Month: October 2016

Tuli Block AKA Tuli Wilderness


We had a week off from school for a mid term break so we planned a trip to Tuli Block which is a game reserve in the central (north and south) region and right on the eastern border next to Zimbabwe and South Africa.  It could be described as a dry game park because there is very little water and at this time of year the trees are bare and look dead.  The trees actually look like it is after a forest fire. They are black with no leaves and many branches gone because the elephants walk through stripping them.  The beauty of this place is that it is truly wilderness, we hardly saw anyone else our entire 5 days there. This does make the animals a bit more skittish but that is part of the beauty and attraction of it.


They will get green after the first rains which could be soon but possibly not until November and then much more in December and January when it is super hot, remember reversed seasons. We  have a hard time with that, still talk about this being Fall when it is actually Spring.

Our vacation started Monday afternoon when two Peace Corps Volunteers from Lesoto arrived to join us on our trek.  They are a couple, Joan and Pat, from Colorado and started about four months before we did so are a little further along in their service.  We met Joni when we went to Gúatamala in 2014.  We did meet a guy who was a Santa, with a beard very similar to Gary’s and length of hair. They looked a lot alike.  During a correspondence for something concerning Rotary, Teresa mentioned she was joining the PC and going to Botswana and the person she was writing said she had a friend who knew a couple who was just leaving for Lesoto who we might have met because they were in Rotary as well and in Guatemala when we were.  Anyway we corresponded and turns out Joni was there, Pat was not and someone else (Jeff) was the Santa. We got confused and thought Joni and Jeff were a couple. Sorry Pat!  Great couple, about our age and had lots of interesting stories about their service in Lesoto.  We know that our service is called Posh Corps and it is really true.  They live without half of the luxuries that we have, like electricity, water, refrigeration, ease of travel and shopping.  Lesoto is all mountain, has a ski resort and is much poorer that Botswana.  They work and live in an orphanage.  They were a great example of how to accept and enjoy what you do have.  Made us feel very humble and thankful that we have what we have (which is pretty much everything we could possibly need, if not want).  They also run a rafting business, or did, in Colorado and since we do go to Colorado fairly frequently we will definitely be seeing them again.  A little more digression, we also hosted a couple headed for Cape Town for the week so we had a full house Monday night.

Tuesday morning we went shopping with the four of us meeting up with the other four people that were going with us.  Two from our Peace Corps group and two friends of one of them who have been  backpacking all over the world for the past year.  We met our driver and loaded everything into the combi and headed off. Left about 10:30 and (long trip) got to our bush camp about 7:30.  You could take public transportation and get as far as Bobonong but that still leaves you about 80 kilometers to figure out.  Our driver drove us, stayed with us and then drove us back.  Her name was Thuso and she was absolutely fantastic. It was a very wise decision and really worked out for the best.


(Pat, Joni, Gary, Teresa, Thuso, Bethany, Joiwyn, Nicole. Phino took the picture)

We stayed in four small chalets, each with their own bathroom.  There is no electricity but with solar lanterns, gas stove and freezer/fridge you didn’t miss it. No computers or cell service- heavenly. We cooked all of our own meals and they were great.  We did go to a “bush dinner” on Friday night which was appropriate because that was September 30th and Botswana’s fiftieth anniversary and so it was kind of a celebration.  We did miss the celebration in our village which is too bad because it would have been fun and interesting to see how the village celebrated as a village.  Although talking to people afterwards, don’t know anyone who did go to the village celebration at the kgotla. We did get in on some celebrations (see blogs on torch carrying and beauty contest).


Of course the highlight of the trip was seeing the animals, we added several new ones to our list and lots of repeats.  We saw lions although not too exciting, visited a hyena den complete with baby, saw a leopard which was cool, actually ran toward our vehicle and we drove away and then he/she laid down and watched us from a distance.  A couple of crocodiles in the water hole next to our camp (a couple hundred meters away) so we  decided against swimming.  A spotted genet came to visit at night, elephants walked through our camp and we saw lots more including several babies and one that was nursing, definitely cool.  Impossible to describe them all and you can see some of the pictures.  The bird flying above us is a black eagle and we were standing on Eagle rock so he was a bit concerned.  The rock we were on looks remarkably like the cliff in Lion King, but it wasn’t actually filmed there.

View  from Eagle Rock  including dry Limpopo River

We left Saturday morning and drove back, actually went through a couple of brief rain showers, first of the year.  Some people reported a fair amount of rain and some on the 30th which is hopeful that this will be the year the drought ends.

The Beauty Contest

This has to be one of the more interesting cultural experiences we have had so far.  To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Botswana’s independence our village hosted a beauty contest for women born in 1966.  One of the women who works with Teresa was entered.  Everybody at work said they were going and that Teresa should attend.  So we decided to go.  None of them showed.

Saturday night and it was supposed to start at 7:00 and so we were told to be there by about 8.  Of course it was dark but we set out walking the 2 kilometers to the community hall with our head lamps, not sure if we should be wearing them or not.  It would help you see the rocks and sand that you would trip over otherwise but it also marks you as a foreigner and kind of points out the target in case somebody decides to do a mugging, which is not uncommon.  We have only been out after dark a few times and usually don’t have to walk very far.  This time we did a get a ride about half way there and then ended up walking with 3 young women who were also going.  It was 20 pula to get in and they didn’t have that much so we had to leave them at the door.  However, they did get in a little later so that was good as we were feeling guilty that we just didn’t pay for them but we really try not to come off as rich Americans even though we kind of are although we don’t generally live like it.  When we entered we were escorted to the head table which was empty and on the stage slightly above everybody else for absolutely no reason other than we are white and guests in their village. We wondered if other white people (there are several that live in Gabane) would have been shown to the head table if they had been there.  We do have a hunch that we are probably better known to the HCNs (host country nationals) than most of the other foreigners that live here even though some of them have been here for years.  The people at head tables get water and a little snack and that was really appreciated as we had not brought any and had not planned on being there all night. Below is the view from the head table for those of you who have never had this perspective 🙂


Anyway it started about 9:00 and there were 15 women entered all the age of 50, the same as Botswana.  There were also 3 men who entered the arena with them and we still are not sure exactly what their role was.  There were also two women who escorted the groups of women in their strolls around the arena.  First they all went then they went three at a time with their escort, kind of shuffling/dancing to a rhythm around the arena smiling and waving to the crowd.  I think they did this three different times, very slowly.  They then changed into traditional wear (note the blanket) and demonstrated a traditional act such as sorting/cleaning grain, pounding grain or meat, cleaning with the traditional broom used here and several other acts.  The men were also escorted through each of these except the traditional one.  Two of the men never cracked a smile and we think the third male may have been the escort, not sure, he did smile a bit.


There was a brief entertainment interlude for a polka dancing exhibition.


They did another presentation all together and then moved into the evening gown portion and each of the groups did this one and then all together or maybe the altogether was before or maybe they did it both before and after.

Then the poet came out flanked by two “friends” who stood with hands on hips glaring. The poet seemed to be doing a gangsta rap routine but not being able to understand what he was saying, we can only guess. (no pictures of this)

By this time it was approaching midnight and we were getting concerned because we did have our 2k walk home to do yet.  But they called out five women and we assumed that this was fifth to first place finishers but no so lucky.  These were the five finalists and they were about to each draw a question and then talk about whatever it was about.  You do have to remember that all of this was in Setswana and we had no idea what was said throughout the evening. The mike distorted the sound so badly that we probably would not have understood if it had been in American English.   By this time it was almost 12:30 and we decided to leave, awkward to say the least, since we were at the head table on the stage in full view of everyone.  But we did- making polite goodbyes to the apparent hosts and stopping to have our picture taken with the organizers.  We then walked home, getting there about 1 am. It was a beautiful evening so we declined the ride offer from one of our regular taxi drivers when we saw the open bottle of beer in his passenger’s lap.

We do have to say that the crowd was wonderful, screaming and clapping and cheering for all the contestants, some more than others but everyone was included.  The smiles and pride that was evident in all of the contestants and the fact that they were 50 and, some rather traditionally built, made it by far the most worthwhile beauty contest we have ever witnessed, and certainly the longest. (the person from Teresa’s work is second from right as you look at the picture- she is the short one.She is also the one sweeping above.We also apologize that one of the 15 is not visible)