The Cactus Patch
Volume 9       September 2006      Number 9

The North!
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

On 7th July, the day after IPUF ended we headed north. (Of course we waited until 4:30 when I got off work. I have to put in an appearance once in a while.) We only went as far as Mahalapye where we ate at the Whistle Stop with its Route 66 décor and stayed at the Gaetsho Lodge. Next morning it was on to Francistown where we had lunch at the Spur with its pseudo Amerindian décor. (I pointed out the Statue of Liberty at the casino across the road.) Then it was a bit west to Nata where we checked into the lodge and then drove back to Nata Sanctuary and drove out to Soa Pan. The pan was full of water as far as the eye could see and had pelicans and flamingos.

Monday the 9th we drove north and saw oryx in the sorghum stubble at Mpandamatenga and a number of elephants in the forest reserves (yes, there is forest in the north of Botswana). We checked into Kubu (hippo) Lodge and tried out the revised nature trail. It was better, but we still got lost. A greenbul joined us at the breakfast table next morning (& the next) and then we took a game drive in Chobe National Park. and saw the usual assortment of animals. The best was a troop of banded mongooses digging away at the dirt. It looked to me like they were eating doodle bugs. We then visited the hollow baobab at the Police Station which was once used as a prison (and is now a National Monument) and had lunch at Mowana (baobab) Lodge. In the evening we went by boat into Chobe and watched a huge bunch of elephants cross the river into Namibia.

On the 11th we took the ferry across to Zambia. Polly & I had not been across since 1969 when our Landrover filled the little ferry and Anne had never been there. Gratefully the ferry is much enlarged and now handles huge trucks. On the Zambian side there were lots of forms and fees. Anne was amazed to see prices in thousands of Kwachas, but she got used to ignoring the three zeros. We then drove to Mosi oa Tunya (aka Victoria Falls) and got thoroughly soaked walking out on the Knife's Edge (the water is way up!). There were a few late blooming yellow glads, some Lobelia, Tetradenia (Iboza) riperia (a succulent mint bush), and aloes in full bloom. We also noted a vine of Fockea multiflora, a succulent milkweed. We then had lunch at the Sun International (which is the old Intercontinental where we had eaten before). After lunch we went back to the falls and visited the site museum with stone tools in place as left by Desmond Clark (ex Berkeley). We braved the mobbing sellers and bought a few souvenirs. That evening we stayed at the Maramba River Lodge which is within the Mosi oa Tunya National Park. We heard hippos but didn't see them.

On the 12th we drove into Livingstone and had breakfast behind the Hammerkop's Nest gift shop. We then took a helicopter over the falls. We'd never done this before. It is a fantastic way to see them and the zig-zag of gorges below. Upstream there were hippos and elephants on the islands. We then went back to Livingstone and checked into the Zig Zag, a bed and breakfast. We visited the museum, the railway museum and more gift shops. Anne wanted to take a jet boat on the Zambezi on the 13th, but we couldn't get a morning booking so we lazed around the Zig Zag and took an afternoon ride. Unfortunately the ride out to the gorge took 45 minutes (but Anne got to see villages with cassava patches etc.) and then there was a cable car ride down into the gorge. Some people were not too thrilled at that, but I was fascinated and took lots of pictures of the Euphorbia griseola shrubs and E. fortissima trees on the cliffs. There were also more aloes in bloom. I would have preferred a gentle ride up the river, but most of the group wanted thrills, so we did a lot of spins and rapid-running. I did get them to stop so I could photograph a slope full of skinny baobabs. By the time we got back to Livingstone we were running late and then we missed the turn to Kazungula, so it was 5:30 by the time we reached the ferry. We rushed through the forms and managed to cross on the last boat (which has to be off the water by six). We just managed to get stamped through on the Botswana side, passing the barrier at precisely six, the closing time. Fortunately we were expected at Kubu Lodge.

On the 14th we drove back down to Nata and then west to Gweta where we checked into Planet Baobab. This was new for us. It claims to be the "Baobab Capital of the World" and certainly has more huge trees per area than I've seen before. Each one is unique and we took pictures til the sunset and more at sunrise.

After breakfast we drove on to Maun and checked into the Island Safari Lodge where we were greeted as old friends. We then went to the Nature Sanctuary and walked with the giraffes. Polly had done this last year, but it was new to Anne and me.

Sunday the 16th was spent in mekoro (dugouts) on the Okavango. We passed lots of pink flowers (and a few white ones) of Sopubia mannii (Snapdragon family) and had lunch on an island where we were shown lots of plants and told their uses. Our guide Mathamaka Kosta Motswagole belongs to the Bayei, a group I knew little about, and I got lots of new uses.

On the 17th we headed south and stopped at D'kar to buy San (Bushman) crafts. We were pleased to find they have organized a small museum in the craft shop. We spent the night at the Kalahari Arms in Ghanzi, bought more crafts and returned to Gaborone on the 18th. Anne has now seen a bit of Botswana.

On the 19th I went back to work and the others rested. I learned there had been another break-in. This time the fax machine was stolen. On the 20th Polly and Anne went down to Good Hope and ran a quilting workshop. Anne had to learn to use the old-fashioned hand-crank machines. They returned next day and on Sunday we drove around the Gaborone Game Reserve for one last look at wildlife.

Polly and Anne spent the last week at Thrift Shop, Quilting, Book Club and shopping. A wildfire raged through the lower half of the garden on Thursday. Fortunately most of the plantings are in the upper half. We had an unusual rain on 1 Aug. which may help recovery. (We have had rain every month this year. Usually it is dry from mid April to mid Oct.) Anne sat in on choir rehearsal on Mon. 24th July and then left on Friday. Our choir was part of "Eine Kleine Mozart" on Sat. to celebrate his 250th anniversary. Now I hope we'll relax for a while.

I bought a few books from the museum and monument in Zambia, but as they concern archaeology, rock art and monuments I'll not bore everyone with the details. What I would recommend, for anyone interested in Mosi oa Tunya (Smoke that Thunders), is the book Mosi-oa-Tunya: A Handbook to the Victoria Falls Region, D.W. Phillipson, ed. ( 2nd ed. 1990, Longman, Zimbabwe). It is very thorough and by far the best, even though there are newer books. Chapter 4 on stone age man is by the above-mentioned Desmond Clark. Chapter 10 on the flora is by D.B. Fanshawe, a Zambian botanist who was the first to collect the plant I later named Monadenium mafingense. The book is well illustrated, although if I were in charge, the Euphorbia fortissima on p. 125 would be in color. Two of Thomas Baines' paintings from 1863 are reproduced in color and one of them ("The Falls at sunrise with the Spray Cloud rising 1200 feet") shows aloes in bloom. These are probably Aloe cryptopoda, but some of them have stems more like young Aloe excelsa. Aloe chabaudii is mentioned in the text but not illustrated. Another succulent is Sansevieria pearsonii (listed as S. desertii). Baobabs are, of course, mentioned. The book mentions that some 900 species of plants have been recorded from the area, but a complete list was not possible. (This is found in "Vegetation of the Victoria Falls", D.B. Fanshawe in Forest Research Pamphlets XLV.) Among the succulents not listed are: Sarcostemma viminale , Peperomia rotundifolia, Fockea multiflora, a Plectranthus sp., Adenia gummifera and Tetradenia riperia.

One thing noticeable by comparing the maps in the book to what is seen today is the horrendous growth of buildings on the Zimbabwe side. Most jarring is the huge multi-storied Elephant Hills Hotel built on a hill inside Victoria Falls National Park. Zambia has done a much better job of keeping development at the falls low and discrete.

Polly, Bruce and Anne at Soa Pan

Anne with greenbul at breakfast, Chobe River in background

Mosi oa Tunya, Zambia in foreground

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