Winter came and winter went

After a lousy rainy season we had a mild and short winter. In contrary to Norway where the winters are long and the summers short. Temperatures have been very bearable, dropping down to about 6C at night and rising to around 30C during the day, although only for a very short period. This comfort is no more and temperatures keep gradually rising day by day, now only dropping down to around 15 at night and reaching 38 during the day. It will be a long and hot wait until the rainy season, expected to bring back life at the end of November. There is no more water in the river and greenery is restricted to private gardens. Animals are suffering from the lack of food and water too. Livestock is skin and bones and it won’t be long before the sight of animal carcasses will be a regular one. Wild animals are also moving closer to town, looking for food and water. Leopards have been spotted on porches and we saw their tracks outside our house the other day. Elefant have been moving around our house and the other day I saw a giraffe on my way to work.

Since our last visitors left, the kids have been on holiday. Enjoying spending time at home, after 5 busy weeks of traveling. With a lot of free time they did their share of playing, but also used the time to learn some crafts for life. The boys had a shot at trying to weld. Robin, the younger of the two, had a very short career, burning himself a few times and not wanting to come close to the welder since. Nicolas on the other hand proved to be a natural, understanding the principle and welding real neat lines. The boys were offered to help fabricate ventilation frames for the walls of our house to be. Robin took the responsibility of grinding the edges smooth with an angle grinder while Nicolas did the welding. 50 frames later the boys had earned a bit of pocket money, adding to their savings, slowly increasing the amount, in hope of one day buying a little motorbike for themselves.

The house is making progress, although very slow it does seem to be edging its way closer to becoming done. We met some challenges when the mines denied everyone to fetch gravel and calcrete. Forcing us to take a break. We got back on track A few weeks later and the boys refilled and compacted the space within and around the footing.

Now the damp proofing sheets have been spread out and the steel reinforcement is being laid out. We hope to get everything ready by the end of he day so that we can start pouring the concrete slab for the floor by tomorrow. By the end of the week the floor should be done, if no hick-ups hinder us in doing so…

Once the slab is done we will have to keep it wet for a few weeks to set. Giving us time to get ready to build the walls.

The kids started school again this week and are back in the flow of everyday life, waking up early, going to school, participating in sporting activities, doing their homework and going to bed early. Another two weeks and we will be receiving visitors from Norway to take on new adventures. Looking forward to that.

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.

Feel free to follow us on Instagram @family_out_and_about for regular updates and more pictures.

Construction progress

The trenches for the foundation of our house-to-be were done a while back. With all the steel reinforcement in place and the thickness of the foundation marked, the boys started mixing and pouring concrete.

Keeping the foundation moist for about a week allowed it to slowly dry without cracking. Once it was dry we marked all the corners and t-junctions for the wall. And the brick layers got at it, working systematically and neatly.

While the first part of the wall, the footing, is slowly growing, we received the roofing sheets and gutters. Still waiting for the wooden beams and planks for the ceiling to arrive, but there is no haste as there still is lots to be done before we need these.

Once the wall has the required height we will fill up the spaces around the wall and compact the sand, filling in where need be to reach the required level so we can pour the concrete slab for the floor.

The building site has been a little playground for the kids. Playing in the building sand, running in the trenches playing hide and seek or balancing on planks across the trenches has been fun.

Although progress is slow, we do see regular development. It is interesting to be part of the building process learning and seeing the effort put into every detail along the way. Can only stress that learning by doing is a good way to learn, at least for me.

Weekend adventures

While we have come to the middle of winter, Norway is enjoying the middle of summer. Meaning that school up in the north has a 8 week long holiday and families with kids can take a few weeks holiday to visit us with their kids. First up is Martha’s cousin and family. Their kids are the same age as our two oldest. They get along well having spent numerous holidays together while we were still living in Norway.

July has a few long weekends, one in respect of Botswana’s first president, Sir Seretse Khama. So we used the extra days to go on adventure.

First up was a safari trip to one of our favorite spots on the Mababe river. Camping on the edge of the river with a wonderful view down the banks, from a 4 meter raised sandy little cliff. A fantastic spot for morning coffee and hot chocolate.

Because of the lack of rain animals crowd along the rivers, most noticeable were the elephants, which moved in and around camp day and night. Because Botswana is the country with the highest elephant population in Africa one is bound to encounter them. Luckily all our encounters were peaceful. Nonetheless there were a lot of tired faces exiting the tents on the first morning, having had elephants walk a few meters past our tents and ripping branches off trees right next to us all night. We love camping in the bush and you’d be surprised what one can see by just sitting in camp. We also had a hyena come by every night, saw two crocodiles mating in the river just in front of the camp, hippos bathing in the sun, buffalos drinking by the water and small wild cats hunting on the opposite side of the river.

Being in camp gives the kids time to do different things compared to every day life. For example cooking, making fires and entertaining themselves with out electronics or abundance of toys. Life can be so simple.

Of course we also went on gamedrives and watched some beautiful sunsets.

We didn’t see any of the big cats this time around, but that just means we’ll have to come back another time.

Once back in town the kids went to school for a few days before we headed off along the western side of the Delta. Driving around 300 km took us to Etsha and a camp along the Guma lagoon, at the bottom of the panhandle. Once leaving the tar road the roads were quite sandy and one of the cars got stuck. But reducing the tire pressure by letting out some air was enough to get it out and continue the journey.

This gave us the opportunity to see a different side of the otherwise pretty dry Okavango. Although water is relatively low this year, it was lovely to see this much water and greenery. Of course we had to get out on the boat and cruise the narrow channels of the Okavango lined by papyrus walls. Seeing a few huge crocodiles catching some warmth in the sun, but quickly slipping into the water when we tried to approach for a better look.

Enjoying fishing I had the rods ready to try our luck at catching the African tiger fish or the more tricky bream (bass). Although fortune was not with us this time, it was fun giving it a try.

We now await the next visitors in a week, and are looking forward to new adventures. The next trip will take us into Moremi Game Reserve before we head to the Makgadikgadi pans and then Vic falls passing through Savuti on our way back home.

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Old and used in Norway is as good as new here!

I have been offering two evening sessions of soccer a week. The attendance has been fantastic with up to 40 kids from the age of 6 to 14 joining in and having fun learning the skills of the game. Unfortunately only one or two has had the appropriate gear. The rest have either been playing in flip flops or with their bare feet. Needless to say that there is no lack of thorns on the sandy field! Not only was there a lack of shoes, but also clothing. So most of the kids played in their day to day clothes with a wide variety of jeans, school uniforms, long pants and shorts.

Knowing that most kids have more than enough in Norway we asked my son’s old team in Norway to look through their cupboards and sort out any excess soccer apparel. It didn’t take long before I got a message saying that there were a few bags ready to be collected. Martha went and fetched loads of bags while back in Norway for a short trip. When Martha came back in she had filled her bags with as much stuff as she could and brought it along. The customs official at the airport gave her a bit of a hard time insisting she give all the used items a value. That being a difficult task he was persuaded that the value was not worth declaring and let her through after 30 minutes. Next training I took all the stuff up to the ground and handed out kits, boots, socks, shorts and some shin pads.

The kids eagerly awaited their turn, following the attendance list I’ve been keeping since I started. Handing out equipment to the ones with the most attendance first.

After about an hour all the kids could show off a “new” pair of boots and some kind of kit.

The team looks more complete now and they all feel proud of belonging to this unit. As is usual when doing team sports. They are all eager to learn and the fact that they now can run and dribble without having to stop to take out thorns makes quite the difference.

I am sure we will get more things down here to give away in the years to come, lighting up these kids’ everyday life. A big thank you to the Lillestrøm Sports Club (LSK) team of boys born in 2009!!!

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Winter? More like a good Norwegian summer.

The rainy season came and it went, leaving very few showers and little water behind. The river beds are just about dry and there is little grass for all the animals. This will be a tough and long dry season for farmers and their livestock.

The end of the rainy season also means the beginning of winter. We have felt a definite drop in temperatures, but temperatures are still bearable. Sunny, warm and cloudless days with temperatures up to around 30C and cool nights with temps as low as 6C so far. This reminds us of a good Norwegian summer, except for the shorter days. We do miss the long days one gets in the far north. With the winter the tourist season arrives too. Because of the bearable and peasant temperatures and the fact that the lack of rain means a lack of insects, means tourists find it very pleasant to spend time here. Another positive side effect is that the lack of water across the country means that wild animals will concentrate around the rivers and waterholes. Giving the opportunity for some fantastic sightings.

The second school term has started and is well under way. This term the school activities have changed, there is no swimming. Instead there is soccer, athletics and field hockey. A week ago the school hosted inter house athletics. All the kids within the school are separated into two houses, either the red house which is called Lechwe or the yellow house which is called Sitatunga. Both houses named after two antelopes of the Okavango. Robin and Nicolas are in the red house, Lechwe. Throughout the school year every individual can earn points for his house, from the academic side as well as he sports side. Good behavior is also rewarded.

Robin earning himself a first spot and golden ribbon in the 80m sprint. And Nicolas coming second in all the running races and long jump, while earning a golden ribbon for the high jump. Next week the school’s under 13 soccer team will be picked for an upcoming tournament. The grandparents will be exhibiting their goods at the local expo and we are getting ready to welcome visitors from Norway. Feel free to follow @family_out_and_about on Instagram for more pics and regular short updates.