The Okavanga Delta-Bush Camping Begins!

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Day 57: Maun, Botswana-Okavanga Delta, Botswana (3 Novembner 2009)

We woke up this morning in our cold room, with great aircon, raring to go. Really excited for this experience but a bit apprehensive about the whole mokoro journey and this whole idea of bush toilets and no running water for almost 3 days. We had some breakfast and brought our bags to the bus that now had to be separated. Most would go in the trunk, the bag with the computer would go on the bus with the bag of shower stuff and fresh clothes for after we arrived back from the delta so we wouldn’t have to first unpack our bags and all of our delta stuff goes in a trailer to get hitched to the 4×4 to head to our bush camp for the next two plus days.

You can imagine that we limited our breakfast intake as we didn’t know what our bathroom situation would be for the next few days and that made everyone a little nervous, but excited at the same time. We got picked up in big 4×4 trucks with open sides and a flap in the front to keep the dirt from flying directly into your eyes as they drove. The trailers were hitched to the back and we went on a one and a half hour drive through roads that didn’t exist passing houses that looked like shacks on land that looked as if no one had been there for years. We got dropped off at what is called the delta station. Now, don’t think Penn station or Platform 9 and ¾ or anything; this was a very different kind of station. It was the edge of the river with tons of mokoros (boats that come from hollowed out trees-although there are now some out of fiberglass) and polers waiting to take us into the delta for our journey. We watched and helped as they loaded all of our things into these rickety little boats. Coolers, tables, lanterns, tents, utensils, crockery, sleeping mats, chairs and then us. We sat in the mokoros on the flat chairs with the sleeping mats atop them and had our sleeping bags behind us and our bags in front of us and the five liter jugs of water that we had with us in the front of the boat. We sat one in front of the other, Mathew got the front and I got the back and our poler, Samuel stood in back with his bamboo pole working diligently to get us to our destination. The ride was a bit over an hour through reeds, riverbeds and many waterlillies and of course flies! Good thing we did as Paul said as the ride was in complete sunshine. Long pants, long sleeves, hat, sunsceen and bug spray and constant supply of water, some people even brought umbrellas to keep the sun away from their faces. It was a strategic maneuver as well since every reed that Mathew could block would snap back as he passed and hit me. After awhile I learned to scoot down really low so some of the reeds would pass over me and I kept my arms in front of me to push the rest away all the while keeping my sunglasses on and my hat pulled down to lessen the amount of reeds smacking me in the face…it worked so that was good! After one five minute rest stop we finally reached our destination, unloaded all of our gear, pitched our tents and Paul set up his ‘kitchen’.

When the kitchen was set this is what it looked like. One long table with two others perpendicular from the ends; crockery on the top, a clear station for set up and buffet style eating, eskies under the tables loaded with ice-some with the food needs while other held drinks. There was a tarp over the entire area hooked to the big tree next to the kitchen and a few battery operated lights draped over the trees to give the kitchen some light when the sun goes down and the fire goes out. A few of us helped to prepare some lunch as the others relaxed and chatted away. Tuna, salads and some bread and juice for lunch and everyone was just about in the camping mode. We relaxed for awhile after lunch just chatting and hanging out and later on we went for a short one hour walk through the delta. We split into three groups, slow, fast and medium for the journey and each group had at least two polers with them for information and protection as we were presently on the animal’s turf and they roamed free here. Also every which way you turned looked exactly the same as the place you had just been so someone had to know their way around. We saw tons of plants, various types of animal dung and a couple of wild zebra on our walk.

OH, but I left out something so very important…our bathroom facilities! This would be what you’d call a bush toilet! Seriously a bush toilet! The polers dug a hole back behind a few trees behind our campsite and placed atop the hole was a toilet seat with four legs so it would stand directly over the hole so if you needed a place to, well, sit…there was one. There was a short walkway from the campsite to the long drop and placed in front of a tree before that walkway was a shovel and above the shovel on a tree branch was a roll of toilet paper. The shovel was ‘the key’ to the toilet and if the shovel was missing then the area was , well…occupied, if you will. Now this makes the journey even more interesting, right?

Our walk back to camp provided us with another spectacular African sunset and we got back in time for an awesome braai cooked over an open fire. Paul made chicken, veggie sausages, and salads and we had some fruit for dessert. It was really amazing and so relaxing. We cleaned up from diner and headed to bed as I had already decided not to go on the morning walk, but my husband’s adventurous spirit was forcing him to go on an early 3 hour hike through the delta. Now of course, you know we made sure to go to the bathroom just before the sky went dark so we wouldn’t have to go in the middle of the night; but I’ve already convinced my husband that if I have to go in the middle of the night he’s soooo coming with me! Louise had convinced Ian of the same thing and Eveline and Wyn made a pact to go with each other as who really wants to be out there in the dark on their own when there are apparently lots and lots of animals among us! So after our toilet stop…we headed to bed under the African night sky ready for another day in the wilderness.

Tomorrow: more delta!

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