Wednesday, May 10th and Thursday, May 11th:
Waking up the next morning, we are starting to feel the chill of the drier air here in Botswana. Apparently Namibia is even colder. On the way back from the showers when the morning light was still dim, I see Maryke in the thorny bushes with a headlamp and a smile on her face, walking slowly and looking towards the ground. I ask what she’s doing- “ccollecting fruit” she replies, and holds up one of the hard green baobob fruit pods. She’s so resourceful and sweet… she later makes a breakfast porridge for all of us with the sour seeds from the fruit and it’s actually really tasty!
Later we stop in the town of Maon which is the tourist capital of Botswana. It’s a pretty small town but there’s a Wimpy’s Cafe which feels like an American diner and they have wifi. I don’t bother with the wifi since my emails are at 300+ unread messages and I can’t even dream of getting caught up during our short break. There’s a little girl of about 2-3 years old walking in front of us on the way to Wimpy’s. She starts pulling down her pants and I think she’s just being a typical toddler… they always want to remove their clothes! But then she pulls them all the way down, squats, and pees right on the sidewalk like it’s no big deal! There are no adults trying to stop her. Interesting…. I secretly make note of her technique since Maryke has warned us that we’ll being doing “bushy-bushy” as she calls it when we camp one night with no toilet facilities. I’m not going to lie, the thought of it makes me nervous already!
We arrive at the next campground early in the afternoon. This area is has more forest and less sand than Planet Baobob. The facilities are more questionable as well but I remind myself that soon (is it tomorrow night?) we won’t have any facilities at all! I quickly do laundry before we have to leave again for our afternoon excursion, a flight over the Okavango Delta. I’m so excited for the flight but the only thing on my mind at the moment is to finally get Sher’s very dirty shorts clean. They’ll soon be dirty again but it’s so bad that I can’t look at them right now. He regrets bringing pale blue shorts on a rustic camping trip! Katharina (Aussie bride on her honeymoon with Jack) sees me doing the wash and comments that I seem to be doing laundry almost every day. She’s not wrong! Sher and I learn on this trip that for backpacking, we need more t-shirts that dry quickly and he needs to pack more underwear! It feels like he is always out of clean underwear. Haha well it keeps me occupied and I kind of enjoy doing the laundry.
The flight over the delta is as exciting as I expected. But a little more nauseating- I still haven’t gotten used to these tiny flights. And we end up with the acrobatic pilot of the group! He turns the plane almost completely to it’s side whenever we see animals and he gets really close to some of the other planes, laughing the whole time. The other two groups from our tour tell us that their flights were pretty tame (no tricks like ours!) but they also didn’t see much for wildlife.
We got lucky and spotted rhinos, warthogs, zebras, giraffes, and elephants. And there is some debate about a leopard sighting. Laura from Germany sat in the front with the pilot and asks the other four of us after if we had seen the leopard that the pilot pointed out. No one remembers hearing the pilot mention a leopard (although it’s so loud in the plane, you can barely hear anything!) and none of us had seen one. Sher teases her and says she imagined the whole thing but she swears that she say it. And poor girl- her camera didn’t pick it up either! Well, I’m going to believe her and add a leopard sighting to our list. Makes it sound even more exciting. At this point, Sher points out that we’ve done many types of safaris on our honeymoon- game drive in the open air off-road vehicle, hot air balloon, cruise boat, airplane, underwater, and tomorrow we are going to do a walking safari!
The next morning, we find ourselves heading out to an island in the Okavango Delta, like the ones we spotted from the plane. A delta is a flat plain between branches of the mouth of a river, so basically the entire area fills up with water and there are islands of grassy plains among the extensive water that floods and drains seasonally. The area is famous for all the wildlife that occupy the vast grassy fields and take advantage of the easy water sources. We are loaded up in a huge off-road vehicle with small packs of only the essentials that we need for one night, our tents, snacks, and sleeping bags. We arrrive at the shore to meet our guides who are also our gondoliers. The long mokoro boats look a lot like the gondolas in Venice but more narrow and long, like canoes. The boats will take over an hour to get us to the island where we are spending the night. Sher and I get into the boat with our guide and he ends up being the comedian in the group. But Sher still manages to sleep in the boat- the guides all folded everyone’s mattress pads from the tents over small seats and it ends up being very relaxing. The tall grass and sun start to lull me to sleep until we hear hippos grunting in the distance. I’m scared after everything that Omari taught us about hippos but I also hope that we see them… and I’m sure the experienced guides wouldn’t put us in danger. We end up heading closer to the grunts and see the hippos in a large pool of water. None of the boats get too close but we play a fun staring game with the hippos. They look at us, just peeking out from the water. Then they sink down one-by-one and take turns submerging then poking out their eyes to watch us, all watching them. Hippos are pretty cute actually. If only they weren’t responsible for the most human deaths by animals in Africa! I just can’t get that fact out of my head.
We eventually make it to the island and set up our tents before relaxing for a few hours. Sher and some others go for a swim after the guides decide that there are no crocodiles in the area right now. But do they know for sure? Hmmmm… I decide to read my book and hang out with the Moroccan girl from Germany, Farida. After a late lunch (prepared on the boats turned upside down! Impressive!), we head out for out hike. The hike is more of a walking safari with tracking animal prints and seeking based on the guide’s knowledge of tracks, droppings, and behaviours. Our guide is pretty good, in the end our group of 7 people are the only ones to spot zebras. They didn’t run away from us like the other animals and we were able to get pretty close. The Swiss couple on our tour (in my head, I refer to Fasio and his girlfriend as the gazelle couple since they are both tall and graceful… she looks like a young Julia Roberts and he is as handsome as his name implies!) had a good laugh when I mimic our guide in spreading grey mud on Sher’s skin. The guide rubbed it onto his own dark skin to show us the strong grey pigment that gives black elephants a grey colour.
Back at the camp, it’s a true camping evening. We see a red moon that rises from the horizon to the sky to turn white, a scorpion by the fire, make s’mores, get entertained by the guides singing their traditional songs, join the guides in the campfire dance, and brave the bushes to experience “bushy-bushy”. After drinking a lot of water all day in the hot sun, there’s just no choice! Sher ends up going out for bushy-bushy on his own at 3am and is scared from all the people snoring in their tents because it sounds like lions…. after Serengeti, he should know! He finds out the following morning that the guides actually DID hear a lion near the site late at night… Sher’s fears weren’t that far off! By the end of our island camping experience I’ve lost my phone somewhere and my nails are at a point where I can’t even look at them anymore. But I don’t care because it is one of the most fun evenings we’ve had on the entire trip.