Greetings from Botswana,
As usual, we left Livingstone, the town neighboring Victoria Falls, bright and early on April 15th. We had exactly 30 days and three more countries ahead of us. On the first day, of this five day stretch, we crossed into Botswana, our eighth country. It was an easy 80 km (50 miles) on the bike and a short ferry ride at the confluence of the Zambezi and Chobe Rivers.
I was excited to finally reach Botswana, as photos and stories of the wildlife were a real inspiration in my decision to take this cycling challenge. The first day of riding was not a disappointment, as people saw elephants, giraffes, hippos, baboons and impalas, (a type of antelope) during their time in the saddle. That night we stayed in Kasane, a safari town. We did our compulsory jaunt into town to get new SIM cards, for our phones and try a local hamburger; (note the food and accommodations have improved dramatically since Nairobi). An oddity, about this small African village is that warthogs were roaming the streets like wild dogs.
A river cruise, down the Chobe, that afternoon was one of the highlights of the entire trip. We visually feasted on all types of wildlife, as we slumbered along the lazy, picturesque river. The scenery was Africa at it’s best and the sunset spectacular.
That night after dinner, Tallis the tour leader, gave us a tutorial on, “what to do and not to do, when you encounter wild life.” This fire-side chat was to prep everyone for the next few days. It was a scary proposition, since we would be riding in the midst of Africa’s most feared predators and were naked in terms of having anywhere to hide. He assured us that most big cats do not consider humans as prey and really do not want any interaction with them. However, elephant encounters were going to be frequent and could be very dangerous. The number one pointer was to give them space….. lots of space. It was their domain and we were just visitors. That killed my idea of a perfect “selfie” with an elephant in the not too distant background and my smiling mug in the foreground.
So the next three days were a little intimidating, as we cruised along the Elephant Highway for 495 km (307 miles). Sightings were frequent and close encounters were had by many, as these huge beasts crossed both in front and behind us. A number of them, strolled along side this African thoroughfare, oblivious to our existence and much to our liking.
On the second night of this stretch, we were camping in a “bush camp.” Real wilderness camping. The early arrivals, (the faster riders), actually had an elephant meander into camp mid-afternoon, which caused them to scurry into one of the trucks for safety. Also, that night around 9:30 pm., when most of us were sleeping, a small herd shuffled through camp. A number of my compatriots witnessed the activity, but I can honestly say I never stirred a muscle and slept while the night-owls trembled in their tents.
We had one easier day of 135 km (84 miles) into Maun for a rest day. Now there’s five riding days until we reach Windhoek, Namibia, where we’ll meet up with my good friends Troy and Gil Gillenwater. I’m really looking forward to this reunion, as both these guys have kept in touch and sent very supportive and inspirational emails. To be honest, I never thought this day would come. We’ve come a long way baby!