The Cactus Patch
Volume 10       July 2007      Number 07

A Final Fling
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

On the 3rd of April we were introduced to a new director at the museum. He is Gaogakwe Phorano who was formerly head of culture. I suppose this is fitting as the museum is now in the new ministry of Youth, Sports & Culture which has been separated from the over-large Ministry of Labour & Home Affairs. That evening the film club showed Al Goreís film "An Inconvenient Truth" and I introduced it by praising Gore as one of the few American leaders who understands science. The deputy head of mission at the US embassy told me afterward that I make America look bad! Unfortunately there is too much information in the film. It should be a year-long course. Subsequent conferences and declarations support what Gore said about climate change. It was a timely showing.

The next day I gave a talk on "Baobabs, the biggest succulents" at the museum. I explained how they have living rings like an onion rather the woody structure of ordinary trees. I also showed how they are part of tourism in Botswana.

Easter this year was the same day for both Eastern Orthodox and western Christians so the Mackenzie (Brian & Penny) invited everyone over for a midnight supper which is part of the Orthodox tradition. The food was great, but we got very little sleep when we got back home. As the day dawned we took a taxi to the airport and flew to Maun to begin a holiday fling. We decided to see what itís like as a tourist rather than researcher.

The Island Safari Lodge picked us up at the airport and we had a restful stay on the Thamelekane River. On the 9th we were driven out to Leroo la Tau ("tracks of the lion"), a new resort on the Boteti River. This is in the western boundary of Mgadikgadi National Park. (Years ago I had suggested at a conference that the solution to the conflict between cattle and livestock would be to stagger the boundary so that it wasnít the actual river. Theyíve actually done this! The Game viewing area is across the river from the park, but included within the wildlife fence.)

We were taken on game drives both by day and by night. (Night drives are not allowed in National Parks.) The daytimes were spectacular with sightings of Bataleur eagles and other birds as well as the usual elephants, antelope, zebra etc. The night drives were even more exciting with genets, springhares, jackals and bushbabies. One of these latter was up close and sat in his tree blinking at the bright light. The hippos were pitiful. They used a small pool for drinking, but due to the drought, the pool they used for other purposes was a genuine smelly cesspool.

Back at the lodge we watched hornbills (yellow, red and grey) and other birds as well as squirrels cavort. The food was delicious and served by very friendly staff who ate with us as we were the only guests. As usual I ended up identifying plants for them. They even want me to come back and run a course for the guides. On the 11th we were driven back to the Island Safari. See more at <>

On the 12th we went to the formerly burnt out Okavango Ceramics and were happy to see they were once more up and running. Itís miraculous how some people bounce back from disaster. Unfortunately all things end and we flew back to Gaborone on the13th, arriving just in time to join a play reading being done by the Capital Players. It was just for fun and not performance, but it was good to see even this little being done. They have been moribund for a long while.

On the 17th the new museum head came out to the Village to see our Natural History Division. I hope he is convinced we belong to the museum and should not become part of the Ministry of the Environment as has been suggested. That evening I gave a talk on "Rain Birds" at the bird club. I showed pictures of all the birds and other creatures that appeared in the heavy rain last year. Next day the director returned with Tikey Pule, former museum head, who is now Permanent Secretary (the highest civil servant) in the new ministry. They sang to me as it was my birthday. The Millennium Seed Bank Project also met at the garden and we had refreshments. Afterward Polly and I went to Spur for a special lunch of prawns.

On the 24th the museum opened a show of works by "Artists in Botswana". Our friend Wendy Borello won "best in the show" which is quite something as the quality keeps improving each year. On the 28th we saw a one-man play called "The Creature" at Mau a Pula. The play wasnít much, but the actor was fantastic. He managed to sustain interest even though it was all taking place in a cage which allows little scope for movement. He made us really feel what it is like to be on "exhibit". On the 29th we made one last drive down to Good Hope where the quilting group Polly has been helping feasted us and gave Polly some pots as farewell gifts. It is beginning to feel like the beginning of the end.

Polly at Okavango Ceramics

PREVIOUS LETTER               Bruce's Letters               NEXT LETTER