Blending in is now, obviously, harder, and we’ve also noticed how modern-day Botswana resembles the stagnation days of the USSR: empty shelves in the supermarkets, petrol that has been “on its way to the gas station” for the past week, and a dumb thick wall of paper -pushing bureaucrats afraid to make as much as a phone call without a signed and sealed mandate from the minister. For that last reason, my journalist card has little power here. Private operators are still happy to show us around, and their establishments by far exceed government ones both in facilities and general organization (not to speak of their affordable entry fees), but in order for us to enter the obscenely overpriced national parks, we would need to drive a thousand kilometers out of our way, and wait for as much as three months for the sort of permit I’ve been able to obtain in a few hours in other African countries. Nope, nobody is going to send a car with a driver for us in sunny Botswana. Yes Stasya, you are definitely not in Namibia anymore.
Nevertheless, we do have a job to do. We made our way to Central Kalahari NP, trying not to get too annoyed with the armed men who stop the car every hundred kilometers and make every passenger step onto a filthy rag socked in something like ammonia, claiming that all this is imperative for the prevention of foot-and-mouth disease. Away from paperwork and roadblocks, we tried to forget how much we had paid to get into Central Kalahari, and swore next time we’d find a hole in the fence (or make one). The park is as secluded as true wilderness should be. Nobody here is going to patrol to make sure you’ll be staying in your car. In two days here, we met only two other vehicles, so when we finally found a full-grown black-maned male lion – we had him all to ourselves. Feeling we will not be able to afford much in Botswana, and will have to cut short our planned time here, we tried to get the maximum from the minimum we were getting here – we drove searching for the scarce wildlife in the park almost at all hours of the day and night. We weren’t supposed to, but couldn’t resist the temptation, given the newly-found freedom, and feeling no sense of extra responsibility, officially being here on unofficial business.
We camped in the open – there was no other way and that was just fine with us. I could almost laugh at how incredibly low-maintenance the ablution blocks (local term for bathrooms) were made here to be. There were two walls, each going in a spiral, at every campsite. One has a hole in the center – that’s the toilet, and the other, at the same spot, has a bucket with a showerhead attached to its bottom – a shower. Ultimately, Central Kalahari is the sort of safari haven that a true bushman – modern traveler or tribesman, can appreciate.
Central Kalahari Gallery