Tag Archives: safari

The Watering Hole in Etosha National Park, Namibia

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Etosha National Park, Namibia

Etosha National Park, Namibia

“Be quiet, shhhh” are the only whispers you hear. Seated on hard wooden benches are hundreds of people. We have headlamps around our necks, torches in our pockets, canteens next to us and cameras in our hands. We wait. As the sun sets, the horizon is set ablaze in hues of red and orange. The colours change as quickly as the scene. It’s cable television live, in colour and directly in front of us. Even the youngest children are silent. You can hear a pin drop.

We sit at the Watering Hole in Etosha National Park. Namibia’s premier park for animal citing and game drive viewing has campsites, a pool a restaurant and this, the watering hole. “I could stay here for days”, we both say to each other simultaneously knowing that if we could, we would. Within the first minutes we know we have to return someday. Each day people come and sit for hours. Sunrise, daylight, sunset, night-it doesn’t matter the time or the weather-they wait.

Zebras having a drink

Zebras having a drink

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Kruger National Park, South Africa

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Day 68: Polokwane, South Africa-Kruger National Park, South Africa (14 November 2009)

Well, the storm had come and gone and the tents were still standing, so that was a good thing! We woke up at 6:30 this morning to the scene of a very heavy storm with the outsides of the tents drenched but we were dry as a bone on the inside! We got ourselves up and had a lovely brekky of Jungle Oats So Easy, South Africa’s version of instant oatmeal. We had banana and toffee and chocolate and added peanut butter and oh my goodness they were delicious! Like a warm reeces peanut butter cup and a warm banana dessert!

After a cup of tea and the wash up of the dishes, we were on our way to Kruger National Park! We attempted to go to a small game reserve first but unfortunately it was raining a bit and the reserve was closed since they were afraid of the cars sliding into the animals. Lucky for us, this is the only time so far in this whole journey that weather has been a factor at all in our holiday plans. So, in lieu of the reserve, we hit a shopping mall to get some food for Kruger and we had a bit of a wander around and picked up a few of our South African favorites for the road (two boxes of rusks and some Braai salt) and then we headed to Kruger! How cool is that! We were actually going to Kruger National Park in South Africa-I’ve wanted to go here for as long as I’ve known it existed!

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South Africa here we come!

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Day 67: Nata, Botswana-Polokwane, South Africa (13 November 2009)

Well, aside from watching the elephant drink from the pool last night after another beautiful sunset, we didn’t get eaten by lions, we survived the giant dung beetles and made it to morning when our alarm went off at four! We got up and put the tents away in the dark; then hopped on the truck and fell straight back to sleep for quite awhile. We drove for what seemed like forever with a few toilet stops along the way; breakfast was at a toilet stop (some muesli and yogurt on the truck) and lunch was at a non-descript place just before the South African border post.

We crossed over the Limpopo River and through the border of South Africa just after midday, got another stamp in our passports and then made our way another three hours or so to the town of Polokwane which is the capital of the Limpopo Province in the Republic of South Africa. We made our way to Boma the Bush campsite in Polokwane. It’s a nice place (there are guest chalets that we didn’t have) with a pool table and a pool, some guest cottages and a campsite. Hey, at least we were off of the truck at this point which was great and although we were out of biscuits (cookies for s’mores) we would still be able to toast some marshmallows over the fire tonight after dinner which is apparently wildabeast sausages (but not for me, of course).

Polokwane was basically a stop along the route to Kruger National Park. Not much to see and do altogether here but a place to lay our weary heads. We hung at the pool for a bit and then showered (in a really nice shower with great water pressure and NO bugs) and relaxed by the fire for a bit until dinner was ready-dinner that we helped to prepare! Mathew made the mash, I made the salad and Colm made the toasties…dinner was on the braai of course…toasties, Greek salad, potato mash and wildabeast sausages for the carnivores among us. Then it was time to chat and bedtime was upon us as the lightning was here and the storm was on it’s way!

Tomorrow: Kruger National Park!

Back to Botswana

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Day 65: Livingstone, Zambia-Kasane, Botswana (11 November 2009)

Another day, another tour! We woke up this morning at our Zambezi Waterfront campsite and when visiting the ablution box I could only think about the Grey Beach washhouse at sleep away camp and the memories that that brings with it…the hair drying room, Mr. Bill’s mirror that now sits in Jackie’s basement and the numerous times that clothing was stolen when someone was in the shower. Anyway, the sun was out and the lights were on so I was definitely happier to be in the campsite in daylight especially since my torch blew last night of course so it was even more difficult than the usual to see in the darkness. And remember, at these campsites you’re not just looking for things in front of you but it’s the crawlies that you could step on that could be deadly as well!

We had our first breakfast on this tour, a full buffet which was alright and who can complain when they get to eat dinner and breakfast on the Zambezi River, right? We finished eating, packed up our tents, loaded the truck and away we went! We drove a short while to the border where we got another Zambia stamp (outgoing this time) and waited again for the ferry that doesn’t look like a ferry! It took a bit of awhile for our turn on the ferry this time and eventually we actually boarded the ferry prior to the truck so we walked our way to the Botswanan border post to get our stamps and waited for Colin to get across with the truck. We had some soft drinks while we waited and upon Colin’s arrival we headed off into Botswana and after awhile arrived at a shopping center where we could get some snacks and drinks and the guys got stuff for dinner and we drove basically around the corner and got to the Chobe Safari Lodge where we were camping for the night.

We set up camp right by the fence border of the park amidst the monkeys and the baboons and in direct view of the hippos and the crocodiles. Once the kitchen was set up (a table next to the fire) we had some lunch of sandwiches, set up the tents and then put on some bathing suits and took our stuff with us for the sunset river cruise in the late afternoon. We got to hang out in the pool a bit which was really nice. This was a lovely lodge with really nice chalets and cabins. It seems that many of the places have really nice accommodations and then also maintain a campsite as well and those are the sites we’re staying at so we can use some of the amenities of the resorts but we stay at the campsite and use the ablution boxes. We used the fancy bathrooms and got changed and then got ready for the cruise. This was the same cruise that we had been on a few nights ago, but we were able to go on a really small boat this time that was very close to the water level and we had Chapman as our guide. We knew that we had already driven this same route, but it was really great to be in one of the small boats and we felt quite close to the hippos and crocs along the way and we were able to see the elephants so close up. Remember, we didn’t feel the big need to be face to face with a hippo again (considering) but it was a great ride with another beautiful sunset to close the show!

It’s Botswana, so you know there’ll be bugs when it hits nighttime and that there were! We got back from the cruise, went back to our campsite just next to the river and had some dinner by fire and lantern light with many little crawly and flying creatures to join us. Yohan had made dinner which was rice and veggies for me and chicken added in for the others. It was really good and it was cool that it was made on a basic hotplate as we had no stove facilities at all of course. And then, as this is a full participation tour; we had to go and wash the dishes…I know, not what everyone in the world would want to do on their honeymoon…but we wanted to see Africa and without that lotto winning it can’t all be five star treatment, right? So, hands on it is…the washing was a three tub system; one with soap, one with sterilizer and the other just clean water and then some drying cloths. It went pretty quickly as there were five of us and we all went to get it done quickly.

Then of course I had to introduce more people and more cultures to the art of s’more making and everyone was quite happy with their dessert treat! Jerrit and Yohan had had them before as there have been many other s’more happy campers who have shown them, but it was the first for Linda and Simon and Colm and they do always make us smile as well! The husband and I went to bed early as there were hundreds of bugs that just seemed to fly right into you and land wherever they wanted and you just couldn’t get away from them; at least in our tents with the tiny meshed windows we were somewhat safer. Unfortunately, the Botswanan night air tonight was relatively hot and sticky so it was a little difficult to fall asleep! Eventually we fell asleep knowing that we only had one more night in Botswana with all of the bugs (we decided that bugs and Botswana both start with ‘b’ so that’s why they go together-nuts we know, but something had to pass the time, right?) and tomorrow night should put us up close with the elephants so it should be totally worth it!

Tomorrow: Elephant Sands!

a day of rest before more crazy stuff!

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Day 62: Livingstone, Zambia (8 November 2009)

We got up extra early this morning to see the others off. The tour officially ends after breakfast but we weren’t sure when or if we’d be able to catch up with anyone later as all of the flights were leaving at different times. The others who flew over Victoria Falls didn’t see the falls from the ground level so Paul and Karel offered to drive them there around 8am so we got up to say goodbye and see them off. We said our goodbyes (hoping to in the future meet up with Ian and Louise in Africa or somewhere else in the world) and then came back to the room to get a bit more sleep.

We got up and headed out to check out the Livingstone craft market that was a stone’s throw from our hotel and then had a quick lunch or lunchish as it was at Wonderbake (suggested by Paul). We each had some semblance of a pie and sat with Daniel and David who were doing the same thing before they were to leave the next day and then we went back to the hotel for some laundry and a quick relax before dinner. We had decided to join Paul with his new recruits for the next leg of the tour for dinner and we brought Maria and Bernardo and Daniel and David and Gayle (oy) with us as they had an extra night here as well. Panos and Dawn were going to be there too as they were doing the 52 day tour from Capetown to Capetown. Dinner was at another Indian styled restaurant called Armadillo (right outside of the hotel) and we got to meet some of the new people who would accompany Panos and Dawn for the next few days from Vic Falls to Jo’burg. It was nice to have a catch up chat with Daniel and David and Maria and Bernardo to get a feel of what everyone thought of about our tour and of course their thoughts of some of the people on it as well and just enjoy another meal together as we had one more full day on our own before we caught our next tour.

We came back from dinner, said our goodbyes and called it an early night as tomorrow was a big day for us and we hadn’t had one in awhile. We call it a ‘contiki’ day as we know it’s jam-packed but all of the exhaustion on the other end would be completely worthwhile. We went to sleep dreaming of wildlife and nature for tomorrow’s adventure!

Tomorrow: we walk with lions, jump in devil’s pool and head off to Zim!

‘The Smoke That Thunders’

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Day 61: Kasane, Botswana-Livingstone, Zambia (7 November 2009)

More adventure around every corner right? Well, we found some of it this morning in our own thatched roof hut. We woke up and Mathew showered with no trouble and as I got out of my sleep sheet to head for a shower the power went off in our cottage. No worries, right. Well, after a few phone calls to reception we had our power back on even though I had already finished my shower by torch light…all par for the course; what’s a journey without a little adventure, right? Anyway, we got dressed and went to breakfast knowing that we had to pay our bills, but as we got to reception to pay they said that they had no power and we all had to pay by cash as their card machines wouldn’t work without power. We all managed to work it out between pula and US dollars and had some breakfast that not that I ate it, but was accompanied by peach jam-that was a new one for me (but I bet if I asked for it at Briermiere Farms in Riverhead it would be sitting right on one of their little shelves ready for purchase even though I‘d never noticed before)!

We waited for a few more people to return as they had been on a morning game drive and were on our way around 10am off to get our check out of Botswana stamp in our passports! We stopped just before the Botswanan border to spend the rest of our Pula. Mathew bought another peanut butter for us and we still had some Pula left, so when I saw three young boys without shoes walk into the store and look for something to buy with what they had my heart broke. I went back to find them and gave the the rest of the Pula we had to spend it on whatever they wanted. It wasn’t much, but I hoped it would help them. Well, we got through the Botswanan border fine and had to get on a ferry to cross the Chobe and Zambezi Rivers and get into Zambia. Now, what do you think of when you hear the word ferry?

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From bugs to tyres to a Safari cruise on the river!

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Day 60: Gweta, Botswana-Kasane, Botswana (6 November 2009)

We finally did fall asleep and morning eventually came. I thanked my husband for keeping me safe and sane amidst the bugs and their friends and we got ourselves ready to leave. The place was really very nice with wonderful staff and owners; but of course, minus the bugs! The lounge, bar and pool and food were all really lovely but it felt like insect central and unfortunately that colored my view of the place. Well, onwards and upwards and further into Botswana we go on our way to Kasane.

We got up, disentangled ourselves from our one mossie net over our one twin bed and with a very quick and cold shower amidst the dead bugs from the spray last night we started the day. We packed up quickly, left our bug-infested room (through no fault of the owners of the hotel-just some of the life that comes with Botswanan adventures), used the internet quickly, put our bags on the coach, had some brekky and were on way. Now, you have to remember, not everyone had the same experience as we did as some people had inside rooms. They too had mossie nets but the rest of the bugs weren’t as prevalent in their rooms. We said goodbye to Jen (the owner’s daughter) and thanked the lodge manager too and were on our way. Our transport journey was an interesting one this morning. We watched as a few elephants crossed the road right in front of us on their way to who knows where. We saw a truck’s trailor skid and flip over completely (the driver was pissed but fine) and some of us (not me) had to push the coach around it because after trying on our own we got stuck in the sand and eventually we were able to continue driving on a very bumpy road to Nata. We stopped for some stuff to eat for lunch on the bus later and were off again, soon to make a toilet stop only to realize that we had two flat tyres from the bad roads that we had been driving on all day. Paul and Karel were able to change one (as we had a spare) but then we had to go to a local station to put on another tyre-it’s not as if AAA is around the corner or there’s a petrol station often in sight.

After a bit of a wait (Mathew and I sat under a tree and read) we were back on the coach and on our way to the Toro Safari Lodge in Kasane on the edge of Chobe National Park. We finally arrived and were shown to our rooms which were lovely (but very little light again). We had beautiful thatched roof huts (the roof met the walls this time) with air-conditioning right by a small stream and the restaurant was a few small feet away and it was outside right on the river. It was a very pretty place to stay. After putting our things away in the room we found out that the lodge boasts at least two crocodiles and a hippo; all of which could be relaxing in the stream right outside of our hut. Lovely, right?! Well, all part of the journey! We gave Paul our money for the group t-shirts that would be made by a Zimbabwean man who will smuggle them back across the border to us tomorrow and then we hopped into a truck to our boat for a sunset game drive/cruise along the Chobe River.

The cruise was a really cool ride and a very different way to do a game drive as so many of our others have been done in trucks and 4x4s. The boat was a double-decker with white, plastic and movable chairs along the top and bottom decks. There was a ‘bar’ well, an esky with drinks to be purchased for the journey and we had a perfect sky and great weather for our ride. We saw soooo many animals…baboons, elephants, antelope, crocodiles, hippos, birds and water buffalo and many with their young! It was again amazing to see them in such a natural habitat just playing and hanging and living their lives. It’s incredible as we are just visitors to their life and on their own turf; so different than seeing animals in zoos or anywhere where they are a guest of your own natural habitat. We all had ‘lense envy’ of Eveline’s ginormous camera but knew in the end she’d send us all the pictures of the mouths of the hippos and the smiles of the baby elephants. We enjoyed every minute of our cruise and were treated once again to another beautiful African sunset with elephants and animals amidst the backdrop of the landscape.

We thanked the drivers and our guides and after a short van ride we were back at the lodge. We did a quick change and went straight to the dinner buffet where we ate outside dodging Botswana’s kamikaze cecadas that flew everywhere without looking and made the same annoying noise they make in New York in August. After dinner we chatted with Ian and Louise and Eveline on some huge chairs and couches by the river and eventually headed to bed. We had thoroughly enjoyed our time in Botswana (minus the bugs of course) and new that even more adventure lay around every corner. We felt we had made a really good connection with Ian and Louise and the four of us were already talking about another African adventure in the future. The two of them were going to be staying on in Africa after our tour and doing our Namibian adventure on their own and then spending a week down in Capetown. They’d rented a truck with a tent on the top and would be camping and staying at lodges and basically doing the same trip that we had done but in the other direction. We figured if they had a good time doing that and we had a good time with the camping portion of our next trip that it was a match made in heaven and there was Tanzania and Kenya and so many other parts of Africa to still see!

Tomorrow: The last full day of our tour…Zambia and Victoria Falls!

South African Rusks and Botswanan Bugs

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Day 59: Okavanga Delta-Gweta, Botswana (5 November 2009)

We’re leaving the delta today! We woke up under the African night sky at around 5am to start to pack all of our smelly ‘deltafied’ clothing away and to be able to have some breakfast before we had to break down camp. Now, if I haven’t told you about these before, get ready for some yummy goodness. We had South African rusks. For anyone who has visited this great country before you have probably had the privilege, but if you haven’t think of Italian biscotti but better! We ate the kind from the OUMA company and they were buttermilk flavor. You dip them in your tea or coffee, wait for the liquid to swirl through them to make them soggy and chomp…they are delicious! South Africans eat them in many flavors but so far I have to say I am partial to the buttermilk.

We broke down our tents and said goodbye to our tent spot. In front of us one of the polers, who I nicknamed ‘machete-man’ had laid his machete down (he brought it I’m sure for chopping fire wood but I liked to think it was for protecting us against the wild) and he let me pick it up and take a photo (also not a thing to tell your mother when you do it) which was awesome! We said goodbye to our bush toilet (hoping not to have that experience again soon) and hopped in our mokorros for the ride back to the station leaving only our memories and hippo experience behind. All of our belongings including all of the garbage that was created in our three day journey rode back with us on our mokorros. We got to the station, tipped and thanked our polers, got into the 4x4s again and eventually arrived back at our old hotel in Maun where we met Karel and the coach at the ablution box in the back of the hotel and were finally given the privilege of a shower! Well, it appeared that the boys were using all of the water as the girls only got a trickle out of the shower heads, but a welcome trickle it was and the top layer of dirt was able to come off and after getting dressed in clean clothes with the smell of the delta behind us, we set out on our way to lunch at Nandos!

Nandos, for those of you who have never had the pleasure, is home of the Portugese chicken (and good veggie burgers) and specializes in peri-peri sauce. We ate our food, including chips with peri-peri salt on them and enjoyed every minute of the experience! After lunch we set out on our way to Gweta, Botswana, where we were to stay at the Gweta Lodge for the evening. We arrived at our thatched roof huts complete with mossie nets and an outdoor toilet, sink and shower (that would be the only bathroom facilities-don’t think there were also ones inside our hut) and very little light. The grounds of the resort were beautiful and the staff incredibly helpful and cheerful. We relaxed poolside, used the internet to update some fun face book status, and chatted with a guy at the bar. Ready for this one, he was a British PHD researcher who had been in Botswana for the last five years researching the habits of the brown hyena which is apparently very different than the spotted hyena that you may think of from The Lion King. The brown hyena, he said, is the third largest carnivore in Africa and it is endangered. He and others worked to track them by sedating them and tagging them and then releasing them back into the wild so they could follow their patterns and perhaps figure out a way to make life a little safer for them on their own land. He had tons of photos on his laptop that he showed us and he was staying at the lodge as he had many times before because his truck broke down and it would take a few days to replace the necessary parts.

After our chat with the hyena guy we went to have dinner which was beautifully set up outside. We would have eaten there as well but there were millions of little bugs the size of orzo pasta that were flying and landing everywhere. They attached themselves to drinks, were on the salad and even on the butter on the table. So, thankfully, the staff allowed us to move inside and we ate a beautiful buffet dinner inside sans bugs. But wait…there’s more! When we went back to our room there were bugs galore! No wonder the mossie nets were provided! You see, the top of the thatched roof hut didn’t reach the tops of the walls so there was a gap in the middle which let in all of the bugs. This also meant that there was no air conditioning; only a small fan in the center of the room. We couldn’t use our bathroom facilities easily as there was an outside light on and all of those same little bugs from dinner were all over the sink, toilet and shower by our room. It was so much that I went back to the bar to ask Paul if there were any inside rooms available as the room was flooded with bugs and creepy crawly things including a big, giant, green grasshopper. There were no other rooms available unfortunately so one of the staff members came and sprayed a strong bug spray in the room but couldn’t give us a coil to keep them away all night as it would give off a bad scent and bother my asthma. So, we hoped the grasshoppers and their friends would find their way outside and the flying bugs would go to sleep. I got under my mossie net and Mathew tucked me in and as I looked up there was a ginormous spider in the center so that was it for that one. We tucked ourselves in under one mossie net and hoped for the best as I slept part of the night with my torch on checking for other bugs and surprisingly after a two night adventure in the bush, this was the worst night’s sleep I had on the whole journey so far.

Tomorrow: Chobe National Park!

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!

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!