Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Makgatigati salt pans: part 2- trekking onto the pans

We woke up (after sleeping 12 hours) feeling much refreshed and decided that we couldn’t ignore the siren call of the beautiful pool at the hotel. I know it’s hard to conceptualize, but it’s winter here and it gets really cold! Like pants/sweater during the day and fleece/gloves at night cold. But PennMed-ers are a hearty bunch so we stripped down to our skivvies and jumped in. Freezing but totally worth it.

 Finally we set off toward the salt pans with an amazing drive:

We made a quick stop at Chapman’s baobab: an enormous tree that is more than 4,500 years old.

Next we donned some headscarves (for dust control) and hopped on ATVs to make the trek onto the actual salt pans. Despite an injunction from Doug aka the “man of the house” (the derm resident I work with) not to use the ATVs, we had a great time and were very careful. 
Roommate love.

I love how little liability there is in Africa. Here was our intro/safety talk: "These are the quad bikes. Turn on like this. Down for neutral. Up for shifting- 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Don't forget to downshift when stopping." That was it. No wavers, no demonstration, nothing. Several girls in our group had never driven a manual car so they were like "umm...shift?" But the whole "throw you in the pool to learn to swim" technique worked like a charm because within 5 minutes we were all ATV-ing champs.

We arrived at camp in time just as the sun had dipped below the horizon. We ate dinner and stayed by the fire telling riddles with the guides and the other guests: an American women named Marya, 2 young British boys who were biking across Southern Africa, a Japanese diplomat couple and a German family.

At around 10pm we crawled into our sleeping bags. We slept without tents, with nothing between us and the stars. The moon, however, was so bright that you could have read a book without a headlamp. Keep in mind that the temperature was hovering somewhere around freezing so I was wearing, no joke, 6 layers. Closing my eyes that night I felt obnoxiously, deliriously happy.  I kind of can't believe that I am here in Botswana, doing something I love while having the most amazing experiences. It's an incredible feeling.

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