Frustrations at my inability to master that Tswana twang. I still love you Bots.

Nestled between South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe, Botswana is a beautiful country inhabited by the Batswana people. Among Tswana people it is simply known as “Lefatshe la Batswana”.

Botswana’s crown jewels include the Kalahari Desert, Okavango delta and Makgakgadi pans.

My only real experience with Botswana was a few days spent in the north-east part of the country en-route to Zambia.

The few days I spent there were simply magical. For some reason I really felt at home. It could be because I’ve always had a deep longing to properly master their beautiful language (the way I pronounce words is a dead give-away that I am an impostor). The fact that my name is actually in Setswana does not seem to count for anything.

What I remember and cherish from my short trip to Bots (as the locals and cool kids would call it) is the dry yet beautiful landscape, amazing and warm people and elephants……lots and lots of elephants!

On the landscape: I hate to be so typical as to reduce any country to its landscape, but I just have to mention it this time….just this one time. I remember as we were driving into Botswana, our truck broke down (yes, that’s right I said truck….that’s how we roll, lol). While we were waiting for some help, we took out our camp chairs and sat on the side of the road (camp fire style) and just shared beautiful and amazing stories under the blaze of the African sun. It was August and this time is known for insanely hot days with a lot of wind and dust and sub-zero temperatures as soon as the sun sets all the way till dawn. I drank a lot of coffee on that trip and made a lot of really good friends too.

As you may or may not know: about 70% of Botswana is covered by the Kalahari desert. I guess the name “Kalahari desert” is a bit misleading. Although a desert would typically be defined as “a barren area of land where little precipitation occurs”, the Kalahari Desert receives anywhere between 110-500 millimeters of rain per year and supports at least 320 species of mammals and birds (think Kalahari lions, rhinos, buffalo, springbok, cheetahs, leopards etc). This is pretty impressive.

On amazing people: If good food….I mean insanely good food is any indication for warmth and love, then Botswana is a real winner. We camped at a lodge just off the SA/Bots border by the Thebe River. As penance for our poor life choices, us vegetarians are almost always forgotten about at events, functions etc but I can assure you that I was well “nutritionalised” and well fed during my time in Bots. Yet another clear indication that eating animals is over-rated and mostly unnecessary.

On elephant sands: If you’re into sleeping under the stars among semi wild animals and maybe even risking your life ….then this is your gig. Elephant Sands is a bush lodge and campsite in the northern part of Botswana with a natural waterhole literally in front of the lodge. So as you are chilling doing whatever it is people do on vacation, animals will leisurely and elegantly waltz by the whole in order to quench their thirst. The most exciting and painful thing I remember was seeing a kudu get attacked by a pack of wild dogs right in front of my eyes. I was so hyped up on adrenaline I ended up crying and laughing manically at the same time. Boom, welcome to nature, right?

On going back: I think my next trip to Bots will definitely have to be longer. I’m looking forward to exploring the west a bit more. In addition to spending more time in nature my next trip will probably lean less on nature and more towards people and enjoying day to day life in Botswana. It would be cool to get a sense of how the young navigate the streets of Gaborone, Francistown, Kasane, Lobatse. To see how they fill their days and what exciting projects and cool things their up to.  

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