Sunday, 31 October 2010

8 days safari: Okavango, Caprivi, Chobe, Vic Falls


broken window
In a mokoro in Okavango Delta
I was fetched by a guy who I met before at Wild Dogs' office. Two Austrian girls, Christina & Heike, were already in the bus. We then drove on from Klein Windhoek to Eros to fetch a couple from Norway. The next stop was the office, and the rest of the group met us there. Vincent arranged himself another tour for after this one, with a few days in Livingstone. He's going to do the 7 days South Namibia tour towards Fish River Canyon, Orange River, Sossusvlei and so on. There is a couple from the UK in their fifties who are quite nice and another couple from Holland. When we were ready, we set off to our long journey through the Kalahari. We had to stop not far from Windhoek because we were getting lunches for the road. We stopped in Gobabis to stock up for the first part of the trip. The Trans-Kalahari Highway is a boring stretch of road with pretty much no landscape change, so we read and slept a lot. I even had time to finish my reports of the previous tour, and would've had enough time to write more and sort out pictures if not for my laptop battery which doesn't last too long. After our stop in Gobabis, we had lunch while driving. It was a box not unlike those you get on airplanes. The day was really cloudy. It was a first. We even had some rain. Our first day was quite uneventful, but it would only be the first in a row. We put up our camp in Ghanzi Trailblazer and left the next morning for another stretch of road. This was the first border crossing to Botswana and we did so at the border post of Mamuno. First we went to the Namibia customs then to the Botswana customs with a form to fill in at each point. The Botswana customs girl was really nice and asked about each of our countries languages and how to say “how are you ?” in each language.

Stealing blue-balled monkeys
The next day we started towards our next stop which was Etscha 13 on the western border of the Okavango Delta. There we were to unload all the luggage and most of the camping gear and load in onto a 4WD truck. During the trip we wanted to open the windows so we could have some air. Because although it still was very cloudy, it was pretty hot and not as dry as in Damaraland. But the three persons in the back do not like the air flow, so we had to close the windows again. Fortunately, we followed a truck which transported some stones and which was kind enough to throw one into our top right window. Now we had enough air :) A bus full of girls is much livelier than a bus with mostly couples. I felt pretty down with all those clouds and the previous trip still on my mind. So I mostly listened to some music and read or slept. Those two days were completely uneventful and boring. We arrived at Guma Lagoon Camp after having changed truck and driven through the first parts of the Delta. The camp is a lovely place located on a lagoon with the sun setting onto it. We drank some beers while watching the sunset and played a dutch game with poker cards not unlike Uno.

Feet disinfection
The next day we could sleep late if we wanted, because the pickup for the boat trip was scheduled for 9 am. We had breakfast and prepared some sandwiches. Josia, our driver, told us we could make enough sandwiches so that if we had too many we could give some to the polers. I asked him if we should make extra sandwiches but he told me no, so I finally only made two. When I asked him about their lunch he told me they would have some but would be glad to have some sandwiches too. At 9 we went to the boat landing and jumped into the fast boat which was to bring us across the lagoon and way into the delta to a Moroko (dugout canoe) landing point. When we arrived there, the five polers were already waiting on us. We then took place in our morokos. Two persons sitting down and the poler standing and poling in the back. We made our way into the Okavango through papyrus and other dense grass. It was very relaxing, but very hot too because we were in the sun the whole way. At one point we saw an elephant from far. We tried to get nearer but he didn't stay long. We arrived at an island in the delta and stepped out of our fiberglass dug-outs. The main poler took us for a short and easy walk through the bush where we saw a hippo poo and a antelope skeleton in a tree (which must have been from a leopard if not put here by humans ;). Back to our shady spot where we landed we ate our sandwiches. I needed some exercise because after 3 or 4 days sitting in a bus and barely moving I couldn't stand it any longer, so I went for a short walk of my own through the bush. I found a place where the elephants go to drink. When I came back one of the polers had prepared a piece of wood (with my replacement pocket knife) to make fire with it. They tried some time getting a thick smoke but no fire. We asked them what we would gain if we managed to make the fire catch and they said to try first and then they would see. So we tried hard a even managed to get a thin smoke. When they saw this they tried again harder and longer with new sticks. They never got it on anyway. Someone from our group told the polers it was time to go back so we prepared to go. On the way back we stopped at a place which is commonly used as a natural pool to take a swim. Back on the fast boat we made a little detour to a dead red hippo which was stranded somewhere. We thought maybe we'd see some crocodiles there, but there were none.
Elephants in Chobe NP
The next day we woke up early again to drive and get to camp at 3pm to do nothing (not even an afternoon game drive into Mahango). We had a “game drive” in the morning through the main road of Mahango game reserve. We had lunch in the reserve and there were a lot of blue-balled monkeys (as I call them) and some even tried to steal some of our food. After lunch our driver decided to drive fast anyway so we couldn't spot any more animals. Arriving in early afternoon, the driver told us to relax and drink a beer at the pool (we just relaxed 8 hours in the bus), so we organized ourselves our own boat trip on the Okavango River and saw lots of hippos and some crocodiles. We then enjoyed a beer at the pool.

One more driving day and getting up even earlier (5.30). Bored and tired. We crossed the Namibia/Botswana border again and had to disinfect our feet because of the mouth and feet disease. This is a joke seeing how it is done. On the road through Chobe NP we saw elephants and other game. We arrived at Kasane at about 4pm so we went to buy some beers into town.

Contrabanding
The following day I woke up at 4am and couldn't sleep anymore. I was pretty tired of camping and touring. We stood up at 5 to prepare for our early morning game drive, which happened to be a mass tourism game drive. We started at 6 and went into Chobe NP where we saw water buffalos, common antelopes, kudus, elephants and so on; we didn't see the leopard which was found in a tree but hid in a bush when all the cars came. There was a coffee break which we made at the same spot as all other cars. It was terrible. When we came back we had a small brunch and afterwards I went into town to buy a SIM card for Botswana and then we wrote postcards at the pool until 2.30pm. At 2.30pm we went on our mass tourism boat trip on the Chobe and saw elephants, buffalos, and so on... We spent 3 hours on that boat and I was getting really bored.

Vic Falls Zambia
The best day in tour was the day we crossed the border from Botswana to Zambia. There's a ferry once you pass the Botswana customs. We waited in line for our time to cross. I managed to get to Zimbabwe for my first time, and illegally. There was a barbed wire fence lying on the soil which I crossed to see if I could find some crocodiles in the bush. A Botswana policeman whistled me back over the fence and told me I could get arrested if I was caught in Zimbabwe. Afterwards I tried some dough balls with soup from a local food seller. They were pretty good and held to my stomach for the whole morning. When we finally had a place on the ferry we all went on foot onto the ferry. A little after halfway, some mokoros (dug-out canoes) accosted the ferry and loaded fuel onto their embarcation. Contraband ? Probably. It still took a long time to get done with the car customs so we had to wait until our driver was done. Our own custom formalities were quickly done as it was only a stamp to get and 50USD to pay. If they had informed us better I probably would have gotten a multiple entry visa at 80USD which would have cost me less than to pay the entry twice. Going to Vic Falls on the Zimbabwe side two days later proved to be very expensive.

Vic Falls Zambia
The same day we went to see the Victoria Falls on the Zambian side. Unfortunately we hit the driest time of the year so the view was not what we all expected. The main falls could be imagined on the Zimbabwean side but not seen. With Vincent we walked all possible paths but could not find what we were looking for: a lot of water. We went onto the falls where there are guides waiting and so we followed one of them to go over the edges of the falls.

The last day of the safari we woke up later and got ready to be deposited at our backpackers. We were soon to be free ! Yiiiihaaaaa !!