|We didn't know it at the time but our little dip in the Zambezi was a perfect introduction to Botswana. As the ferry crossed the river we came to a point midstream where four countries, Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia, came together. This was the shortest border in the world; Zambia and Botswana only touched at this one point. The Botswana side of the river didn't have any black market guys approaching us to change money as they had on the Zambian side. We didn't think much of it though and continued a few hundred metres to the border post. Wow, this was our easiest entry ever. It took only a few minutes to get the passports and carnets stamped and we were out of the office. We got on the bikes and rode away. Just past the office was a dipping pool where it was necessary to drive your vehicle through to stop the spread of foot and mouth disease. As I was taking a picture of Audrey riding through the puddle a fellow approached me and asked if I had paid the road permit. Since there had been no sign and no one had told us to buy a road permit we hadn't. Calling Audrey back from the other side of the pool we went back into the customs office to an unmarked wicket where a man was sitting behind a plate glass window. He told us the road permit would cost 70 pulas each. The only other currency he would accept was South African rand so our U.S. dollars and Zambian kwachas were no good. We asked if there was a foreign currency exchange office at the border and he said, "No, the nearest exchange office and bank is 10 kilometres down the road in the town of Kasane." Uh oh. He agreed to let us ride to town to get some Botswana pulas and then we could come back to buy the permit. When we got to the bank in Kasane Audrey went inside with our Zambian kwachas (I knew I could get that word in a few more times!) and I lined up behind about ten other people for the ATM. After half an hour Audrey came back outside and said that the bank wouldn't exchange kwachas. She had even talked to the bank manager and he basically told her that she would have to go to the black market to exchange them. This wasn't terribly good news since the ATM was broken so we had no way of getting pulas to pay our way into Botswana. For a moment we thought of making a break for it but we didn't know if Botswana would have a lot of police checkpoints where they would ask for the road permit. Just about then the ATM started working! Whew.
|The "Four Corners" in the middle of the Zambezi
|Just before being called back for the road permit
|With our wad of pulas (I kind of like saying that too) we went back to the border post to pay for the road permits. Then we went on a search for black market money changers back at the ferry terminal. We found a couple of guys but because our only alternative to them was to take the boat back to Zambia we had no bargaining power and got hosed with a terrible exchange rate. We rode back past the customs office for the last time and through the dipping pool to end what turned out to be one of our longest border crossings. All told it took three hours and twenty minutes from arriving at the Zambian side to departure from the Botswana side.
|After fuelling the bikes (we had specifically tried to stretch the fuel to Botswana since it was much cheaper compared to Zambia) we rode 100 kilometres to Panda Rest Camp, near Pandamatenga. Greeting us there was Massey, the owner's father, who was really into motorcycling. At 60 years old (looking more like 35) he regularly made the ride to here from his own campground in Tanzania in three days on a KTM 640 Adventure. A distance of over 3,000 kilometres! It was a lot of fun talking with Massey and we decided to enjoy dinner in their restaurant. The burgers were absolutely delicious and as a bonus they had my favourite drink, Stoney ginger beer.
|The first sign of mechanised farming since Europe
|In Khartoum we had met Stephen and Rocco from Cape Town and they had written on our map that elephants would be along this stretch of road down to Nata. Every now and then we did see elephant droppings on the road so we knew they were around. With the arrow straight roads and the bush cleared twenty metres to either side it was easy to see a long distance ahead. A bull elephant appeared on the horizon. Wow. We approached slowly, not really knowing what to do but keeping the engines running in case we had to make a break for it. The elephant was at the edge of the clearing, twenty metres from the road, and patiently let us snap picture after picture of him. Again we were struck how different it was to see a wild animal from the motorcycle rather than from inside a nice, sturdy truck. It was so much more real. And probably dangerous too. On the ride to Nata we saw three more elephants and we stopped every time. One big bull elephant was very near the road and I stopped well back to take a picture of Audrey as she rode by it. This elephant looked a little less patient with pesky motorcyclists, watching Audrey intently with ears flared out, so she rode right on by, only stopping a few hundred metres down the road. After getting fuel and a Smarties ice cream cone in Nata we turned west, planning to stop at Planet Baobab Lodge. We got there at 1:45 PM so we kept heading west. The roads were very good and it was easy to make reasonable time. At one point a big, white Mercedes whipped past us, going about 150 kph. Botswanabahn! We had heard that the Botswana police were quite strict about speed limits and liked to target foreigners so we didn't exceed the limit. This proved to be frustrating at times. A thirty kilometre stretch of road, in perfect condition with excellent visibility and no people or animals on the road was signed at 80 kph. Twenty kilometres out of Maun the speed limit was reduced to 60 kph. That was a long twenty kilometres. Just as we entered the town itself a mommy and cub (puppy?) warthog ran in front of us! Good thing we were only going 60. After stocking up on groceries we went to the Sedia Hotel, a few kilometres east of Maun, and set up camp. Today's riding was probably the easiest riding we had had since Canada. The traffic cops at the police checkpoints and dipping stations even asked reasonable questions!
|Our first sign that we should be watching for elephants
|This elephant had his eye on Audrey
|What a beautiful animal
|Thursday was a time to do some chores such as washing laundry and uploading the website. We looked at getting a mokoro ride on the Okavanga Delta but $145 per person to sit in a dugout canoe and spend three hours in a truck to go there and back seemed like a lot of money. We decided to look for a mokoro ride further north when we rode up the west side of the Okavanga. The afternoon was spent sitting by the pool reading. I had found a South African motorcycle magazine with a test of the new BMW F800GS so was pretty much in heaven.
|He looks like he is in heaven
|When we left Maun we picked up another South African electrical plug adapter and then a new headlight bulb for Audrey's bike. At the auto parts store I reached for my wallet and found nothing. My wallet was missing! I raced back to the electrical shop and found it sitting on the counter. Whew. We were lucky to have stopped at the auto parts store or we would have been several hundred kilometres down the road by the time we found the wallet missing. As we left Maun the last speed limit sign we saw said 80 so we rode at that speed for a while. At one of the veterinary control points where we had to ride our bikes through a dipping pool and get sprayed Audrey asked the police officer what the speed limit was. 120. We made better time after that. Except for the vet control points that is. We even had to take the shoes out of the luggage to get sprayed. One control point was so close to the other that our shoes were still wet from the last spray. With all the cattle that we saw it seemed that beef was one of Botswana's main industries and they were taking no chances with foot and mouth disease. We arrived at Swamp Stop Camp at about four in the afternoon and enjoyed a cool beverage while sitting on their deck overlooking the Okavanga.
|The "Foot and Mouth Jig"
|The Easy Rider
|Arriving at Swamp Stop Camp
|Enjoying the view of the swamp
|We had talked to a German professor who was leading a small group of university students on a trip through Botswana (how do I sign up for that class?) and he said that the Tsodilo hills were great to visit and the road was in good condition. We rode twenty kilometres north on the highway and then turned west for a forty kilometre stretch of gravel. The Male Hill, at 1395 metres, was the highest point in Botswana and we could see it from thirty kilometres away, rising out of the endlessly flat plain. When we pulled up to the entrance gate to the park we found the gate closed and no one in sight. After a few minutes a 4x4 came from the other direction. It was a couple we had met in Maun and they said we could just slide open the gate and ride to the museum. The rough road was no problem on the bikes. At the museum we hired a local guide, "KT", who took us around the Rhino Loop trail. He was very helpful in showing us the rock paintings and also explaining how the locals used various natural things. The paintings ranged in age from a few hundred years to 10,000 years old, with the rhinoceros being the most common theme along this trail. There were hundreds of paintings scattered throughout the hills. The baobab tree fruit was quite sweet and the Tsodilo hills even had their own peanuts in the form of the nuts from the moringola tree. The Rhino Trail took us up and over the Female Hill so we got a little exercise, the first time in a long while.
|Audrey rides to the Tsodilo Hills
|Students on a field trip coming back from the Rhino Trail
|The older paintings are made using ochre
|Ekke gets a little excercise while KT waits
|The Tsodilo Hills peanut equivalent
|Does it look like Gary Larson came in and drew a Far Side cow behind the rhinos?
|Sap from a tree is used by the Kalahari Bushmen as a glue
|Apparently the bushmen travelled far enough to see penguins and whales
|The fruit from the baobab tree is quite tasty
|The handprints makes a good signature
|Audrey gets up close to some of the rock paintings
|What is the French poodle doing there? Those bushmen really did travel.
|Ekke negotiates the road leaving the Tsodilo Hills Park
|At Swamp Stop we asked about a mokoro ride and were told that there weren't any available on the west side of the Okavanga. They could provide a ferryboat ride to the other side but it would cost 1,000 pulas one-way and then we would still have to arrange a mokoro and accommodation for a night. This was again far too expensive just for a ride in a dugout canoe. From our reading, it wasn't even a real dugout canoe it would be a fibreglass replica. We signed up instead for a three hour tour on an ordinary boat. The professor had suggested that the three hour tour was better than a shorter ride because it was possible to see more. (Yes, we were humming the Gilligan's Island theme song in our heads as soon as the professor suggested a three hour tour!) Our boat left at 8:30 after a bit of confusion since the camp manager hadn't told the boat driver/guide that we wanted a tour. It was very relaxing cruising along the water amongst the papyrus reeds. The variety and colours of the birds that zipped around were simply amazing. To be honest though, after you've seen 100,000 papyrus reeds they start to look pretty similar. An hour would have been plenty. Until we saw a hippo breach the water fifty metres away. With a snort and a gasp it suddenly came out of the water with half its body showing and then it was gone. Nothing but ripples in the water. Since the hippo came sometime in the third hour I guess we wouldn't have seen it on a shorter tour. Back at Swamp Stop we had lunch at the restaurant and packed up to ride to Namibia. A quick check of the bikes showed that I had a flat rear tire though. I got out the BMW repair kit and followed the included instructions for fixing a tubeless tire. It was a little more difficult than I expected but then this was the first time I had ever done it. With practice I could probably get it down from 40 minutes to 20. Hopefully I don't get the practice. By 2:30 PM we were riding down the sandy track back to the highway. The instructions suggested a maximum speed of 60 kph and a maximum distance of 400 kilometres with the plugged tire so we rode pretty slowly for a while. The speed crept up as we headed north to Shakawe until we were going a reasonable 90. At Shakawe we fuelled up and bought some groceries at Choppies, using our pulas. Then we rode the 16 kilometres to the border where it only took 15 minutes to get stamped out of Botswana. The customs official said that even though we had our carnets stamped upon entering Botswana we wouldn't need to get them stamped out until we left South Africa. We'll see. Botswana had been the most "Western" country since we left Europe and had been a real treat to visit. It seemed as if we were transitioning from adventure riding to touring. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing but it did mean that if we wanted adventure from now on we would have to go looking for it rather than it finding us.
|Ready for a three hour tour
|"Little bee eaters" according to our guide
|A baby crocodile poses for a photo
|Our guide, "P", strips a papyrus to expose the innards
|And then Ekke tries it. Tasty enough but not quite a Bavarian cake.
|It would be easy to get lost here
|Back at the Swamp Stop
|Plugging a tire before heading to Namibia
|Map of our route through Botswana
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