African shoestrings – Botswana Day Eighty One Chobe
Eventually our time was up and we had to leave this pleasant existence. We were canoed back to the village of Jao in the early hours. This time we had the opportunity to wander around this traditional village, although I think the main aim was to get us to buy hand made baskets, not wander off on a photographic shoot that yours truly did. Actually the small quantity of baskets that were for sale had enormous price tags, so business was pretty poor for them that day. What was more interesting (baskets are way down my shopping list) was the way these people lived. Jao consisted of a collection of mostly reed or bamboo huts with thatched roofs but some of them were mud and others were constructed using tin cans as bricks held together by mud or dung. Most of these homes had an enclosed yard that we sneaked a look at, used for cooking and storing chickens and donkeys. One woman took a sharp looking garden hoe to her donkey that was getting to close to comfort to her toddler. This poor animal had scars from previous encounters and probably lived a life of misery, if a donkey can have such a thing.
The children were fascinated by these white camera-carrying tourists and posed quite happily in fact almost insistently for our cameras. Some of them had runny noses and sticky eyes which made us think their health was still a long way from being as good as children of the west.
We got back to Ngepi camp, after having to cram into the one motor boat with all our bags, camping gear and supplies when only one boat turned up, in the late afternoon.
That night we had a ‘treat’; the dancers of the Mbuknshu people put on a show of traditional dancing. It was boring and repetitive and was far less entertaining than watching the antics of an overlander group who had arrived at the same time as us. It’s sort of like watching Neighbours (in fact most of them were Aussies and Kiwis). There were usual ructions created by clicks, one night stands and show offs. One guy was so ‘cool’ that he sat on the edge of the table, dressed immaculately to look so casual, drinking neat bourbon straight from the bottle. Yuk!
We had our own ruction later that night as somehow I managed to spill kero from the lantern all over the floor of the tent. Within seconds we were out of that tent with our bags and then spent the next hour erecting another in the dark. To say that Sue was not amused is probably a bit of an understatement although she has dined out on it a few billion tedious times since!
The next day we were headed through the infamous Caprivi Strip. Infamous because over the years the five tribes that make up the inhabitants, the Caprivians, of this narrow 500 kilometre long extension of Namibia, have from time to time created unrest in their demands for autonomy. This particular time there a lull in the friction and minus Klaus, Ingrid and Anna we drove the seven hour length of the strip without any incident apart from the bone jarring badly maintained roads.
Our destination was Kasane in Northeastern Botswana. You might well be asking why didn’t we go straight from the delta to Kasane instead of back via Namibia. The easiest answer is I don’t know and don’t care. These guys obviously knew what they were doing and I for one was quite happy to follow their plan. However a quick look at a map of Botswana and Namibia explains all. Whist it’s a relatively short distance as the crow flies from the delta to Kasane it’s a bloody long way by road. A circumnavigation of central Botswana is required to get there by road.
Kasane actually sits close to the borders of four different countries. Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe and more importantly is the gateway to Chobe National Park, one of the gems of African Game parks. This was going to be one of the highlights of our time in Africa. We had read a fair bit about Chobe and knew that it has probably the most varied wildlife in Africa on a setting that is as varied and scenic as it inaccessible. It was the inaccessible bit that convinced us to see it with a tour operator. Heavy-duty admission fee (US25.00 per person per day), heavy duty 4WD hire meant heavy-duty money.
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