"Soon, everything will be OK": Botswana Diaries (Day 2.2)

Botswana Diaries
by Aron Hyman


The petrol station in Gweta was abandoned. No fuel was coming into the town, probably because of the flood, and besides there would be no cars to refuel.
The village is surrounded by water. Medical staff use two boats provided by the government to get to the regional hospital just outside of town.
We would have to head straight to Maun from here.
After Gweta there was no more miraculous water. We drove for hours in silence staring at an unchanging landscape of bush and blue sky.
We felt disheartened, distressed, and confused by the supernatural phenomenon we had just come through.
Our hearts sank further when we reached a roadblock.
A man in government uniform asked us what our agenda was and who we were.
Then as though he had a special message for us he said, "Don't worry. In the near future everything will be OK."
We were skeptical but he had a knowing smirk and we decided he was a prophet and that we should believe him.
After arriving in Maun with a liter of petrol to spare we looked around for a place to camp.
Maun is the gateway to the Okavango Delta and to the almost inaccessible wilderness further north into Angola. The town is largely based on tourism and each backpackers or hostel claims to have the best WiFi.
Propeller planes and small commercial jets fly tourists in from South Africa. A bunch of small propeller planes also operate from the airport and zoom well healed tourists to remote airstrip on the Delta's innumerable islands.
A river now cuts through the town apparently boasting monster crocodiles.

We were advised by a travel magazine to go to Old Bridge Backpackers on the promise that there was a "vibey bar". The camp was overfull and we rather opted for the Maun Rest Camp which is located on the opposite side of the river.
After intervening in a primary school fist fight and bribing the children with a peace offering of biltong we made it to our destination.
We set up at a quiet spot overlooking the river.

After setting up camp we strolled down to the Thamalakane river where some locals were catching tilapia with hand lines.
From a conversation that neither they nor we understood we could with certainty ascertain that there were many 'ngwenya' (crocodiles) in the river. I pointed to the tiny fish lying on the bank and they laughed in astonishment at my attempt at asking how big the fish are in the river.

We decided to try our luck with our fly rods, and after a single cast something violently bit at my frog imitating fly.
The fly was almost shredded in half and I realised there must be tigerfish in the river.
We tried catching into the early evening when we couldn't see our flies in the water anymore. A South African lady with her French boyfriend arrived in a Land Rover to watch a rocket launch a satellite into space.
They urged us to come away from the water because there were many crocodiles including a female who had apparently eaten at least 20 goats.
Soon afterwards we heard the mortifying grunts of hippo very nearby and by then the mosquito swarm had already started attacking.
We headed back to camp and after starting a fire poured ourselves a couple of gin and tonics to ward off the malaria.
After a while a voice called out in the darkness near the small gate leading to the water's edge from the campsite.
The lady who I had asked for fishing tips earlier was standing there with a tilapia almost exactly the size of the hand gesture I made when I was trying to figure out how big the fish in the river were.
She would sell it to me for 20 pula. I gave her about half a kilogram of biltong and kindly declined the fish as we were already braaing large amounts of chicken and steak.
We soon understood the meaning of "vibey bar".
Blaring over the speakers was a Westerner on a guitar playing acoustic renditions of pop songs including a overly sensual interpretation of "How deep is your love".
A hippo and her calf, probably trying to escape the pop-music hell, had made their way to our side of the river and we could hear them chomping about twenty meters away.
Every now and again a hippo would give a loud grunt, and then the wailing would continue with with the next question in the song's lyrics, "Is it like the ocean..?".
By 11 pm the Westerners were quiet, the hippos had eaten, and we could get some rest.