriendly, but just … uninterested. When we asked about camping facilities the lady just opened her record book and mentioned on which nights there would be space available. The word “welcome” was not used. I’m glad we did not plan to overnight there.
Since time was marching on, and we still needed to reach Maun before dark, we had to forego a visit to Baines’ Baobabs, since that would have meant a long detour on more sandy roads in the park. Maybe next time?
Maun is a dusty, spread-out place, located on the banks of the Thamalakane River. We had reserved space at the Maun Rest Camp and after driving back and forth, after asking a few people along the way, we finally found it. “Not very well sign-posted” would be an understatement. However, once there, we were warmly received and found a very nice and shady spot next to the “river”, to erect our tents. Not much water in the river, only a few ponds here and there. The river (at least at that time of the year) was essentially a long low-lying area where people and some cattle would wander past. But a very pleasant spot, nevertheless.
We had planned to stay here a couple of nights, so it was good to see that the ablution blocks were clean and functioning well. And such an abundance of shade, when you are camping anywhere, is a real bonus.
Bearing in mind that it was a red-letter day for W and A, we drove across the dry river bed towards the Old Bridge Backpackers, where we had a celebratory dinner. A little bird had whispered into the ears of the staff there, that W and A were celebrating their wedding anniversary. The chef and his assistants put their heads together, put aside the boerewors rolls and steak & chips plates that they were working on, and enthusiastically put together a cake, with appropriate decoration. A job very well done and very well appreciated by the surprised couple. Cost of this masterpiece: the price of one serving of dessert! We had a lovely and memorable evening outside under the large thatched roof, with the necessary drinks, of course. I had a very nice St.Louis Lager and it is a sign of the importance of the occasion that Marina even had a gin&tonic! (Single gin and double tonic, but still, for those of you who know her well, having anything alcoholic at all, is a memorable occasion!)
A perfect ending to another great day!
More about Maun and the Okavango Delta in the next instalment!