Wednesday, May 22, 2013

10 Days, 4 Countries, 3000 Kilometers: Part 1

A little less than a month ago, I left Onamutai for my first long break of the year. My first stop was Windhoek for our Mid-Service training. It was so great to see everyone again and being back at BPU felt oddly like home. At this point, I don't remember anything particular about mid service that you would all be interested in, so I'll just skip to the beginning of my trek around Southern Africa with a fellow volunteer, Jenn, and her boyfriend who was visiting from home, Matt. As this was a long trip, it's going to take several posts, so be patient. And because it was so long ago, this may be a little rough, but if you're still with me, here goes nothing.

Day One: Leaving Namibia
Because we were all on a budget, our goal was to free hike as much as possible to save money (also, it's fun and half the adventure). So on our first day, we got up early and took a taxi to the hike point out of Windhoek heading for Gobabis, a town on the way to the Botswanian border. We tried for a few hours and a few different spots along the road, but all we got were offers to the airport. We ended up calling a driver that our friends had taken to the border the previous day, and we was willing to give us the same discounted price. The ride to the border was fairly uneventful and we arrived with no problems. We grabbed our bags and went into the customs office to fill out the first of many exit/entry forms. Once those were stamped and processed, we headed to the crossing. Having never crossed a border on foot, I was surprised at how long it was. Seriously, the no-man's land between Namibia and Botswana was about one kilometer. I came to find that this was fairly typical...

Anyway on the other side we filled out an identical form for entry and then went to find a ride. However, the border town, Mamuno, is not so much a town as simply the border post, so there really wasn't anywhere to go but the side of the road. Luckily it didn't take too long for us to flag someone down, despite the fact that there was almost no one around. We managed to get a semi-truck to stop for us and after convincing him that the three of us could squeeze in his behind-the-seat sleeping area, we were off! For those of you that haven't ridden in a semi-truck before, those things are MASSIVE. I felt like we were going to crush everything just because we were so high up! The cab itself was pretty big too- our driver even had a minifridge in the center console! Our driver was nice and was playing some sweet jams, so we had a really enjoyable first hike. He was headed to South Africa, so he dropped us off at an intersection where we would be heading opposite directions. It was a busy road though, so we only had to wait about 15 minutes before getting another hike.

We had been hoping to make it all the way to Maun, but it was already close to sun down, we decided not to risk it and just spend the night in Ghanzi, a very small town that reminded me a bit of a Boarder Planet on Firefly. We found a lodge that had camping, pitched our tents, and got a bite to eat at the restaurant (Jenn and I even splurged on chocolate milkshakes with Amarula-- we agree that this was one of the best decisions of the whole trip).

Day 2: Into the Delta
We got up fairly early hoping to catch a bus to Maun, but we had been given misinformation and the bus had already left. We once again headed to the side of the main road out of town to wait for a hike. After about a half hour of waiting, we started getting hungry, so we broke into our food supplies. Here we are, sitting on the side of a dusty road in the middle of nowhere, and Jenn is eating brie and fig jam on wheat crackers. I ate peanut butter with my fingers.

We finally got a hike (along with the other 3 people that had joined us in the 2+ hours we waited) in a covered bakkie. It was a bit long to go in a bakkie, but since it was covered and the road was paved, we decided to just go for it. We arrived in Maun no worse for the wear, but a little sore (Matt was introduced to his first "bakkie bruise") and hungry again. We hunted for a restaurant we had read about in Lonely Planet and found the gem of a cafe tucked away down a side street by the airport. Hilary's was excellent and if anyone is ever in Maun, Botswana, I highly recommend it. It was a cute little cafe with excellent homemade bread, sandwiches, soups, and- the best part- iced coffee! (well it was hot coffee that they put on ice for me...but still, my first one in Africa!)

After our delicious lunch, we stopped by the backpackers to drop off our gear and pitch our tents, then headed back into town to grocery shop for the next few days. We were planning to cook most of our meals while at the backpackers, so we quickly decided on a few easy dishes we could prepare and bought the goods. When we arrived back at the backpackers, we ran into Erika, Rachel, Abby, and Malin who had just gotten back from their overnight mokoro trip! Hearing their stories about it got us really excited for ours the next day.

We ended our first day in Maun lounging on seats next to the river, enjoying a beer from the bar while listing to Old Americana music and marveling at the fact that we had actually made it.

Photo credit: Matt Berg

1 comment:

  1. There are so many words here that I had to go google search to figure out what you're talking about, because you are living such and exciting, crazy life! Never would have thought I would hear so many hitchhiking stories from you. I can't wait to hear about the rest of the trip and let's skype soon!!!