Left in the wilderness
Landlocked Botswana offers extremes in environment and diversity of landscape, which is like nothing else in Africa. The size of this interesting country is roughly the same size as France, 70% of the diverse area is desert and the number of population just reaching two millions. After our crossing Zimbabwe/Botswana border we were dropped in middle of the desert at Chobe National Park with the wild animals around us. Just few hundred meters in front of us a self-confident elephant was crossing the sandy desert road, some odd noise in the savanna grassland made us nervous, few antelopes were hiding from the afternoon extreme heat etc. When we crossed the non touristic border it seemed that we got lost as we felt on our own. Now we understood why all the guide books and nice locals were advising to have own transportation in this country. Soon we realized that this largely roadless wilderness of seemingly endless spaces, Botswana demands time, effort and, above else, lots of catch to enjoy it to its full. So what to do if you don’t have with many zeros cash and you are on a tight budget?! Well we decided to hitchhike, couchsurf, avoid the touristic places, experience the local Botswana and grab the possibilities on the road as we believe that the best things are cheap or free (not made for tourists) in this world.
Hitchhiking isn’t easy on the small desert roads in Botswana but of course if we would like to get a ride from a clumsy elephant or a roaring lion it wouldn’t be any worries at all in this part of Africa. In fact we were ‘a little’ scared to stand along the road by ourselves in middle of the bush and the extreme heat hasn’t made our endless waiting time better. Some tour companies have passed along the road but as they aren’t allowed to pick up hitchhikers so we remained standing in the wilderness for few hours until two nice guys stopped to help us out. It wasn’t the most comfortable ride like you can imagine but we were in the movement and closer to our final destination for every kilometer. Well we were sitting on the back of a truck during the worst time of the day as the heat was unbearable and were wishing the journey come to the end. The distances are big between point A and B in Botswana so until we reached Francistown was evening (6-7 hours on the back of truck). But the scenery is incredible along the road as we passed few national parks and the animals were walking freely on/along the road, and you don’t need to pay for an expensive safari company to admire the wild animals and diverse landscape. This has been extreme, hard but rewarding experience.
We spent a few in Francistown with great company and we were sad to leave this place. Actually it isn’t a big deal to do in this town but our time has been made to an awesome experience by the locals. Francistown is the second biggest city in Botswana but it looks like a big village and one night stay for many travels. Between the towns there is pretty much nothing… just a lot bush, wild life, deserts and incredible heat. One weekend we went to the bush by a small dam – BBQ, fishing, learning, exploring and having a great time.
On our road we have met a girl, Sydney from USA and she is volunteering in Nata, and she invited us to stay with her for few days in this small village which is famous for amazing salt pans in Botswana. Nata is really small village and it is literally a fuel stop between towns but we were keen to experience the village life as well. Yes, the salt pans were absolutely amazing and we turned doing a tour with the locals as it was half price and much more fun to get know the real locals. It remained us the famous Bolivia salt pans (we have seen on the pictures) and the sun setting was magnificent over the salt pans. In the national park we could see some animals and it is a paradise for bird watchers. The water was roughly 5-10 cm deep and you could walk endlessly in the water but if you have own transportation so you have to watch out as many tourists turn to be stack in the middle of national park. The locals know which roads are ok to drive on and which is better to avoid so ask before you hit the road of this national park.