Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Makgadigadi pans: Part 1- Getting there

(I am going to split my description of my long weekend into several parts in the hope that it's less overwhelming. I already received some "feedback" that my account was confusing (*cough* my grandmother *cough*)  so just as a brief overview here was our itinerary:

Sat: Took a bus from Gaborone --> Francistown --> Gweta (the location of our hotel). Spent the night at the hotel
Sun: Spent the morning at the hotel and then headed out to the salt pans that afternoon (got there by a combo of driving/ATVing). Slept on the salt pans.
Mon: Woke up on the salt pans and headed back to the hotel. Did the reverse of our previous bus journey (Gweta --> Francistown --> Gaborone)

OK...now back to our regularly scheduled programming ....

Getting to the salt pans was a less than pleasant experience. Let me preface this story by saying that most of the interactions I’ve had in Botswana have been unbelievably friendly and pleasant. But, as any traveler knows, the laws of probability favor at least a few unsavory experiences as you traverse the world. And a personal note to my Nana- don't read this.

We got up at 5am and got a ride to the bus rank where we boarded a public bus to Francistown with little issue. Two hours into this 6-hour leg, however, the bus pulled over and everyone started to get up. We looked around confusedly until an elderly woman took pity on us and explained that the bus had a leak. 15 minutes later and they apparently fixed the leak…or so we thought. 20 minutes after that, the bus pulled over again. This time they didn’t let us off. There was a general rumbling amongst the populace and people were shouting things in Setswana but of course, we had very little idea what was going on. Christina, another med student traveling with us, leaned over to me “I saw someone earlier chewing on a match.” Grrrreeeatttt. The bus finally started moving again and we made it, without bursting into flames (which is always a bonus)

Once in Francistown we all piled off and decided to use the bathroom before boarding our next 4 hour bus. Once we arrived at the bathroom, however, our friend Amy realized that her wallet hadn’t exactly made the trip with her. Pissed off and a bit frantic (being pickpocketed stinks), she was escorted back to the bus by Julia to make sure she didn’t leave it on the seat. On the way back to the bus, two men grabbed them and tried to search through their pockets. The worst part was that they were yelling for help and not a single person in the crowded bus rank did anything to stop the men. Luckily, they were able to pull away and rejoin the group. At this point we were all super rattled and simply sat on the bus until it left. The rest of our trip was uneventful and we made it to the hostel without incident. 
Got off the bus at Gweta after 12 hours of bus travel.
Fear not, dear reader- put away your hankies...the rest of out odyssey was far happier. When we got to the hostel we found out that the tents we had reserved were unavailable so we were upgraded to the most adorable little huts for the night (only 110 Pula a night each which is like $17!!) Our hotel, by the way, was called "Planet Baobab" after the amazing baobab trees scattered around the property. I challenge any of you to say "we are staying at Planet Baobab" without a trace of irony. Impossible. I’ll save the rest of the story for my next post but here are some pictures.

Bar at the hotel

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