Cousin visiting

The new year is well on its way. Our nephew Tobias (9 years) has joined us from Norway to stay with us for 5 weeks. Going to school and participating in all the other fun everyday life we are living. Coming from the cold north it’s been close to impossible to get him out of the pool. Spending hours in the water everyday. His first days of school went very well and the initial nervousness vanished very quickly. He adapted quickly to hearing and speaking English and should learn quite a bit more than he would back home at school. Our boys have had squad trials and both managed to qualify for the school team. Their preparations for the first zonal gala went well and both Robin and Nicolas managed to qualify for the interzonal gala held in Francistown. A town 500 km to the east. So we packed the car Friday morning to head off. Of course Tobias wanted to join and cheer on his cousins. On our way we were lucky to see elephant, ostrich and a kudu. We had been invited to stay with one of Nicolas’ school friends. His family own a lovely farm, the house situated on top of a little rocky hill with a fantastic view.

On the last stretch to the farm we saw a Jackal that had been hit by a car.

Once at the farm the kids played with the 9 puppies that were there, while the adults prepared a carb loaded dinner. Unfortunately the spaghetti didn’t arrive until later, so the kids ended up eating Bolognese and garlic bread. Once fed it was time to hit the sack.

Saturday started early, a coffee and some food before we headed for the gala. As the boys met up with their team and got warmed up we adults could enjoy another cup of coffee and mingle, to calm the nerves. The gala started with the individual medley, where Nicolas featured for the under 11 boys. The start signal went off and the boys exploded off the starting blocks. A tight race between the first three, all from matshwane and Nicolas’ friends. They took turns leading the race, Nicolas in second on the last lap, swimming crawl. By half way he was along side the leader edging his way past on the last 5 meters, touching the wall first!! Robin was up next swimming backstroke for the under 8 boys, the excitement was just as much, him and another fighting for the first spot, and Robin touching the wall second, but improving his time by 2 seconds since the last gala! Nicolas took 3 second spots in backstroke, butterfly and crawl, close behind the first. And Robin managed a third spot in breaststroke and to win the crawl event from lane 8 swimming 3 seconds faster than 2 weeks ago! Their swimming guaranteeing them a spot in the northern Botswana schools swim squad! 2 happy but tired boys were ready for the drive back home to tell mom all about the exciting races.

Nicolas had his birthday at the end of January, turning 11! Where has the time gone?? He had been saving up for a motorbike for more than a year, so I thought I’d see if I could get hold of a bike for him for his birthday. And I was lucky to find a Yamaha 125TTR in South Africa, for the amount he had saved. My sister was in South Africa at the time and managed to go have a look at the bike. She and her boyfriend approved of the bike’s status and loaded it onto their car.

Of course Nicolas didn’t know about it, so we first gave him an old frame we had found and said he could now start buying the rest of the parts with his money…

A while later Angus, my sister’s boyfriend, said he had some spare parts on the back of his car, which nicolas could buy… And that’s where he, to his great surprise, saw the bike and couldn’t believe his eyes!

His grandpa took him on a bike trip the following weekend, driving up the dry river bed and learning how to handle the bike in the sand. Nicolas only had one fall, no injury and a lot of fun.

We are now awaiting the arrival of Tobias’ family. Aiming at taking them into the bush for a few nights during the half term school break.

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Soon to post an update on the building progress, which has started up again.

Bush wedding

Aunty Yvonne, better known as pompai, and, now uncle, Dennis decided to have their wedding in Botswana! Weeks of planning and organizing finally came to an end as visitors from Germany started trickling in. The official day charging at us at great pace. We started off meeting everyone for a gathered dinner at Okavango River Lodge, a local lodge along the dry river bed. The following day all the girls headed off to a farm while the boys took the groom to another lodge along the boteti river. A long day of fun, drinking and talking came to an early end as we needed to get up early the next day for the long drive to Khwai. 2 trucks and our cruiser were packed with just over 50 guests, ready by 9 and heading out to the bush. Hoping to arrive at the camp for lunch. Unfortunately one of the trucks had different plans and just an hour into the drive we needed to have a closer look, finding out that the prop shaft was loose, missing some bolts and the rest being loose. We managed to fix that and could continue, the pace not as high as we hoped. Arriving at the camp well after lunch time, we were welcomed with fantastic snacks.

Sable alley is the name of the camp where we now were to spend 4 days in wonderful company. The free choice of chilling in camp or going on safaris was a luxury. Most of the guests made use of every opportunity to go on safari both mornings and evenings, whereas we used the opportunity to sleep in and enjoy the view form the pool and the deck. Animals coming to the waterhole or walking past in the distance.

On the third day in camp, the official day had arrived. Heading out to a fabulous spot on an open floodplain the scene was set for the wedding ceremony. All the guests were seated and awaiting the arrival of the bride, marveling at the rain clouds building up all around us, wondering whether the skies would open up… Thunder rolling in the distance and lightning bolts presenting a show around us, luckily we all stayed dry.

After a lovely ceremony we enjoyed the setting sun with drinks and delicious snacks. Congratulating the newly weds and posing for the photographer.

Everyone headed back to camp after the sun had set. A romantic sight met us as we saw the candle litt table on the grass between the deck and the waterhole. We were to have dinner 20 meters from 20 hippos occupying the waterhole in front of the lodge. Luckily they didn’t decide to join us for the festivities. In contrary to the elephants.

As we were devouring the main meal the guide made us aware of 4 elephants approaching the table. They were wandering along the water’s edge, quietly coming closer to where we were seated. Conversations seized and all our eyes were fixed on the four gentlemen making their way passed the table and between us and the hippos. Their calmness reassuring our guests that this was nothing out of the usual. Talk and chewing soon commenced and the desert was up next. But the enjoyment was short lived. Just having finished the desert we saw another elephant rapidly approaching our table on its way to the waterhole. It had come through camp and seemed unaware of our party. One of the guides let the elephant know that we were directly on his path. It stopped just 5 m from the table pausing to contemplate what to do next. An eternal moment later it shook its head at us and continued parallel alongside the table for a refreshing drink of muddy water. A joint sigh went through most of the group as guests were glad they had just survived this encounter. From there speeches were cut short and once the cake had been served people were relieved they finally could get back onto the safe deck. Where the bridal couple performed their dance to open the dance floor, inviting everyone to dance long into the night.

Another day of chilling and safari drives before our fantastic stay came to an end and it was time to head back. Everyone had found a spot in the 2 trucks and the drive home began. One hour into the drive, a few small drops of rain started to hit those sitting on the open vehicle. Little did they know that this was going to last for another 3-4 hours and all the way back home.

Instead of easying off the rain intensified soaking every inch on every passenger down to their knickers. At times I couldn’t see the road more than 10m ahead. By the time we got to town the passengers were ice cold and freezing, teeth clattering and fingers paralized.

We now had a few days in town to prepare for the final episode of this epic wedding adventure. The final show to go down at the Old Bridge Backpackers. The day started with rain, everyone expecting a wet wedding. Friends from all over Botswana had made their way to the venue and were waiting for the bridal couple to arrive. Roughly an hour before their arrival the rain stopped and the clouds gave way for the setting sun. The orange light creating a wonderful atmosphere.

The night was spent partying and dancing in the sand. After a week of wedding adventures new friendships had been made and unforgettable experiences shared. We look back at a week that flew by but still felt like it was months ago since the arrival of the first guests at the airport. I guess time flies when you have fun!

Moving into our own space

After having lived with the grandparents and one of the aunties for a year, we decided it was time to find our own space. An addition of five would make an impact on any home. Especially with kids it isn’t always easy keeping it tidy and organized. Being German a certain level of order is expected culturally. So we found a place we could rent until our own house is done. It has taken longer than expected to build. And with my sister’s upcoming wedding, progress on the site was put on a halt. Energy rather being used on getting everything ready to receive everyone and transport all the guests to the bush for the wedding. We are so looking forward to that. A post on that will follow. We were very thankful for my parents’ kindness of letting us stay for so long. Living together in a big group with different ideas and systems isn’t always easy, but everyone contributed and tried to make the best. We eventually found a lovely house with a swimming pool. Although it did need quite a bit of work before we could move in. The whole house was infested with ticks, the walls were filthy and partly broken and the whole place still had rubbish from the previous tennants lying around. The pool was green and had algae growing in it. Once we had emptied out the water and cleaned it, put in the missing light and fixed the pool pump, we finally could fill it up again.

After nearly two weeks of hard work, the house was clean, sprayed for pests, fixed up and painted so we could move in. Not having had the time to make beds we got hold of some old pallets along the roadside which we washed and used as a base for the mattresses.

After a short while we also found the time to weld some steel bed frames and buy mattresses. These arrived just a few days ago and we will for the first time tonight sleep in proper beds again.

We still have minor things left to fix, but it is habitable and cosy. We are enjoying having time with just us and I am sure, though they will never admit it, that the grandparents also are happy to have some peace and tidyness around and in their house.

An experience of a lifetime

Two land cruisers and a trailer packed, we were ready for a 10 day trip with our guests from the north. The 1981 model had just been serviced by myself and my dad, ready for the 1000 km round trip. We left Maun towards the east, to a place called Gweta. A little settlement at the edge of Botswana’s salt pans. We parked our cars at the lodge and only took the necessary bags for a night under the open sky. Our guide then drove us on a dusty road past some huge baobab trees and onto the Ntwetwe pan.

Spending the evening by the campfire telling stories we eventually slipped into the bedrolls, gazing up at the magnificent sky filled with millions of stars. Falling asleep counting shooting stars was a lot more fun than counting sheep. As the horizon was becoming lighter we woke to watch the sun rise from our beds.

After breakfast and some coffee our guide took us back to our cars. On the way back we stopped to see some meerkats warming themselves in the sun. Wonderful little creatures which came pretty close to us as we were sitting around their burrow.

Back at our cars the journey continued eastward for another 100km before heading north. The road heading north was an interesting drive, seeing quite a bit of wild animals along the way, making the 300 km journey seem a lot shorter. Later that afternoon we arrived in a place called Kasane, a village on the Chobe river in the north eastern corner of Botswana, bordering to Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia. It became apparent that Kasane was right on the edge of the Chobe game reserve as we drove through the little town we saw warthogs, elephant, Buffalo and other antelopes walking in between the houses.

Early the next morning, before sunrise we were picked up to be taken to Victoria falls. The border took som time, with a lot of other travelers wanting to enter Zimbabwe and the issuing of the visas proving to be a slow process. Finally whith the visas in all our passports we were all ready for some breakfast, before heading to the falls themselves.

The sight of the mighty Zambezi river thundering over the edge and falling downward was jaw dropping. Getting a cool down from the spray was pretty relieving as the temperature was rising.

From the falls we headed to the local market, where craftsmen and women were selling souvenirs and other products.

A bit of hustling and bartering later we had all acquired some small goods. The traders’ persistence and willingness to swap goods for clothing gave us a little insight into how tough their situation seems. Vic Falls itself most probably not reflecting the true situation in the rest of the country. Talking to locals we learnt that it is a lot tougher in many parts of the country. There is a new currency called “bonds”, which changes its value by the hour and other currencies have become illegal. The prices in the local supermarket were shockingly high! We left Zimbabwe in awe, that the people were so open, friendly and helpful even though the situation sounded so challenging.

Back in Botswana we had a few days in Kasane and decided to take an evening cruise on the Chobe river. Enjoying game viewing in a different style. Being in a boat is a lot less bumpy and not as dusty as on the back of the car. The boat also made it possible to see birds and other animals from a very close distance.

From Kasane we followed the road heading south west, homeward bound. Stopping over in Savuti for a few nights to see what we could see. And with these guests of ours we didn’t have to wait long before the next fantastic sighting revealed itself, a leopard lying in a tree! Having heard lions roaring all night, not far away from our tents we were optimistic to find them when we headed off on our morning drive. It didn’t take long until we spotted them by a nearby waterhole. Later that day, just after sunset, we were lucky to be parked right next to the male when it performed it’s familiar roar. The shear volume and depth it created was felt right to the bone.

Later that night as we were seated around the fire Øyvind, suddenly noticed a male Elefant on its way towards us, leisurely heading straight to where we were sitting. We slowly moved away towards one of the cars, giving it some space. It stood next to our chairs for a few minutes using its trunk to smell around, before slowly moving on, passing our car just a few meters from us. His size felt quite intimidating.

From Savuti we drove on to our last stopover, Mababe. As we pulled into one of our favorite spots it became clear that elephants owned this area. As we were about to unpack our gear an elephant came strolling into camp. Not minding us he started shaking the acacia tree, causing the pods to drop, then proceeding to gracefully picking them up with his trunk and flicking them into his mouth. He was not going to move away, and other elephants were coming close, also showing interest in an evening acacia pod snack. The sun steadily loosing height and dropping towards the horizon we decided to find another spot, with less acacia trees, to set up camp before dark. Luckily for us, this led to us seeing a leopard perched by the side of the road in hunting mode.

It had its eyes on a family of three warthog not far from us. Unfortunately the leopard sneaked off into the nearby bush following its meal, making it impossible for us to follow and witness the result of the hunt.

Safely back in Maun, after having had two flat tyres on the bumpy road home, we could look back at some fantastic experiences. Our guests had spent their first time in Africa. In the course of 2 weeks we saw the big five, travelled over 1000km, visited Zimbabwe, had been on different camping trips, had close encounters with wild animals, experienced a lion roar close by, saw lions at a kill, saw 3 leopards, one trying to hunt, saw some lovely sunsets and enjoyed each other’s company. They were truly lucky to see what they saw in such a short time! We look forward to next time and sharing new adventures.

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First time in Africa, straight into the bush

A week ago one of Nicolas’ school friends and his family arrived in Maun, to experience this part of the world and see where Nicolas is living. We picked them up at the airport in our safari vehicle, giving them the first taste of Botswana air. After only one night in “town” we packed the cars and headed for the wilderness. The newbie’s excitement of seeing cows, goats, donkeys and dogs along the tar road amused us slightly. None of us really remembering that feeling of being in Africa for the first time, we were glad to share that experience with them.

Once at the campsite we set up the tents and let the newbies cook dinner on the fire.

While the kids entertained themselves we adults enjoyed the quietness of the African wilderness, sipping cold beers and listening to the sounds of the bush.

Everyone felt a lot safer during daylight hours. Nervousness creeping in with the darkness of the night, as unfamiliar sounds filled the surroundings. Just as we sat down for dinner the first night lions began to roar their familiar moan not far away. Our visitor’s eyes got pretty big!

Sitting around the fire a bit later a little sound was heard and Øyvind turned to shine his torch at a hyena walking past camp just 10 m behind us, adding some more spice to the wilderness experience. Otherwise the night was calm and everyone woke before sunrise to go on an early morning drive. We had packed snacks and drinks to be out the whole day. After having enjoyed a few cups of warm coffee just after sunrise near a dried up water hole we continued our drive seeing warthogs, antelopes, Elefant, Zebra and other wild animals. Driving through a little forest coming around a bend we spotted two rhinos in an opening! A mother and her young. What a sighting!! The drive continued and not long after the rhinos we spotted a pride of 5 lions at a giraffe kill!

Being out the whole day we stopped for a late breakfast on an open plain with a herd of zebra and wildebeest.

Later that day we hung up the hammocks underneath a sausage tree enjoying a break from driving. Playing in the shade the kids climbed some trees, played a game of soccer and had some delicious bush snacks.

After the second night in the bush we headed back to town, where Nicolas’ friend joined him to school. We are now getting ready for the next trip, taking us to the north east of Botswana and over to Victoria falls in Zimbabwe.

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A long wait has come to an end

Finally we can relax and live with the certainty that we are legally allowed to reside in Botswana for the next 5 years! 2 weeks ago we were told our applications had been granted, but needed to wait for them to be issued. Today we picked them up and had them fixed into our passports. The saying that Europeans have the clock and Africans have the time is becoming more and more understandable. A week ago I got my work permits issued and could finally start work here in maun, as a physiotherapist. I was very glad to use my brain cells and time on the human body instead of sitting around waiting. The road to getting here, with the licenses and permits has been quite long and bumpy. Demanding patience and a lot of will. So far we are not regretting the decision at all. We have already had loads of new experiences, gotten to know new people and made new friends. The change in scenery and lack of network has made our kids bond more with each other and we as a family have had more time together. Especially since I have not been working yet and we have gone on safari trips.

The kids are learning English incredibly fast. I am impressed at the amount they understand after only 8 weeks of school. Literally having been thrown into the deep end of the pool. The eldest, Nicolas, being very competitive, made the school swimming team and was selected to represent the northern Botswana team at the annual gala against the southern team. He has, since his arrival, put in countless hours of training and is determined to not come last at the upcoming gala.

Robin and Matilda have also settled well. Although still a bit young for competitive sports they have joined in on every opportunity to swim and have had loads of fun. Robin learning the basics of the strokes and Matilda swimming with out floatation devices. In the afternoons they have been busy helping making jewelry for grandma’s business.

Their patience and endurance has been impressive.

With our permits in the box we can now begin building the house for us to live in. Although living with the grandparents has been going very well, one does have different preferences when it comes to small every day things. Luckily we get on well and we have not have had any big confrontations. Living in our own home again and using the space as we choose is something we are looking forward to.

We are also looking forward to welcoming friends and family from abroad to show and share with them, this side of the world and how we are spending the days.

On safari in the kalahari

With the school having a long weekend to mark half term, we packed the car and headed for the the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The school year is divided into three terms and each term has a long weekend half way through. The drive took us 6 hours, first heading 90 km east from Maun, before turning south for another 110 km. The road was really bad in places, slowing us down quite a bit. At a place called Rakops, which lies on the edge of the makgadikgadi pans, we turned west onto a sand track for 100 km. Rakops is surrounded by vast horizons and is very bare.

We had left home mid day, a bit late, so we arrived at the campsite just as the sun was setting. To find someone else’s tent already pitched there. We could not wait for them to arrive back from their evening safari as the wind was picking up speed and it seemed there was a storm coming in. So in a hurry we got the tents out and started to put them up. The wind was whipping sand around us and stung the exposed skin and eyes. While the kids helped hold the tents in place I tied them down with ropes. Having placed the car and trailer upwind in front of the tents gave us a bit of shelter, but made it challenging non the less, especially as it was dark. Luckily the rain stayed away! The other tent had been blown into a nearby thorn tree and when the owners arrived back they realized they had taken the wrong site. They packed up and move to their designated site without a fuss. The wind stopped and the sand storm subsided, so we could make a fire and have some sandwiches before heading to bed. We woke to a calm and warming kalahari.

The acacias gave little shade, but luckily we had borrowed a gazebo. We spent the next few days lazying around in the shade, conserving energy and going on game drives early in the morning and evening. Filling the water flasks before sunrise, taking advantage of the night’s coolness, which had cooled the drinking water in the jerrycans. Temperatures soaring to above 40C in the shade during the day heated the water to unpleasant temperatures later in the day. Although we had cool boxes with ice, it had melted away by the second day.

On the first evening safari we found a pack of 8 wild dogs challenging a small heard of wilderbeast, trying to attack the young. But the alpha male stood his ground and fought them off.

It was fun to watch the wild dog’s ferocious attacks from all sides. When we got back to camp we were glad we had eaten before the safari, because we were swarmed by hundreds of stink bugs. Little black bugs, attracted by the light of our head torches and the fire and excreting the most unpleasant smell. They can totally make your food and drink impossible to consume if ending up in there. They also found their way into our hair and under the T-shirts. To avoid them we had an early night…

The next day’s morning safari saw us driving south. We left before sunrise and enjoyed the view in the vast open kalahari with a morning coffee.

Later on we stopped, and Martha and Robin got out the car to look at butterflies huddling around a little patch of moist sand.

What we didn’t know at the time was that there was a lioness lurking under the thorn bush on the right, just 30 m on!!!

Luckily it didn’t decide to have a morning snack…

On the last morning drive we found a cheetah sitting in the middle of the savanna scouting for a meal. The springbok were to far off and it probably wasn’t hungry enough to stalk them, but we were happy with the sighting.

The long drive home after 4 days melting away was tiring, but the shower that evening was soooo good! Washing off 4 days of sweat and dirt, makes one feel a few kg lighter and revealed the true color of our skin 😬

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