As we prepare to publish the May 2017 edition (Issue #10) of House Sitting Magazine, Vanessa and I are a couple of weeks into one of the most unusual, interesting and challenging assignments of our house sitting career to date.
We are now in Botswana, in Southern Africa, on a three month house sit out in the bush, on the banks of the beautiful Boteti River, to the east of the town of Maun.
We applied for this sit over a year ago, and were very proud to finally secure the assignment from a pool of more than 150 applicants. Our extensive background of off-grid and remote location experience put us among the front-runners, and several lengthy emails and a couple of Skype chats eventually sealed the deal.
NOTE: We covered off-grid living and some of the challenges involved in Issue 8 of House Sitting Magazine
At the end of April we flew from London to Johannesburg in South Africa, and a shorter flight with Air Botswana brought us to Maun, the heart of the busy safari industry in Botswana.
Maun is the gateway to the Okavango Delta, an enormous area covering around 15,000 square km. Here the Okavango River spreads out to create an enormous flood plain, where wildlife abounds.
Inside the delta there are many safari options, varying from simple basic campsites to high-end luxury lodges. Those on the outskirts of the delta can be reached by vehicle, but the lodges in the centre can often only be accessed by plane or helicopter.
Our home is on the banks of one of the rivers below the delta, to the east of town, which is about 40 km away. Until recently the house relied on a petrol generator for all power, and a “donkey boiler” for hot water – basically a fire built under a big tank of water.
The water for the house is pumped into a tank from a deep bore hole. The water for the garden is pumped straight from the river.
However, not long before our arrival our home owners made a couple of significant upgrades. They installed a solar system for electricity, and a solar geyser for hot water.
They even installed a satellite internet connection, which seems to work fine during the early mornings and late evenings. During the day it currently appears to be nothing more than a useless decoration!
So for the past couple of weeks we have been adapting to new routines which enable us to keep everything running smoothly. We are up early to check emails and do a bit of work on the magazine before the internet connection slows to an unusable crawl. Then as the sun begins to power the solar system we can pump water to the header tank, and run the swimming pool pump.
Yes! We have a swimming pool, but as it is fast approaching winter here in the southern hemisphere the water is a bit nippy. We haven’t been in it yet, and I’m not sure we will.
We have a couple of gardening staff who come to take care of the grounds of the property, making sure everything is watered and kept tidy.
In winter in Botswana the skies are mostly clear, so solar power isn’t too much of an issue, but we still need to keep a close eye on everything. Showers are best taken mid-afternoon, when the tank of solar-heated water is at its warmest.
In the afternoons we can sit out by the river – not too close, as there are hippos in the area (we have heard there are crocs here too, but as yet we haven’t seen any). It’s a lovely spot to relax, read a book, or just watch the water lazily swirl by.
We usually have dinner early, before it gets too dark, as lighting in the house isn’t very bright. And for evening entertainment we have a USB stick packed with TV shows and movies which we can watch on the computer.
We had hoped to do some teaching online while here (we both work as English (TEFL) teachers for a Chinese company), but the satellite link isn’t stable enough to guarantee a decent connection. We managed a couple of lessons each early in the month, but failed to get into the online classroom for a few others, so have given up.
I can’t say I am too heart-broken to have three months off, but we will have to watch the budget a little more closely while we aren’t earning anything!
We’ll bring you more stories from Botswana over the coming months.
Ian and Vanessa
(currently house sitting off-grid in Maun, Botswana for three months)