“Although we did not see any elephants in the Caprivi region, I sure did have a nerve-wrecking encounter in Botswana. I came across a small herd standing in the shade right next to the road. Because they were so close to the road I stopped some distance away to get a feel for their mood, and to see if there were any calves present in the herd. The last place I wanted to be was on the wrong side of an elephant with a calf, especially on a bicycle. But the elephants did not seem to pay attention to the cars that went past and I could not see any calves, so I carried on cycling.“
More than three months have now gone past since I’ve completed my journey. You’ll be happy to know I am now well rested, I’ve caught up with my family and friends, and I’ve already started the next adventure in my life as as a Senior Scientist in the Research & Development department at Roche Sequencing Solutions. But I still have to tie up some loose ends on #Cycling4AntibioticAction & #ScienceInAfrica. I still have to tell you about my journey from Zambia to South Africa, and my final thoughts about science and antibiotic resistance in Africa.
I last wrote about my arrival in Livingstone, Zambia. So I’ll resume with my departure from there.
The route I initially had planned out would have taken me from across the border between Zambia and Botswana at Kazangula. From there I would have cycled south alongside the Botswana/Zimbabwe border and then west to Maun, a popular place from where to access the Okavango Delta. But instead of taking this route, I decided to join Nino. You may remember from a previous blog that Nino is a Swiss touring cyclist whom I first met just outside of Lusaka. The plan we hatched over a beer or two, while camping at Jollyboys Backpackers, was to cycle west into the Caprivi region of Namibia. Then, from Popa Falls, I would cycle on my own again into Botswana, down the western side of the Okavango Delta to Maun, before cycling west again to return to Namibia.
The road from Livingstone, Zambia, to Katima Milulu, Namibia, was scattered with giant potholes. Cars, trucks and busses hated it. They had to drive really slowly. But Nino and I loved it! Our bicycles weaved between the potholes with ease. The road belonged to us. Cycling through the Caprivi region from Katima Milulu to Popa Falls was equally as much fun. It was bloody hot, reaching 42 degrees Celsius at 10am, but there were few vehicles, the road was straight and flat, and a tailwind pushed us along on our way. On top of that, most of the Caprivi region is a national park, meaning there were few(er) people, some wildlife and plenty of places to camp undisturbed. Hakuna matata (no worries)…with the exception of having to keep our eyes open for elephants!
Although we did not see any elephants in the Caprivi region, I sure did have a nerve-wrecking encounter in Botswana. I came across a small herd standing in the shade right next to the road. Because they were so close to the road I stopped some distance away to get a feel for their mood, and to see if there were any calves present in the herd. The last place I wanted to be was on the wrong side of an elephant with a calf, especially on a bicycle. But the elephants did not seem to pay attention to the cars that went past and I could not see any calves, so I carried on cycling.
It turns out that there was actually a calf in the middle of the herd, and even though they did not mind the cars, they certainly did mind me. As I approached, their ears started flapping and every single one of the elephants looked my way. One in particular, which I assume to be the matriarch, lifted her front left leg while she continued to flap her ears wildly. I’ll not lie, this made me a little nervous. Keeping a watchful eye on her particularly, I kept on cycling as quickly as I could. Then unexpectedly, branches were breaking loudly on my left. There was a bull that I had not noticed before, and it had not noticed me…until I was right next to it. My sudden close proximity startled the bull and it dashed loudly into the bush. I shat myself. I kid you not. When I came to the realization that the elephant was running away from me and not towards me, I looked to my right again to see what the small herd was doing. Fortunately they too were heading into the bush. I continued cycling at top speed for maybe another 100 m before I stopped to catch my breath and let my heartbeat return to normal. That was truly scary! But it was awesome. You may not agree, but its at that border between scary and awesome where the adventure lies.
Well, I’ll leave the rest of the story for tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy the pictures below of hippos and elephants in the Okavango Delta.
Until tomorrow then.