Published: January 14th 2011January 12th 2011
So, when I left off we were boarding the overland truck for Botswana....
I first met Mike in Bolivia when we were both backpacking South America. The guy has been to more countries than I have, often travelling on his own. We were both hesitant to do an overland trip (because we are travel snobs), but sometimes they are necessary to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time, and there is no way my Polo would have made it without some 4 x 4 support.
Thankfully there were only 13 people on the trip so we had lots of room on truck. I quickly befriended Sean from Cape Town. He had a tripod and it turns out he is in journalism and photography. Excellent. How better to spend your time doing 600 km the first day, than to learn how to use my camera that I’ve had for 2 years, but don’t know how to use.
Mike had loaned out a fancy shmancy camera from his school in Dubia, so Sean got stuck with teaching both of us a little something every day. Plus, whenever Mike annoyed me at the front of
the truck, I would go sit with my new best friend Sean and talk South African politics, geography, and work.
Apart from the border crossing where I saw the most hilarious goat in the back of a station wagon, the first day was pretty uneventful. Was pretty excited we didn’t drive, because when we got to Palape for our first night, there was no petrol in the town and there had to be 300 cars lined up waiting for gas.
At the campsite we were supposed to watch to learn how to put up the big army green tents we were to sleep in for the duration of our trip, but I was too busy freaking out because something was biting my feet. Ants! When some started biting Mike he blamed me for bringing them close to him. When we finally got our lights out, we realized they were everywhere! Once we had our green army tent up I jumped inside to avoid the ants. Mr. Clean Freak Mike yelled at me for bringing sand in the tent – seriously… it was like being on vacation with the Sarnecki family or something.
Day 2 was
an early rise to drive another 600 km up to Maun. We stopped at a rhino sanctuary where Mike thought he saw a baby rhino during our game drive. Nope – turned out to be a warthog which became a running joke for the entire trip. We were driving slow at one point because apparently a leopard had been spotted recently. I was chatting away with Sean until Mike scolded me again to keep my eyes on the bush. This was followed with “but Shar… you’re so good at spotting things.” I love having teachers play their positive reinforcement mind games on me.
When we got to Maun we took an optional scenic flight over the Okavango Delta – the largest inland delta in the world. It doesn’t drain into an ocean (it just stops at the Kalahari desert). If anyone has seen the planet earth dvd series… the Okavango is a major feature. Sean and I were at the back of the 6-seater plane and I warned him… I might vomit on this thing.
Seeing the delta and all the animals from above was amazing, but we had a crazy German bush pilot that decided to
take us 5 meters above the marsh and rip us back and forth. It was fun, but I felt like we were in a 3-D flight simulator. When he finally pulled up we were sideways. Tank (cool german guy on our tour) took a video of the madness and then turned the camera on all of our happy faces… and then me grabbing for the barf bag. I told Sean earlier if I barfed he could take a picture, but he felt guilty…. Would have been funny for the blog.
The entertainment on the overland trip turned out to be Chloe, a 21 year old South African girl slightly clueless and on slow motion. We made Sean share a tent with her which turned out to be pure comedy. We always put our tent next to them so we could laugh at Sean put up the tent while Chloe sat by and watched. At night she would rip her bags apart and turn the tent into mad house, and Sean would stand outside and talk to us until Chloe had slightly sorted things out. Then Mike and I would giggle for a half an hour as the two
of them fought like a married couple in the tent.
Day 3 we got up, boarded another truck for the Okavango Delta where there were makoras (canoes) ready for us. We each got a person who stands at the back and poles you forward through the reeds and among the lily pads. Our tent mattresses became backrests and the 90 minute ride to our island was so relaxing and amazing.
Since it was 1000 degrees, we chilled out most of the day, went swimming in a crocodile free area, and then went on a game walk at night. We did an early morning game walk, but basically by 10 am it would be so hot you didn’t want to move. I spent time with some of the women who were weaving, got a bracelet made and bought a basket from a woman that took her a month and half to make. They use palm fronds which have fallen to the ground, and then use certain tree roots to dye the fabric. With no cost to the materials, it is nice to see the women in this area making all the profit from the goods they make.
I went fishing with KT and one of the basket makers, and Sean. We settled in a big open area with lots of lily pads and set to work of catching fish for Christmas Eve. Um, last time I fished was a long time ago and I had a pole. KT hands me a fishing line with a hook and a weight. I had to lasso it, release and then keep the line tight til something bit. Terrified I would hook someone in the face I stood up to cast, which made our Makora a little tipsy.
Then KT says, do you hear that? Hippo. Yes… there was an angry old solo male hippo in the reeds exhaling very loudly every 5 minutes. FYI – hippos kill more people in Africa than any other animal. Sean and I sat there crapping our pants. KT said we would see him coming because of the lily pads moving. I asked how fast he could pole us away… he responded… not that fast. I felt like we were in a jaws movie and something was going to come out and eat us. So scary.
I caught 4
fish for dinner… just so you know. Sean caught 1.
Christmas Eve was a good dinner and some dancing from our guides (and some slight alcohol consumption). Christmas morning it was pouring rain so we all slept in. Mike had Santa hats for both of us, which was the only sign that it was Christmas. We got poled back towards the mainland and had warm showers (seriously we were so gross after bush camping for 3 days) and jumped on the truck for a very cool campsite called Planet Baobab.
Baobab trees look like the tree from Avitar. The largest one in the world has a diameter of 15 meters. They feel like rocks and are so cool. We plunked our tent in front of one, very cool.
In the morning we ripped it up to Chobe National Park where we had a game drive at noon. The terrain was quite different than Kruger, with the big Chobe River separating Botswana from Namibia. We spotted an elephant lying down, except it wasn’t resting, it was dead. The stench confirmed it for us. Early in the morning there were lions hanging out near the elephant
by the road, but no sight. Then our guide spotted them and all we could see was their tails flicking under a tree.
Um – crazy guide. He says, I could lose my permit for this. We are going to get close, be quiet. Take your photos and then we will leave. Thinking we are going some back alley way I was quite excited. Nope – he takes our jeep and heads straight for the things. We were basically right on top of them, one of them laying on their back with its fully white belly exposed. We had to do a 10 point Austen Powers turn, taking down trees, to get back to the road. So crazy. Later I was watching some baby warthogs thinking they are so cute and Sean squeezed my leg. Ya… giant male elephant charging the jeep, and I am watching warthogs.
We then had a 3 hour Chobe river cruise where Andrea (CCI volunteer in Swaziland with me) ended up being on my boat! So crazy. She is on a 33 day overland trip and we randomly met up and were even staying next to each other at the campsite.
The cruise was amazing and we saw so many elephants and hippos. It was nice to sit back and relax on the river and just chill. I’m not joking, there had to be 100 elephants in front of us at once. The river cruise and the views are the Africa that you dream about – it was absolutely amazing.
So much of the trip was hurry up and go, but instead our boat driver dude just let us sit by the shore and watch. It was baby elephant central, and then a hippo would pop out of the water and roar. It was a great way to spend my last real day in Botswana.
In the morning I said goodbye to Andrea who was heading to Victoria Falls on the Zambia side and jumped on the truck heading for Zimbabwe and my first passport stamp starting with the letter Z.
To be continued…
There are more photos below