Saturday, April 21, 2007

School Holiday Part 1: Botswana!

When we first came to South Africa, Dieter and Lucy Hoffman told us about their friend Wimpy Voss who has a farm in Botswana. We planned a trip to visit for the March school holiday, and were looking forward to a vacation and what Dieter described as “stopping for the first 100 elephants, after that you’ll get bored with elephants.”

Dieter and Lucy set up a very comfortable makeshift bed in the back of Dieter’s truck, with their futon and lots of pillows. The whole trip, from their home in Pretoria to Pandamatanga, on the border of Zimbabwe, took just over 12 hours, on good highways in South Africa and then on incredibly potholed roads in Botswana, where Dieter had to dodge donkeys, cows, and spitting cobras.

Botswana was one of very few countries in Africa that was spared a civil war as it transitioned to majority rule. The result is that it is a very peaceful and safe country, in sharp contrast to its close neighbor, Zimbabwe, in which a civil war is beginning (again). Lucy, Andy, Dieter, and I were all surprised to find ourselves surprised that we didn’t see one white person from the time we crossed the border into Botswana until we arrived at the Voss house. Botswana felt and looked much more like “Africa” to us (more, we all agreed, than did South Africa) in a very nice way, with flat land and friendly people and the occasional elephant or giraffe on the highway.

Wimpy runs a huge farm far north in Botswana, in the area where nearly all of Botswana’s produce is grown, near the borders of Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Namibia. His farm is gorgeous, full of sunflowers and sorghum, and his land hosts 1000-year-old baobab trees. He’s currently planning to build a new home in the area where Andy and I are standing (if you can spot us – we’re tiny and the tree is huge).

Lucy and Andy tested their climbing skills on the ancient trees.

One of the days we drove an hour north of Pandamatanga to the Chobe National Park for a game drive in the park and a boat cruise on the Chobe River. Andy and I hadn’t seen any of Southern Africa’s famous animals in our 3 months here and were blown away by the different species of antelope (the one in the photo is an impala) and the number of elephants and giraffes that we saw.

Our guide would stop the jeep or the boat for us to take pictures and to watch the animals, which is great fun. We saw two elephants fighting in the river and a massive rumble between rival baboon gangs. The baby elephants were priceless.

We were very sad to leave Botswana and the Voss family, who were incredibly welcoming to us and made our stay in Botswana a wonderful experience. While Lucy and Dieter had to go back to work, we were very lucky to have another week of vacation ahead of us at the beach.

No comments: