Botswana / Namibia:
Cultural Sojourn

Bicycle Africa / Ibike Tours

 
     
 

Dispatch 12 - Etsha 6

   
 

The day started with the return trip from our luxury camp in the Okavango to Etsha 13 by mokoros (traditional canoe).  Once again the polers chatted pretty much continually for the three hour return voyage.

After we were back on dry land, our destination for the day was Etsha 6.  You might be noticing a pattern in these dispatches: Since crossing the border back into Botswana there are few pictures of the highway.  The essence of  Botswana is clearly not about the highway.  There is nothing wrong with the highway. It is flat, well aligned, paved and in excellent condition, but all the life, action and spirit is in the towns that are one to five kilometers off the highway.

Etsha 6 is bigger than Etsha 13, which makes it the biggest Etsha of the string.  The Etsha Coop dominates the town.  There are buildings for groceries, clothes and hardware.  Our understanding is that this is a real cooperative, with local investors, and that it is financially healthy. 

Prior to arriving we had heard about Ellen's Restaurant and a museum dedicated to the river people of the Okavango Delta. It was disappointing that the restaurant closed and we could not find any hard information about the existence of the museum.  The museum might have been an idea a decade ago that never really materialized.

Our hopes were also raised when we learned that the brand new post office in Etsha 6 had Internet access. Our streak of no Internet continued because all afternoon the power in that section of town was off, so we couldn't test it out.  By all accounts of the locals, power outages were rare so our timing was impeccable.  By the next morning the power was back on but the Internet connection was so tediously slow that the one member of our group who tried to use it aborted the process before he was able to receive a single message.  It wasn't clear whether this was a temporary or long-term problem.

Baking seems to be a common cottage industry in every town along the route.  We identified at least three bakeries in Etsha 6.  After preparing the dough, in this region, the typical loaf is usually assembled as small ball so that the finished product is a loaf of buns (center right photo).  The ovens are wood fired drums (far right photo.)

We found accommodations in some guest houses with relative ease.  The rooms hadn't been used for a while so the clean-up crew went at them full speed. 

There was still the problem of food for the troup.  Several inquiries about getting a meal prepared all pointed to Gladys.  She definitely has the reputation as the best caterer in town.  After a couple of cell phone calls we connected and met with her.  We asked for a traditional meal and agreed on a budget.  Two meals and all the necessary plates and cutlery were delivered to us on the door step of our cottages.  We weren't disappointed.  Dinner included fish, meat, greens and other dishes.  For breakfast we ate sublimely flavored scrambled eggs, porridge, milk, sugar and bread.  A nice hearty meal to precede a bicycle ride.  The take away lesson here is that we eat better when locals plan and prepare the meals than when we do it ourselves.

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