Zambezi Ferry Again
Our Truck (Not Bus)
After over a week in quaint Livingstone with all our laundry done and everything to be seen and done completed (ok, not the bungi jumping off the bridge but there is no way I was gonna do that), we were champing at the bit to get on the road again. For this leg we are traveling on a overland truck with 15 other people, our CEO (Chief Experience Officer - guide, fixer, cook, nursemaid) Chris from RSA, driver Lawrence from RSA and our big-assed truck (see pic). Our first leg took us through a bit of a reapeat of our Botswana trip (Chobe, Okavango, Maun) and on through to Windhoek, Namibia, but it was much quicker and there were sights, overnight stays and activities unique to both trips and any repetition was more than welcome as I have really grown to love Botswana. Rather than give a repetative blow-by-blow account, I am going to highlight the 3 or four things we saw and experienced that differed from our previous trip.
This trip is also 'participation camping' in tents similar to our previous trip and folks divided into groups of 3 rotating through various chores and tasks like meal prep (helping
Chris), wash up, truck packing (and keepng ice in the drink coolers), truck cleanup and everyone's favourite - day off. (Mon adds that the biggest 'luxury' she feels she has given up is a good night's sleep, as the bigger camp grounds are a lot noisier, particularly if there are drinkers in the other groups...)
On Friday, 8 February 2012, we said goodbye to Livingstone and Zambia and headed for the Zambezi Ferry to Botswana. We crossed over without a hitch and made our way to a campground outside Kasane for our first night; the trip was breaking us in gently at the start. This was our Chobe Park base from which we not only did a morning game drive along the river but also an evening/sunset boat game drive along the Chobe River. All 16 of us along with the folks from another overland truck enjoyed seeing crocodiles, elephants, numerous birds and most especially, hippos out of the water beginning their nightly grass feeding frenzy, while we enjoyed a few drinks we brought along in a cooler. It was extremely interesting seeing this area that we had gone through before on land.
When we got to Maun,
after a night at a campground that had so many baobab trees we felt like "Little Princes" (and the camp exploited that literary referencce as well), we headed out on boats again. This time we were to spend 2 nights 'bush camping' on an island in the Okavango Delta. First we took a motor launch to the 'poling station', then switched back to mokoros. We were all a bit trepidatious because of all the rain we've had reccently. We could both notice a rise in the water level from ten days earlier. But the rain mostly held off during the days. About half of our ten or so boats (some devoted to luggage) were poled by women, both younger and older. This was nice to see, as very few African women are seen in the guiding-type roles in tourism. And they are strong! Both stamina and upper body strength are required.
We had a short walk the first afternoon, and a much longer one the next morning before the sun was too hot. We saw zebra, giraffe, antelope, warthog and even an elephant, from ground level. The polers camped with us to provide the various activities, including a sunset
Heading Out To The Delta
(L to R) Lindsey, Johnny, Cara, Kathrine, Peter
mokoro ride the second day. We even got to swim in the very clear Delta waters (with Mon watching for crocs the whole time). The water is constantly filtered through the reeds and water lilies as it flows from Angola. One young African woman poler even made a 'straw' from a lily stem and drank right out of the Delta!
After we were back in Maun and had much needed showers and did some laundry, a few of us took a scenic flight over the Delta. It was great to get this bird's eye perspective on the rising waters, as you can't see very far over the reeds from the mokoro. You could clearly see how the water seeps in and slowly fills pools, ponds and streams. I would say they were then at about 3/4 towards normal high. And each stream and pool has dozens of pathways leading from it into the surrounding bush, made by animals over the years and used again and again. We saw large groups of elephants, some hippos, giraffe, a herd of buffalo and many impala. The hour in the air with pilot Simon (the only way to identify the flight on our
boarding passes) was well worth it.
Unfortunately we had some truck trouble that afternoon and were told that we would be exchanging trucks with the G Adventures north-bound group, who were arriving in Maun the next day to begin their 2 night bush camp. We transferred all our gear over to their truck, 'borrowed' their driver who effectively lost his 2 days off, and set off a few hours late to our next destination, Ghanzi, near the Namibia border on the Trans-Kalahari Highway. We arrived in the dark to light rain so several of us jumped at the idea of having an 'upgrade' to accommodations off the ground. For $5 each, these were 'beehives' made of straw and set over concrete floors. They had real beds, and even an electric light, but the door consisted of a bamboo 'gate' that was merely placed in front of the opening, presumably to 'discourage' any larger animals from entering. We had mosquito nets, and didn't hear any wildlife larger than birds.
The next morning, under a clear sky, we had a nature walk with a group of San 'Bushmen' (not all were men, that is just the name of their tribe,
Lindsey In a Mokoro
On the Way To Our Delta Campsite
there were several women young and old in the group who participated equally in the presentation). They arrived in traditional dress and I was worried at first this was going to be another 'show' for the tourists. But it became clear from the interpreter and their presentation that they still live off the land pretty basically. They did not speak English, but proudly addressed us in their language which includes many clicking and gutteral sounds that are hard to reproduce. They showed us how they collect and and use various plants and roots, which they can make into teas for stomach or joint ailments. There is even a 'bush viagra' that had them all laughing heartily. One womal demonstrated how she combines various herbs, a wild onion, and a handfull of 'salty' ants, gently patted from the sandy earth, to make a tasty 'salad', although it has to be squeezed in a lump with the still live ants in the middle and stuffed whole into the mouth to be chewed. The young men demonstrated how grated water-tubers dug from the ground were first squeezed to wash the hands, then squeezed to extract the water to drink (as much as you'd
get from an orange).
After packing up the breakfast gear we set off for the Namibia border and arrived in Windhoek at an actual hotel! More on that next time folks.
B. (with help from M.)
Sorry folks. Internet too slow. Check back later and we will try to add more photos.
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