Botswana / Namibia:
Cultural Sojourn

Bicycle Africa / Ibike Tours

 
     
 

Dispatch 1 - Kasane

   
  The best connections to Botswana are through Johannesburg.  We had flown into Johannesburg the day before.  We chose a hotel that was relatively convenient to the airport and a good value, so we started the day with a 40 minute ride to the airport.

Lake Xay ATR 42, Air BotswanaFor those who note such things, we flew from Johannesburg to Kasane on an ATR 42 Turbo Prop.  This seems to be the workhorse of the Air Botswana fleet.  The flight took 2 ½ hours.  Over-flying Botswana it looks largely sparsely populated, there are few roads and the vegetation is not dense. The one identifiable land feature during the flightSalt collecting Lake Xay, Botswana was Lake Xay, south of the Makgadikgadi Pan.  It looks like they have a salt collecting operation at the lake.

In Kasane, immigrations, baggage claim and customs are all compactly arranged in one room.  The bicycles were a bit of a conversation piece but all of the formalities went smoothly.

The “town center” of Kasane is a parking lot and mini-mall.  There are actually a couple of mini-malls, so which mall is actually the town center is a bit up for grabs. The mall with the bank probably has the strongest credentials for town center.

The reality is, Kasane is mostly a bunch of scattered businesses to serve tourist services along the Chobe River.  There is a constant flow of tourists along the main road.  Tourism oriented traffic seems to dwarf any other categories of traffic (i.e. local citizens, freight, etc.)  Concurrently, very few tourists can be seen on foot ambling between shops -- they mostly constitute traffic.

Elephants along the road in Kasane, BotswanaElephants along the road, Kasane BotswanaOur first great excitement came even before we reached our lodging for the night, which is about 6 km east of the town center. To our joy and trepidation a herd of elephants were alongside the road leading to the guest house (Nkanga GH), having come down from the hills in the late afternoon, to get to the river for a drink and frolicking.

For dinner we had hoped to order food from the Take Away in town.   The menu had a nice choice of items – traditional and European. We hoped to get something traditional like mabele, samp, or moroho. But as late in the day as we were the only food they had was curried rice.  Without a lot of refrigeration, restaurants would rather run short on the day than have unsold food at the end of the day; any excess food needs to be cooled and saved.

Setswana lessonAt the guest house, our host, language tutor, food advisor and general counsel was the manager, Bogadi.  Praise to her for her patients.

Although Botswana has a multitude of ethnic groups, the lingua-franca for the country is Setswana. The greeting to woman is "dumela-mma."  The greeting to men is "dumela-rra." How are you? (morning) is "A o tsogile?" How are you? (afternoon) is "A o tlhotse?" I am fine is "keteng" or "ha siame."  And, thank you is "ke itumetse."

Bicycle properly packed for Air Botswana flight

Language chart for Botswana and NamibiaLanguage classification in Africa is an imprecise science, often without consensus of the experts involved.  We have attempted to create a chart showing some of the relationships of the languages in Botswana and Namibia (click on the image to the left.)  The languages bordered in red are present along the route of the tour.

To the right is the mountain bike properly packed for the Air Botswana flight.  See the sidebar for more details.

Addendum:
In an industry with a reputation for making life difficult for their clients, Air Botswana seems to take it to the next level.  To begin with, though they seemingly have representatives in the USA, it was peculiarly difficult to make reservations and purchase tickets directly from Air Botswana, in the United States. 
   Most small national airlines in Africa take bicycles naked, if the pedals are removed, handlebars turned and the seat is lowered -- not Air Botswana.  They require that “bicycles must be properly packed” but they are clear on what constitutes proper packing, nor do they provide any materials like boxes or plastic.  It turns out that canvas bag are OK, bike box are OK, for folding bike in light weight luggage wrap is OK, and MTB requires heavy plastic wrap. It wasn't hard to get the folding Bike Friday wrapped by the luggage wrapping machine (R50), but to get a mountain bike wrapped requires a trip to the basement at the far end of the terminal, and twice as much money.  Eventually, we managed to jump through all of Air Botswana hoops and get our bikes and bags checked in (there is a charge for anything over 23 kg (50 lbs).  It didn't make me want to rush back to do more business with Air Botswana.  It is good that they have a near monopoly on air transport in Botswana.
   
 

Next dispatch

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