Botswana at independence was one of the poorest countries in the world. It’s now one of the richest countries in Africa. It’s democratic and politically stable. It’s fortunes were transformed by the discovery of diamonds near Orapa in 1967. Botswana’s biggest problem is AIDS – 36 percent of young adults are infected.
It’s a vast country with a tiny population and large pristine wildernesses. The most spectacular of the wildernesses is the Okavando Delta. The waters of the Okavando river spread out, to be swallowed eventually by the sands of the Kalahari desert. The delta is a vast 15,000 km maze of lagoons, channels and islands.
I camped in the delta, traveling across the shallow waters in a mokoro – a shallow dugout canoe. The area is protected, we couldn’t wash properly for several days as you are not allowed to use soap to wash in the Delta!
For those of you that follow my blogs regularly, there is news about Jacob Zuma. Jacob Zuma was the deputy president of South Africa. He was sacked by Thabo Mbeki whilst I was camping in the Delta. Zuma has not been convicted of anything, but a business man, Schabir Shaik who was his friend has been convicted of corruption. The point is, Zuma is the man that Shaik has been convicted of corrupting. The case came to court because of a dodgy arms deal with a French company. Zuma had a lot of friends in the ANC, which made it a difficult decision to sack him. Some say its all just a conspiracy. After Zuma was sacked the authorities also called his bluff – he has now been charged. Also, Mbeki has now replaced Jacob Zuma with a woman as Deputy President.
Anyway, returning this blog to where I left off on the last entry. On June 13th at about midday I crossed the border from Zambia into Botswana.
I crossed the border into Botswana at about midday. At 2pm, when we arrived at the camp we booked an evening cruise through the Chobe Safari lodge. We rushed back to the Thebe River lodge camp to set up our tents. We were in a hurry as the river tour started at 3pm. We saw a lot of game on the river cruise through Chobe National Park. The tour ended just after sunset. Andrew made it clear that he didn’t like the camp we were staying in – he had no say, and told us some horror stories about the place.
We got up at 5am for a 6am start on a wildlife drive through Chobe National Park. It was freezing cold, we saw a number of animals but no large cats. There were huge herds of elephants and water buffalo in the park.
We returned to the camp at 10am and left straight away. At Nata we dropped off Nigel, Pam and Claire. They intended to catch a bus from there. We continued to drive on, arriving at Maun at 4.30pm. Maun is the major gateway for trips into the Okavando Delta. In the evening we ate in the camp’s bar.
Today was the start of our trip into the Delta. We got up at 6am, packing only enough for the trip. At 7.30am we left for the Delta. It was a 2 and a half hour drive over some very bumpy dirt tracts.
At 10am we finally arrived at the delta, getting into a mokoro. A mokoro is a type of dug out canoe, propelled by poles. The polers got us to our camp site at 11.30am, where we set up and had lunch. After lunch we played cards, and then hid from the heat of the day. At 4pm we went for a game walk on the island we were camped on. The mokoro guide explained to us how to behave if we did stumble over potentially dangerous animals. For instance, if you meet a Lion don’t run! It will think you are prey. Stand still, and stare it down. During our walk it became very obvious that the waters of the Delta were rising very quickly. We were kept company by a croc and a hippo on the opposite bank from where we were staying. They appeared to be keeping an eye on us.
When the sun went down, a very noisy frog chorus started, to be joined later in the night by the hippo section.
We got up at 6.15am in order to go on an early morning game walk. We saw various animals.
When we returned to camp the mokoro guide told us that we would have to move camp. The place were we had been dropped off was no longer usable. The waters had risen, which meant that our transport was going to have to pick us up from much further away. In order to get to the pick up point in time we were going to have to travel for several hours both today and tomorrow. We weren’t keen, but we really didn’t have any choice. So, we left our camp at 11.30am.
As we left the camp we had to dodge a hippo which was still bathing in the waters on the opposite bank, to where we had been camped. We kept a close look out for hippo pools and crocs throughout our journey. The polers were driving the mokoro’s very fast, in order to cover as much ground as possible. At 1.30pm the polers found us another site, so we stopped and set up camp. During the afternoon we watched an elephant on the opposite bank to where we were camping. The elephant moved from the opposite bank and passed around and behind us.
Again as night fell the frog chorus started, to be joined later in the night by the roar of lions.
We had decided not to do an early morning walk, so we were able to lie in till 7.30 for an 8.30am start. We raced down the channels of the Delta in the mokoro’s, only stopping to take a picture of a dead Zebra in the water.
The mokoro’s got to the pick up point at 10.30am. The truck drove us back to the camp in Maun, where we had a meal in the camp’s bar at 1.30pm. After lunch we did a shopping trip in Maun to get some supplies. Then we returned to camp and rested for 2 hours. In the evening I made the evening meal, the first time I’ve cooked in 7 months! I didn’t poison anyone and no one complained.
I woke up at 4am, although I didn’t need to get up till 5am. At 4am I couldn’t get back to sleep. At 5am we packed up, ate breakfast in the dark, leaving the camp-site at 6am.
We had an early lunch stop. The petrol station we stopped at, although it had a shop didn’t want to sell us anything. We got something at a nearby supermarket, although it wasn’t much as it was a very badly stocked shop. So, all we had to eat was junk. This was more of a problem for Alison, as she needs to eat regularly.
At 1.30pm we finally arrived at the Khama 11 Rhino Sanctuary. We set up camp and Alison ate some bread and peanut butter. She lay down for an hour as she wasn’t feeling so well. An hour later, Alison was feeling better. So, at 2.30pm we went on a game drive of the Rhino sanctuary. It was a while before we finally saw some white Rhino. There are 30 Rhino in the sanctuary.
We returned to the camp. Alison made the meal which was very good. The neighbouring camp-site were very noisy, they were still going at midnight. To add to our travails, it was a very cold night.
SUNDAY 19th JUNE
Again I woke up early at 5.30am. The other 2 got up at 6.15am for a 7.30am departure.
We drove all day, except for a stop for the border formalities and a stop for lunch. We were returning to Jozie (Jo’burg). At 4 pm I was dropped off at the Backpackers Ritz in Jozie. It was the end of the camping tour. The Backpackers Ritz charge R185
for a single room and R85 for a bed in a dormitory. I took a single room.
The Backpackers Ritz is in a safe upmarket area. In the evening I walked 10 minutes to the Hyde Park Mall, where I got myself an evening meal.
The next instalment of this blog will be from Madagascar, I’ll have to use my French again. So, tune in for the next instalment.