Grrr. I am sitting here in dilemma. We spent the past three days chasing internet in Gaborone. We had a few things on our list as we arrived in a new country, not the least of which was getting our mobile internet squared away. I knew we would be more remote here in Botswana, as we head out into the bush. I just didn’t know that I would spend days wandering the streets of Gaborone trying to unlock its clues.
Our apartment provides internet for an additional charge, but should we become disconnected, we’re out of luck. Connecting again may or may not happen. I was working on these great photos of Zulu dancers to post on the blog. Except, something went wrong and I need to restart my computer to access Photoshop. But, if I do, I will probably not be able to log back in on the wifi for internet.
Arriving in South Africa, we picked up a 3G modem/router that would feed at least a minimum internet to us most anywhere. Vodacom is not in Botswana, the carrier could not cross the border with us. We opted for Orange, a French cell service company, to look for new options. On our first morning, along with several other things on our list, we picked up new sims cards. At the Orange office, we put them in and a bright green “signal” light appeared. We went home in the early afternoon feeling satisfied and successful. A feeling that would be ground away over the following few days, beginning with the fact that although there was signal, the modem could not log on.
We chased this internet connection through too many hours in the Orange sales office, the Orange technical support office, a few “we unlock phones” stands around the center of town, and an upstairs “Doctor Cell,” a business specializing in phone and computer repair and the unlocking of cell phones. Not the tour of Botswana’s capital we were hoping for as we arrived.
It turns out that although Vodacom’s modem is theoretically “unlocked” like they told us, it does not allow other profiles so the modem can actually talk with the cell service provider if they are not affiliated with Vodacom. Orange has the same device. But, they only sell it on contract, so without proof of employment in Botswana we can’t even buy a new one outright, paying for a full year contract in advance. No options for travelers: these are strictly reserved for Botswana residents.
They are also out of cell internet dongles (no, not a rogue booger,) the little devices that plug into a USB port on a computer, in the entire Gaborone area. We paid Doctor Cell to unlock the modem dongle we have from France. Although it is now “unlocked,” the device software does not allow enough characters for Orange to enter the web address to access the internet. Finally, one of the technicians at the Orange support office sold us his dongle for the price of a replacement; he’ll buy one once they are available again.
They are not exactly set up for providing internet for tourists here. The girls spent the days in our apartment: shut-ins. I still think we will like Botswana a lot, but the past few days have been a definite low for our trip around the world: Cell Hell in Gaborone.