Khaki fever

go! Botswana - - MAUN -

Khaki fever tends to strike an over­seas vis­i­tor on his or her first trip to Africa. Women swoon over the sa­fari guides who “bravely” drive through thick sand and mud and point out leop­ards be­hind bushes as if it’s noth­ing. Men dream of be­com­ing one of those sa­fari guides, so they too can wear khaki and drive a Land Rover.

In 1982, Marc Baar from Ger­many was 21 years old and he got a se­ri­ous case of khaki fever. “When you ar­rive in Botswana from Europe for the first time, it’s over­whelm­ing,” he re­calls.

“All I’d seen of Africa un­til then had been ro­man­tic pho­tos of Land Rovers in the bush.”

Those pho­tos prompted Marc to set out and ex­pe­ri­ence the con­ti­nent first-hand.

“All your senses are stim­u­lated when you ar­rive here, which ei­ther ex­cites or ter­ri­fies you. I was in­stantly crazy about Botswana, and Maun in par­tic­u­lar. To me, the Oka­vango Delta feels like the heart­beat of Botswana. Liv­ing in Maun means I’m part of it all the time.”

So Marc bought the khaki clothes and started a tour com­pany, tak­ing peo­ple mainly to Moremi and Savuti. “In those days Botswana was much wilder than it is now. There were no tar roads!”

Marc worked as a chef in France in his youth and for a long time he trained cooks at lodges in Botswana. At the end of 2017, he opened his own restau­rant, Marc’s Eatery, in Maun.

“We try to pre­pare all the food our­selves and main­tain a high stan­dard, but mi­nus the stuffy at­mos­phere. I want peo­ple to feel as if they’re walk­ing into their own liv­ing room.”

Marc has no plans to re­turn to Europe. “I don’t feel at home in Europe any more. Life here feels au­then­tic. We ex­pe­ri­ence free­dom here.”

Yes, he is also still “madly in love” with his Land Rover.

An­other man who chose Maun over the coun­try of his birth is Jowan Green­woodPenny. He tells me in fault­less Afrikaans how his fam­ily moved to Botswana from Wales when he was a child. “The sur­name is un­usual,” he says. “There are only 13 of us in the world. We set­tled in the Tuli Block, where my fa­ther man­aged farms be­long­ing to Pres­i­dent Seretse Khama.”

Jowan at­tended school in South Africa. “I failed Afrikaans in ma­tric, but re­turned to Tuli af­ter I’d fin­ished high school in Pi­eters­burg [Polok­wane]. I spent time with the farm­ers in Tuli and even­tu­ally learnt to speak the lan­guage.”

At the age of 21, Jowan had to choose be­tween Botswanan and Bri­tish cit­i­zen­ship. He trav­elled to the UK to see whether he could live there. He chose Botswana.

“I like ad­ven­ture and I get a lot of that here. I en­joy Maun’s laid-back feel,” he says.

One of his most in­ter­est­ing jobs was help­ing to erect the vet­eri­nary fence on the west­ern bound­ary of Mak­gadik­gadi Pans Na­tional Park, in the Boteti River.

“At the time the riverbed was bone dry and no one thought the wa­ter would ever come down again. Well, a few years ago that changed, and now long stretches of the fence are un­der­wa­ter. In places, the fence has also been tram­pled by ele­phants that have re­turned to the area.”

Kala­hari Kan­vas was started by John and Elaine Dug­more in 1986 when they iden­ti­fied a fu­ture need for a tent-re­pair busi­ness near the delta.

“They were spot on,” says William White­man, one of the man­agers. “Tourism in the delta has since grown ex­po­nen­tially and Kala­hari Kan­vas has de­signed, made and built vir­tu­ally all the tents for the many lodges and camps.”

In­ci­den­tally, William and his wife came to Botswana from South Africa to man­age one such lux­ury camp. “We en­joyed it so much that we de­cided we wanted to live here,” William says.

“Now that we have a young son, we thought it would be bet­ter to be in Maun. It still feels like a vil­lage; part of the delta.”

Kala­hari Kan­vas, which the lo­cals re­fer to as KK, man­u­fac­tures any­thing you can think of out of can­vas. William says they’ve had some in­ter­est­ing re­quests: “The fun­ni­est was a cov­er­ing for an ele­phant’s foot, which was in a plas­ter cast.” IN OTHER WORDS

Chris and Estie My­burgh

The My­burghs moved to Maun from Uping­ton five years ago, to as­sist their son with his tour com­pany. Chris ser­vices and re­pairs the com­pany’s sa­fari ve­hi­cles and Estie is re­spon­si­ble for food lo­gis­tics. Chris: “Driv­ing in Botswana is mur­der on cars. Moremi is the worst. I con­stantly have to go there to fix some­thing. It’s be­cause of all the wa­ter and mud. No ve­hi­cle lasts very long.” Estie: “It takes metic­u­lous plan­ning and per­se­ver­ance to keep our tour menus run­ning as they should. Some­times I strug­gle to find fresh pro­duce in town and then I have to make a new plan.”

READ ABOUT MAUN

Django: The small dog with the big heart, pub­lished by Jonathan Ball in 2013, is a book by sa­fari guide Peter Com­ley about his beloved dog. He also tells sto­ries of the peo­ple of Maun, and re­cent events of his­tor­i­cal in­ter­est. Anec­dotes about the wilder years will have you shak­ing your head in dis­be­lief. R168 at loot.co.za (also sold at Ri­ley’s in Maun and the Spar in Kasane)

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