Botswana / Namibia:
Cultural Sojourn

Bicycle Africa / Ibike Tours

 
     
 

Dispatch 8 - Shakawe

   
 

Gravel road south of Duvundu NamibiaGenerally the roads have been excellent, either tar or soil-cement. Today started with another of eight kilometers of good tar. But this was followed by ten kilometers of rough gravel.  The worst long stretch of road on the trip.

Fortunately the road improved to pretty standard soil-cement on the section that passed through Mahango National Park. 

Cape Buffalo babies, Mahango NP, NamibiaBicycling with zebra, Mahango NP, Namibia

At least along the main road, wildlife was sparse in the park.  Our first sighting that stayed around long enough to be photographed were a couple of young water buffalo.  Their mother was a little way back in the brush.  Fortunately she choose to stay there!  Water buffalo have a reputation for being unpredictable and dangerous, and mothers protecting their young in nature are often Zebra crossing the road, Mahango NP Namibiaproactive.  As it was, shortly after we took their pictures the babies disappeared in to the bushes. 

We got a longer, if not better look at some weary zebra (click on the  upper right photo).  They kept their distance, but eventual crossed the road ahead of us, for a moment of excitement (click on the photo to the left).

Vultures are not on most peoples top five list for wildlife they want to see in Africa, but when you get vultures in a tree, Mahango NP, Namibiaa tree full of them they achieve critical mass and it's worth a second look to try and figure out what they are all about -- not a clue.  Impala, Mahongo NP NamibiaThe next sighting on our mini-game drive were some impala (click on the photo to the right).  They were gone before we got within fifty meters of them. This was another good demonstration of why bicycles are not the best vehicle for viewing wildlife -- most species will let a car approach closer than a bicycle before they bolt.

The final wildlife story of the day has no photos: One of our group was minding his own business and came down the side of the road just as an elephant emerged from the brush. The elephant displayed some intolerance about what he felt was an intrusion in his personal space (elephants can be like that and they are bigger) and the bicyclist skipped heart beats for the next couple hours.  Fortunately no physical contact was made, but it is a sobering reminder to try to ride in the middle of the road in wildlife areas and stay observant and alert.

The National Park continues up to the Namibia-Botswana border.  South of the border the road is paved for 350km -- all the way to Maun and then beyond.

Shakawe was the biggest town we had come to since Katima Mulilo, but it was still sparse.  It's main feature is a large supermarket: A Choppies, which advertises itself as Botswana's largest supermarket chain -- they keep opening a new one every few months. The town's Internet café closed several months earlier.  To fill out the commercial inventory, there is a Pakistani owned restaurant, a Chinese owned clothing store, a bank and assorted bottle stores.

Drotsky's dining room, Shakawe BotswanFor accommodations we headed out of town to Drotsky's.  This is a medium-high end tourist facility, nicely sited on the bank of the Okavango River.  As is the custom, the bar / restaurant is partially cantilevered over the river.  It is sort of an out-of-Africa experience: The décor is modern-European-haute-rustic and all of the conversation at the bar was with Europeans and not necessarily about Africa.  We had hoped for beds but the cabins were full so we camped, but ate at the restaurant-- European cuisine.  In the campground each site has electricity and water, and access to western-style toilets and a hot shower.  The consensus of the group was: with good exercise, a good shower and a good meal it doesn't really matter where you sleep.

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