Into the Okavango Delta

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April 1st 2014
Published: April 22nd 2014
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Monday March 24
Up again to greet a new day and head to the city of Maun, Botswana. We arrived at Maun about 2 pm and we had to prepare for our trip into the Okavango Delta.

A river delta usually leads to the open sea right???? But in Botswana the Okavango River empties onto open land and floods the savannah. 18,000 acres of this swamp land!!! that is unique to this area in the world ONLY!!!

Preparing for the 2 days in the Delta meant we each needed to buy 5 liters of water, choose carefully the ONE set of extra clothes we needed and prepare ourselves for extreme "out in the wilderness" camping. No power, no showers and no toilet. So...... prepare meant physically as well as mentally wrapping our heads around this unique adventure. After setting up camp in Maun, we relaxed by the pool until dinner time. Dinner was a yummy all you can eat buffet at the hotel's restaurant. I think they were fattening us up for the depravation that was in store for the next couple of days. Yikes!!!!
We were tucked in bed early to wake up and be ready for our 7:30 leave time.

Tuesday March 25
Up at 6:30, done breaky and clean up by 7:30. Our Afri-Tour open air Safari truck arrived right at 7:30 and proceeded to load up our gear. We could certainly tell this wasn't their first try at this rodeo. Very efficiently and expertly the truck was loaded with all our gear. Pots, pans, utensils, groceries, tents, sleeping mats, clothes, bedding and of course our water.
We left the city of Maun and headed into the country. After about a half hour drive on hard packed sand roads with huge potholes filled with water we arrived at the edge of the Delta. A group of 8 young men from the nearby community met us, introduced themselves and off we went into a 2 person Mokoro. A Mokoro is a flat bottom canoe styled boat that is now made of fiberglass. It used to be made from the gum tree, but too many of these Gum trees were being cut down so the government stepped in and offered to supply the fiberglass if the people would stop cutting down these trees. everyone agreed and so the traditional Mokoro is now a contemporary version. The Mokoro is operated by a person who stands at the back of the canoe and navigates the path using long pole. Incredible balance and good core strength required. Especially when the MoKoro is filled with people and supplies. Our Mokoro poler's name was Boys and Dick and Sue had Kanda. Getting into this low boat was tricky, but even trickier was the ability not to help steer with your body. These polers know best how to balance and steer the boat and any movements from the passengers would just make his job more difficult. Easier said than done when you are just an inch or two from crocodile infested waters. Ok, Ok ....I didn't really see any crocodiles, but someone said they were there!!!!!! Actually, after the first 10 minutes of sheer panic and allowing the poler to have complete control it was a relaxing 1.5 hour ride through the reeds of the Delta to our campsite for the next 2 nights. We arrived at our island home, unloaded the Mokoros and set up camp.....I'm telling you....setting up our tent seems to be getting easier with each night. Still not my favorite place or accommodation, but no one's ever going to call me a wimp!!! After setting up, we were divided into 2 groups and with a leader for each group we went on a walk to find animals. Found lots of aardvark holes and termite mounds, but little else. Oh wait......we did see some zebras. If nothing else it was an interesting walk with our guide!!! I think they didn't know what else to do with us so thought a walk would be a good idea.....what do you suppose we would have done if we would have seen a lion or a leopard!!! After our hour of exercise we came back to lamb steaks cooking on the open fire! WOW!! what a great meal we had that night. As we sat around the fire, joking and laughing with our group, we were awwed to be able to look up into the skies and see the most stars I think I had ever seen. Falling asleep was again kinda of an issue for me!!! Dead quiet, pitch black and in a strange place!!! A recipe for sleeping with my flashlight on all night. Rene.....well, he hit his mat and was snoring in about 3 seconds!

Wednesday March 26,

Today was another day of exploring the Okanvango Delta. More rides in the Mokoro and then another walk.....a 3 hour walk. It actually felt really great to walk and explore a new land. Not an animal in sight, but kinda felt like a hunter looking for the animals. After our 3 hour walk, we all went to the ''swimming pool''. The swimming pool is just an area of the Delta where there are not thick reeds. So into the pool we went. While we were in the pool some of our group took Mokoro poling lessons. With the help of an EXPERT, whoever wanted to could take a turn and learn this new skill. We had some time to relax, read, play cards and nap and then at 5 o'clock back into the Mokoros for a sunset ride through the Delta. Again a lovely trip through the thick reeds to see an incredible sunset!

Back for another great dinner and after dinner we were entertained by the African group that was with us. They sang some traditional songs and performed some dancing. Some serious singing and dancing and some silly stuff. After a interesting day of exploring the Okavango Delta we fell into our tents for another quiet, dark sleep.

Thursday March 27,

Woke up to birds singing and the sun shining. We packed up our tents, mats, bedding, clothes, pots, pans, dishes, utensils and every thing else except the water! No water left.....we all drank our 5 litres each. After breaky, we loaded up our Mokoros for the trip back through the Delta to head back to the city of Maun. On our way back we went through a hippo pond.....and yup...there was a hippo very close to our Mokoros. The guides quickly maneuvered our rides through the hippo pond and into the safety of the reeds. Didn't get to be the hippos' lunch today!! After we paid our polers, thanked them for the experience, we rode back to Maun. We all ran to see who was going to be the first in the shower. Ahhhhhh.......the restorative powers of clean, fresh water, soap and shampoo!!!! After scrubbing layers of dirt, sunscreen, mosquito spray, sweat and Okavango Delta....."stuff" off, we all felt human again.

At about 4 pm a few of us went on a 45 minute plan ride over the Delta. It was amazing!!! We saw how the Delta looked from above. And of course we saw animals.......lots of animals from high in the sky.

Again that evening back at the pool area, we saw more African singers and dancers and after playing a game or two of pool (I think Dick and Sue won one game and Rene and I won the next)...... and having a couple of cocktails we called it a night. The best part of this night was that it was the LAST night in the tent!!!! I gotta say....I was not sad to say good-bye to my green canvas 2 man accommodations!!!! And......not sure I EVER want to see the inside of a tent again......well, living with Rene, I have learned to NEVER say Never!!!!

Friday March 28,

The following morning we were up and on our way again. Just after leaving the city of Maun, we made a left turn and within minutes we were driving in the Kalahari Desert. The Kalahari Desert is a sand desert, but covered with grasses and shrubs. 70% of Botswana is covered by the Kalahari Desert and most of this desert is filled with grazing cattle, goats and donkeys. There are thousands and thousands of cows, goats and donkeys and it seemed that there were at least one thousand just hanging out on the highway. As our driver, Fitz, was barreling down the highway at speeds of at least 120 kms, he would have to quickly hit the brakes as to swerve around the highway animals. Crazy animals just hanging out in the middle of the highway. One time when we stopped I told Fitz that I thought I could see a new dent on the Overlander from where he not so gently pushed a donkey out of the way!!! Of course I was joking......but seriously had to hold my breath and cover my eyes a couple of times!!!! Of course he was an expert at avoiding those silly critters and we all arrived at our next destination safely. Botswana also has the world's biggest diamond mine.......therefore making Bostwana one of Africa's most stable and wealthy counties.

We arrived at our next destination, the Khama Rhino Sanctuary at about 2:30. We unloaded our gear into our chalet and after freshening up just a little, we were met by another open air safari truck and we embarked on our last animal safari of the trip. Off we went to check out some Rhinos. Wait, I guess the proper term for several Rhino is rhinoceros or rhinoceroses. We didn't just see a rhinoceros or rhinoceroses or two, rather we saw Mamma Rhinos, Pappa Rhinos, baby Rhinos, Black Rhinos, White Rhinos and even a dwarf did we see rhinoceroses . Not only did we see Rhinos....we saw, Wildebeests, kudos, impalas, zebras, giraffes and warthogs. And to finish the day just right, we saw another wonderful sunset. It was a wonderful day and then, how wonderful to crawl into a comfy bed.

Saturday March 29,

We woke early to get on the road early. This was going to be a full day of travel back to Johannesburg, South Africa. We got an early start and just travelled down the highway. Because of the flooding in Botswana we were not able to cross into South Africa where the tour had planned so we had to add another 70 km onto our trip and cross the border at an alternate crossing. We also had another detour. We were stopped on the highway by the police and told that in a town in front of us the people were having some sort of demonstration. These people were stopping vehicles, throwing stones and slashing tires. So......around we went. The detour we had to take though took us on a sand road. At one point the dust from the semi in front of us was so thick, we couldn't see anything in front of us!! All the windows in the Overlander were closed and with no air-conditioning, it proceeded to get pretty warm!!! Better warm than covered in dust we all decided. After a couple of hours on the sand road, we were back on the highway and Fitz was making up for lost time.

We arrived in Johannesburg at about 5:00 pm. We had reservations in a B&B in Soweto. After cleaning the dust off we headed out to explore the Township of Soweto. Our B&B was one block away from Vilakazi St. Nelson Mandela's house as well as the home of Archbishop Desmond Tutu's are on this street. The street is also the street in Soweto to see and be seen. We saw NO ONE!! (of importance that is!!) Had a great meal in a great restaurant, explored the night life on the street and called it a night.

Sunday March 30,

Had a little bit of a sleep in this morning as we were scheduled to go on a bicycle tour of Soweto but not until about 10 am. At about 9:30 we jumped back into the Overlander and met more folks at the Backpackers Hostel for our bicycle tour. From about 11-2 we biked through the township of Soweto... Soweto is South Africa's biggest township with about 1 million people living in often terrible conditions. Soweto is a city of contrasts: huge mansions across the road from tin shanties. There are green fields and clean streams around the corner from piles of garbage. It boasts the biggest public hospital in the world with the world's highest HIV infection rate, and a friendliness and cheerfulness that disguises a high unemployment rate. It really is difficult to wrap your head around these differences and how the differences seem to work together. There is so much history and so many interesting stories that are part of what makes Soweto a tourist destination. To much for this blog, but interesting to explore further should you feel inclined!!! 😊

At 2:30 we said our final good-byes to our tour mates. Also, good-bye to our tour guide, our cook and our driver!!! What a great 15 days with this group! Our flight to Amsterdam was not leaving until 11:30 p.m., so about 3:30 we headed out to a mall for a few hours. After spending a few hours in a contemporary mall, we showered, finished packing our belongings and at about 7:30 pm our taxi came to deliver us to the airport. Into the air and away from Africa we flew.

March 31, 2014

We arrived in Amsterdam at about 10:30 AM and took the train to Hardiwijk. We spent the day with Rene and Susan's Aunt. We had a very nice visit with her and 2 cousins of Rene and Susan. We spent the night with Tante Rit (tante is aunt for you un-dutch folks) and in the morning caught the train back to Amsterdam to head back to our beloved home.

April 01, 2014

Well.....flying from Amsterdam to Edmonton we lost an entire night!!! We arrived back in Edmonton at about 7:30 pm and AManda and Natalie met us at the airport!!! What a lovely welcoming home we got. Our 4 year old grand-daughter talked non-stop for the 45 minutes it took us to get back to Spruce Grove. What a funny kid and oh how we missed our kids and grandkids!!! So nice to go away and explore this big wonderful world, but SO nice to come home to the ones we love.

And so my family and friends.....

Into Africa.......we went well.....and we know......

that you...... Stayed well.......

Additional photos below
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22nd April 2014

sharing your trip
what an awesome and beautiful experience..myself and Ed went to Australia last Nov. for 15 days..Its my thrill of a lifetime..and seems you guys had yours...great memories..thanks for sharing beautiful
8th May 2016

Okavango delta
Dreaming to visit there at least once in my life. Your article is good with pretty good pictures. Have a plan to visit Kenya sometime next year. I am 66 years now. Not much time left to see the world. P.K. Shome India

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