Trip Start Jul 19, 2009
148Trip End Oct 25, 2010
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Right, here we go.
Set off Friday nice and early, the backpackers' boat took about eight of us to Boro, that's the gate where the mokoros are waiting to take you into the delta. I was the only one going solo and feeling slightly apprehensive about meeting my poler. That turned out to be Adam, who seemed to be a pleasant enough chap, 29 years old, married and a two-year old daughter.
What else? He loaded my stuff into his mokoro and then followed a one and a half hour trip to Mariku, one of the bigger islands of the swamp, where we set up camp, correction, he did. A wonderful, shady spot. Then Adam stood up to make an official statement of what we would be doing the next days but I waved it away. 'Just you and me, let's play it by ear.' 'Okay, if that's what you want', he said but sounding unsure. 'Don't worry,' I said, 'that is what I want.'
He smiled. Good man.
I took a peek at the kitchen equipment I rented, hmm, very basic but I'll survive, anyway, I like a challenge, don't I? Adam built a small fire and put on a pot of water with the awful looking meat he had been carrying with him. 'Now you can relax till 4 o' clock,' he said. Relax for 5 hours? We just got here. 'Too hot,' he explained. Ja, that made sense.
Well, I'll read, I'll write, I'll...fall asleep. I woke up with a start an hour later to see Adam sitting on a log staring at me. 'Are you all right?' he asked kindly. Yeah, what happened, I never sleep during the day. 'Maybe some lunch?' he suggested. Why not, though I have no appetite at all, I'll make him some bacon and eggs.
Those must have been the worst I ever cooked, the bacon just wouldn't turn crispy and stuck stubbornly to the pan, the eggs too, the whites now a hard plastic-like texture, the yokes runny and slimy. But Adam scraped the mess onto his plate and tucked in.
'Anything you'd like to do?' he asked. 'Yes, I'd love to swim.'
Then followed the best hours I've had this trip. Just being in the mokoro is already a treat, it's like floating through an endless painting of Monet. Gliding through the lilies and reeds that pass you by at eye level, you sit that low in the boat. Soothing, the pace, the rhythm of the long pole dipping noiselessly, up and down, pushing you on, no waves, just ripples, gently, gently. Ah...
We followed the streams till we reached a big black pool, surrounded by more lilies, white, pink and blue, some little yellow flowers, and a border of reeds to set it off. It must be the most luring place to swim in the world, no architect or artist could ever design a pool so perfect to please all your senses. The colours, the sounds of the insects and birds, the sensation of the water, warm and then suddenly cool, the tiny fish that swim trustingly into your cupped hands, the weeds that tickle your legs and catch your feet.... now float on your back and gaze at the skies.
Paradise, heaven? Words often used to describe what you can't really describe. Pure joy will have to do
Back at the camp we quietly sipped our luke-warm ciders, then Adam explained the sunset walk we were going to do. He was eager to show me the wild animals and much as I love them for me that is not of overriding importance. Like many other guides he did not understand this. Never mind, we walked and he was excited when he spotted some hippos in the distance. 'There, there,' he pointed, but my untrained eye couldn't make them out between the bushes and reeds. He was disappointed. 'Look, there.' No.
'Let's move closer,' I suggested. Big eyes, 'No, I am afraid they get aggressive.' I turned away and said: 'But just look at the glorious sunset.'
Adam's meat had been boiling all day. On return he lifted the lid and looked at me. 'You want some?' No fear. He put my pan of chicken on too. I was not hungry and told him he was welcome to it if he still had room. He had.
It was dark now and I was feeling sleepy. What time is it? 7.30 pm. What?! That's children's bedtime, I refuse to go to bed at that hour. I shall read. Oh, just remembered, my reading glasses snapped in two in my pocket when I bent to pick something up. The second pair I broke, along with my sunglasses. Same thing happened last trip, so I came well prepared, at least another 3 pair with me, but not here. Damn, I need those glasses. If only I had some sticky tape. Hold on, the plasters, I've got loads of them.....
Well, the two halves were hanging together for dear life, now all I needed was a torch.
Let me explain about the torches. Again, I wanted to come to Africa well prepared, better 1 too many than 1 short, I thought when packing 1 medium torch that also functions as a light, 1 small army thing, 2 clip-on reading lights, a head torch and two tiny gadgets (one also a bottle opener) that have a bright little beam,very handy to slip in your pocket. All had brand new batteries and I brought 12 extra along. On arrival all were dead, something that happened in the plane? New batteries. A mere flicker from one, the 2 reading-lamps I had already thrown away as they were cheap rubbish and falling apart. Seemed to have lost the gadgets and army torch was broken, Adam has that now, god knows why.
So I have no torch. It is pitch black here, what if I have to pee in the night, or worse, what if I am frightened?
'Here, take my mobile,' says Adam. Ha, I've got a mobile, a smart phone it's called. I think that means you have to be really clever to figure it out. Thank god I brought it along. Where is it? Long search in the dark, and yep, got it. I know it has a torch function but I don't know how to find it. The screen gives off light but it switches itself off every minute. Try lying on a sloping mattress, crooked glasses sliding off your nose, holding a mobile that has to be started up again every 60 seconds and read a book you don't particularly like anyway. Not to mention swotting off the flies and ants.
Oh, the ants. Today, without even thinking I nipped something crawling under my t-shirt between finger and thumb. I felt it crunch and without even looking to see what it was, I just lifted my shirt and shook it to the ground. Amazing, no? And I'll tell you something else I've learned: Don't bring white linen pants on a camping trip to the Okavango delta, specially if all else you've packed is a floaty skirt and some silly shorts :)
What was I thinking of when packing my stuff? I remember trying not to disturb the sleeping men, I should have done it earlier, preparing is looking ahead, not fumbling in the dark. But then again, would it have been more fun wearing jeans and a headlight?
Nah, fumbling in the dark is just a different way of seeing things... and maybe more amusing than being prepared for all eventualities...