Hunting and gathering with the San

Maun, Botswana

It was nice waking up after the sun had risen this morning — not just for the extra sleep but also because it was quite cold. We gathered around the camp kitchen for a simple breakfast of toast and some instant coffee before the San people returned for a hunter-gatherer walk.

These Bushmen are fascinating people; they once roamed Namibia and Botswana in search of food and water. It is known that they made it as far as the Atlantic coast, where they collected salt to preserve their meats. The San — like Native Americans in the States and the Aborigines in Australia — have faced considerable challenges in clinging to their traditional culture. Many now have turned to alcohol and drugs; there is a real concern that numbers will dwindle and the people that once ruled this part of Africa will vanish.

In the fields just outside of our camp, we walked with this group of Bushmen, their faces wrinkled from age and years in the sun.





They spotted and dug up many of the plants and roots long used by their community for every imaginable medical condition — from liver disorders to erectile dysfunction — and explained their use through a translator.

The Botswana government has recently outlawed the San from continuing to hunt wild animals so the elders only demonstrated how they used to kill with poison-tipped arrows and reused ostrich eggs as canteens. A small Bushmen fire was started the old fashioned way — rubbing two sticks together.



We loaded up the truck and set out for Maun, about 300 kilometers east of Gweta. About an hour into the trip, someone realized that they might have forgotten their mobile phone at the camp. Thor turned us around and we headed back. Searching the huts, we realized it might be a good idea to call the phone — a ring came from back on the truck. It had been in the lockers the entire time.

Set back an hour and a half, we hit the road again for Maun, which has had a reputation as a Wild West town. Recently, however, with the growth of this country’s tourism industry, the town has lost much of its old character and now serves as a base for trips into the Okavango Delta.

We had some time to stock up on essentials at the supermarket and visit the Internet café at Riley’s Garage before setting up camp at Sitatunga. As a tent-raising novice, I’ve got to say — I’m actually not that bad at it!


We had another hearty dinner and then headed over for some drinks at the buzzing bar. A few other overland trucks had arrived and everyone seemed to be gathering around the human water hole. One beer turned to many, making it a late night.

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