Posted by: Tommy | January 25, 2011

The Bar at the Edge of the World

From Chobe, we traveled to Maun, Botswana and checked into a dorm room at The Old Bridge, a famous (relatively – the most well-known in Maun) backpacker place in Maun.  These were dorm rooms like we’ve never seen before – a single bed, a tiny chest and a trashcan.  We paid for 1, plus 8 dollars as a 2nd person fee, then put the air mattress on the floor (guess who slept there).

The strange “dorm” rooms weren’t even close to the most unique thing about this place.  The Old Bridge is so named for the tiny path over the river that connects it to town.  If you take a taxi to The Old Bridge, it drops you on the other side of the river and you walk across the foot bridge and into the camp area.  It’s fairly remote, but it feels totally isolated from the rest of the world.

The first thing you see when you enter is a long, L-shaped, hand-carved bar with 3 bartenders and a full selection of liquor.  Looking past the bar, you can see 7 or 8 wooden tables.  And beyond that, the edge of the world.  Or so it would seem.  The whole place sits directly on the Okavango River with stunning views of the reedy waterway.  Trying to describe the Okavango is hard – it’s not particularly wide, or fierce, or full of rapids or waterfalls.  It’s just really African – flowing clear, clean water, teeming with hippos and crocodiles.  Lots of birds and plant life.  And the camp sits in an area with lots of huge, old trees.  It’s amazing to look at this river – so clearly a “wild” spot – and reconcile that fact that you can sit at a fully-stocked bar and enjoy the view.  Or play a game of pool.  Or browse the free internet (although very slowly) that is offered at the bar.

The Bridge - Bar

Upon check-in, the Bridge continues it’s uniqueness.  Once we’ve chosen to stay in the dorm, a friendly staff member grabs one of our bags and sets off, showing us the bathrooms, shower rooms, laundry and kitchen facilities along the way.  The kitchen is poorly equipped, much to Anna’s consternation.  Pots and a pan, a stove with 1 working burner – not so much as a spatula.  But the bathrooms and showers make up for the kitchen’s failings.

It’s not so much that they are nice as they add immensely to the vibe and enjoyment of the experience.  Each bathroom is walled with bamboo – no fancy wooden or brick walls here.  No ceilings.  A small sink with running water, a toilet and a laminated piece of paper advising you of their water-saving policy: “If it’s yellow, let it mellow…”  No doors – instead, there’s a heavy piece of thick rope with a loop at one end – hook the rope across the entry if it’s occupied.

Anna, posing in front of The Bridge bathroom....with Good Catch. I named him that because he will catch anything you throw at him in his mouth. His twin, known as Bad Catch for obvious reasons, not pictured.

The showers are similar.  Also walled with bamboo, also with no roof and a rope closure.  But these have a flowering vine growing over the tops of them so you definitely feel a little – Garden of Eden-ish when you’re showering.  And, thankfully, the hot water works.  That’s always hit or miss, we’ve discovered, in African hostels (and the Middle Eastern ones as well) and it’s always better to have the option, even if it’s so hot that you don’t end up taking a hot shower.

Showers at The Bridge

Maun is the gateway to the Okavango Delta, one of the most unique wilderness areas in the world.  It’s accessible only by boat or bush plane and it takes some time to see it properly, so most of the tourists in Maun (at least the ones on a budget, staying at a backpackers’ spot) are really into camping and the outdoors.  The Bridge is the perfect embodiment of that spirit – crazy river views and no doors or ceilings (except on the room we stayed in – and they only have 5 like that) including on the bar and the main office.   But at the same time, it has everything we look for in a good hostel.  Free wifi, laundry facilities, cheap food, drinks and rooms, plus a good place to hang out.

We ended up spending a whole day sitting on one of their couches that get hauled out daily and placed under a tree by the river – we just hung around, reading and playing cards.  We had intended to spend the day looking for a last minute trip into the Okavango Delta, but the Bridge had us covered there too.  A truly unique, and enjoyable, hosteling experience.

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Responses

  1. This is Mom. We are reading your post in Puerto Vallarta. We are here with Rose, Don, Janice and Jim. We have been total beach bums so far — laying out on the beath all day and going out to eat at night. Not like your trip at all. The most challenging thing we have had to face is poor service during Happy Hour. I loved Tommy’s description of the hostel. It sounds so other worldly. The river with African wildlife right by the bar. I would like to be beamed there right now to give you both a big hug. And see what you are seeing. Love you.

  2. Today I decided I had to get out my world atlas and try to find where you are! Should have done that earlier-so now I will keep better track!
    Sandy


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