As I was waiting on my colleagues to arrive after driving for what felt like forever I was alone and for the first time since we had entered Botswana the day before I could get it. I could understand why so many South Africans come here to experience the bush and the silence as we don’t really know it back home.
The sun was already under but there was still a little bit of light, the horizon was coloured blood red with only thorn trees contributing to the silhouette. It was silent. Silence like I hadn’t heard in a long time – the only sound in the air being the cool breeze moving through the branches of the tree above me and a few goats somewhere in the distance. Simply put, it was humbling.
But it took some going to get to this point, just a few kilometres south of Nata, and I felt obliged to share a few travel tips I picked up along the way to help you prepare mentally for your journey north.
1. Don’t take your Joburg manners with you
You might think the old lady cleaning the washroom doesn’t see you as you walk in but she does and she’ll tell you all about it when you leave. “You come in, I’m cleaning, you go p*ss*ng and you don’t greet me. You should say hello!” It was like being taught manners by my grandmother, I still feel bad about it.
2. Beware the A1
Before you get to “nice” part of Botswana, for me anyway, you have to travel through miles and miles of nothing but straight and congested roads. The A1 between Gaborone and Francistown is a nightmare on any day. Imagine driving on the road between Johannesburg and Hartbeespoort on a Saturday morning for five hours straight. Now throw in a few suicidal bus drivers, donkeys, cows and goats, people next to the road, police checkpoints every 20km or so and you might have an inkling of what this road is like. If you can avoid this route do so. If not, make sure you do it at the beginning of your journey or your Botswana safari will be long forgotten by the time you re-enter South Africa.
3. Get your Wimpy on
If you’re looking for something quick and easy next to the road you’re going to struggle to find anything but a Wimpy to remind you of home. If you’re not willing to eat pap from a roadside stall prepare for cheese burgers and chips, Cheesegriller breakfasts, Farmhouse breakfasts and weak coffee.
4. It’s never too late to go
If you’re 60 years old and you’ve never been, make sure you get yourself there. Botswana, especially northern Botswana, is a magical place. It’s filled with beautiful people, breath-taking moments and silence. Beautiful silence. You will come back more relaxed and seeing the world in a different way.
Photo by Chris Davies. To see more photos of Chris’ road trip through Botswana, click here.
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