Want to know where to eat in Maun, Botswana? The Wax Apple Cafe is the apple of my eye!
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In my early years of travel, I relied heavily on the advice and encouragement found in Lonely Planet's online "Thorn Tree", a messaging board for travelers to exchange information. Back in the olden days, each section of the forum had a clever, witty byline in its description. Case in point: For female travelers, there was a quip about covering everything from crampons to tampons. And in the section for Africa, they appealed to travelers "looking for a latte in Lesotho". This has always stood out in my memory, both in part because I so appreciated the alliteration and also because I was bemused. Who on earth would care about tracking down a latte when they were in a gorgeous African country?
Now I know, readers. NOW I KNOW.
I have become the very traveler I once eschewed, hysterically hunting for cappuccinos and vanilla lattes in the most implausible environments. And thus, when I had the chance to visit the Wax Apple Cafe in Maun, Botswana for an unexpected dose of espresso, I had a real moment of "latte in Lesotho" jubilation - albeit being just a little bit out of jurisdiction.
Maun is the gateway to Botswana's Okavango Delta and is welcome stop for people making the long, sparse drive from Kasane and Chobe National Park. As such, it's a popular center for travelers to rest, regroup, and restock their gear. The Wax Apple Cafe (formerly called the Red Monkey) couldn't have picked a better spot to set up shop. It's located just 100 meters from the Maun airport and it's the perfect pit stop for travelers on the go.
It boasts a long menu of espresso based drinks, including my beloved vanilla latte, which I'm drinking in the photos above. Caffeine craving travelers can also choose from flat whites, macchiatos, mochas, and more. Customization options include vanilla and hazelnut syrup as well as soy and almond milk. A selection of other drinks, including tea, chai lattes, hot chocolate, and milkshakes, rounds out the drink menu nicely. The prices were more than reasonable. My vanilla latte was only 30 Pula, or about $3.75 Canadian. (If you're caught without Pula, the staff mentioned that they also accept American dollars).
To my everlasting regret, I didn't throw all my remaining Botswanan Pula on the counter and carry away all their baked goods. There were luscious cakes - including carrot cake! - muffins, brownies, and cookies displayed, as well as a tempting menu of breakfast selections and inventive lunches. I could have lingered there all day with the free WiFi, ordering treats like crumpets and honey, sweet corn fritters, and bacon Brie sandwiches. Alas, the open road beckoned.
Or, more accurately, the open road was waiting as patiently as it could. That morning I had begged our safari guides to make a quick stop when I surmised that our itinerary would take us through central Maun. Thankfully, they graciously granted my request and our brief stop was enough for the Wax Apple Cafe to win a place in my heart.
You'd be forgiven for thinking that if a 10 minute cafe visit inspired devotion so strong it resulted in a blog post - well, I must have been pretty darn desperate for coffee. It must have been months since I had a latte! Surely I was toiling through Botswana's wilderness without hope of a single hot beverage!
No. I'm not that tenacious. I have no such strength. I had been separated from espresso for five measly days, during which I had to survive on cheap instant coffee, plus smuggled in packages of Starbucks pumpkin spice latte powder, like a common hobo.
Yes, yes I am aware of just how very sad I am.
But it's of some consolation to realize that I've been consistently woeful throughout my many years of travel, ever since I first logged onto the Thorn Tree. While writing this post, I swiftly recalled my visit to Dedza Pottery in Malawi way back in 2004. I was but an innocent, recreational user of caffeine in those days but I was still drawn to their onsite cafe like a moth to a flame. The cute, cozy surroundings were such a *me* environment - and I STILL dream of their delicious creamy chicken lasagna! I may be feeble, but you can't deny my dependability.
My brief but abiding love affair with the Wax Apple Cafe taught me a few valuable lessons, the first which is to know yourself. It's not that I necessarily NEED caffeine (though, to be clear, I do). It's that I need *me* environments when I travel. Beguiling cafes, artisan shops, and unexpected bookstores are all very *me* places and when I visit them, I feel grounded and restored, ready to soak up my travel experiences with renewed enthusiasm.
The second is that if you want something, ask for it. There's nothing to lose and everything to gain by making a polite, reasonable request that won't inconvenience the group or disrupt the schedule, so long as you're gracious in doing so. The worst that can happen is that it's not possible and you continue on your way.
And finally - I need to pack more DIY coffee fixes. Powdered pumpkin spice lattes might be scandalously grim but they're a welcomed release in a world of 5:00 am wake up calls, bush toilets, and frenzied millipedes.
Drink up, dear readers, drink up.
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