Into Africa

Trip Start Jan 16, 2008
Trip End Apr 27, 2008

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Flag of Botswana  ,
Tuesday, February 5, 2008

It's been a long time since we last had any contact with the outside world, except for watching England lose the rugby to Wales on a TV in the middle of Botswana. However, the last two weeks have undoubtedly been some of the best days on the trip so far. I'm currently sitting in Rundu and we've got a few hours to kill after coming out of the Okavango Delta earlier this morning.

But first, let's go back to when I last managed to write on here, from Swakopmund. Swakopmund is the Namibian backpackers' party town on the West coast. It's also the adrenaline capital of the country and while I was there I took the chance to go quadbiking over the dunes. I'm new to quad biking but nevertheless went in the 'fast' group to get a bit of a thrill. We raced at 110km/h over the dunes, jumping and crashing down. The fast group started with 8 people and ended with just 3. Some decided it wasn't for them, other were forced out - going down one of the dunes, the girl in front of me managed to flip her bike over her. She was lucky to escape with just a broken collerbone and was unconcious for a few minutes. Quad bikes are dangerous, but brilliant...

The next day we headed up North for our first bush camp - camping in the middle of nowhere, with no showers or power, and far from any towns. We stayed at Spitzkoppe which are a set of volcanic rocks which jut out from the otherwise flat desert which stretches for miles around. In the middle of the rocks is a cave with an open roof, so instead of sleeping in tents we decided to camp out around a fire in the cave. The sunset that night was incredible and we hiked up to the top of the rocks to get the best view.

Further North we stayed at Cheetah Park, which splitm opinion amongst the group we're travelling with. Namibia has the World's highest population of cheetahs, and as such they are considered pests by farmers who try to kill them. Cheetah Park offers to relocate rogue cheetahs to their 600acre farm and they currently have 23 cheetahs there. Some people think this is wrong as cheetah are naturally solitary animals, but the reserve is giving them a pack mentality, and some people think it's wrong that the cheetahs are fed pre-prepared meat rather than having to kill. Another sticking point is the fact that the owners of cheetah park have domesticated three cheetahs who now live at their home.

Whilst we were there we were able to visit the house to see these cheetahs up close and, whilst I don't agree with them living there, it was amazing to see these animals at such close-range. Afterwards, we headed into the reserve to see feeding time at the sanctuary. Just as we were finishing, a huge storm rolled over us and we all headed to the bar to ride out the storm. Above the bar was the skin and skull of a 3m long rock python which had been found on the farm just a few months previously.

The next morning we woke up early to drive to Etosha National Park. We hadn't realised the cheetah enclosure was so close, but there was a cheetah lying just a few metres away from us on the other side of the fence.

Game viewing around here has been really tough because its the rainy season. Usually in Etosha, the wildlife all comes to the waterhole to drink so you can often count on staying there and seeing animals, however, at the moment much of the park is flooded and all the animals are spread out. On our game drive that afternoon we saw giraffes, ostrich, kudu, springbok and zebra, but none of the big 5. We stayed at a campsite just on the border of the national park and got an early night ready for an early start.

The next day we left the campsite at sunrise for the best opportunity to see game. It was my birthday and the guys we are travelling with had decorated the bus with balloons and streamers. Most of the game still remained elusive but we did managed to see a rhino on the drive. That evening we took our drinks to the waterhole and sat out until the early hours to celebrate. Lisa our tour guide made a good attempt at cooking a cake on the campfire, and some of the girls bought tequila along to get the party started.
Needless to say, no one was really in the mood for another game drive the next morning, but we left early anyway and were rewarded as, just a few hundred metres out of the campsite, we spotted a male lion by the roadside. This managed to keep everyone up for a few minutes but the bus was asleep before long. Later that afternoon we arrived at our campsite on the Kavango River, close to the border with Botswana. We sat and watched another incredible African sunset (they never get boring) and saw crocodiles and hippos swimming in the river. During the night, the hippos came out of the water and we could hear them grazing around our tents.

We crossed into Botswana the next day and the following day we ventured into the Okavango Delta using mokoros (dug out canoes). We set up camp in a forest clearing, 20km from the nearest village and 2 hours drive from any towns. This was proper bush camping. The delta was stunning and we had plenty of free time to swim in the river channels (away from hippo pools) and try our own hand at poling mokoros. The first evening we took a 3hour walk to a hippo pool and as we got near, a hippo charged out from a bush just metres in front of us. We sat around the camp fire at night and chatted with a local guides (who don't carry guns - you're all on your own!), and listened to the sound of Africa at night. Luckily we weren't affected too badly by storms, except for the rain which poured down on us last night in the delta while we were trying to cook a roast dinner on the camp fire.

And that's what we've been up to.

We only have a few more days in Africa now, and we're finishing up in Victoria Falls this weekend. It's been an incredible place to visit - the people we've travelled with and locals we've met along the way, as well as the things we've seen and done will leave us with amazing memories and stories.
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