While touring through Botswana my tour group stopped overnight at a camping spot along the Boteti River just over 30 km south of the town of Maun. In the evening I chatted away with the tour guide while watching the sun set from a rickety pier over the river. When I was asked which direction the river was flowing I looked at the water moving from left to right, but was unsure whether he was asking me in which compass direction it was moving or to which country it was heading. It turned out that he wasn’t checking whether I knew compass direction, countries or even oceans into which it flowed.
The answer was that the river was actually flowing from right to left. As a very slow moving river the wind across its top, which was heading from left to right, was sufficient to make the entire river appear to the eye as if it was moving in the opposite direction. In the morning while I had my breakfast I noted that the river still appeared to be flowing from left to right. Then I set out for my run.
I ran a kilometre over a soft sand track to reach the road, and then would run along the “major” road until my turnaround point, at which I would retrace my steps back to the camp. I set off undecided on how far I would run, but was thinking that either 32 km or 40 km would be good.
After the very slow first kilometre over sand, I reached the road and slowly picked up the pace over a few kilometres until I was running at around my normal road running pace. I was feeling comfortable and decided that I would run 40 km. I thought back over the discussion about the river, and drawing a map in my mind I realised that I was running parallel to the river, and must have a tailwind behind me. I looked at the trees alongside me, but almost all had no leaves during the dry season, and there appeared to be only the slightest of winds.
When I reached the 20 km mark of my run I crossed the road, having encountered around 15 vehicles during the 19 km in which I had followed it, and started on my way back. I was immediately faced with a headwind much stronger than I had anticipated. I had expected that the lack of leaves in the trees would limit the motion of the trees when gauging the wind, but obviously not quite enough. I would now have to run for 19 km into a firm headwind.
My pace slowed but I pushed on through since I really had no alternatives. I started counting down the distance until my turnoff. I was looking forward to turning out of the wind, even though it meant that I would face the final slog through the soft sand. Eventually I passed by a road sign that I had noted, and then I passed through the only village along my route, and then I glimpsed the sign for my turnoff. The run through the sand passed easier than I expected but I was glad to reach the gate of the camp so that I could push the stop button on my watch.