Attack of the Hippo

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Day 58: Okavanga Delta, Botswana (4 November 2009)

Well, we finally got to sleep amidst the warm humidity of the delta and the cool winds did eventually come in through the sides of our two person tent but then of course 4am came and I had to pee! So, I woke my sweet husband up and he came with me to the ‘bush toilet’ and turned around so as not to watch but this way I wasn’t all alone in the woods with the snakes and the elephants. After our toilet adventure we fell back to sleep and then Mathew went out for a three hour walk through the bush and I relaxed and dozed on and off until about 9am when they were all coming back from their walk. We all hung out a bit; some people read, played cards and chess (Panos, the Cyprian doctor brought a magnetic chess set and kept asking ‘anyone for chess’ and many obliged him for fun) and then we had brunch-bacon, eggs, veggie sausages, bread and salad all once again cooked over an open fire and it was delicious! Let me tell you, my favorite cook from sleep away camp (Maryann) would be proud of Paul’s braais and cooking…he might even be able to make her famous crumb cake if he tried!

At one point in the afternoon the women who were with us brought out some of the crafts they had made from the leaves of trees; and some bracelets and bowls which we all jumped at to purchase-shopping is even better when it comes to you, right? And then we convinced one of the guys to take us out in a mokoro to pick up some water lillies and when we came back he taught us how to make water lily necklaces for fun. Of course, that brought on an asthma attack as I had the flowers around my neck and in my fingers but the inhaler magically worked to save the day once again. And to add to the excitement, Maria and Bernardo found a scorpion in their tent as they lay sleeping. Good thing they opened their eyes to see it before it could do any real damage! After that we all learned to close our zips to our tents towards the top so that creepy crawly things couldn’t scramble in between the two zips near the bottom. Needless to say everyone was a little freaked out a bit after that scare!

We rested a bit more, as you do in the delta and then the boys decided that they wanted to have a go as mokoro polers and we decided it would be good fun in the sun and we would try to end up at the swimming hole for a dip in the water-the only water that we would have for the duration of our delta stay. So, we waited for my inhaler to kick in and there we were, Mathew, Ian and Bernardo as polers and Maria, Louise and I as riders in a lets just say very interesting mokoro experience-but, we must tell you that we did get to the swimming hole and no one fell in or had a capsized mokoro-so all in all it was a big success! They even were able to get us back all in one piece!

After we had cooled off and put back on our long sleeves to be out of the sun and heaps and heaps of bug spray, it was five o’clock and we were off in our mokoros for a sunset cruise and a chance to see the hippos at the hippo pool…and let me tell you, we sure did see them! We saw some birds and a beautiful sunset and passed a few hippos on their way to wherever it is they go. Then, on our way back we sat at the hippo pool for a bit. We saw one that allowed us to get close enough to see and then it kept going; but the next wasn’t as kind. As we got close, it got angry and more mad by the minute. We think it was afraid of the flash of someone’s camera and had a baby with it that it was trying to protect. Well, some of the people in the mokoros made it through, but we were not as lucky. We were still on the side of the pool as the thrashing hippo when it decided to head straight for us! You knew it was time to panic when the polers looked panicked and when they told us to get out of the water and said ‘follow me and run, run faster’ we did as they said! Maria was right behind us and in her wonderful Portugese accent kept repeating ‘run Stacey, run’ and that we did! We ran until they said to get back in as the hippo could no longer come on land (by the way if she had come on land we would have had to climb a tree as hippos can run really fast and are quite deadly as you can imagine) and we got back in the mokoros and they poled as fast as their arms could carry us. As it grew darker they still managed to find their way and get us back to land….safe and sound!

Talk about a bush experience right? And what a face book status for that day, right…chased by a hippo and lived! Again something you only tell your mother when it’s over and she can see that you’re alright! Well, after the heart pumping adrenaline rush we tried to calm down and have some dinner of yummy pasta and salads and then it was s’mores time! We brought out the sticks and the marshmallows, chocolate and cookies that were as close to graham crackers that we could find and the festivities began. They were a huge hit and the polers absolutely loved them and kept coming back for more as they waited patiently for me to put the marshmallows on their sticks for them. Most of the time they stayed by the fire for a quick second and came to say they were done and wanted me to make their s’more for them! It was like watching little kids in a candy store (lolly shop) for the first time…let’s just say s’mores have now made it to Botswana and they were a big hit! Unfortunately somewhere through the night Mathew got bitten by a big giant beetle so we were concerned about a reaction to the stinger but he seemed to be alright but in a bit of pain. We still managed to have tons of fun and of course super desserts and then the polers high from their sugar rush put on a dance/song show for us and eventually we went to bed hoping that the sugar high would fade, that my husband’s finger wouldn’t fall off and that if it rained at least it would be while we were in our tents! Before we went to bed, Dennis had one of the polers tell us the story of a lifetime and it made so much more sense now about how nervous the polers were with the hippo incident. Justice, one of our polers had been on a trip awhile ago and the same thing had happened, but unfortunately, the polers did have to climb a tree and Justice’s brother was not so lucky and wound up being decapitated by the hippo as they all watched. How horrible, right? I couldn’t even believe it as it was being told to us. It’s the last night in the delta and we have certainly had some interesting experiences that I can honestly say I have no idea where else we would have had them.

We chatted in the tent about what we had done that day…there were elephants about 50 feet from our camp just roaming in the bush. My husband got to be a mokoro driver for the afternoon. I made necklaces out of water lillies after I handpicked them out of the water. We saw elephant dung and bones and skin out on our hike and boy did they smell ripe! Oh, and then there was the most surreal…when you have to use the facilities in the bush and shovel some dirt on top as the ‘flush’ just didn’t exist…that was one for the books! Minus the finger sting, we both really enjoyed our time in the delta but I can tell you that we are very much looking forward to a real shower tomorrow; not one made out of baby wipes and purell!

Tomorrow: A Shower!

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