Tag Archives: combi
May 1, 2012

Learning to use the bus rank in Botswana, part 1

I wanted to write a story about what it was like to ride a bus cross-country in Africa.  I have two such stories that took place in Botswana, each interesting for different reasons.  This is the first. If some of it sounds familiar, it’s because I wrote briefly about this ride in my Thoughts on Botswana post.

South Africa was a good introduction to the continent for us.  While still very different from what we were used to in South America, it wasn’t so strange that we had trouble getting around.  We traveled around there for a month before moving on.

On our last few days in Pretoria, Oksana met a couple Canadian college students in the shared kitchen of our hostel.  They were volunteering in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, and had come down for the weekend to check out South Africa.  Oksana mentioned Botswana was next on our list and before we knew it, we had invitations to stay with them.  They departed ahead of us, but a few days later we hopped on a bus and joined them in Gabs.

The South African bus company we selected to get us there was both professional and efficient.  We made the 7-hour trip in surprising comfort.  It wasn’t until we traveled inside Botswana that we found the African busses I expected…and feared.

We spent just a couple days in the capital; our real plans for Botswana involved the Okavango Delta, further to the north.  Our new friends worked during the day, so we spent our time sightseeing and seeking out a prescription for anti-malarial medication.  In the evenings, we reconvened for dinner back at the dormitory house.

On our last day in Gaborone, we followed directions to the bus rank, to see about getting tickets to Maun.  Even after an explanation of what to expect, we were not prepared for what we found.


April 4, 2012

PV Infographic 3: Transportation

I usually put a picture up at the top of every blog post, but I think I’ll place this one down below the text.  I’m sure you’ll understand why when you see our next infographic.

This one’s all about transportation.  Specifically, the time we spent traveling from place to place on our trip.

It was easy enough for me to collect this data.  I spent a lot of time on my iPhone on those long bus rides.  Watching movies, reading books, and listening to podcasts; it really wasn’t such a bad time.  At some point during the long ride, I’d remember to jot down the beginning and end points in the Notes app and, once the trip was done, I’d count up the hours we’d spent on the road and jot that down, too (rounding to the nearest quarter hour.)  While I did the same for trains, boats, and minivans, I neglected to write down much of anything about our airline travel.  I had to recreate that data by digging through archived emails for the itineraries.

For obvious reasons, I didn’t keep track of any travel within the cities and towns we visited.  Taxis, metros, city buses and the like were too frequent and too short to worry over.  To that end, what you see below is only the intercity travel.

I’ve been looking forward to totaling up these numbers and sharing them with you ever since we took an epic 34-hour bus ride in Africa.  I knew the numbers would be impressive, but even I didn’t expect the total we came up with.  Look at that first number:  737 hours and 45 minutes of travel.  That’s 30.74 days we spent moving from one place to another.  One entire month of our 13-month, ’round-the-world trip was spent sitting in a bus, plane, train, boat, or automobile !  (Over two weeks of our lives spent in bus seats alone!!)

It kind of boggles the mind.

(Make sure to click the image to see a larger version.)

Postcard Valet Infographic 03, Transportation

April 8, 2011

Thoughts on Bolivia

I’m glad we approached Bolivia after traveling through Ecuador and Peru first.  I think it lessened the inevitable culture shock.  On the other hand, when we arrived in Chile (a post for another day), it felt almost like we were returning to the United States, the quality of living (and prices!) were so much higher.  Below are the things that occurred to me as we traveled through Bolivia.

Coca Leaves

What’s the first thing you think about when someone mentioned Bolivia.  It’s “cocaine,” isn’t it?  The whole time I was there, I didn’t see or hear anything about the white powder.  Not that I was running in those circles or anything, but no one even offered it to me.  I found it surprising, considering that it happened more than once in Peru.

What Bolivia does have, though, is coca leaves.  You can buy them by the bag-full at any outdoor market and, if you ask for the activator (a sticky, bitter substance made of ash, sap, bananas and/or who knows what else), you can get “high” with them in a perfectly legal, even morally acceptable way.

Oksana and I tried them a couple times and the effects, for me, were on par with drinking a venti-sized cup of coffee from Starbucks (assuming, of course, your coffee tastes like freshly-cut grass and completely numbs your cheek and tongue!)  Oksana really liked chewing coca leaves while hiking – they allowed her to completely ignore any pain she was feeling on the long, steep hike up Colca Canyon.

(In Potosí, it was almost comical the way the miners kept stuffing the leaves into their mouths.  Plucking each stem, they’d add them one at a time, over the course of hours, until their cheeks were bulging like a greedy hamster!)

After seeing the widespread use of coca leaves in both Peru and Bolivia, I’d guess it’s about as addictive as marijuana and about as socially acceptable as smoking cigarettes.  I wonder if that’s why the two countries have relatively few smokers…