Titlu alternativ - “In Botswana scoatem p...”
Treceam in sfarsit frontiera catre o tara in care redeveneam iberi sa campam in siguranta, dar asta a insemnat ceva bataie de cap. Pentru ca Africa de Sud e o tara exemplara, am adunat cuminti facturile si ne-am prezentat la ghiseu sa colectam nu mai putin de 60 de euro de TVA. Dar biroul era inchis de mult si ni s-a sugerat sa mergem pentru asta in Pretoria. In fine.
Dupa asta am facut dute vino intre cele doua posturi de politie: nici intr-o tara, nici intr-alta nimeni nu vroia sa ne stampileze nouile pasapoarte temporare. Cireasa pe coliva au fost taxele (de drum, permis si asigurare) pentru Botswana: nu mai putin de 240 de p...! cand deja terminasem toata tevatura si eram departe de zona de vama, am descoperie insa ca biroul in care facusem schimbul valutar pentru taxe ne sponsorizase fara voie. Primisem dublul banilor cuveniti, si faptul era consumat. Benzina costa 8,9 p.../l. Nu mai e nevoie sa explicam de ce simpla pomenire a monedei nationale din Botswana ne distreaza pe noi romanii, merita mentionat doar ca in setswana, lingo-ul local, cuvantul desemneaza reverata ploaie care aduce viata. Ceva important intr-o tara care e 80% desert (Kalahari). De fapt cle doua sensuri nu sunt complet antagoniste.
Crossing the border into the country where we would go back to our free camping routine was a bit of a hassle. No sign of the infamously laid-back Batswana. First, the VAT office in SAR had been shut down, so to claim the beefy 60 euros we were directed back to Pretoria. Then I had to drive back and forth between the two borders to be repeatedly refused exit or entry stamp in our new temp passports. Then we learnt that Botswana - for which we luckily didn’t need a visa - demanded 240 p... to allow us driving through (1 year road tax, driving permit and insurance). Tried to talk our way out of this, in vain. Only after we were way out of the customs premises I realized that the border bureau de change had paid our fees by mistake, giving us double the amount due for the dollars I wanted to exchange. Serendipity or poetic justice, anyway it was too late and we moved on. Gas is 8,9 p.../l. BTW, even if in the local lingo (setswana) it means ‘life giving rain’ (key survival parameter for this land 80% covered by the Kalahari), the name of the Botswana currency will make any Romanian giggle.
Drumul de-a curmezisul Botswanei e cum se stie: plat, infinit, plictisitor, drept. Asfaltul correct strabate catune risipite in teritoriul de praf si desert.
Riding Botswana is like that say: flat, horizonless, boring, straight but decent tar cutting through sketchy villages lost in a largely dusty, deserted mass of land.
Suricatele stau la o barfa pe marginea drumului. Si cand totul e cum nu se poate mai monoton, peisajul devine supra-realist. Trecem pe langa Makgadikgadi, cea mai mare albie salina naturala din lume, 12,000 km patrati. Ne gandim la cat de ingust ne e habitatul terestru. Conditiile propice vietii vor exista pe pamant timp de doar 10% din viata planetei. Oceanele acopera mai mult de doua treimi din suprafata Terrei, insa imagineaza-ti ca acum mii de ani chiar si aceasta intindere stearpa era un vast lac pe care triburile San l-au vazut. In sezonul ploios iarba de savana acopera albia si migratia marilor turme de animale transforma acest desert intr-un tablou in miscare. Makgadikgadi nu poate fi traversat cu motorul, decat pe zonele mai mici, cum ar fi acest pan, Mopipi, unde ne puteam auzi cugetand.
Except for curious meerkats standing by the road and for the surreal natural salt pans - world’s largest - that stretch for 12,000 sq km. The life auspicious conditions will prevail on Earth for less than ten percent of the planet’s overall lifespan. Our habitat is narrow, excluded by the deep ocean from two thirds, yet imagine that million years ago water was even more prevalent. These pans were once part of a massive inland lake that the San people (the original inhabitants of Botswana) have seen in their time. You could wander for weeks in the Makgadikgadi without encountering another human being, let alone the swarms of safari vehicles that make some of Africa’s game parks seem like vehicular feeding frenzies. In rain season herds of wildebeests, springboks and one of Africa’s last great zebra migrations turn the Makgadikgadi into a movable feast for predators such as lions, cheetahs, jackals and the rare brown hyena. This harsh wasteland becomes a lush green carpet of savanna grass. Shallow lakes also form then, providing nesting grounds for Africa’s second-largest gathering of pink flamingoes. The pans remain - like many other natural wonders in Africa - largely off limits for motorcyclists. In the Mopipi pan, just a fraction of the Makgadikgadi system, we could hear ourselves self think.
Nori de praf in argila gri
Clouds of gray clay dust in this epic emptiness
Read more here.
De la independenta din 1966, Botswana s-a bucurat de pace si democratie, o exceptie fericita in Africa sub sahariana. Peste 500,000 km patrati sunt locuiti de sub 2 milioane de oameni, asa singuratatea e un fel de a fi. Asta insemna si ca nu vom mai exaspera publicul cand luam apa din pompe sau cand ne cumparam de-ale gurii de la tarabe. Cam asa aratase ultima masa in Africa de Sud:
Since the 1966 independence Botswana has been enjoying a peaceful democracy, a happy accident in sub-saharan Africa. Barely 2 million people inhabit over 580,000 sq km, you bet it feels lonely. That also meant you could stop and camp at will and nobody would be appalled that we are shopping for groceries at the street side stalls and take water from pumps. This had been our last snack in South Africa:
Cand marcasem si 50,00 de km pe bord
We hit the 50K on the clock as well
Dupa de ne incepusem ziua la 10 grade Celsius, mult prea congelati ca sa ne putem misca din loc inainte de 7.30 …
After starting the day at 10 degrees Celsius… and barely able to venture outside our tent around 7.30 a.m. …
… am incheiat ziua leoarca de transpiratie in Maun, poarta de intrare a turistilor in Delta Okavango. Orasul prea civilizat ca sa dormim in tufe, asa ca am tras la campul Old Bridge Backpackers. Atributul din nume nu are nimic de-a face cu fenomenul de a calatori cu un rucsac in spate si buget modest. Se refera doar la faptul ca se poate campa in locul respectiv si ca uneori exista dormitoare comune. Construit cu mai putini bani decat similarul Ngepi (campul cu hipopotam din Namibia), locul - prost intretinut si cam scump - emitea in schimb pretentii de spatiu de chill. Obisnuit sa dormim in natura, am pus cu greu geana pe geana in atmosfera de petrecere si muzica care bubuia dinspre bar. Venisem insa aici doar ca sa vedem delta, cu barca (mokoro) sau cu avionul. Am vizitat toate companiile aviatice din Maun si preturile ne-au dat pe spate, iar distractia cu barca dureaza cateva zile. Spre seara abandonasem, cand am cunoscut doi calatori din Munchen, care ne-au ajutat sa ne indeplinim visul.
Asa ca in dimineata urmatoare noi doi, impreuna cu Dominic si Stefan, ne prezentam in gluma de aeroport pentru un penibil de scrupulos control de securitate.
… we ended it one sweating copiously in the tourist hub and entry gate to the Okavango Delta, Maun. The town was too civilized for us to sleep like bums on its outskirts, so we would camp for the night at the Old Bridge Backpackers. The ‘backpackers’ attribute - we had learnt since Namibia - has nothing to do with actual backpacking, not in the southern-african subcontinent. It may well be the case for the entire East coast as well. It just means that camping in allowed on the premises and that sometimes accommodation in dorms is also offered, besides other sleeping arrangements. This place was laid back and friendly, but slightly run down and poorly maintained. Built a while back with less money than the very similar Ngepi in Caprivi, but just as expensive, clearly not targeting the budget travelers. As always when we slept in tourist hubs, we had a hard time falling asleep with all the partying and drinking going on at the campsite’s bar. In the afternoon we had toured the airline offices at the airport to inquire about scenic flights over the delta, as the alternative to visit the Okavango by mokoro would take too long. Luckily by late evening we had met two travelers from Munich, who would made an old dream possible - so in the next morning our party of four (us two, plus Dominic and Stefan) was reporting for a ridiculously scrupulous security search in the diminutive Maun airport.
Pe pista se facea smotru la greu
Airplanes being given a hand wash
Cateva date simpatice despre zbor: avionul, un Cessna 206 capabil sa duca pana la 5 pasageri la bord. Consum: 1 l kerosen/minut. Interval maxim de zbor: 5 ore. In cele 45 de minute de survol am parcurs 228,82 km, acoperind o suprafata de 109,707 ha wcu viteza maxima de 300 km/h.
Some fun data about our aircraft: also known as the ‘StationAir’, the sport-utility Cessna 206 is capable of taking up to five passengers. Fuel consumption 1l kerosene/ minute; range 5 hours. During our 45’ flight we traveled for 228,82 km, covering 109,707 ha with a maximum speed of 300 km/h.
Pilotul Andras este american si de gasca, afland ca pentru noi doi era primul zbor cu un obiectiv usor, ne-a propus ceva mai aventuros. Decolare in forta, apoi cateva viraje ametitoare si eram in al noualea cer. Toata lumea vibra de la adrenalina. La un moment dat toate G-urile astea m-au terminat, iar Andras a considerat ca cel mai bun leac e sa imi dea avionul pe mana.
Andras, our US born pilot (www.majorblueair.com), heard that that was our maiden flight with a light aircraft and offered to entertain us with the ‘adventurous’ version. A frisky take off and a couple of funky maneuvers and we were hooked. The whole gang was trepidating with adrenaline. Eventually all the Gs made my head turn, so Andras suggested piloting the 4 seater would make me feel better!
Am mentionat ca toata faza se intampla la cateva sute de metri deasupra deltei Okavango, unul dintre cele mai fabuloase locuri din lume?
Have I mentioned that all this awesomeness was happening a few hundred meters above the Okavango Delta, one of the Earth’s most magical places?
Cu o suprafata de 16,000 km patrati, Delta este una dintre putinele care nu sunt generate la varsarea intr-o apa. Mai intai falia Gumare schimba inclinatia albiei raului Okavango, astfel ia nastere Delta. Raul se imparte in trei brate principale, apoi in altele, nenumarate, secundare. Falia Thamalakane ‘inchide’ Delta, asa ca raul Okavango nu mai ajunge niciodata la ocea, partial evaporat, partial absorbit de Kalahari. Delta este un mozaic complex. Nenumarata lagune si canale taiate perpendicula de o retea radiala de poteci create de animale. In jurul acestor zone sunt movile circulare unde cresc nuferi si papirus, acestea sunt ‘insulele’ Deltei. In fine, spre margini sunt zone non-inundabile, acoperite cu iarba.
The 16,000 sq km Okavango Delta is one of the world’s few deltas that do not end into a river or the sea. First the Gumare rift changes the incline of the Okavango riverbed, thus the Delta is born. The river splits into three main channels, which later further split into dozens of others. The Thamalakane rift is where the inner delta ends, so the Okavango never reaches the ocean, partly evaporated, partly absorbed into the Kalahari. The Delta is a complex mosaic. Innumerable lagoons and water channels are cut perpendicularly by a radial network of trails (made by animals). Around them there are circular escarpments populated by water lilies and papyruses, the ‘islands’ of the Delta. Finally, there are the peripheral dry patches that never get fully flooded and that are mainly covered in grasses.
Vazusem Delta in Ferbruarie de departe, din Namibia. Acum sezonul ploios trecuse, si ca niste ucenici ai celebrului Yann Artus Bertrand, incercam sa avem o imagine de ansamblu. Am asistat la numeroase scene intime: elefanti si girafe traversand mlastinile si iazurile, cate un elefant adult singuratic, hipopotami pascand sau dormind sub apa, turme de zebre si antilope, un crocodil lenevind la soare, o familie de rinoceri, stoluri de pasari bucurandu-se de acest paradis terestru.
We had already had a glimpse of the delta’s fringes back in February, when it was in full flood. Now we were Yann Artus Bertrand wannabes, attempting to gain perspective of the ensemble. During the 45 minutes we witnessed many intimate scenes of this unique biome: elephants and giraffes making their way across marshes, some lonely bull hanging out by a stream, hippos grazing or chilling while fully submerged in the many pools, zebras scattering, a rhino family, a huge crocodile basking in the sun, herds of antelopes and flocks of birds enjoying an unspoiled paradise.
Culorile si texturile de apa, cer si pamant, cicatricile verii alcatuiau un peisaj fabulos
The colors of water, sky and earth, the many shades and textures of grasses, the dry patches bearing the scabs of later summer’s burnt trees - simply stunning.
Schimbarea de anotim dezvaluia alte detalii ale vastului ecosistem semi-acvatic. Te las sa privesti pozele care sunt o prea modesta imagine a realitatii.
The Delta was not at the peak of the flood, but the changing of the season was revealing new aspects of life in this vast, complex ecosystem. As we are short for words, please enjoy some humble photos of an only a corner of the amazing place we call home.
Dupa o dimineata asa de plina, nemtii ne-au scos la un nesscaffe, sa ne mai limpezim mintile. O ocazie sa mai sporovaim cu pilotul nostru, care e multumit de job si de orelele acumulate, dar nerabdator sa gaseasca un post mai banos in Europa. Ce bine ca drumul catre zambia de-a latul Botswanei e monoton. Aveam nevoie de ragazul asta sa digeram amintirile din Delta. Am trecut repede pe langa pan-urile Nxai si Makgadikgadi si pe langa baobabii batrani de mii de ani.
After such an exhilarating morning, we needed a moment to clear our heads. Our German buddies bought us a couple of iced lattes in a swanky cafe across the airport, a nice place to chat a bit with our cool pilot. As it turned out, the job is good for hours, but it doesn’t pay well enough for his ambitions that should see him landing a commercial airline job somewhere in Europe. What followed was a quite appropriate monotonous drive across Botswana. We were all adrenalined out, and anyway motorbikes are probated to enter inside the arguably wonderlands of Nxai or Makgadikgadi Pans or on the Kubu island. This in turn offered the space to digest the memories of the Delta as seen from the sky.
Stiam ca drumul ca trece prin parcul national Chobe si printr-un coridor de migratie a animalelor salbatice catre traverseaza dinspre Zimbabwe. Asa ca am campat la distanta confortabila de limita e securitate si am facut un foc de tabara, preventiv. A fost unuk dintre cele mai frumoase locuri in care am dormit.
We knew the road to Zambia would cross Chobe National park and incidentally the migration corridor of many wild animals. So we pitched camp within reasonable distance from the known cut-off, and warn the critters of our presence with a safety fire. One of those perfect spots it was.
Animati de rasaritul de soare, ne-am pregatit de intalnirea cu animalele. Dar drumul e in lucru, asa ca utilajele si operatiunea monstru au perturbat dramatic traiectoria faunei. Am vazut totusi cateva familii de elefanti, pe langa antilope, porci salbatici, elani si multe multe specii de pasari.
Charged by another mesmerizing sunrise, we rolled - impatient to see lots of wildlife - into a large operation to enlarge the road, which has disrupted the migration path of the animals crossing from Zim to Chobe. But we did spot some big game though, many many miles further north, besides duikas, warthogs, elands and many species of birds.
E de neinteles cum s-au adaptat acesti uriasi blanzi la prezenta si nestavilitul apetit pentru teritoriu ale omului.
It’s mind boggling how these giants have adapted to man’s presence and ever increasing appetite for territories.
La frontiera ne-am intalnit cu un grur de sud-africani echipati si para-echipati, pana in dinti.
At the border we met with a large group of super equipped South African holiday makers.
Ne-am inghesuit pe bac pentru 15 minute de traversare a fluviului Zambezi.
Together we hoped on the 15 minutes ride across the Zambezi by a 30 p... ferry.
Un grup de mokoro fshermen a trecut in forta, amintindu=ne de sportivii cu caiacele din Durban, Numai ca oamenii de fata nu o fac din placere, ci de nevoie.
A group of mokoros zoomed before our eyes across the channel, the fishermen looking as smooth and athletic as their Durban kaiak rowers counterparts. Just that these people are not exactly doing it for fun.
Inapoi in Zambia eram inapoi in Africa neagra: haos total la frontiera, peste tot ‘intermediari’ si ‘bine-voitori’ de profesie. Am trecut ca si neobservati pe langa tot show0uk sud-african. Daca la granita nu am platit nimic, in Livingstone am pierdut 160 p... pe mana unui bisnitar. Ssta e Africa, orice eroare se plateste. Supermarketul SPAR fusese intre timp inaugurat, asa ca inarmati cu mancare din piata si giftuiti cu pui si orez, am pornit piezis inspre Rapid 14.
Back in Zambia we were jolted back to the realization that we were back in the Black Africa as well: chaotic border control and hoards of middle men trying to extort newcomers. As the police had the South-Africans by the balls, we managed to slide under their radar and make our way out of the mess without paying a dime. But faith was awaiting in Livingstone: while negotiating the exchange rate of our last 160 p... for the local Kwachas, an opportunistic money changer seized the moment and simply grabbed my moneys. Before I could step off the bike or alert anyone he was gone. The Spar supermarket that had been under construction in February was now open for business, so we wiped off the bitterness with chicken and rice, then loaded with fresh veggies from the market we were off to Rapid 14.