Mon, 18 Aug 2008 09:21:14 +0000

Jo'burg to Gabarone Index Gaborone to Jo'burg

I woke up early, around 5:30, and got so involved in thinking about what to do next in Botswana that I couldn't get to sleep again. I was considering going to Maun, but I get the impression from what I read that buses aren't that easy to take in Botswana, and it's a long way to Maun, comparable to the Tete-Maputo epic. I really don't feel in the mood right now. So instead I think I'll just spend the day in Gaborone and head back to Johannesburg tomorrow. I haven't really given Botswana a chance, but it's an excellent choice if I want to go on an African safari, so maybe I'll be back.

With that decided, I was free to spend an idle day around town. First up was getting breakfast. This turned out to be surprisingly hard. I really wanted a nice coffee and croissant or something, but as far as I can tell, despite being fairly modern and Westernised, there isn't a single cafe in the centre of Gaborone. And nothing at all that was open at 7:30 in the morning. It was good to explore the city, but ultimately I was forced back to the lodge. There they do have breakfast, but not free, and I decided to just go round the corner to the supermarket. I got a chicken pie. Not a good start, but I was fed.

Feeling full of food and tired after all the walking (it's a fair way from the lodge to town), I fell asleep for a couple of hours. I was woken up by the cleaner around 11:00 though, and took that as a cue to do something more worthwhile with the rest of the day.

I got some lunch from a crappy chicken and chips place. A bad choice: I should have tried the braai (barbeque) stands that are set up in the high street. That's what everyone else seems to have for lunch, but I wanted somewhere to sit. Oh well. After lunch I organised my ticket back to Johannesburg at the Intercape office. It left me feeling a little pathetic and unadventurous, not getting any further into Botswana than Gaborone, but I can't do everything.

The only touristy thing in the town is the museum, so I went there. It's free, you just have to sign the visitor's book. As I've come to expect from small African cities, the museum isn't much, but worth a visit.

There's a fair bit of ethnographic stuff, showing the history of the local tribes over the last few hundred years. There's a little bit about colonial history, not enough to form a coherent story. But they are justifiably proud of the delegation that went to London in the 1890s to protest to Queen Victoria about Rhodes and his empire-building. They ultimately preserved Bechuanaland's independence, at least nominally, which is maybe why Botswana's history is so much less eventful than other African states.

There's also quite a few stuffed animals, arranged in particularly impressive displays. I especially liked this one of the vultures, it really looks like you're in the cliff wall looking out over the plain.

The museum is really just a big advert for Botswana's national parks, but an effective one. It certainly left me itching to go out and do some ecotourism. Another time, when I'm more organised.

I think I ended up exploring the whole of the city centre of Gaborone, which now looks a lot less impressive than the bright lights last night suggested. There's quite a few large modern office blocks, but they look a bit lost, as if a tornado randomly plonked them down in the middle of the suburbs.

Apparently people here don't even use street names for addresses, just lot numbers. The place is small enough that this is enough to identify locations. It all makes Botswana seem like the smallest country I've ever visited. At less than two million people, this may well be the case.

There was only one restaurant in the city I could find that served both food and beer, so that's where I had my dinner. I got a salad with marinated beef strips, and it was fantastic. But my appetite has grown alarmingly over the last few months, and by the time I got back to the lodge I had to follow it up with some barbeque chicken from the place round the corner. So I did get some braai, even if I got a rather fast-foodised version. And it was delicious, I must say. It also came with a pot of stuff called "chackalaka". A bit like curried cabbage with beans, or something. Also marvellous.

And so to bed. Another early morning tomorrow, since I have to be at the bus stop by 6:00. But I'm glad I had a day of taking things easy.

Jo'burg to Gabarone Index Gaborone to Jo'burg