The water that arrived: Botswana Diaries (Day 2.1)

Botswana Diaries
by Aron Hyman


After spending the night at Sua Pan, our plan was to leave for Khumaga where we would spend the night among the lions. But Botswana had other plans.
Once we reached Nata, a village about an hours drive north of the Sua the landscape changed suddenly but only briefly. A large river coming from the north, where an endless stream of Congo-2-Congo trucks trucks seemed to follow it's direction, provided a flush of tropical wilderness in its ravine. The river was large & wild. Soon after we left Nata, now heading West towards a small village called Gweta it became clear that something supernatural was occurring around us.
Water. As far as the eye could see. Just water and trees under the blue sky. Green thorn acacias stood perfectly reflected by the water which had replaced the grasslands, prompting Chris to name our newly discovered ecosystem "aquabushveld".

We drove for about 60 kilometers with the water on both sides of the highway. There was no traffic, no animals, no people. Every now and again a little ground road will turn off from the main road into the water and a sign post would indicate that it once lead to a shop, a farm, perhaps a tavern. There were almost no birds either. Sometimes you could see evidence where a kraal once stood, the wooden poles still sticking out of the water.
Then the highway disappeared under a river of water flowing slowly south wards towards the pans.
How we crossed the kilometer long torrent only God knows. Sometimes the water would come over the bonnet and over the windshield.
Two 'ferries' - flat bed trucks - were taking people and their cars to-and-fro.
We eventually reached a place called Planet Baobab where a guide explained to us that "the government is investigating" where the water is coming from.
He said that one-day in February the water just "arrived".
A cyclone had passed through the country a few weeks earlier but the rainy season was over now and he said the water was "arriving more" than before.
He also explained that Planet Baobab and Gweta village, the place where we were supposed to get fuel, were now essentially islands.
Gweta which is also the home of the regional hospital now had two speed boats and fish were starting to arrive on the grasslands where great herds used to feed.
"The children have never seen boats in their life," he said laughing. Now the doctors and nurses have to ride them to the hospital.
When we arrived at Gweta, our dreams of refueling were predictably dashed.
I felt a sense of unease about what we had experienced and the animals could most certainly sense it as well because we didn't see a single creature but for two elephants who were strolling northwards across the road.

Although we could no longer take a detour to Khumaga, which was apparently "impossible" to get to in any case, we managed to make it to Maun.
Two weeks later, two earthquakes struck in Southern Africa, one only about 50 kilometers south of the pans.
Botswana was once home to a "superlake", the largest in Africa, but when the crust of an ancient volcano began to cool down it sank so deep that it drew the water underground.
Now there are signs that magma might be pushing up again, leading to earthquakes, and perhaps pushing up all that water which has been laying under the surface for millions of years.