Monday, July 2, 2012

Delta Digest - days 4 & 5

I'm going to recap the last two days in the delta as one entry.

Trip notes 7 June:  Woke at 0630 to juice & tea from housekeeping. Could not leave for brekky due to two warthogs nearby on Christina & Astrid's porch. Guide told us later they're not dangerous. Still, it has tusks and can run, so better safe than sorry. 

Is that you, Tuna kata?
The rule in the camp is that you are not allowed outside of your tent while it's dark outside.  This was for our own safety because of all the animals.  Once housekeeping brings the tea & juice, that means it's safe to be outside.  Sometime between 0630 and 0700 we started hearing animals/rustling/fighting  noises.  C came over to our tent while SAM ventured outside to see what was going on.  Two warthogs were having a turf war on the porch of the next tent down.  Now being raised in the suburbs, I'm not all that comfortable around wild animals.  My close encounter with wildlife was limited to a possum getting into our garage when I was about 8 years old.  My dad did a catch & release at the neighborhood park.  I enjoy nature from afar, so being in the wilds of the Okavango Delta is way outside of my comfort zone.  C and I stayed in the tent because we didn't want to get run down by an angry warthog.

The upside of having a schedule at the camp was that if the 5 of us failed to turn up for breakfast on time, someone would notice.  Sure enough, around 0800, a guide came to our tents to see what was going on.  We pointed out the warthog and the guide probably wanted to laugh at us.  Turns out that warthogs have very poor eyesight and pose very little danger to people.  You learn something new every day!
I'm an eagle in a tree
Painted reed frog
Those of you familiar with my travel blogs written in the past few years will remember there are two Universal Truths when Jen travels:  I will always get blisters on my feet and I will always get sick somewhere along the line.  Today I was not dealing with blisters on my feet.  Christina, Astrid, C and SAM geared up for a bush walk while I stayed behind to rest.  The above pictures are some of the animals they encountered along the way.  (If you need a better view, click the picture and it will enlarge.)

That afternoon the 5 of us went on another sunset boat ride and enjoyed some wine.  Then we had another wonderful dinner with the good company of our fellow travelers.  It did seem to feel that in most of the places we went in Africa, we were the only Americans.

Great dinner atmosphere
Trip notes 8 June - Bush walk and boat ride. Out all day. Picnic lunch good. Saw a big ass crocodile. Guides would quiz us on where camp was. C & I were tied 2-2. Got back to camp around 3.30, went for mokoro ride through the weeds. Good dinner again.

We had another warthog sighting on the way to breakfast but felt much better about it.  The warthog was further away and we now knew that it didn't pose a threat to us.  Since I had been sick the previous day and since Christina & Astrid were leaving us that morning, our guide treated us 3 to a longer bush walk, picnic lunch and a boat ride in place of two separate excursions.

The bush walk was very informative.  We saw several herd of impalas, followed some other animal tracks and got to play in an old elephant bath.  When it came time for lunch, we were surprised to see our guides pull a picnic table & chairs out of the boat.  It beat sitting on a picnic blanket!  Lunch was wonderful, even if it meant we traded our made-to-order omlettes back in camp.

After lunch we got back in the boat for a big tour of the delta.  Along the way, we came along a group of 3 boats that had gotten lost.  They were looking for a particular fishing spot and got turned around.  It's pretty easy to get lost in the delta unless you really know your way around.  Our guides asked if we could see the island where we had just picnicked and I was the only one who spotted it correctly.  During the course of the afternoon, our guides would periodically stop the boat and say, "OK, where's camp?" and pretend to be lost.  C and I both guessed correctly twice.  Yes, it's that easy to get turned around in the delta!

This was the afternoon where we also spotted a few hippos and a huge crocodile.  SAM and C missed out on the croc because it was on my side of the boat.  The guide and I estimate that the thing was at least 12 feet long.  I'm very glad the boat kept going; that thing was ugly and mean looking!

On our way back to camp, we were speeding along a straightaway in the channel when we hear a big trumpeting sound from an elephant.  Kenny stopped the boat and we saw a solitary elephant on a small island near the channel.  The advantage to being in a smallish boat in the delta is that Kenny could navigate very close to the animals when we came across them.  We really loved our guides because when it hit the point that C and I felt that we were close enough to the elephant, Kenny stopped the boat.  (It was a nice change of pace from the guide who was more concerned about his truck than us!)  We got back to camp around 3.30, just as the other groups were leaving for their afternoon excursions.  SAM and I were treated to an extra mokoro ride, since I didn't have one the day before.

Our trumpeting elephant
A mokoro through the grass

Mokoro rides are interesting.  It's a canoe that is propelled by the guide who stands in the back of the boat with a long stick.  Instead of paddling the water, you push against the ground with the stick.  (The delta is not that deep.)  It would be a good way to get some exercise!  This mokoro ride was different than the one SAM had the previous morning because we went literally through the grass.  There were a lot of bugs and I couldn't really see where I was going but it was one of those experiences that you have to have when you visit the delta.

 We got back to camp and had another lovely dinner.  Our tents had no electricity, so everyone in camp had to share one power strip in the bar area to charge electronics.  It was quite a sight to see iPods, Kindles and cell phones being charged when you're almost totally off the grid.

Tomorrow brings a bush flight (or three) to the bustling metropolis of Kasane!

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