The next day was bundu bashing the whole way. We were heading to Baine’s Baobab. We would be at greatest risk on this day because if there were mechanical problems with the vehicle, we would be miles from the closest road let alone civilisation.
Baines’ Baobabs are a highlight for any visitor travelling this area of Botswana.
Seven huge, gnarled baobab trees, named after the 19th century explorer Thomas Baines, are situated on a promontory or island overlooking and surrounded by the white, crusty Kudiakam Pan. Baines stood here over a hundred years ago and painted this otherworldly scene. It has essentially remained unchanged.
Thomas Baines was an explorer, artist, naturalist and cartographer. He and fellow explorer James Chapman travelled through this area during their two-year journey from Namibia to Victoria Falls.
They travelled in horse-drawn wagons and on foot, accompanied and led at different times by Hottentots, Damaras and San. They encountered numerous difficulties, including the harshness of the desert, thirst, hunger, illness, and more than once, desertion by their guides, who made off with their supplies.
Despite all this, Baines’ account of the journey is filled with appreciation of the beauty of Africa. ‘I confess,’ he wrote, ‘I can never quite get over the feeling that the wonderful products of nature are objects to be admired rather than destroyed; and this, I am afraid, sometimes keeps me looking at a buck when I ought to be minding my hindsights.’
Baines’ painting of the small island of baobabs shows covered wagons, people tending their horses, and a huge baobab bursting with leaves.
We camped under these 7 huge baobab trees all alone without another human for hundreds of miles. Even between us & Francistown, there could not have been more than a several thousand people. That is how unpopulated Botswana is.
That evening I felt like stretching my legs. I put on some running shoes & headed west across a dried-out salt lake. After several kilometres, I turned around. The baobabs were mere specks in the distance. I realised my stupidity. I was in a precarious position. All that I needed was an itinerant lion or hyena & I would be predator-fodder. The run back was certainly at a far faster clip than the outward run.
The Mokoro interlude
On departing from Baine’s Baobabs, there were distinct signs of lions: their spoor. This reminded us yet again of the dangers of straying too far from the vehicle.
Instead of driving straight to the Francistown Maun Road, we drove south west to intercept it just before Maun itself. That night we would be staying in a camp site, the first night close to civilisation in four nights.
The next morning was the mandatory mokoro trip on the delta. A mokoro is similar to a dugout & is made from the stem of a large tree. Through the crystal clear waters one could clearly see the sandy bottom of the lake. With hippos snorting in the vicinity, all sensed that one was enveloped within nature.
Then we were off into the heart of the Okavango itself.
It was at this point that an unwelcome discovery was made: we had only catered for one week instead of two. With Botswana being so under populated, it was not as if we could pop into our nearest Woolies for replenishment. Furthermore we had no refrigeration facilities to keep meat fresh except a small bar fridge. As Rob was aware of one store between Maun & the Okavango proper, we made straight for it.
This African Trading Store was fully stocked with cooldrinks, an assortment of cheap sweats, mielie meal & tins of pilchards.
Have a guess what our meals for the next week would be: mielie meal & pilchards? NO. You are dead wrong.
I will give you a clue: we had plenty of salami.
The revised & improvised menu then read as follows:
- Breakfast: Mielie meal, salami & coffee
- Lunch: Mielie meal, salami & tea
- Supper: Mielie meal, salami, coffee & two spoons of canned fruit
Nothing like a well-balanced meal to stimulate the appetite!
Episodes of Living the Rhythms of a Bush Life
Living the Rhythms of a Bush Life Part 1: Prologue & 10km Trip
Living the Rhythms of a Bush Life Part 2: Makgadikgadi & Nxai Pan
Living the Rhythms of a Bush Life Part 3: Bain’s Baobab, The Mokoro Interlude & Starvation Rations
Living the Rhythms of a Bush Life Part 4: Into the Heart of the Okavango
Living the Rhythms of a Bush Life Part 5: Through Moremi to Chobe & Home