Monday, 3 October 2011

Botswana and Zimbabwe Spring Break PART I

Breakfast!  we had to wake up before the dawn and we ate out of metal cups and bowls- a fact, apparently, I never failed to mention every morning.
"Dusty" our faithful truck we spent many an hour on

For our spring break a group of us booked a trip to go to the Okavango Delta in Botswana and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.  It wasn’t until about a week before my trip that I discovered South African students used this vacation to catch up on school work and were shocked at the trips Americans had booked- our bad.

I was so happy I went on this trip- it was seriously, absolutely amazing. At least I felt like this at the end of the trip.

The beginning was extremely difficult.  Our flight took us from Cape Town to Johannesburg and then for the first two days we drove in a truck/bus vehicle into Botswana.  I slept for most of and was sure I already had malaria.  On the roads there were herds of cows, goats, and donkeys walking about on their own free will.  There were also hundreds of giant termite hills that ranged from 3ft-10ft tall all along the country.  Every town we would pass by cows would be walking through in a line.  Despite there being a billion of them at every turn I loved seeing them.  But I did hate when you were about to fall asleep and the truck would slow suddenly and beep to stop cows from crossing the street until be got by.  The cows always looked a little miffed that we honked at them- the donkeys and goats didn’t care as much but the cows had definite attitude.  Our first “African animal” spotting were some ostriches.  They are weird birds and know it.

Up close they are unbearably weird looking

The first night, after driving the whole day, we got to our back packers load and had a great dinner, people were feeling better about being off the truck, and things seemed to be relaxing after a rough ride. . . until we were told that we would be setting up our tents.  I have never been a “camper” and never planned to be.  I, in fact, hate camping.  That being said I handled it a lot better than a group of girls on the trip who called their parents sobbing (this was where our group divided into two separate camps for the rest of the trip) and also it wasn’t even that bad- I fell asleep instantly. 
The tents that made grown girls cry
After two days of driving we finally reached the delta (fyi the airport was 45 minutes away from the delta but I guess it was too expensive or some sheet).  On the shore there were dozens of little wooden canoes called Mokoros.  They piled our supplies into a few boats then in the other boats took our sleeping mats, backpacks, and sleeping bags and formed them into chairs for us to lounge in as they sailed (boated? Drove?) us to our camping site.  The people who pushed us were called polers and mine wanted to marry an American and loved lil’ wayne.  It was unreal being in a canoe with a poler using a 10ft pole to push us through marshes in the middle of Africa.  This ride initially was beautiful and relaxing just sprawling in the sun going through reeds . . . until I discovered the reeds were so effing full of spiders that I thought I was going to die.  Literally every five seconds I would see a stupid spider crawling on the side of the boat.  TWICE I had to flick off a spider that I swear on my life was bigger than my face.  Seriously!  The spider’s legs wrapped around my leg twice and I had to pry it off using a machete.  But you couldn’t really freak out or scream and flail because you were on a tiny boat and any sudden jerk would send you, your partner, the poler, and all your belonging into the delta to be eaten by crocodiles.  Yes there were crocodiles.  So I think my arachnophobia was been slightly heeled by full emersion tactics.  

We needed to bring our own water to the delta-- the Polers would just scoop it out of the delta but if we did that we would die.  Starting at the left it's: Jessie, Louie, Shelby, a Ringer, and Tembe

Cows in their natural Habitat.  Seriously I saw about a billion of them but loved every time

Donkey Riding, Donkey Riding


We've finally arrived at the Delta!

Wiz, my Mokoro driver.  he could make a "sick" lily pad necklace, but i'm not going to lie, his Mokoro was a little shaky.  I thought I was going to tip in every time I jerked from a spider sighting

It was literally surreal in these little boats in some unknown place in Africa

2 hours of them pushing us through reeds and canals we reached our campsite

Our campsite was a little weird.  we just put our tents around this center tree, which made it a bit difficult to walk around

Shelby guiding the Mokoro with her terrified passengers

When we got to the camp site they warned us not to go walking around at night b/c there were wild beasts about and then we were sent off to swim in the watering hole with the warning to watch out for more beasts in the water.  We were taught how to pole our boats ourselves which was much harder than it looked.  I couldn’t get it b/c it was the opposite of sailing a boat in steering.  On the way to the watering hole the polers taught us how to pick the lily pad flowers and make necklaces out of them.  The water was really refreshing and little fish would swim all around that you could easily scoop up.  The bottom wasn’t mucky at all like I feared but really nice and sandy.  Returning to the campsite we realized many people were burned to a crisp except for me who remained a shining beacon of white for the remainder of the trip.  Sweet. 

That afternoon they took us for a walk on a land part of the delta.  After no less than two minutes we came across a bull elephant.  It was only a few meters from us and so big.  It was just scooping up food and it was one of the most unreal moments of my life- being so close to a wild elephant.

The rest of our walk was beautiful, but we didn’t see anymore animals.  Just watched the sunset and heard hippos off in the distance.  When we got home we had dinner cooked over the fire that the polers had constructed earlier in the day.  The polers had gone and chopped branches down and constructed this fire in a blink of an eye to cook their lunch, which was fish they had caught from the water. 

Let's go for a walk! 

The water hole!  what's so great about the water hole?
African "Jungle"

Apparently I'm in awe- and failing at taking pictures

The next day we got up wicked early – as we did every blessed day- to go for a safari walk about an hours boat ride away.  This walk was much less green and lush.  It was more grasslands with golden grass and sparse trees.  We saw antelope further off, lots of different kinds including the biggest type of antelope that looked like a horse with a short tail and antlers.  We saw a few elephants from very far away that blended in perfectly and we saw lots of tracks like hyna and lion’s.  My favorite sighting was the zebras.  There were three and not so far off.  They would trot away if we got too close then look back at us and study us just like we were studying them.  They were just so nonchalant.

That night the polers took us for a sunset mokoro ride.  As we were being pushed along we suddenly heard the sounds of hippos.  In a blink of an eye the polers freaked and started pushing off in the opposite direction.  They were yelling at each other as I was yelling at all of them to turn us around and go to the hippos!  Eventually they did turn about and went back to a pool where we saw three hippos.  I instantly started singing

“I am a hippopotamus!
From my top to my very bottomus.
I am so round, so very very round,
You could almost call me spherical!”

Who knows if these are the right lyrics but they were close enough and shockingly no one has heard this song.  Disappointing to say the least.  That night there were more sing a longs.  Around the fire the polers sang their songs and preformed for us.  One song is easy to sing and praises all the things in the delta but can be interchanged with anything so for the rest of the trip we would sing

“beeeeauuuutiful delta!
Beeeeauuuutiful DELTA!
I shall nevvver forget!
Beeeeauuutiful delta!”

at the top of our lungs. I’m sure to the delight of every living soul around us.  When they asked us to sing a song we knew our whole group could only get through a few lines before failing.  I think we sang the national anthem with success though.

Beautiful Hippo!

Back to camp for singing and dancing around the fire. . . they danced, we sang

Leaving the delta was sad.  When we got back on land they put us back into a truck for another long drive.  As we drove away I was glad that I still was gleeful to see all the cows and goats and donkeys- this was until. . . we saw three GIRAFFES on the side of the road!!!  I was so disappointed we hadn’t seen any on our walks and there they were right on the side of the road!  I had been looking b/c I had spotted an ostrich moments before but we’d already seen those so I wasn’t over excited until the driver slammed on the breaks just as I saw the giraffes.  We all jumped out of the windows grabbing our cameras.  I think our shouts spooked the giraffes because one lunged to go running away.  But seriously it was the slowest runner I have ever seen.  it takes too long for it to move those long, long legs so it only got a few meters in many, many seconds.  They stopped “running” after that and I got to take lots of pictures. For the rest of the trip I scanned the savannah searching for beasts.  We got to see a few elephants but they blend in so well and moved off fairly quickly.  But as our driver promised, more elephants were spotted, only this time it was a whole FAMILY!  They had a few babies and this time no one yelped when they spotted them so we got to see them for a while.  But I have never been so happy as to see giraffes.  Just thinking about it makes me miss that goddamn truck a little bit.

My favorite ANIMAL!! 

just hanging out on the side of de road

A family of elephants!  A girl, I wont even give her name, tried to name them all, but i quickly rebuked her and said wild animals should never be named!  mostly i was sick of her naming everything under the sun.  She would literally give a name to a rock or card table- not even joking


Up next . . . more animals!

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