Trip Start Jul 25, 2006
165Trip End Ongoing
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After about 45 minutes (and a lot of bemused looks from Africans on seeing a white man hitching), a small pickup truck pulled up. A number of people piled into the back, and after negotiating a fee with the driver, I did too. As we rolled out of Kasane, a giraffe stood on the side of the road, munching away on a tree. A family of about eight elephants walked along a ridge in the distance. Have I mentioned I love Africa?
For three hundred kilometers I sat in the back of the pickup, trying not to bounce out of the back when we hit the occasional pothole. The sun shone mercilessly on a sky completely devoid of cloud. The landscape was dry, sparse, and flat. It stretched on and never seemed to end. The sky was enormous, and I felt its presence like I never have before. When I finally arrived in Nata my face and arms were a cherry plum red and I nearly fell getting out of the truck, so stiff was my body.
Nata is simply a crossroads. The road continues south to Francistown, or west towards Maun and the huge salt pans that dominate this area. After a quick bite to eat and drink, I headed out to the side of the road and lifted my sign once again. An overland van filled with young backpackers passed me, the driver waving at me while the seat beside him sat empty. Have I mentioned my feelings towards overland trucks before?
Finally I was picked up by a gregarious Botswanan business man in a pickup truck. We cruised across the searing hot pans in glorious air conditioning. Along the way we passed the overland truck from before and I took a small, but substantial, pleasure in this. Call me petty.
Finally I spotted a giant 20 foot tall aardvark along the side of the road. Far from a road induced hallucination, it marked the entrance to a place called Planet Baobab, my destination for the day. After I took a photo of the aardvark, I hoisted my bag onto my shoulder and prepared for the sticky one kilometer walk into the bush to reach the camp. Just as I started to walk, a van full of German tourists on safari pulled up and offered me a lift into the camp. I gratefully accepted.
Planet Baobab is a camp set back in the vast salt pans that make up this part of northern Botswana. During the day, the temperature soars as the heat bakes the ground. The landscape is sparse and has mostly scrub vegetation. What makes Planet Baobab special are the 17 huge baobab trees scattered around the site. Baobab trees have enormous trunks and iconic of this part of Africa. The camp is a mix of traditional grass huts ranging up to luxurious cottages. I camped.
The bar is quirkily decorated and the entire vibe is one of relaxation. Incongruously, a huge swimming pool sits out under the sun filled with some of the coldest water I have felt in Africa. Old photos and posters of cheesy Hollywood movies set in Africa in the '40's and '50's line the walls. If you are in the area, it is definitely worth a stop.
The next morning, the German group very graciously offered me a ride into Maun. They even drove quite far out of their way to drive me to my current home - the Old Bridge Backpackers. Their kindness, and all the kindness of strangers shown to me on the road, is one of the reasons I love this trip. It would also be a hell of lot more difficult without these small favours.