Sunday, October 21, 2018

BOTSWANA: FROM JOHANNESBURG TO MAUN TO THE OKAVANGO DELTA TO THE KADIZORA CAMP

It was a little tricky to get from Namibia to our next destination in Botswana as there were no flights between the two places.  We started with a flight from Windhoek, Namibia, to Johannesburg, South Africa. We spent the night in Johannesburg (see previous post) and then took a flight to Maun, which is the jumping off point for the busy Botswana tourism industry in the Okavango Delta and Moremi Game Reserve. With a population of about 55,000 people, Maun (the "au" pronounced "ow" as in "ouch") is the 5th largest city in Botswana.

Our Johannesburg-Maun flight took about 1.5 hours, just enough time for the attendants to feed us a light, tasty lunch. When we landed in Maun, we walked down the rollaway stairs and got in a s-l-o-w passport control line that snaked around several u-turns in the outdoor heat. 


After about half an hour we made it through passport control and security, but then we had to wait again, this time in a little room with chairs lined up auditorium-style facing a tiny TV playing animal documentaries inexplicably made in the USA:

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

SOUTH AFRICA: A QUICK LAYOVER IN JOHANNESBURG

There is no direct flight from Windhoek, Namibia, to Maun, Botswana, and so we had to book a connecting flight through Johannesburg. We had a late afternoon flight out of Windhoek to Johannesburg, and the second leg from there to Maun wasn't until the following morning, so of course we couldn't just sit in our hotel in a city we had never been to before. Bob had arranged a trip to Carnivore restaurant through our tour company, which provided the airport transfer to our hotel and the driver to the restaurant.

When we disembarked in Johannesburg, there was actually a man from our tour company waiting AT THE GATE and holding a sign with Bob's name on it. He was the only travel agent there. All the others were outside the boarding areas where we usually see them. Such a personal greeting could never happen in the United States. He walked us through immigration, helped us get our bags, and delivered us to a woman, who in turn delivered us to our driver, who took us to our hotel. Talk about getting the royal treatment! We felt like celebrities.  Thank you, Ker & Downey!

Southern Sun O.R. Tambo Hotel (photo from hotel website)

We checked into our hotel, took our bags up to our rooms and freshened up, and then came back down to have our driver take us to Carnivore Restaurant, which was 45 minutes away in light traffic. Our driver was friendly and knowledgeable, and we got him talking a lot about the corruption so endemic in African politics, a topic we were interested in. It was enlightening to get the perspective of a local.

We had eaten at the original Carnivore Restaurant in Nairobi about four years ago, but I was recovering from a bout of food poisoning then and ate only rice, so I was looking forward to this meal. We got there rather late in the evening, and it was nice that it wasn't very crowded.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

NAMIBIA: FROM ETOSHA NATIONAL PARK'S HALALI LODGE BACK TO THE WINDHOEK AIRPORT

As I mentioned in my last post, after a long day of driving more or less east across the length of Etosha National Park, we finally arrived at Halali Lodge. As at our previous lodge, we had a private cabin that was spacious and nicely appointed.

We even had a little patio in the back:

There was an African grey hornbill strutting around by the check-in area, a welcome committee of one:


Friday, October 12, 2018

NAMIBIA: ETOSHA NATIONAL PARK, DAY 2, OKAUKEUJO CAMP TO HALILI CAMP

After a good night's sleep in our Etosha National Park cabin, we got in a line of cars at the gate that were waiting to leave the lodge area and start driving around the national park. Visitors are not allowed outside the lodge fences at night unless they are in a national park vehicle. Our plan was to leave as early as possible, drive around for an hour or two, and then come back for breakfast and to check out before resuming our safari drive.

The gate opened at 7:15 AM, just in time for us to watch a beautiful African sunrise:



Dawn is a great time to see wildlife. Our first sighting was a pair of greater kestrels:


Saturday, October 6, 2018

NAMIBIA: ETOSHA NATIONAL PARK, DAY 1, OKAUKUEJO CAMP

We paid our fee of 80 NAD/person/day (about $5.50 each/day), and drove into the park. Within a minute we found ourselves staring at a HUGE parade of elephants, 30 or more, grazing in the trees alongside the road, even crossing the road in front of us and the other 3-4 vehicles stopped there. It was the closest we had ever been to such a large herd. The herd included several babies--big babies, not newborns.

We were so close that it was difficult to get a photo with more than two or three elephants in it, making it hard to communicate the experience of being surrounded by these massive, ponderous beasts.

The bus in front of us gives perspective on how close we were to the herd:



Tuesday, October 2, 2018

FLYING TO NAMIBIA AND DRIVING TO ETOSHA NATIONAL PARK

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would travel to Namibia. Of course, there wasn't even a Namibia until 1990. From 1915 to 1990, this area was known as South West Africa and was under South Africa's jurisdiction, and before that it was a German colony.

Today there are about 2.6 million people living in Namibia, giving it the second lowest population density of any sovereign country in the world (behind Mongolia). The GDP/person in Namibia is about 1/5 of what it is in the United States. The key contributor to the economy is the mining industry. Namibia is one of the chief exporters of uranium in the world and is also known for its deposits of gem diamonds. Ecotourism is a growing segment of the economy.

The country's name comes from its largest desert: the Namib Desert. Namib means "vast place." The Namib Desert is about the size of South Carolina, and the country of Namibia is about 1/12 the size of the U.S. or twice the size of California.

The capital and largest city in Namibia, Windhoek (population 325,000), lies pretty close to the Tropic of Capricorn:

We flew from Cape Town to Namibia's largest international airport, the Hosea Kutako Airport, located about 30 miles outside Windhoek:

The geography below us as we approached the airport illustrates the fact that Namibia is the driest country in sub-Saharan Africa. It looked desolate and unoccupied:


Saturday, September 29, 2018

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA: BO-KAAP, ST. GEORGE'S CATHEDRAL, AND BACK TO THE AIRPORT

A famous Cape Town spot for photographers and Instagrammers is Bo-Kaap, a multicultural neighborhood known for its brightly painted houses and cobblestone streets: 

Once known as the Malay Quarter, this is the heart of Cape Town's Muslim population. The first slaves in the Cape Town region were not from South Africa but rather from Malaysia, Indonesia, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and other parts of Africa, and they leased homes/apartments in this neighborhood. At that time all the buildings were white.


During the apartheid era, Bo-Kaap was a "Muslims only" area that was the ONLY part of Cape Town where Cape Malay people were allowed to live. Anyone of another ethnicity or culture living in Bo-Kaap was forcibly relocated, mostly to townships on the city's outskirts. Bo-Kaap was one of the rare non-white neighborhoods actually within the city center.

After slaves were liberated in 1834, the houses in this area could be purchased by former slaves, who painted them in a panoply of vivid, almost fluorescent colors because for the first time they COULD choose the colors! The bright colors were an expression of their freedom.


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