African shoestrings – Botswana Day Eighty Two Chobe

Audi had arranged a local tour guide to take us on a game drive into Chobe that afternoon and then a game cruise along the Chobe River the next morning. Our new tour guide didn’t show for a while and in his absence, led by yours truly, we organised with the agents at Tebe camp, where we were staying, to swap the two tours around. After all, watching the sun go down on the water from a boat surrounded by animals sounded much more romantic than being stuck in a vehicle. Not too mention that early morning is a better time to go for a game drive.

Andre had now left us and returned back to Ngepi. He had done all right for his first time; nothing had been too much trouble and had often bent over backwards to make us comfortable. Humble that he was he was also a nice guy with it. The poor bloke was also just a little bit emotional when he left.

Our new guide was a different animal!

Chris was an Ethiopian brought up in Sweden (we actually thought that he was bullshitting when he told us that but we found out much later that it was true). With his long platted Bob Marley look alike hair and a fairly relaxed and casual attitude to his job; he was also an ‘expert’. Now I know he’s meant to be an expert certainly as a tour guide but I mean he knew it all and there was no doubting that the most important thing in his life was whatever worked for Chris. Which is why he was not too happy that we had rearranged the schedule. But we held fast despite his efforts to convince us otherwise.

The cruise was pretty bloody good!

From the boat we could see elephants and buffalo on the shore and hippos in the water, watching us with those beady eyes that live just above the surface, not to mention the abundant bird life.

The most impressive sight, though, was the sunset that seemed to happen just at the river edge. At home, in Perth, we get some pretty awesome sunsets over the ocean so when I say the Chobe sunset was pretty bloody good; I mean it ‘was’ pretty bloody good. I shot off a few shots after Sue had made the suggestion. One of these shots sits proudly on our dining room wall and when anyone remarks on it, Sue turns to me and says with great satisfaction “and you never wanted to take it!”

Driving through Chobe early the next morning was a totally different affair. Safari trucks are open in the back and at 5.45 am it was bloody freezing. Obviously the animals thought so as well because none of them were anywhere to be seen. We drove around for around an hour along dusty sandy tracks with Chris barking instructions to the driver up front and scratching his head as to why we hadn’t seen anything yet. The night before despite our rearrangement of the final leg of the tour, he had promised us an abundance of wildlife and so far his promise seemed to be pretty empty. Two lionesses saved his embarrassment. They were chasing a squealing warthog 100 metres away across a water channel. We stopped and watched as the two got closer to their prey that was running at great speed first one way then another. I turned to look behind us and to my amazement saw another interested onlooker, another lioness, a mere five metres away peering around our vehicle in effort to see what her mates were up to. We had unknowingly parked right in front of her!

After that the wildlife just kept coming! It was as if someone had sounded the wake up call because everywhere we went we saw something. A herd of buffalo chewing and nonchalantly looking at us quizzically, two hippos wondering around on the river bank, kudu and impala springing away as we neared.

Back to the water channel and we just caught sight of two of the lionesses walking away into the bush. We drove on back towards to the park gates and our campsite and then suddenly around the next bend, as surprised as us, were all three lionesses walking across the track and within spitting distance of the truck.

More buffalo and a crocodile were spotted near the waters edge and then reluctantly our time was up.

Chris was crowing. “See, I said we would see lots this morning” he said in his sort of British, Swedish and African accent. My remainder that it was actually our idea to do this early morning game drive was totally ignored as he continued to crow all the way back to camp.

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Sunset on the Chove River in Chobe National Park, Botswana

Sunset on the Chove River in Chobe National Park, Botswana

 

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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Sunset on the Chove River in Chobe National Park, Botswana

Sunset on the Chove River in Chobe National Park, Botswana