Out of the bush
19 January 2013- Kasane, Botswana
What a change! We are at a lodge in Kasane that has a large pool, bar and restaurant (and happily a camping area) and there are other people around. Plus the toilet in the bar has hot and cold water, soap AND hand towels!
We have come out of the bush after a truly brilliant week since Maun.
The last few days the skies have clouded up and stayed that way, its been a nice change to have some cooler days, very nice. We have had some rain which has made for some muddy patches and in a few spots deep water on the tracks, the deepest of which was a river crossing that we were lucky enough to follow a local through, they showed us the best way, but it still came well over the bonnet. Fortunately the rain has been when we have been out driving rather than when we have been at camp, with the exception of a fierce storm the other night- the thunderstorms in southern Africa have been the most remarkable I have ever seen or heard. The lighting was so intense it was like a strobe light and the thunder literally shook the ground. We were under a very large tree and put the roof down for a bit as we considered whether to move in case a branch fell but decided not to as it seemed the storm was moving on.
We have been amazed by how many animals we have seen- large herds of zebra, buffalo and impala. Dozens and dozens of giraffe, warthog and hippo. With all the water around the bird life is amazing as well. And elephant- all over, seemingly at every turn, in front of us, behind us and sometimes wandering out right in front of us on the road and having to stop very suddenly to avoid them.
A big highlight for us has been, as always, watching the elephant- they are just brilliant. There is so much to see, the way they interact is of course the best, but also the way they use their trunk in such an agile way to pick things up, spray themselves, pop it up like a periscope sniffing and smelling things. They stuff their mouths continuously, chewing and hoovering it up, with a crunch they sever any sandy roots which drop to the ground, all the while we hear the noises they make to one another, grumbling, trumpeting and the longest, wettest farts ever. Often young males have been a bit feisty with us, squaring up to us, staring down, ears splayed wide, sometimes they shake their heads, ears flapping noisily, a plume of dust rising around their head, signs for us to take note and don’t mess. They either back down when we start the engine, or settle down when the older ones glance up from eating, take note, but then completely ignore us carrying on munching contentedly.
Moremi and Chobe are beautiful- open areas with grass the height of the window, areas of thick green shrub and bushes, some open areas with short grass dotted with occasional trees and finally the open flood plain that is Chobe River front, lush and green at the moment. Its been a real highlight of the last few months to spend time in the bush with so few people around, so many animals and such brilliant little tracks weaving around everywhere.
Certainly for us a highlight has been the unfenced wild camps- Botswana is just that bit more wild than SA or Namibia in that there are no signs ‘warning’ you of the possibility of animals in camp or what to do if you see one, in fact no warning info at all (although you do sign an indemnity form when you book in!). Most nights we were the only ones in camp- cooking and walking to the toilet in the dark and hearing grunting, trumpeting, roaring and general rustling of who knows what is something else- some of it we could identify and some we couldn’t but when the sun goes down, its dark and no one else is around the mind starts to wonder- brilliant! We had bought a large very bright torch in Maun and were so glad we did, trips to the loo with eyes watching from the bushes felt better with the brighter light! We even took it out on a few night drives (the first place we have been where you can go out on your own at night) and saw some creatures of the dark- aardwolf, African wild cat and jackals.
Our last night in the NP was spent in northern Chobe overlooking the flood plain, we were the only ones there (besides the baboon, monkey, hippo and warthog) and about midnight heard the sound of a vehicle approaching, startled we sat up in bed blearily wondering what was going on as it came to a stop just outside our camp spot. We shouted out hello and put our lights on so they would know we were awake. The man identified himself as police (although the vehicle had no indication of that) and said he was on night patrol and would be until five uh, ok? We were not sure if it was true but were not bothered really as we figured if he was dodgy he would not have been so obvious in approaching. We didn’t feel threatened, but it was very strange that he diddnt move on again and stayed there until 5am when he started up and drove away! Very odd, maybe he was on patrol and decided we were the only ones around so if he had a kip here nothing could happen that he would miss?! Who knows.
We spent yesterday afternoon giving landy a tidy and Olly checking all the bits he keeps an eye on and ended the evening watching the sunset over the river with a few crocs, just visible, slowly cruising past. Then suddenly the mozzies swarmed us and we jumped in landy for bed.
Today we are catching up on posting blogs, internet stuff, shopping, washing etc. Tomorrow morning we are off to…. well we have not decided yet but obviously will decide by then, its looking like Zimbabwe.
Botswana has been brilliant, we have spent most of our time here in national parks and have not really seen many people for half the time but the people are so very friendly with beaming smiles and delighted when we try a few words in Setswana. We have had our most thorough road block here, just outside the national park near the Namibian border- we were stopped and informed they would need to search the vehicle for elephant tusk, rhino horn, diamonds, drugs and ammunition! Wow, thats a lot to search for, I almost chuckled but didn’t think that would be wise. We opened the back while two men stood there (there were at least a dozen standing or sitting around) he was a bit stumped when he saw all the cupboards and compartments instead of the bags he was expecting to have a look through. He looked in a few areas and the camera case and had the NP staff come over to check our permits, they all happily taught us a few new words (how to respond to ‘go well’ ) and waved us on with a smile.