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AIDS & The Ocavango Delta

Wednesday, May 29th, 2002


Wed May 29-30 , 2002
Can’t stop in Maun to check email because nothing opens until 10am. Gary takes us into the Delta on his Safari wagon with two long seats back to back down the middle of the truck bed.

As we drive through town he stops by the cemetery on the outskirts of the town to explain all the new graves covered in green awnings to keep the evil spirits away; 37% of the people in Botswana has the HIV Virus. The epidemic is exacerbated by the local belief system that you get AIDS from condoms…that the way to cleanse yourself from the disease is to sleep with a virgin-so there are a lot of rapes. Many of the locals, according to a South African newspaper think AIDS stands for something like “Americans Interfering…” I can’t find the exact quote now.

Thousands of graves-row upon rows-are all covered with new blue awnings “to keep away the evil spirits.” They won’t win this one Gary says. Don’t fraternize with the locals he warns as he gets back in the truck.

Later we read an article in the Botswana Guardian reporting on a recent AIDS Awareness campaign that said that superstitious beliefs are being blamed for a rise in ritual murders, trafficking in human body parts to obtain substances for potions they believe will strengthen them against misfortune, and false AIDS cures. Human sacrifice is needed, many Africans believe, for the purpose of obtaining a victim’s life force through a potion. The article went on to say that the Traditional Healers Association of South Africa has condemned healers who tell their patients suffering from AIDS that the disease can be cured through sex with a virgin.

In Mozambique, health officials are cataloguing traditional medical practices with anthropologists from the Maputo campus of the University of Mozambique with the aim of separating out good information from bad and legislating against promoting harmful practices, according to Dr. Manuel Ferriera. “You can’t use reason against superstition,” Musa Khumalo, a ministry official said. “Sometimes you just have to legislate against it.”

The Safari truck takes two hours and 11 minutes (Bob says) through Maun, down a side road to a dirt road that takes us through Mapani trees and thorn bushes that whip the truck and threaten us, and across the Buffalo fence to the edge of the Delta where the Mekuros and the polers are waiting for us.

On the way we stop twice to give Heather time to hang her head over the side (ethanol…alcohol…poisoning from the night before, Bob says) while Gary tells us about the local people. They make their mud huts out of Termite Mound mud because the saliva from the termites that is in the mud, when mixed with water, makes a kind of very hard cement-like mud. Even though the mounds stand peak-shaped anywhere from four to 15 feet above ground, 90% of the rest of the mound is underground and it is this soil that the people dig out for their huts.

Gary says he is the local bus system for the people in the mud hut villages along the way. When he comes through they ask to catch a ride on the way back to Maun…then they catch a ride with him on his next trip into the Delta in 2-3 days. They shop mainly for sugar, flour, tea, pop (sudsa) and meat, he says. Well, at least it keeps the brain functioning if not the rest of the body.

At the Buffalo Fence a woman appears who opens the gate and counts us to make sure the same number of people that go in come out again.

Maun & Sitatunga Camp

Tuesday, May 28th, 2002


Tues May 28,2002 To Sitatunga Camp near Maun Botswana
Up at 5:30 again. Had wieners, eggy bread (French Bread) with honey and canned spaghetti for breakfast. James is doing his usual antic-body stuff while eating his eggy bread-“fucking sweet honey!” he says out of the blue and everybody laughs-suddenly awake. James is usually very animated and pretty funny.

It’s 200 km to Maun (rhymes with down) where we will wonder around the town for a couple hours before we continue on to our camp for the night. On the way we see two Oryx and Rod explains how their unique breathing aparatus works although I can’t remember any of it. Later we saw Ostriches again. Rod says they are the largest birds in the world and they can kill a human by stamping them with their feet. When they run it looks as if they are running on a water bed.

We stop for toilet and suddenly a big army truck filled with army guys pulls in after us….oh, no we all yell…but they were just checking to see if we were alright and pulled back out on the road again. George hides the meat from the veterinary road checks that are looking for meat with lung disease before we take off again.

The truck slows down again and we look to see a dead cow by the side of the road with about a dozen or so vultures hovering around it. The truck stops so we view the whole grizzly process: One vulture gets on top of the cow and punctures a hole near the rear of the stomach. The entire head of the vulture disappears into the hole and then others take their turn. As the truck starts to pull out again everyone lets out a YUKKK…as one of the birds sticks his head up the bum! Rod says we should be grateful to the vulture and the hyena…keeps disease from spreading…The birds are even built for good hygiene, he says, hardly any feathers on the head and neck for smooth entering of the hole…so what’s so sick we remind ourselves…we eat dead meat too!

Many of the younger women walking along side the road are wearing their hair in plaits and the young guys have those tiny dreads with heads shaved around the sides. I was told later in Swakopmund Namibia by a young guy with the same hairstyle that they got it (hair shaved nearly to the top of the head) from an early American black rap star! When I teased him about naughty rap lyrics he just laughed but a couple older black Africans who overheard me nodded their heads up and down in assent-all the while making faces. Don’t think the older ones approve of the young black male African penchant for black American rap!

Some of the older women from the Herero tribe are wearing long Victorian-style dresses that flare way out at the bottom. The unusual dress, which is now a tribal trademark, was forced upon them by prudish German missionaries in the late 19th century. On their heads the women wear a huge “hat” that looks much like a very wide bow. What is very distinctive about these women, however, is the regal and proud way they carry themselves when dressed this way.

We will see some of these women later in Namibia. Actually, the whole outfit reminded me of the red and white dress and headbow that the stereotypical “mammy” wore in early American movies. Apparently when in traditional dress the men wore a variation of the Scottish tartan kilt but we don’t see any of those.

We stop for internet but the computers are down.

May 28 Sitatunga Camp
The WildLife truck is at the camp…Kumuka truck comes in and we look for Damian and Melissa who transfered to the Kumuka in Vic Falls so they could get down to Johannesberg…you’d think we were all long lost friends as our riders let out a squeal and run to hug them.

Rod has contracted with a Safari Tour company to take us into the Delta on Mekoros so Gary from the company stops by to give us details. Gary, originally from New Zealand, lives in Maun and the locals call him: “Geeza.” Mekoros are an ancient way of plying the delta; canoes carved out of tree trunks with a poler that stands in back pulling the canoe forward.

The other riders party in the bar which didn’t close until 2am and the music was so loud you couldn’t sleep…even with ear plugs…I stayed surly for two days. The Delta will offer respite…

Chobe National Park

Saturday, May 25th, 2002
t5vdleC6v9bjElbi1QdXwg-2006193161808725.gif The border crossing from Zambia into Botswana is at the border post of Kazungula. The truck ride on the Kazungula Ferry across the Zambezi River is not much of a hassle. Rod ... [Continue reading this entry]

Ngorongora Crater

Friday, May 10th, 2002
Firstviewofcrater.JPG The Ngorongora Crater is a conservation area and National Heritage Site. After breaking camp in the Sarangeti, we drive another two hours up to the Crater rim where we set up camp so ... [Continue reading this entry]

Animal Spotting The Big 5 In The Sarengeti

Thursday, May 9th, 2002
I love the remnants of the Swahili cadence in Victor's English. Giraffe: "It is raining and he is very happy there-he is getting a shower." Bob watching elephants: "This makes you feel badly there are zoos. Topi: lives up to 20 ... [Continue reading this entry]

To the Sarangeti

Tuesday, May 7th, 2002
HF0m0NezqDnitkljwNP8lg-2006188104829364.gif A week before picking Bob and me and another 3 people up in Nairobi, the WorldWide Adventure Company had taken about 15 others across the Masi Mara into Rwanda to see the Gorillas. ... [Continue reading this entry]