On Wednesday morning I woke up famished and began to charge all of my batteries…two batteries for each camera, my laptop, my berry, etc…
Bruno drove me to the airport around noon only for me to arrive and realize I left my entire envelope of vouchers etc in the room!! A speedy drive back, which was only 5 or 10 minutes…Maun is a pretty small town. I met the rest of the group on the safari with me, and by group I mean one couple…older and from Sweden and really nice….Lena and Gert. I guess somewhere along their travels they had a bag stolen from them which included their visas and malaria pills…OOOOOPS! I think its all sorted out but that’s a big hiccup.
We boarded the plane that would take us into the Okavango Delta. And by plane I mean prop plane with six seats and two for the pilot and co-pilot. I’m not sure I have ever been on a plane this small…maybe in Hawaii to fly over the volcanoes but I mean that was years and years ago…I don’t remember… after about 15 minutes I had had enough…it was only a 25 minute flight which was good but it was upsetting me so I was happy when we landed. We were greeted by our guide, Morgan, and one of the helpers from the camp, Bobby. After the short drive to the camp we were met by the rest of the crew Kibu, Dorcas, and Stanley. Lunch was delicious and already we were watching elephants and giraffes pass by our campsite whilst eating!
We took a “siesta” until about 4PM when we had afternoon tea…similar to Bhutan they have tea/coffee at breakfast, mid-morning and in the afternoon. So for a few hours I relaxed in my tent and read My Sister’s Keeper…I finished the book the next day. Very good read…
After tea we went out for an evening drive and a motor boat ride in the delta. Along the way we saw more elephants and impala, red lechwes, hippos, zebras, and a number of various stunning birds.
Let me chat about the clouds. I’ve always loved and been fascinated with weather and things of the sort…I did really well in my sixth grade Earth Science class with Mr. Argeski. Anyway, the clouds are just like I imagined them…maybe that sounds silly but I had envisioned the delta with lots of little clouds sprawled out over the sky….and the sky was just as magnificent as what I saw in my head…I am absolutely mesmerized by it…the cumulus and cirrus and cumulonimbus and sratus, etc… all of it, especially during sunset which was just spectacular…one of the best sunsets I have ever seen was this one over the delta…just jaw dropping!
As we drove back it was beginning to get dark or rather pitch black…there were TONS of stars…maybe not as many as at Everest Base Camp but a close second. It was beautiful…the big dipper clearly was not there and I found myself wondering which were the constellations in this sky…even more so cuz of the book I was reading – My Sister’s Keeper – which those of you who have read it would understand my curiosity at this point.
So seriously, from the little I have seen so far Botswana is just amazingly gorgeous…it’s these times that my breath is taken away…only in two other places in recent memory do I recall being so taken aback by a country’s beauty and that is Sapa, Vietnam and Bhutan (the whole of it). Especially when the weather is perfect it makes it that much more pleasant to be here. Truly, I am stupefied. These are the days that I am reminded of college (to a much lesser extent but the comparison is still there), leaving the b-school after class and walking outside and loving the day for the sun and perfect temperature…Becky, you know what I’m talking about…those days we would step outside and throw my arms up to sky and sigh in sheer happiness.
The days are long…530 and 600AM wakeup calls so we can see the best animals at their best….it’s not so bad since we have our midday siestas and then we do another game drive in the evening/ night depending on the curfew of the park. The first two nights there is no curfew so we did a little bit of night drives but were still home by 830. We are staying at the Nxabega Camp…nxabega means the place of the giraffe in Bushman language (and friends, Bushman is not a new nickname for me, so lets leave it all behind in high school…theeeenx, hugs). The rides are bumpy but its pretty dry right now so most of the roads are open which is fantastic! Although our vehicle has this handlebar in front of my seat that almost seems at times I am on a roller coaster as I am holding on being thrown in various directions! We’ve seen a few skulls of the animals…remnants of a kill a year or two back…giraffes, hippos, elephants…mostly done by the lions, of which we’ve seen none! Tear. Anyway, apparently the skulls are eventually gone as hyenas eat them…they have extremely strong teeth and use the bones as a way to obtain calcium.
So my two Swedish friends both have this gasp…hers worse than his…its like they have been holding their breath underwater for a minute and are finally coming up for air. Some are more intense than others and I’m still not 100% past it. It doesn’t bother me but when you are on a game drive and someone in your vehicle gasps every 5 or 10 minutes you think they are seeing something so incredible and I whip around to see what it is! I’m almost used to it but I still get fooled every once in a while! And Gert, while seems to be a gentleman, letting his girlfriend use the toilet first always, NEVER EVER leaves the toilet seat down. Tsk tsk tsk
To get to my “home” at the campsite I made a mental note of some markers and where to turn…the one that seemed to work the best was…turn right at the elephant dung. I have this flashlight that helps me get around at night…I can wear it on my head which works out great when you want to go to the bathroom and wash up. Kirsty had one at Everest and I thought it would be very useful in Africa so I picked on up in Bangkok. What I didn’t consider was that in the jungle there are bugs, and bugs are attracted to light and I don’t like bugs in my face. Not a great idea for outside the tent, but inside to read it was very nice to have.
Throughout our stay we had a number of monkeys who essentially lived in our area… They want your food and they want to get away with something. The monkeys have gone for the water basins, knocking them over and the food on the table, etc…The morning we were leaving we were visited by a dozen monkeys…they are just so funny and amusing to watch. I decided that maybe I would play with them to entertain myself. I know they saw me so they bounced up and down to see if I flinch, an indication that I see them as well…when I don’t flinch they think they can come closer and take the leftover food or the like…anyway, I’d let them make their way towards me and then flinch at the last minute and watch them scurry off…it was a fun little game that made me smile for like 5 minutes.
On our drives, Bobby came along with us while Morgan drove. Bobby was sort of like our radar system except for animals….he did a pretty good job although we haven’t seen any cats yet…he was also my mokoro (very similar to a wooden canoe although now they have to be made from fiberglass) driver the last morning at Nxabega. The ride was great…Bobby showed me how the local men let the girls know they are interested…they take a lily flower and use the stem to make a necklace out of it…he says then the girls know “something is going on here”. It was beautiful to be so close to the water…he pointed out these tiny little frogs that make the incredible music at night – not your typical ribbit. There are also a ton of cicadas and crickets and birds and such at night, which is so similar to the sounds at home, but yet so different when you throw in these frogs and the various bird calls, as well as hippos grunting, hyenas howling, and an elephant trumpeting which are unheard of in suburban America. So Bobby and I also chatted about CC Africa. I was curious how long he worked for them and if he liked the company…obviously just to get an idea of how the employees are treated here and he seemed genuinely very happy with the company, especially compared to the others out there (gathered from his talks with other employees from other companies). He lives at the camp for 2 months at a time or so…gets days off when no one is there to go to the lodge…another break for 11 days and holiday for 24 days. It’s obviously difficult to raise a family he says but he loves what he does. Obviously I was happy to hear it.
It’s sort of weird that as I am on the safari I keep thinking ahead and almost wanting it to be over (I have actually felt this way all along my travels). I really don’t want it to be over but I am so looking forward to seeing EVERYTHING and taking photographs and then getting to share it all with you. I am a little overexcited about it. It’s a little frustrating cuz I know that once it is over I will only want to be back there. I guess maybe the positive is that I am sincerely enjoying myself and I already know this is a place I definitely want to come back to again at another point in my life.