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Cycling safari in Botswana


I haven’t seen the most beautiful landscapes of Botswana so don’t blame me if I do not mention it. I merely follow the main road to Zambia, especially because of a lack of time. And yet, a lot happened during these few days.
Frustrated at not having been able to pay the overpriced safari trips in South Africa, I have been told shortly before the border that Botswana would offer me this pleasure for free. You may say, free lions, elephants, how do we manage that by bike? It was also my first question but everyone wanted to be reassuring about the fact that I should be OK on the road. I still kept the option to go through Zimbabwe at the last moment but Eelco (see article about South Africa), the South African retired cyclist I met, had convinced me to go.

I crossed the border at Groblersburg, a village planted in the middle of the bush. As usual, they ask me a lot about my journey on both sides. Yes yes, I live like that, it’s a long journey and yes with this bike, not the neighbor’s one. They are always so funny in Botswana and especially proud that their country is safe. This is a point on which they insisted a lot during my stay and it’s true that at no time I felt unsafe, at least because of the people.


My path south of the country was quite monotonous. There are few cities and activities on my way and villages are often a set of three or four round mud huts scattered in the bush. The people, sometimes accompany a herd of goats in the middle of the bush or enjoy their lazyness in the shade of a tree. The reduced activity amid the wobbly housing roof remind me the Laotian countryside : same climate, same atmosphere, not an accident. African women carry everything and anything on the head, the boy harnessed in the back with a piece of colored cloth : bags of flour, water, branches, one of them was walking with a bag “Dubai 2020” . Women work more than men but the activity seems still not tiring. Everyone moves at a very African rhythm and the one who sweats the most in the country, it’s me. The horizon is arid and the heat logically arrives when going north. Cycling 100-150km a day, we quickly take 10 or 15 celsius degrees in the week and it finally make me feel better after a few days of sickness in South Africa.


I refilled my water bottles in towns (Palapye and Francistown) or small villages as Serule. I can carry 3 or 4 days of food but hardly more than one day of water. Some refuse to serve me the water they drink just because I could not stand it (too salty, it’s true that it gives a little thirst but nothing major) and give me rainwater. Others want to listen at me and trust my canine stomach. At Serule, they made me wait half an hour to bring me water they deem correct. Admittedly, most of the village is now ghost since the route of the new road bypasses and the inhabitants fled the arrival of the train that killed livestock. They take care of the “white guy”, the jerk who does not use the bus. After they had offered me a shirt in South Africa, another citizen of this country takes pity on me and offered me a pair of sunglasses. Later in Botswana, an expatriate will offer me a beer on the road and a South-african couples offered me dried meat. What to ask more to these people? They are perfect and all happy to see cyclists across their continent. They would make the whole world know that we can travel peacefully in their beautiful country.


I arrive at Nata after 3 days of road. I thought the city bigger and it’s painful to see the supermarket stock, so I only buy the minimum for my journey. First, as I see signs indicating the presence of livestock, I think I’m OK with wild animals. Then two Botswanians invite me to share their meal on the roadside: the milmil (corn flour) with beef and herbs, a traditional dish of this region of Africa. Everything is eaten with the fingers. They have a farm a little further and bring the supply of Chibuku beer to the workers. The lions regularly kill their livestock but they do not have the right to kill the lions at the risk of going to jail. The government compensates the loss by giving 1500 Pulas while the animal is sold for more than 3,000 on the market.

I continue knowing that the cattle road sign is not necessarily synonymous with safety. I begin to spot some antelopes / gazelles then quickly three elephants, clumsy air. I can hardly imagine these creatures aggressive… I fear especially for lions and drivers tell me they regularly see them on roadside currently observing cars. Knowing me cycling amid the wildlife scares me and excites me a lot. I am constantly sharing between the desire and fear to see more. Knowing that other cyclists took this route in the past reassure me too. My first day goes smoothly and I can observe some pachyderms closely enough. At safe distance, they make their lives without worrying about me. We quickly recognized elephants areas by smashed trees and torn bark.


 At 16h, I arrived to the relay antenna qu’Eelco had told me. I don’t really like the small dirt road leading there but we have to go. There is no one on site and the gate is padlocked. No way to sleep outside with the cats in freedom, I cut a piece of the fence to go in and I immediately closed behind me. I spend the night on a small roof at 3 meters high. At least, I sleep quietly.


My breakfast the next will however be disturbed by an animal which I did not expect here : the bee. While I was cooking quietly, dozens and then hundreds of bees invaded my tent, my stuffs, everything is covered. It becomes downright annoying or disturbing. I throw everything down and runs from one corner to another while I painfully sort everything out, trying to avoid a maximum of bites. They are not aggressive but I have a little bit disturbed them and I got two darts in the skin… The breakfast is canceled and I leave hungry for my second savannah day. I always observed a maximum of gazelles (or something similar) when traffic is reduced, and a good dozen of elephants and zebras then.



An elephant, slightly annoyed that his little did not dare crossing the road when they saw me in the distance decides to charge me trumpeting. I went down from the bike and move back 2-3 steps immediately, she stops. I feel very small, ridiculous face this monster. There is 20 or 30 meters now. She restart on about 4-5 meters, I move back again, she stops again and then, when she had decided to launch a third charge, a car arrives and flushed her to her little ones. Knowing that sometimes I see no vehicle for 20 minutes is quite good luck! Adrenaline is at the maximum and I cycled far away as soon as possible. I take my stick in a hand, it does nothing but relaxes me, it’s psychological. “Chew by a feline in Botswana”, my family will talk about that for a few generations, but I do not particularly enjoy to this posthumous glory.

It is very hot and truckers take pity on my fate by offering me oranges and drinks occasionally. The road still offers me some views of warthogs and a band of 30 baboons arriving at Pandamatenga, my refuge for the night. I spend the evening talking with alcoholics band near a restaurant rudimentary plastic sheeting. Nothing too interesting not fate but human contact is good before a final day in the bush towards the Zambian border. They still comfort me once about lions who sleep away when it’s hot and leaking dark if at them. We’ll see this option.



It promises me giraffes and lions for the next day, I finally have the right to anything although motorists swear I have seen one hour after my visit. Too bad for me, I’m entitled to some buffalo off (cowardly and peaceful animal in Asia and very dangerous in Africa), warthogs, baboons and a huge bird species, kind of pterodactyl of modern times. I then passes through the Zambezi River on a boat to reach Zambia before going to Livingstone to see the Victoria Falls. Despite promises of other animals in Zambia, nothing will happen. The Victoria Falls are however beautiful, surrounded by a mist and a permanent rainbow sky, the deafening hubbub is at the level of the landscape offered. First we try to stay away of the rain that falls before to forget with the magic of the Zambezi, soaked, trying to observe the bottom of the abyss hidden by the fog. Some African women visiting, sing rhythmic songs that add color to the place. I stay until the sunset to enjoy it.



Tomorrow I will offer me a few days of rest after 3000km cycled in a month, and I camp one last night near the falls, guarded by an armed guy with a Kalashnikov because hippos are accustomed to venture on my rest area.

This beautifully and peacefully concluded these days among the animals. Africa gives me every day a maximum of excitement and adrenaline, laughter, songs, smiles. I rarely took much so much pleasure in this trip and I have to thank Kristian who mainly gave us the idea of Africa. ;)


For those who have 50 minutes to spare, I exceptionally made a video of my safari that you can watch below. There are real pieces of swear words and I regularly give wrong names to animals but it’s in french so you won’t understand.

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Tom, le Saturday June 20th, 2015

profession : vidéaste animalier, c’est pas mal comme métier
après faut voir si on y fait des vieux os ^^

on a bien reçu ta carte merci

j’espère que le voyage continue bien pour toi

Flo et Tom

P'tite Mougeotte, le Monday June 22nd, 2015

Salut tronche de macaque !

Les nouvelles, c’est comme les pâtes, on préfère les fraîches! Tu peux nous en donner ?
Tu prends ton avion qd? toujours de Nairobi ou t’as changé de plan toi aussi?