Swim gala, building, visitors, a breakdown and covid-19

Tobias’ parents and brother arrived to spend 2 weeks with us before heading back home with their eldest son. We managed to squeeze in a bush trip while they were here, heading to our beloved Mababe. They spent the rest of their holiday lazying around at our home and catching some vitamin D.

Just a week after they had left we welcomed Oma (grandma) Kristin from Norway into our home. Her plan was to spend 3 weeks in Botswana traveling with a close friend. But her friend had to abandon the trip due to health issues. This meant that grandma had the choice of joining us to Gaborone the day after her arrival or to stay behind by herself. As we were taking our kids down for the North vs South schools swim gala, which both our boys managed to qualify for. She obviously joined in on a day spent in the car to make the 1000 km journey to the capital. Just 200 km short of ending the long day our car suddenly overheated and I managed to let it roll into the shade of a tree. Opening the bonnet I discovered that the pipe from the engine to the radiator had burst…

Within a few minutes I had the pipe removed and asked a friendly passer by to help me find a new pipe in the nearest town 20 km away. The only thing left to do now was wait…

Two hours later they had returned and the pipe was in place. The radiator filled up with the last of our drinking water and we were ready to roll, arriving late that evening. The following day I took the boys to meet up with the northern team for a team practice and to get their gear. All in orange they were ready for the races.

The first races were to start off in the afternoon and both the boys and us parents were excited. The southern team had created a fantastic atmosphere, complemented by the northern supporters in orange! The stands were filled with cheering parents, family and friends.

Two days of exciting races came to an end and the boys were happy to score some medals. Robin earning 2 and Nicolas 4.

Now we just had to wait for our car to be cleared. I had taken it to a mechanic to make sure the cylinder head was alright. Unfortunately for Oma Kristin the corona virus was in full swing in the rest of the world and she decided to take the next possible flight home, after she had conferred with her doctor son and daughter. She had spent a total of 3 nights in Botswana! After having gotten off the plane she spent the next day sitting 10 hours in a car, see her grandchildren swim and then fly back home again… at least we got to see her! Looking forward to a longer visit next time.

We eventually made our way home safe and sound without car troubles. Although covid-19 was a reality in most parts of the world, Botswana only confirmed its first cases yesterday. The government did close schools a few weeks ago and encouraged social distancing early to minimize any potential spread. How realistic the numbers are is difficult to say, as testing is limited. And flights in and out of the country were ongoing until a few days ago. We have had the kids home and I have stopped treating patients. We have so far enjoyed the days together doing schoolwork and reading with the kids. But also training together and engaging the kids in other activities such as baking, gardening, fixing and cooking. Learning something really useful for their later life.

Because of the travel restrictions all the tourists have cancelled their holidays to Botswana. Meaning that one of the country’s biggest industries has stalled. And with that many have lost their job… when we moved into our own space we decided to employ two women to help with the household and to support them and their families in exchange for their service. Even though the government will go into a total lock down in 2 days we will try and continue to support these two ladies and hope that things pass quickly. The lock down will also mean that the building process will have to come to a halt. Luckily we have managed to do quite a bit in the last few weeks and we are now done with the walls to window level.

The site finally resembles a house and the next step is the ring beam. When this will continue we’ll have to wait and see. But for the foreseeable future we will not be moving into that house yet. Luckily the landlord of our current space is very helpful and has dropped the rent considerably.

We hope you all stay safe and make the best of the isolation that awaits us.

Adventurous into the new year

After the wedding, a part of the family decided to stay on for some quality time. We celebrated Christmas together at the grandparents’ house, totaling 16 members. Because of this we agreed that everyone was to give one gift to one person. Thus minimizing the amount of gifts and more importantly the amount of wrapping paper. It also decreased the stress level for each and everyone, and allowed us to have more fun together. We had a wonderful Christmas Eve with Norwegian pork ribs and sour cabbage. Sitting together until late at night.

On the second Christmas Day we all helped getting everything ready for a few days in the bush, packing tents, bedding, drinks, food and a whole lot of other stash into the cars. To be ready to leave the following day. And by lunch time after a hectic morning we were off to Mababe. Where we arrived a few hours later and set up camp at a magnificent spot overlooking the river. Matilda being the youngest at 4 and great gran Doris being the oldest at 82 we had a lovely mix of generations. Of course we had taken an extra mattress for Doris!

To make cooking easier, we had split the gang into smaller groups. Every group having the responsibility of catering for one day and enjoying freedom for the rest of the stay. The kids were included of course and did their parts with enthusiasm. Helping where they could.

Of course we also went on safari drives to see what we would see. The highlights being lions walking on the road in front of us and not minding us at all. And the hippos at the hippo pool close to our camp. Playing around and creating a spectacle. The rainy season brings a lot of greenery to the eye as well as small animals to adore…

…or fear…

After some lovely days in the bush with lots of laughter, fun and relaxation we headed back to town to go on the next adventure. Coming home we found a broken pipe having flooded the whole floor…

Once fixed, we got packing. Next up, a trip along the western side of the Okavango for some boating and fun on the river.

The swamp stop at Sepopa was our destination where we spent the next 4 days. The kids all got a chance at driving the boats, understanding the physics of using a tiller-arm surprisingly quickly.

Because the flood was very low this year, the water was restricted to the main channel. Meaning most of the hippos in the area were in the main channel with us. When the water is high, it lifts the papyrus and creates small lagoons within the papyrus for the hippos to seek refuge, gaining access from underneath the floating plants. On one of our trips with both the boats, when everyone decided to join, we drove over several families of hippos hiding in the water below the boats. The hippos blowing bubbles as we drove past. Grandpa, in the first boat, came across quite a big family of hippos on our way home and decided to slow down to see how many hippos there were, after having warned me in the second boat. I stayed back and watched as hippos popped up here and there before submerging below the surface again. As the first boat slowly made its way past the hippos. My uncle steering the first boat luckily looked back just in time to see the head of a hippo emerging 2 meters behind their boat and taking a leap at their boat. Twisting the accelerator the boat flew away from the hippos head, which would have been in the back of the boat had he not reacted. I then decided to take the speedy version and got our boat flying way before the submarines, speeding past hippo air bubbles dodging emerging hippo heads. Everyone’s adrenaline was pumping as we reached the other boat, exchanging a few comments and happiness for the good ending. Unfortunately no one took pictures or a video of the incident and no one was keen on doing another take. But the incident will not be forgotten I’m sure! Being in the Okavango we didn’t want to miss the chance of catching a tiger fish. A distant cousin of the piranha it is well equipped with razor sharp teeth and a ferocious fish when hooked. And not an easy fish to land. A lot of casting and hours spent on the river finally paid off and we were lucky to catch a few of these beautiful fish. Making sure they were not hurt we released them back into the water after a short picture shoot.

Also this trip came to an end and after 6 weeks of accommodating family from Germany the time for their return home had come. We saw them all off at the airport sad that they were leaving. The house has become quiet and we are getting back into everyday life. Not much longer and the school holidays will come to an end. The second year of our life abroad to commence and looking forward to all that awaits us.

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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!

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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