Botswana, Namibia, Botswana..wait where are we?

Trip Start Aug 26, 2012
Trip End Dec 22, 2013

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Leaving Vic Falls we had a short drive to Chobe National Park in Botswana were we spent two nights and took park in a morning game drive and a late afternoon river cruise on the Chobe River. In between the two activities it was poolside to try and beat the heat.  The morning game drive was all about the elephants as Chobe has the highest concentration of elephants.   As well we saw some impala, kudu, a wide variety of birds including a pelican with a broken wing and finally I got to see a hippo out of the water!  We heard on the radio that there was a leopard spotted but by the time we got to the tree, it was gone.  We came across an elephant carcass that had recently been burned because it had contracted anthrax. It was explained to us that they burn it to stop the spread of disease to the other animals who will feast on the carcass.  At the time there must have been 100 turkey vultures feasting away, and a few resting nearby as they had indulged too much.

The river cruise was a great way to see the park animals up close and in action.  We saw two brother elephants swimming over to the island to meet up with the rest of the bachelor herd.  There also many crocodiles of various sizes and saw one mama nesting.  Hippos were coming up from underwater left, right and center of our boat with one coming up right beside us give us all a scare.  Even the guide was a little uneasy after that.   A few of the hippos also opened their mouths wide open, a defense mechanism to scare us off.  We also got to learn about the history of the Chobe River and the conflict that occurred in the past over the ownership of an island in the middle of the river as the river is the border between Zambia and Botswana.  A final decision from The Hague awarded the island to Botswana because it fell within the deeper channel on the Botswana side.  

In the evening I was hanging in the lobby of the lodge reading when the tour leader, cook and one other traveller came by and convinced me to come with them for some "local interaction".  Not one to say no to a drink off I went leaving my torch and book at reception.  We hopped into a car that was waiting for us and drove about 10 mins and pulled into a truck stop. Thankfully we continued past and a few metres later pulled up to what literally looked like someone's house and there was a house party going on.  But no it was a bar, an outside one.  I was literally the only white person with the other traveller being dark skinned and felt a little out of my comfort zone oh for all of about 5 mins.  While buying drinks, a couple women came up to us to say hello and started hugging us and telling us they loved us.  Then after we found some crates and a place to sit, she came and joined us with two liter bottles of beer and before she completely sat down she had one between her teeth and opened the bottle in 2 seconds flat! There was a live DJ there and some guys were doing freestyle dancing and they liked the fact that we were watching.   So much so, that when we weren’t they were yelling “watch, watch”.  There was also a huge flat screen TV with a big crowd around watching a soccer game.  Everyone was quite drunk and the people-watching was fantastic though I had to be discreet about.  Come 11pm though they were shutting down and off we went back to camp.  It was a completely random and amazing experience. Definitely a great venue for “local interaction” and I hope I have the opportunity to indulge again.

From Chobe we spent the day driving to Bagani, Nambia.  This was our first day of rain and was welcomed while driving as it kept things cool but, when we arrived at camp to set up tents in the mud and rain it was no longer welcomed.  Thankfully it stopped just before dinner so we could at least eat outside. Plan B was to pile all in the truck.  The next day it was back to Botswana (that’s 6 border crossing in 2 days) and continued south along the Okavango Panhandle to Seronga, which included a 10 minute ferry ride to get to Gao Island to start our journey into the Okavango Delta. The Delta is formed by the Okavango River as it flows from the highlands of Angola down to a basin on the edge of the Kalahari Desert.  The river has no outlet from the desert and spreads out into thousands of small streams to form a wilderness that is totally unspoilt. The 16,000 sq km maze of wetlands is a wonderland of clear meandering waterways, green islands, lush plains and prolific wildlife. The delta is filled with a diversity of flora and fauna that includes hippos, crocodiles, elephants and the big cats.

After packing an overnight bag, we packed out tents and gear into 10 mokoro boats (small dugout canoe) and we were “poled” by local tribesmen and women for over an hour through the meandering waterways created by the hippos to arrive at our bush camp for the night.  Despite the heat and the mid-day sun it was a very peaceful experience. Due to some mis-communication we didn’t realize that we would have some much free time at the camp and nobody brought anything to do. So there was lots of sitting in the afternoon waiting for our sunset mokoro cruise, which turned out to be a bust from a sunset perspective as the clouds rolled in, but we did enjoy a couple of hippos in the water until it was too close for comfort.  Our guides were very nervous about being able to get out of the location we were in and back to camp.  We did make it with no incidents but it was a bit tense.  We then were given a safety briefing back at camp, as hippos and elephants often roam through in the middle of the night.  True to form we did hear a hippo come through in the middle of the night.  The locals stayed with us at the camp and entertained us in the evening but performing some of their traditional dances.  It was very entertaining and we tried to reciprocate by singing some camp songs but nobody knew all the words.  However I don’t think it mattered as the locals were laughing at us anyways.

Early the next morning we were led on a 10k bushwalk around the delta. We had meet another group on the road who was in the delta two days before we were and they told us they saw two prides of lions so we were all excited to see the same.  But as luck would have it, our local guide told us that the lions had moved on.  After another safety briefing about what to do if an elephant or hippo charges us (what the ??) off we went in single file.  We saw some warthogs, impala, a couple elephants in the distance, a woodpecker and more elephant and hippo dung then I could ever think possible and three other tour groups like us.  We had a laugh seeing the other groups as we thought we were all alone on the delta.  The guide also pointed out some plants and vegetation that they use for certain things.  It was an interesting walk and nice to finally get some exercise but I was glad when it was over as it was really getting hot and hunger was setting in. 

Retracing our steps we took the mokoros back to the truck, repacked for another night and then back on the mokoros for a small trip to Umvuvu (means Hippo) Camp with facilities, including tents and beds. How happy were we not to have to put up a tent for a change.  They said that they would take us to a spot where we could go swimming and try poling. Being game, off I went with a few others.  The swimming was nothing more than a patch of water about waist deep and half filled with cow, elephant and hippo dung.  After a very quick dip I jumped in the boat and grabbed my guide and pole.  Poling is very hard to do and my guide assured me he was as bad as I was when he started.  I eventually got the hang of it but was going nowhere fast.  Passing the pole back to the guide it was back to camp we went and straight to the showers to wash off the delta dung.

It was an eventful night at camp as one of our travellers unfortunately had a close encounter with a hippo.  There were two hippos fighting and one was chasing the other through the camp. As she as leaving the bathroom she became face to face with the second hippo. She quickly dove into a bush to hide from the hippo and after a few moments the hippo continued on.  It was a very close call for her and despite being extremely shaken and few thorns in her arms and leg from the bush she is alright.  It was a wake-up call for all of us not to be wandering around camp alone at night.  So after spending some time at the bar it was the buddy system back to the tents.

Despite the hippo encounters my time on the Okavango Delta was very relaxing and peaceful. Travelling by mokoro and interacting with the locals were definitely highlights.  Retracing our steps back up the panhandle the next day we arrived back in Namibia at a campsite walking distance from Rundu which is the border town between Namibia and Angola. The river behind our camp was the boundary and we could look across to Angola.  A good amount of free time and no early morning wake-up call created an impromptu party at the bar in the evening which turned out to be good fun. 
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Julie on

I'm so glad you are enjoying yourself. You look great! I'm so envious.

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