Thursday, July 21, 2011

Life in Botswana: Safari, April 1989

More excerpts from my parent's journal, Life in Botswana. Photos are mine this time!

Sarah flew in to see the sights and the old folks. We planned to go further north, first into Zimbabwe, to Bulawayo, where we stayed at the Churchill Arms Hotel, an old standby. [Below are some street scenes in Bulawayo.]

We exchanged money the next morning, downtown, and then drove to Matopos National Park and the site of Cecil Rhodes Memorial, on "top of the world", as he called it - high up a large rock hill. We saw also a bushman rock painting and, in the park proper, five white rhinoceros.

The next morning we had a beautiful, long drive to Hwange National Park, with lunch in a small, resort hotel at Gwai. The owner, in his late 60's, and I discussed briefly the experiences he had during the 13 years fighting before independence came in 1980. We stayed the first night at Hwange Safari Lodge, a large place overlooking a water hole set in an open plain, which they light up at night. Very nice to see the animals, including a magnificent sable antelope, while sipping a drink! 


The next morning we drove into the park, saw a number of water holes but only a few animals – antelope, wildebeest and one surprised big male Cape buffalo who charged out of the high weeds next to the road, saw us as we stopped immediately, then darted into the opposite site. We didn't move, and suddenly he reappeared again and bolted back across the road, for good. 

We continued to Sinamatella Camp, overlooking (300 ft.) a broad panorama plain, where we had lunch before continuing on to Nantwich Camp, which didn't have our booking, and then on to Robbins Camp, where we got a two-bedroom chalet (sounds fancy but it wasn't – ask Sarah) for Z$15, equal to 7 US dollars.

 [This tiny building has two bedrooms; the bathroom and showers are located a short walk away. After a dinner consisting of candy bars and Coca-Cola, my mother tucked me into bed for a sleepless night. When my parents awoke in the morning, I was already waiting in the car, as I decided the risk of waiting an hour to reach a bathroom in Victoria Falls was less than using the one at this camp.]

The next morning we drove to Victoria Falls. We did not see many animals in Hwange because it was soon after the rainy season had ended, animals had water everywhere in the bush and did not have to go to water holes where we would have to go to see them. Also the brush was high and full which makes seeing difficult.

Victoria Falls is spectacular and breathtaking. We stayed at the Victoria Falls Hotel, where Ed had stayed when he passed through in 1964. The hotel is a lovely, old railway hotel, built by Cecil Rhodes to drum up business for his new Cape-to-Cairo railway. They have a statue of David Livingstone at Victoria Falls, the first statue built on the Zimbabwean side. 

The Zambezi River was in full flood, the mist was sky-high, and we quickly got soaking wet, which is de rigour. We saw a tribal dance program that evening which was most interesting.

The next morning we drove 60 miles back into Botswana to Kasane, the main town in the Chobe area, so named because it is on the Chobe River, which runs into the Zambezi. Across the river lies the Caprivi Strip, which is Namibia, and to the east lies Zambia. In Kazengula, in Botswana, just before the border crossing into Zimbabwe, there is a car ferry across the Chobe to Zambia. This spot was the scene of a lot of fighting 20-25 years ago.


We stayed one night in Chobe Game Lodge and two nights in Kubu Lodge, which was reported to have better food (and did). The Game Lodge is inside the Chobe National Park. It is a luxury lodge in a spectacular setting, overlooking the river, the flood plain, and Caprivi on the other side. The Lodge had a large double-decker boat, with bar, which we enjoyed sailing up and down the river, seeing hippo, antelope, and a fish eagle swooping down to snatch a fish out of the water which had been thrown for him. [Dozens of warthog grazed on the property. indifferent to our presence.]

Kubu Lodge had individual thatched huts, very nicely done. We took one game drive into the Park and saw a herd of about 50 buffalo, a dozen elephant going down to the river to drink and bathe. Young bulls went swimming, going completely under water, while the older ones watched them and drank.

The next day Ed flew back to Gaborone, to go to work, and Nancy and Sarah drove back, spending the night in Francistown. When Sarah was driving a young impala dashed out so suddenly that Sarah couldn't stop and unfortunately was struck. They circled back and couldn't find it, dead or alive, so perhaps it survived, the only casualty being a missing license plate!

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