“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” –Mark Jenkins

Monday, 14 August 2017

Day trip to Botswana

630am wake up call when a flask of hot tea arrived at our room, so we showered to wake ourselves up and headed out just as it was getting light.
Michael and Caroline were waiting by the van to see us off and make sure we had everything and Caroline commented on the "love letter" we had left... both of them laughing. With any luck I will have clean socks again by the time we get back.
Crispin, our driver, took us to the Kazangulu border port on the Zambian side, passing endless queues of trucks waiting sometimes up to 14 days to cross, one at a time into neighbouring Botswana or Namibia on flatbed ferries.
He handed a piece of paper over to a waiting boatman, who would take us over the river to meet another guide on the Botswana side. All being well, Crispin would return to collect us back in Zambia at 430pm.
I will admit, the border crossing was a little daunting, not only because it was the first time we were alone (and unsure what the plan was), but also because we were carrying large expensive cameras through the throngs of hawkers at the border wanting to sell us copper bracelets and soapstone animal ornaments. Thankfully there wasn't too much hanging about and before long we were clinging on for dear life, bouncing over the waves in our tiny tin boat heading for the opposite bank.
"Six", our wildlife guide, arrived soon after we did and after a quick dip in the foot and mouth bath and some more passport stamping, we were off to Chobe. To our amazement, we had the land-cruiser all to ourselves.
After sorting out park fees and more paperwork we headed into the Chobe National Park through the Sedudu gate and almost immediately stopped for a "dazzle" of Zebra and some Impala. We had heard there was a male lion down by the riverbank, so we sped off in the right direction hoping we wouldn't be too late as he was on the move. By the time we got there, a large number of trucks were curb-crawling him through the bush as he looked for somewhere shady to pass the heat of the day. Not the ideal time to be on safari we knew, but beggars can't be choosers. He was sadly too far in for us to get a glimpse, so we moved on, Six declaring we would find our own lion, and within half an hour we had. Two in fact. It was not a great sighting for me as our driver had unfortunately broken an ethical boundary to get it, so let's just say it was memorable.
We moved on again, stopping for a comfort break and a drink in a strange, unguarded picnic area not so many yards from shagging elephants; Three bull elephants had separated a young female from her breeding herd and taken her into the bush, where they basically gang-raped her before leaving her dazed and very confused to find her way back to her mother and aunties. Fascinating to learn about but pretty eye-watering to watch, especially as the bull was twice the size of the poor female.
We moved on again passing over 50
Giraffe grazing on the tops of the Acacia trees, heading out of the park and down to a boat jetty, where we climbed on board our own private river safari boat and headed out for lunch at a place called "The Raft". It was floating on the Namibian side of the river almost touching the bank, and we were met by the staff singing us a welcome song and helping us off the boat. They had the grill going with all sorts of meat being cooked and cold white wine ready and waiting. It was bliss, but the highlight for me was yet to come. We spent the afternoon out on a river safari back in the Chobe NP.
We saw a herd of buffalo chasing an Elephant across the river and Elephants running and swimming from a lion (slightly worryingly in our direction), and a Hammerkop being mobbed by two Lapwing.
There were Elephants, Buffalo and Hippos everywhere we looked... both in and out of the water.
Sadly, but thankfully before the wind burn got too bad, it was time to leave and find our way back to the Kasane border post. We had multi-entry visas, so getting back into Zambia should have been perfectly straightforward, however the only indication of the visa type in our passports were the letters "M/E" scribbled in biro by the airport immigration staff.  Without sufficient US Dollars on us to buy more visas we fretted a little. Noticing the time, we also started to fret a little more... we were 30 minutes early and would have to suffer the hawkers again whilst we waited for Crispin to collect us.
The tin boat for the return journey was over the far bank when we got there, so a colleague kindly offered to take us back across the stretch of no-mans land to the waiting hawkers. Clutching cameras and binoculars and ready to brave it out, we stepped up to get off the boat and were asked who we were waiting for.... after our reply of "Waterberry", the shout went up, and was relayed round the port until seconds later Crispin appeared from behind a boat smiling reassuringly at us. Phew.  He even had cold beers in the cool box inside the vehicle. What a team Waterberry are. Thank you thank you thank you.
An awesome day; we saw some amazing sights, had moments of adrenaline, moments of wonder, sheer joy and happiness and, apart from the bone-shaker drive back along the dirt track to our lodge, I couldn't fault the day. Definitely money very well spent and just goes to prove, you don't need Attenborough-style big five action to enjoy the wildlife here.

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