Botswana, like Namibia is another very sparsely populated country, with a large chunk of the country being taken up by the Kalahari desert. We wouldn’t have very much time in Botswana, but enough to see it’s two main attractions: the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park. Driving from Etosha it’s probably a one long day to the Delta, but because the truck the needed to drop people off in the capital, Windhoek, we went far out the way and it was almost 3 days of straight driving in between Etosha and Okavonga. It’s things like this that make these overland trips frustrating sometimes.
Our crew was down to 15 or so at this point, losing 7 people at Windhoek and picking up one Kiwi for the final leg to Victoria Falls. At this point I can’t even remember where we camped for our first night in Botswana, but the second night we made it to the edge of the delta, camping right along the river that would take us into the delta itself. The first thing you notice is that the mosquitoes are fierce here. For most of Namibia they had not been too big of a problem, but now in the low lying marshland, they were relentless, constantly biting right through my hiking pants. I can see now why many people by shirts and pants with repellent already soaked into the fabric in Africa, but even here they still couldn’t stop the onslaught.
We got a rainstorm that night, making packing up our tents a very muddy affair. We would be spending 2 nights in the delta, so we packed our small backpacks, set them in garbage bags, and threw them in the back of our boat that would be taking us down the river. Almost right away the boat was having some sort of engine problems, so we spent an hour or so trying to figure out what was going before eventually ignoring it and continuing. We cruised down the river at a very leisurely space, spotting lots of birds and eagles. It took us 3 hours (double the time it was supposed to take) to reach our dropping off point, where we took some jeeps for another hour before finally being disposed at our lodge.
We were shown to our tents. My new tentmate, Frank, who was German and hated mosquitos more than most people, had some a special bedroom mosquito spray that we coated our tent with for extra protection against the swarms. He used so much that I think he must have killed any mosquitos in a 20 foot radius. If we were found dead the morning the rest of the group could safely assume that the fumes had gotten us.
Soon enough we headed down to the water to meet our polers, who would be our boat drivers and as well as knowledgeable guides. The water throughout the delta is very shallow, so the boatsmen get around just by pushing their boat along with a large wooden pole. I ended up with Gisela, a friendly older Swedish woman, whose accent was at times amusing to our group. The boats we were seated in were called makoros, and at first they seem very unstable and likely to flip over, but you get used to them eventually. The polers took us out to see the hippos, which is a little unnerving, as they are the type of animals you don’t really want to be around with tiny little boats! You stare at them and they stare at you, occasionally grunting or showing their teeth to make their presence known, but ultimately doing nothing. Sometimes when they go under it makes you think their going to re-emerge right next your boat, but thankfully that never happened!
After another night of drinking games I awoke to about 50 mosquito bites on my feet, from some mosquitos that must have gotten into the tent at some point of the night and threw a party on feet. Ahh, Africa. All the spraying in the world couldn’t save me. But I had no time to itch them because we had to be on the boats early for a boat ride and walking safari. Personally I wasn’t a big fan of the walking safari compared with the jeep safari, as the animals are quite used to the jeeps, but with humans on foot they run off long before you get a chance to get close to them. We still saw some impalas, baboons, wildebeasts, and some elephants way off in the distance.
That afternoon we got to try out steering the boats ourselves, which is much more difficult than you’d think! Getting the balance down isn’t too bad, but just keeping the boat straight without turning it was shockingly hard. After a bit of practice the Worlds Cup of Makoro racing was hosted sporting 3 teams, the Germans, the Dutch, and the US/NZ combo. The Anglophones would ended up winning two out of the three races and taking home the cup! USA #1!
After that was a sundowner cruise, basically where you take a lot of beer and pick a spot to watch the sunset. Unfortunately the weather turned and that event had to be cancelled after half an hour or so. Back to drinking games! Then we were off early the next morning, but of course of the boat had not been fixed. Fighting the current this time around the trip took a miserable 4.5 hours in the pouring rain. Not one of the highlights of the trip! Due to the delay we didn’t reach our campsite until 10pm. Being that our tents were still wet, it was dark and late, and because it had been such a long day, most people splurged for bedroom accommodation that night, but not me and Frank and two others. We’d tough it out! So it was a good sleep that night. And that’s it for this post, onwards to Chobe National Park tomorrow!