Posted by: Dana | 2010/04/20

April 20 – Nata Feeling So Hot in Nata, Botswana

So my tummy hasn’t been happy lately. A few days before arriving in Livingstone (site of Victoria Falls), it started acting up with cramps, pain, and diarrhea. While in Livingstone, I started with a fever, headaches, and sweats. And on the ride out of town, dizziness and nausea set in. Ugh!! This totally sucks. I made it through the day of riding because, thankfully, it was probably our shortest day of the tour―80km―which took us over a short ferry (you could see the other side of the small river, but there was no bridge) and through another border crossing (Botswana!).

The border itself was uneventful―it just had the typical crowd of aggressive young men looking to exchange money and scam us out of our dough. As part of the Botswana disease prevention program, to prevent Food and Mouth Disease, all visitors are asked to dip their feet (and bike wheels!) into a muddy puddle. Seriously, I have no idea what was in the puddle or what the puddle is supposed to do, but of course, we obliged. Just as we get accustomed to one currency and the exchange rate, we have to adjust to another! We went from $1 US exchanging for 4600 Zambian kwachas to $1 US exchanging for 6 point something Botswana pulas. Now, it’s tricky enough to calculate the conversion of the US dollar to the local currency, but then try to change kwachas into pulas! After three plus months of bike riding, I think my math skills are a little rusty and I’m confident the money exchangers got the better end of the deal.

In any event, once arriving in our first camp in Botswana, I knew I was in trouble. I completely sweated through my shirt and felt awful. The nurses tested my urine, took my temperature, and loaded me into the truck for a visit to the local hospital. The local hospital experience was interesting. We sat and waited in an open-air waiting room (as I continued to sweat profusely and disgustingly) while the children of the nurses checked me out up and down. The nurse administered a pin-prick malaria test, which gave a negative reading, but she and the TDA nurse agreed that my symptoms were consistent with malaria and I should start the appropriate course of treatment. (Subsequently, the lab work has now come back confirming that I am negative for malaria.) There was no check of my identification, no inquiry about insurance, and no payment made! The TDA staff told the nurse we would swing by in the morning on our way out of town to pay the bill (I’m still not sure why―I had my local pulas with me) and off we went back to camp. The next day, the TDA ride leader, Sharita, paid the tab, as promised, which came to 30 pulas, or approximately five US dollars!

In any event, I rode the truck yesterday which was a bummer to miss our first full day in Botswana, but it was a long (159km) and hot one which took us to the middle of nowhere bush camp. Once we arrived to the side-of-the-road-no-shade-no-privacy-this-looks-like-hell-camp, German-born but now South African rider, Katja, suggested we bolt out of there. My stomach was still in knots and I knew having facilities was critical. I shouldn’t tell you we hitched a ride, because folks seem to get up in arms about hitch-hiking in Africa (I know it’s just because you care!), but we hitched. With only one car passing every 10 minutes or so, I thought it could be a while before we got a lift, but we had a very lucky day! We got picked up by a lovely man who wouldn’t accept money, transported us in the air-conditioned cabin of his truck, stopped for snacks along the way, and dropped us off at the door of the lodge where the rest of the group would meet us today. Seriously, this was a dream come true. I booked into a lovely stand-alone cabin, which cost more than I would have normally spent (about one hundred bucks per night), but I needed a quiet retreat AND private bathroom where I could recover.

The group arrived, as expected, this afternoon, and the quiet retreat is now buzzing with cyclists. Thankfully, I am starting to feel better. The body aches and cold sweats have subsided, but the ‘rhea hasn’t, which is now going on one week. I’m on metronidizol, the same antibiotic I give my dog, Jackson, when he has the runs, but it doesn’t seem to be working for me. I’ll get this cleared up, and hope to be back on the saddle tomorrow. Too bad it will be a very long day (187km). I’ll see what I can do. If things go well and I can ride tomorrow, this bout of the African blues will have knocked me out for only two riding days, which is more than I’ve missed up until now, but thankfully, it won’t knock me out for entire week.

We are on the section of the tour called the Elephant Highway. The road is long, straight, and flat―literally, you can see at least ten kilometers of road in front of you―so it will get a bit tedious over this next week. But, if I’m lucky as riders have been today and yesterday, I will have some encounters with wild elephants on the side of the road. We’ve been told to keep our distance, because these giant animals have charged riders in the past, and if one is obstructing the road, it should get the right-of-way. Fine by me. I’m not about to go head-to-head with one of these big guys.

I’ll try to write again in a few days from Maun, where we’ll have our next rest day, and where I hope to be able to share more impressions of Botswana. Right now, it’s so new and I’ve been totally out of it, so that’s really all I’ve got to say!


  1. Get well soon, Dana – be sure to safeguard your pulas and no eye contact with elephants!

  2. Dana as I continue to be fasinated with your adventures I can’t help but wonder what it is you miss most from home and what you will do first upon your return-sleep? eat your favorite food? soak in a luxurious bath? see a doctor?(seems like it might be a good idea). all I can say is-God Speed.

  3. I think it was the bungay jump which turned you “upside down”. Feel better soon.

    Eat rice, that’s suppose to be binding for dogs. Maybe it’ll work for you???

    Sorry you aren’t well, honey.

  4. Hey Dana! I can’t believe you’ve already been doing this for three months! Amazing!

    I hitch-hiked the entire time I was in Peace Corps. I probably was taking my life into my own hands– and I have to admit that I still had a little Marine Corps “I can handle anything that may arise” attitude.

    So happy to see this! Take care and I hope you feel better soon.

  5. Dana,
    I hope you are feeling better soon. In my thoughts.
    Gerri Sprague (Erin’s mom)

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