Back in Windhoek, I had met up with two Kiwis and they had just come from Botswana and were very kind to give me a lot of detailed information. They told me how I could go about organizing my own Makoro trip on the Delta. The only challenge with their advice though was that I would need to find my own transportation to the Buffalo Fence which is located on another island out in the Delta. The only way that I could get there they recommended, was by way of 4 wheel drive. I later found out though that an alternative option would have been via boat. However, since I couldn't figure out how to get there and being pressed for time, I just ended up joining a tour. Either way, I think I would have only saved $20 which is a lot of money but not worth all the work that would have come with trying to organize it on my own.
I ended up getting paired up with another lady who reminded me a lot of my University buddy, Tess. She was an older lady (60?) and traveled every year for 4 months out of the year. She was older but a bit crazy, freaky, wild…if you know my friend Tess then you'll know what I mean…I am at a lack of words in trying to describe Tess' wild and entertaining energy when you're around her…crazy, freaky wild is the best I can come up with (all in a GOOD way, of course)! Anyway, it was a nice surprise to be paired up with an American. We were equally cheap and resourceful so she really gave me a run for my money! She told me a story about how she had managed to get a free ride on a tour bus and recommended a good restaurant to them and then relayed to the owner of her success in bringing this big group over and that she deserved a free pizza. She got it! I have never tried that one! I was actually learning some new tricks! And I'm usually the one dishing out the advice!
We were going to be going on a Mokoro which is a hand-carved wooden canoe that is used to get around through the Delta. I didn't really know what to expect only that many people that I had consulted strongly encouraged me to make a trip out here. It was good that I was paired up with Arlene because obviously she had done her homework and being the outspoken American that she was, she made sure that they didn't give us a fiberglass boat (which is how many of the Makoros are made out of nowadays) and that we had the best guide that would give us a good tour. Thank goodness she was there to sort us out otherwise, I would have probably been quick to jump in a fiberglass Makoro, not knowing the difference, and being happy with just a quick ride around.
|This here is a web catcher...it catches all the spider webs....|
|My Botswana lunch: Mashed butternut (orange), chicken, braised beef (really good! Texture similar to kalua pig but beef), cabbage, (slightly) spicy macaroni, and beans...all for $3!|
After our leisurely lunch, we went back on the Makoro and got to see some wildlife along the way. Arlene was really keen on seeing elephants so Julius made sure we saw them. We got incredibly close to them at one point, about 20 feet away. It was surreal to observe these animals so closely in the wild. It actually was frightening for a moment because one of the three elephants that we had found stared us dead cold. I really thought that the elephant was going to charge us and I was going to die right there in the Okavango Delta. I had been recording the whole scene unfold even as my battery kept blinking on low with one bar left (I charged it the night before!). I got so scared though that out of impulse, I stopped recording and hid behind Julius. I wish I kept the camera rolling because seconds later, Julius pulled a move that locals must typically practice and chased this enormous animal away. Thank God the elephant went away; I really didn't want to die there in Botswana.
That night we settled upon another island and set up camp there. After we set up our tent, we went back out for a sunset cruise and were in the water very close to a few hippopotamuses. After the elephant incident, I was very afraid of getting too close. Julius warned that we couldn't get any closer (Arlene always wanting to push our limits) because the hippopotamuses move quickly in the water. I also later learned that they are known for turning over many Makoros! Thankfully Julius was experienced and we escaped unharmed. The only other annoying part of the sunset ride was that we were tasty meat for mosquitos. Mosquitos swarm out at dusk so they were flying all around us! Not a good thing when Botswana is known to have malaria infected mosquitos! Luckily I had my spray and had taken my malarone (malaria medication) but that didn't prevent me from getting attacked! Arlene actually told me that when she was in Mali earlier that month, she had been diagnosed with malaria. At first she just thought it was a head cold (which is not a common symptom) but decided to get herself checked out. Luckily she did because she was in the early stages! Hearing her story started to make me out to be a hypochondriac, later always worrying whether or not I had caught it at any small signs of discomfort.
Sleeping that night was actually the first time in Africa that I was in the complete wilderness, sleeping under the vast African sky and its beautiful stars. Maybe I'll sound like an idiot now but I didn't realize until that night that looking at the stars from the Southern Hemisphere is completely different from observing the stars from the North! Did you know that?