Continuing our journey in Marvin we crossed the border into Botswana. The landscape was similar to Namibia, dry shrubland, but much flatter. Whilst the country is relatively wealthy due to its Diamond mines and it's beef cattle, the majority of the people are poor. We drive for hours without passing a town as the population is very small for such a large country. The houses are made from mud and reeds. There is still a lot of wildlife here and as we drive along the main highway we spot warthogs, dik-dik (very small deer), impala and even giraffes and elephants. There are also domestic animals to contend with as there are few fences and we often have to slow down to let cows, goats and donkeys cross. Needless to say journeys are a lot slower than at home.
Our first adventure in Botswana is to go on a 2 night camping trip into the Okavango Delta. We pack a small bag with 1 change of clothes each, sleeping bags, some snacks and a few packs of wet wipes!. We travel into the Delta in a Macoro (dug out canoe) punted by Brian using a long pole to push us through the reeds. The 'polers' pick a spot for our camp on an island under some trees and our tents are soon pitched and a hole for the toilet dug! We're told to be very careful if we need the toilet after dark and must check for wild animals and call for help if we see any eye-shine! We have a fun time, 'poling' ourselves along the river and Craig is even brave enough to go for a swim! We go on several Bush walks and see a lot of evidence of wildlife (eg. Lots of elephant and buffalo poo and even a fresh paw print of a leopard)but very little wildlife. We watch a group of hippos in the river as the sun sets and Craig also takes a scenic flight over the delta and spots lots of animals so we know they are there (just hiding from us!). Back on dry land we enjoy the luxury of soft beds, a bath and plenty of hot water to clean ourselves and our clothes, before heading to Chobe National Park. We have an amazing couple of days on game drives and a River Cruise and see lots of animals -really close up. The highlights are seeing hippos as close as 3 metres away; a family of elephants including 2 babies swim across a River holding onto each others tails; and a leopard walk towards us and cross just in front of our jeep- an awesome sight. . We were sad to leave Botswana but it was time to cross the border into Zimbabwe. We were warned that the border crossing may be slow (apparently trucks can wait 2-3 days!) and that the officials don't have a sense of humour so don't make any comments. We were lucky in that we only waited 1 hour- although the price of our (british) visa went up to $55 when we got to the front of the queue! (Most other nationalities paid $30!!).. Only 1 hour later we arrived at Victoria Falls and OMG what a sight to behold.. Nothing can prepare you for the size, noise & wetness of the falls. It deserves it's place as one of the natural wonders of the world. Craig chose to take a helicopter flight over it and could really appreciate the scale from above. Vanda opted to get up close to a feline by going on a trip to walk with a couple of young (16 month old) lionesses- an amazing experience to touch such large majestic beasts. They are part of a programme to breed and release lions to try and counteract the loss of 80-90% of the lion population over the past 30 years. By showing that the lions are more valuable alive ($140 each to walk with them) than dead the organisation is trying to get local people on their side.
We lose a lot of our companions here - only 6 of us are continuing on another 21 day tour, so we decide to go to the old colonial Victoria Falls hotel for high tea - sat on the terrace with views of the Falls. It was a lovely way to finish this part of our trip. We're enjoying a day off before our next adventure- sat by the pool, watching warthogs running through the flower beds and the staff standing guard with catapults at the ready to scare off the monkeys that try and steal your food!
Love to all.