Mike's Page
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Editorial

I'll keep putting new items on this magazine page, and pruning the old stuff. Since the idea is to encourage you to visit the site regularly, I need your help - tell me what you like (and what bores you) by sending e-mail to mkh@info.bw

If you want to see items that were recently pruned, try Mike's Archives.

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Keeping up the Momentum

I've just been dropped off the 'New Sites' list on the Info Botswana home page, and it shows in the reduced hit rate for this page. In the near future, I'll try two different approaches to building up the hit rate again:

  • I'll advertise on Info Botswana's home page
  • I'll advertise in the Advertiser

It will be interesting to see the effects.

I have submitted my site to a few of the international search engines, but I hear that most of them are updating their programs to try to cope with the rapid increase in what they have to index, so I don't expect to show up on any of these engines for another month. In any case, it looks as if the Web is now so big that only a very small subset of its contents can be traced directly by using searches. Inktomi Corp. claims that the web now contains over one billion unique, indexable documents (check out the details at emarketer.com).

Clearly, the Web is now more like the real world, where you find most things by searching an area where you know that similar things already exist. One trend which is helping this to happen is the growth in the number and content of Web Rings, where sites with a common theme (e.g. tourism in a given counrty, or a particular recreational activity like horse safaris and pony trekking) are linked in a closed ring and a controlling site also allows you to go directly to a specific member site.

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Kalahari Monsoon

By now, the whole world knows that Botswana and the northern parts of South Africa had a week of exceptionally heavy rain which caused severe flooding. We were not alone. Australia's outback was the recent source of a photograph showing two men and a woman sitting in knee-deep water drinking beer.

This part of Botswana has about 400mm average annual rainfall, and we had already had more than half of that during the October-January period. Then it started raining early in the evening of Sunday 6 Feb and continued almost non-stop for 5 days and nights, during which a conscientious neighbour recorded over 300mm. By 9 Feb, the only route out of Gaborone was the eastern one, to South Africa. By afternoon that was closed, too.

A couple of weeks earlier, Gaborone dam was lower than it had ever been since it first filled to the raised wall height in the late eighties. On Wednesday at 10:30 a.m., the causeway was cut off again and two fishermen who had been watching the water level since dawn said it had risen one and a half metres and was still rising. By Thursday morning, it was pouring over the spillways 22cm deep and the army were evacuating the shack dwellers below the dam wall. By mid-day parts of the Gaborone Village were flooded and all routes to the east were closed. They stayed closed for several days.

Monday's rain was steady but not excessive. The real trouble started with a thunderstorm on Tuesday morning. On the road to Francistown and northern Botswana, just before Mochudi, there is a long bridge with the Bokaa dam upstream of it. This dam was already 100% full, so all hell broke loose. Pictures taken on Wednesday show water 1 km wide, half way up the lamp posts. The road westbound to Molepolole was in a similar state, and the southbound Lobatse road was impassable somewhere - I never found out where. Several small rivers which are dry most of the year were in full spate with flooded land all around. Parts of the Mokolodi Nature Reserve suffered severe erosion damage, and many experienced drivers of big 4x4s were getting stuck - so were JCBs (mechanical diggers) which their owners had dispatched to problem areas in the hope of making a quick buck or two.

Since late last year, we were aware that heavy rainfall caused water from the hill above us to flow into our plot. We had dug cross trenches to catch it and get our garden watered for free, and had been digging and manuring more and more of the plot preparatory to planting grass and other greenish things. The ground had been soaking up everything that arrived until about 06:00 on Tuesday, when we noticed that our vegetable garden was beginning to flood. A few minutes later, I realised why: there was a calf-deep river coming through our 3 metre-wide gateway, with impressive cataracts where we had stacked rocks for the rest of our wall building work.

Luckily, we already had about thirty bags of stones outside the gate, ready to be carted away and dumped in various useful places. We stacked them outside the gate, supported by boulders on the inside. This created a knee-high waterfall that smelled as if it had flushed out the septic tanks on plots higher up the hill. Now I understand why building regulatiosn are being changed to require regularly-emptied holding tanks. As the surrounding hills get developed, the potential for polluting the Gaborone dam becomes serious.

Our barrier created a waterfall and reduced the flow significantly, but the car was outside the gate. Some aspects of Toyota Conquest build quality and general design leave a little to be desired, but it has one of the best spark-ignition engines I have ever known. The engine started immediately and ran like a dream while I moved the car to higher ground.

There is a good 4 metres of fall between the gate and the bottom of our 2 metre high back wall. This solid stone edifice was holding back 1.5 metres of water until a termite nest or something collapsed and the water went under the wall, filling the downstream neighbour's recently-dug swimming pool hole before continuing towards the road, carrying her shrubbery and flower beds with it. I may give my wall builder another bonus one day - he did a really solid job, although my neighbour complained that I held on to the water for too long.....

They evacuated the houses at the Lion Park. The horses stayed (but the BDF flew a vet out, under a 300 ft cloud ceiling, to tend to a sick or injured horse). We heard that most of the occupants of the houses were bedded down on Jimmy St Clair's floor. Caroline Kendrick must have had to put the occupants of the kennels in the rooms of her new Kgale View house. It was quite a while before we could collect any more horse manure from Angela's stables. First we had to buy a 4x4 Hi-lux, then we still had to wait a few days.

Every road in the country that has any underlying weakness (and that includes plenty within Gabs) is in a sorry state. One week of soaking plus heavy traffic has broken up a lot of surfaces.

The railway had two known washaways in the Mahalapye are, and a high probability of other in areas currently submerged. All the maintenance kit is in Gabs. It will take quite a while to get it all working again. Apart from that, milord, everything is fine.

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