12.10.2016 - 18.10.2016
Wednesday, 12 October
The second half of the African adventure officially began today!
We were all quite happy that there were just nine of us on the first leg of this tour, thus giving each of us our own row of seats on the truck! We have another nine people joining us later on, a fact which none of us are particularly excited about. We started early, around 08:00 to make the short drive (100km) to Kasane, in Botswana. The border crossing into Botswana was quick and easy, particularly since no one needed to get visas. Our driver, Captain Fadz, was amazing and we all took a liking to him right away. Norman, our guide, started off on the wrong foot and tried too hard to assert his authority (an obvious hangover from his days in the military).
We had a full day of activities planned just outside of Kasana, in the Chobe National Park. In the afternoon we had (yet another) game drive and then a boat cruise on the river in the evening. The five of us left over from the first tour were not excited in the least about going on another game drive, but for the new people in the group, it was exciting.
Can you guess what animals we saw? Yep – impala! Followed by giraffes, zebras, and dozens of elephants. We saw a massive herd of elephants in Chobe, which was actually rather interesting to see. At one point we spotted a small family of lions under a tree, but they were behind some bushes and we couldn’t get to a good spot to take any pictures without having to go off the path (which is forbidden). The (sad) highlight that we saw was a buffalo that had gotten stuck in the mud, sinking down to the point where it couldn’t get out. The poor animal had been there for two or three days and was nearly dead (we saw some slight movements).
We ran into the other Nomad group, with Jane, Emma, and Marca, at several points during the game drive. Mmatsie and I got rather bored of the game drive, particularly because of how insanely hot it was (in the 40s C), so we started playing a game: Fuck, Marry, Kill (FMK). We looked at the men in the various trucks that we passed, deciding if we would F, M or K them; nearly every one of them was an immediate K, though there were a few Ms and Fs.
The boat cruise was the more interesting event of the day, allowing us to get out on the water and cool off. Both Nomad groups were on the same boat, so Jane was able to join Max and me for the cruise. She was smart and brought some beer, which she shared with us; the cool refreshment was desperately needed. The temperatures in Southern Africa were considerably higher than what we’d had in East Africa.
We saw many of the same animals that we’d seen earlier in the day, but the best part was getting to see the hippos in the water and several crocodiles. I was amazed at how many crocs we were able to see during the cruise. Finally, we stopped in the middle of the river to watch the beautiful sunset, which was stunning.
And then this random, candid photo was taken of Max - quite possibly my favorite photo of him. I've no idea how this was even taken; I think it was an accident when I was putting my camera away.
Arriving back at camp, we had some time to kill before dinner, so we either went to the pool or the bar (which did not have working wifi). The urinals in the men’s bathroom were… interesting: they were shaped like hippo mouths. We all eventually met at the bar to chat and have a few drinks. Jane taught Max a new game involving moving coins around to arrange the by size; he seemed quite stumped by the game, much to our amusement.
Thursday, 13 October
Today we left camp by 08:00 and set off to cross the border into Namibia, driving through the Caprivi Strip, a stretch of road that was incredibly dangerous to travel on during the 1990s due to the wars. We entered Namibia to take advantage of a shortcut to the Okavango Delta, which is back in Botswana; had we stayed in Botswana, the route by road there would have been an extra several hundred kilometers.
During the 430km drive, Max, Svenja, Christian, and me went to the front of the truck to play Uno. After playing a round of two, Rafa came up to join us as well. Finally, Siri and Jasmine joined the game, while Joana came and watched. It was a great bit of group bonding!
Camp was descent and thankfully the other group was staying in the same camp again, so we joined them at the bar after dinner. Chris and Svenja joined us at the bar as well; they joined our old Nomad group and really fit in quite well; we are all really happy that they are on this leg of the tour with us.
Friday, 14 October
Back to Botswana today! We drove to a meeting point, called the Big Tree, which was just that: a large tree on the side of the road; once there, both Nomad groups transferred to a single large truck for the drive to camp. The two-day excursion to the Okavango Delta was handled by a third party service provided, so we said goodbye to our Nomad guides.
Max, Jane and I sat next to one another on the truck and we decided to play a game with Max: we challenged him to not speak for the duration of the drive (about 40 minutes); if he succeeded, Jane and I would each buy him a drink; if he failed, he owed us each a drink. He accepted and throughout the drive we did our best to get him to talk, but, to our amazement, he succeeded! He even continued not talking to us for a few minutes once we reached camp, speaking to everyone but Jane and me!
The campsite was descent; the best part was that we didn’t have to put up or take down our tents – there were permanent tents with camp beds inside each one of them. They weren’t as nice as the permanent tents that we had in South Luangwa, but they were a step up from our regular tents.
We had a boar cruise in the lagoon later in the afternoon, so we all went to the bar to have some drinks and play cards. There was a group of French people also staying in the camp and they had taken all of the seats, but once they left for lunch we were able to take over. We decided to play 5,000 and we had to teach several new people how to play: Svenja, Christian, Jasmin, Siri, Rafa, and Stephanie (an American from Jane’s Nomad group). I was amazed by how many people wanted to join in and play the game; who knew that the simple card game I learned from Caleb all those years ago would become the favorite game here in Africa! Jasmin was dealt an amazing first hand – getting several aces and wild cards; she easily won the round with nearly 800 points!
While we were playing, a pilot came in to the bar to have his lunch. He was a young guy and very attractive (we all agreed that he was an F and an M). Stephanie called over to him and invited him to join us for cards; he said that he was curious to learn the game and moved to our table. His name was Chris (Christopher), he was from Cape Town, but had recently moved to Botswana to fly tourist flights around the region for Mack Airlines. The girls and I were all ogling him, but thankfully he sat right next to me and I explained the game to him. Chris quickly picked up the rules of the game and we played several rounds together, before he had to leave to go fly some people to the town of Maun. I joked that he should just stay with us, citing “mechanical issues” with the airplane. Before he left, he asked over the rules of the game again so that he could then teach his friends how to play – I’ve now passed the game on to even more people!
During the game, I chatted and shamelessly flirted with him (what did I have to lose?!). Once Chris left, Jane called me out on it and I just laughed. We began to refer to him as Captain Chris and as my Captain, to which I replied “Oh Captain, my Captain!” Sadly, he was scheduled to fly to Victoria Falls the next day and thus we wouldn’t be able to see him again. Every time we heard an airplane go by, we’d look to the sky and shout after my Captain…
The afternoon boat cruise was relaxing, if nothing else. Being out on the water was cooling and we saw several different birds. It quickly became evident that birds were going to be the highlight of the boat cruise; the lagoon and its tributaries were surrounded by dense reeds and papyrus plants, making it near impossible to see anything besides the birds. I did think several times how much Poppop would have enjoyed getting to see these birds – and I wondered if he’d seen any of the species that we saw.
Jane and I constantly made “That’s what she/he said” jokes during the entire time we were together. Max would join in and made some of the best comments to things that either Jane or I said. It helped to pass the time and make us laugh. My particular favorite was when we saw a Swallow fly across our boat path…
Again, we stopped to watch the sunset, which was the most amazing one we’ve seen yet on the tour. As the sun was going down, several small clouds appeared in front of it, which looked really amazing.
Arriving back at camp, we had a delicious dinner and then settled in to play more 5,000 before heading to bed.
Saturday, 15 October
This morning we had quite a busy schedule planned out. After breakfast we headed back out on the lagoon to drive over to a small island where we transferred to smaller boats for a trek through the smaller channels of the Delta. The small channels were actually hippo paths: as the hippos walk through the Delta, they create paths that are then filled in by the water. This makes the hippo one of the three essential animals for the Delta. The other two are the elephants (they bring new plant seeds to areas through their dung) and the termites (they create termite mounds, which are the starting points for all of the islands in the Delta).
I was nervous about taking the small boats because Norman had mentioned that spiders can sometimes fall from the reeds into the boats; I had Max ride in the boat with me to fed off any evil spiders who came into the boat. Max found great amusement in teasing me about the spiders: making me think that several we nearby or using his fingers to create the feeling of something crawling on me. Thankfully we saw no spiders at all during the day!
The boats were small and canoe-like, allowing only two people plus the man who piloted the boat. The captain used a pole to propel and guide the boat; the boat seemed quite wobbly at first, but we got used to it quite quickly. Sailing through the narrow channels was really interesting, especially being so low in the water. Max and I spent the ride discussing politics, especially Austrian politics, which I found fascinating.
Our destination was a small island where we disembarked from our boats and prepared for a walking tour through the bush. The descent into hell began… The next 90 minutes were, by far, the worst part of the entire tour thus far (and everyone in the group agreed). We walked through the reeds, passing an incredibly amount of elephant poo along the way. We were shown several different trees and a termite mound; at each stop our local guide would talk for what seemed like ages, killing us with information. The best part of the walk was when we were just walking along in a single-file line.
After the walk ended we sat around the water to have our picnic lunch. Max, Jane and I sat together to eat our lunch; Max and I kept whistling the song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Monty Python. I also taught him the true Southern saying “Bless your heart” and how it truly means “Fuck you!” in the South (ah, the Southern hypocrites!). During the lunch, Max reached around and put his arm around me and we sat that way for a few minutes. Marca looked over and noted how we were sitting, telling me that “This is love!” We were also dubbed WilhelMax due to our bro-mance. Ever since the second half of the tour began I found myself being more and more attracted to Max; he became much sweeter and more caring; gone was the sarcastic and antagonistic Max from earlier in the trip.
After we ate, it was time to return to our small boats for the trip back. En route, Christian decided to give poling a try, so Svenja switched boats and left him to it. He did a pretty good job, especially for a first timer. He managed to steer the boat around for a few minutes before we all resumed the trip back to camp.
When we got back to camp, Max and I went back to our tent to relax and get out of the heat. He took a nap while I spent some time reading Atlas Shrugged. I also decided to take a nice, cool shower, which was refreshing. After showering, we headed back over to the bar area and met up with Jane. Jane and I started to play a game of chess using the board they had (each piece was African-themed); she had to leave to take a helicopter flight over the Delta before we finished the game, so Max took her place. The game ended in a draw, but it was still fun. We then started to play 5,000 with Svenja, Christian, and Rafa. Max went to get us some drinks and heard that there was an elephant nearby; he called out to us to see if anyone wanted to go see it… and we all collectively sighed and shrugged it off. We just couldn’t be bothered.
Christian and I left the card game after a while so he could go fly his drone; I joined him because I wanted to check out how good the drone was. We went behind the camp and he flew the drone up about 50m, which provided a decent view. When he sent it higher, to around 80m, the wireless signal got lost and the drone was drifting around. When Chris regained control, he started to bring it down and, about 10m from the ground, it died and dropped like a rock – thankfully it wasn’t broken.
We rejoined the group and continued to play cards until it was time for dinner; we continued playing cards for a little while after dinner as well. Sitting on the outside deck was the best way to cool off, though it wasn’t much relief from the heat and humidity.
Sunday, 16 October
The stay at Okavango Delta finally comes to an end!!
None of us were very sad to say goodbye to the Delta; it wasn’t the most interesting excursion of the trip and almost everyone agreed that it could easily have been skipped. I think the main problem was that we came at the wrong time of the year; the water levels were quite low during the dry season and there weren’t that many animals around.
On the way out of the Delta, Jane and I were challenged by Max to not speak in exchange for beers. Max did his best to get us to speak, but we won out in the end. On the drive back we saw several elephants, which turned out to be the only game that we actually saw in the Delta.
When we reached the Nomad trucks and were splitting up into our respective groups, we asked Jane’s guide, Loius, and her cook, Tara, if it would be possible for the two groups to have dinner together in the evening. This evening would be the last that we would be sharing together; Jane’s group would split and head off toward Jo-burg, while our group would head to Windhoek; both groups were to stay in the town of Maun tonight though. We were shocked to find out that, while we would both be in Maun, we wouldn’t be at the same campsite; we would actually be around 20km away from one another! We thus had to say our rushed and rather unprepared goodbyes to one another, which was quite difficult to do.
As we were driving toward Maun, everyone on our truck was rather sad and depressed at the rushed goodbyes that we had; we had all been counting on having one final evening together. Rafa came by to ask if I would be interested in taking a taxi over to the other camp for the afternoon and evening, to which I happily agreed. Max, Joana, Rafa, Chris, Svenja and I all agreed that we’d talk to Norman about getting the taxi arranged.
Our camp was on the outskirts of the town, more in the desert than in the town. When we asked Norman about our idea, he said that it would be fine; the truck drove us all into town after lunch so we could grab some water and snacks; it was there that we were able to grab a taxi to the other campsite. We had to take two taxis and the drivers were very nice. When we arrived at the other camp, we arranged with the drivers to have them come back at 21:30 to pick us up again.
The other campsite was more of a hotel than a true campsite; it had a huge pool and bar area. When we entered the reception area, we ran into Tara and asked her if it was ok for us to join them for dinner. She happily agreed, but said they might not have enough food for us; Norman had let us make sandwiches before we left, so we told Tara that she needn’t worry about feeding us.
We spotted Jane and the others by the pool and made our way out to them. Joana and Rafa queued up “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” on the speaker as well. When we were all out by the pool I shouted “Jane Marr!” to get her attention; she looked up and was so shocked to see us. She came up and gave me a big hug and I told her that we just couldn’t let what happened in the morning be our final goodbye. Emma and Marca were in the pool and were equally surprised to see us at their camp. We all dropped our stuff off by the pool and went for a swim.
Max tried several times to dunk me under the water, but I was able to get away from him. The few times I tried to dunk him, he too got away. Jane wasn’t so lucky… However, I finally relented and let Max and Jane dunk me under the water.
Max, Jane and I each had a milkshake from the bar, which was the perfect treat on yet another hot day. We got out the various snacks we brought with us and sat around chatting, drinking and eating. Emma, Marca, Joana and Rafa bought some wine and sat together, chatting and drinking. It was a fantastic afternoon together with some truly great friends.
During the afternoon I managed to find Captain Chris (from Okavango) on Facebook and, at everyone’s urging, sent him a friend request. To my surprise, he accepted! Since he lived in Maun, I sent him a message, inviting him over to play cards with us. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the message until the next morning, so he couldn’t come join us.
We joined their group for dinner and found that Louis had built up a campfire for them as well. They had schnitzel for dinner and we happily ate our snacks and sandwiches. It turned out that they did have some extra food at dinner, which we were invited to eat; the schnitzel was quite good. As we were eating, the moon began to rise and it was amazingly huge and quite orange.
After dinner we went back to the bar area to have some more drinks and hang out for a little while longer. When 21:30 rolled around we began to say our proper goodbyes. It still wasn’t easy to say goodbye to any of them, but this time we felt that we’d been able to have a proper goodbye party of sorts. I was particularly sad to say bye to Marca, whom I truly enjoyed spending time with; she and I had some wonderful conversations throughout the trip (and she was one of the first people to notice that I’d become… smitten with Max). Saying by to Emma, Steph, and especially Jane was equally difficult and sad, but they all walked us out to the taxis when it was time to leave. Driving back to our camp I felt good about the day and incredibly happy that we’d made the decision to go and make the surprise visit.
Monday, 17 October
Today the nine of us set off for the town of Ghanzi, which is still in Botswana (our last day in Botswana). The drive was good, we played cards at the front, did some reading and listened to music.
Our camp for the night was pretty nice, but there wasn’t much in the way of entertainment, aside from some option activities which no one signed up for. Norman suggested that we drive over to an old quarry that is now used as a swimming pool; we all eagerly agreed and so we set off after having our lunch.
The quarry was beautiful and the swimming pool was huge! There was a wooden dock tied up at one end with several body boards for us to use. The owners of our campsite also owned this property and were in the process of developing it into another campsite. We changed into our swimsuits and spent a couple hours enjoying the refreshing coolness of the water.
After swimming, we headed back to our camp for dinner before our tribal dance show in the evening. The bushmen came to our camp to do some traditional healing and entertaining dances around a bonfire. To be quite honest, all of the songs sounded exactly the same: the women clapped and chanted while the men danced around the fire. It was interesting to see though.
Tuesday, 18 October
The nine of us were rather sad that today marked the last day before the rest of the group joined the tour. We had gotten used to having the truck all to ourselves; having a small group also allowed us to bond quite well. Alas, all good things must come to an end.
During our drives, Norman and Captain Fadz would put music on over the speakers for us; we would dance around on the truck, sing along, having a fantastic time relaxing with everyone. We’d even play pranks on one another if we happened to fall asleep. Rafa tried to write on Max’s back using a Sharpie, but he woke up before she could finish. We’re all awaiting his revenge for that one…
Today took us back across the border to Namibia as we drove to the town of Windhoek. Driving into Windhoek, we were all amazed at how urban and Western it felt. I couldn’t help but think that the former German colonies are rather well established, with order and infrastructure, while the former British colonies are… well, not.
We were given 90 minutes to explore the city; after changing some money into the local currency we visited several souvenir shops, but I found nothing that I wanted to buy. The city still retains a lot of German heritage, with people still speaking German and many signs still in German. Needless to say, I was in heaven being around so many German things!
We walked by an outdoor display of several meteorites that were found in Namibia, which was somewhat interesting. We then made our way over to the history museum, which was free. The museum itself wasn’t terribly interesting: there were tons of photographs on display, but no explanations for what happened during the history or what was going on, so it was near impossible to put anything into context. We did get some amazing views of the city from the top floor of the museum.
Our lodging was outside of town, in the middle of the desert, which we were all rather disappointed in, but tonight we were all in hotel rooms – huzzah! We had about two hours before we drove to dinner, which we all spent showering and checking emails (this was the first wifi that we’d had since Victoria Falls).
Dinner was at a local restaurant, Joe’s Beerhouse. It was a wonderful restaurant, with many German-theme dishes and tons of knick-knacks around the place, including a random outhouse setup (not functional).
The highlight of the restaurant was the variety of game meats that they had available. I settled on the Bushman Sosatie: a kabob with Springbok, Oryx, Zebra, Crocodile, and Kudu. Every bite was delicious, especially the zebra (easily my favorite game meat – it just melted in my mouth!).
Max had a game knuckle, which turned out to be kudu. We were all shocked by how huge the piece of meat turned out to be.
Svenja was only going to order chicken, but Chris and I nagged her into ordering game meat (kudu). Chris ordered the same dish as me, but he was hesitant to eat the crocodile; he promised not to eat any animal that could, in turn, eat him. I reminded him that the crocodile on his plate was already dead, so the other crocs would already have reason to eat him. We eventually got him to try a bite of the crocodile.
The night ended with DJ Norman and DJ Fadz playing some romantic music over the speakers. When Celine Dion came on (the song “Because You Loved Me”), Joana gave a scream of joy and got up to dance at the front of the truck. She and Rafa had both danced to the song “No Matter What” earlier in the evening as well. It was priceless entertainment!