Down in the Delta Blues

Trip Start Oct 29, 2003
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Botswana  ,
Friday, October 20, 2006

After farewells to 5 peeps from Trip One it was hello to 11 new ones for Trip Two down to Cape Town. The good news is that there were more younger people, and the bad that there were two even older than the Luvvies!

So after three days trying to keep hold of my shoes and shirts we left the troubles of Zimbabwe behind us. (The best souvenir is my new book mark: a one Zim dollar note worth about 0.005 of a penny then but probably 0.003 at time of writing).

Botswana is how an Africa country can work. For the first time on the trip we were not hassled at the border and we didn't even have to pay to get in! The roads aren't pot-holed and the only delays are caused by waiting for elephants and ostriches to cross the road. We stopped at a grocery store and could immediately see from the shelves being full of food - I splurged on some wine gums - that Botswana is quite prosperous - but then again after Zimbabwe even Canvey Island looks prosperous.

There is one simple reason for this: a stable government that isn't too corrupt. The former Bechuanaland was granted independence from Britain in 1966 - about two years before three of the world's richest diamond deposits were found. Unlike other countries in the region similarly rich in minerals (see Angola, Sierra Leone or Congo) the leaders have not squandered their riches or been involved in vicious civil wars.

Our first stop was Chobe National Park which we spent on the river looking for crocs, elephants, tigers and buffalo. Unfortunately we shared a boat with a bunch of hairy-legged German grandmothers. Fortunately there were plenty of animals to keep us occupied.

Next up was a three day bush camp in the Okavango Delta, which just happens to be the world's largest inland river delta. It's an enormous marshy area home to all sorts of wildlife but we had to get there in traditional dugout canoes called makoros. With two people in each, plus all our tents and food for three days we were slowly poled out by a group of local guides, mainly women. With all our gear and the low cut of the canoe we started to take on a lot of water and so it wasn't long before me and Mama Africa were sitting in a pool of brackenish water swatting - probably malarial - mossies and getting fried in the sun. It was only two hours later when we got to set up camp on an island and had lunch. After that we, well we did nothing. It was too hot to do anything and there was nowhere to walk anyway. A bush walk was planned in the evening on another island but even then we didn't see anything.

The next day we did nothing except a longer early-morning bush walk where we saw lots of zebras (not zeebras as the Canadians insisted) and lots of elephant poo. We then had eight hours to kill before the evening wet-arsed boat ride to see some hippos. With nothing to do we were driven to play frisbee with a metal plate (another note to Canadians: learn to throw, eh). Even the insects were bored as I spotted a load of dragonflies hanging out in some bushes so I started taking photos of them which seemed to brighten their day as much as mine.

We woke on the final morning in the delta to a torrential downpour. Needless to say, we got soaked going back in the makoros and we were all glad to get back to basecamp with it's showers and dry little bar playing good tunes. At least this night we went to sleep happy, but it wasn't long before we had to pack up camp again and hit the road.
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