Road Tripping in Botswana
Ever wondered what its like driving in Botswana?
There is a lot you can learn about Botswana as a country, just by traveling on the main roads between towns. What you will notice is that the roads are [generally] good, it is a very flat country, hot, dry and dusty for much of the year. There is a lot of livestock everywhere, and things happen at a slow pace.
I was driving one sunny [like it is most days] Sunday morning up to the Boteti River in Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, to see some camps and refresh my memory of the place when, along the main road, I saw two children pushing wheelbarrows with their younger siblings inside. The passengers were tiny, maybe two years old, but it struck me what entertains young children in a small village in Botswana. I stopped and asked if I could take a photo, they were understandably apprehensive but they obliged – and after a few quick shots I gave them each a snack bar, which they ate with glee.
Back on the road I passed through towns and villages and then smaller villages and they were followed by little homes alongside the road and further to that is tiny little cattle post accommodations. Rudimentary, natural structures where a herder would stay while looking after cattle, many were empty so I presumed they are seasonal or water had dried up and they had moved on.
Getting around for locals is often on horseback or on a donkey or a donkey cart – I couldn’t help stopping for a couple of photos, I love how people make a plan. Riding a donkey bareback cannot be easy but if it is the only way to get around then you will learn!
I saw plenty of cattle and goats, and then donkeys and horses too – you have to be careful driving in Botswana, there is a lot of cattle along the road, mostly untended. In such an arid semi-desert environment so many cattle seems problematic, I know they are overgrazing the lands and adding to the desertification process occurring in many parts of the world, but beef is big business in Botswana. It is the third biggest money spinner in Botswana thanks to supply contracts with Europe. Finding water must be a problem though, cattle need to drink a lot and there isn't much surface water, so they cover vast distances to get to water sending up clouds of white dust behind them.
It is no surprise to see carcasses of vehicles [and animals] on the side of the road, with so many animals nearby there are bound to be accidents, driving at night is hugely risky, donkeys just seem invisible against the grey road surface and seem to love standing still in the middle of the road.
My last place of curiosity on the way was the Last Chance Tuck shop, a roadside shop and home that I had first seen in 2006. You can see from the old photo and the current one, a few things have changed but not much. I got out and spoke to the owner, Terry Walker. I was surprised, his name was not a traditional Motswana name but he said that is the name his parents gave him. He no longer sold cold drinks, there was no electricity to run a normal fridge, and a gas powered fridge was too expensive – he only had a few hardy sweets on sale. He told me he has a few cattle and goats and goes to the river to get water every day. I cant imagine what that water tastes like or how clean it is – I gave him a bottle of clean water.
I hopped back in my vehicle, turned the music on and continued to soak up the wide open spaces. It dawned on me how much I enjoy this time driving alone, delving into my mind and exploring places, in a very simple way. Life in Botswana seems that way, everyone I met that day was friendly and in no hurry – no-one seems to hurry in Botswana – so I thought I would do the same…