Trip Day 8: We woke up at 7am to put down, clean and return our tents to Rumphi and transfer all our stuff over to Zambezi, our new truck heading to Cape Town). Our new guide was Darlington and the new "captain" was Fortune. After transferring evening, we headed to make the most of our last buffest breakfast in the restaurant before heading out at 8am. Although there was only 13 of us (+ guides) there was no spare lockers. I have no idea how the last group of 24 managed.
We headed back across the border and then ferry us and Zambezi over the Zambezi river back to Botswana. The locals were obsessed with one of the American lad's, Kyle's (28 yo), tattoos as he had double sleeves and one in particular on his calf of a Japanese mask that looked like a devil. He had to convince them repeated that it wasn't a devil -according to Darlington, if they'd thought we were devil worshippers, that wouldn't have been good. It was only an hour or so and we were right back at Thebe Lodge and Camping again for another nights stay. The group seemed a lot livelier and there was a lot of chatter and good banter on the truck. After arriving at Thebe, some people went on the Chobe cruise (we decided not to go again and took and alternative for the next day). For dinner we had pasta and finally shared a couple of beers in the evening. Later in the night I headed to reception to use the wifi, I called home using viber / skype and also found out that Luke got home ok.
Trip Day 9: A few of us woke up at 5:30 am as we had opted to go on an early morning game drive as our replacement for the cruise. We thought it was good we were given an alternative.
There was 6 of us on the drive for which we had to leave the camping area and drive to a nearby nature park. On the way though we passed wild roaming elephants and water buffalo.
The game drive in the Chobe nature park took a good few hours and we saw a lot of really interesting and new animals. We saw - a jackal which ran right past the stationary truck, steenbock, warthogs with birds on their faces, hilarity at meeting the corrie b****** for the first time (we later found out from a book it's technical name was "bustard", but with the African accent it really didn't sound like that), pukas (small antelope only found in Chobe), impala, baboons (usually found hanging around with the impala in large groups), we saw a surprised buffalo - so named because it wandered out of a bus and jumped at the sight of us before casually continuing it's walk across the road. We finally saw waterbuck (it looks like it has a white toilet seat on it's bum). One of the highlights was a couple, Rob (Irish, 31) and Heather (English, 30), singing / making up songs for as many animals as they could, for example, every warthog they saw they'd sing Pumba's song from the Lion King and for impala they changed the words from Snow's "Informer". Good fun.
We got back at 9:30 am just as everyone was getting breakfast. We joined in before packing away the equipment and tents and heading out towards another familiar campsite called Elephant Sands. Having warmed to the last safari we'd done there Alicia and I had already decided we were going to do it again. Disaster struck however as Fortune pulled over unexpectedly in the middle of no-where. It turns out we'd broken down. Something had stripped one of the tires, snapping the break cables and other pipes and it took 2 hours to to get a makeshift fix in place for us to make camp. This delay meant that by the time we got to Elephant Sands we'd missed the opportunity of the game drive. A little bit of a shame. We used the time set up our camp then to grab a dip in the pool and play a bit of girls v boys water polo. Whilst we were playing Darlington came over and pointed out a kudu jogging by the watering hole just below us. A few minutes later a massive pack of wild dogs came to the watering hole to rest, bathe and drink. Apparently they were hunting the kudu, and their method is to chase all day until it's completely shattered and then kill it. No one could really believe that that'd come so close to camp, especially considering how rare they are. Darlington had only seen then a few times in his long career and the came owner explained that they'd only been around a few times in the last 5 or so years.
We got dry then went back to camp for shower and some food. In the evening we headed to the watering hole again to sit around the fire and look out for animals. Alicia was, rightly, concerned about giant bugs again but she stayed long enough to see a herd of elephants silently walk to the watering hole to drink in the near-pitch black.
Trip Day 10: A bit of a nothing day to be honest. It was mainly driving. We were up early and out to a city called Maun. On the way we listened to music through the iPod attachment at the back, slept and played a****** (another card game) on the two tables at the back. We got to our campsite called "sinituka", set up our tents then headed out to town to do some shopping. We need to stock up as tomorrow we'd be off to the Okavango Delta for a night which would require us to get there via boat, so anything we might need. We needed to bring and carry.
Trip Day 11: After the usual breakfast and packing up affair a pickup truck arrived and our group proceeded in loading the vehicle with all the supplies we'd need for the need day or two, tents, pots, pans, food, water, games etc. We took an hour or so through bumpy dirt roads and trying to avoid getting hit by spiny acacia plants as we bounced around exposed in the back of the pickup. We passed a couple of villages with proper mud huts and the kids pleasantly ran out of their courtyard areas to wave, shout and smile at us. When we arrived at the riverbank we were met by a group of Botswanans dressed in old football jerseys and introducing themselves with names like "Destiny". Their boats were a little more traditional however, wooden dugout canoes called "mokoro's". Alicia and I hop into one of the boats and load our stuff in in between us then head out through the reeds. The sun is blazing hot and going through the reed isn't that comfortable, especially considering all the spiders and webs you can see all through the reeds, as well as the odd brightly coloured reed frog. We get to out camping stop after an hour and unload the stuff from the boats and set up our tents. We had nothing to do after for a good few hours and it was incredibly hot. I caught up on making notes on our trip whilst Alicia and some of the others played card games. I later joined in for a game of Uno. After lunch the heat had got to us so we decided to go into the delta for a swim. We were aware that hippos and crocs could be swimming around so we stayed in the shallow reeded areas. It was nice being in the water and cooling down. Most of the group splashed around and tried their hand at punting a mokoro, which was more difficult than it looked. Some of the girls got into a spot of bother and wound up steering into the reeds which prompted a spider to plop into the boat. Both screamed and jumped straight out of the unstable boat into the water to escape it. It was very funny watching.
When we got out the sun quickly dried us and we went for an on-foot bush walk around the area. It wasn't high session for seeing animals and our guide didn't seem to be too bothered about being there. We still managed to gleam some good facts though, for instance there were a load of huge termite mounts, each get abandoned after a few years (about 8) and over time 96% of the land mass of the huge island we were on had come from termites. There wasn't a lot to see out on the plains, a couple of distant ostrich, lots of lion ants, a reedbuck hiding itself and the highlight was something running towards us through the tall grass. We couldn't see what it was by it was shifting in our direction, everyone held their breath for a few seconds until a small steenbock bounded passed us. It'd just be scared by the second group walking nearby. The walk lasted about 1.5 hours and on the walk back we stopped to appreciate yet another spectacular sunset.
After some dinner we were treated to a "cultural dance" from the guides. It was no were near the standard of the show we had on the first night. They acted for a while like school children nervously "singing" whilst giggling. There was two highlights though, a simple song about "beeeauuuuutiful Botswana (botswana)" and the frog dance, which literally involved them all hoping around like a frog and make car horn sounds. Not sure how traditional it was, but funny to watch. After the show we all stayed up drinking until it was just us, Heather and Rob which we undertook the challenge of making up theme songs for everyone e.g. Demetrice and Sheldon (33 yo from Las Vegas) had us all singing Elvis' Viva Las Vegas. About 1:30am we thought we'd better be quiet now and go to sleep.
Trip Day 12: We woke up at 5:30am after not a great deal of sleep for another bushwalk in the hope we'd see some more animals, but after an hour we literally saw nothing. We did see a very pleasant sunrise and head that apparently, in the night there was a hippo round by where we were swimming earlier the day before, so that was something. Back at camp we had a cereal breakfast before we packed up and headed back in the mokoro. I feel asleep in the warm sun as we were lazily punted through the reeds but Alicia was kept entertained by Rob and Heather in the boat in front of us singing various Lion King songs.
After getting back to land we unpacked the boats, repacked everything onto the awaiting truck, tipped our guides and we then sang them the beautiful Botswana song from the night before.
The bumpy wagon on the way back was equally as hilarious as on the way there. On the way back to the campsite we dropped some people off who went on a helicopter flight over the delta (3 man helicopter - Kyle, Demetrice and Sheldon for 20 minutes. Whilst we waited on the round the tour operator, Delta Rain, gave us some complementary beers (10am isn't too early for a couple of beers is it?). Darlington told us about an amazing tree called a Mopane Tree, that stops elephants eating too much of it, that when they do the tree turns it's leaves bitter tasting then sends a signal to all the other trees in the area and they all turning bitter tasting as well. Elephants have figured this out though and sometimes they simply uproot the tree before gorging itself.
Back at camp we had a sandwich lunch the headed to relax in and around the nearby swimming pool before it was time to take the truck over for our optional activity, the scenic flight over the delta. We got to the small airfield and had to go through the usual checks despite there being very few people milling around, we took a minibus out to the airfield and split into two groups. Alicia, myself, Rob, Heather and scared-of-flying Sarah was in our plane. A small Cessna aircraft with a very young pilot, 22 years old. I was lucky enough to grab the co-pilot seat so was afforded an excellent view of us taking off and great views throughout the trip. When we had flown out of the city and into the delta, almost immediately we could see animals, just proving to ourselves that they did exist in the delta! We saw giraffe, a few actually stopped to look at us flying over head, we spotted easily 100 elephants in many different herds - in one herd I counted 25 different elephants, impala and flew above a soaring eagle. The pilot was goaded on my Rob to "do a loop-de-loop", the pilot said the plane could physically do that by he could do some rollercoaster-esque maneuvers that put our stomachs in our mouths. That was great, Sarah hated it and Heather eventually started to feel sick so to our disappointment he had to top. A huge highlight for me came when half way through the flight the said to me "do you want to fly?". Of course my answer was "YES!" and for 5 or so minutes he had complete hands off the controls even allowing my to turn the plane and tilt it left and right for people to get a better view of the animals. I must have done a decent job because Alicia was unaware that I was the one flying for that long.
Everyone was pretty buzzed back on the ground only tempered a little by the fact Alicia thought she lost her sunglasses (later turned up in her bag) and Rob left his wallet on the plane.
Back at camp it was time for dinner and after eating we all headed promptly for the bar for drinks and learning how to play gin rummy with Sheldon and Demetrice from Vegas. I also talked to Fortune for a long time, he was incredible knowledgeable and used to be a guide himself. He told me about the Bautalore eagle (also known as the tightrope bird because of the way it looks like it's balancing when it soars). He told me that technically you can only say you know a bird when you know it's call, it's plumage as a juvenile, male and female, where it eats, what it's nests looks like, how it flies and where it sits in what tree (scrub, middle or canopy). He knows over 400 and that's just his bird knowledge! We all stayed in the bar and had a little too much to drink but it was a good night. Kyle continues his tradition of skinny dipping in every country he goes to by wandering off with Chelsea (Aussie, 21 yo), both of whom have been on the same truck since Nairobi.
Trip day 13: We were supposed to leave at 8am so we were all up and ready, but the truck was still not fixed from elephant sands so it meant we waited and waited. He headed back to the bar to play gin rummy again for a few hours. It got so late that we made a fancy lunch of burgers that Darlington cooked for us. A little bit of excitement when a very poisonous snake called a Puff Adder was spotted in camp. By the time I'd heard about it though it was already killed - I am still yet to see a snake in Africa.
Finally the truck returned and we were able to get moving at 1:30pm, massively behind schedule and hurried over to the Ganzi Trailblazers campsite. The activity we were in a hurry for was a local bushman walk. Alicia and I felt like we'd done something similar before and neither of us were interested so we opted out. When we arrived at the campsite we were told that it was actually already included in the local payment price, so we went along to see what it was like. Fun actually. We had luckily arrived just in time and met by a translator as the locals only spoke the clicking and popping languages (I couldn't help but think of starving Marvin off of south park). There was a granny there who was over 90 years old and was very spritely, they showed us hunting techniques - how they'd run a kudu down for 10 hours to tire it out before killing it with a poison dart. They dug up plant roots (looked like sweet potato) that would waterproof their animal skin clothing. They showed us medicine for arthritis that had to be administered by cutting into the skin, granny made many scars or as they called them "tattoos". Because of this they were interested in Kyle's and Sarah's tattoos and they just pointed at each one and said "ow". At the end the drank from ostrich eggs and started a fire easily using 2 bits of wood and some kindling. Rob had a go, but try as he might he wouldn't quite get it going.
For the nights stay we'd "upgraded" ($15US) to a bushman hut instead of a tent. The bushman hut was a small traditionally shaped hut made solely of twigs, the floor was mud a, there wasn't really a door, just a couple of 2X4's strung together that you had to carefully prop up over the entrance and the bed was 2 single bed frames with layer of small foam mattresses balances on top with a mosquito nest over it. It not the comfortable thing in the water, it was still very cool to have done. We can now say we have slept in a bushman hut in the Kalahari Desert for a night.
Before turning in for the night we stayed up for around midnight having a few drinks in the darkness of the desert with Rob and Heather.