Chapter Thirty-One: African Tour Pt. 2-Botswana & Zimbabwe

Day 13

Back on the road for another long day of driving. We hit the road at 7:30 and drove throughout the day, passing into Botswana, and arriving at our camp just shy of 5:00 p.m. This felt to be the most rustic campsite so far, with barebones washrooms and sandy grounds. This was exacerbated by the rain and humidity, but invited plenty of bugs and left us feeling sticky. Worth it though, as this is where we had a chance to meet a tribe of Kalahari bushmen, called the sun people, or the kwi kwi (not sure on the spelling). We had a walk with about ten of them through the bushes, where they showed us how they lived and, through a translator, explained about their diet, medicine and hygiene. They spoke in their native tongue, which is full of clicks, and fascinating to hear. The bush people had been forcibly removed by the government from their lands in the Kalahari, where they had a basic subsistence lifestyle, living off the lands as nomads. They fought back in court and won and the government, in turn, gave them proper accommodations in which to live. Though they still spend much of their time living off the land to stay true to their ancestry. After dark, they built a fire and showed us some traditional dances, to channel health and safety, as well as simply for entertainment. Spectacular end to a long day on the road!

 

Day 14

Today was mostly spent on the road. We arrived at our campsite, Swamp Stop (no joke!), in the late afternoon. We took a dip in the pool and just hung around. There wasn’t much to do and it was wet so there were plenty of mosquitoes. We had some drinks together in the bar in the evening but the bugs eventually drove me out.

 

Day 15

We started the day with a drive to the Okavanga Delta, a top tourist attraction in Botswana, where we would spend two days. This was an additional activity and quite pricey so we had high expectations. When we arrived, we learned that we just had free time all day until our evening boat ride. This was fine with me as it was rainy and I was feeling sick, so I just took a nap in the tent. The campsite was very pretty, surrounded by floating fields of papyrus plants and monkeys jumping from tree to tree. The boat ride was slow and beautiful, weaving our way through the canals of plants, where we saw many wild birds and crocodiles. Afterward, we had a nice dinner. It was a low key day but I was exhausted and still not feeling well so I made it an early night.

 

Day 16

Still in the delta, today started with a fast boat out to an island, where we boarded macoro boats, two by two. Macoros are like flat bottomed canoes but with a puller (poker?) who stood behind us and pushed the boat through the shallow waters with a long stick, like an African gondola. This was really special and peaceful, as we floated along past high grasses, lily pads and water lilies. A bunch of frogs no bigger than my thumbnail hopped in and out of the boat and a giant red praying mantis perched on my foot for the trip. We also had a small walk around the island and explanation of some local flora before making our way back to camp. The rest of the afternoon was, again, rainy and restful. We read, chatted and played some games, though I was once more very ready for bed once dinner was finished. I’m not sure this activity was worth the price tag on it, but it was indeed very scenic and relaxing.

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Day 17

We packed up and left the delta after breakfast and spent the morning driving, again crossing the Namibian border (just for one overnight). We got to our camp in the early afternoon with no plans so it was another restful day. There was a pool but it was a bit rainy and cool so we all just lounged around, reading, chatting and having some drinks. But what was really great about this spot is that it was right on the Okavango river and we could watch hippos playing in the water all afternoon. This was a very picturesque background for a low key day. We had a campfire in the evening after dinner and then went to bed, with a 4:45 wake up time ahead!

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Day 18

We woke up this morning early and in the rain. We scrambled to get out tent packed in the dark and not get too soaked. The day got better as we drove along because we saw a troop of elephants by the side of the road!! There were four or five as well as a baby. It was so amazing; I wanted to stay all day. They are such beautiful, majestic creatures. Afterward, we crossed back into Botswana and arrived at our camp, in Chobe park, just after 1:00 p.m. We had an afternoon boat cruise along the Chobe river, where we saw hippos grazing and playing in the water, plenty of crocodiles, members of the antelope family, water buffalo and baboons on the shore. It was a terrific ride. We came back to the camp at sundown for our last camp dinner as a group, sausages, beef ribs, vegetables and garlic bread, and then all went to the camp bar for a couple of drinks before heading to bed.

 

Day 19

We started the day with a game drive around Chobe park (I was hoping to see more elephants!). It was a beautiful drive. We saw plenty of baboons, antelope, springbok, zebras, giraffes, warthogs, colourful birds, and buffalo, as well as gorgeous scenery of the lush green hills, brush and water. On the trip back from the park to the camp, we actually spotted more elephants along the roadside. This national park is among the biggest in the world as is reputed to have about 50,000 elephants. Much of it is protected and not for visitors. The parts we saw were spectacular. We had brunch at the camp afterward and then drove on to Victoria Falls, crossing into Zimbabwe. We visited the Victoria Falls park for a few hours, walking along the footpaths. Victoria Falls is considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world and is the largest waterfall system on earth. The pressure of the water and the narrow canyon that the water spills into creates a heavy mist which gives the falls an elusive and slightly spooky quality. It also means that you cannot view the whole stretch of falls with the naked eye. In fact, from some points, you cannot see them at all. This makes them appear a bit smaller, but when you are lucky enough to get a moment of clarity and a far view, it is truly spectacular. We also got soaked from the mist! Next, we visited a baobab tree that is massive and between 1,000 and 1,500 years old.

Afterward, we were brought to our hotel, which was very much needed after a week of wet and buggy camping. We showered and changed and then headed to a restaurant that the tour group selected for us. It was quite overpriced and underwhelming, and we believe we went as the guides got a kickback for bringing us, but that aside, we did get to try warthog (which tasted almost just like a pork cutlet) and crocodile steaks (which were quite nice! It was a white meat but not fishy, softer and more savory than chicken). And ended the night at a hostel bar in town with the group.

 

Day 20

Today was a day to relax, starting and ending in a real room. We had a late breakfast with some of the group in the hotel, then walked around to explore the small downtown with a Swiss friend we made. We walked along the no man’s land bridge, between Zimbabwe and Zambia, and picked up some pizza and beers to eat back at the hotel in a small courtyard area. We spent some time at the pool and skyped with our parents. For dinner, it was the last night that we would spend with most of the group of twenty with whom we began the trip, so we made a reservation for the group at a fun patio restaurant we saw in town. It was a nice end to this part of the trip, having some drinks and laughs with everyone. It was a bit sad to say goodbye when we finally left, but we have plenty of adventures still ahead! ❤

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