Friday, 21 February 2014

A Southern African Safari (a travel memoir) #4

Good Morning, It's Friday! 
Please enjoy Part 4 of my travel memoirs.  Earlier posts can be found here.

A Southern African Safari 
Travel Memoir
South Africa - Botswana - Zambia - Zimbabwe - Botswana – South Africa
17 December 2011 - 24 December 2011 

4. Snake-walker

We cross Martin’s Drift to enter Botswana and decide to refuel. It is not uncommon for South Africans to cross the border just for fuel, Botswana fuel is cheaper. We discover that the Pula is stronger than the Rand, but the extent of the discrepancy was manipulated from place to place depending on fuel attendants, shops, informal sales people and service providers. The accurate rate was R1.00 = 1.08 Pula, a minute difference, often translated to 1: 1.25 by the opportunistic. The fuel was still cheaper than in South Africa, even with exploitation.

Finally, we reach Francistown, attempting to decipher the directions provided by the lodge we would be staying at. We decide to ask for directions to Molapo estates, the area. We stop at another hotel, isolated along the main road. It is alone and large with opulent facade treatment. The manager emerges, provides us with directions and insists we check in to his hotel. He was wheeling and dealing with a fake smile in a fake golden interior amongst chrome clad plastic furniture. It was gaudy, bad-taste, the misconception of luxury and completely unbearable. 

We drive around more and stop at a water purification plant for more directions. A lady at the security point stands up and gestures expressively as to how to get there, she turns her body to orientate her mind and swings her hips and arms as a car would swerve. She is characteristic and comical, Zarina and I giggle with shame while Suhale asks for elaboration. This is too much and too funny.

We arrive at Emoyo Villa at 16h30 that day, tired and sweaty and our rooms are not ready. We wait outside until dry bedding arrives. Beryl, the receptionist, asks us to bear with her as they have had recent floods. We sit in patience in the lappa outside, it is calming and peaceful, with birds and insects and crafted wicker chairs. Beryl makes us a pot of the best tea I would have in this African Safari. She brews it with lemon grass, discovered in the garden by Arshad and Zarina, who encourage her to add it to the tea pot. Suhale jokingly asks for biscuits and Beryl hospitably sends someone to buy a variety after we insist that she shouldn’t worry.

We ask Beryl about traditional Botswana food and she provides us with an extensive list: Mopane worms, pap, boiled and pounded meat made with salt, pumpkin baked with mielie meal and beef. Beryl is friendly, obliging and open. We enjoy her company and finally check into our rooms without towels.

Staying at Emoyo Villa was like visiting an absent minded aunt for the night. Frustrated babies cry and keep everyone awake, their exhausted parents fight through gritted teeth with awkward restraint and the bed spreads are old fashioned. The rooms were clean. After showering and failed attempts at sleep, we decide to return to the solace of the lappa and discuss our plan of action for day 2. Here, I discover through discussion with Arshad that some rooms received extra towels while we were still awaiting our first set. We found this annoying and disrespectful and Suhale diplomatically complains and settles the account while the three of us remain in the lappa.

We notice many worms on the floor moving in a typical worm way, yet somehow this surprised me. We also identify a rhino dung beetle, tough and clad in armour. Once Suhale returns, we gossip about the other occupants, the towels as a misunderstanding and plan our route for the next day. The crying baby tires and ceases and we return to the villa.

I walk ahead and open the door, with Suhale behind me. Suhale yelps out a sound I’ve never heard before “Whoeewwhh!” and as I turn around, I see a brown house snake recoiling and slithering away from me. I remain unalarmed, completely oblivious that I had just stepped on the snake (with open shoes) before opening the door, with Suhale witnessing all.

Staff members and occupants of Emoyo Villa flood out to determine the commotion as Suhale and Arshad try to get closer views of the snake that had slithered with cowardice under a car. A man emerges from the Villa and wants to know what’s going on. We tell him about the snake and he asks, “But why are you killing it?” His naive concern was amusing.

The freak occurrence of stepping on the snake and surviving landed me the courageous nick-name of “Snake-Walker”.

Africa is unpredictable!  Read how we experience the unimaginable from Part 5 onwards...

I'd love to hear from you, please leave a comment.


  1. I would have died on the spot! This is what scares me about Africa!

  2. I love to see Africa and make a great adventure from it.

  3. I got little bit scary when I got touched the snake with my foot. It was a danger for me at that time it done nothing to me.

    1. Haha! It happened so quickly, I don't think there was even a chance to get scared ;-)

  4. I would had ran away the spot when I had stepped the snake accidently so that I can save my life.

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