A Trip to Botswana and Zimbabwe in Sept./Oct. 2013
Part 3: Salt Pans
Trip to Gweta by Bus:
After landing in Maun and collecting my luggage in the office of the booking company, I took a taxi to the bus station where I found the bus to Gweta already very busy and people queueing at the entrance of the bus. When I was finally inside the bus, I was shocked that all of the seats were already occupied. I would have never thought that they sell tickets for standing passengers in that long distance bus. So I had to face the fact that I would have to stand up the whole way to Gweta which would take several hours.
When I was waiting for the departure in this very narrow aisle between the seats, each time squeezed when someone else in this overcrowded bus wanted to pass (which happened every minute), just by chance, a gentleman sitting in front of me obviously suddenly realized that he was in the wrong bus and got out quickly before the bus left. So I could take over his seat. I was exceedingly relieved. Sitting was not really comfortable as, due to the narrow aisle, I was also squeezed by the standing passengers, but still I felt very lucky being able to sit. In this situation I did not mind if I found someone's backside in front of me or someone else's bag banging on my head, when some of the standing passengers (or the conductor) were passing each other in the small aisle.
After an hour driving we passed a cattle border and had to get out of the bus. Each passenger had to step in a basin filled with a disinfectant and, after a passport control, went back to the bus. This is done in an effort to control the cattle disease.
After only 2 ½ hours of bumpy driving, we reached Gweta, where I got off the bus.
Gweta is a
small town in the Makgadikgadi Pans (= the Northern part of the Kalahari desert consisting of several salt pans).
The lodge where I had booked a room for several nights turned out to be in walking distance.
Well, walking through deep sand while rolling my suitcase became a
show of strength.
Once arrived (a bit exhausted), Gweta Lodge turned out to be small and cosy, and I really loved my stay there.
Trip to NTWETWE PAN:
In Gweta I joined a small group for an overnight trip to Ntwetwe Pan. It was one of the nicest experiences
during my whole journey. Driving through the pan - which is not a conservation area - we
saw some interesting plants and animals.
At first, we came through a vast area with long, dry grass which was of fascinating yellow colour (Kalahari Spikey Grass).
On many trees we saw these nests of community spiders.
In the village I found this adorable little dog. He was so skinny and tied to his small hut. I do not know why, but maybe the doggy was blind. I would have
loved to take this sweety with me, but of course unfortunately it was not possible.
The landscape became dry and dryer, until it was a completely flat salt pan without any
It was astonishing that sometimes we indeed saw animals.
Our next stop was in the middle of nowhere as it seemed, but then we met some cute little guys:
We noticed that obviously we had been expected!
A colony of meerkats was living in this area. Rather undisturbed by our appearance, they soon began to look around for food as usual. We could even approach them up to 1 or 2
meters. The meerkats in this area are used to meet human visitors, and the tourguides know where to bring you to meet them.
Then we moved on to our camp in the salt pan where we should spend the night.
Very slowly, the sun set and it became darker.
Just before the sun set totally, we reached our campsite for this night. The cook was already there and had prepared some chairs for us. The dark spot on the right side was the toilet cabin!
After the BBQ dinner we sat at the camp fire for a while before we went sleeping.
These rolls were our beds, and unrolled they looked like big envelopes in which we wrapped ourselves for the night.
The plain landscape was our vast bedroom. As this is really a dead landscape without any plant and without any animal - not even scorpions or mosquitos - it was easy to sleep somewhere scattered on the ground on our mattresses with the bed equipment.
During the night the weather became very windy, and there were some clouds covering part of the millions of stars in the sky. At around 5 a.m. I woke up when I felt some heavy rain drops falling on my face. Rain drops in THIS dry desert!! On the horizon we saw lightning.
It was unbelievable.
Among us: I think I am 'rain woman', because wherever I have been travelling during (usually) dry periods or in (usually) dry areas, it once started to rain!
So we all dressed quickly and packed our things in a hurry as we (all Europeans) are used that rain starting with heavy drops becomes a considerable heavy rain shower in a minute.
But, no, we were in Africa, and things were different here. After a while the drops stopped falling, and only the wind remained.
So we had a quick 'lick and a promise' in our 'bathroom', and a small tea breakfast, and then we were ready to start the trip back to our lodges.
The air had become much cooler than the day before. As the ground was very dry after those many months without any rain, the wind whirled up lots of dust, so when we arrived back at our lodges in
Gweta, we were all full of dust.
The big anteater beside the road was a sign that we were already approaching our final stop, Planet Baobab Lodge.
I had a second breakfast there (somehow feeling more 'civilized' again) before I moved back to my own lodge.
I started another trip to the Makgadikgadi Pan on one of the next days, again with a group of people, for a 'Cultural Baobab Trip'.
On the route we passed some characteristic trees, even if they were not too big,
And after a while, we arrived at Green's Baobab. This tree is approx. 500 years old and carries a nest of the Red-Billed Buffalo Weaver.
Our next halt was Chapman's Baobab. From afar you can see how big this tree is in comparison to the other surrounding trees.
Chapman's Baobab is also around 500 years old and consists of 7 trunks.
This is the fruit of a Baobab. Its taste is a bit sour and fresh.
A sandstorm started, so we hardly found our way to the next Baobab. This tree doesn't have a name, but is said to be 1.500 years old.
I was happy having a seat inside the cabin of our car, as the air was extremely dusty and absolutely cold when we drove back to the lodge.
Trip back to KASANE:
My next plan was getting back from Gweta to Maun where I had to catch a flight back to Kasane. Now there was no bus that went early enough to catch my flight ... and there was no other public transport available. Although I asked around and tried every opportunity, finally I had to give in and do what people proposed to me: Hitchhiking.
I never did that before, but I was assured that it was very normal in Botswana and absolutely not dangerous, everybody does it and even young girls do it.. As I knew that Botswana is indeed the safest country in Africa, I did it. Got up very early and stood on the side of the main street for 1 1/2 hours in a very cold wind, until a suitable car stopped which had enough space to take in not only me and my luggage but also 2 other hitchhikers. The driver even took me directly to the airport in Maun, so in the end it was a very comfortable transport, and I was very relieved that this trip went so well. I was told that it is normal to give the driver some money for the transport, and I watched how much the others (local people) gave him, and then I gave him double that amount, and the driver was very grateful, too. All's well that ends well.
… to be continued in
Part 4 (next page, coming soon)