The Cactus Patch
Volume 6       January 2003      Number 1

December 2002
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

The marathon actually began on the 29 of Nov. with "Hallelujah Handel", a mix of Messiah, Israel in Egypt and other Handel numbers sung by six choirs (including our own Gaborone Music Society) accompanied by the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra. Polly sang a solo well and we both sang in the choir. President Mogae was there for the first night. The second night was even more exciting as James and Emily flew in at noon, had lunch at Wimpy's (a burger chain - we have no golden arches!) and a brief rest before the concert.

We managed to get the exhausted couple up next morning for the monthly bird walk at 6:30. We went out to Crocodile Pools but saw very few birds due to drought. The only excitement was a huge Adenia glauca. Nonetheless we had a delightful picnic breakfast afterward and celebrated the birthday of our host Bob McColaugh. Emily was surprised to find that he comes from Fresno! (Incidently, Doreen, his wife, has written a good guide to the garden trees here. Called "Gaborone in Bloom" [1997, Univ. Botswana, Gaborone], it describes all those pesky foreigners I always get stumped by.)

On Monday we took J&E to the Thrift Shop where Polly helps out, the garden where I work and River Walk, the older of the new malls. After lunch we saw the second Harry Potter movie there. Then we went out to our friends the Teed/Rollos for a swim.

Tues. 3 Dec. began the BIG tour. Driving North, we had breakfast at the Whistle Stop in Mahalapye and then stopped for tea with the Sobottas (dentist, formerly in Gaborone). Unfortunately, we had a flat, found the spare was flat and learned our new car had no jack. Our friends helped us out and we drove on up to Francistown and bought a jack. Finally we arrive at Nata Lodge where we settled into real luxury "Safari" tents (complete with shower and toilet!) and had a relaxing swim and buffet dinner. Andrena Teed and daughter Catriona joined us. Unfortunately Nigel Rollo had to go to Nigeria to replace one of his staff who walked out on him.

We were up at dawn on the 4th and drove North to Sibuyu Forest Reserve in time for the start of the eclipse of the sun at 7:05. Oddly enough, we passed lots of watchers before and after the forest, but we were alone for totality at 8:08. It was quite an experience (1st for J&E, 2nd for P&I). We also saw a huge ground hornbill. We then continued North to Mpandamatenga where I collected a few bulbs but failed to find the Aloe christianii and Huernia levyi which are only known from there in Botswana. We stopped for breakfast at "Touch of Africa" but had to wait over an hour as the generator was out. Just North of there we passed through a herd of about 50 sable antelope! Finally at 12:26 we checked into Kubu(Hippo)Lodge at Kasane on the Chobe River (just above the confluence with the Zambezi).

On the 5th we headed off in a tour van for Zimbabwe. Just across the border we saw our first elephants (we saw lots more on both sides later - they are really decimating the trees). We arrived at Mose oa Tunya (a.k.a Victoria Falls) at 10. I have never seen the falls so dry! Bathers on the Zambian side were right out on the edge - especially the nude one). We were thrilled to watch a Trumpeter hornbill eating water berries (Syzigium guineense). The driver took us to The Kingdom - a casino cum food mall to buy our own lunch although we had been promised a box lunch over the phone. Finding food began at US$7 for French fries we decided we weren't hungry. The driver offered to exchange money on the black market, but we refused. Zimbabwe is really cutting its own throat on tourism (etc. etc.) We then went out to the big tree (a baobab) and ended our visit at the Victoia Falls Hotel, a real colonial relict. By 3:35 we were back at Kubu Lodge. J,E & I tried to follow the nature trail there but ended up lost at dusk with vervets chased by warthogs chased by baboons between us and the lodge.

James & Emily at the Big Tree (baobab)
in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
The next day we took a game drive into Chobe National Park at 6:05. We saw lots of marabou storks, lions feeding on a sable, elephants, buffalo, etc. etc. Back in Kasane we saw a warthog with four spindly-legged hoglets, shopped for souvenirs and had drinks at the Tea Garden. That evening we set off for a sundown cruise up the Chobe to the park, but had to wait an hour while the rain bucketed down. (Is this the start to the end of the present drought?) In spite of the late start we had a good tour with plenty of crocs, hippos etc. We touched briefly on Sedudu Island in the middle of the River and noted Botswana is flying its flag there since Namibia tried to claim it. We ended the day back at Kubu Lodge with a birthday dinner for Emily.

On the 7th we visited the croc farm next to the lodge and then went to Mowana (baobab) Lodge for drinks. I was sad to find dead elephant vines (Fockea multiflora) since there had been eight when the hotel was built - the largest population in Botswana. I suspect they were over watered. We drove south towards Nata and came to a huge brush fire - the biggest I've seen in Botswana. Fortunately it hadn't jumped the road. Back at Nata Lodge we had a swim and a good rest (except for being woken at 5:30 to be given candles since the power was out.)

Next morning after a leisurely breakfast we drove south with a brief stop at Sowa where they mine soda ash from the salt pan. We were disappointed to find we couldn't get near the pan and, anyway, the flamingoes weren't there. We went on to Francistown but found the power was out. We still managed to get lunch at the Whistle Stop and then report to Mater Spei "College" (a private high school) for music camp. Everyone complained about the mess the dorms were in, but we managed to make them livable. After dinner we had an introductory lecture and were entertained by local singers and dancers.

The rest of the week followed a routine: camp choir at 8, classes at 9 (J&E did marimba, P & I did setinkane [thumb piano]), appreciation (an intro to other classes) at 11:30, practice at 2:30, a lecture by one of the instructors at 4:50 and entertainment at 8. On Monday we had more dancers and AIDS awareness music at top volume.

On Tues. we went to a nearby church to hear their choirs followed by loud Gospel (Botswana style) back at the "college". On Wed. the staff entertained us and on Thurs. we entertained them (e.g. I played "Summertime" on my clarinet along with another "camper" who was my roommate at the 95 camp & inspired to take up the instrument then.) On Friday we had a general meeting and rehearsed a camp song. Saturday ended with a camp concert and party.

There was also a break Thursday afternoon when we went up to Dombashaba National Monument to see 15th century ruins from the ancient Zimbabwe Empire. (There were also huge Euphorbia ingens trees, a chameleon, a thread snake[worm size] etc.)

Sunday 15th Dec. we left Francistown and made a detour to Serowe to visit the Khama Rhino Sanctuary but didn't see any Rhinos since it was midday and they were sleeping. We had takeaway lunch at Kaytee's in Mahalapye and arrive back home at 4:52. We were exhausted but managed a late supper at Wimpy's.

Rahionacme burkei - used as an emergency
water source (bitter) - Khutse Game Reserve
Next Morning I went back to work and E&J went to Khutse Game Reserve with our friend Chris Toye. He had San (Bushman) guides teach them to eat wild plants (a Ceropegia no less!), make bow string from Sansevieria aethiopica, make fire by twirling sticks etc. They also saw Oryx and other animals. They came back exhausted on Wednesday.

We will have a less exhausting time over Christmas & New Years and perhaps E&J will survive to return to Bakersfield. More on that next month.

Ceropegia - edible, but Emily does not
recommend the flavor - Khutse Game Reserve
P.S. The December issue of "The Euphorbiaceae Study Group Bulletin" is the final one! Where will I send articles now?

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