Thursday, March 31, 2016

Coming Home

          The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Lao Tzu
A journey of 18 ½ hours ends with both cheeks numb. Anon
So. Last Friday morning we got up early, finished packing, said goodby to the pets, and headed out for breakfast.  About 9:00 AM I took E to the airport with the luggage, and I went to get the car washed. We'd been on lots of muddy roads, including the one that Glen lives on, and we wanted to return it clean. The car wash we picked out was closed. Who closes on the Friday before Easter, eh?

I went down the road a bit to another place, and they were happy to do it for us. The whole process took about an hour with two fellows working inside and out with the vacuum, rags and a pressure washer. Looked very nice when they were finished. Total cost 80 Pula... a bit less than $8.

Back at the Airport, E continues to wait.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Home Again!

Sorry to disappear on you. The trip home was exhausting and we are only now recovering. Work on the house took a bit longer than expected and the floors downstairs received the final (I hope) coat of polyurethane today and we are staying in a hotel until it is safe to walk on (at least tomorrow). I'll try to get a post up about the "fun" we had on the way home on an 18 ½ hour flight from Johannesburg. I need a day or two to recover first. Be patient.

Friday, March 25, 2016


Just so you understand what you are seeing here: all the photos in this post were taken inside the city limits of Maun almost directly across the river from the town center. There are two main roads, one on each side of the river. This is on the side of the river where we are living.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

South African Airlines

Completely incompetent.
Row a canoe across the sea; it will be easier.

By the Boteti River in the Noonday Sun

White Stork.
Riding out of town  we spied a clutch of White Storks in a field alongside the road. We had a fun bird day even if there were no new birds to add to our lists.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Country Life

As far as we can tell, most folks in Maun have electricity although some (many...most?) do not have running water. We know this because even first thing in the morning, Kitsiso and KB have charged cell phones, but we also see lots of people carrying water from the river.

Out of town, even electricity is scarce.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Local Scene

Terri (in the bed) and Emma doing what they do best.
There are three roads that lead out of Maun, and we've travelled each many times. Yesterday we spent some time exploring locally.

Monday, March 21, 2016


You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.  Inigo Montoya

Roads are strange places in Botswana. Sure, they are sometimes paved and when they are, they are often painted with traffic-directing marks just like roads everywhere. But here, roads are so much more.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pan National Parks

White Stork.
With all the rain we've been having and our reluctance to get involved in driving on untarred roads where the chances of getting stuck are non-zero, we decided that Friday we'd drive on the tarred roads  and visit the Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans. These salt pans are the remains of large lakes that used to exist here. In the southwestern portion of Makgadikgadi there is still a lake, but it is much smaller than when Livingstone first saw it. Nowadays, there is a the A3 that cuts through the park area on the way from Maun to Francistown. We came to the edge of this before. This time we went all the way.

Driving South Again

A pair of White-Backed Vultures alongside the road south of Maun.
I'm a little behind on the blogging since we've been on the go for a few days. This combined with the weather, had made it difficult to keep up.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Out Into the Bush (Just A Little)

After having our second breakfast at our usual place, Motsana, and seeing the sun come out, we decided to have a mini-safari. We decided to drive towards Moremi and stop when the roads got too bad. There were things to see even without actually getting into deep water or the game reserve itself.

National Goat in the Road Day

After a hard rain Wednesday morning, we discovered that it was National Goat in the Road Day. OK, so it is not really a national thing, we sure saw lots of goats in the road here in Maun.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

More Rain

Today (Wednesday) we planned to leave early for a full day at the Moremi Game Reserve. However, during the night it began to rain. It was a steady, hard rain by the time we got up at 5:15 and by the time we finished our morning ablutions about 6:00, it was still going strong.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Everyday Life

Women fishing in the Thamalakane River.
We stopped at the Old Bridge Backpackers yesterday for lunch. Out by the old bridge, we saw three or four women seine for fish. We saw them though one of the gaps between the bridge supports. We could tell that the water was not deep - never more than about knee deep anywhere. Seems like a hard way to put food on the table.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Down by the River

The Thamalakane river just down from the house.

Sunday was a rest and recover day for us. It rained pretty steadily all morning and was cool (in the 70's) and pleasant. I discovered that we could actually watch Netflix on the computer. Apparently, Netflix is clever enough to stream a very low resolution version of the show so our wifi could handle it.

However, time marches on and dog-walking time approached. We knew this from the restlessness and incessant whining and barking. So off to the river we went, led by three happy dogs.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

On the Road to the Boteti River

Saturday, we packed a light lunch and took a drive to the east. We headed out of Maun on the A3 toward Francistown. Of course we never got anywhere near that far, but we wanted to see how the scenery changed as we went away from the Okavango delta region. As you can see, the potholes are a constant of life on the road here.

The Morning Chorus

This is our first attempt at posting a video so this will be little rough. I shot this on the iPhone and dowloaded it to the computer into my photo software. Of course, that program does nothing for videos except catalog them, so I opened it in iMovie and down-sampled it to 720p, low quality to get the size to something I can upload from here. The video quality is bad and, frankly, not the point.

This video is here for the sounds. I wanted to share with you the sounds we wake to every morning. Including the radio from next door. The birds are wonderful.

On my browser, I see a still image in addition to the video and I don't know why. Ignore the man behind the curtain (at least until I get this figured out).

Friday, March 11, 2016

A Night at the Movies

At the Motsana Center where we like to go for a post-breakfast Coke and tea before we start the day, there are other activities to enjoy. On Thursdays (at least this week and next), there is a kind of dinner theater. The owner, the standing fellow in the distance, rearranges the furniture to face the stage area off to the left and pulls down the projection screen. Then using his DVD player, we watch the weekly movie. This week it was The Bridge of Spies. It was very good and a welcome relief from the inability to watch Netflix on the slow network connections available here.

Driving home in the dark was an entirely different experience. There are no street lights and very few houses have lights you can see from the road. The dense vegetation also limits the reach of any domestic outdoor lights. Last night it was cloudy so there was no starlight or moon to guide us. It was just bloody dark!

All the roads looked different when viewed only from the car headlights. One stretch has a multitude of color-coded reflectors (with colors indicating side roads, passing/no-passing, etc.) embedded in the road making it feel like we were landing a plane. When this guidance disappeared, it suddenly got almost cave dark. Distances seems longer. We were convinced at least three times that we'd passed our road.

But in the end, after a nice evening out, we got home safely to our little retreat.

Exchange Rate

We've found a morning routine of going to the Piano Cafe at Motsana for a tea and a Coke after breakfast at home. We have, over the space of 2-2.5 hours, a bottle of still water, two Coke Lites, a fresh, warm bran muffin with butter and two jars of jam, and a pot of tea for one. Total cost after converting to US: $5.61. Think about that.

A Few Birds

The Pied Kingfisher.
We headed to the Old Backpackers for such yesterday and had a really good bacon cheese burger with fries. Nice and juicy! While there, we saw our friend the Pied Kingfisher again posing for us. But the real show of the day was viewed from Glen's front porch.

On Roads

Yesterday we drove back out to Shorobe for another look about. A couple new things I noticed this time around.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

An Afternoon at the Thamalakane River Lodge

A rain squall coming in from the delta.
We stopped for lunch at the Thamalakane River Lodge yesterday. There are great scenic views of the river and the fields beyond here and the food is reasonable as well. This time we tried the pizza with the chicken and the home-made peri-peri sauce. Oh my! Between us we had three slices of pizza, two bottles of water and two Coke-Lites and were still on fire. We got a box for the remainder to try for dinner. On the way home we stopped for more grapes to try to take the edge off if it. We were at least partially successful and the pizza is now all gone (along with the lining to my digestive tract).

After lunch we settled in for some birds watching. We weren't the only ones have a lunch with a kick to it.

Lunch at the French Connection

Yesterday we had lunch at the very pleasant cafe, The French Connection. It is located near the airport (city center, if you will) and shaded by a canopy and overhead screens to make an outside seating area.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

A Soft Afternoon

We had a bit of a soft day today with cooler temperatures and, after lunch, some rain. With the change in reflectance that comes with wetting things down, I decided to try a little infrared photography. Here is Glen's front yard in infrared. It is quite different when you examine a scene in a part of the spectrum that we don't normally see.

With some adjustments, I found that softening and darkening the background allowed the tree rendered with white leaves in the center to standout more and give the image more of a three-dimensional feel. Darkening the walkway a bit balanced with the dark tree trunk and the metal bench on the right. On the whole, I find it a pleasing image. Even simple scenes, when viewed in a new way, can be interesting.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Everything By Truck

Whatever you like.

Lake Ngami

On the shore of Lake Ngami.
This morning we got up early and headed south to Lake Ngami. This is a lake that depends on water from the Okavango, and especially flood years, to have water in it. Rumor has it that there are lots of birds at times. So we loaded up the car with all out food and toys and went to see for ourselves.

Slow Weekend

The Carmine Bee Eater.
This weekend was a slow one for us. We are finding our routine and really enjoying the slower pace of things. Saturday we had a brief rain storm that resulted in having no power. After about 45 minutes, we loaded up and went to one of our favorite haunts: Motsana. This is a small shopping center just out of town. There's a travel agency (Glen's), a small gym of sorts, a couple shops and cafe. There is in addition, one end set up as a stage so there is community theater there several times a year (but not while we are here).

There we net a woman, Nicole, from Toronto, and had a delightful conversation about all sorts of things. After a light lunch and some exploring we headed back home and found the power back on. Sunday was quite laid back with only quick trip to the store. Monday was more interesting. We went to Lake Ngami.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

A Local Cemetery

We went for a ride today in new directions and took a road by mistake. As is often the case, the mistake revealed a new adventure. We found a cemetery! Many, if not all, of the gravesites are covered with metal frames that support green awnings. One blog we found suggests that this is to simply keep the sun off of the departed.

Notice that the plot markers are rectangular signs (they seem to be metal) painted in large block letters. They are each the same: Name, birth, death, and internment dates, followed by a line that says "Rest in Peace."

Elizabeth has also learned that Saturday is the only day of the week for burials. This, no doubt, is related to the many young men we saw walking today wearing suits. It certainly must be connected to  the recording of the burial date on the marker.

The African Elephant

On our trip to the edge of the Moremi Game Reserve, one of the splendid animals we saw was the African Elephant. I present him here for your enjoyment.

Alongside the Road

Yesterday we took a short trip to Shorobe, a small village near the end of the tarred road on the way to Moremi. Along the way, we saw a curious thing that we don't really understand. I've searched the web as best I can, but it's no help.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Follow Us!

We have so few readers that I feel compelled to note that some of the entries are going unread :(. And these are the ones with some cool animal photos. I just want to remind everyone that you can learn about all the posts as they go live by following me on twitte@StevenWhisnant. With the hashtag #NoBetterLife4us, you can see what we've posted. To avoid the potential headaches of all the naughty people on the intertubes flooding a comment section, we have chosen to use Twitter as our comment section. Simply put your thoughts down and include our hashtag.

I've also added a bit to the right to allow you to subscribe to the blog by email if you are Twitter-averse.

Either way, we're glad you enjoy the posts.

Flying Over the Okavango Delta

Yesterday, we stopped at Mack Air for reasons quite unrelated, casually asked about the availability for scenic flights over the Okavango Delta, and the next thing we know they are making arrangements. So, at 3:30 we were waiting in the air conditioned lobby ready to go. We showed our passports, bought our tickets, and walked across the street to the airport. All quite laid back here.

No Guts, No Glory

This afternoon Steve and I flew over the Okavango Delta in a Cessna smaller than our car, with a bush pilot young enough to be our grandson, and an aging guy in the rear seat who looked and smelled a little bit like a water buffalo.

No guts, no glory!

Thank goddess for panty liners.

Out By the Old Bridge

A portion of the old bridge across the Thamalakane river.
At one end of the "Old Bridge" is the Old Bridge Backpackers. It is a bar with food, a campsite for those traveling cheaply, and it seems to organize trips as well. All open air with some tables attached to (no legs) living trees, it's a bar with a thatched roof playing 60's music. What a trip! We felt like we had transported back 50 years to the time of hippies and dropped out ourselves.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Our Current Residence

View from the front gate.
Thought everyone would like to see a little about accommodations. We are staying in a delightful bungalow walking distance from the Thamalakane River. Like every other place here, there is a fence and a gate with a padlock.

A Few Moremi Birds

Red-billed hornbill.
We saw many more birds than I could reasonably photograph, so here are a few of the better images. Above is a Red-Billed Hornbill wandering along near the road. There are very common here.

More below the fold.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Large Moremi Wildlife

The Tsessebe Antelope, one of the uglier critters I've seen lately.
Not all the creatures we saw fit into the category of majestic or handsome. The Tsessbe Antelope is one of them. Face covered with sand from trying to ward of the flies, and just generally not a pretty face underneath.

So, let me tell you about the flies. OMG! There were places along the road where opening a window was scary. The flies were so numerous that the swifts were thickly swarming about scooping them up as fast as possible.

Moremi Game Reserve

The main road through the southern end of Moremi.
Today is a little R&R after our trek to the southern end of the Moremi Game Reserve. It is unlike any place in South Africa we've visited. The road is more of a path in many places, and as you see above can be quite deep sand. Four-wheel drive is must. We have intermittent rain as we drove along and there were places with nice mud puddles to navigate.

To maintain my sanity and yours, I'll be posting several entries about this trip.

Beautiful Bee Eater

The Little Bee Eater.
I spotted the Lilac Breasted Roller in South Africa in 1999, and until today, it was the most beautiful bird I've ever seen. The Little Bee Eater in Moremi Game Reserve has knocked the LBR right off of it's perch! Check out the Maybelline sparkly blue eyeshadow this gal is sporting! We saw approximately two dozen Little Bee Eaters flitting around beside the road and this one posed for Steve. What a thrill!