Hungry hippos

Trip Start Nov 07, 2005
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66
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Trip End Nov 04, 2006


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Flag of Botswana  ,
Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"Most people like to think they are in search of wisdom. That was not my motive."

We had to go through another lengthy process of hiding things on the truck before entering Botswana. Not just food this time but all of our wooden souvenirs as well. Easier said than done when Ribo's shopaholic nature meant that the truck was still half full of various carvings that he'd neglected to post home from Vic Falls. If we were caught they'd be confiscated and we could be fined. They have an irrational fear of a plague of foot and mouth disease sweeping the country and there are pools of disinfectant you have to drive through upon entry. Passengers also have to get out of their vehicles and walk on disinfectant soaked pads which brought back memories of when you had to walk through the foot bath before entering a public swimming pool.

We crossed the border with no problems and the friendliest and quickest border control staff ever and headed for Chobe National Park. There was a stark contrast between the economies of Zimbabwe and Botswana. Sure, there were still people demanding money from us, but I couldn't help but chuckle at the beggar in Bosttswana with this brand new Nike trainers and gold teeth, standing outside the supermarket with a trolley full of food.

I opted out of doing the game drive, trying to save money, and instead sat by the pool in the luxury resort, the facilities of which we were permitted to use, although sadly we had to return to our campsite, not to one of the luxury apartments.
Ruth and Morgs came down with a mystery bug and after bringing them water and cold towels I opted for an early night. The next morning I woke up feeling like crap, with the same symptoms they'd had the previous night. Fortunately mine wore off pretty quickly and after some pink salad (the curse of beetroot) I was feeling fine, and after an ice cream so was Ruth.

The next 2 days were spent on the Okavango Delta. After a long, long ride to the delta we were paired up to be driven (?) around in mokhoros - small, traditional canoes. Sometimes being small has its disadvantages. I was paired up with the crates of food and utensils, and whilst everyone else laid back and relaxed, I was sat bolt upright, unable to move my legs for fear of capsizing.
Arriving at our bush camp we learned that for the first time we'd have to do all of our toilet business in a big hole. Morgs didn't quite get the hang of it and at the end of the trip it turned out that instead of squatting over the hole to do a number 2, he'd actually sat on it. He didn't see what was wrong with it until Jules pointed out that people had sometimes missed and the edges were covered in wee. Lovely.

We went out for a 2hr walk in the afternoon to spot wildlife. Despite out guide, Pilot, telling us we were too loud (for those of you who know them, my group contained Bart, Michelle and Ruth), we still managed to see zebra, giraffe and lion tracks, or as Ruth told everyone back at camp, lion feet.
The morning started with another longer walk and despite being told off for wearing white (no one else in the other groups were told off for wearing white or even orange) we still saw several elephants, zebra and warthogs.

In the afternoon, after having had a go at poling each other around in the boats, we went on another mokhoro ride. No one had to ride with the utensils this time and so I went with a sleazy Duthcman, Bart, instead, who insisted I tickle his feet with a stick for most of the journey whilst he laid back and relaxed. We drove (what is the correct term for boat travel/maneouvering?) rather close to a pod of hippos which freaked some people out, but I was, perhaps naively, calm. Stopping on the bank to watch the sunset, the hippos started edging closer, ducking under water and then popping up a few metres closer to us. The polers (boat drivers) told us not to worry, but when they were only a few metres away even they panicked and we all hopped back in to our mokhoros and drove off speedily. After the lion encounter we didn't need an attack from a hippo - the cause of the most animal related deaths in Africa.

That night the polers entertained us by singing and dancing around the fire. Their first song sounded suspiciously familiar and I realised it was a song the villagers had sung to us in Malawi - possibly a standard song performed for mzungus (white people) all over Africa, and it only reinforced my discomfort of having 'traditional' songs/dances performed for us.
We returned the favour by singing various embarrassing songs from our countries. The chicken dance was already known to them and the hokey cokey went down a treat. Michelle and Dustin wowed everyone with some traditional songs about bears from their hometown in Canada, and Bart was forced to sing Circle of Life again, resulting in screaming adoration from the female polers.

The next morning we floated back to our starting point, and, sharing with Bart again instead of the pots and pans, I was able to relax and appreciate the scenery instead of constantly rearranging utensils lodged in my back. We saw a few elephants very close to us on the way back. The delta was amazing and it would be great to see it again in the wet season.

Back in Maun town, Ruth and I hung around whilst a handful of people took an acrobatic flight over the delta. In retrospect I probably should have joined them, especially as Ruth and I were accosted by a total nutcase whilst waiting to be picked up by the truck.
He approached us asking if we were Italian or American, and with a slight chuckle at our muddy appearance, admired our 'natural look' whilst simultaneously shouting out to a random girl that she was gorgeous and then telling us she looked like a baseball.
After asking us if we knew the singer Sting (because Ruth had blonde hair) he regained a serious, almost frightening, stare, and said: "I hope God takes you two away from us soon."
He claimed to be joking and then grabbed hold of the bottles we were holding (I had orange juice and Ruth had conditioner), crossed his arms over and told us that some people would tell you to drink this (conditioner) and put this on your hair (orange juice).

We saw Morgs across the road so we quickly made our escape before we ended up being force fed hair products and made to join a cult led by Sting and the Police.
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