When we crossed the border into Botswana we instantly had to dodge lots of donkeys, this being the country with the greatest density of them in the wild apparently! This was the hottest place so far, where you had to rush to eat an ice cream or it would melt and fall to the floor! It was also the start of Foot and Mouth check points, so we had to keep our shoes out to put them through the disinfectant pads. The tour leader lied to the border guy about us having a cooler under the truck, just one of the many dodgy practices she conducted. Another was ‘helping' certain people on the tour by changing their money, which didn't really give them a better rate but saved her loads of money (which she would no doubt then pocket!).
Anyway, on to the town of Maun where we were given the normal short amount of time to run around and try and sort out ATM (huge queue) and shopping for supplies (crazy huge queue) as well as get on the rarely found internet to make contact with the nearest and dearest before they sent out a search party! Oli and I had been persuaded to part with a ridiculous amount of money for a 3 day (2 night) trip into the Okavango Delta. Ridiculous because we were taking our own food and camping equipment in (which we'd already paid for being on the tour) and the local guides told us that the extra part of the trip would cost only a sixth of what we were being charged if we'd done it direct with them!! On top of that, the tour leader had asked us 3 days prior if we'd like to have an upgrade at the camp site where we were staying the night before the trip. As I'd had enough of boot camp, and the tent, plus the trip was a proper bush camp, we thought a treat the night before was a good idea and had ordered an upgrade. However, when we arrived it turned out that it hadn't been reserved and a hot, stressed, mosquito bite covered girl almost lost it, but instead decided to have a good old cry! I took an anti-histamine and calmed down, then tried some of the goat the chef, Francis, had picked up for himself in town, quite chewy but pretty tasty!
The Okavango Delta trip was not quite the wilderness experience we'd been sold, as there was another group really close and when we did walks we were all following each other. After passing by the local villages and waving at the children (a great pastime, which I recalled really enjoying in India) we went over the ‘wild animal fence' and reached the poling station. It was organised chaos to be allocated a poler to pole the dug out canoes called makoros. Oli and I were chosen last, which unfortunately meant that we not only got the worst makoro, but also had no time to get ourselves comfortable. It wasn't long before I felt the water leaking in, and our poler would stop every few minutes to bail out! My bag was getting wet and thankfully the leader guy stopped and took our things out to save them, but by the time we arrived at camp I was soaked to the skin! Luckily, we managed to get a nice spot for our tent even though we were the last to choose a site. After setting up camp, and being shown the hole that had been dug for our drop loo, we were told we had 6 hours to kill until it was time to be poled out for the first guided walk! As there was potential for wild animals we couldn't go wandering ourselves and had to stay in the perimeter of the camp unless we got poled out to go swimming.
The first walk was more about the guide giving information on the area and different plants, which was really interesting. We didn't see many animals but did find ourselves at a pool where a group of hippos kept popping their heads up, and we had the usual anticipation waiting for a yawn. It was here we discovered that this was their way of warning us off! Another fantastic sunset, which made the sky look purple and had rays of light shining up through the clouds. On the way back we went through another pool which had some more hippos in, and we poled by quickly! The next morning we took the same route for a longer walk and as we went through the hippo pool one actually leapt out of the water at us about 40 metres away! On the walk, we saw a big herd of elephants, two zebra, numerous impala, warthog, a fish eagle and the heaviest flying bird in the world called a secretary! We were shown the various footprints and also found some set Nellie prints in the mud, which were really deep and made for good pictures standing in. As the sun rose it got hotter, and we had to make a log ‘bridge' over a swampy part to get to the main area. This is where Oli started to look pale and it seemed to take forever for us to get back.
As well as the walks it was a nice area to relax, surrounded by reeds and the sound of grunting hippos could frequently be heard in the distance. It wasn't far to the ‘safe' swimming hole which had a narrow channel leading to a deeper section where we had great fun. Some people had a go at poling their own mokoros - a task much harder than it looked! It was nice to have time to play cards, and I learnt a new dutch game called Tupa, really addictive. It wasn't all fun and games though, firstly there was a proper fist fight between two of the guys over a broken camera, and Oli developed a tummy bug which meant he lost his appetite (a very rare occurrence!) and couldn't do the sunset mokoro ride. It was a shame as we spent the whole time at the hippo pond and saw them yawning and jumping out of the water - I got a great mid air shot (see pics). The sunset through the reeds was also lovely but it killed my back sitting up for so long and I got dehydrated, so back at camp I missed out on performing in the nationality singing bee but could here it from my tent as I dozed with Mr poorly!
The trip out of the Delta was more comfortable and drier! We got ice cold drinks on the drive back to the campsite and had an upgrade room waiting for us - bliss to be in a bed! After another mad dash around town, we had a fantastic 45 minute flight over the Delta in a small Cessna 206 plane, where we had brilliant views over the townships and saw the meandering waterways and lots of animals including elephant, giraffe, buffalo and impalas. The pilot enjoyed banking hard and going fast and low over the water - great fun if I hadn't been dehydrated again! I've made sure I always drink a lot more from that point on, as the heat really knocks it out of you. Had a treat of sausage and chips for dinner and then a moment of sadness as a baby bird that had fallen out of its nest was found. Fell asleep to the sound of donkeys instead of hippos for a change!
After the Delta experience, it was a long day's drive to Chobe river, where we got held up with more foot & mouth checks and passed the time playing Tupa! We had a quick stop in Kasane where it was like supermarket sweep stocking up on supplies for in Zimbabwe, as the tour leader had told us it would be easier and cheaper to buy everything before we crossed the border. It was a really nice campsite with a good sized pool and bar, plus the luxury of staying 2 nights so the feeling of being able to unpack a bit for a change. I enjoyed a couple of vodka tonics that night, the first time I'd fancied a drink for ages cos of the heat. It was also the night Francis cooked one of the BEST FILLET STEAKS I've ever eaten!