Into Botswana

Wake up early, lo and behold, our laundry is still sopping wet. We go back to the restaurant and help ourselves to their continental breakfast. Trying to be somewhat quick since we have a border crossing to make today and no idea what the roads in Botswana are going to be like.

Get back to the camp and the sprinkler is back on re-soaking our already drenched laundry. “What the fucking fuck, man!”, “I’m breaking it”, “Then we’ll just have a fountain”, “This is bullshit!”, “Agreed.” And so we do our third mud rush to grab all of our hopelessly wet clothing.

Our neighbor’s sprinkler is on too and they are frantically trying to pack up their tent and sleeping bags, pulling everything out of reach. They look at us, we look at them. “Having a good morning?”, “Hell of a way to wake up”, “Yep, this sucks pretty bad for sure.”

We’re legit pissed off this time round and go down to the front desk to tear a strip off of them. Total stone wall. A dude named Moses literally not responding at all. They aren’t going to do anything about it. Or the neighbors. The NWR kinda sucks, I have to say. Everyone else in Namibia has been off the charts nice and helpful except all the park staff. Who really should be the ambassadors for the country, but everyone, from the staff in Sesriem to Olifantrus, Okaukeujo and now here has been a bad attitude piece of shit. I don’t get it. Mark says he’s gonna write em a nasty letter. And he does. Fuck this place, we’re out.

“Connecting to Rhino Cock? Ha! Who changed the name of their phone?”

Even though we have to stop every once in a while for cow crossings, we are at the border quickly. Damn, there’s a tour bus ahead of us. At least that gives us some time to find the piece of paper we got upon entering Namibia that they specifically told us not to lose (and we did). We tear the truck apart but can’t find it. Shit.

We get stamped out at border control and go to the police hut to fess up to losing the paper for the truck. There’s a drop off box for the form. I pick a blank one up to show the guys. The guard comes up and I drop it back in. “We need to fill this out?”, “Yes. That’s good”, “Ok, thank you.” I think he thought the blank one I dropped in was ours? Works for me, we’re out of here.

We pull up to the Botswanan border. Tour bus is taking forever. There’s a garbage can sponsored by the class of 2014. There’s also a free condom dispenser courtesy of Mr Willy. “Load up boys!”, “Is that a pun?”, “Can’t, they’re all out”, “I can see why. Sabs approved.”

Inspector Jerry 2

We get our passports stamped and get through the roads and highways nonsense quickly enough. Not a bad crossing over all. We are greeted at the exit gate by a tubby fella in a full blown Canadian tuxedo. He comes to the window and announces, “I am Inspector Jerry! I’ll be inspecting your vehicle”, “Hi, Inspector Jerry!”

He walks right over to the side of the vehicle with the fridge and asks us to open it up. Oh shit, Captain Denim knows what’s up. He goes right for the freezer and pulls out some meat we were saving for tonight’s dinner, “No, no, no. This is bad”, Jerry holds it up, “When you see the blood it is bad”, “We just bought that the other day”, “I can’t let you take it in. You can go back and boil it first if you’d like.” A quick look around the group confirms that we will not be breaking out the camp in the Botswanan border compound to cook ostrich meat, “I guess we’ll just throw it out”, Inspector Jerry points at Jamie and says, “Come with me”, “What?” is he in trouble?

Inspector Jerry makes Jamie fill out a form with his name and the number of kilograms of meat he’s leaving at the border. “And the timing puts Jamie as driver across another border again”, “It’s fun to watch actually.” Jerry looks over the form. Satisfied he puts it on the desk in the little border hut and walks Jamie back to the truck. With a wave we are dismissed and Inspector Jerry raises the gate for us to go through. Ok. He motions for us to stop again, “Where are you going?”, “Maun”, “Hmmmm doubtful, roads are bad. Very bad”, “This trucks very good though”, “I don’t think it’s possible. No. Not today. But good luck.” 

We wish Inspector Jerry a good day and enter Botswana. “Wasn’t the border guard entering Namibia also named Jerry?”, “Oh yeah. We still need to send him a computer”, “Maybe you have to be named Jerry to work as a border guard here”, “Sooooo he’s just scouting for free food, eh?”, “Oh yeah, went straight to the fridge”, “Then didn’t even open the back? We could have a whole herd of Springbok in there”, “Look out…” and Drisdelle nails a pothole with both left tires rattling the whole truck and sending our heads into the roof. Ok, Inspector Jerry 2 was right, these roads are shit.

The street is a sticcato shitshow of pothole slalom. Cringe-worthy craters throughout. I’m expecting a flat on every knock. And they’re non-stop. Drisdelle is weaving all over the road looking for a path through it all. This is painful. Driving on the shoulder is better than the road. Mark gets out his neck pillow. He’d rather try to sleep than watch anxiously as Jamie drives this nonsense. Or maybe he just wants extra protection anticipating the inevitable truck flip.

We pull through a small town. Cars just roaming everywhere avoiding the holes in the road. “Maybe Namibia was right not to even bother paving most roads”, “Yeah, dirt is better than leaving them un-maintained.” On the edge of town things start to look a little better, Jamie finally gets up some speed. And so we get pulled over immediately for it. Fuck sakes.

Right after the town, cops hit the lights and nab us. Pull over. Jamie and Peter get out. There’s a speed trap. “Fucking Azerbaijan all over again. Too bad we don’t have a Phil Collins boxed set to bribe them with”, (but that’s a story for another time), “Take the map and do the dumb tourist thing. Drisdelle, you’re bilingual,right? Talk to them in French.”

Mark and I wait in the Truck watching Jamie and Peter talk to a male / female pair of cops. Seems to be taking a while. “Guess they’re not having it?”, “I’ll go check it out.” I hop down and walk over. “They say we were driving faster than 60 in town”, “Faster than 60 in town would have destroyed the truck”, “Well, this is town”, “Oh, so it is Azerbaijan all over again”, “We have no money and they won’t take foreign currency. The guy’s going to get the ATM machine”, “Seriously?”, “Yeah. They’re giving us a discount from 700 to 500, they said.” (This equates to around $65 usd and 45. Actually not that bad.)

I proceed to talk irately about this miserable experience in Azerbaijan where they had similar rules about speed limits inside town limits and outside but you never really knew where the town limits were. Peter and I got pulled over twice and they tried to get bribes both times. While I’m saying this tour buses are blowing passed us. Guess they’ve met their quota. “So I didn’t like Azerbaijan because the cops were corrupt and it was a bad experience. We just wanted to see the country. After that we just wanted to leave. Now we’re here and are already having a shit time in the first town we come to.”

The two cops are trying to set up the ATM machine and listening to me say all of this. I think it may actually be having an affect. It’s definitely making them uncomfortable. They get the machine set up and turn to us, “Well what did you decide?”, “We’d rather not pay the fine. We’d like to go explore your beautiful country instead.” I take out my phone and turn it horizontal. The cop instantly gets awkward and changes his demeanor. “We’ll let you go with a warning.” Oh wow. I think I learned a new move there.

We get back to the truck and I decide it’s time to brush up on the bribe routines we’d gotten into on the Mongol Rally. There were a lot of military guards manning gates in and out of the towns while driving through ‘The Stans’ and so we improvised a whole slew of ways to get out of shit situations.

Adventure Detectives No Bribes Guide

Here’s a handy list of annoying things to do when corrupt-looking douchebags try to mess with you:

– Dumb Tourist – Immediately starting the conversation, pull out a map, say you’re lost, and ask for directions. Act insanely dumb and hope they will eventually pass you off as an idiot and too annoying to even bother with. Continue to draw their attention back to the map. Point everywhere. Point out the window a lot too. Like you’re close to where you think you should be and can almost see it. Make them look too. Keep pointing. It’s all super annoying.

– Cool Guy Bribes – Anything that will make the guards look cool usually works. Lots of guards love chewing gum. It’s weird. Halls are good too (as we’ve already demonstrated at the Namibia border with the other Inspector Jerry). If anyone in the car smokes, even better, offer them a cigarette. Heck, give them the whole pack. For some reason Red Bulls were a hot ticket too.

– Je Parle Français – The guards aren’t likely going to speak another language and English probably isn’t their first. Just talk French the whole time and play up the language barrier card. If you can’t speak French that might be even better. Make it up. Actually just make up a new language on the spot, that way there’s no fucking way anyone will know what you’re talking about. Add in a map and a slice of Dumb Tourist for the win

– Pull waaaaaaay too far ahead – When they ask you to pull over, pull like way the fuck over and creep forward. Tap the brakes. Creep forward some more. Back up a bit to keep their hopes up. Brake. Pull over further. Confuse the hell out of them. A lot of time they just can’t be bothered to walk that far and will wave you off.

(Warning: Sometimes this move will backfire and instead make them really, really, really pissed and they will actually come running towards your vehicle with their rifle in hand. If this is the case, don’t panic, move immediately to Je Parle Français in your made up language while pointing at a map, handing them cigarettes, pointing at invisible shit behind them, and acting super dumb.

– Phil Collins CDs – Admiral Nelson only had a CD player on the rally so as a joke we bought a Phil Collins boxed set (the joke was on us). It ended up being just the thing we needed when one lucky guard spied it in the car and pointed. “Looks like we’ve got a fan.” We then began to unload CDs at every guard gate thereafter. We’d spent 10,000 miles listening to them and they were terrible to begin with (except for XXX Hip Hop). Guards get thrilled and confused all at once when you pull up, roll down the window, and just hand them Meatloaf’s Bat out of Hell. Everyone likes free shit and being generous raises their impression of you instantly.

– New move: Film Everything – Hadn’t thought of this on the rally but it seems like a no-brainer now. People don’t like being filmed, especially when it implicates them in nefarious bullshit.

We get halfway to Maun in a place called Nokaneng. The road changes entirely. No potholes aaahhhhh that’s nice. What’s the difference? New district? 60 speed limit sign and we’re finally moving along.

We stop at a shell for some road snacks. Slim pickings. Doesn’t seem like anyone speaks English. One guy keeps pointing at the chips and then to a staff door. No idea what’s going on. There’s more flavors back there? I get a pack of Topper cream biscuits to share around.

The tour bus we’ve been leap frogging since the border stops for a pee break. A bunch of them go look around the corner at the restrooms and come back. They’re all going behind a dilapidated concrete block instead. Not much cover and lots of garbage around. You can tell this tour group isn’t enjoying it. We do them a favor and distract some passing kids. They’re just waving and smiling, giving us the thumbs up.

Aaaaaand we are now at our third foot and mouth disease check point. Looks like they’re even spraying cars down at this one. We get out and step on a soaked mat to disinfect our shoes. The girl in the car next to us is holding a whole tin foil dinner.

I don’t know what the hell Inspector Jerry 2 was talking about cuz we pull into Maun with lots of day light left. This place looks like it has some promise. It’s a winding road beside the Thamalakane River which snakes through town. Tropical trees and little pockets of buildings, some rundown, some nice, some expensive looking resorts and some total dives. Little bit of everything.

We follow directions to a hostel we’d scouted earlier called the Old Bridge Backpackers. It’s down a dirt road and then by the river. “You can take the high road and risk flipping the truck, or the low road and get stuck in the muck.” Jamie opts for the low road. We pull up and the Old Bridge Hostel looks like an instant win

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