Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 8

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November 10, 2015 – 10:35A

Lunch is being served in a half hour.  I’m relaxing beneath the shade of the main lodge’s thatched roof here at Wilderness Tented Camp in the Okavango Delta.  The ceiling fan above my head feels great.  The temperatures during this morning’s game drive were nice and cool.  As always we are split into two jeeps only this morning instead of us both going out on simultaneous game drives, one group started off on the mokoro canoes in the Delta while the rest of us kicked off the morning with some game viewing.

As we drove along the bumpy dirt roads we saw a dazzle of zebras running and watched an elephant using its trunk to sling mud over its back to keep cool.  Most of the areas we drove in were grassy and flat.  Like in Chobe, most of the trees in the Delta, are broken down by elephants and bare due to the lack of rain.  One of the women from our group, Donna, said she would love to come back after the spring rains to see all the beautiful green foliage.  Our guide “MP” noted that, from a game-viewing perspective, when the trees are in full bloom it’s much more difficult to spot the animals.  In fact, it’s practically impossible when they’re at a distance.

Muddy Elephant

Elephant covered in cool mud

After a while, we approached a shallow  river.  “MP” parked our jeep and we all go out.  This is where we were going to begin our mokoro ride: two persons to each mokoro.  Standing at the very back of the mokoro is a “poler,” he holds a long pole known as a “ngashi” that he drives down into the ground of the shallow water to maneuver the canoe.

Mokoro Polers

A few of the mokoro “poler” guides ready for us to board.

Mokoro Poler

“MP” leading the caravan of mokoros.

Our ride lasted a little over an hour and from it we saw many different birds (this is the closest we’ve gotten to some of the different storks we’ve seen in the Delta without them flying away), some baboons, zebra, impalas, a roan antelope and two sable antelope – which are rare in this area.  The sable were coming to get a drink but as soon as they saw the 5 mokoros moseying along the water, they returned to the trees. Eventually, they reappeared in the clearing and walked up to the water to get a drink.

Sable Antelope

Beautiful sable antelope reemerging from the clearing.

Red Billed Stork

Red Billed Stork along the water during our mokoro ride

 

I was talking to Judy today and we both agreed that although these “tents” are by no means 5 star accommodations, the service we’ve been provided by the staff is a perfect 5.  Everyone is so friendly and seems to genuinely care about us.  Other than my “carry-on” Jack Wolfskin bag (that I bought in Frankfurt, Germany and absolutely love btw), I have never once lifted my suitcase (except for moving it within our tent).  Vitals refers to our luggage as “his babies.”  He makes sure everything is taken care of and we don’t have to worry about lugging our luggage to the mini bus or airplane or anywhere.    OAT is meticulously perfect when it comes to their customer service.  They do a great job.

2:42P

What a hot afternoon!  Kay is calling it a “heat wave.”  She said she makes sure her morning work is done by 9A to avoid the heat.  She took us on a “behind the scenes” tour of the staff kitchen, laundry room and garage workshop.  It was funny when they took us into the giant cooler room where they stored the food.  I jokingly said to Cheryl – “that’s been the best part of the trip so far!”  It felt amazing to be in a cold room away from today’s extreme heat.  Ha!

I came to our tent and attempted a nap with a cool wet rag over my head.  It helps but still I can’t sleep.  There are a frequent wind bursts coming through the screens of out tent this afternoon.  Maybe they are blowing in either a cooler weather system or possibly some much needed rain.  I know a good rain would really make the locals very happy along with all the animals, trees, grass and the poor rivers that are extremely low.  I’m going to do some reading before we meet back at the main lodge for “high tea” while our guide “MP” delivers a short educational lecture on the Okavango Delta followed by our evening game drive.

Okavango Delta Lecture

“MP” educating us on the history of the Okavango Delta in the main lodge.

Almost forgot to mention: I woke up around 1:15A last night to pee.  I could hear the mating calls of the male lions in the distance.  I fell back asleep to it.  Funny how that sound has become soothing to me. What a unique privilege.  I feel blessed.  I think Aaron would really enjoy this place (minus the heat wave).

9:30P

Back in our tent.  Once again, the stars tonight are magnificent.  We are going to sit out on our front porch for a few minutes despite multiple warnings from our trip leaders and the staff.

The evening game drive was nice because the temperatures could down significantly.  Saw another Giant Eagle Owl carefully watching us from it’s tree perch.

Giant Eagle Owl

Giant Eagle Owl watching us in the Okavango Delta.

The sunset was breathtaking – got some great pics!

Delta Sunset

Tonight’s sunset in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Our “sundowner” drinks were served by a large pool of water where some hippos were playing.  They were rolling over on their backs sticking their feet up out the water.  It was cute.  Hard to think of these creatures as threatening or dangerous.  After a while, the hippos began to make some grunting noises and in the distance we heard the growl of a lion. Up to that point our guides have always seemed relaxed but let me just say they were rushing to pack everything up and get us all loaded back into the jeeps.  Dark was upon us and we headed back to the camp for the traditional dinner.

Dinner was a delicious traditional meal around the “boma” followed by the camp staff choir singing traditional African songs and our travel group performing the “Hokey Pokey.”  Fun times!

Somehow the topic of social media came up during dinner and Vitalis explained that people here don’t really use Facebook anymore.  Instead they prefer a more “real time” form of social media called “What’s Up.”   I’ve never heard of it.

Vitalis jokingly said after dinner:  “Folks, I’ve got some very good news!  Tomorrow’s wake-up call is at 6A.”  Hallelujah!  We get to sleep in!  HA!!  After breakfast we are leaving Botswana and heading to our camp in Zambia via small planes, boat, a bus and another plane.

I want to get a picture with Kay, the facility manager, before we leave.  She is really cool.  We are also asking for recipes.  The food has been amazing, especially, today’s lunch salad of bananas, onions, mayonnaise, yellow curry and parsley.  What an odd combination but man was it delicious!

Night night!


Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 7

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November 9, 2015 – 4:45P

Relaxing on the front porch of our tent watching a warthog leaning down on its front knees eating some grass.  They are so funny when they run away too because they run with their tail sticking straight up like a radio antenna.

Today’s game drive felt long as the afternoon hours seared with temperatures nearing 100 degrees (38 degrees celsius).  It’s cool when the guide pulls over the jeep to show us animal tracks in the dirt.  This morning Paul pointed out a leopard and lion track right beside one another.  We saw some cape buffalo and a huge elephant that started directly at us for a while – very cool, then a few giraffes and before we stopped for tea & coffee around 9:30A, both of our jeeps pulled right up to two lionesses resting in the shade.

When we stopped for tea & coffee, the other jeep in our group had a flat tire that Paul, MP and Proctor had to change.  We also found an elephant skull laying in the grass.  A few of us, including myself, picked it up.  It was huge.  I got a great pick of me holding it.  On these morning coffee & tea breaks I usually request tea.  They serve “bush tea” which is a rooibos.  I take mine with warm milk.

Safari Tea

Morning tea on our game drive in the Okavango Delta.

(Now the warthog is walking towards us).  By the time we returned to our camp were all felt dazed and dehydrated from the heat and the only water in our water bottles was warm.  I headed straight for our tent and downed the entire pitcher of ice cold water.  Took of my shirt and laid face-up on the bed with a cold washrag over my head.  That really helped.  I had the oscillating floor fan directed on me but soon realized it was just blowing around the hot air (sigh).  My camera battery had died (TIP:  pack spare batteries) so I missed shots of all the wildebeests we saw but did get a vid of the zebras running across the road in front of us with my iPhone.  Very cool!  We also saw a parade of elephants on our way back.  Oh, plus, when we stopped for lunch a dozen, or so, elephants walked into the pool of water just a few yards away.  They were gathering there to cool off, taking up water into their trunks and then spraying it up into the air so it fell down on top of their bodies like taking a shower.  It was funny because the guides were trying to serve lunch while we were all distracted snapping dozens of photos of these fascinating elephants.

Spraying elephants

Elephants spraying water to cool off in the hot Delta sun.

On two separate occasions we came across a stride of giraffes, one stride, of which, was gathered along a river and in order to lean down for a drink they had to spread out their legs.  That was one of my favorite pics I’ve taken so far!

Giraffe Stride

Giraffes in the Okavango Delta, Botswana


Curious Giraffes

Such curious creatures. Notice the giraffe to the right; neck stretched out and peering directly at the camera.

We also came across a pride of 5 lionesses calmly shading themselves beneath a toothbrush tree but the highlight was finding two male cheetahs (believed to be brothers) keeping cool and well-camouflaged under a bush.  Our guide Paul pulled the jeep right up to the bush and the cheetahs became edgy.  They soon took off, springing into the air and running to another bush.  But that didn’t stop Paul.  He started back up our engine and slowly drove right up to the cheetah’s new resting place.  Not long after the second jeep, carrying the remainder of our group, arrived.  We all just sat there watching these stunning creatures.  Paul said that cheetahs haven’t been seen in the Okavango Delta since April, so we were very fortunate to have witnessed this sighting.  Wow!  What a discovery for our group.  Again, felt very privileged.  The cheetahs left that bush and went to a third, and it was no surprise that Paul and the other jeep’s driver “MP” followed.  Finally, the cheetahs seemed to be calming down and realizing our jeeps were not a threat.  We sat there for a long time.  It was hot but no one seemed to care.  These animals were so beautiful.

Cheetah brothers

Cheetahs hiding amongst the leaves and looking out for lunch.


Hungry Cheetahs

Looks like one of them may have spotted something (no pun intended – haha!)

(The warthog was just staring right at us and when I stood up to grab my camera, he took off).

Our drive back to camp was painfully long (or, at least, felt so due to the heat).  We passed through a small village known as Khwai, which is actually the village Proctor is from.  Most of the homes were wood framed with walls made of mud from termite mounds.  The roofs were thatched.  Some buildings, like the school, the boma (meeting place) and two “shopping centers” which were no bigger than a 2 or 3 car garage, had cement walls and corrugated metal roofs.  It was cool seeing this village up close and you could tell that Proctor was so proud to show us.  Unfortunately, my camera battery died as we were driving into Khwai.

Village Hut

A thatch-roofed hut in the village of Khwai, Botswana.

I am enjoying talking to all the local people we meet who work at the camps and I’m amazing by how many of them have never left Botswana – not even for “holiday.”  (Now, two enormous cape buffalo have entered the field outside our tent to graze).  The facility manager’s name is Kay.  She is awesome.  She shared with us that she has travelled to San Francisco and worked at Walt Disney World.  She got a HUGE smile on her face as she told us.  She said she loved both experiences.

It’s now shortly after 5P and dinner (a “surprise”) is being served at 6P – very excited!  I’m enjoying the view now.  Later!  (Now there are 3 hungry warthogs a few yards away from us eating the grass).

Hungry warthogs

Two of the three hungry warthogs right in front of our “tent.”

9:00P

Bedtime. Exhausted.  Dinner was tasty and for dessert they served a pancake with chocolate syrup – yum!).  It’s been great getting to know our traveling companions (their backgrounds and interests) and hearing them share all their other amazing OAT travel experiences.

There are so many stars out tonight going all the way down to the treeline.  I wish my camera could capture night shots.  It’s just amazing how clear the sky is here.

P.S.  Today was our hottest afternoon yet – reaching 103.  Thank God for Vitalis suggesting wetting a washrag with cool water from the sink in your tent.  It really does wonders.  Some of the women form our group said they drenched their bath towel in cold water and laid down in bed with it over their entire body.  They said it felt amazing!

 


Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 6

12.13.15

November 8, 2015 – 5:00A

Early tribal drum wake up call.  Leaving Baobab Lodge for another camp in Botswana.  Excited to see what this place is going to look like.  I hope the beds are as comfortable as the ones here.  This was one of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept in.

12:40P

Arrived at our “new home” for the next 3 days at the Wilderness Tented Camp in the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

During the 20-seater minibus ride from Chobe to Kasane Airport in Botswana, Vitalis shared with us some of the cultural behaviors of the countries we are visiting.  One particular (and controversial) topic we spent some time on was polygamy, which is practiced in Africa.  He also talked about that superstitions and are a part of their culture.  This is why when someone dies their body is always buried.  If someone was cremated then it is believed that their spirit would come back upset wanting to known why their loved ones chose to cremate them.  We also learned that when a child sneezes instead of saying:  “Bless you” they say “Grow up.”  This also falls back on their superstitions because they believe that there is a bad spirit among that child causing them to sneeze so by saying “grow up” they are wishing away the bad spirit as bad spirits are believed to leave the body as you become an adult.  Vitals also explained that there is a local philosophy called “Drink 3 times.”  He said you “drink when something good happens in order to celebrate and you drink when something bad happens in order to forget about it.  And you also drink when nothing is happening so to find another reason to drink again.”  haha!  Vitalis explains it better than I am probably doing.  It has been very interesting to learn about the people here.  Vitalis is extremely knowledgeable and I feel privileged that he is sharing so much information with us.

The bus took us to Kasane Airport where there were two small “puddle-jumper” planes waiting to fly us into the Okavango Delta.  Fortunately, there was Wifi at the Kasane Airport so I was able to touch base with Aaron and my mom via text.  Aryn, Judy, Katherine and I flew in on the 6 seater prop plane.  Apparently, Judy had opted for us to fly in the smaller plane prior to the trip.  Our pilot’s name was Kyle and he explained to us the safety features of the plane and that our flight time was expected to be an hour and twenty minutes.  Let me just tell you that for the first 15 or so minutes of the flight I was looking out from the co-pilots window thinking:  “Really?  Is this tiny little contraption seriously going to stay up in the air for over an hour?”  The plane that the rest of the group took was a 12 seater.  At one point they passed our plane and it was really cool looking out the window and seeing them.  Once my mind was able to relax, I enjoyed looking down at the beautiful terrain of mostly bare trees and dry land.  Occasionally, there’d be an elephant and some giraffes.  Very cool.

We touched down on a dirt landing strip.  There were two jeeps there ready to pick us up with our new guides Paul, MP and Proctor.  Our ride from the landing strip to the  camp was a game drive where we saw over a dozen hippos.  Paul pulled our jeep right up to the water’s edge, turned off the engine and we sat and admired and counted these hippos for at least ten minutes or more.  I love watching these creatures rise up out of the water.   That’s when you get a better perspective of just how massive they are.  Our guide Paul said hippos can get up to 3.5 tons in weight.  Wow!   We also saw zebra and various antelopes.  There was also an interesting-looking antelope known as the Waterbuck.  They are easily distinguished because of the heart-shaped outline on their backside.  The guides jokingly referred to this white outline as a “toilet seat.”  That’s how we learned to identify these particular antelope.

Hippos

Hippos in the water on game drive to new camp.

Waterbucks

Waterbucks in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

We also crossed over this long bridge made out of logs that spanned a small river known as the Khwai.  Our driver Paul jokingly called said:  “We’re about to cross the famous bridge over the River Khwai.”  haha!

Lunch at the new lodge was refreshing.  Especially the shredded carrot & minced apple salad.  And the surrounding view is awesome.  Along the tree line in the distance we watched 2 giraffes and later a pair of impalas.  We are going to need a lot of water today – it’s a hot one.

Main Lodge

Interior of Main Lodge at Wilderness Tented Camp, Botswana

Extending from either direction of the main large are wooden boardwalks that lead to the individual tents.  These “tents” are different than the ones at Baobab which had doors.  These ones literally zip up in front.  Very authentic safari living.  The floors are hardwood and we are elevated about two feet off the ground.  The staff manager Kay was very clear to explain that the raised wooden boardwalk is the only path we are allowed to take to and from the main lodge.  We are not to veer of this path and we are to be on the lookout for lions and leopards.  If we encounter one, we were clearly instructed NOT to run OR turn away but to walk backwards to the nearest tent.  Just like at the last camp, Aryn and I are in the furthest tent from the main lodge.  HAHA!  The beds in our tent are facing the front entrance which has a screen that zips shut so from our beds we can look out.  We have a wooden front porch with two chairs on it and the view is of the African “bush.”  So cool.

Tent

Outside our “tent” at Wilderness Tented Camp in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Tent Interior

Inside our “tent” at Wilderness Tented Camp in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Electricity is powered by a generator and our water is heated by solar panels.  Lots of sun beating down on those panels today so there should we should be in store for a hot shower.

On the counter behind our bed is an aluminum pitcher with a black lid.  Inside is ice cold water.  Hallelujah!  Thank you Jesus!  We can also access purified water from the main lodge, just like at the last camp, to fill our Wilderness Safari water bottles for drinking and brushing our teeth.

Tent view

View from my bed in my “tent”

We have some siesta time right now so I’m going to head back to the main lodge and work on a few more of my post cards before its time for “high tea” and our afternoon game drive at 3:30P.  I also want to get a video of the public men & women’s restrooms next to the main lodge.  The are so cool because when you walk in and sit down on the toilet you are facing a half wall that looks out onto the “bush.”  That’d be sweet if a giraffe came right up to the window and stuck its head in while I was using the “john.”  haha!

9:20P

This afternoon’s game drive in the Okavango Delta was spectacular.  We started off by seeing multiple “pods” of hippos in the water.  One individual hippo stepped out from the water and ran across the field into some trees.  The guide said he was on heading into the shade to rest.  The roads in these parks are dirt and extremely bumpy.  All you can really do is laugh about it.  Which becomes good bonding for you and everyone in your jeep.  Here in the Okavango Delta, they also refer to this as the “African massage.”  haha!  Our driver today was Paul and we had a young guy from the Bushman tribe named Proctor joining us.  His presence is what allowed us to go “off roading” and, therefore, closer to the animals.  Thank you Proctor!  We also saw these two tiny yellow-eyed Spotted Eagle Owls in a tree.  It took me forever to actually see them.  Finally, with the help of the zoom of my camera and Proctor’s direction I was able to get a view.  I don’t know how these guides are able to drive along these bumpy roads, worry about the branches impeding from either side of the road AND spot these often times well-camouflaged animals.  What a talent!

Walking Hippo

Hippo heading for some shade

Next we stopped to watch an elephant feeding on a tree.  He gave us a show by flapping his ears, raising his trunk and facing us head on.  It was quite an experience.

Staring Elephant

Star down from an elephant

But the creme de la creme of today’s drive was a sighting of six lions (2 females with their cubs and 2 male lions known as “The Discovery Boys”).  The guides off-roaded, driving over tree and bush stumps in order to park our jeeps among the cats.  When the engine was turned off, the guides very quietly reminded us of the rules when being among these wild animals.  #1: Do Not Stand Up in the Jeep!  #2:  No sudden movements or sounds and #3 If you drop your camera outside of the jeep, say goodbye to it because no one’s getting out to pick it up!  The two males were laying down at first.  One stood up and walked over to the other and they rubbed their faces together as a sign of affection.  What an amazing sight.  The one standing up walked around our jeep, brushing the side of his body against our jeep.  All you could hear was the clicking sound of everyone’s cameras.  I’m not going to lie, it is slightly intimidating and you just sit there, holding your breath and hoping that everyone in your group follows the rules.  The females and cubs walked around a little but mostly laid in the shade.  We sat there for over a half hour and I got some pretty sweet videos and photos.  It was an absolutely amazing experience.  Anyone who even tries to compare a safari to a trip to the zoo is either not admitting their jealousy or should have their heads examined.  I can’t even begin to describe how incredible it was to be among these animals in their natural habitat.

Lioness

Female Lion right beside jeep (notice bar of jeep at bottom of photo).

Discovery Boys

“The Discovery Boys” Friends NOT Foes

Lion Roar

One of the Discovery Boys giving us a ROAR!

Lion Walking

Amazing to see the movement of these creatures. So graceful

As we drove back to the main road our guide pointed out a huge Giant Eagle Owl high up in a tree.  This thing was massive – over two feet tall.  As it stared down from the tree we waited for it to blink so we could see its distinctive pink eyelids.   As the temperatures were cooling down and we were all relaxed in the jeep enjoying the beautiful scenery we came across a parade or “memory” of elephants walking along the beautiful sunset.  Wow!  At this point, my camera battery was done.   Sigh – again I should have packed a back-up battery.

Giant Eagle Owl

Giant Eagle Owl in the Evening

Dinner back at camp was delicious – particularly the creamed bean soup.  I always enjoy the myriad of conversations with my fellow travelers and the camp staff.  These are moments filled with smiles and laughter that you wish could last for ever.

After dinner our guide “MP” was walked us back to our tent by flashlight.  He would shine the flashlight quickly in all directions looking mostly for cats.  As we walked, Aryn, Judy, Katherine and I couldn’t help but gaze up at all the beautiful stars.  There must have been thousands of them and they were so clear.  From our from porch we can look out at all the stars.  All I can say is anytime I’ve ever looked at the stars I’ve had to look straight up but tonight you can look directly out and see just as many as you see in above. The stars go all the way down to the tree line.  It takes my breath away.   Amazing!

Off to bed now.  Aryn and I are trying to guess what that low, howling sound is outside.  I think it’s a hyena.  We have been advised that there is a leopard in the areas we are to keep our tent zippers sealed shut.  I love listening to orchestra of sounds surrounding us.  It’s actually quite soothing.  Night-night.  5a wake-up call tomorrow so we can start off on an earlier game drive to try and beat the heat.  Despite the roaming leopard, we’ve decided to keep our tent flaps open with just the screens sealed in the front and on all the side windows.  Praying for no visits from leopards … but maybe an elephant.  :)


Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 5

header.12.06.15

November 7, 2015 – 5:40A

Slept so much better now that I’ve experienced a game drive and, therefore, my mind is no longer racing with curiosities.  I’ve also gotten used to falling asleep to baboons, hyenas and lions.  haha.  Feeling refreshed and ready for another game drive in Chobe.  :)

Ostriches

Curious ostriches (2 of 3) along the side of the road on the way to our morning game drive in Chobe.

2:28P

Wow!  Just returned from our third and final game drive in Chobe National Park.  The terrain of the park is a beautiful wide open space with the Chobe River running through it.  On the other side of the river is Namibia.  Chobe is 4,500 square miles.  We did see many parts that were tree covered.  A great deal of the trees had been eaten by the 120,000 elephants that are estimated to populate the area.

Chobe Botswana

Chobe National Park in a nutshell (Botswana) – Various antelope, a warthog grazing (middle left) and a few zebra in the background.

Saw lots of cape buffalo, impala, kudu, warthogs, giraffes, elephant including a tiny baby elephants that were skipping amongst the adults as the “parade” passed us by.  What a magnificent sight to see.

Elephant and baby

Elephant and her young in Chobe National Park, Botswana

All of a sudden, we were informed by another tour group of a leopard in a tree with it’s kill (an impala).  So our driver Genius hurried our jeep out to see the leopard.  It was perched in an acacia tree guarding its kill.  We sat there with the engine off for close to a half hour just admiring this stunning animal.

Cat in Acacia

Leopard in acacia tree

And not only this … we saw a female lion and had the unique privilege of watching her hunt down and chase a roan antelope – which our guide “Genius” said is a rare species in this area.  The lioness was deep in the tall golden grass down by the water, too far for my zoom to get a good picture.  But then she came right to us and laid down beneath a tree to rest in the shade.  She was panting heavily either from just having eaten or the heat.  We watched her for a long time and then she spotted the roan antelope by the water.  She hunched into a darting position but instead of running, slowly moved past us and crouched down in the grass to move in.  The antelope did not see her until she was running in for the kill.  It was so exciting to see this live.  The antelope got away by leaping into the water.   The lion would not go into the water.  I thought this was because cats were afraid of water but actually lions are very good swimmers and like being in the water but they’ve learned to avoid it because of the crocodiles.  Very interesting.

Lion in Chobe

Hungry lioness spots potential prey

We also saw a hippo in the water with its eyes and top of its head peeking out and new saw another one shading underneath a tree. We could only get a view of its back and man was it massive.  Apparently, these animals can get up to 3.5 tons.  Wow!  Oh yeah, we also saw a Nile crocodile.  What an experience overall.  I would be remised if I didn’t comment on all the beautiful bird species we saw throughout Cobie.  My two favorites were the lilac-breasted roller (or “rrrrrr-oler” as Vitalis would say) and the red-billed hornbill.  Fascinating colors.

African Bird

Lilac-breasted Roller

It was also cool having a picnic lunch in the “bush.”  Before lunch I spotted some monkeys in a nearby tree.  I was able to get right up to the tree without them running away.  I snapped a dozen photos just waiting for this one particular money seated in a branch to look directly at my camera and finally he did.  Money shot!

Monkey in Chobe

Money Monkey Shot!

After lunch “Six” pulled out a map of Botswana and explained to us the recent history of the country and its national parks.  Very interesting.  During the presentation this beautifully iridescent blue-eared starling was hanging out below our picnic table.

African bird

Blue-eared starling

Now we are back at our “tent” resting before heading out to see a small village called Mabele and basket weaver.  But first, I’m going to catch a quick and unfortunately, cold, according to Aryn, shower.

9:30P

Exhausted.  Long and exciting day.

The basket weaving demonstration at the Lwaavo Arts & Culture Center in Mabele was fun and very educational.  I spent $110 on woven baskets, trivets, earrings and necklaces.  Most of what I bought was made by a young woman named Joy, who conducted most of our presentation.

African Basket Weaving

Joy explaining how some of the color in the basket came from a rusted soda can.

Following our learning and discovery of African basket weaving, we went bar hopping at a bar next door to the basket weavers and another one down the road.  At the first bar fellow traveler, Vern from Minnesota, bought all of our drinks.  I had a local beer called Windhoek lager.  Bar hopping was such a blast and as we drove back from Mabele the sun was quickly lowering itself on the horizon.  It was such peaceful view and the temperature was comfortably cool.  An overwhelming feeling of gratefulness came over me.  I was in awe and appreciation of my surroundings.  I felt incredibly blessed.

Bar Hopping

My dear friend Aryn and I enjoying a Botswana brew at a local bar in Mabele, Botswana

Unexpectedly, our jeeps pulled off the road and parked by a row of trees along a ridge.  Down in the valley we saw a table was set up with a few of the people from our camp.   This was to be our “sundowner” time.  What a nice way to spend our last evening in Chobe.  We walked down to the table which had the word “ENJOY” spelled out in reddish-brown beats.  The staff from the camp served us each a champaign glass of Amarula and gave a nice toast.  As we drank our tasty Amarula (I need to pick me up a bottle of this stuff – tastes like Irish Cream) we gazed out in the wide open grassy space as far as the eye could see.  As even fell, its backdrop became a magnificent sunset.  Off in the distance a parade of elephants appeared.  What a perfect picture.  Breathtaking. . Everyone in our group knew how fortunate we were because these animals are not cued to appear.  When you go on these game drives what you see is what you get and its the total luck of the draw.  Aryn and I were reviling in the fact that were were standing there together in Africa.  How cool.  Judy noted that we were surrounded by the same tall golden grass that the lioness had been hiding in earlier this afternoon.  What if there was a lion hiding out there now?  All we could do was hope that our guides were keeping a good watch or we might be someone else’s dinner before we made it back to dinner ourselves.

Sundowner Drink

“Sundowner” drinks in Botswana, Africa

At camp we gathered in the sofa area of the lodge where Vitalis briefed us on tomorrow’s schedule and served us up a yeast alcoholic drink called “Shake Shake” that he had bought from the first bar in Mabele.  It was milky-looking with a slight grit and smelled like rising bread dough.  I didn’t care for it but it was a cool thing to experience.  No regrets!

Being our last night in the camp, dinner was a traditional Botswana meal served with us seated around the “boma” (campfire).  Prior to serving the food one of the staff members came to each one of us with a pitcher of water and a bowl.  We held our hands over the bowl and she poured the water over our hands to clean them.   We ate using our hands and the white polenta too scoop up the food.  It was delicious – especially the corn soup.  Traditional African meals do not include a dessert, however, they did give us each a piece of watermelon.  The conversation was very nice and after dinner we gathered by the pool for a performance of traditional singing and dancing by the staff.  We were also asked to perform a song from our homeland (the States).  Our talent amounted nowhere close to the staff’s.  haha!  But it was fun nonetheless.

Praying for a good night’s sleep.  Aryn and I hear a male lion;s mating call in the near distance.  This would probably make my Aaron nervous.  But overall, I think this trip would grow on him.  Wish he had come.


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