Bush Camp – Maun : 151 kilometers
The distance here is even shorter than the day before but it turns out to be one of the most difficult days in recent sections of the trip, some riders even say since Sudan or Tanzania. The smooth paved road has turned coarse, terrain became someone hillier, and a fairly strong headwind developed along with an incoming storm. Riding in formation to cut the wind helped a great deal. We arrive in Maun with its jumble of western-style chain shops, malls and restaurants downtown, and then head to the Sedia Lodge, a rather elegant looking pastel colored hotel, just 8 kilometers more down the road. After the tough head winds and coarse pavement, you ride those last easy 8 kilometers feeling as if your bike is almost self-propelled.
One striking thing about a place like Maun, and Botswana in general, as compared to Zambia, is the more modern public infrastructure that you see here. Buried electricity installations and rest stops line the long and lonely highway to this town as do cell phone tires that link the airwaves. Western-style restaurant chains even in a small town like Maun. This kind of development has its plusses, and minuses, observes Paul, the local manager of a Safari Travel company. Local businesses and entrepreneurs may have a hard time competing with the big enterprises that move in, and inevitably, a certain amount of the profit from these sorts of investments also flow out of the country rather quickly.
This day, too, is marred by some mishaps. The”international” truck breaks down on the road, as the bolts holding one of the wheels in place break and fall off. Luggage is transferred to another truck to be carted to Maun, while Wimpie, the South African driver and mechanic spends a good number of hours welding parts together under the truck, while cars race pass his dangling legs. He returns to camp blackened from grease from head to foot, and cursing the quality of American-made vehicles like this one. A Mercedes, he comments, would have the bolts and wheel fitted together differently so that one loose bolt would not destroy the entire wheel. Since the rest day here also falls on a Sunday, he has a challenge ahead of him to repair the truck more permanently, for the trip ahead. His main goal, he says, is to find some good Mercedes spare parts to replace the f*%king American-made ones.
Catherine, meanwhile, also has had some bad news. It turns out that her elbow is broken and she will have to have an operation. She briefly considers the possibility of a hospital in South Africa, so she could be at the TDA finish line, and then the possibility of going to France for the operation. Tonight, the bar at the Sedia is full of middle class Africans watching a show, TDA riders, and Catherine is there too, drinking, chatting, and balancing her bandaged arm in a sling made up of a big and colorful pastel scarf that matches another scarf tying up her red hair. She is still trying to get a place on a flight, so is uncertain of exactly when she will leave, but it will be soon. Everyone will miss her energy, great smile and charm – not to mention the updates that she has been filing regularly on her TDA-linked web-site, followed by a devoted crowd of French-speakers.