Monday, March 31, 2008

For your viewing pleasure

This little guy was discovered clambering around my bedroom walls and resisted capture for quite some time. That's my hand...thanks goes to Stefan's picture-taking abilities and sweet camera for the nice shot.
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an epic

I decided to take two days to drive up to Maun, and it turned out to be a good decision. I knew I still had some problems with the Land Rover, but I didn’t know that it would take me quite as long as it did to make the journey. To keep the pressure from building too much in the cooling system and pushing water out of the pressure cap, I had to drive at speeds of 70-80 km/hr most of the way (that’s about 45-50 mph). I left Wednesday afternoon and made it 50 km past Serowe, or a bit over a third of the way, where I drove a few hundred meters off the road into the bush and slept in the rooftop tent. Trying to take advantage of the cool early morning, I got up at 4am Thursday and hit the road. By mid-morning I had been making good time, so I was happy to stop and help a pair of Motswana who were broken down by the side of the road. They had a flat tire, and since their spare was also flat (pretty much a given with most cars here), they needed a ride into the nearest village to get a tire repaired. The small hydraulic jack they had also didn’t fit under the chassis since the flat tire made it too low, so I dug out my hi-lift jack to give them a hand. While we were working, a semi-truck pulled up and the driver asked if I might have a “floating spanner” (which I accurately deduced to mean “adjustable wrench”) that he could borrow to adjust his clutch (I did). I felt like a rolling toolshed. Anyway, after dropping the fellow off at a little tin shack in the village that purported to be a tyre shop, I continued on my way. Then, as I passed by the village of Rakops, on the edge of the Kalahari, I impulsively decided to stop by and see John Walters. John is a missionary who I had met once in Gabs as he passed through. The german short-termers also spent 3 weeks with him doing a village live-in, so I had heard a lot about him. I didn’t intend to stay long, but, as seems to always be the case in Botswana, a “short” visit turned into a long-winded tour of the town complete with stories about all kinds of different things. John Walters is a pretty amazing guy who has accomplished some wonderful things in that village, and my visit there deserves a whole story of its own. But suffice it to say that I spent a lot of time there and ended up getting to Maun quite a bit later than I expected. After that, though, it was smooth sailing, and I arrived at the Flying Mission house where I was greeted by Tim, our chief pilot. So, finally, my vehicle has, through thick and thin, made it the whole way here. Now I just have to get it fixed…

Saturday, March 29, 2008


Well I have finally arrived at my new home in Maun. It has been quite a journey...I started out driving on Wednesday afternoon, finally arrived late Thursday, spent one night in the house here and then ended up back in Gabs the next night anyway. But more details on that later. For now i don't have a lot of time. But suffice it to say that I have arrived in Maun to stay. I've done a training flight with our chief pilot, Tim, already, and tomorrow we start on the first of a string of charter flights to safari camps in the Delta. It's nice to finally have made it, although my vehicle troubles are still weighing on my mind. I'll have to start taking care of that early next week, probably on my free day Tuesday.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Into the Wilds

In the last week of February, a friend of mine visited from the states, and since one of the other short-termers (Jess Cosby) had visitors as well, we took a trip together into the wilds of northern Botswana. We met up in Kasane, in the far north-eastern corner of Botswana, and spent one night there before heading into Chobe National Park for two days and a night in the park along the Chobe River. Once Jess’ brother got over his fear of being eaten by lions and we got somewhat used to the huge swarms of insects attracted to our light, we had a good time camping. It’s nearing the end of the rainy season here, so everything was green and the undergrowth had grown quite thick. Because of the thick brush and the water that the rains have made available deep in the park away from the river, the animal life there wasn’t quite as abundant as when my family was there last year. It was still quite ripe with life, though, and we saw most of the large animals along with a vast number of different kinds of birds. We were planning on driving through the Chobe park south to Moremi, another national park on the edge of the Okavango Delta. The attendant at the park gate, however, informed us that the recent abundant rains had made the road impassable. That was a bit of a disappointment, but instead we took the long way around on paved roads, staying a night in Gweta on the way. On the road into Moremi National Park we had what was for me the most exciting wildlife encounter of the trip…as we were driving along, I saw an animal slowly entering the road from the right a few hundred feet ahead. I quickly recognized that it was a cat of some kind, and we stopped to watch it from afar so we wouldn’t scare it away. It crouched down on the edge of the road, looking intently into the bushes on the other side (at an impala, we later discovered). We were pretty far away from it, but looking through binoculars we could see that it was a leopard. It stayed long enough for us to all get a bit of a look in the binoculars and then got up and paced off into the bushes. It was the first leopard that I’ve seen (leopard sightings are quite rare – they’re pretty difficult to spot and don’t hang out in the open as much as lions), and I think it’s my new favorite big cat. From there, we continued into the park and spent two nights there. While the animal life was harder to spot in Moremi, we still were able to see quite a bit. We also took an hour-long boat ride through the fringes of the Okavango Delta, which was a great experience also. Finally, on the way back to Gaborone, we overnighted at the Khama Rhino Sanctuary, which has, in addition to a large number of rhinos, many different kinds of antelope, cats, and birds. There we finally sighted the elusive zebra, most of which have retreated to the inland grasslands in the rainy season. It was a wonderful trip, and we had a lot of fun. I’ve posted a few teaser pictures here, and made two new photo albums on my google pictures site here and here.

This is why we couldn't camp at third bridge, our original plan. The rains had flooded a lot of the park, and we had to toil through some pretty deep puddles too drive around. Like up over the bottom door edge of the Land Rover deep.
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Our leopard sighting from afar.
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Our tents survive a flood. Sat the night in inch-deep water at Gweta without leaking a bit.
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Camp and the all-important tea, at the Ihaha campsite in Chobe.
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Sunset over the chobe river.
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This guy got really close and tolerated us watching him for a while. Then he got a little huffy, swung his head back and forth, and snorted at us. That's when we thought it prudent to start driving away.
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Grazing Giraffes in Chobe
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Monday, March 17, 2008

Gabs Again

Following the trend of recent events, my move to Maun has once again been unexpectedly pushed back. On Saturday Tim, our chief pilot, and myself were planning to drive together up to Maun so that he could do my orientation and training flights in the Delta this week. We left early in the morning and had made it the whole way to Serowe (nearly halfway to Maun, or about 3-4 hours driving) when we began having problems with my Land Rover. The water temperature gauge has been acting strangely for quite a while, so I didn’t think anything of it when the gauge dropped to zero for the last hour or so that we’d been driving. As we drove into Serowe, though, I noticed water streaming out from under the hood and could hear that the pressure relief cap was, well, relieving pressure. So we knew something was wrong. We were stopping for fuel anyway in Serowe, so we let it cool down a bit and then continued on our way. After a bit, strange things started to happen and the engine started losing power and surging. We stopped and decided to try removing the thermostat to see if a stuck thermostat was causing the overheating problems. We couldn’t find the thermostat (a nice man in a Land Cruiser stopped to help us out), but discovered when no water shot out the hose where we took it apart that the cooling system was nearly dry. Anyway, to make a long story short, we decided to turn back to gabs rather than risk getting stranded along the remote stretch of desert between Serowe and Maun, where cell phone coverage would be irregular and passers-by few. On the way back, the vehicle was fine (we think a big part of the overheating might have been the strong headwind we had on the way up – the land rover isn’t really a highway vehicle to start with). So now I’m back in Gabs and will spend this week trying to get the problem sorted out so that I can either sell it or take it to Maun with me later. That’s the latest in my saga of attempts to move to Maun…I’ll keep you posted. Now looks like I’ll probably make my next attempt next weekend, but we shall see.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

One of these days....

For quite some time now, I've been expecting to make a move from Gaborone to Maun in the northern part of Botswana, but the move keeps getting pushed back. Well, it appears that the event may actually be in sight. The plan for now is to move towards the end of next week. There is a string of flights starting next Sunday, so I should be moved in time to make those flights. As sad as it will be to leave my housemates and other friends that I've made here in Gabs, I'm excited to finally be in Maun after a long time of expectation. Before then, though, there's a lot that I need to do: pack, finish up some items at work here, finalize the details of selling my vehicle (hopefully), etc. So right now I'm off to tidy up the Land Rover before I get rid of it. I would write a bit about our trip into the national parks but I don't have my pictures with me, and stories like that are worthless without illustration. Next week.

Monday, March 3, 2008

trips and things

I just got back from a nice vacation trip to the northern part of Botswana, where I traveled for a week with some friends. Then, hours after returning, I went on a mercy flight to Maun. Now it's nighttime and I'm home again, but very tired and hungry after having no supper. Therefore I will write sometime later about my trip and maybe even post some pictures. but for now i'm going to eat and to bed.