Today and tomorrow are exciting days that we’ve all been looking forward to—in awe or with keen aspiration. We’re cycling through the northern reaches of the Kalahari basin, territory of wild animals. Elephants, lions, leopards, hyenas and wild dogs have all been seen on this stretch.
Finally, it’s been time for Tallis to brief us what to do in case we encounter any of these dangerous animals.
The most commonly seen, and hence most dangerous for us, are elephants. Latest since hearing Henry’s real story of how he got charged at and stampeded by an elephant, and was more than just lucky to have survived, we all have big respect of those innocent-looking creatures.
“You don’t want to get between a mother and its calf”, Tallis advised, but in any case, whenever we see elephants, “stop and wait until they pass, even if it means that you might be waiting for half an hour. If they don’t move, ask the locals for help. People in Botswana are extreme friendly and used to the animals. They can help you chase the elephants away in their cars.”
“As for buffalos”, Tallis continued, “they are like pistol cows. Keep an even bigger distance.”
Fair enough. Even though elephants and buffalos kill more people, I’d personally be more concerned if I saw a cat.
“The lions,” Tallis advised, “you usually only see in passing at the side of the road. They are lazy animals and most likely won’t even take notice of you.” However, if they do, the last thing we should do is run away. That just triggers their instinct to come chasing. Instead, “if a lion takes notice of you, you want to lift your bike above your head and scream as loud as you’ve never screamed before.”
And finally as regards leopards, “they usually see you before you see them, and then it’s too late anyway.”
Having said that, most animals would usually run away when they hear people, because they’ve been hunted for so long that they consider us as predators.
While the day started with lots of excitement, most of us were sorely disappointed, or relieved, not to see much in terms of wildlife. I had an antelope run across the road just out of camp, and we all saw a fat bumba (warthog) lazily looking for food on the road early morning.
Other than that, my wildlife exposure was limited to a dung beetle and a dead snake on the road, as well as tiny frogs and massive termites at camp. Some riders saw a couple of zebras and a giraffe, and only few actually encountered a rather harmless elephant.
With the amount of traffic coming through (not much, but nevertheless about a vehicle a minute), I’m not surprised that animals don’t hang out near the road.
Stage 64: Kasane – Bush Camp (Botswana), 170km
Road & traffic condition:
Almost perfectly flat and straight road cutting through nature . . .
. . . and, at times, past massive fields of millet.
Tar was a bit rough at times, but still excellent overall. As we’re cutting through wildlife areas, we didn’t see any kids at the side of the road (what a pleasant change!), in fact only very few people at all far and between.
Up to about 30°C in the afternoon. I didn’t find it too hot, though I hear some riders were struggling with the heat.
The best BBQ steak so far—not chewy but nice and tender; plus broccoli, ugali and potato salad.
- Bush camp in the northern Kalahari. One of the few camps where we’re totally alone—no kids, no locals selling beer or water. It’s nice to have more space to spread out our tents for a bit more of privacy and silence, for a change.
- Another round of unofficial awards. This time, the yellow jersey was awarded by Tallis to Errol, for doing all the great work in the background cleaning up after us, to make sure camp is readily set up by the time we arrive, and that we’re always spoilt with delicious food.
Ice cream at the coke stop. It was delicious. I’ve been resisting for most of the tour, but eventually I’ve become weak and gotten hooked on my regular sugar dose.