First Night in Botswana

The hand-gestured (go left at the stop sign, take a right by the tire place, cross the bridge with the goats, etc.) directions in concert with previously viewing a map on the internet took us straight to our destination – the Okavango River Lodge, where my mother had graciously agreed to stay because it offered three benefits – budget rates, simple clean accommodation, and the chance to sleep under mosquito nets. We were not disappointed with regard to these expectations.

However – there is a major overstatement on their website. They suggest that their family accommodation is in thatched chalets that offer cool accommodation in a hot climate. Our family chalet had a metal roof that released its heat well into the night. We measured 99 degrees F inside the chalet for most of our 18 hour stay. I had reserved the place for 7 days and this meant a 50% cancellation fee. Since we were melting, we decided it was worth it and drove directly to an air-conditioned hotel the day after we arrived.

Other than extreme heat in the chalets, Okavango River Lodge had friendly, welcoming staff and shaded grounds. The bar area is lively with a television playing American music videos for most of the day. Madonna singing “Material Girl” felt weirdly out of place in this land where wealth is measured by number of cattle. The menu at the restaurant is limited and they ran out of ice cream before my kids had a chance to order, so we all settled for fish sticks and fries, washed down with bottled water (they ran out of that too). The internet is free but sporadic and only available by the bar. It’s fine for checking email, but forget making a skype call – it’s too noisy and the connection is too choppy. Even surfing the internet was tedious – a problem for us since we were searching for alternate accommodation.

For some reason I could not charge any of my devices in my room – the electrical outlets worked for the fan, but not my chargers (which worked later in other venues in case you are wondering). In my state of overheated delirium I was starting to panic – no internet, no charged devices, no way to escape the heat, and no ice cream. It was time to move and pronto.

I drove over to Rivernest Boutique Chalets and felt lucky that they had a room – with air-conditioning. At this point, you may think that I am not very robust and a bit whiny, worrying about charging my devices and having air conditioning. How very American. Perhaps you are right. I would just say that to handle the heat, you need to be prepared. You need a lot of water in great big bottles (not tiny servings purchased at a tourist bar). You need to avoid metal roofs. You need powerful deodorant. It’s best if you are not sleep deprived from flying in a plane all night. It’s also good to be physiologically acclimated. Coming from winter was not helpful.

Rivernest was a better choice for us softies. Interestingly their walk-up price is somewhat lower than their internet price, but does not include breakfast (which their internet rate does). My kids liked sleeping under mosquito nets at Okavango River Lodge, but were equally delighted to have air conditioning and a less crowded pool. The manager of Rivernest is Viola and she was extremely helpful during our four day stay. She even took me to meet a car dealer friend of hers (because I need to buy a car). While Rivernest is not as fancy as its “Boutique” name suggests, it offers a pleasant stay. Our room had a kitchenette and a shady veranda. The fridge was particularly appreciated. We could get reasonably fast internet in our room and our devices charged just fine. It was a good place to get organized. Because I had to find a house!