Monday, May 8th and Tuesday, May 9th:
We thought that the tents at Shearwater Explorers Lodge were as real as the camping would get on this tour. I know that camping can get rougher- I’ve camped almost every year of my life in the Rockies with my family- but I thought that this trip would be easy camping. It turns out we have chores assigned daily, we have to set up and take down our tents EVERY day, and most of the camp sites are a lot more rustic than the modern accommodations in Zimbabwe. So our real camping adventure starts in Botswana!
I end up waking up the first morning in our tent in Zimbabwe way too early. This is our morning to sleep in her since we don’t have to leave until 10am but I wake up at 5:30am with a sore neck from the travel pillow. It will take a few days to get used to this, I think! Sher and I spend the extra time souvenir shopping and bartering. All the vendors here are eager to make trades. One guy has his eye on Sher’s shirt and shoes. We decide to go back and grab more things to exchange and bring an extra shirt for Sher to wear but the entire camping group is starting to pack up tents when we return and there’s no time for shopping again in Zimbabwe after that! We actually don’t really need much at this point but we actually had some things to give away, like a shirt that doesn’t fit Sher anymore and my bulky travel blanket. Too bad. Maryke and Flo, our guides for the next week, are already very organized. They demonstrate how to take down the tents efficiently and then we all pack up our own tents and put them into a pile. Then the group works together to load everything into the huge Lando (they won’t let us call it a bus!) and we head off. The Lando vehicle is very comfortable… there are two USB charging ports for every pair of seats and plenty of leg room and arm space. If only airplanes were this comfortable! We are also supposed to rotate seats everyday so that no one gets stuck in the middle for the whole trip. A little bonus during our rest break on the way to our camp in Botswana- I found Moroccan colour-changing lipstick in one of the shops! My friends Poonam, Deena, and Rajini who travelled with me to Morocco in 2014 will understand my excitement. It’s a lipstick that is usually green (although this shop in Botswana had multiple colours so I tried the orange) and it goes on your lips clear but then heats up according to your body temperature which determines which colour it changes to from light pink to hot pink or red. The German Moroccan girl on our camping tour had no idea about it when I showed it to her. She’s missing out!
Our first night in Botswana is spent at a woodsy campground with a lot of facilities. On the drive there, we spot giraffes and learn from Maryke that if a giraffe is pushed onto or falls to its side, it will die since it cannot get up again. She continues to share a lot of fun facts like this during the drive… it feels like we are on safari again! We also find out that there is no hunting allowed in Botswana. Which helps to explain the ample amount of wildlife that we come across on the drive that first day.
The camping is already a lot of fun after our first day and night on the road. It’s good practice for Sher since he’s never been camping before and he’ll join my family this year in the Canadian Rockies. We’re also meeting so many interesting people and I can tell that we’ll miss them by the end of the week together. There’s an Australian couple also on their honeymoon (Sher and Jack, the new Aussie husband, have a lot in common since they both planned their honeymoons in exchange for letting the ladies do the wedding planning), and a Canadian couple from Vancouver that I really enjoy so far. So many new names to learn! That’s going to be a challenge since I think there’s about 22-23 of us. The first evening we did another cruise but this was a game cruise which meant deliberate animal searching. We spot crocodiles, elephants, some hippos. Later in the evening we meet some locals back at the campground and the young girls tell me that I look like Kim Kardashian. I laugh so hard that they explain “well, you have the same facial features as her!”. I think they’re pretty inebriated but I correct them and say “don’t you mean Halle Berry?”. Just kidding, I didn’t say that. I’m guessing they would be too young to know who Halle Berry is anyways ;)
Next stop is Planet Baobob. It’s a really cool campground that feels like it’s out in the sandy desert but with baobob trees and modern facilities all around. Before driving out there in the morning, the rest of the group joins a game drive safari in the very early morning. Sher and I stay back (we feel like we’re good for safari drives now for a while) and get to know Flo and Maryke better. Both are people that I could see myself being friends with. Flo the driver is really hilarious and laid-back, we walks everywhere barefoot. Maryke is just amazing… I don’t know where she gets the energy to cook delicious huge meals for all of us, teach us so many skills, hang out and chat, and smile while doing everything on very little sleep. The drive to Planet Baobob was a long drive but we stopped a lot and I got in the habit of eating ice cream and chips at every stop. Not good! After setting up our tents and wandering around the walking paths of the campgrounds, we sit around the campfire with the whole group until we’re too tired to chat anymore. I could get used to this… it’s almost too bad that we are leaving them in Windhoek, Namibia at the end of the week. Some of us will leave the group at that time and then the remaining will be joined by new campers in Windhoek and they’ll all continue on for another 11 days. It sounds like they’ll spend most of the time in Namibia which I wouldn’t have thought to visit before this trip but the more I learn about it, the more interesting it sounds. Next time!