To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries
- Aldous Huxley

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Botswana - Elephants have 2 trunks

Glorious day! We woke up at a normal time…well we were meant too, habit has put me in the habit of waking up with the sun. It is still insanely hot at night in Zimbabwe but there wasn’t a hurry to get the tent packed up and be on the road before even God wakes up.
It’s only an hour drive to the border of Botswana and we made a quick exit with the most social of customs officer so far in Africa. We entered Botswana with no fuss and learned they’re a pretty big deal in the diamond industry with a growth rate of 9% year-on-year.
So yeah, they got some money.

It was another hour before we reached our campsite in Kasane. We had lunch and then packed as we were heading for an overnight camp in Chobe National Park, the biggest park in Botswana and second (I think) biggest in Africa.
We were picked up and driven a short distance to the entrance where we began a late afternoon game drive.
That night we saw a good deal of animals, including a Sable – a type of antelope – which is the first time I have ever seen one, hundreds of elephants as Chobe is home to some 65,000 African Elephants and from the distances we saw a leopard on the banks of the Chobe River (which borders Namibia).
Chobe itself was surprisingly desolate in terms of plant-life, it looked dead and clearly ready for the summer rains to come, but it was not to come that night as we camped in the middle of Chobe.
We were told the rules, no fruit in the tents as the elephants can smell it, go to the toilet (a hole in the ground) in pairs and use your torch before getting out of your tent to make sure there are no wild animals around.


Thankfully the night was uneventful, we did hear some lions roaring and elephants trumpeting but other than that it was safe and good. Except it was so bloody hot Hell would advertise it as a summer getaway. There was little chance of sleeping that night.

The next morning we awoke, packed up and did an early morning game drive. This drive trumped the late afternoon one by a mile. We saw a pride of lions, including 4 lioness and their cubs relaxing in the sand before moving on, crossing the road and passing us nearby. We spotted 4 leopards, though they are still hard to see, we did get a good look at one with her cub and she passed us dragging along her fresh kill (Impala. Oh yeah, there were lots of impala). We also saw the usual Elephants, Buffalo, Giraffe, Crocodiles, an Owl in the tree, some Fish Eagles and a Baboon that looked like he was dying, possibly bitten by a snake.

We arrived back at camp at lunchtime and spent the day relaxing, charging cameras and laptops and just trying to stay cool.
At 3.30 we did a boat cruise on the Chobe River, we were told it was the highlight for a lot of people but I thought it was fine, but no where near the best of anything I have done. I did however spend a lot of time meeting some of the new group, including a nice couple from the USA who have been travelling for the last 6 months around the world. Aside from the social side we saw the elephants crossing the river, elephants doing the nasty in the water and another elephant with his second trunk out and in full view. Also our boat hit a hippo, not sure how the hippo fared after that.
The “party” returned to the campsite where we had dinner and were still up and talking for a couple of hours before we went to bed on a, blessed, cool night.

I woke up refreshed and happy to have slept. We had to take down our tents as we were moving on to Maun, which is the entrance to the Okavango Delta. We are going to spend the next two nights in the Delta living like bushman with no showers and a hole for a toilet.

The drive to Maun took about 8 hours but didn’t feel that long, even though the days are incredibly hot and the trucks don’t have air-conditioning.
We didn’t do much in Maun, just enjoyed the free WiFi until it went offline and had dinner and then packed for the Delta. We went to bed early for an early wake up.

The next day we woke and had a quick breakfast before packing our gear for a 45-minute boat ride to the Poler’s station just outside the entrance to the Delta. Once there we transferred our camping gear to the mokoros. Traditionally Mokoros are canoes dug out from tree trucks however the Botswana people are no longer allowed to dig out the trees for this purpose so they have a fibre-glass boat that looks like it is made of wood. Also the wooden ones leak.

Danni and I packed our gear onto the Mokoro and hopped on with our poler named Manual. We relaxed along the delta as we were poled for 90-minutes to our camping spot. The delta is lovely, the water is shallow and all you can see are reeds or lotus flowers, and the ride to the island is so peaceful, you cannot hear anything but the breaking water from the poler.
There are spots where you can see where the elephants have trampled through but thankfully we did not come across any.
Once we arrived at our campsite we set up and were told the rules (don’t go out at night, go to the toilet in pairs etc.) and were then left to our own devices. Since the weather was stifling we decided to head for the Hippo Pool nearby which is a natural pool that used to be occupied by Hippos before they moved on. Hippos are interesting in that once they have left a pool, no Hippo will ever use it again. I guess it is a territorial thing.
The water was filthy and dirty and probably a good way to get a nice exotic disease, however it was so hot that we didn’t care and the water was so refreshing that it was worth the risk of getting something.
We spent the rest of the day relaxing, talking and trying to stay out of the sun before I went on a game walk.
The game walk was a bit boring in that we didn’t see a whole lot, only a couple of elephants from a distance away but it was nice to get out and see the island. There are a lot of palms around thanks tothe elephants. The fruits of the trees they eat take 3 years to plant and grow if they fall of naturally but if 
an elephant eats the fruit, the nut comes out in their poo and, along with the fertilization, it only takes a year for the palm to grow. So while elephants are destructive they do create some vegetation.
Once we returned we had dinner and afterwards, relaxed again trying to cool down. Sleep was hard to come by and the heat didn’t help but I managed to get some sleep. Apparently during the night we have a few elephants very close to the camp and one of the guides says they hear a lion/hyena (the story changes per person).
The next morning there was a nature walk but I did not go. Danni went and walked 4-hours and didn’t see much. I was thankful I didn’t go, happy to try to sleep in. Once they returned we had brunch and then headed back to the Hippo pool to cool down.
The rest of the day was spent relaxing, trying to cool down in the shade, as it was another day that would melt plastic. We had dinner at sundown and were treated to a performance from the guides. They sang some songs to us in Setswana, some which included some funny dance styles, before we went back to bed.

The next morning there was another nature walk that I again didn’t partake in, preferring to pack up our gear and get ready to leave. It had been almost 3 days since I’d had a shower and while the Hippo pool was cool, it didn’t clean us at all. I felt some dirty and grimy that I would have walked over my own mother to have a shower.
Thankfully the mokoro ride and subsequent boat ride back was quick and once the tents were up I had the best shower of my life.
The rest of the day was spent relaxing, washing out clothes from the Delta and enjoying the time off.
Dinner was had and the weather was cooler so sleep was easier thankfully.

We woke the next day and had breakfast. We packed and left by 7am as we were heading to our penultimate African country (on this tour) – Namibia.

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