Tuesday 26 March 2013

Gabs – Leaving ZA or a boring day or two in Gaborone

Robert brought me to the Caltex stop in Midrand where my Intercape bus would be stopping and let me board. Before that, while still at their home in Kempton Park, we made plans for the close future. Laurentia's sister Lucretia told us about Soweto and that I should visit. There are organized tours. Laurentia and Robert never went to Soweto and told me it would be nice to all go and visit together. By the way, Soweto stands for South West Townships.

Tlokweng Road, Gabs
During the previous day I sent and checked the Couchsurfing requests for Gaborone. It seemed a better prospect than to go the only backpackers that looked good on paper, but was a bit out of town (about 12 km). More so, Couchsurfing is always a good way to meet new people and have good local advice for visiting and sightseeing.

Unfortunately, nobody answered to any of my requests. So I had to try and get a different accommodation for the night. From the coach, I tried calling Mokolodi Backpackers but the number advertised in Lonely Planet missed a number. By the time I managed to connect to their website with my rusty “old” not so waterproof HTC and get their true number, it was probably too late, because nobody answered. I thought I could be dropped off on the side of the road and walk to the backpackers from there, but for that we would have had to take the Lobatse road, which we didn't. It happened we never were even close to Mokolodi.

I then got assistance from the coach hostess and a taxi driver in Gabs. I thus found a “cheap” room in a little “lodge” in the African Mall in Gabs. The “lodge”, which was a hotel, or a motel even, cost me BOP 265 per night (about CHF 30). There I ate the meal Laurentia had packed for me in a cookie box.
After that I went out for some beers in a small bar just opposite the hotel, before tucking in for a restless sleep. The next morning I felt really tired and stayed in bed for a little more rest. It actually didn't work as I was still very tired while writing this. I finally got out of bed and packed my bags so I could store them until I thought out where to go next. It happened that I managed to get a luxury coach booking for the following day and had to stay one more night in the “lodge”.

I walked all the way to Riverwalk Mall on Tlokweng Road (hey Mom, remember the books). There I browsed the stores a while, and even got free wifi in some electronics shops. Some android tablets look quite nice now. I think I will opt for a tablet instead of a laptop for my next adventures. I finally went to sit, read a newspaper and a book and drink a few beers in Langi Langa Restaurant in the mall. I later treated myself with a nice steak.

Lunch with Kitso
I walked back to town but got a little lost because I actually walked around the CBD and the African Mall instead of walking to it. I asked someone and he told me to walk roughly in the direction I had been coming from. I quickly found the Main Mall and then the way back to the African Mall. This time I stayed in the hotel at night and just watched a movie before going to sleep.

The following day I packed my bags again and again, stored them in the storage room of the hotel before going out for the day. The highlight of the day would be when I was to meet Kitso whom I briefly met in the taxi from the Intercape bus stop to the hotel. I was going to have lunch with her at the museum. She had offered to host me and wanted to call me the day after we arrived, but as my phone just doesn't always work, I never was able to get her call. Basically, when I want to call someone, I often have to restart the phone first. She finally sent me an SMS and asked me If I still was staying in the small motel and we arranged for lunch the next day. In Main Mall I bought some paintings for BOP 450 and some other souvenirs.

Walking in the city and especially in the Main Mall, I noticed that a lot of the modern young city ladies are slim and sometimes even skinny. Older ladies and those coming from the rural backgrounds are mostly traditionally built.

From one of those traditionally built ladies, I bought some Mopani worms. She told me it was the symbol on the 5 Pula coin. Before buying them, I had to try one. But I wouldn't dare put it in my mouth before she actually ate one. It's a black ugly thing, that crunches when you bite into it. To me it tastes a little bit like dried grass. Do not worry, I plan to bring some back!

The coach was scheduled to leave around 9.45 and I arranged a taxi to bring me to the bus rank at 8.30. It was the same driver who brought me here two nights ago. When we got there, he told me my bus wasn't here, so I called the number I was given by the Tourist Information Center that I used for the booking. I gave the phone to the driver and he navigated to a petrol station where the bus was picking up more people. I hadn't paid the fare yet, so I didn't worry about missing the bus too much. But on the other hand, I dreaded having to stay in the city one more boring and long day. When I got there and unloaded my bags, my seat was still secured, but one of the staff scolded me for not bringing my luggage in at 6. As nobody had told me I had to that I just shrugged it off. I waited outside the bus looking at the staff load the luggage and a lot of other things into the boot. I wanted to be sure my bag would be in when we left. After about an hour they managed to fit in everything except a big stove which was left standing there.

Between 3 and 4 in the morning we stopped in Francistown, the last town before the border. Some passengers were already standing or lying in the aisle, but we still picked up some more. Easter was pointing its nose, and a lot of people were heading home for the holidays. I was happy to find out my bag actually made it. I was quite amazed at all the stuff people were bringing into Zim by bus: mattresses, brooms, kids' toys, and so on. But no stove...

Botswana / Zim border post
A little before 5 we arrived at the border post where we had to wait until 6 for the gates to open. Other cars and coaches were already there. Once the gates opened, people rushed into the post to get stamped out as quickly as possible. Some had to declare their goods and wanted to get over with it quickly. So I went in too and there a soldier told us to make a line and sit down and wait. Every time someone moved, most people stood up, and the soldier would come out and tell us to sit down again. After about half an hour I was let in. Inside, instead of queuing on the customer side of the tellers I was led into the office where the customs officer chuckled when he saw that I was going to Zim (nowhere else to go from there anyway). Everyone either is shocked or finds it funny that I would want to go to Zim. He stamped my passport and I went back to the coach where I was told I had to carry my luggage out of Botswana. I walked past the security without any hassle and waited outside of Botswana in the no man's land that stretched for quite a few kilometers. We waited for another 20-30 minutes until our coach came through and quickly reloaded the luggage and the passengers and drove off to the Zim side of the border. There the queuing was quicker but I was informed I had to buy a visa to enter Zimbabwe. I filled out yet another entry form and paid USD 30 to get another sticker and stamp in my passport. Some customs officers were looking through our luggage and other loads when I got out with my newly acquired visa. But no bag was actually opened or searched. After that the coach staff reloaded the whole load according to the exit point of the belongers. At about half past 8 we drove off towards Bulawayo where we arrived around 10.

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