Archive for August, 2011

Thoughts on Namibia

Posted by Arlo on Aug 29, 2011 under Postcard Valet, Thoughts On..., Travel

Our GPS track through the Caprivi Strip

Believe it or not, I don’t think we took even a single photo in Namibia. So, here’s our GPS track, instead!

Our time in Namibia amounted to just one day as we decided the best way to get from Botswana to Zambia was via the Caprivi Strip.  The Caprivi Strip is a strange stretch of land that doesn’t seem like it should belong to Nambia at all, but it has a very straight road through a wilderness preserve that leads right to where we were going.  Getting there was a day-long adventure, however.

Early in the morning, we were dropped off at a remote border outpost between Botswana and Namibia.  Getting our respective exit and entrance stamps turned out to be the easy part.  When we asked how to get to the next town in Namibia, a very friendly border agent said, “Oh, you’re just a little too late.  Why, a car went by just a half hour ago!”

No buses, no taxis.  Waiting for a car and asking if you can ride along is business as usual way out there.

It took another hour or so, with us sitting on the curb by our bags, but eventually some kid drove by in a 90s-model Honda SUV.  There were already four people in the car, but Oksana asked if we could ride along.  I volunteered to climb in the back with the bags.

Once we started driving, I saw two things that gave me second thoughts about our ride.  First, the driver was using the emergency hand brake to slow the car.  I stared with dread fascination whenever he attempted to pass slower vehicles around blind curves.  Nothing was scarier than watching him yank up the e-brake, in the face of oncoming traffic, to get us back in our lane.

Except, perhaps, realizing that both the driver- and passenger-side airbags had been previously deployed.

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Thoughts on Botswana

Posted by Arlo on Aug 22, 2011 under Postcard Valet, Thoughts On..., Travel

The great thing about traveling around the world for a year without a plan is that you can make it us as you go.  On our first night in South Africa, I found myself flipping through a National Geographic that was left on a coffee table at our backpackers.  There was a feature on the Okavango Delta, with beautiful photos of elephants pushing through marshy waters at sunset.  That’s something I’d like to see, I thought.

The Okavango Delta is in Botswana, huh?  Oh, and hey, look at the map!  Botswana is right next door to South Africa!  That’s pretty much exactly how we decided to go.

For a country right next door to South Africa, Botswana is very much a different place.  Parts of it matched up exactly with my preconceptions of what an African country would be like (the bus system, the sounds of the spoken languages) and some of it surprised me (3G cellular service, safety.)

A few days before we were set to leave South Africa, we met a couple Canadian girls in Pretoria that were volunteering in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, for a few months (Hi, Brandy! Hi, Angela!)  They offered to let us stay with them at their volunteer house for a couple nights, which was awesome for a number of reasons, not least of which being that we had a couple unofficial guides that had already figured out many of the ins and outs of Botswana society.  Their initial help with things like the bus rank were invaluable.

The Bus Rank

When we saw the bus rank for the first time, I thought, now we’re in Africa!

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PVX: McDonald’s in South Africa

Posted by Arlo on Aug 16, 2011 under McDonald's of the World, Postcard Valet, PV-Podcast, Travel, Videos

The audio isn’t great in this one — we found ourselves in a McDonald’s that was packed full of screaming kids — but I think you can still understand what we’re saying. I suppose we could have recorded another McDonald’s session; we were in South Africa for over a month, after all. But honestly it takes a lot of effort (and a sort of public performance bravado we have to psych ourselves up for) to whip out a video camera and talk about what you’re eating with people all around you. Once we’ve got it “in the can,” we’re much less likely to go for “take 2!”

A couple mistakes I noticed in editing:

1) The McRoyale isn’t a renamed DOUBLE Quarter Pounder, it’s a renamed DELUXE Quarter Pounder. (Big diff, I know.)

2) I say that the BBQ sauce on the McFeast is the same that’s on the McRib in the States. That may or may not be true, but I wish I hadn’t referred to it as “BBQ sauce,” but rather “Braai sauce.” I didn’t see the burger box copy until later:

The summer’s always here with the two quarter pounds of pure beef and the unique taste combination of smokey South African Braai sauce and tangy mayo.
Let the good times roll.

Thoughts on South Africa

Posted by Arlo on Aug 15, 2011 under Postcard Valet, Thoughts On..., Travel

Elephant in Addo

Going to Africa for the first time was a huge step for us and it’s hard to remember how worried we were about the whole thing.  Would we have trouble with the languages?  Would we be safe?  Will the food be safe to eat and the water safe to drink?  Should we worry about racism?  Civil wars?

In retrospect, I’m very glad our introduction to Africa was through Cape Town.  The infrastructure there is good, the population is mostly white, English is spoken by just about everyone… starting at the southern tip really eased us in.  Later on, as we progressed through the rest of Southern Africa, things became more difficult for us as travelers, but by then we had gained enough confidence to handle anything thrown our way.

Africa has elements of the Western and Eastern worlds (and even the Middle East), but it’s not really much like either.  Africa is its own place, with its own cultures, and its own way of doing business.  The list of notes I jotted down on South Africa grew rapidly.  As our first introduction to a new continent, there were bound to be many differences from the other countries we’ve visited, not to mention the United States.
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