Thursday, September 6, 2012

Things we forgot to tell you about Botswana!

In Botswana the mobile phone rules. And the colour is Orange. As you drive across the country, outside each village, there are signs, which say something like Orange Welcomes You to the Village of …… The first, and the last building on the outskirts of the village will be a small wooden shack selling Orange Airtime. Larger villages also have one of these shacks in the middle of the village too! In larger towns it is not uncommon to see 4 or 5 stalls side-by-side selling airtime. It is quite amazing to me that in such a poor country so many people seem to be able to make a living selling airtime and a few sweets.

We had 3 attempts at off road driving whilst we were in Botswana, none of which can be claimed to be highly successful! We can claim that a significant improvement came with each attempt. The key seems to be letting air out of the tyres. How much air to let out is the question. The answer is more than we have so far! It also appears that as the sand gets hot during the day it becomes more difficult to drive on. Next time we go off road we shall be letting almost half the air out of the tyres and shall be starting the day before the sun gets up and finishing about mid-day. Watch this space.

Although we think of this as being a poor country it is home to the largest diamond min in the world. The mine, at Jwaneng to the west of Gabarone, produces 10 million carats a year. I really can’t visualise 10 million carats of diamonds but it is certainly enough to fill the windows of most of England’s High Street Jewellers! Despite the glamour of the end product, the mine itself is ugly, an enormous un-naturally shaped spoil heap [mountain] surrounded by barbed wire.

Readers of Alexander McCall-Smith will be glad to know that the pictures he paints of this country are entirely accurate. People do call one another Maa and Raa, [I must say I find it rather charming to be addressed as “Raa”], give and take things 2 handed, call out Koko when approaching your camps site, office or house and there are plenty of traditionally built women. It is,perhaps, a shame that they are often seen in their beautiful traditional dress carrying a large bag of maize meal on their heads whilst talking on a mobile phone or sending a text message on their Blackberry.

A wonderful country and we can’t wait to go back.

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