Day 3 and 4: Polokwane, South Africa to Palapye, Botswana : the meat smuggling episode

1 Sep

With a cooked breakfast under our belts we headed north from Kruger through green mountains via the living museum of Pilgrim’s Rest to Polokwane with a lunch stop by the roadside. I was on kitchen crew and we were rather pleased with the couscous salad we whipped up in 20 minutes flat.

Shop signs fascinate me, especially the petrol station diner that advertised a ‘Russian and Chips’ as a fast food combo.

Polokwane camp site is in a game reserve so we spent another night inside high barbed wire topped fences prowled by hyenas.

Another early start saw us heading to the border of South Africa and Botswana, stopping to stock up on food supplies and drinking water at a smart supermarket complex. By 9:30am we’d reached border control. Immigration formalities were concluded without incident but we had not figured on the whim of the Botswana quarantine officers. First it was our bananas that had to be consumed on the spot because they could carry fruit fly larvae, followed by a fuss over our supermarket meat.

According to the published regulations only beef is a controlled meat because of the risk of spreading foot and mouth. Properly packaged beef bought from a certified retailer can be imported into Botswana. This was not the interpretation our quarantine officers enforced. They confiscated every package of meat, including the bacon. All a bit moot for a vegetarian but the carnivores were furious. I thought our guide, the ever smiling GP, was going to lose his cool but he kept it together despite a simultaneous shouting match between a trucker who thought we’d jumped the line and another border control officer. Freight trucks can spend days waiting to cross so this uy was well ticked off and kept screaming and pointing at his wrist to indicate the time he’d been waiting despite the fact he didn’t wear a watch.

We assume the officers and their families had a sumptuous BBQ with their booty and that the trucker finally made it through.

Our group decided we would pay GP to replace the meat as we knew he’ have to bear the cost himself but the ordeal was not yet over. We had at least two more disease control points to cross within Botswana before reaching our camp site. GP distributed the replacement meat between several people to hide in the lockers under their seats. As it turned out the truck wasn’t checked again but we did have to walk through some very muddy water that was supposed to disinfect our shoes (we all had other shoes packed in our gear) while the truck was driven though a larger equally muddy pool of water. As they say, TIA (This is Africa!).

The Botswana countryside was as dry as Kruger with thorny Acacia trees and low scrub. Tiny corrugated iron shacks dotted the road. We stopped to buy firewood from a man in a wheel chair while Grandmother with a baby on her hip looked on. When we passed through a town or village I amused myself spotting what Alexander McCall Smith calls in his Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency series, ‘traditionally built African women’. There were a satisfyingly large number.

Our camp site was the famous Elephant Sands at Nata which is not fenced. Elephants regularly wander between the tents and drink from the swimming pool. My luck temporarily deserted me at this point as I’d wanted to do the optional overnight bush camping on the desolare Makgadikgadi Pans but was the only person to opt for it which made it prohibitively expensive. In addition the elephants had gone AWOL and there was not a single wildlife sighting.

Still the sunset was spectacular and I enjoyed sitting by the huge fireplace having a quiet coldie reflecting on the day’s events and watching the watering hole for birds.

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One Response to “Day 3 and 4: Polokwane, South Africa to Palapye, Botswana : the meat smuggling episode”

  1. mt September 1, 2011 at 11:24 am #

    Maybe Russians were the only meat they were able to sneak in…

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