23.11.2008 - 26.11.2008 35 °C
(p.s. I have a feeling by the time I post this update that it will go over one page so look for a “next page” link or something when you get to the bottom - in fact, I'll do 2 posts, this one for Botswana and the next for Namibia - so make sure you read the post below this before this one - so scroll down now! = to "Missed Dunes", as it will be new to you - don't be tempted to peek now!).... Then scroll back up and continue from here...
Update – we crossed the border yesterday – no photo’s as its apparently a very bad idea to take photos at borders… Still – we were greeted by one huge thing by my feet as we went to sit on the kerb…
(We so nearly sat down by it!)
Off we trundled into Botswana. The first thing I noticed was the lack of fences – in Namibia every bit of land is owned by someone (white people), but the moment you hit Botswana the fences disappear – and consequently, the roaming animals appear – frequently in the road. Things also started to get a little greener – we are hitting the start of their wet season.
By late afternoon we made it to our lodge – although it took 45 minutes to go the last 500 meters as they have a fair few animals in their “sanctuary” (read zoo) , which is not a bad thing – we got to see some more Cheethas real close – right by the truck. They were pacing up and down and we guessed it was approaching feeding time..
After dinner and a few G&T’s we went to see the local tribe – the “San People” perform a 1 hour ritual dance, which they do every night. Not quite sure of the meaning but there was clearly lots of “cleansing” and “healing” going on. It was an excellent show. As they pace round the fire, they stamp their feet in perfect timing so you can really feel the ground shake.
(That’s as good as it gets with my compact in low light I’m afraid, though I should have a video incoming soon…). Ahh. Here we go..
Today we drove for a few hours to Maun, where we are staying the day in basic rooms (so hot I can’t describe). Most of the group has gone out this afternoon on a scenic flight over the Okavango Delta. We passed up on the offer ($75 each)as it’s a 1 hour flight, and we’ll be flying over it tomorrow, for 20 mins, then back 2 days later, for 20 mins, so can’t really see the point.
(Our bar where we spent a long time!)
At about 9pm something odd happened at the bar – we started to notice hundreds of flying “things” by one of the lamps. Within 10 minutes they were into the 1000’s and engulfing every light in sight. It was a real swarm / invasion – we all had to move closer to the bar but they were still dive bombing us. It turned out they are flying ants, that wait for rain (which we had a heap of), then fly out of the ground, mate, shed their wings, and then die after laying more eggs. It was bizarre – when the commotion died down the floor was totally covered in wings.
(Tricky to photo fast moving objects a night, but you get the idea)
Onto the next day.. and it was time for our flight out to the Okavango Delta – an unfeasibly large area that once had a river running through it, but due to tectonic plate movement further downstream, it got blocked, and consequently the land flooded, and stayed that way – hence a delta of mostly water with many small dry areas of land.
When we got to the airport I had a firm mission to sit in the cockpit – we were flying in small Cessna’s and I’ve always wanted to do it. When we were greeted by our 2 pilots I made it clear I wanted to be up front! – “No problem, you can come with me” – Excellent!!
(Chocks Away Chaps!!)
(Although you see some water, pretty much everything is water, it’s just where the grass / reed is taller it looks dry from above)
It was a super flight, all at 470 feet, airspeed 100 Knots, heading 332 – hehe – I was checking everything! – It is 99% the same as when playing on my computer flight simulator – the only difference was the flaps – operated by a hand wheel. I can honestly say, particularly after the landing – if the pilot kicked the bucket I could of landed it! – The only thing I didn’t know was the approach speed – about 40-50 knots – much slower than I though. A real treat – and K loved it too. Going to see if we can shove her in the cockpit on the way back :- )
(The fire station on the landing strip!)
(Not the biggest runway in the world)
After our landing we were guided through the marshland to our next mode of transport – snall canoes with a “poler” on the back (A chap who does all the work)
(Nice way to travel – although our boat was teeming with ants :- ) )
After a relaxing 40 minute ride we arrived at Gunn’s Camp – a proper Delta camp in the middle of nowhere. It’s all tents and tree houses – very well done – in fact, I’d say we’ve arrived at paradise – Africa as we expected it to be.
The lady in charge showed us around, briefed us about the honesty bar, then warned us that a herd of elephants walks through the camp most nights, and told us what to do if confronted by one! She also told us about resident Warthogs that are likely to sleep under our tents and also jump in the toilet / showers… This all sounds like superb fun! :- )
We are also not to wander away from the main camp paths because of snakes, hyenas, cheetahs and many other things, and we can’t go near the water, particularly after 7pmm because Hippos use it as their highway. We are assured that if you are close enough to a hippo to see its face, you are in deep trouble.
Rather hilariously, when it came to allocating tents she said, “is there a honeymoon couple here I believe?” – no one replied, so Kirstin quickly piped up , “we’ll be the honeymooners if you like!” – so bingo! – we got the only tent that is mounted high up with stunning views over the delta, a double bed and a private shower and toilet.
Over dinner last night it dawned on us that she might have meant “anniversary”, not “honeymoon” – as there is a couple with us who had theirs a few days ago. Ahh well – lol!
(Our “bedroom” view)
(Our home for 2 nights)
After a few relaxing beers – and boy is this place relaxing!, we got back in our canoes for a short trip to a walking point, where our guides put us in single file and off we trekked for 2 hours, looking for wildlife.
It’s a very strange feeling wandering into an area where there are plenty of animals that can and will kill and/or eat you if you are not careful. A kind of “helpless adventure” feeling. Rather exhilarating.
It didn’t take long to start spotting animals…
We got very close to some Giraffes – and just as we were gawping at them we noticed one much closer to us amongst the trees to our right. It made a run for it and it was awesome! – when you are up close and all you can see are giant legs and you can feel the ground shaking as it runs – wow! – really amazing. When they got to open ground you could really see them run – so graceful – it’s a real treat)
We refocused on the original giraffes. I would have got a better photo but just as I lined up the shot, a woman in our group (who I had previously explained to how the camera flash is useless son long range shots) took a flash shot – and sure enough, they bolted. – “Turn your flash off”, I said, showing her the button on her camera, “why, is it annoying you!?!” – Doh!!! “You know how we were told not to wear bright coloured clothes so we don’t scare off the animals…??? – what do you think your flash does???” Jesus. What can you do.
It’s quite funny actually. Loads of people sport nice Canon 300D cameras with long lenses, and they all use them on the “auto” setting. I’ve tried explaining to some how you can get far superior shots just with a little knowledge, but they revert to auto. They’d be better off spending a quarter as much on a compact with a long zoom like the Panasonic Lumix. And most of them use the flash for everything. Same as in Cambodia, loads of people taking pictures of sunsets with flashes going off everywhere. I wish cameras all came with a big red warning card and a picture of how far a flash has any effect so people start to grasp the idea of turning them off). Ok, moan over. :- )
(there were a bunch of Baboons , but this one caught the sun)
Not forgetting the Termites…
(There was a real “Jurassic Park” feel about the walk, especially in areas where the elephants had destroyed lots of trees, and their giant dung everywhere. I felt very small at times, and just a little wary)
(Not such a lucky Giraffe)
After our (exhausting) walk we came back and hit the bar, supping beers, G&T’s, and red wine, well into the night. We used our giant torch to see lots of eyes reflecting back from the bush, and watched at lots of fire flies flashed like demented Christmas tree lights. One actually hovered just in front of us – they really do look like small LED lights – super bright. Then it was time for bed – the time we were dreading – we made our way back to our tent……
Cheeky bloody insects! – the tent was clear when we left earlier. Now, there was a web + spider across the front “door”, a web + spider from the bed (my side of course) to the tent wall, and to top it all, a scorpion on the ceiling above our bed. It was so bad it was actually funny. Add to that the fact that the power was off and our torch was failing fast!
In the end we squashed 3 spiders, and scooped the scorpion into a piss-pot (yes, we have one) and then crushed it with a bottle of shampoo.
We both lay in bed nervously, sweating profusely in the high humidity, praying for no more bugs. Still, as a bonus we got to lay and look at the stars.
We awoke at 5am this morning to a stunning sunrise – making all the clouds in the sky a perfect salmon pink. A superb way to start the day.
They did another guided walk at 6am – we got up at 8.30 ;- )
(oh yeah- that’s our tent in the distance on the right– the only one high enough to see from the bar – exclusivity hey! :- ) )
Further Update; Well, what a place! – we want to stay here forever – waking up seeing the sunrise at 5am (remember the tent front is just a mesh), then falling back asleep, then waking up again at 8am because you are basically burning in the sun!, that, and all the wildlife around you – warthogs, elephants, you name it. It really is special.
We had a bit of a session last night with the managers of the camp – Chris and Jasmine, plus John, our guide and Geraldine and Paolo, sitting on the deck looking out over the Delta. We noticed that the bar looks exactly like the bar in Star Wars – you know, the one with the aliens playing music and Han Solo shoots the guy under the table…
So… after far too many beers, we dressed the girls and John up and recreated the scene…
(lol – we tried!)
This morning we flew back out of the Delta to Maun. This time K and I got a tiny Cessna to ourselves. She sat in the front this time, and we flew at 400 feet. She loved it, I loved it. I think if we come back to Africa we are most definitely coming back to Botswana and the Delta…
A random picture for now… then Zimbabwe and Victoria Falls (Which we hope are filling up as we heard it is dry at the moment….)
Oh... and another game park in Botswana 1st....