A bit of background:
My dad’s family moved to Rhodesia, now Zambia, when he was only weeks old. My grandfather took an engineering post out there and bundled my Gran and their three children onto a boat. Such a thing was so unheard of in 1950s Wales that it made it into the paper! I’ve seen a clipping of it at a Great Aunt’s funeral but frustratingly didn’t manage to get a copy.
My father has explained his story enough over the years that he now has a detailed explanation of his African upbringing on his (badly designed) website. A long family history short: my Auntie Sue and her husband, my Uncle Graham, remained in Africa and moved to Botswana where Graham is running an auctioning business and my aunt is a teacher.
Since my younger sister, Elin, 19, has been big enough, so she less resembles prey for Sue’s dog, let alone the lions, we have travelled to see them several times. Each holiday unique. Each camping trip as surreal as the last.
To make the latest (and maybe the last) trip particularly interesting I was given permission to drag my boyfriend, of two and a half years, along. Poor bugger.
Botswana diaries: Part 1
Apart from falling in the bath the morning we were to set off, my Kindle breaking and losing my camera on the flight to Johannesburg the trip out was pretty smooth.
We stopped for cocktails at Heathrow airport. This was the first influence my boyfriend had on the trip. I’m not sure what my mother thought of her two daughters wandering off to find a bar!
The airport was a surprise as the runway we touched down on hadn’t changed but we came around the plane to find the usual one floor, tin roofed ‘airport’ was now the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport. It consisted of incredibly high ceilings, tens of empty office cubicles and monkeys. One way to introduce the boyfriend to Africa!
Cal received a thorough first experience of Uncle Graham’s more colourful habits and traits during the pick up at the airport and the drive to the house. On arriving in town we were thrilled to find Cal and I had the “kaya” to ourselves! Kaya is Zulu for home and it’s how the flat is referred to on my family’s property. They occasionally have students renting it out as it’s only a basic bathroom, bedroom and kitchen counter with a fridge. They also have a pool house, which my parents slept in, and my sister got our cousin’s old room and with it an early curfew!
We had an exhausting afternoon putting up the tents, testing them for the camping trip ahead, under Graham and Dad’s “supervision”. Several beers were drunk and many a command barked. Bess the dog was of little help, particularly when she decided to run over my foot.
On previous trips we’ve spent at least a week at Sue and Graham’s but as I am now a working adult I didn’t have the luxury of long summer holidays. So this time we had two days to make sure all the camping gear was functional and to stock up on anything that wasn’t. We also had to food shop for two weeks. Luckily my aunt and uncle are pros at this type of organising because they’re forever leading sickly white British friends and family into the bush!
I don’t think Cal’s ever been ordered around so much in his life but he was pretty amazing about it and seemed to be enjoying himself. He is now the brawn in the family as dad and Uncle Graham are, self-proclaimed, old men who need to be waited on hand and foot… I’m not sure how this is a change to the usual order of things!
As Cal climbed and chained and chopped everything asked of him he quickly made it into my Uncle’s good books.
It really is unbelievable how quickly Botswana is changing. It’s a country carving out a new, modern identity for itself everyday. Since our last trip sky scrapers, roads and malls have popped up everywhere. The skyline was completely different and the roads were frequently rammed. Although this change is exciting it also gives me an uneasy feeling as the dusty pathways between the houses no longer have as many beautifully vibrant sweet stands and quirky phone kiosks. Plenty are still standing but, sadly, the gaps are obvious.
Thankfully the Motswana people and their country have so much character and warmth that they seem unphased by the monstrous malls but I do worry for the loss of vivid colours and vibrant sellers in the traditional town centre.