The Cactus Patch
Volume 6       March 2003      Number 3

Circling The Okavango - January 2003
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

After James & Emily returned from Khutse we began the Holiday Season with the second annual solstice party on the 21st at the Teed/Rollo's. On Mon. 23rd J, E & Polly took our maid Lenah to her home at Odi and had a look at all our old furniture. All four of us visited the main museum on the 24th and celebrated the evening with fish tacos. Next morning we opened presents. Among mine was a pile of books from Anne including "The Revenge of the Wrought Iron Flamingos" by Donna Andrews (2001, St. Martin's Paperbacks, N.Y.) I knew those critters were dangerous. I thought, at least this time, they would not be associated with cacti, but I was wrong. During the re-enactment of the battle of Yorktown people are bothered by little cactuses! I presume these are Opuntia humifusa which I have seen from Jones Lake, North Carolina to Long Island, New York. At any rate, I would not recommend the traditional treatment from the Revolutionary War period lard with sulfur! In the afternoon we returned to the Teed/Rollo's for a turkey dinner.

Thurs. the 26th I took J, E & P on a history tour of "The Village", the oldest section of Gaborone with its Boer war graveyard, remains of a fort etc. On the 30th Andrena Teed took them to Mokolodi Nature Reserve and they saw ostrich & rhino. On the 31st the 4 of us went to Kolobeng (a National Monument with the remains of Livingstone's mission) and Manyana (another N.M. with rock art and a huge fig under which Livingstone is said to have preached). Then we went to Camphill, an institute for handicapped where James had done volunteer work, and had lunch while visiting their plant nursery (a few succulents - I bought Aloe arborescens), pottery shop, gift shop etc. That evening we watched the New Year in Sidney and later went out in front of our house to watch neighborhood fireworks. (There are no restrictions here.) Next day we had a BBQ at other friends, the Farmers, at their old house and then drinks at their new house (under construction) far south of town. I dug up a wild Amaryllis relative (with their permission) which has remarkable curly leaves.

On the 2nd we saw the last of many movies with J&E - "The Guru", a Hollywood version of a Bollywood production! It was great (but parents be warned - he is the guru of sex and there is a flash of nudity). Finally, on the 3rd we said a sad good bye to James & Emily. If anyone else wants to drop in, our spare room is spare again. (Also we can design dynamite tours if you feel up to one.)

As if all that weren't enough, on Sun., Jan. 5th I set off for Maun at the bottom of the Okavango with Moffat Setsogho from the University of Botswana, D. Menyatso, our museum horticulturalist and a driver D. Mothomme. We set up our tents that evening on the banks of the Thamalekane. Next morning we shopped and visited the Peter Smith Herbarium. Then it was off around the west side of the delta to Gomare. At the police station there we revisited a giant Orbea and found it had been collected locally. I have been growing it for 9 months, but still have not seen the flowers. I hope it is the purple-flowered Orbea valida, but the police say the flowers are yellow. This would make it Orbea lutea, but I've never seen one this big. We camped that night at Shakawe at the top of the panhandle of the Okavango.

On the 7th we had our flat spare repaired at the Botswana Defence Force Camp and went up to Mohembo where there is a ferry across the river. We stopped to collect seedlings of a Mimosa which reacts to touch by closing its leaves. From then on it was dirt/sand road. We stopped at the only known site of Habernaria pasmithii, an orchid named for the late Peter Smith, but the flood plane was dry and partly burnt and no orchids were seen. I did find flame lilies (Gloriosa superba) and a milkweed with edible fruit (Orthanthera jasminiflora). That evening we camped at Seronga at the bottom of the panhandle. It can be reached by a two-hour boat ride (only $5) from the paved road on the west side of the delta. We collected a lot of flowering and fruiting trees along the river, including the sausage tree, Kigelia africana with its big woody fruit.

On the 8th we drove NE to the Buffalo Fence separating cattle and wildlife. There we entered the Selinda Reserve (which had the giraffe and zebra Emily missed seeing) and followed the flood plain of the Selinda Spillway (a sometimes overflow from the Okavango) which actually denotes the Gomare Fault, one of three which form the delta's shape. This led us to the Kwando River at a crossroads of water. Sounds impossible? The Kwando comes down from Angola, reaches the Gomare Fault, does a right angle turn to become the Linyanti River and later does another couple of right angle turns to become the Chobe River, which then joins the Zambezi. (Incidentally, Mose oa Tunya or Victoria Falls also is formed by a fault parallel to the Gomare one. It's all part of the southern end of the Great Rift Valley, which starts up in Turkey.) In addition, water from the Kwando occasionally crosses the fault and forms the Savuti channel, which ends in the Mababe Depression of Chobe National Park. And this is only part of the fluid river system of Northern Botswana.

At the Kwando River we visited James' Camp (now Botswana Defence Force) but failed to find another rare orchid there. That night we pitched our tents at the HQ for the Selinda Reserve. I had hoped to meet researchers there as the reserve is starting a herbarium, but they were all out.

On the 9th we drove S to the Moremi Game Reserve, stopping (unsuccessfully) at the only known locality in Botswana for Orbea gossweileri, another purple flowered one. We also stopped to remove a tree which elephants had placed on the road. At the North Gate we saw more zebra and giraffe as well as waterbuck and then crossed a wooden log bridge into the Reserve. The branch of the Okavango here is the Kwai, so it is a bridge over the River Kwai. We drove out to Mboma Island with a park researcher as required by my permit. He turned out to be an old acquaintance, B. Pelekekae, who years ago had led me to the only locality for the desert candle (Monsonia salminifolia) in Botswana in the SW at Tshabong, but we discovered that the localities for rare orchids I wanted were all out in the water. We then arranged with Dr. Kurukunda, a botanist of Water Affairs (for which Peter Smith had worked) for a boat at sunup We camped that night back at the North Gate. I looked for Orbea schweinfurthii, which is reported for the Kwai, but didn't find it.

We started out with a boatload, but after a brief channel run the other intrepid three from Gaborone were left (at their request) on shore while we hunted GPS points on the water. We found orchids (Eulophia latilabris, which has 3 foot high leaves, and the smaller Eulophia tanganyikensis) at the first stop, but then found our motor was burnt out. Proceeding at very slow speed, we reach the nearest dock and fortunately did not have to wait long before we were found by a wildlife boat, which lent us a spare motor! We found the second GPS point, but no orchids. At any rate Dr. Kurukunda had found a small one there previously and will continue looking. On the way back we encountered hippo, elephant and large crocodiles and snacked on water berries (Syzigium cordata).

Picking up the intrepid landees, we proceeded to the South Gate and picked up paved road soon after going through the buffalo fence. We reached Maun just in time to fuel up for the Saturday drive home. (The Government fuel point is only open on weekdays.) On Saturday we met zebra strolling down the road next to the entrance to the Makgadikgadi National Park.

Back in Gaborone life is getting back to normal except for theawful heat. Due to drought conditions temperatures have been in the 40s C (104+F) and I can only work because my office is air-conditioned. I hope we get some cooling rain soon. We have taken down the tree with its parrot lights and I finally finished my yearly Christmas puzzle (this time a Fish Eagle of 1500 pieces). Now to send out a late newsletter.

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