Posted by: Anna | January 31, 2011

Botswana Travel Wrap-Up

Before we departed Maun, our last town in Botswana, we had a rest day where we didn’t do anything useful. No trip planning, no sight seeing, no laundry…no nothing. I was feeling beaten down, sick of traveling, and homesick. My joy in travel had dissipated, and I was so cranky. It felt like I would never want to go anywhere ever again. The only parts of travel that I could remember were the bad travel experiences, the people trying to take advantage of us, the things that went wrong. We had heard that around three months is when a lot of travelers hit the wall on traveling. I was right on schedule.

The final straw was my haircut. I had not gotten a haircut since we left, and with fine hair like mine, it really needs to be cut every 3 months or it is impossible to comb out – the tangles take over. I finally gave in and decided to get a haircut at a pretty nice looking hair salon in Maun. I walked in, sat in the chair, and the hairdresser covered me with a smock. I explained to him what I wanted – please blunt cut about 3 inches off. He promptly proceeded to cut 6 inches off, haphazardly. I was horrified, but had no idea how to tell him to stop and fix it, since he clearly had no idea what he was doing. I looked like a drunken seven year old cut my hair. It is the worst haircut OF ALL TIME! When I walked out and found Tommy, I burst into tears. I couldn’t stop crying for almost two hours. Every time I would stop, I would think about it again, and start. We bought some scissors at the store so we could try to fix it…at least cut the strange looking long hairs that remained the original length (6 inches longer than the rest of my hair now) that he just left there. It’s shorter on one side than the other. It’s uneven all the way around. It is awful. I would post a picture, but I’m just not ready yet…

I spent the entire rest of the day laying in bed, watching Grey’s Anatomy non-stop, admiring the hair of the actresses, wishing mine were normal looking. When I got up to start the two day traveling to Namibia, I was not convinced that I wanted to travel yet.

It was quite the experience to get from Botswana to Namibia overland, offering plenty of time to reflect on our time in Botswana. We first took a bus for four hours to a small town called Ghanzi, then another, smaller bus for four hours to the border of Namibia. At that point, there is no more public transportation or taxis, so you just have to hitchhike. By the time we reached the border, it was about 5 PM. We decided to just stay the night at a camp at the border. Thankfully, the camp was lovely, clean, and tidy. We splurged on the en-suite room with AC and a kitchen, and really enjoyed the luxury of it, sleeping really well. We got up the next morning, cooked breakfast in our little kitchen, and found a family of three to ride with to Gobabis. Gobabis is still about 200 kilometers from Windhoek, the capital of Namibia and our destination. From Gobabis, we were able to find a shared taxi to Windhoek with two other Herero (the local tribe) ladies, who were very friendly. We arrived in Windhoek around 2 PM.

Botswana was expensive, rugged, and filled with very friendly people. We gathered some true traveling war stories, and I’m sure we’ll laugh over the Kalahari and the drunken idiot tour guide Martin in future years. Tommy would like to return to the Kalahari during the dry season. I think there are a lot of other places I would want to go before returning to Botswana.

One thing I have learned is that “safari” encompasses a wide range of activities all over Africa: on a boat, in a car, on foot, in a mokoro, in a 4×4. You can self-drive or you can be driven. Botswana has an enormous range of safari experiences, which is much of its allure to travelers. You can do a safari in complete luxury – with a chef catering to your every whim, or you can eat cheerios and long life milk for breakfast at your campsite that you set up yourself (that’s us, by the way).

Africa also offers a different kind of outdoors experience than you can find in the States, requiring a range of skills that would be new to almost all Americans. 4×4 driving, self-sufficient camping, tracking animals, knowing how to identify a safe swimming spot (one without hippos and crocs)….Because so much of Africa is the bush, or wilderness, Africa does camping more sophisticated than I would. The tablecloth is the perfect example – on our Okavango trip, we had a tablecloth on the table where we ate our meals, and our equipped 4×4 came with a tablecloth as well. I would not pack a tablecloth to go camping. But since much of life is lived in the bush for Africans (it’s what they do on vacation unless they leave the continent or go to the beach, and even that is often in the bush), they have the same desire to live in comfort and civilization as anyone else. Where we go into the wild to get away from civilization, I think the bush holds a different allure – wild animals and undisturbed nature. Africans tend to try to bring civilization with them into the bush, as opposed to being content to go without a shower for a couple of days while camping (they just bring a camp shower with them). It’s the difference between seeking the wild for peace and quiet and for seeking the wild for adventure and animals. Certainly I’m not arguing that camping in Yellowstone doesn’t include seeking animal sightings and adventure, or that camping in the bush doesn’t offer lovely peace and quiet – just that the relative weight of each of those factors in the experience is quite different.

Haiku to Botswana

I slept in the car.

I used an ax in the mud.

I spent lots of cash.

-Anna

Land of adventure;

But come prepared with patience;

And a fat wallet.

-Tommy

Three months in : homesick

I’m at the end of the world,

The end of my rope.

-Anna (But now I’m back!!!)

Thankfully, I am back. I am excited about traveling again, funny haircut and all. It’s strange, how my enthusiasm vanished, and has returned, seemingly from spending an entire day as a total vegetable. I am so glad.

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Responses

  1. Anna,
    So, so sorry about your dreadful haircut!

  2. Anna,
    Your mom and dad showed us your blog. I have a snow day and have been reading some of your posts. What an adventure! So sorry about your haircut. We have subscribed to your posts and look forward to keeping up with your travels.

    Lesa Foreman

  3. You did exactly what was needed…take a day of total R&R, cry, lament, re-asses, pick-up and move forward. The trip to the Kalahari was a true test of spirit & will, and you made it! Good for you!!! Stay strong, stay safe!
    my love to you both, xoxoxo, Kita

  4. Whether in Dallas or Botswania we all have our blue days. And a bad haircut is a bad haircut everywhere — it throws us. Good to have your veg out day and move on. Keep Tommy taking his medicine. Hope he ditches the worm.


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