New Horizons

My departure for Maun, Botswana was delayed by a couple of weeks due to finalising some exchange control problems to transfer payments to South Africa, but in the meanwhile I spent some time at Basil Read head-office in Boksburg. My task was to input the Certificate package onto the computer that I had to take with me. We, the contractor, had to submit a claim certificate to the client, via the consultants. This summarised the work done to date, minus previous payments, to arrive at a sum to claim each month. Never having been involved in this aspect before, usually handled by the Quantity Surveyor and Admin, it was an interesting challenge.

Finally, by 1st July, 1991, with my Peugeot 404 station wagon loaded with my personal stuff and the equipment for Maun, I collected some of my survey equipment and my assistant, Isaac, from the Naboomspruit contract. From there, via Potgietersrus to Martin’s Drift where we crossed the Limpopo River into Botswana. From the border to Palapye on the main tarred road to Francistown was 100km of dirt road through mopane veld, but we made Francistown by dark. We sought out the Marang Hotel on the Tati River. They would not accept my traveller’s cheques and a single bed-and-breakfast nearly depleted my limited amount of cash, so Isaac slept in the Peugeot.

Mopane country

Mopane country

It was two hundred kilometres to the village of Nata on a reasonable tarred road where we turned off onto a nightmare dirt road of 300km to Maun. Parts were used as haul-roads by a Korean company building the new road. A lot of it was surfaced with calcrete, ground to the consistency of talcum-powder by construction trucks, which filled the potholes and exploded into impenetrable dust when the vehicle hit it. We lost the exhaust on impact with one such pothole. A lot of the route was mopane country, but when the road skirted the Makgadikgadi Pans, there were palms, purple-pod combretums and baobab trees.

After dark that evening, we made it to the village of Maun, which mostly consisted of thatched mud huts that lined the banks of the Thalamakane River which drains most of the water of the Okavango Delta into the Kalahari Desert. However, it is the administrative capital of the Ngamiland Province, so there were also substantial government buildings, a new double-story police station, an airport, two hotels, a couple of safari lodges, shops and a filling station.

Isaac started laughing at me when we stopped at the latter, Riley’s Garage, where there was light. The white dust had turned me into an old man. I turned the mirror so that he could look at himself. Another madala!

The Duck Inn (photo by Lee Ouzman)

The Duck Inn (photo by Lee Ouzman)

I had been instructed to find a watering hole called the Duck Inn, where I should be able to find out where Basil Read personnel had establish themselves. (More of the famous Duck Inn later.) I was directed to the Sedie Motel, some eight kilometres down the road where we found Pedro Ferreira, the Basil Read chief surveyor, blouie (student-engineer) Mark Warken, whom I knew from KaNgwane, as well as John Riley, the site agent, housed in a chalet, there. Mark took Isaac to the senior staff quarters, while I sipped on a welcome beer.

A new adventure had begun. Unbeknownst to me, this would be my home for the next 13 years. It would also be the backdrop for Sergeant Dice Modise of the Botswana CID.

About peterjearle

Writer of thriller novels. 6 Published: 'Purgatory Road', 'The Barros Pawns', and the Detective Dice Modise Series:'Hunter's Venom - #1' 'Medicinal Purposes Only - #2', and 'Children Apart - #3; and 'Tribes of Hillbrow'; all from Southern Africa.
This entry was posted in Backgrounds, Exploring Africa, Shaping a writer and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to New Horizons

  1. Mark Warken says:

    Hey Peter you beauty! I finally got a mention. Keep it up.

  2. Gavin H. Allwright says:

    Hey Pete I am jealous, I hope Rob doesn’t find out about this…

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