Welcome to Botswana – have a crazy day!

21 October 2018

We both woke early to a funny bird song that sounded like a whistle then a pop! It would’ve been annoying were it not such a hilarious sound! Bugsy woke earlier than expected, when I was in the shower, and she was very keen to see her new friends at breakfast. As luck would have it, we all arrived in the dining room at more or less the same time, and all the kids were delighted to see each other. We had been moved onto a different table for our last breakfast – an upgrade, we thought, as although it only seated three (not eight as our previous table had), we each had a hand carved hippo on our chairs!

Cornelia was allowed a chocolate croissant again, which she stuffed in her mouth quickly, so she could go off and play, running around playing hide and seek. They were all making lots of noise and it sounded brilliant to hear them all squealing in delight. I’m not sure all the older diners agreed, but having been so stoic about the long drives she has endured, I didn’t care much about her having some noisy fun! In the meantime, I noticed the little boy of one of the other families seemed to have escaped his parents and was swinging off the bars surrounding the dining area. He looked quite unaware of the danger, so I went over to speak to him, but he just kept moving away from me… eventually, I had to physically take him off the bars, much to his dislike, but thankfully his mum had now seen him and was frantically racing towards him! She thanked me for looking out for him – her two girls (who were playing hide and seek with Bugsy) had supposed to be looking after him while she went for a walk and enjoyed some quiet time. I felt for her!!!

Anyway, I then tried uploading more photos to the blog without success, so returned to our chalet with all three girls in tow. I remember the fascination with other people’s houses or rooms as a child, and the same was true of these two girls, Talina and Merle, as they jumped on the beds and generally nosied around. Bugsy desperately wanted to read her Winnie and Wilbur book to them and got slightly frustrated that they wouldn’t listen, preferring instead to pick things up and ask what they were!

I popped out for a moment to let their mum know that they were all with me and although she said I should send them back if they were in the way, I think she was quite happy for a bit of time looking after just one child!

Eventually, the girls left and we ferried our bags up to reception. Cornelia was upset to be leaving her new friends, but we did our best to explain that this was part of the joy of travelling – that we make new friends and we move on, and that some we keep forever and some will just be moments in time.

She was consoled by the lovely woman on reception who thought Cornelia was so adorable she gave her a terrific key ring with the Namibian flag attached, as well as a lion, a giraffe, a zebra and a hippo. She was thrilled to bits and ran around to give her a big hug. Memory, one of the other staff, also wanted a cuddle and she was over the moon to receive one. It always amazes me how much good and joy a hug from a small child can bring!

We finally dragged ourselves away from the luxurious Shametu, and drove back to Divundu to fill up with diesel. Once we’d done that, Ian decided we should whiz back to the lodge to buy a magnet from Namibia, which we had failed to do so far! This would be our last chance!

Once we were on the right road (the usually impeccable directions had told us to return to the wrong road and we wasted a bit of time figuring out that they were wrong), we left Namibia and entered Botswana.

At the borders, although there is a bit of paperwork to fill out at each border control (an immigration form each, inspection of passports and Cornelia’s birth certificate, then the vehicle registration and permit), it all went smoothly and quickly.

The roads weren’t brilliant- there were loads of holes that suddenly appeared, making it difficult to drive at the speed limit. Then, much to my great shame (as anyone who knows me knows I’m a stickler for a speed limit!), having passed carefully through the little town of Gumares, I got caught for speeding! I couldn’t believe it, given the slow progress we had been able to make! I held my hands up completely as there was no denying I was doing over 60. If I’d been inclined to argue, I’d have said that I’d thought we were outside the town limits and that there was no recent sign indicating the speed limit, but I was most definitely not going to raise this! A fine of 400Pula followed – £30. Our handbook says that if you are stopped for speeding, do not pay the fine there. You have fourteen days to pay at any police station in Botswana and that was what they recommend you do. In any event, we hadn’t been to an ATM yet, so I had no cash to pay with anyway. When I relayed this to the officer who had pulled me over, and suggested I just pay at Maun Police Station tomorrow, she insisted that I should to pay it now, by driving one of the other officers to the local police station where I could pay by card. So I left Ian with the traffic police at the side of the road, so as to avoid repacking the car to fit her in and off we went to the local station.

On arrival, she went to get the machine, disappeared for five minutes, then returned and asked me to come in with her. Cornelia and I then waited for another ten minutes, before a male officer beckoned for me to follow him to the Road Traffic Offences room, a tiny room filled with piles of untidy paperwork and charts up on the wall recording (manually) all the different RTOs of the last three years. Hilariously, the card machine was out of receipt paper, and he struggled to find another roll. This did not surprise me, given the chaos of the room. Then, once he’d unravelled over half of the roll (as it was too large to fit into the machine!), it ran out of charge and switched off. He didn’t have the charging cable and it was locked in another room and no one knew where the key was. So I suggested that I go to Maun Police Station tomorrow, as I had originally intended well over an hour ago. He agreed and I returned to collect Ian, who had been waiting patiently despite being plagued by flies.

Off we went again, with me watching the speedometer more carefully, as well as looking out for potholes. A little bit later, Cornelia looked up from her Kindle and said “What’s happened to the sky?!” as it had now blackened and almost immediately, we were hit by a dust storm, during which the temperature dropped by 10 degrees in just a few minutes. Lightning crashed around while Summer of 69 played on the stereo. Within another ten minutes, the rains came and the temperature was down to 18 degrees. It had been 38 degrees just twenty minutes earlier!

As we joined the A3, with about 100kms to go, two locals flagged us down – they had a flat tyre and needed our compressor. Thank God we had finally had it repaired just a few days ago!! Our journey had now been delayed massively and we knew we were facing prepping the tent in the dark, in the rain, and in the wind.

We decided we should stop in Maun for the night, a biggish town, 30kms from our booked campsite. We tried a Cresta Hotel first, but they were completely full. They suggested we try Maun Lodge, which we did, and hurrah, they had a triple room available for us. It was tipping it down with rain, and the lightning was turning the sky the most incredible pinky purple! It was epic and apparently completely the wrong time of year for rain – they wouldn’t have expected it for weeks, if not months.

Once we were safely installed in our chalet room, we ran up to the restaurant which was buzzing and playing some great music. I didn’t realise how much I had missed listening to Pink etc!

Cheered up enormously at finally having arrived at a destination (even though it wasn’t our originally intended one!) we necked our beers and I had a glass of rosé to go with my crocodile Thai curry!

Legging it back to our room, we were even happier to realise we had air con and mosquito nets, and turned in, letting the adrenaline of an exciting first day in Botswana drain away!

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