Off the grid with Anna from Reckon

July 01, 2020

It's 2003, I am mid-way through law-school and Summer arrives. This Summer I do not want to work, I just want to give back for a change and decide to volunteer in Francistown, Botswana for 4 months at an SOS Children’s Village. 

My time there is amazing and confronting. The area has a 50% HIV infection rate which affects everyday life. You sit in a bus and realize half of the bus can be infected. I shave the boy’s hair but have to wear gloves because of all the wounds on their heads and everyone can be HIV infected. I arrive at a village to pick up a girl, left all alone by herself in the hut next to the house in her own feces while she got infected by her own dad or uncle.

This little boy Oduetse can’t talk, doesn’t walk yet and is 1 ½ years-old with permanent brain damage from malnutrition and given HIV by his birth-mom. The nurse at the village proposed I should get a breather and head over to Zimbabwe for my visa run. I would take the bus to Chobe National Park and then take a day trip to the Zimbabwean side of the Victoria Falls. So off I went, a 1 person tent borrowed from my best friend the nurse, a yoga mat and a sleeping bag.

The bus leaves early in the am and after 6-hours stopped at Nata to load more people. I looked around the bus and no free seat to be found. Where are all these people going to go???

A big momma with a big bootie I always dreamt off, carried a bag and her two kids into the bus. One kid got chucked on my lap while she wiggled her bum in the aisle on top of her suitcase. The kid never left my lap for the next 6 hours. Completely de-hydrated and semi-dis-orientated, I arrived at the Chobe Lodge & Camp Ground to lift up my tent and get some rest. Not gonna happen for me, the woman behind the desk informed me that they were fully booked. “Booked... fully…. but I have a freakin’ tent from 2 x 1 mtr…I can even invite another friend in my tent and we would still take up as much space as an ant on this camp site”, is what I though.

What I asked was where I could find a different campsite, 5 km down the road she pointed out.  It was 6 pm, dark and there was no public transport. No option. At that moment I saw myself set up tent in front of the front desk. Then an American guy, middle-aged, travelling with his wife and 2 other couples, tapped my shoulder. I was still looking at my surroundings and observe which corner of this office would be the best fit for me and my tent. But then I turned around and saw this friendly face. He offered me to join his wife in the car so at least, I would be inside the campsite. I happily accept his offer and jump in their 4WD.

Their car followed the Chobe lodge security car in search for their reserved spot. But with no luck, all spots were booked and my new found friends were offered a lodge.

This kind man turns around and says: “Anna, if I were you just
run because otherwise, you end up on the street” I fully agreed with his advice, grabbed my bag, jumped out of the car and started running into the darkness. Never seen the man again. 

After 2 minutes of running into darkness and insecurity at its finest, there was a toilet-block and 150 meter away from that I saw a tent. There was a guy setting up his tent on top of his 4WD, I felt safe. I asked if I could camp next to him and he was fine with that. So finally after 14 hours of travel, I crash down in my tent. 6 hours later around 6 am I zip open my tent. 

My ‘new friend’ left 2 hours before and I am confronted with what I didn’t see when I got my precious spot.…”Beware Crocodile” I literally just camped outside of the "Crocodile Run" and 50 meters away from where the hippo's come out after a swim. Let the adventures begin" is all I thought, at least I had a place to sleep.



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