A Travellerspoint blog

Ghanzi - The Trip is Almost Over

Am I That Annoying When I Take Photographs?

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Wednesday, June 13

As I was getting ready to go to breakfast I glanced into the shower stall and saw what I thought might be a wadded-up piece of paper or cloth. I could not understand how I could have missed it the day before. Then it moved. It was a small toad of some kind. It was trying to hide in the corner. I needed to remove my clothesline but did not want to scare it. My main concern was that it would get out and end up in my suitcase which was open and just outside the door. I did not want a souvenir. I took the used towels and blocked the exit, planning to keep the little fellow inside until I was to ready to check out. I later opened things up and wished him all the best.

I arrived at breakfast just as it started at 7 am. I first checked the Wi-Fi and found that the internet was back on. I ordered an omelette and went to work on posting some blog entries. They had fat cakes as part of the buffet. Fat cakes are African doughnuts, deep fried dough. I first had them back in 1976 at my initial in-country Peace Corps training. We all loved them. Of course, I took one.

There was a radio talk show playing in the background. They were discussing the anniversary of the Soweto uprising of 1976. At the time of the uprising I was doing my village live in, staying in a small village with a local family. I was brand new to Southern Africa but remember how I felt when I heard about it. It was a dramatic introduction to the area. Botswana was always the island of peace in an area of great turmoil.

The road to Ghanzi was good. There were few potholes, and road crews were doing patching. There was a lot of truck traffic and the usual cattle, donkeys, goats, and even a few horses in or right next to the road.

I had thought that I would see a couple of places that I had always heard about when I lived in Botswana but were too far out of the way for me to see, Lake Ngami and Ghanzi. I assumed that we would drive right past or through them. We first went flying past the town where I expected to see the lake. Then we passed a petrol station which later I found out was in Ghanzi. The paved road just skirted past the town. When I said something to Sam about visiting Ghanzi, he said it was about 20 minutes back the way that we had come. I blinked and missed both. It was my fault that I had not said anything to Sam about them, but I was disappointed.

I was booked for camping and a bushman heritage walk at the Ghanzi Trail Blazers, which claims to offer a traditional bushman or the more appropriate name, San, experience. Although the camping was paid for, I had seen chalets for rent on their website, and I planned to rent one. I was tired of camping, especially tired of being cold. The receptionist was not in, but a woman said she could show us where to camp. I stopped her and asked how much the chalets cost, was one available, and would they take a credit card? All answers were positive, so I said that I would take one.

The chalet was next to the campsite. I was not sure how appropriate it was for me to rent one just for myself. At all the stops we both camped or both had rooms. But I was not going to rent one for Sam. I was quite fed up with being cold. That was Karibu’s fault, and Sam had not helped. He had me buy my own blanket when I asked him to buy one for me and charge it to Karibu.

The chalets were nice, but, like Planet Baobab, they had an open bathroom. You walked out the back door, basically outside, to get to the toilet and shower. There was only a small cover over them, something that might keep you dry but not keep you warm. With the expected cold nighttime temperatures, I decided to take my shower before my Bushman walk.


I tried a of couple times to take a shower while the warm sun was shining in, but each time there was no water. I finally asked at the reception and was told that they would be pumping more water which would be coming out of the taps by 3:30 or 4:00, which did not happen. My shower had to wait.

I was told that the walk would start at 4:30. At 4:25 Sam yelled that they were waiting for me. I ran out of my chalet and followed Sam’s directions to the back of the site where I found lots of San people and one white guy with a big camera. He was putting his lens right into the women’s faces, acting like he was taking photographs of fashion models. I found it very strange. I asked what was happening, but he just indicated that he did not speak much English.


The guide arrived, escorting a Dutch couple. He was a San man but was dressed in western clothing. He happened to be named Robert, and introduced himself to me, noting our shared names.

Everyone started walking to the outskirts of the camp. There the San group did several demonstrations of traditional living, especially traditional medicine. Someone would start talking in their language, and through words and gestures explain the purpose of various plants. Then Robert would explain everything in English.

Robert told us that there was no longer any Bushman living a traditional lifestyle. They had all been forced to live in settlements. Of this particular group of San, only one had lived traditionally. He was teaching the others, trying to keep their traditions alive. I found the whole thing interesting but unsettling, due to the circumstances of the San people left to put on demonstrations for tourists.

I did a few videos of their stories. Here is one about the medicine to get rid of a headache.

I remained uncomfortable with the way that my fellow photographer was taking his photographs. He was constantly getting into everyone’s faces. I hope that my photography is never as obnoxious as his. The experience confirmed that I did not want to go on trips with photography groups.

At the end of our little tour a San woman stopped and laid out a blanket. The guide said that it was for tips, making clear is was not to pay for the tour, that was settled separately. The photographer took out the equivalent of about $40 or $50 US and dropped it on the blanket. The guide immediately asked if he understood that it was only for tips. He nodded and left the money there. I knew that my tip would be visible to everyone. I thought for a second and decided that I would just leave an appropriate tip of a few US dollars. I found this ending to the tour especially distasteful. But after the tip the photographer was quite popular.

I returned to my room and jumped into the shower. There was lots of hot water. I walked over to where Sam had made our last meal. He had cooked us a variety of sausages, with some vegies and canned peaches for dessert. I could not complain about the food that Sam had provided throughout the trip. He had given me a great variety of foods, and everything had been well prepared.

He did not set up his tent, instead he said he would sleep in the vehicle for the second time. I went across to my nice bed. It was great to be a room, even if it was quite chilly. I found a couple of big blankets in the wardrobe and knew that I would be okay.

Posted by Bob Brink 08:07 Archived in Botswana Tagged botswana bushmen san_people Comments (1)


Leaving the Baobabs Behind

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Tuesday, June 12

It was a very cold night. I was okay until I went outside briefly at about 4:00 am. When I went back in I failed to set myself up properly in the sleeping bag with my blanket, so I ended up with the blanket around me, but the sleeping bag only partly covering me. I spent the last couple of hours freezing.

When I got up Sam had the kettle going. I looked over at Baine’s Baobabs and saw a beautiful red sky. “I should photograph that”, I thought. But then I asked myself, “What is the sun doing there?” I had misjudged where the sun would come up. It was coming up almost behind the trees. I realized that I was not going to get a nice shot of the baobabs in the morning.


As I was packing my suitcase I swore that this was the last night I was going to camp. The itinerary had one more camping night in Ghanzi before my trip ended in Windhoek. I had seen from their website that they had chalets available. I decided that I was going to rent one. I could not stand the thought of another night freezing in my tent.

I had told Sam that we would get packed and, on our way out, stop at the baobabs for me to take some photographs but also to have him take my photograph for the Downhome magazine, a Newfoundland publication. Every month they feature photographs of readers in various foreign lands holding up a copy of the magazine. I was in the magazine after the 2011 trip, but did not bring one for Madagascar. I had originally intended to have one taken in Namibia, but kept forgetting. This was my last chance.

I finished my breakfast and told Sam that I would meet him on the other side of the pan. I walked over, taking a few photographs of the elephant footprints as I walked. I took a couple more photos of the trees but wondered how they would be with the sun coming up behind them.


Sam arrived. I set up my shot and had him take my photograph.

I then walked around and took a couple from behind. I hopped back into the Cruiser, and we left for Maun.


Sam dutifully stopped at gate to pay the fees. Now the problem was a lack of change. The woman had deposited everything the day before and did not have a float for giving change. I loaned some Pula to Sam, but it was still not working. Finally, the lady went off and found someone with some money. It took about 15 minutes. I decided that the one thing that had not changed in 40 years was how inefficient everything was with the wildlife department.

Again, the road was full of potholes. Sam weaved back and forth across the road to avoid them. At some points it looked like bumper cars with the vehicles in front weaving back and forth.
We arrived in what was once a sleepy little village. Maun has grown into a city. Only the main roads were paved back in the 70’s and 80’. At that time all the secondary roads were deep sand, especially the road out to the lodges.

I had exchanged messages with my old friend, John. We passed by his house along the river, but he was not home. I knew that I would be having dinner with he and his wife but needed to confirm the arrangements.

We arrived at our hotel, The Island Safari Lodge, long before their normal check in time. The receptionist took me to the bar to wait. There was working Wi-Fi. I made a post to Facebook, did one blog post, and talked to Po. Then I noticed that my FB post was made to my old high school’s reunion site, not to my own page. I was not sure what to do. People were liking it, lots of likes, but I did not mean to put it there. There was nothing else there that did not apply to the reunion. I ended up posting an explanation and said that the administrator could delete them or have me do so, or just have everyone enjoy the photos. Some people asked for more photos. My photos stayed, but I was done posting photos there. I will miss the reunion.

Sam went off to buy some things to make sandwiches while I was waiting in the bar. The receptionist took me to my room, and I was already taking off my pants to wash them when I remembered that I did not have my suitcase. I put my dusty things back on.

We had lunch at the hotel’s camp site. I found it a bit silly. Sam was going to do the same at Planet Baobab but I told him to skip it. Karibu promised me all meals for most days. Nothing was specified whether that would be in hotel dining rooms or camp sites. As I was making my sandwich I innocently asked Sam about mustard. Sam had always had mustard for my sandwiches. He said that it was packed in a box and would require him to remove some other things to get at it. I probably made an exasperated sound of some type. Suddenly Sam grabbed two or three boxes, threw them on the ground and pulled out the box with the mustard. It was a bit of a hissy fit. I was not impressed.

The hotel was okay, although it no longer had the remote feel that it had back in the 70’ and 80’s. My room was quite spartan, but it was still a hotel room with lots of space. The grounds were nice, even if there was only cattle across the river instead of crocodiles.


I finally got in touch with my friend, and it was agreed that I would visit him at his house. Sam wanted to clean up the vehicle, so I took a taxi. Another poor Motswana got to hear the old white man’s stories. This time I talked about the deep sand tracks, that only could be driven with 4-wheel drive and my old American friend with his Land Rover driving very fast so that you bounced up and down.

I went with John’s lovely wife to buy some take out for supper. The restaurant offered pizza, Chinese, and Indian food. We took home two Indian dishes, some Chinese noodles and a pizza. I could not believe the amount of traffic we encountered driving the short ways to the restaurant.

Back at the hotel I started talking to Po on WhatsApp when the internet went off. I waited for several minutes, then gave up and went to my room. It seemed appropriate. It had been happening for several days. My plans to keep the blog somewhat up to date were doomed. I was now two weeks behind in my posting. I knew that I should not worry, but it was frustrating.

I tried the TV. It seemed to have sports on about every channel, just not my kind of sports. The room had a heat pump that was supposed to make both hot and cold air. I put it to high, but just seemed to get cold air, so decided to go with more blankets. It was still warmer than the tent.

Posted by Bob Brink 15:42 Archived in Botswana Tagged botswana maun baobabs karibu_safaris baines_baobabs karibu_namibia Comments (1)

A Day of Many Baobabs

From Kubu Island to Baines Baobabs in One Day

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Monday, June 11

I had a great night’s sleep with my new blanket from the Pep Store. It was big enough that I could wrap myself up, so I finally cut off the drafts that were getting into my bag and was able to trap my body heat. I also thought that it was a bit warmer outside than it had been the night before.

I sat in the tent waiting for daylight. I wanted to get out and take more photos. The previous afternoon had been a little disappointing, especially with all the troubles with the grass. I was hoping to get some different shots than I had on my last visit in 2011.

As I got out of the tent, Sam was up, and the water was boiling. But I had told him that I was going off for photos before breakfast, so said good morning and started walking. I took a route directly behind the campsite. It was much better route since I could stay on rocks. I was able to just take photos and not worry so much about the little seeds that had caused me so much pain the day before.

I decided that the moment was becoming magical. I was all by myself, surrounded by a forest of marvellous baobabs. The early morning light was giving them that beautiful warm colour. I took many photos including a few that I might not have taken in 2011. The one is a self portrait. I had to keep moving myself out of the photos so decided to just leave my shadow in that one.


I finished my photos and had a quick breakfast, my usual of yoghurt with cereal. Sam now knew that I was quite happy with just that, along with some coffee. He also had more fresh papaya and some bananas.

We headed out. We went back the way we came, which I still believed was not the direct route. We took the same route that Mike and I had used in 2011 when we left to go to Nata. But at least we knew the way, so it was a relaxed trip. I hooked my phone up to the Bluetooth to get some music. We saw a few ostriches, but they ran away as soon as we got close.

Sam made a quick call as soon as we arrived in Gweta. The nice receptionist from Planet Baobab met us. Sam gave her the large container we used for water and in exchange she gave us some small containers. I then understood how Sam came to be prepared for our bush camping. He had to borrow a container to be able to have water for cooking and kitchen cleanup. Some safari companies would have included some equipment to make up for the lack of facilities, but not Karibu. Luckily, I had packed some easy wipes.

We drove down the road to the west, towards Maun. I was hit with more memories. I mentioned to Sam the time that Po and I left Maun at 5 pm and drove all night long, back to our house in Mogoditsane. We had spent the week either broken down in the game park or in Maun waiting for our Landy to be repaired. It took us all night to go the 1,000 kilometres, driving at the slow speed of our not very trusty Land Rover, which maxed out at about 90 km per hour. Po and I took two-hour shifts. We arrived home as the sun was coming up.

We turned off to Nxai Pan National Park. Sam went into the office to register. He came out, grabbed some papers, and went back in. After several minutes I walked a little closer and could hear him saying that “he just wants to see the baobabs”. I decided to walk in to check things out. I greeted the two game officials with my best Setswana. Sam was getting grief since Botswana only allows Botswana registered guides to take people into its parks. And to register you must be a resident.

I had not intended for Sam to take me game viewing anyway. We did not expect that there would be that much game to see, and I thought we could get moving to Maun in the morning. We were finally allowed to visit Baines Baobabs. The officials kept saying that it was a safety issue, which is a bit crazy since I could have driven myself into the park.

Another issue was our park fees. The camping had been prepaid to a private campsite operator, but Sam had no proof that the park fees had been paid. Sam suggested that he would pay in Maun if no proof of the payment was found, but the officers wanted no part of that, payment had to done there. But when Sam finally agreed to pay, he couldn’t. It happened that the person authorized to accept money was not there. We were told to stop the next day when we were leaving the park.

While Sam was debating the fees with the senior official I was talking to the junior officer about my visit to the park in 1985. He then asked me if I didn’t want to go see what had changed. I did not bother to point out that they were not allowing me to do just that.

They showed us a map of the area we were visiting, including the location of our campsite. We had been assigned Site 1, which is across the pan from the baobabs. There were two sites on the other side. They made it sound like it was a long way from the campsite to the baobabs and that the pan might be too wet to drive across, meaning Sam would have to drive me to the trees and it could take several minutes to do so.

We drove up the sandy path and around the pan. There were Baines Baobabs. We saw a sign for sites 2 & 3. Sam wondered where site 1 was. I pointed across the pan and said that I was sure it was there. Sam drove down the pan to the other sites. At the second one we met the campers. They said site 1 was close by. We drove back to the baobabs looking for site 1. Again, I said it was across the pan, that I was sure since the other sites were next to one or two baobabs. There was a big baobab on the other side of the pan. That had to be where our campsite was.

Sam now agreed that our camp site was on the other side but said that the pan was too wet to drive across. We kept driving along the edge of the pan looking for a path to the campsite. Sam was getting anxious, just like our day driving to Kubu Island. He said we would have to drive back to the gate to ask where site 1 once. That would take at least 30 minutes. I saw our whole day ending, and I had not taken one photograph of the baobabs. We had already spent about 45 minutes driving back and forth.

I thought we should just drive across. It did not look that wet to me. But it was not possible to give advice to Sam.

We saw two safari vehicles coming the other direction. Sam talked to them. One said he could show us how to get to our site. At least we thought that was what he meant. But he just took us to Baine’s Baobabs. By this time Sam said that we would just pick a spot and camp. The sites have little amenities anyway and no one would likely catch us for the one night.

When we got to Baines Baobabs, which was our fourth time there, I was now certain that I never would get my photographs. But this time Sam took a good look at the pan. He walked well into it and stated that it was not that wet. It took less than a minute to drive across. Our campsite was exactly where I had said it was when we arrived.
We started setting up the tents. Sam always put the roof structures together, and I would hold it up and help to snap the tent onto it. He started looking around for something and finally went over to the other tent bag and took a section from there. Sam had left a piece back at Kubu Island. He said that he would sleep in the vehicle. I offered to share my tent, although I must admit I offered once and allowed him to decline.

Earlier Sam had said that I should not walk across the pan because there were lions and elephants around. I had noticed that Sam seems to have a real fear of wild animals. He much prefers the fenced in parks of Namibia and South Africa. But when I said that I was going to walk across, he said it was okay. I thought that maybe he was tired of me and did not care if I got eaten.

It only took about 10 minutes to walk across, even taking photos along the way. The lighting was difficult because one of the trees was being shaded by the others. I took several photos but decided that it might be better in the morning.

To a certain extent the trees were a bit of a letdown. They are famous, but not nearly as spectacular as Kubu Island. Even the baobabs at Planet Baobab were more interesting.


The trees are famous because they were painted by Thomas Baines in the 1860’s. They are said to have not changed since that time. I have searched on line but have been unable to find a copy of his painting. I do know that they have not changed since 1985 because I have a photograph from that time when my wife and I camped here. I drove our Land Rover into the middle of the trees and we camped overnight. That would be considered a bad thing today, but we did not know any better at the time. We did not see any other vehicles. I would rather visit Baine’s with Po than Sam.


I walked the 10 minutes back to our campsite. I told Sam that I needed him to take my photograph the next morning in front of the baobabs, so that I could hold up a copy of Newfoundland’s DownHome magazine. Every issue features travellers holding up the magazine to show that they never leave home without one. I showed him the copy that I had brought. He read it with some interest, especially as there was something about icebergs. We then had our best talks of the trip, mostly about housing prices.

I looked across at the trees. The lighting was a bit better, but now there was a group of tourists there. I took a couple of shots from a distance.


It is a bit ridiculous that we have had to pay fees for our last two nights of camping. Kubu Island has no facilities at all. Here they have buckets which you can fill and then pour water over your head. Our site was missing its bucket. They do at least have a decent toilet, and since it has no roof, there is no issue of smell.

We again had no firewood. That was two straight nights of bush camping with no camp fires. The two bush campsites of the past two evenings would have been amazing places to share with Po and some good friends, sitting around a campfire. But I was lacking all of that.

It was getting cold, and without a fire there was no reason to sit outside in the coming darkness. I brought my chair into the tent and sat looking out at the baobabs as the twilight faded. After awhile I thought it was time for more night photography. I slipped out of the tent, saw the stars, and most definitely needed to get my tripod out.

We were totally removed from anything here. There were only two other campsites, and they were far out of sight. I took several shots, including a couple through our baobab tree, making it two nights in a row with night photography through a baobab tree. Once more, the night photography brightened up my mood.


Posted by Bob Brink 06:57 Archived in Botswana Tagged botswana baobabs kubu_island baines_baobabs Comments (1)

Kubu Island

It Seems Getting Lost is Part of the Baobab Experience

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Sunday, June 10

It was so great to sleep in a warm bed. I woke up feeling ready to go off to Kubu. I sat in bed typing notes. Yes, I write a lot of notes each day to capture my thoughts, which are later incorporated into the blog. It is a lot of work to keep it up. So, if you are reading this and think this whole thing is worthwhile, please say so. Put down a comment or two, preferably a nice one.

It was not warm at night when I needed to pee. The toilet and shower facilities at Planet Baobab are basically outside. There is a roof cover, but the little corridor to the room is not enclosed.

Since I was not happy with all the photos had taken the day before, I took a few more on my way to breakfast. I was out too little early in the afternoon, so my baobabs did not have that golden hour look.

I was feeling so much at home in Botswana, where I had lived for about 10 years. Even if that was long before everyone I met was born, they were still Batswana, the same lovely people that I had come to know back then. I greeted everyone with my limited Setswana and kept telling them stories about Botswana as it existed before they were born. I knew that they probably did not care, but I told the stories anyway.

At breakfast I chatted with two couples from Belgium. We talked about our various travels. They do a different trip every year. I did the invitation to Newfoundland thing, gave them my website with a note for two nights free accommodation at Bellas Blue House, our vacation rental in Pouch Cove. After travelling basically by myself for many days and having established that small talk was not one of Sam’s strengths, I found that I needed to talk sometimes, so would jump at any chance.

I had thought that I might do a scenic flight in Maun. Sam had give me some prices, including one for just myself. When I got into the vehicle Sam informed me that the price for one passenger would be twice as much as he was first told and that there were no other passengers currently signed up. It looked like I was still not going to fly on this trip.

Sam had his directions to Kubu Island. We went first to Gweta, then turned left at the handy Kubu sign. We would see many such markers on our way there, but not enough to keep us from getting lost. At first it was an enjoyable drive. I was getting psyched for Kubu and was now happy to be going.
We stopped for the first time to get directions. A man pointed down the road. Shortly afterwards there was a Kubu sign pointing to the left, directing us across the grassy pan. We drove on for awhile before Sam had to get directions again. A couple of times there were Kubu markers, but they were placed in the middle of forks in the road, with no indication as to whether to go right or left. Logic said right each time, which seemed correct in long run.

We passed through various stages. At first the track was quite sandy and the path narrow. We were hitting thorn bushes. Then we would pass cattle posts where everything was open. Once we turned to the east, we went back and forth between salt pan and grassland.
All seemed to be going well, but it was taking a bit longer than expected. We saw a sign for the Adventure Camp which made me think that we had met the path that Mike and I took in 2011. But then the path took us along a quarantine fence which was not what I remembered.

We suddenly arrived at the Adventure Camp and a quarantine gate. For some reason we had arrived at a point that was east of Kubu Island. We were now on the road that Mike and I used when we left Kubu, driving east to Nata. But we had come from the west.

In 2011 Mike and I were supposed to have a functioning GPS. But we were given one that was not programmed and had no instructions. It was useless. With no GPS we had a lot of problems finding Kubu Island. Here I was 7 years later with a guide and still no GPS. Sam only had directions, had never been there, and had obviously not done any preparation until he talked to the guides the afternoon before.

Patience is not something that Sam has in abundance, nor does he take advice. He started saying, “we are going too far. We are going to run out of petrol. Where is this thing? Is it an island or what?”

There were some things that I could have said, such as, “You are the (censored by wife) guide. You should have prepared yourself. You should have a GPS and a satellite phone.”

Sam decided that we had gone too far and turned around. He said we needed to go back to the quarantine gate to ask for directions again. We arrived back at a cattle post that I had recognized a few minutes earlier. I told Sam again that I had been there, and that Kubu Island was back the other way, to the west.

We saw another marker pointing towards Kubu. But Sam was driving the other way. Sam started driving down another path. I asked why, since the marker clearly pointed the other way.

Sam turned us back in the correct direction. We drove a bit farther this time. I saw the rocks of Kubu and said to Sam. “There it is. There is your island.” He said nothing. I asked to stop, took a few photos, got back in. He still said nothing.

We drove to the Kubu office. The man said we had Site 6 but could take any site we wanted. Site 6 had no shade at all, so Sam picked the same site where Mike and I had camped in 2011. I missed Mike.

While Sam prepared lunch I walked around, trying to absorb the feeling of a magical place and to get free of my frustrations with Sam. We had lunch. I finally said to Sam, “Well, this is Kubu”. All he said was, “Yes.”

I included Kubu Island on my itinerary because I had found the place quite “magical” on my 2011 trip. In the middle of the salt pans you suddenly come upon a granite outcrop that is populated with dozens of baobab trees. There is evidence that the island was once truly an island in a sea. There are rock walls that date back hundreds of years and link the place to the Great Zimbabwe empire.

I waited for the good late afternoon lighting. When I could wait no longer I took off to take my photographs. It was almost magical, but as I suspected, one can not necessarily get magic in the same place twice. My exasperation with Sam did not help.

But a bigger problem became the little grass seeds that came out of the tall grass. The little spines kept going through the mesh in my hiking shoes, through my socks and then into my feet. It was quite painful. There was no way I could ignore them. I had to take my shoes and socks off and pull the little devils out of my feet. I did that about 7 or 8 times.
I tried to walk carefully, to avoid the tall grass when possible. I walked on the rocks, like jumping from rock to rock when crossing a stream. I finally worked my way to the pan and walked back to the camp site that way. I went up on some rocks to take the sunset. Sam had driven off to see if there was firewood at the office. There wasn’t.

As usual Sam headed off to his tent after supper. It was quite chilly with no fire, so I decided to take my chair into my tent. It was only 6:45, so it was going to be a long evening. At that moment I had more than a few regrets about the revisit to Kubu Island.

As I sat in my tent I decided that I needed do some more night photography and just like in Caprivi it brightened up my mood. I took some shots through the baobab branches. I still did not know how well I was doing since I could only see the photos on my little iPad, or even exactly what I was doing, but it was fun.


Earlier I had thought that I would need to try the famous “long drop” outhouse toilets of Kubu Island. In 2011 Mike said that they were really bad. I had seen one near our site. It was dark, so I wandered around with my head lamp. Sam saw me walking around in circles and asked if I had lost something. He told me that the famous toilets were full and that I did not want to get into one. He recommended the bushes. This was truly bush camping.

Posted by Bob Brink 15:25 Archived in Botswana Tagged botswana baobabs karibu_safaris kubu_island karibu_namibia Comments (5)

South to Planet Baobab

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Saturday, June 9

I want this blog to be an accurate portrayal of my experiences. But there are times when I am tempted to edit out some things that might not have gone well or are simply complaints about my comfort level.

I have made many comments about being cold. Eventually my lack of comfort will be but a small blip on a fantastic trip. I have also commented on some of Sam’s imperfections. Just like the cold, I am sure those memories will fade as time goes on.

I am especially concerned with how I make Sam sound. In most respects he was an outstanding driver/guide. He was a great driver, mechanically knowledgeable, super efficient at buying provisions, cooking a great and tasty variety of food, and setting up and taking down the camps.

However, he was not perfect, and his weak areas were most apparent in Botswana, where he was not familiar with our destinations. This took him out of his comfort zone. Other than Tree 1063, Sam had visited our Namibian stops dozens of times. He could find them in his sleep. But in Botswana he had to search. And that did not go smoothly.

So, a warning, the next few blogs contain some more of the negatives. I also need to warn you that the posts are full of an old guy’s reminiscing about things that happened over 30 years ago as I retraced my travels from years ago.

I also had some magical moments with some baobab trees.

Whenever I woke during the night I could hear the elephants at the waterhole. I had never really been that close to, nor stayed that long at a waterhole, to appreciate how noisy elephants are when they drink. So, although this campground is out in the bush, and has lousy internet, the waterhole gives it something that the other lodges do not. It was a pain to go back and forth into Kasane, and a campsite on the river would have been prettier, but the waterhole was quite amazing.

But each time I woke up I also had to think about how cold I was. I had put off talking to Sam about the cold since at first it had not been all that bad, nothing that I could not endure. But it was getting colder, and this past night was especially bad. When I talked to Sam about it before going to bed and found out that he had bought a blanket for himself but never asked me how I was doing, I was very angry at both Karibu Safaris and Sam. I expected it to be cold when I got out of my tent each morning. I had not expected to be so cold when I was still in my sleeping bag.

If I ever do another camping trip through a safari company or a self drive, I am going to bring my own down sleeping bag and mattress. I decided to ask Sam to get me a blanket and charge it to Karibu. They could then decide if they were going to make me pay for it, or not, as with my two Guava juices.

I went to the bar to take a daylight photo of the waterhole. There was a thermometer. It read 2 degrees. No wonder I felt so cold.


The experience at Senyati was over. We were back on the road. I had been amazed at the number of big trucks that we saw at the crossroads as we left Kasane. They had come through Zamibia and across on a small pontoon ferry. According to Sam the ferries can take a couple of big trucks at a time. There are usually three ferries running each day. The ferry takes several minutes to load, cross, and have everyone disembark. In addition to the time taken with that, Sam said that customs issues often have the trucks stuck on the Zambian side for several days. Sam said that they are building a bridge to replace the ferry. I remember taking the ferry back in the 1970’s, but there was very little traffic in those days.

The road from Kasane is paved, but it was full of potholes which had Sam complaining the entire time. I mentioned that we have potholes in Canada, but he was not going to forgive the Government of Botswana. I thought a bigger dereliction was the long grass along the sides of the roads. Considering the wild and domestic animals that commonly stand in the road, the lack of visibility made it much more dangerous. We passed an elephant that was acting quite aggressively. Sam thought he might have been injured, perhaps struck by one of the trucks in the night.

In addition to all the trucks, we saw some elephant, cattle, and a few bicycle travellers, with their bikes all loaded down for their trips. I would have loved to hear their stories but was happy to be in a Land Cruiser.


Warning, it is reminiscing time.

The drive brought back many memories of trips on the highway between Nata and Kasane. I first did the trip with two friends who visited during my Peace Corps days. We had no money, so hitchhiked to Kasane. It took us a few hours beside the road to get a lift. There were only a handful of vehicles on the road.

I drove the old gravel road in my Toyota Corona and an old Land Rover. At different times my passengers included my mother, my sister, and my mother-in-law. The last time was with my nephew, Mike, who took over the driving duties on our 2011 adventure.

We passed the Pandamatenga farms, a dry land farming area. Sam said that the sorghum for Chibuku, the commercial version of traditional sorghum beer, was supplied by the farms. This brought back more memories. As part of my work at Coopers & Lybrand in the 80’s I submitted the first applications for financial assistance for farms in the area. I remember my first client for this, Mr. Tau, or as he put it, Mr. Lion, since his name was the Setswana word for lion. I recalled the skepticisms that people had for the farms, saying that the rains would fail or that tractors would get stuck in the mud if it rained too much. I was happy to see that the farms were still there. I doubted that many of the businesses that I helped were still around. Many of them probably failed shortly after the subsidies ran out.


We got to Nata. Sam pulled up outside the Pep store and asked if I wanted to buy my blanket. It was clear that he had no intention of buying the blanket and submitting it as an expense to Karibu. He asked if I had enough Pula. I asked how much a blanket would cost. He said that I better get some money and led me to an ATM. I withdrew some cash and bought myself a blanket, surprising the sales clerk by greeting her in Setswana.

We drove south of Nata to the Nata Bird Sanctuary which is on the edge of the Sowa Pan, part of the vast Makgadikgadi Pans of northern Botswana. There was an amazing amount of water on the pans, forming a large lake. From what I was told during the trip, I thought that this was all part of the massive floods from the water that comes down from the Angolan highlands, the same water that we had seen in the Chobe River. I was a bit confused about that, since I always understood that the floods to this area come via the Okavango Swamps and that the water did not arrive until July or August. This was all clarified later by my friend in Maun. The water in the Makgadikgadi was due to large March rainfalls in Botswana that had caused major flooding and required detours from the main highway.

There were few birds. We saw one group of pelicans, but only in the dozens, not the thousands that I had hoped for. We drove up to a viewing platform. A man was coming down. He mentioned that he had seen some flamingos (again only a few hundred, not thousands) and that there was a road that went close to them. They, along with the pelicans that Sam and I had just passed, were viewable from the platform.

I told Sam about the flamingos. Instead of going where I indicated, he carried on down the road. It became wet, so he turned around. I told him again about what they man had told me. I also said that he could walk up the platform and see for himself. He did not. He drove past and went down another road that was a dead end. He finally drove in the general direction of the flamingos and stopped. They were a couple of hundred metres away. He asked if I wanted to walk closer. I was so annoyed that I said no, but then decided that was silly and walked over. I passed over the road that the man had indicated, which was right next to the pan.

The security guard at the salt works had put it best when talking about Sam, “Some people just do not listen.” Sam is definitely one of those people.


From there we had another 100 kilometres down the Nata to Maun road. It was also full of potholes. We passed the eastern turnoff to Kubu Island. I mentioned to Sam that this was were we exited on our 2011 trip. From the amount of water in Sowa Pan and the amount that was still standing on both sides of the road, the trip to Kubu seemed to be in jeopardy.

When we arrived at the lodge, Sam said that he was going to prepare us some lunch before we checked in. I said no, I wanted to know what the plan was for the next days, especially whether we could go to Kubu Island, that we could skip lunch. No one at the reception had any idea about the road to Kubu, since they do not run trips to it, which we thought that they did.

I told Sam that I was quite happy to skip Kubu because I had been there before and would be okay with just adding an extra day in Maun. In fact, I was not looking forward to driving several hours to Kubu and bush camping, which was to be followed by a drive back up to the Nxai Pan area for some more bush camping. I was really doubting my thoughts when I planned the trip. After all these nights camping, when I am sick of sleeping in a cold tent, I now had two nights of bush camping with no water or decent toilets? At that point I was really hoping that the Kubu Island trip was going to be called off.

One thing I did manage to arrange at the reception was some wifi. I was most anxious to check my emails to check replies to the ones that I had sent the previous night to get news on Po’s oral exam. The wifi at Planet Baobab turned out to be as bad as at Senyati Camp, but I did succeed in getting my emails. She passed!

Sam left me at my room to go off and try to sort things out. I thought he going to call Karibu and arrange for us to visit Baine’s Baobabs a day early and then add an extra night in Maun at the hotel (a hotel!). I was breaking my travelling rule about forcing yourself to do things when you are so tired that all you want to do is sit and relax, but I really wanted to just sit and relax.


I did my hotel routine and quickly washed some things, thinking that this might be, with only a few days left, the last time for socks and underwear. I also washed my amazing micro-fibre towel which will be featured later in a packing list review.

By the time I was also cleaned and shaved and feeling so happy to be in a hotel, Sam arrived and told me that he had talked to some people who knew the route to Kubu and had been there in recent days. Instead of trying to change the trip, Sam had dutifully gone off to investigate the route and conditions to Kubu Island. The Kubu Island trip was on. I tried to be happy about that. We now had two nights of bush camping ahead of us.

I went back to the reception to try to call Po. I had lots of troubles with the internet so decided to take some photos of the amazing grounds. I was quite happy that I decided to stay at Planet Baobab. There are baobabs all over the place.

I walked out of the gate and around the corner of the fenced area. There was water in a little pan. From there I could see a large baobab tree. As I walked around the water, some of the baobabs on the hotel grounds came into view. Their reflections shown in the water. I decided that I was close to experiencing a magical moment.


When I returned to the hotel I ran into a little informational tour about baobabs put on by the hotel. I heard a question about baobabs in other countries and rudely interrupted with some comments about Madagascar. Then when the guide did not know where else you could find baobabs, I said Australia. I apologized for the interruptions and said that I just love baobab trees.

Just before dinner I got help at the reception to get my phone connected again to the wifi. I had only a few minutes of the free wifi left (and was not going to pay for more considering how bad it was). I quickly exchanged a couple of WhatsApp chats with Po before my time ran out.

At dinner Sam said that we would leave early the next morning. I disagreed, saying that if the trip was only about 3 hours, that we did not need to leave early. There would not be that much to do at Kubu Island until later in the afternoon when I would take my photographs. Sam said that he had never been there and that he did not know what was there. I said I had, and we would not leave early.

I had tried many times during the trip to send regular cell phone texts to Po but could either not connect to the various networks or the texts simply failed. In each country, including Zimbabwe when I was in Botswana by close by, I got messages from Bell Canada with instructions on how to use my phone to call or text Canada.

When the receptionist got my phone connected to the wifi she had taken it off flight mode. So, I got another message from Bell telling me how to make calls in Botswana and a no charge number to contact them. I decided to just dial Bell to see if it would work. It did, so I pushed our home number and talked to Po for a few minutes. It made sleeping a lot easier. The warm bed also helped.

Posted by Bob Brink 07:44 Archived in Botswana Tagged botswana baobabs karibu_safaris planet_baobab karibu_namibia Comments (3)

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