Category: Botswana

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I’m back in Copenhagen, I’m back in my hood on Vesterbro down town Copenhagen. Today I went back to my ‘office’ – a local restaurant BOBs where it is possible to work all day if you are a member of Sp8ces. Through sp8ces (no I don’t get paid to tell about it) you have access to several working lounges in Denmark and Norway – they make agreements with hotels, restaurants, etc. to use timeslots where their spaces are not occupied. It is a great concept – and cheap.

I’ve spent the last couple of days sleeping, doing absolutely nothing besides catching up on Netflix. It will take time before I have processed all my experiences from my journey. I have travelled many kilometres, met so many people – not only humanists, but also other locals and tourists, seen the most amazing landscapes and met fantastic animals. Earth is an amazing and beautiful place.

I know I’m privileged – I have the possibility to visit places where the usual tourist never goes. I’m glad this journey is a combination of following the usual tourist path and meeting people living their lives in these countries. It adds so much more when you talk to people living there and not just other tourists or people from travel agencies.

My journey has showed me the diversity of the different countries. There is so much prejudice in the western world toward the African continent – yes, it is a continent and not a country. Africa is unfortunately often perceived as a country and treated as such in popular culture and media. Africa is three times larger than Europe and occupies 20% of the land mass on Earth – it is huge.

In eastern and southern Africa where I have been travelling, they have many challenges. I travelled during the rainy season but in most of the countries, if not all, they got lesser rain than they need to avoid drought. Climate changes are already impacting this part of the world. The growing population is also impacting the infrastructure – water supply, electricity and transport.

I’ve been travelling for 10 weeks, visited 8 countries and held 30 interviews with non-believers. During the next 3-4 months all the interviews will be published as podcast episodes through Babelfish and I will continue to write articles for POV International.

At the same time, I will plan the next steps of my journey. Which means I will be pretty busy while in Copenhagen – I also want to see, to hug and talk to my friends and family. Right now it is cold and rainy – I hope spring is coming.

Goodbye Botswana

2019-02-13 | Botswana | 1 Comment

The Okavanga Delta

It is difficult to comprehend the amount of open spaces in Botswana – the country is the size of France, but France has almost 30 times as many citizens. So much space everywhere.

The Khalihari Desert covers a large part of the country. Together with the Okavanga Delta and Chobe National Park it attracts a lot of tourists – but it is by far the most expensive country I have visited. The parks are covered with air strips where tourists are flown in to stay in luxury lodges. Some cost several thousands of dollars for one night (one night!). A bit out of my league.

Endangered wild dog

The wild life is amazing. Even with my budget I managed to se a lot of animals – even some I haven’t met before, like the pack of wild dogs and the python I met in Moremei Game Reserve. Botswana has thousands of elephants which causes a lot of tension with the local farmers.

Elephants will take down trees, fences and crops on their way. The number of elephants is so high it is a problem. If there is not enough food for them in the parks, they will migrate and ruin farmland. Even though I love elephants I see the problem – some places in the Moremei Game Reserve looked like a graveyard for trees due to the elephants taking most of the trees down or eating the bark of them.

An elephant passed by

Climate changes also has an impact in Botswana. The country is very dry, but I visited during the rainy season and it hardly rained. Newman, my guide in the Okavanga Delta told me the water level should be 2 meters higher at this time of year.

Like in the other countries I have visited the population is growing despite the fact Botswana has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world (estimated 25% of the adult population). More youngsters get an education. But unfortunately, there isn’t enough jobs and unemployment is high even though Botswana is a success story in Africa with high economic growth rates.

Religion plays a vital role in Botswana. Most of the population is christian, but the traditional beliefs still exist including witchcraft. Being a non-believer can be challenging since they are considered to be devil worshippers and without ethics and moral.

There is no humanist organisation in Botswana – not yet. There is a small group of friends, non-believers, who wants to create a humanist organisation.

I met a couple of them while visiting and at this point, they are focusing on being formally registered. Next steps are to make humanist more visible, basically showing the public humanists are good people through charity work.

Like other humanists in this part of the world their biggest challenge is the lack of funding. I hope they succeed.

Some facts:

Botswana (Denmark)

Population:   2.3 mio. (5.8 mio.)

Area:   582.000 km2 (43.000 km2)

Density: 4/km2 (133/km2)

Life expectancy: 63 years (80 years)

My – now dead – favourite fan

Today I lost one of my most valued travel gadgets. It doesn’t look like much, it’s not expensive but besides my passport and my credit cards it is my most valued gadget – it is a fan bought for 2$ in a Chinese shop in Copenhagen. It has followed me for a long time. It is useful in the plane, the bus, in restaurants, everywhere it might be to hot for you. Unfortunately, it died today. It will be missed, and I need to buy a new one.

It made me think of what things I cannot live without while travelling. I wanted to make a top 10 – or rather it ended up being a top 12 plus extras, since I couldn’t limit it to only 10 things. These are the thing I always pack together with some clothes.

Passport & yellow fewer card: pretty essential if you want to leave your country experiencing the world.

Credit cards: instead of carrying loads of money for your whole trip. Make sure to have different types of credit cards. Some places don’t accept visa card, and some places doesn’t accept master card. It is also a good idea to have a backup card, just in case. I actually travel with 4 credit cards, maybe a bit over the top, but it doesn’t cost me any extra.

top 12 plus extra

Travel insurance: just in case. I have never had the need for it, but I felt pretty good knowing I could get picked up by a helicopter in the middle of the Cambodian jungle and flown to the nearest hospital when I was travelling with my then 12-year old daughter.

I also feel pretty good knowing I can get help if I have an accident while diving with sharks or bungy jumping (still need to visit the 216 meter drop in at Bloukrans Bridge South Africa – take it easy mom – it will not be during this journey 😉).

Money: it’s always good to carry a few dollars. Just in case you experience what I did in Rwanda, and your credit cards getting rejected by the ATM’s, then you have some back up money. Else I will always rely on my mom to transfer money through Western Union.

Sunglasses: no explanation needed

Malaria pills: no need to gamble. The pills are so cheap these days its affordable for almost everybody. If you get malaria and you are not treated in time you either die or will have the disease for the rest of your life. Just get them and remember to take them.

Dehydration relief effervescent tablets: if I travel in countries with high temperatures, I lose my appetite and forget to drink water. If you get dehydrated, you’ll get extremely ill. I always bring the tablets together with my miniature travel pharmacy. I’ve used them several times on this journey just to be sure I was hydrated.

tsetse flies

Mosquito repellent: another essential. You don’t want to have your whole body covered in mosquito bites. Unfortunately, the repellent didn’t help against the tsetse fly in Tarangire National Park in Tanzania. I was bitten from my knees down on both legs – so I had to dig into my travel phamarcy to find the stop-the-itching-cream (which only helped a couple of hours at a time).

sun tan after 1½ month

Sun screen: I must admit – I hate sunscreen. The greasy white stuff you must put on in a thick layer, using half a bottle every time, and it closes your pores which makes you sweat even more. For many years I have only used alcohol-based sun screen, which you only apply once a day. Down here I sometimes have applied twice a day though, the sun is relentless here.

sun burn

I brought factor 50 and 20 and after 1½ month I still got a nice tan and no burns. Expect the one time I just wanted to get a bit tanned on my legs (they never tan, never, never) and sat outside on the ferry from Zanzibar to Dar es Salaam for two hours – bad idea.

Lonely Planet books: Even though you can google everything wherever you travel I like my travel books. And I prefer Lonely Planet – I always buy them. I document my journeys, where I have been when, which route we have been taking, which sites we have seen, where we have stayed. And I keep them in my bookshelf at home. I like to look at them – it’s my travel diary.

Fan: the fan I have already told about – it is essential for me and I will miss it very much.

Church – Dar es Salaam

What I have realised during my journey is how much religion and, in most countries, also tribes influence everything. Which religion you belong to, which tribe you are a part of influences you everyday life, what school you go to, which job you get, who you can do business with, who you marry, who you vote for.

If you belong to the majority religion and/or tribe you will be better off in many countries. This means it is not the best qualified who gets the job og gets elected, it might not even be the best qualified within your tribe – it all depends on connections and where you belong.

It is also well known that corruption is widespread. Some are trying to fight it, but it is difficult to get rid of and changes are slow.

On top of this people are ready to give all their money to the churches instead of paying for their children’s education, they are ready to pray instead or in addition of relying on doctors to cure diseases. Many people are poor, but they are still willing to give their last dime to their priest.

Kigali, Rwanda

I’ve seen many beautiful buildings while travelling but it is churches, schools and public buildings not peoples houses. Many houses are old, worn down and especially rural areas huts. Think about the amount of money the churches receive from people who could be spending them on improving their own lives.

Especially Pentecostal churches (in Danish ‘Pinsebevægelsen’) is growing in numbers, receiving enormous amounts of money from their followers. So, the priests get rich. Some of them have private jets, big mansions, expensive cars – some of them are con artists and people still donate money to them. People are convinced that god will take care of them if they keep praying and believe enough.

Supported by christian missionaries some priests preach people should get many children – even though they cannot support them or pay their education (education is not free in most countries). The churches are also against contraception and family planning – supported by donator countries like the US, who has a policy of not supporting organisations where abortion is included as a possibility when they are advising families.

This means HIV infected and the population is growing in number in countries where contraception’s are not promoted. The infrastructure, educational system and the labour market cannot keep up with the growth of the population – many young people gets a college degree but there are no jobs for them.  Unemployment rates are high amongst the youth, so many would of cause want to travel abroad to find a proper job. And climate changes are not doing anything good either. It seems like being so religious work against solving a lot of the problems here. The African countries have not been christian for a long time – only a few hundred years. I’m wondering if that’s the reason they are so conservative and extremely religious. And maybe their belief will loosen in the coming generations, I don’t know. The question is whether or not it will be in time for them to be able to solve the challenges they face, and where their belief stands in the way of the best solutions.