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It’s a long, boring haul north from the border at Martin’s Drift into the golden grassy milds of Botswana. You couldn’t really dub this part of Botswana, “˜wild’, could you? I mean, it’s all so safe, so monotonously uneventful, isn’t it”¦?

And if there were an award for “˜African town where anything terrible (or exciting) is least likely to happen’ then surely Francistown, roughly midway between the South African and Zambian borders would make it into the top three, right”¦?

It was Sunday when we crossed, not a good day for shopping, but our convoy of five vehicles straggled into Francistown and a few of us stopped off what used to be the Makro (it’s changed hands and is now something equally huge, like “˜Mega’, or “˜Hyper’, or something like that) near the Marang Hotel.

If Francistown’s normally sleepy, it’s positively comatose on a Sunday. There was no security in the car park – why should there be? And only a couple of other vehicles; one of which, a battered old bakkie, was parked next to us.

None of us stayed with the vehicles – why should we? It’s Botswana for God’s sake. And, look, there was a woman sitting in the bakkie, along with a couple of young guys (why I thought a woman might not keep company with criminals I’ll never know, but anyway”¦).

So, we all wander off into the Hyper or Gargantuan, or Very Large, or whatever the shop was called, with a few of the party in optimistic search mode for the bits and bobs they’d realised they’d forgotten, or that their hired 4x4s didn’t come with.

Outside, the trio was still sitting in the bakkie, and we all got into our vehicles and headed off, this time in search of fuel. The nearest station was, in fact, just up the road. We refuelled, and I was just about to get back in the Landy when Mrs Blog said:

“What’s that hissing noise?”

“Um, air,” I said.

“Where’s it coming from?” she persisted.

“I dunno. Compressor, I suppose.”

Mrs Blog shook her head and pointed. “There’s no compressor down there.”

“Where?”

“There, by our tire.”

I looked down and, sure enough, there was air hissing”¦ from our tire. In fact, it was coming from the side wall of the tire, via a very neat little slit. And you didn’t have to be a CSI super snooper to work out that it had been made by a small penknife.

As my friend Riaan and I unbolted the high lift jack from the roof rack I looked around. Parked across the road from us was the beat-up little bakkie with the two men and the woman in it. They tried not to look at me, as I took a few paces towards them, trying to get a very good look at them. The driver cranked the engine to life and they took off.

Crime? In Botswana? In Francistown, no less?

I know from my past travels in Zimbabwe over the years that sticking a tire, usually with a small knife or even a bicycle spoke, is a common modus operandi for opportunistic thieves. The idea is that you get a slow leak and when you stop, somewhere out of town on the side of an empty road, to change the flat, the thieves arrive. Often they show up on the pretext of wanting to help, but then tart helping themselves to your stuff while you’re stranded.

As I stripped off my shirt and took out my anger on the high lift jack I had time to think about the lessons I’d just re-learned (I had a tire stuck a few years ago, in Zim, but fortunately the ever-alert Mrs Blog spotted that leak as well, before we came unstuck).

Lesson 1: If I wouldn’t leave a vehicle full of several thousands of dollars worth of camera gear, computers, binoculars, GPS etc unattended in a car park in Australia (and I wouldn’t) then why would I in Africa?

Lesson 2: Just because it’s Botswana doesn’t mean that stuff doesn’t happen there.

Lesson 3: I don’t call Mrs Blog the Security Officer for nothing.

Lesson 4: Crime is an equal opportunity employer.

 

Travel tip: Make sure a trusted friend or family member knows where to locate your will and other valuable documents.  The same applies to spare keys and security codes. If you’re leaving the country, ensure you have adequate travel insurance. Check out www.glacier.co.za for all your financial planning needs before your next trip.




  • tersia

    DO NOT GO TO BOTSWANA WITHOUT TRAVEL INSURANCE We were on holiday with friends in botswana in july this year when my husband took ill. we were 80 kms from maun at mankwe and the host at the lodge called for an ambulance by radio to fetch him from the lodge. because it takes so long to drive to Maun the ambulance driver suggested we meet on the road. he transfered my husband into the ambulance and we waited for the dust to settle before we followed.. when we came around the next corner the ambulance had rolled with my husband on board. he was flung from the ambulance. it was a nightmare taking place infront of us. he bad bad,y hurt and ontop of it all he was not felling well, another ambulance had to come and pick him up and they took him to the MRI centre where they stabilised him but that was all they could do for him as they do not have facilities to do scans etc . we were flown out to south africa ..thank goodness for travel insurance and a good medical aid.. he spent 2 weeks in ICU in Millpark and a firther 2 weeks in high care. we were also not compensated for our holiday …by the lodges that we were still going to visit.Tersia

  • Robert

    Now TP, we all know that, since you muscled up, it’s all just a lame excuse to get your shirt off for the benefit of Mrs Blog.

  • Heidi

    Thank goodness Mrs B noticed the tyre!

  • Tony Park

    My goodness, Tersia, that’s a scary story! Our friends who left our convoy early saw a bakkie roll in front of them between Francistown and the border… I’m actually more concerned about road travel than anything else when I’m in Africa, but you’re right about insurance!

  • Katrina

    Goodness gracious…lucky Mrs B is on the ball – I thought the blokes were supposed to be tuned in to what is going on with their beloved vehicles!?! Sometimes one needs a little reminder not to be too complacent. Nasty stuff, all the same- and very lucky no doubt that Mrs B is one observant female!!

  • Grahame & Kate

    Wow…that could’ve got nasty…for them..
    Cant imagine trying to put something over on Mrs Blog without copping a smack in the mouth from her!
    Take care

  • Crookedpaw

    Never a Sonja Kurtz around when you need one, is there

  • Dion

    Sadly I have an equally sad tale about Botswana – the only place I have been robbed in Africa – and I travel extensively around Southern Africa for work. We’d just finished a fantastic five day boat trip through the okavango delta and it called for a knees-up at a friend’s house in Maun to celebrate the end of the trip. Our bags were put in a bedroom not 15 metres from where we were sitting on the “stoep” in a private home. A friend went to fetch something and sure enough the bags were gone – all of them. Long story short we used one of our trackers to follow the spoor of the thieves for 5km into and through town (how they did that still amazes me) only to lose them in the township. We did find some of our things they’d discarded as they ran – including passports fortunately, but all the very expensive optics, cameras, gps’, satellite phones and wallets were stolen. They never found the culprits despite the satellite offering to locate the satphone for the police (an offer they never took up). So much for safe sleepy Botswana.