Week 3: June 18-25 (posted ten days late because, well…internet)
Route: Drotsky’s Cabins (on the Kovango River) - Maun - Oddballs Camp (Okavango Delta)
Kms driven: not many
Kms walked: around 70
Gin and tonics drunk: many
Current scrabble champion: Ronnie
Current cribbage champion: Ben
This week has (blissfully) involved much less driving. The border crossing from Namibia to Botswana was a breeze, and we made it to Drotsky’s cabins by midday. The accommodation was beautiful, with rolling green gardens, and a stately lodge, but it was a bit too “senior citizen” for us (especially after Ngepi). We had a lovely two nights regardless, including a hike through the Tsodilo hills (more cave paintings) and two river trips to watch the fish eagles swoop down on their prey.
The drive down to Maun was brutal - the road was paved, but pitted with enormous potholes, Forcing whoever as driving to swerve wildly, and even go off-road, in order to avoid losing a wheel (although we did break the suspension). Our beds for the night were at the Old Bridge Backpackers in northern Maun, a cute little set up beside what should have been the river, but was no more than a football field sized pond. As if to emphasize the impact of the drought, the pond was occupied by six hippos, and six crocodiles, all of which would normally be spread out over several kilometers of river, but which had been forced into these cramped quarters by the retreating water levels. The crocodiles didn’t seem to bother the hippos, and visa versa, but tragically, the male hippo had just that morning killed one of the babies, who would normally have been kept at a safe distance by the females.
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The hippos fed at night, and once again, we lost sleep over hippo noise, although this time it was the sound of their munching (and a little anxiety that a crocodile might climb up the bank and get into our tent).
Apart from the noisy neighbors, the place was comfortable, and their menu was delicious (although the WiFi was infuriatingly slow). Maun itself was not much to write home about: a few cute cafes and restaurants, a few touristy markets, and an airport. It‘s mostly used just a jumping off point to get into the Delta, which was why we were there.
We had organized to meet up with the Bakers in Okavango, ostensibly to celebrate John’s venerable 70th birthday, but also to catch up with them, and revisit the area where John and Ope had once spent a week in a mokoro (a canoe dug out of a single tree trunk, used by the Tswana people for fishing and getting around the delta). We weren’t able to completely recreate the experience because, as previously mentioned, there is very little water, so we were going to be doing walking safaris instead of boating.
Oddballs camp is gorgeous: cabin tents scattered amongst a crop of trees beside the river, open air dining room, hammocks, a fire pit, and wildlife trundling around within twenty meters of the bar. On our first morning, a bachelor herd of elephants had felled a tree right beside the breakfast area, and were busily stripping all the bark when we turned up for the morning tea and coffee before our first walk.
Every day we would walk first thing in the mourning and then return for breakfast around ten, then laze around until they served a late lunch, then another walk in the afternoon, returning for dinner before sunset. It was a pretty fantastic routine. On our walks (and sometimes just while we were sitting having drinks) we saw baboons, zebras, elephants, giraffes, fish eagles, a fishing owl, water buffalo, impala, kudu, mongooses (mongeese?), vultures, sunbirds, hippos and wildebeest, and (at long last) lions! We had been hearing lions every night, but they had always disappeared by morning, so we got up super early one day, and stalked them for hours through the bush, until we finally caught a glimpse of a group of females (thanks to our incredible guides). We followed them for another hour, before one of them decided we were too close, and took a run at us, growling in a very impressive way, causing Phoebe and Ronnie to yelp and fall over. We decided to leave them alone after after that.
The meals at Oddballs camp were delicious, although we were all convinced we were losing weight from all the walking, and the fact that none of us had thought to bring snacks. We had a lovely few days catching up with the Bakers, playing scrabble, and drinking the aforementioned gin and tonics, and celebrating John’s birthday with some glasses of bubbly and a delicious chocolate cake! The staff even sang happy birthday in Tswana! Sadly, after three days together, we said goodbye to the Bakers, and went our separate ways
Next stop: Phoebe and John brave the long drive to explore the Kalahari desert!