2010. február 25., csütörtök

Kalahari desert sports

Atlantic fog flowing into the Kalahari

Well, life of the unemployed pilot in Africa is usually waiting and waiting. But then why not make the best out of it. So today with Enrique and Matt we went out sandboarding.
Dunes and waves

Or sort of, because I'we found out from Pali, the guy who organizes the boarding, that there is a faster way of getting down the dunes than boarding and from my point of view "faster" was the keyword. As he called it: with a high tech sledge, meaning you get down the dunes prone on a simple pressed wood board, approximately 70x100 centimeters in size.
Dressed for success

Now, that was really for me. Except climbing back on the 300 feet dunes...

I feel the need for speed

2010. február 20., szombat

Press on: Namibia

Maun, bus station (me, Matt and Enrique)

After a pretty long ride and two buses I arrived to the Namibian border (Maun to Ghanzi and from there to Buitepos). Just to find out two things:
Ghanzi, Botswana, bus station

1) I should have applied for a visa while in Hungary;
2) there is no transportation from the border to the first city, Gobabis, that's around 80 km.

The first problem was solved pretty quickly by the lady at the customs. She told me Hungary is not on the list and I should go to Gaborone for a visa. It was already 1700 hours on Saturday and there was no way I could get to Gabs. She was nice enough to stamp my passport with a temporary visa for 5 days. Told me that in Windhoek I should go to the Ministry of home Affairs and ask for a tourist visa. What a relief...
Our transport from Buitepos to Windhoek

The second problem was solved by a South African guy transporting a huge (I really mean huge, about 1 ton) gearbox for some industrial machine. I was standing at the border with my packs thinking of what now. This truck stops and asks where am I going. Told him Windhoek. He said if I don't mind traveling on the plateau he'll take me all the way. It was a pretty long trip through the Kalahari, with some rain, pretty cold and lots of dust&dirt. But finally I arrived to Windhoek.
Farewell Botswana, on the road through the Kalahari desert

The Cardboard Box is a nice backpackers place. Not far from downtown Windhoek.

Monday my first thing was to go and apply for the visa. Which I got in my passport the next morning.
Also, as in Maun, it is important to get yourself a Namibian SIM card..

On Tuesday did the rounds at the companies based at Eros airport. With not too many promises. The only company that does not have their offices at the airport is Sefofane Namibia. I'll probably make them a visit later.
At Westair I've found noone in charge. Left the CV at the reception. Will probably call the lady in charge sometime next week.
Wings Over Africa only took my CV after I told the lady that I speak German.
The accredited chief pilot of Scenic was the nicest, at least he read my CV, we talked for a few minutes.
Independence Avenue, Windhoek

With all this done I went to the train station in Windhoek to find out if there is any train to Swakopmund. Well there is. One departing at 1955 every day and reaching Swakop by 0500 next morning. Been there, done that. And am here in Swakopmund. Presently without any reassurings. But Swakopmund is a little gem. And for the moment I'm enjoying it very much. Only missing my babes.

More pictures in the previous post.

2010. február 17., szerda

Trans Kalahari Highway and Windhoek (bulked)

The road to independence led through Cuba

New and old in Windhoek

Windhoek downtown

German church in Windhoek

Sunset in the Kalahari

Kalahari highway from the Namibian border to Windhoek on the plateau of a truck

Ngamiland, Botswana

2010. február 12., péntek

Commenting option

So many of you complained because I have hidden the comment option that I will put it back. Although I'm afraid a bit that I'll be spamed again.

Cheers guys! My next post will be from Namibia. Going there tomorrow morning.

2010. február 11., csütörtök

Life ain't boring in Maun

Being on a low budget and planning for a longer stay might really be a challenge. You'd think it is boring to just sit at the camp bar with your laptop, and sitting at the airport on free wifi with your laptop, and sitting in the pool to cool down a bit. Then having a few beers. Meeting some of the pilots. Fooling around. Doing the same protocol every day.
But if you have that "anthropologist touch" and you can go along with locals you can easily get to places cheap or even for free.

So, this is was happened to me...
Thamalakane river

A few days ago I wanted to visit a friend who stays at the Old Bridge Backpackers. So I took a walk on the sideroads. And got a bit lost. Asked a local guy how I could get to Old Bridge. He told me that he's going there too, to have a chill. So I went with him. We were joined by a friend of his Babui and a girl Mary. The aussie I was looking for was not at the camp. So these guys invited me to their table. We had lots of talk, and I found out that the guy I met was Dropston and he is a river patrol. We had a few drinks at the Old Bridge. We played Jenga. Then when the sun almost set down I was headed back to Audi Camp. Gift, saying that it was dangerous, came with me until we could see the lights of the camp.
When we parted he promised me that next day he'll come with service boat and he'll take me on a trip.
My bro' Dropston

He was there the next day and we had a great day. He took me up ther river in his motorboat almost to the Buffalo Fence (the "border" of the Okavango). During this he was practising how to use his GPS.
Cranes over the river

We swam in the Thamalakane. And then all of a sudden a dozen little setswana kids arrived and jumped in the water. Splashing, jumping. I started to take pictures and they got very excited. Wanted to see the picks I took. And they were just coming and touching my tattoo... It was really funny.

A big bunch of people were harvesting sugar cane close to the river. When they finished they came to where we were swimming and they were asking me if I could lend them my boat so they can cross the river. I pointed on Dropston and said that they should ask him. And he took them over the river. We got from them a sheaf of sugar canes for free. Never ate sugar cane before, but it is really taste and sweet.

This little report doesn't even describe you the fun we had. It was a really relaxing and fantastic afternoon! Thank you Dropston!

2010. február 9., kedd

Unemployed pilots in Maun

This morning we had a conversation at the airport with a couple of unemployed pilots. And I've found out that there's a mutual defiant alliance amongst them. They even have a chairman. The guy who is here for the longest time and still didn't get a job. So I decided it is time that we need to have a logo... Here you go:

2010. február 7., vasárnap

Pilot wannabe's life in Maun

Wake up early. Get to the airport. Say hi to the guys at the companies. Try to get a free ride. Almost every CP will tell you to go to their offices and try to find a spare seat. If you are lucky and also the pilot thinks so you might end up with a free ride over the Okavango Delta. But they say this is also kinda testflight, so they can get a picture of you. But on your first such flight you'll probably be taking pictures like crazy, so don't stress.

If there are no free rides - and this is common in this season, because priority is given to the newly recruited pilots (their training gets around 50 hours right seat and 50 hours left seat) - majority of us is sitting in the airport terminal, there you have free wifi. And we all become spotters. Taking pictures of the planes coming and going. Biggest birds being Botswana Defence Forces C130's. They're doing touch and go's with the Hercules. Also from time to time Transal's land here. Or army Gazelles.
Huge South African Sikorsky

When I get hungry or had enough of sitting at the airport I head to Bon Arrivé or Hilary's for a sandwich. But you can get to any supermarket like Choppies, Spar. Or have a hamburger or steak at Wimpy's. My biggest concern is that I haven't yet found a good place to try some local food. Like water lily, papa and stuff.
Afternoons back at the camp. Sitting with the other guys, playing cards or just chattin'. Maybe do a braai (steak) from the famous Botswana meat.
Braai at Audi Camp

Then having a few beers at the bar. Again hanging on the internet. Doing crazy competitions, like having all the Audi Camp shooters in a row.
Having the Audi welcome shot made mixed by Kash (in the back)... You don't wanna know what it contains!

Other times visiting the other camps like Old Bridge or Croc Camp. And waiting for that phone call...
View of the old bridge over the Thamalakane from the Old Bridge Backpackers

2010. február 4., csütörtök

Maun, Botswana

If you might arrive against all my quatshing then you should take a taxi to any of your chosen campsites. But be careful as everywhere in the world taxi drivers here will also try to ask you more than reasonable. Taxis here don't have meters, there's some governmental regulation on how much you should be askeed for a given distance (except if the driver is a crook). Audi Camp, Old Bridge (probably 10 km distance) would cost you 20 Pula. If he asks you 25-30 Pula then forget about it.
Combis coming and going

Other then that you can walk (around three minutes) from the airport to the main street and hitch a Combi northbound. The Combi's are the local mass transport. Small and old Toyota Hiace's. Sometimes carrying 16 people (that was my record too). If you have no agoraphobia (and why should you) then this is the cheapest way to travel around town. You can pay anywhere between 2,5 to 3,5 Pula, I couldn't figure out the proper sum yet. These Combi's are the real thing. They come and go pretty frequently and you just have to wave anywhere you are and they'll stop and pick you up. Tell'em where you want to jump off and thats it. Enjoy the ride. Combi's are pretty fun. If they see someone they horn, if he's far out from the main road the driver will go and pick him/her up. Monday I was going in from Audi to the airport and we saw a big bunch of people around a car ten-fifteen meters from the road. There was also a police car. My travel mates got pretty excited. The Combi stopped and everyone lurked down and went to see what has happened. I was left the only one to guard the car. The only thing that happened was that the cars front left weel broke out.

For us continental Europeans it is very important to watch out when crossing a road, as here they have "keep left" traffic I'm looking first to the left, but the cars arrive from the right.
The road from Audi

People are friendly and if they understand your English then they will help you. And they keep smiling. They are so positive - and that is true for the guys at the companies, too - that even thou the situation ain't too shiny I can't get depressed. Maybe it is the ever shinig sun, the heat and the lack of "civilized" money race rage.

For shoppinng you have pretty good superstores. SPAR, Shoprite, Choppies. You probably get everything you need and the prices I pretty fair. Lots of you asked on beer prices. A bottle of 0,33 averages around 6 Pula (which is slightly less then a US dollar) if you buy it in a liqueur store. If you buy it at a bar it can go at around 15-17 Pula (that would be around 2 american dollars). And they say it is pretty tasty (hopefully not like the world famous Hungarian wine that is world famous in Hungary).
The real thing is the price of great steak meats. 15-18 Pula for 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of great meat for the braai (barbeque to you). Those who had steaks from local meat say that it is tremendous.
Cityscape Maun

And the most important thing: bring with you a cellphone and get a sim card as soon as you can. You can buy one around the airport, in town they're selling them on every corner. The sim card will cost you 15 Pula (at least the mascom one). And you can get some prepaid cards too! So if you have that just be sure to put your botswana cell number on the CV. That's where you'll get the call: dear whoever, we would be happy to work with you...
That is it for now.

2010. február 3., szerda

On the hunt

Finally arrived to Maun, later then never. The place is fantastic. For lots it only is a dusty little town where you might get a flying job and build some hurs, but for me it is bush flying heaven. I really like the idea of living here in Botswana or some other similar place. But that is me. And will not tire you with this. I'm sure that you're more interested on the present job situation here. Also I have to apologize myself here for not answering every email. I get lots of emails and would take me a half day to answer all of them, and internet here at Audi Camp ain't too cheap...
FBMN tower

In the last few days I got to almost every company (Kavango, Moremi, Mack, Safari, Delta, Major Blue). Sefofane chief pilot is the only one I couldn't talk with yet. Things are at a halt here. Majority of companies have already hired and are saying that they will surely not hire in the near future. And there weren't huge hirings. Delta Air CP said bookings are the same as last year when there were 40% less bookings compared to previous years. And even the world cup in SA didn't yet pump things up.
Safari Grand Van

Major Blue is a new company. They have (as far as I know) 2 C206 and a Gran Van. And are waiting for some more aircraft. According to the CP they will be hiring a few more guys in around 2 months from now. Probably if their new machines arrive. But I couldn't tell you how many and if they already have favourites.

Kavango was the other company who said that in the next 2 weeks they will decide wether they will hire or no. Even thus there probably will be place for only one guy. But I couldn't yet meet with the chief pilot as he was out. More on this in the next few days.
A visiting Botswana Defence Forces Gazelle

The only real hope might be Sefofane. As I mentioned before I couldn't yet get through to their chief pilot. Rumour says that there might be some movement too. They are telling everyone that they don't hire but then that can change from one day to an other. Although I wouldn't jump on a plane and fly here if I were you... Jobhunters are many, positions are very few. At the moment we're around 25 guys here in Maun, doing the rounds. But it seems that even if there will be some openings there will only be need for 3-5 guys.
Delta Air headquarters

As Paul, the CP of Moremi put it there will be lots of guys out that will say, this guy is bulshitting, he doesn't want competition, but as you might already know I was probably the only one, who was always saying that if you are determined to fly here then you need to come here. As I did, even though by the time I left Hungary I already knew from my'man Abdul (who arrived about a week earlier then me), that there's not much anymore in this season.

So no big chance to get something. Except some wonder... But then, I'm enjoying my stay. I'm enjoyinng the summer. And after almost 10 years after the university I'm doing my first anthropological research.

Keep cool guys, and meet some of you here at Audi camp, where beer is cold and the air is hot!
Here's where everybody hangs around during the day. Maun Airport. And free WiFi...

Sorry, I had to disable the comment option, as I was spammed by some chinese servers, they'we posted some 300 comments in a night, and that pretty much kills my connection here. You are still welcome to drop me a mail.