The Cactus Patch
Volume 9       March 2006      Number 3

Drought to Flood
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

When I arrived in Gaborone on 16 Jan. I was amazed to look down on a green landscape. It had been dry and brown when we left at the beginning of Dec.

Things were much the same as I had left them. Only a couple of events marked the month. Capital Players held a "Last Soiree" for Jacquie Golding who died last year and the museum had an exhibit on Emile Holub, a Bohemian explorer who visited Botswana in the late 1800s. The annual Holubia saccata which grows here was named after him. I was given a booklet by the Czech Ambassador called "The Victoria Falls-a few pages from the diary of Emil Holub, M.D.". It was originally published in 1879 by T&G Sheffield, Grahamstown, and reprinted in the Books of Zimbabwe series, Bulawayo, 2004. The reprint has an engraving of the boiling pot at the bottom of the falls. It shows aloes (Aloe excelsa?) and euphorbia trees (Euphorbia confinalis?). The reprint also includes a description of Holub's travels.

Polly returned on the 31st of Jan. and we had lunch with Nigel Rollo, the previous owner of our dog Spike on the 1st of Feb. (He was visiting from Canada.)

On 5th Feb. our older son John arrived and on the 6th we were blessed with 7 more Calif. Cavers (associated with the Mother Lode Grotto). We helped them get supplies on the 8th and on the 9th we drove them out to the Lobatse Estates south of here. The area was in flood and the dirt road terrible but they managed to make a camp that evening and tried to sleep despite horrendous lightning.

They managed to find one of the two known caves there, but could not explore it well due to bad air. They also found additional small caves, one of which they have named "Mohu" due to the wasps at the entrance. We managed to return and help them back out on Sunday the 12th.

Monday the 13th was spent resting and preparing for the next trip. Doug & Bill figured out how to use the high lift jack to change a tire and noted a small leak in the water pump (we got it fixed). On Tuesday Polly and I joined them for this trek. They rented another 4-wheel drive vehicle as our car would never make it. We started with a side trip to see the Limpopo River. I thought it was dull, but they insisted on doing this. We got back to the main road north in the afternoon, but a tire burst on our Land Rover ( just shredded!) Fortunately John kept us upright. While changing the tire (Doug did most of the work), we had a solid wall of water dump on us. The rain stopped the minute the tire was changed!

We limped back to Mahalapye and found a new chalet complex and stayed there. Polly & I entertained with "Baby it's cold outside".

Next morning we bought a new tire and drove up to Francistown for lunch.

Then it was over to Nata (to the west) where we camped at the Nata Sanctuary. Rick quickly earned a place in our hearts as he had brought a wisk broom to keep down the sand in our tents. The place was flooded and the rented vehicle got stuck in mud. Fortunately the winch on the Land Rover was able to pull it out. That night we had hordes of mosquitoes.

Despite this Tom Inderkum entertained us with a plastic didgeridoo and all the cavers sang songs such as "You picked a fine time to leave us, loose wheel", "Knee deep" and "One ton of Guano".

Next morning we drove west to Gweta to see the giant Aardvark (a cement ad for "Planet Baobab"). Planet Baobab says it is the Kalahari Scuba Club. We could believe it as the road in was under water. We continued west to Maun and checked into the Island Safari Lodge. The road there was only slightly less waterlogged. We stayed two nights and the cavers visited the local game reserve (where some managed to spot a giraffe) and took Mokoro (dugouts) up into the Okavango. They mostly spotted birds. This probably pleased Peri Frantz who had her bird book and binoculars. Karole was interested in plants.

On Saturday the 18th we set off to Gcwihaba, the cave open for tourists. The dirt road in was covered with spectacular numbers of butterflies, mostly yellow. Unfortunately, the road became wetter and wetter and at dusk we stopped just north of the Aha Hills. We camped on the spot and were inundated with thousands of moths. Next morning we found one of the Land Rover wheels was soft and so, due to this, and the water, we turned back. We managed to get to Sehithwa on the paved road but no tire repair was found. The Police allowed us to camp in their yard. We were inundated with hoards of spiky bugs.

Next morning the Land Rover was left jacked up and two wheels taken back to Maun. (The spare was also soft.) We found a huge flock of egrets in town. We still managed to get to Ghanzi early enough to do souvenir shopping and enjoy the Kalahari Arms chalets. We passed huge numbers of yellow-billed kites on the way.

On the 21st we drove all the way back to Gaborone. We passed the largest group of Marabou storks I have ever seen and John managed to hit a Namaqua dove with the Land Rover. On the 22nd the cavers presented a talk at the museum. Most of them left on the 23rd, but John and Rolf Aalbu (entomologist) stayed a little longer.

At the dinner table (left to right):
Peri Frantz, Rolf Aalbu, Doug Bradford, Polly, Bruce, Karole Ward, Tom Inderkum, Bill Frantz, Rick Gates
(photo by John).

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Caving in Lobatse