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Africa Tour August 2011 - August 2012

07/10/2011 Botswana

Time is flying if you have a good time and today already marks day 32, more than one month after landing in Johannesburg to start the African adventure.

One month into the trip gives us plenty to think back to, plenty of routine has been developed and optimised. So by now we did figure a few things out. Things like what to pack in the top part and what in the bottom of the panniers. Or what to do best at which time of the day. Or what to make of certain people. Which is pretty cool. Somehow it's like a routine back home with getting up and going to work etc. Just different. And still cool, after a month in Africa and two months on the road it still feels good and exotic.
We wrapped up one more country since the last update which is Botswana. The only purpose for us to travel there was the mighty Okavango Delta. So starting from Victoria Falls we went straight down via the Chobe NP. Once in the delta we booked ourselves on a Mokoro tour for 3 days. Mokoros are small boats carved out of the trunk of a Sausage Tree, being pushed forward with a long pole by a person standing at the back. They are the only way to really penetrate into the little channels and swamps and islands of the delta. No motorbikes there. Together with Oti, our proud captain we spent these three days floating and walking, just the three of us. However, there was not much bike riding. In fact, our bikes were parked safely at a lodge in Kasane, far far away from where we were. And, call me a freak if you want to, but being away from my little Suzuki really made me feel uneasy. The weird thing is that I really enjoyed the time in the Okavango Delta but still couldn't get used to the fact that Oti was shipping us around and we no longer were in control. I just missed the freedom to go, to jump on the bike and just ride. The more so I was happy to be reunited with my little Suzuki again today. She's so much fun to ride!
All the action in the Okavango Delta happens in the morning or evening. During the day it is incredibly hot and we just rested on an island for hours every day. Which gave us some good time to reflect back, back through the first month and the first 4500km in Africa.
In this first month we visited the highlights of South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Botswana. All these countries are special in a certain way.
So I guess you'd be interested to read about my preliminary tour favourites? Alright, let's compile a top five list:

1.) The thing I loved most is just riding in the late afternoon hours. It's starting to cool down. People start cooking on the wood fires. So there is the aroma of smoke combined with the dry dust whipped up in the air by the weak afternoon breeze. The sun sits low within a wide layer of dust and turns the horizon into a big warm orange background. And there is the two of us on our bikes just riding along after a day of exciting experiences. By that time you are calm and focused, you slalom around the cows and donkeys on the road with ease and you smile back to the many smiling faces around you and are just happy to be here, to be part of it all. Just riding through any random bit of Africa, that's definitely my favourite.

2.) The people here. We met so many of them and had such good times. We laughed so many times with them and about them and about us. The locals are just so genuinely friendly, warm and hospitable. And our journey would not be the same without the great fun whenever we stop and spend time with some of the people around.

3.) The bushcamping. We hardly ever camp on official campgrounds. But mostly just somewhere nowhere. How cool is it to be free to decide which piece of Africa will be your home for one night. Your home where you will sleep to all the exotic noise from the bush or from the endless grassy plains where you happen to pitch the tent. No one else there. The bike parked next to the tent and the camping stove cooking some evening tea. Feels great and we both really dig that sort of lifestyle.

4.) That awesome feeling when you finish a border crossing. After sometimes hours of dealing with officials and filling in forms, carrying forms around, getting stamps onto forms and paying fees for forms. That one moment when finally the boom gate is raised and you push the starter button, switch into gear, waive to the security officer and go. Finally free to go. Free to go into a new country. Which you don't know much about yet. Except that it will be different from the last country. And that it's gonna be good again. Awesome feeling, believe me.

5.) Being close to big animals. Big ones like Elephants, Buffalos, Giraffes or Ostriches. Or even smaller ones like Warthogs and Impalas often roam the streets even outside the National Parks. Particularly so in northern Botswana or in Zambia. So you just ride along and suddenly a whole family of elephants crosses the road. In a way that you have to stop and let them go across. So you stop and kill the engine. And then it's silent again. You hear the footsteps of the elephants, you hear how they break off little branches and the noise of them chewing the fresh timber. And you hear your own excited heartbeat in the total silence around you. All happening just a few metres away from you. From you sitting on the bike. The same bike you used just months earlier to commute to the office on.

It's things like these which I really value and enjoy on this trip. These things are actually the real reason for doing the trip. Sure, some tourist highlights are a 'must see'. Such as the Victoria Falls. But these are usually stressful and expensive. Roaming the open plains of southern Africa on a little Suzuki on the other hand has an extremely calming effect and costs next to nothing. And feels great.
I'd like to write a little wrap up about Botswana here but then I don't think I am qualified to do so. We only spend less than a week in one small area in the North East. However, some of you might be interested to know that they asked for the Carnet on the border and would not have left us in without. And, what many of you already know, Botswana is incredibly expensive for accommodation, entrance fees and tours. But relatively cheap for petrol and supermarket shopping. At least in the North East.

07/10/2011 Okavango Delta

Okavango Delta

Sunset at the Okavango Delta

Okavango Delta and our Mokoro

Our little group for three days in the Delta - from the left: me, Oti's brother (who was just there but had nothing to do with our tour), our Mokoro poler Oti and Martin

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(c) 2012    marco hoffmann