DAY 1: victoria falls, zimbabwe to chobe national park
Turns out the mosquito that came inside our tent, never went back out.
Both my friend and I had been bitten by these silent assassins and I suppose the 85% Jungle formula DEET wore off at some point.
We were still at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, where we had breakfast after being taught how to bring down our tents. Bran flakes and yogurt and plain tea in camping dishes and cups.
Once we packed up, we hopped onto the 'Lando' i.e. G Adventure's purple bus, which got us through the border to Botswana. The immigration office ran out of forms, so we didn't have to fill in any. The whole process seemed very simple and straightforward... just how we like it!
While driving through the roads, we saw a couple of elephants, including one casually grazing on some leaves and giving itself a little back scratch on a less fortunate tree, just on the side of the road.
We got to our campsite in Chobe in Botswana where we set up our tents (although we accidentally got someone else's tent) and some free ants. Apparently the ants are super active in Botswana and if we keep any food lying around, they'll invite themselves to the party in your tent. So we ate all our biscuits.
We did a sunset cruise on a wide boat, and paid around 50 USD. Not sure how much I would recommend it for the wildlife, but we did see some crocodiles cooling themselves with their mouths open (like they do) and some elephants having a little bath. One of the elephants was enjoying the audience and was rolling around in muddy water for the entire time. I think they are my favourite animals now.
The sunset was gorgeous, and the champagne offered by one of our travel buddies for their birthday made it even better. A nice way to end the first day in Botswana.
DAY 2: SAFARI (CHOBE) & BAOBAB ISLAND (GWETA)
Woke up early for the overland safari drive in Chobe National Park and pretty quickly realised that I would need a jumper or long sleeve shirt as it was dark and windy.
Climbed onto the less crowded safari truck and actually loved it. Saw an entire elephant family from a few meters distance, a lioness, hyenas, impalas, a jackal (fancy fox), warthog (pumba!), mongooses (had no idea what these were) and some random birds that others took more interest in than I did. No zebras or giraffes though.
We were told that the Botswana flag has black and white for the national animal: Zebra and also signifies the unity between black and white people in the country, working well together. The blue is for the water bodies that is home to a lot of the wildlife, including the Okavango Delta and several rivers across the country.
After 7 hours with a few stops in between, including one stop to have our shoes treated for foot and mouth disease, to get to Baobab island in Gweta, which was like a little Nature Disneyland. Gweta is a small village around 200 km away from the city Maun and was named after the sounds made by their bullfrogs who interestingly surface from the underground when they would like to mate.
So in my head I'm thinking: 'Gwetaaa. Gwetaaa.'
The Baobab trees in the village are quite wide, to say the least. Apparently, one of them used to be called the 'Chapman's Baobab' that had a 25 meter circumference, which sadly collapsed in 2016.
We set up our tent with the blessings of some helpful gentlemen on the trip. We will become good at this eventually. Hopefully.
It was now dark and we had a fireplace, chairs around the bonfire and had really nice spaghetti bolognese and salad and after a few nice conversations with our fellow travelers, we went to our tents to sleep at 10:00 pm like good school children (after my friend got over self-imposed laughing fits).
DAY 3: MAUN
We woke up promptly and used the washrooms (race to the showers, as always). The showers have no doors so we have to use all sorts of signage and noises to ensure no one walks into an unprepared version of ourselves.
We unpacked our tents and packed our bags at super-speed (practice was making us perfect) and got everything done for the Lando by 7:00 AM. Ants and sand everywhere!
We reached our new campsite which was nice and had a swimming pool, so as soon as we were done with lunch we went for some Windhoek beer, swim and.....WiFi! Caught up with messages on WhatsApp, mostly reassuring family that a) I haven't been eaten by a lion b) I haven't got lost in a desert and c) I have made some friends and/or retained my one friend who I traveled with.
I swam a few laps with a little local girl from Botswana who wanted me to teach her front crawl, although I'm not even sure I do it right.
While getting to Maun, we stopped at a shopping area with a couple of supermarkets, Forex Bureaus and a Wimpy's. The shops were basic, but I managed to buy a hat for the Okavango delta for USD 5 and pay with my Debit Card, instead of the local currency (Pulas), which was great.
Had dinner after what should have been a nice shower, but then three things happened:
Fortunately, I survived. But there was one point when I thought this was totally ridiculous and not fun and camping is NOT my friend.
The lights eventually came on and I went for dinner and sat with the group of travelers, which cheered me up and went to bed at 11:00 PM which was rebelious considering our early start the next day.
DAY 4: OKAVANGO DELTA
We got on two enormous open metal trucks at 7:00 AM, and were driven through sand and thorns to the Okavango delta, after being warned about inheriting 'African tattoos' from the thorny branches that frequently brushed through the sides of these truck-things.
Apart from being whacked on the neck with one branch (no tattoos), the journey was fine. We got to the small port where all the long fibre-glass canoes called 'Mokoros' were lying around. Each mokoro carried two of us and our daypacks and our 5 litre water bottles for survival on the island we were heading to live in for the night. The 'polers' who navigate the mokoros use a big wooden stick to push these through the shallow waters of the delta.
The polers also had cool given-names. Ours was called Mr. K. There were others like Flamingo, Mr. T. Another poler was: Mr. Bombastic (and he was probably fantastic...).
It was scorching hot, but it was lovely. We were maneuvered through the delta to our campsite and saw elephants and giraffes at a distance
and apparently some hippos (they're mostly dipped under water to cool down as apparently their skin is sensitive to the sun).
I have to say I did feel like I could get used to this. We had some salad and salami wraps for lunch, which we compiled ourselves and the polers set up our tents for us, helped us clean up and were generally a great laugh. Their goal was to ensure we all enjoyed the island experience to the max.
Some of us decided to go for a swim in the delta (i.e. have a bath as we felt dirty). The polers took us on our designated mokoros to a clean part of the delta where around ten of us went for a dip while the guys looked out for any uninvited hippos.
A leech found a way to attach itself to my friend's back. It didn't take long for the rest of us to decide that it was a good time to go back.
We went for our bush walk and it was hot and full of shrubs, but we did see a lot of animals from a distance, after they showed us all the
footprints and their respective droppings. Lovely.
We saw giraffes, zebras, wilder beast and a beautiful sunset before heading back on our mokoros to the campsite.
Back at the campsite and dinner was waiting for us. Liza, our CEO made us delicious chicken stew with maize flour. Loved it.
Post-dinner entertainment involved all of us sitting around a bonfire with all our local polers, underneath the galaxy of stars, when they all sang and danced to 'Beautiful Botswana' a common song for tourists. Mr. K. our poler showed us fireflies for the first time, which was really cool: blue ones are female and red ones are the male fireflies. The polers know animal sounds by heart and the directions around the island and delta.
The stars, the music and the bonfire in the middle of nowhere really made the night feel quite magical and grounding.
DAY 5: GHANZI
Woke up for the sunrise walk, which was serene, but I was barely awake. This is what living in the bushes feels like: wearing the same clothes since yesterday morning, sand and sweat mixed with DEET and sunscreen.
Mr. K. packed our tent for us, after which we took our mokoros back to the mainland, followed by the 'African massage' took the same bumpy truck ride back to the campsite in Maun where we had time for a quick WiFi session and some time for a Windhoek beer.
After another long bus ride we finally got to Ghanzi, the capital of Kalahari desert. We went to see some tribal bush men along with a translator to see how they treat themselves and live in the desert. They wore animal skin as clothes and use ostrich eggs as a water bottle, plants for contraception, soap, laxative, make up and more. Very interesting.
Dinner was delicious rump steak and potatoes in the campsite. I feel like I have maximised my monthly steak allowance.
DAY 6: WINDHOEK, NAMIBIA
Finally used my sleeping bag the night before as it was freezing in the desert.
We packed our tents up for the last time and put everything into the Lando. Used WiFi for five minutes to let the family know about my
After a three hour drive to the Namibian border, we filled in our exit and entry forms and then had a lunch stop at a Wimpys including cappuccinos!
We started to make plans for meeting up after the tour with some, while others we know that we will probably never meet again but we had a great time.
It amazes me how you get to know people so well in just a few days. We had a blast on this trip, and a lot of it was because of my ridiculously energetic, offensive, hilarious and intrusive friend who I traveled here with. I think this trip was one of my best and I have made at least a few new friends and a few new travel plans for Africa.
Good group of humans, great trip. Now time to go home...