The need to camp initiated another extensive investigation of a whole new world for us. Botswana has reserved well over a quarter of its land for national parks and Wildlife Management Areas, with a policy of keeping them as natural as possible; wonderful, genuine wilderness. Even man-made waterholes for the animals are kept to a minimum, as they can be highly disruptive to wildlife behaviour. The parks have no tarred roads, no fenced campsites, no swimming pools, no petrol stations, and no shops offering food, ice or firewood. Many government campsites do not even provide water; and the most any of them provide is a toilet and shower block. For some reason the government does not consider itself responsible for keeping your beer ice-cold.
Camping equipment purchased, they drove to Savute, the southern part of the Chobe National Park, for their first night of camping.
Our two little hurricane lamps and the fire were the only light, casting a warm glow which just picked out the branches of the trees surrounding us and forming a canopy above. We relaxed back in our chairs, enjoying the wine which our wonderful new cool-box had kept at a perfect temperature. Suddenly we became acutely aware of noises in the bush around us. Our pleasure of being alone in the wilderness evaporated as we began to wish we were not the only people in the campsite on our very first night of camping. We pried into the foliage with our powerful new spotlight, but to no avail. We imagined hyenas, lions, leopards and heaven knows what else. Jumpy, but naïvely unafraid, we stayed put and waited to see what would happen.
The noises came closer and finally we spotted it. Not a cheeky jackal, ferocious snake or unusually noisy scorpion, but a… mouse. Never has there been such a fearless mouse. Every time we chased it away, it raced back towards the fire. Laughing at our jumpiness over a mouse, we crawled into our sleeping bags early, there being little else to do once the wine was finished.
Clearly lonely without a Mrs Mouse, the mouse ran up and down the outside of the tent, just by our heads, for most of the night. Every time we dropped off to sleep, shuffle, shuffle, shuffle. Or there would be an eerie screech from the treetops splitting the still night, or rustles in the bushes. After the still of the day, the African bush springs to life at night.
After a night of fitful slumber, dawn came and we gave up trying to sleep. Our backs aching from the thin bed rolls, we remembered all too well why we were not seasoned campers. Groaning and stretching we pried open the tent door to a beautiful sunrise and a chorus of birds. Our grouches vanished.
This associated website shows hundreds of Robyn's photographs from her life, work and travel around Botswana
Website & photos copyright 2007
Robyn and Alan love Africa's great expanses of wilderness and its fabulous wildlife. They quickly realised that to enjoy Botswana, they were going to have to buy a serious four wheel drive, about which they knew nothing. Furthermore, they were going to have to camp, although neither enjoys sleeping on a thin mat on the ground, going for days without a shower or running out of food hundreds miles from a shop. Their first night in the wild turned out to be far from the most dramatic, but for that one you will have to read the book.
'Pula, Pula, Pula'
Two years in search of money, rain & blessings for Botswana