Friday, March 11, 2016

On Roads

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

The first thing I need to tell you for a bit of context is that the roads here are not in great shape (shocking!). The sandy shoulders of the roads are worn down from the rains, the winds, and the people driving on them constantly. This means that nearly everywhere, there is no vegetation up to the edge of the road is as often found in the US. It also means that nearly everywhere the level of the earth just past the edge of the asphalt is much lower. Thus, the edges of the pavement tend to break off and leave edges that resemble a meandering river. Some meanders are large and have grown to be potholes connected to the roadside, much like the inverse of a river growing ox-bow lakes. The edges of the roads are to be approached with care.

The road-edge issue is complicated by the extensive use of public transport in Maun. Lots of vain-sized buses for school children and commuters; taxis everywhere. These all pull off the road where ever is required to discharge or take on passengers. Lots of off-road driving in the city.

As for the rest of the road...potholes. Potholes pretty much everywhere. Some stretches road are merely uneven and resemble a wide country road back home. However, the stretch leading to Glen's home from either direction is filled with holes. After some effort and Facebook shaming, the government (it is not clear if it is local or national government) while we've been here has been busy filling the holes and the road is much easier to navigate. A sea of holes large enough to do serious damage to the car if hit at speed means that everyone drives around them. Regardless of oncoming traffic people were weaving around like drunken sailors to avoid the worst of the trauma. In places, you simply had to grit your teeth and drive slowly to survive the inevitable shaking you would receive.

Maun roads, in short are "complicated" and interesting. What I noticed yesterday on the way to Shorobe, is that the many animal -  donkeys, goats, cattle, dogs, and sometimes horses - contribute, in their own way, to the splendor that is Botswana driving. As you can imagine, their droppings cover everything, including the roadways. After a few vehicles pass, they are flattened into brown spots on the roads and resemble patched potholes. All the scenic enjoyment of a holed road without the wear and tear on the car! Of course, the down side is that you must always be on the lookout for one for the perpetrators wandering or dashing into the road in front of you or in front of the vehicle in front of you. If you're following a truck of some kind that you can't easily see around, this can be tricky. Nothing anywhere seems to be fenced in very well.

Termite mound in a pasture.

But there are fences in places. Well, at least there are fence posts. Certainly, part of the reason that that proper fencing is rare is the lack of money and some of it is because no one really seems to care if the cattle are in the road, so why bother? But an underlying reason we've reached this point is that everywhere are really large termite mounds. This is what the houses are built of cinder block, brick or cement. This is why the fence posts are crooked. Certain wood is resistant, like mopane trees, and are used for this purpose. But these trees have multiple trunks and do not grow long straight and fat for making proper fence posts. So people gather the bits of mopane trees they can to build the fencing.

A Botswana pasture fence.
Thus, you occasionally see a roadside fence such as the one above. Occasionally, because one rarely see's a fence at all. Mostly what you see are potholes or the real or decorative variety.