Saturday, December 6, 2008

Unspoiled Africa (Dec. 1/08 - Okavango Delta, Botswana)

The stars and the frogs were still out when we got up this morning, but by the time everyone was up and fed, the sun was up and we were on our way. We split into the same groups as yesterday, and two groupd set off into the bush behind the camp, while ours and another group crossed the channel by boat and headed off on the other side. The temperature was nice first thing in the morning as we marched through the grass, and within a few minutes, we were soaked from the waist down. A herd of zebras was spotted in the distance, and just after we spotted them, they stopped and turned to look at us. There were also three big animals called "tetsbies" that looked like big antelope but with no horns. We covered a lot of ground as we walked for over three hours, and along the way we found a huge Baobob tree (about 1000 years old!), a wart hog, some springbok, and as we were bushwacking, a huge crash happened relatively close to us, followed by thundering hooves of something galloping away. Our guide said it was buffalo - Cape Buffalo to be precise. We followed their tracks for quite a while, and eventually spotted two of them way off in the distance.

It was already super hot by the time we made it back to our boats at 8am, and Francis was nice enough to make scrambled eggs for us while we went for a swim to cool off. It was kind of fun to hear what other groups saw as they trickled in, and the highlights included wildebeest, baboons, impala, and a very rare and apparently very dangerous honey badger.

It was nice to have a whole afternoon to do nothing. I think the only things that were accomplished was a round of mokoro races and the almost-successful construction of a 13-person human pyramid in chest-deep water. By the way, one of the guides told us a handy rule of thumb to use when swimming in the delta and when getting up at night here: "If youo can't see the bottom, it's a hippo, and if you can't see the stars, it's an elephant"! When it was cool enough, we went out for a paddle upstream for a change of pace from walking in the bush. The sun was setting, which made the scenery so pretty as it reflected off the water lillies. The front mokoro was on hippo patrol, and the rest of us waited with cameras ready, just in case. No hippos were spotted, but lots of birds, dragonflies, and little white frogs were. We turned off the main channel to pay a visit to an old man who was living out in the bush to make mokoro canoes. He had fallen a huge mangosteen tree and was midway through carving it. Everything was done by hand, and he said it would take about 2 months to finish it. Traditionally, mokoros are normally carved out of a particular type of tree, which is now endangered. So people are using other varieties, or they are forced to buy fiberglass boats that cost five times more than it costs to buy a wood one. Interesting that that's backwards from the way things work at home - hand carved wood would be pricier by far!

We returned to the main channel, and in the process, the guide in our boat managed to get his pole stuck in the mud as the boat continued forward, and he was pulled backwards in a huge splash into the water. It was hilarious - these guys are supposed to be pros! Thankfully, he left us in the boat unscathed. We ended the day with baked beans and great conversations around the campfire, then once again, we were lulled to sleep by the frogs and the crickets.

1 comment:

  1. that is sound advice your guide gave you. I'd be terrified to need to get up at night in country like that!!! Glad to hear you had a productive day - a 13 person pyramid is a lot of work! ;)