The Cactus Patch
Volume 4       September 2001      Number 9

The Far East
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

July began with a gala supper show on the 5th 6th & 7th. The first half was Gilbert & Sullivan's "Trial by Jury" and the second bits of other G&S. This was a joint production of Capital Players and the Gaborone Music Society. I was the counsel for the plaintiff and Polly painted hats and sang in the chorus (she arrived too late to do much else.) Ruth Khama (widow of the First President) was at the opening night and shook all our hands. The farthest East you can go in Botswana is also the lowest point where the Limpopo is joined by the Shashe. This is also the meeting point of Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana. Plans are afoot to make it a three country game reserve, but that's a ways off. The Bird Club had a campout there as the 16th & 17th were holidays (President's Day). On 14 July we drove 269 km (167 mi.) North to Palapye and then 230 km (143 mi.) NE through Sefophe and Bobonong till we hit dirt. It was 26 km (15.5 mi.) S on corrugated road to the managers office and then 6.3 km (3.9 mi.) on rough (we were rolling stones and dragging branches with our poor VW CitiGolf) dirt to the Limpopo River Lodge Campground. 15 of us stayed there and 15 had luxury in the chalets (but paid much more). We were greeted at the campsite by a fish eagle (close relative of the bald eagle).

At 7:30 on the 15th we were led along the Limpopo by Chris Brewster, Botswana's leading birder, and saw a lot from snake bird to brilliant little bee eater. Yes, there were fever trees as recorded by Kipling ("The Great Grey-green Greasy Limpopo/ Where the Fever Trees Grow") but I found the Sycamore Figs more impressive. After a short break we went for a climb on nearby rocky hills (which just about did Polly in) and saw commiphoras (same genus as myrrh and same family as the elephant trees of Mexico) of all sorts: red, white (actually zebra-barked), blue, green and yellow (actually paper-barked). There were also shepherd's trees, rock figs, baobabs, carrot trees and Sterculia rogersii. That evening we all got together at a campfire at the campground. Next morning at 8 there was another bird walk and at 3:30 we went for a game drive. The thorn trees kept trying to knock us off and the elephants stampeded. That night we met at the Chalet campfire and next day drove back to Gaborone. As if that wasn't enough of the Limpopo, the museum had a workshop at the Tuli Lodge in Aug. This was to luxuriate while hammering out a museum policy for the country. On the 6th we took a luxury bus to the mining town of Selebi-Phikwe - 94 km N and 57 km E of Phalapye - where we had a hotel lunch. From there it was 45 km to Sefophe and another 50 to Bobonong , all on paved road, but in a smaller bus. 53 km after Bobonong we turned left onto dirt and traveled another 30 km to the Tuli Lodge. After supper we went for a night game drive. The next two days saw us hard at work, but we managed to see the Limpopo (here the trees are even bigger) and go for a sundown and sunrise game drive. I didn't have time to locate the succulents I saw there in '89 and '90 (including Adenia spinosa hanging upside down from a cliff) but we did get to see foxes and hyenas. The elephant damage to the trees was pretty horrendous . Most of it was browsed mopane trees, but the forest of Sesamothamnus also showed considerable damage.

Our freight just arrived and included was a book sent to me by Jean and Bill Pawek (lay missionaries in Malawi while we were Peace Corps and now in California) on the Kora Preserve in Kenya. Amazing parallels to the rocky hills near the Limpopo (but 2 times the commiphoras and a few more euphorbias. There is even a species of Sesamothamnus. It is "Islands in the Bush" by Malcolm Coe 1985, George Philip, London. I'm not sure what market it appeals to: not enough glossy photos and too much text for the coffee table.

Next a celebration.

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