On the road less travelled . .
I paid and moved on after posing a big challenge to Swamp Stop’s sewerage system. I’d cooked wors, pap, steak and chicken high sosaties and it took two flushes to get rid of it. Did I say cooked? I mean eaten. Cecelia had cooked it. Also potatoes in foil, butternut and a salad. Her broad beam and broad smile had convinced me immediately that her offer of supper would surpass my intended cold baked beans straight outa the tin. And it did, it was delicious.
Two misbehaving teenage fishermen Peter and Ken (ages 75 and 79) were camped next to me the two nights. I tried to get them to behave, but would they listen? Constant gin, beer, wine and tall tales of the bream they were going to catch. Next time. They did catch some fine tigers and barbel, it must be said. They told frightening tales of the terrible A35 road after I had said the road was fine. ‘No it’s not!’ said the driver of the new Discovery, ‘It’s a nightmare! I couldn’t even go 70,75 towing my Conqueror off-road trailer!’ I had to admit I cruise a lot slower and no trailer, so the road was fine for me. Also, I was driving a Ford Ranger – Ja, they made the obligatory groans that all envious okes seem to do when I mention this fact.
When I left camp after breakfast (Cecelia’s scrambled eggs) I thought, Can 154 Years of Experience be wrong? so I decided to dodge the now dreaded and newly notorious A35 and get to Nxamasere off the grid, taking a road parallel and nearer the Okavango’s western-most channel. ‘You can’t go that way!’ they told me in Sepupa village but I read somewhere, “All Roads Lead to Nxamasere,” so I felt confident. I think that’s what it said.
And I was right. It was a magic little bush track, smooth sand mostly and winding along merrily, scratching my pristine 15yr-old paintwork only occasionally. After an hour I stopped for a pee in the cool shade of a magnificent Knob Thorn.
So two magnificent knobs there.
At times the road did seem to peter swanie out a bit, but it would re-appear, and every now and then blue concrete beacons marked WP would appear reassuringly. I thought, If this route goes to Western Province I’m sure it goes through Namibia, and Nxamasere will be en route.
At Kajaja health post two men were building a house right on the road. They gave me a smile and a big wave so I asked them (quickly trying, but failing, to ask them a question that could not be answered ‘YES’). ‘NO,’ they said, You cannot get to Nxamasere this way, you have to take the tar road.’ OK, thanks, I said, I’m sure you’re right, but I am going to try. I’ll see you back here if I fail, to admit to you: You Were Right. They thought that was helluva funny. I started to move off and he said, ‘Wait! Let me ask our father.’ I bowed my head and closed my eyes but he meant his earthly father who was sitting on a chair under a shady tree behind the house they were building. “Dad! he shouted in fluent seTswana, ‘Can one get to Nxamasere this way? There’s an ancient white-haired goat here who is determined not to drive on tar.’ No, said our father, There is no way to Nxamasere that way. ‘Our father says no, there is no way to Nxamasere that way,’ said my man. OK, I said, I’m sure he is right, so I will come back if I get stuck and I will say to you, I admit: You Were Right.
The road meandered on vaguely northwards, maybe a bit more overgrown and a touch less confidently, but on it meandered nevertheless, with an occasional detour and only one bit of gardening needed where a tree had fallen across and needed a bit of a chop, a rope and a backward tug to make a gap. It was surrounded by elephant droppings so maybe those pachyderm foresters had felled it. Still a smooth sandy track, no corrugations, hard enough to not deflate my tyres; occasionally a patch of calcrete which made me think maybe this was the old great north road before the A35? Second gear 30kmh; Third gear 40kmh at times.
Then it did peter out. I took a left detour but that turned back towards Kajaja; a right detour going downhill towards the channel ran into some dongas where lots of sand had been extracted. They call them ‘borrow pits’ – I think that is seTswana for ‘quarry.’
I arrived back in Kajaja with a grin and my men grinned back. Our father waved from under the tree. You Were Right, I said, triggering laughter again, and made my way with my exhaust between my legs to the tar.
And I was right. It was bladdy awful. Smooth; Straight; Wide; Boring.
Even this donkey felt my disappointment, as you can see.