Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Warners Take Over Botswana!

Back at the end of June I was fortunate to have my family come to visit . When I say my family, I mean my WHOLE family;  my Mom, Dad and two Brothers. I was very excited for this trip. We started planning for it back in January. Since then I had been preparing and eagerly anticipating their arrival. Ever since I was young my family has gone on trips together. We've been a lot of places all over the US. Each trip in itself brings back many memories of camping, long car rides, seeing great sights, and experiencing awesome things. Unfortunately we haven't had a full family vacation since 2003. This has been due to me and my older brother, getting older and moving on with our lives and not really having the time or money to go on vacation with the family. But this year that would change. This year would embark the trip of a lifetime. The best family vacation ever to Botswana!

As my Mom and I planned the trip over the months, I became quiet nervous and stressed. Originally we were supposed to spend a week in Botswana and the fly up to Egypt, but because of the turmoil in Egypt the flight tickets became cancelled, and now we would be spending the entire two weeks in and around Botswana. Botswana is a great place to travel, but expensive. Being a Peace Corps Volunteer I have a little bit of inside knowledge on things to do and people to use that is a little more affordable. This meant most of the trip planning and trip booking fell into my hands. I was able to get everything booked and set to go, but was still worried things wouldn't go so smoothly. This would be the first time my family had been out of the country. My parents have been to Mexico for a cruise before, but that isn't the same as traveling on your own in a foreign country. They were going to be in for a real adventure and I was super excited to show them a little bit of what I have been doing and experiencing this past year.

I got to the airport nice and early to make sure I was there when their plane landed. Gaborone airport has had some upgraded renovations since I had been there when I landed here in Botswana back in April 2010. It was looking pretty snazzy. As I was waiting for my family's flight to arrive, I got to watch Mrs. Obama board the Air Force One. She had been to South Africa and Botswana one vacation with the two girls the past week. It was an exciting time for Botswana. It was cool to watch all the security vehicles drive out to the plane and watch the plane take off. There was much commotion in the airport during this time.

Air Force One!!!

Finally my family's plane arrived! I got up and went to the window to see them get off the plane. I was ecstatic and basically controlling myself from jumping up and down out of joy. I am sure the people around me thought I was insane. Once they came through the gate I greeted them all with big hugs and tears were shed all around. It's a weird feeling to be with someone you love after you have been away from the for soo long. They were finally here in person and our trip together was about to begin.

The family getting off the plane :)
After picking up our rented car and exchanging some of the family's money into Pula we headed to the  Bahurutshe Cultural Lodge. I had been here during training and thought it would be a cool way for my family to learn a little bit about the Botswana culture. We got there a little later than planned due to the fact that it took longer to get our vehicle, but it all worked out. On the drive there the family was surprised to see goats and other cattle life crossing the roads, even main highways, wherever and whenever they liked. They also commented on how I talk funny due to my Setswanaized English. I had to  remind myself that I was talking to Americans and not Batswana. Lol! Once at the lodge my family really enjoyed the show and had many laughs, when they were told to participate. Afterwards we were fed some traditional food which they all enjoyed. Then we were off to stay at the Mokolodi Backpackers for some much needed R & R.

Mom smashing up some mebele

Learning how to shift mebele
The next day we headed to my village. On the way my we passed a few signs that would have a picture of a tree with a bench and say 5 km. They asked what that was and I told them it was a rest stop. They thought that was interesting and sure enough the next one we came to they had to get out and take pictures. In Mahalapye we stopped for lunch and groceries. We met up with a few other volunteers in the area and once again had some traditional food. My brothers really enjoyed the huge madombi, which are steamed dumplings. Then we were off to Machaneng. I cooked them pizza the first night, which they also enjoyed. The next day I showed them around the village and we went to the preschool to play with the kids a little bit. We also went to the Primary and Jr. Secondary Schools to drop off some boxes of books from the Botswana Book Project. I also had them try some megwinya (fat cakes) which they throughly enjoyed. In the evening there was a braii at my house. I invited all the people I worked with in the village. There was tons of food, because all the people from the clinic brought traditional dishes for my family to try. In Botswana fashion all the food was gone fairly quickly. Luckily my family got to dish themselves first so they were able to try a little bit of everything, even the mopane worm! They were also very surprised and thankful for the many gifts the clinic staff got for my family. Of course they had to make speeches afterwards, which was funny to watch. My younger brother doesn't like to get up and talk in front of people but he did well.
Family with the Machaneng Clinic Staff

The rest of the family and the rest of the clinic staff

Playing with balloons at the preschool

Hanging out on the stoop

All the wonderful presents including the "Adventure Hats!"

Mmmm Mopane worms!
The next morning we drove over to Matlhako to see the library where I help out at and to deliver the rest of the books I had picked up from the Botswana Book Project. Then we headed over to Len and Marina's farm. They took us out on a couple game drives and fed us really yummy steak and potatoes. We all got to have steaming hot showers and sleep in nice warm beds.

Limpopo River

The next day we were off to Nata to see the Makgadikdadi Salt Pans. We stopped in Francistown to eat some meat pies for lunch. We got to Nata Lodge in the afternoon, just in time to get on a sunset drive out on the salt pans. The view was breath taking and we got to see soo many flamingos that were bright shades of pink! The chalets we stayed in were very nice and apparently had really hot showers, but I didn't get to enjoy it because my brothers had used up all the hot water by the time I went to shower :(

Then we were off to Kasane. My Dad had been driving this whole time, doing a very good job staying on the left side of the road. Once you get past Nata the road to Kasane becomes a little rough. This is where my Dad decided to take a break and let my older brother try to drive. He also did a very good job driving. One in Kasane we had a little trouble finding the Serendipity Self Catering Lodge we were staying at. We finally found it and checked in to our rooms. The place was gorgeous and the lady who owned it was super nice. Then we got lunch at this really good pizza place and headed out for a sunset cruise out on the Chobe River. Originally we were supposed to be going with a different guide but I couldn't get a hold of him, luckily the owner at Serendipity had some contacts for other guides and we were able to get on a cruise at last minute. We got to see lots of animals, elephants, giraffees, steenbok, impala, crocodiles, water buffalo, and hippos among other things. The sunset was beautiful and my family really enjoyed it. Once home we cooked up some food. My dad really likes how they build their "grills" here, and he kept saying he wants to build one back in the states.
Fields of sunflowers on the way up to Kasane

Serendipity Self Catering

The next day we got up bright and early to head over to see Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwean side. Getting through the boarder was pretty crowded and crazy but we made it. It took us a little over an hour to walk around the falls. It was still high water season so we got pretty wet but the views were great when the mist cleared. After wards we went and had a yummy lunch at the Victoria Falls Hotel. My Dad and older Brother tried crocodile meat, Mom ate some warthog meat, while I had some ostrich. My younger brother wasn't as adventurous and stuck with the chicken. After lunch we headed over to the craft market. It was pretty crazy how aggressive the stall owners are at trying to get you to buy their stuff. They like to haggle the price and trade. They wanted everything from hair ties on my wrist to the shoes off my feet. My Mom and older Brother were great at bargaining and ended up with a lot of crafts and paying very little. David even traded one of his shirts off his back for something! Once back in Kasane we headed over to the Old House Restaurant for some yummy food.
Traditional Dancers

Victoria Falls Hotel

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Huge Hippo at the Craft Market...wonder how long it took to carve that?

Disinfecting our shoes to prevent the spread of Foot and Mouth Disease
The next morning we got up and were picked up by our safari guide to start our 3 day, two night safari from Kasane to Maun. We headed through the Chobe Safari, Savuti and Moremi Game Reserves. We did a lot of driving in those 3 days but we saw a lot of animals. We got to see zebra, giraffes, impala, various antelope, lions, bat eared foxes, jackals, lions, wild dogs, and a leopard! It was a true bush experience, not your typical high end safari, but sleeping in tents and cooking over a fire. On the first night as we were waiting for dinner to be ready we heard some noise and looked across the river to see an elephant chopping on some tree limbs. It was great entertainment for the night. The second night we got to listen to some lions bark and my Dad and two Brothers all tried some Chibuku (home brewed beer made out of maize). My Dad thought it was ok, but my Brothers both said it was disgusting. 

The elephant across from our campsite

Carnage from the lions

Bush pigs

Checking out the rock paintings

Yummy Chibuku!

Once in Maun we stayed at the Old Bridge Backpackers Lodge. Got some much needed hot showers and relaxed. The next day we had a long day of driving back to Gabs. We stayed at the Big 5 Lodge, where I stayed when I first arrived to Botswana. It was a little weird being back there again probably because now I have a different perspective on things then when I first arrived in Botswana. The following day we went and petted the cheetahs at the Mokolodi Nature Reserve and saw some hyenas. Then we ate lunch and caught the new Pirates movie at the cinema. I was pretty excited to see it!

Dad had to have a picture at the Tropic Of Capricorn Line

The next morning we packed up and my family dropped me off at the bus rank before they headed to the airport. It was sad to see them go and I had to fight off tears. All in all the trip went very smoothly. We only had a few blunders but it was all part of the experience. It was great to be able to spend so much time with them and I look forward to seeing them again in 9 months. I have missed them very much and am very fortunate to have been able to share this experience with them. I know they had a good time and will always have the memories we share from this trip.

Thanks for bearing through this incredibly long post! I need to learn how to either shorten my post or break them up into multiple posts....nahhhhh! haha

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine


  1. What a special time for you and your family! And what amazing work you are doing there. Can I just say that elephants are my favorite animal? When my hubby took me to a zoo on our honeymoon, I made him stand with me and watch the elephants for over 30 min. haha I looove them. Such great photos and thanks for sharing!

    ps. Thanks for your sweet comment on my blog. I'm glad I got to meet you!

  2. wow, looks like you had a great visit with the family.Haven't talked with them since they came back to Ohio. . . .will have to see all their pictures and "home movies". . . .Bill & Cindy