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Published: October 22nd 2009
27/09 - 2/10
I must confess that my main reason for wanting to visit Botswana was because of a beautiful photo I had seen in a guide book of a Mokoru boatsman poling a dug out canoe through the Okavanga Delta. Other than that, I'm ashamed to say how little I knew about the culture and history of the country (ok....and also the precise location...yikes). Anyway, I guess this is what travelling is all about - putting something tangible to a name and fleshing out a point on the map with faces and colours and sounds. We had found Zambia markedly different from Tanzania in terms of safety and approachability of the people but the difference crossing into Botswana was even more dramatic. We immediately got the sense of a country that's very comfortable and happy with its status. The people were friendly, we felt safe and there was an air of prosperity that we hadn't encountered before. We were very lucky to be there on their independance day and one of the locals very proudly educated us on why Botswana was so peaceful and about the impact of their independance and the integrity of the first
prime minister had on the country.
So, going back a step - our last night in Livingstone was a very quiet affair as we had to be up at 5am the next morning to start our trip down into Botswana. We met our new friends Joel and Siobhan in town and hired a cab to take us to the border. This was fairly straight forward apart from the guinea fowl massacre along the way (poor wee things - ran straight for us). At the border, we took a ferry across the river to take us into Botswana. We hadn’t been able to book a bus but luckily there was one there waiting which was on its way to Nata. We planned on trying to hook up with another bus from there to take us to our final destination of Maun (pronounced Mow - oon….we think). Unfortunately though, that was a bit more hassle and two of the buses didn’t turn up so we had a good few hours waiting at the petrol station. I did try my luck at hitching a lift from some South Africans at one point but unfortunately they weren’t going our way. Eventually we
setting up camp on Chief
I'm not sure why but Matt and Joel look like they're up to something...hmmm
managed to get on the right bus and arrived into Maun fairly late and went straight to our new home - The Old bridge Backpackers. We came to love this place over the next few days as it turned out to be so chilled out, the owners so helpful and the food so amazing in their bar…we didn’t want to leave at the end. One of the owners - David, even convinced Siobhan and Joel to extend their trip and helped them to change their flights...how's that for service?!
We spent our first day in Maun just chilling out, buying some food supplies and sorting out our transport from there to Namibia which we would do in a few days. That evening, Siohan and I had a sunset horse ride which included a very exhilerating canter through a part of the river...very refreshing!
Maun is a really buzzing little town - there's quite a lot of business in its own right but it's also the gateway town to the Okavanga Delta - a huge maze of waterways that extend almost as far as Namibia and home to the Mokuru fishing tribes as well as countless hippos!
Hanging out with Life
This is Life and she made the basket I bought. Lots of random dogs there too - they look scary but pretty harmless
David, one of the owners of the bridge, organised a really fantastic 2 night, 3 day trip for the four of us in one of their speed boats. To get to the Inner Delta took about 4 hours on the speed boat. The weather had been horrendous the night before so we were a little bit worried about speeding along in a little tin can if the thunder storm started up again. It stayed mostly dry that day though and we were nice and warm in great big fleece lined ponchos. We set up camp for the night on Chief's island. There's no facilities there but we were well equiped - tents, cooking equipment, chairs, table, portable wash stand and even a fold away toilet!!! I'd never seen that before - basically like a toilet seat on legs over a hole in the ground!
The first night there was great - our cook made us a wonderful spag bol - it's amazing how everything tastes when cooked over a fire. That night, we were lulled to sleep by a whole orchestra of frogs as well as crickets and then a little bit more scary - hippos grunting and
Lions roaring. we all came out of our tents unscathed the following morning though. After a breakfast of left over spagbol, we set off to the local Mokuro fishing village where we met up with two guides who took us through the delta in their Mokuro boats. This was so lovely - after the initial small chat, we were gliding almost silently through the still water amongst the lillies and the tall reeds. The sun finally made a breakthrough and everything looked so sparkly and bright after the recent rains. Going so slowly allowed us to really savour the small wildlife - the frogs, dragonflies, butterflies and errrm spiders ...that was a bit more scary as we headed face first through enormous webs. Matt developed a web dividing technique with a reed whereas I just chose to hide under my poncho when going through the thicker reeds....euccchhh
We stopped off on another island and EK, our guide took us on a walking Safari. This was all fine until he decided to give us the safety briefing. We were instructed to walk in single file to discourage animals from charging. However, in the case of a hippo charging, we
were to run for a tree, if it was a Lion we should stand still (Yeah right...) and so on...... we were all a bit nervous at this stage. In actual fact, we only saw Zebra, antelopes and ant hills but it made it all seem rather adventurous! Actually we did have the fortune of seeing the rare African Fishing Owl, that was quite special as they are hardly ever seen in daylight.
On returning to the village, we had a little walk around and bought a couple of the locally weaved baskets. We had arrived on Independence day so the whole village was preparing for a huge party that night. A few of them had started celebrating early, including a girl called Life who had weaved the basket I bought. When I found out her name, I started singing Life, oh Life" she was absolutely thrilled and joined in singing with me...i'm not sure whether it was a point of connection or just a few too many afternoon beers but we had great fun singing and posing for the camera on the banks of the river. We went back to camp and had a very lovely meal
of sirloin steak (thanks David!!) washed down with some nice SA wine - it had been a super day.
The sun came back to stay the next day and we had a beautiful journey back to Maun and The Old Bridge. I don't think any of us talked for the whole 4 hours - we were just transfixed with the beautiful view and the sensation of whizzing over the lake-like river. We stopped a couple of times when elephants were crossing and sped up at other times when there were hippos nearby. On our return to the Old Bridge, we met up with a local lad called Ryno who would be taking us in his car to Namibia the following day. We were sad to be leaving so soon but there's no doubt that we'll all be back some day.
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