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Becker’s African Diary #18: Birthday in Botswana

Gaborone, Botswana, 28.07.2010

…another of those birthdays of mine passes by without any human being in flesh and blood wishing you a nice one, and although I never really understood why people make such a big deal out of birthdays it made me quite sentimental yesterday. It must have been the 6th or 7th birthday like that, and the reason for these isolated affairs always have been journeys, with some of the best memories in my life. The Gobi Desert in Mongolia in the early 90´s, Jamaica, Kalighat in Calcutta, the Syrian desert 2 years ago, now southern Botswana…

I reached Gaborone today, the capital of Botswana, and like many other cities in poor or developing countries, this too is merely a functional structure, with hardly any urban planning, an infrastructural crossing point, a station, a dusty trading point in an otherwise deserted country. Even in a more distinguished way than its  neighbours Botswana is first of all a landscape, a space, in which the human being seems to be an intruder, a side aspect, and this country, with the size of France and only 1.5 million people, belongs to animals, and the desert…

The journey has moved from visiting places to being “out there” and I have started to travel. I have adopted the habits of a traveller. No significance lies any longer in arriving somewhere, I am rolling…rolling…rolling…The elderly black lady at the petrol station, that moves over to me slowly and says, in a motherly voice: “you must travel safe…”…the little ascent in front of me that opens an endless view over Savannah or a stone desert, or, most often, bushland, dry, in all shades of green and all colours the creator has ever given to sand…the 3 day workers on the back of a bakkie, as they call the Hilux here, that see the bike approaching, laugh, shout and try to make me doing a wheelie, the buffalo on the street that doesn’t move until I start to smile at it…

I am a traveller, and there is no need to arrive, and there is no need to finish. Getting into the bike gear in the early morning hours, packing up and attaching everything to the bike, moving on, rolling, unpacking after a long, quiet and beautiful day when the sun sets around 6 in a small guesthouse along the way, where no-one talks more than necessary, a shower, an early rest.

After 13.500 km now I’m getting used to being ”in space”, and there is something very liberating to that. Obviously there are different facets to what might be called ”freedom”, of course a political one, which we concentrate on in Europe, but also there is a facet of freedom that comes with space, the freedom to breathe, the freedom of being uninfluenced by people, man-made sounds or structures, and it has a sensual and spiritual connotation, which seems to be lost in my home continent in many ways.

Leaving Gaborone north today, far north, direction Zambian-Zimbabwan border, and from there crossing into Zimbabwe for the Victoria Falls…

Andreas

(Here are some films from the past week on the road)

Central Mozambique


Kruger National Park…

…for Lotte and Emil