Uncategorized

Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 11

Africa.Day11.Header
November 13, 2015 – 6:14A

Awake and showered.  Feeling great!  I woke up at 5:30A and laid there for about ten minutes in the cool air with the comforter over me before getting up and putting on my glasses so I could sit outside on our front porch and enjoy the peaceful view of the Kafue River here in Zambia.   I had to wrap myself up in my giant white comforter because it was a bit chilly.  Doesn’t look like we got any rain though.   On the opposite side of the river the trees are beautifully reflected in the water.  I watched a lazy crocodile silently float downstream and listened to the birds.  It was such a relaxing way to start my new day.

I thought more about the people we have encountered here.  They all seem so relaxed and always smiling.  When you return from a game drive, for instance, and they ask you “how was it?” they seem genuinely interested in what you have to say.

I hear some hippos grunting – I think they’re coming from across the river.

Heading to breakfast now.  Our first activity of the day is fishing!  Very excited for this!

1:18P

What a fun day so far!  I wonder what’s around the next corner (maybe another elephant – haha!)

This morning after a nice breakfast of fresh fruit, porridge and pancakes those of us who opted to go fishing got on a small boat and sailed down the Kafue River.  As our guide “Golden” moved up the river looking for a good spot to fish, we saw many animals including various antelopes, birds and, of course, hippos.

Hartebeests

Hartebeests along the Kafue River in Zambia

“Golden” was very patient with us as some of the people in the group had never fished before while the rest of us were, by no means, experts.  Therefore, “Golden” had to repeat his instructions on how to cast a fishing pole several times.  Haha!  We fished from 7:00a till around 10:00a.  “Golden” jokingly said if we don’t catch any fish we don’t eat dinner tonight!  All six of us caught, at least, one fish.  I lucked out and caught eight!  They were all tilapia and catfish.  I was so proud of myself for having caught the most.

Kafue Fishing

My first catch of the day on the Kafue River in Zambia

Tilapia

One of the Tilapia that I caught while fishing in Zambia

The fish we caught were to be cleaned, cooked and served up with tonight’s “traditional dinner.”   It was funny to be fishing and, all of a sudden, you’d see a pair of hippo eyes curiously popping up out of the water.  Some of them even swam closer to our boat.  Very curious creatures.

On the ride back we saw a huge crocodile crawl from the river bank into the water.  What an experience to have gone fishing in Zambia!  How cool is that!

During our fishing expedition the other half of our group was on a game cruise up the Lafupa River.  When we returned to camp they were already there eager to inquire about our luck with fishing.  We all gathered in the main lodge and relaxed on the sofas swapping stories and photos.  It was so much fun.  The lodge also had a nice little gift shop with some very cool stuff.  I was saving my money for the open air market I knew we were going to hit up in Victoria Falls.

While everyone was relaxing, Aryn’s sister Kathryn and I got word that there was an elephant out front so we jumped up, grabbed our cameras and hurried to go see.  This thing was huge.  It was walking along the road into camp eating whatever trees were to its left and right.  It walked from where the jeeps drop us off down to the “boma” just across from the bar.  I captured a great video of the whole experience on my iPhone.  This elephant wasn’t but a few meters from us and we were quickly advised to back up.

Elephant in Camp

Elephant walking by the “boma” at Lafupa Tented Camp in Zambia

Elephant and me

Me with the elephant in our camp in Zambia.

Elephant at bar

What did the bartender say when the elephant walked up to the bar?

The best part was when the elephant tried to walk between two of the buildings, he got stuck and had to back up to get out.  Haha!  So cool to watch.

Elephant booty

Elephant got stuck!

After we ate lunch, Vitalis briefed us on the optional excursions in Victoria Falls and passed around a sign up sheet.  I am opting to do the elephant back safari ride & rhino game drive combo and the helicopter flight over Victoria Falls.  So excited for this!

Afterwards, we were released for our mid-afternoon siesta.  I decided it was time to finally hit the pool and boy what a good decision.  One of the ladies from our group, Rene from Wisconsin, was already there.  The water was absolutely perfect.  It was so nice and cool and exactly what I needed to escape the afternoon heat.  Rene and I talked about previous travel experiences, our life and careers back home and future travel goals when, all of a sudden, here comes this massive elephant (probably the same elephant from before).  The elephant walked right up to a palm tree beside the pool and started eating the branches and leaves.  Right away, a staff member appeared to monitor the elephant.  We all watched, afraid to move or make a sound, and, at one point, the elephant turned and looked directly at Rene and I.  The staff member was standing by a nearby building and came forward and threw two rocks directly at the animal.  It turned its head and walked away from us.  Wow!  That was exciting.  We have all been warned that the elephants in Zambia are more aggressive towards humans due to the country’s history with poaching.  We learned that elephants have incredible memories and are actually able to genetically pass these memories on to their offspring.  So bad memories from the area’s past issues with poaching have been passed along to the current generation of elephants.  Fascinating.

I stayed in the pool for almost an hour.  A giant breeze came through which felt great against my wet skin.  I didn’t even need a towel to dry off.

Now I’m relaxing on the deck of the main lodge looking out at the two rivers.  This place feels like a resort!  The sky is filled with beautiful white billowy clouds.  Perhaps some rain is headed our way?  I feel incredibly relaxed.  Today is Friday the 13th.

2:40P

We are being held up at the main lodge by an elephant loitering around outside the reception area.  I got some great pics and vids of him with his two left feet standing inside the boma.  I guess I’ll have to wait for a while before I can go back to my room to change out of these gym shorts (that I swam in).  This guy seems in no hurry to leave the camp.  Going to get some more pics.

3:11P

I’m sitting on the front porch of our “tent” looking out over the river.  Darker clouds are beginning to roll in and winds are really picking up to the point of creating small, gradual waves upon the river.  The staff is predicting some rain.  The view here is so nice that I don’t want to leave but I’d like to take a quick shower before “high tea.”

9:00P

Before heading out on our evening boat ride on the Lafupa River, one of the staff leaders, Phineas, gave us a brief history lesson on Zambia.  The economically depressed situation of this country makes me so sad.  Sixty percent of Zambia’s population is currently unemployed.  It was also interesting to learn that the average life expectancy is only 47.   This is mostly due to the spread of HIV from infidelity in some marriages.  We also discussed the controversial issue of poaching since it is still a major threat here.  Elephants are killed for their ivory tusks and rhinos for their horns.  So very sad.  All we can do is spread the support of more game viewing vs game shooting for purposes other than food.

On our boat ride up the Lafupa River we saw many hippos and a small crocodile but the majority of the time our cameras are feasting upon the awesome sunset during our “sundowner” cocktails.  I was seated at the bow of the boat with my feet propped up on the railing, taking in the peaceful scenery while drinking a Mosi lager.

Lafupa Game Cruise

Relaxing during our game cruise along the Lafupa River in Zambia

Dinner around the “boma” was fun.  The table tree stumps were from leadwood trees.  Vitalis had me lift one of them to experience just how heavy they are.  Boy was he right!   It was cool eating the tilapia and catfish that we had caught.  Also served, was oxtail soup in a delicious brown gravy, polenta and vegetables.  The tribal entertainment (singing and drums) was awesome.  The staff manager, Natasha, was so nice and wanted a goodnight hug from each of us.  What a fun evening and exciting day overall.  Feeling very tired.  Tomorrow’s wake-up call is at 6:00a.  I’m setting my alarm for 5:30a so I have time to sit on the front porch and enjoy our view of the river.  Night night!

P.S.  I forgot to mention I was bit by a tse tse fly during the evening boat ride.  Damn!   It hurt like hell.  Also, there is apparently a friendly warthog, named “Lulu,” that roams the premises here in camp.  She will actually come right up to you if you offer her food and eat right out of your hand.  I have yet to meet her but Kathryn said she met “Lulu” and she was approachable.  I want to meet Lulu!  I want to take her home.  Her and Louie (my pug) can run around the house snorting together.  LOL  🙂

Travel

Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 10

Africa.Day10.Header

November 12, 2015 – 5:48A

Slept great!  Woke up to a beautiful sunrise over the Kafue River as I sat out on our front porch wrapped up in the big white comforter from my bed.  It’s amazing how when you go to bed at night, you hardly need a sheet and when you wake up your pulling the comforter up to your chin.  Very cozy mornings.  As I was watching the sunrise and elephant appeared to my left.  It was walking right through  camp eating whatever tree branches it desired.  LOL.  Too funny.

I love hearing all the various sounds of nature in the early morning.  The shower water was hot and felt great.  Heading to breakfast with Aryn soon.  I enjoy sitting down with everyone around the long community dining table at each lodge. We chat with a hot cup of coffee and whatever breakfast is being served that morning.  OAT has truly done a great job designing this trip.

1:02P

Breakfast was a made to order omelette, oatmeal with yogurt, fruit and muffins.  My favorite fruit with the oatmeal is the papaya or “pawpaw.”  Brunch was a tasty beef and noodle stir fry.  I make sure I stake my spot at the table so I’m facing the view of the rivers.  It’s just so beautiful and so serene.

The Zambian terrain is different: more trees and they are taller.  There are some different tree species as well, one of which is called the Candelabra Tree.  It’s has a tall trunk that blooms out on top in the form of tall cactus leaves.  Very interesting.

Candelabra Tree

Candelabra Tree in Zambia’s Kafue National Park

As we continued on our morning game drive we spotted two female lions (sisters) walking amongst a grove of trees.  Both our jeeps headed towards the lions.  On our way, we caught a quick glimpse of a massive crocodile moving from the grass into the water.  Our guides pulled both jeeps right up to the female lions, turned off the engines and there we sat for the next half hour, watching these magnificent lionesses relaxing in the shade.  I noticed when we pulled up to the lions it was 8:30A and I thought to myself – if I were back home in Akron right now, I would have been at work for a half hour and my team would just be arriving.  But instead, there I sat – watching two wild lions from just a few feet away on a beautiful clear and warm morning in Zambia, Africa.  Wow!

Female Lioness

Female Lioness

Lioness

Lioness heading for he shade.

Two Female Lions

Lioness joining her sister in the shade.

Resting Lioness

Look at the size of those paws. Notice the blood stain on the bottom of her front left paw. She had just made a kill.

Just before lunch we all gathered at the entrance of the main lodge to watch a giant elephant headed our way. He had just entered the camp to snack on some grass followed by leaves from a tall palm tree.  It’s amazing how graceful these animals are considering their mammoth size.  I took a brief video but Natasha was quick to step out of her lodge to warn us to step back and some of the men from the staff appeared and shoo’d the elephant away.

Now I’m sitting at the desk in our “tent” looking out at the Kafue River.  It’s a hot day in the sun but cool in the shade.

2:40P

Resting in our tent to escape the afternoon sun.  I converted my tan Eddie Bauer pants into shorts.  These were a pre-trip purchase btw.  $50 online and shipped in about 8 days.

A puku is walking between trees in the near distance.

The water on the river is shimmering like diamonds.  I may walk to the main lodge soon to enjoy the breeze coming from the water.  I’m also considering taking advantage of the pool (I didn’t think to pack swimming trunks but I can wear my UMASS gym shorts).

I just looked up to see two monkeys staring down at me from one of the trees outside.

“High tea” is at 4:30P today.

9:17P

During “high tea” Vitalis delivered a very interesting lecture on the history of Zimbabwe.  It was cool to learn that Zimbabwe shares a commonality with the United States as being the only two countries to ever break away from British rule.  The US in 1776 and Zimbabwe in 1980,  Their current president is 91 years old and has been in power since the 1960’s.

I hope I’m not jinxing myself by saying this, but I have yet to see a single mosquito.  I have, however, seen what’s called a tse tse fly.  Although I have yet to get bit by one, I hear they are quite painful.  Fastened to the front of our jeep, by aluminum wire, is an empty paint can.  On this evening’s game drive, our group opted for the local insect repellent: a log of elephant dung placed in the empty paint can and lit on fire.  This gives off a smokey incense that, apparently, repels the tse tse flies and other insects.  I was not only surprised how well it worked but that it emitted a pleasant aroma: similar to citronella.

Elephant Dung Can

Elephant Dung smoking in bucket to ward of the tse tse flies

Our evening game drive went into the night.  It’s called “spot-lighting.”  Our guide tonight was “Boyd.”  We experienced two highlights during this game drive.  One was a parade of elephants that walked right across the road in front of us.  Following along right at their feet were these white birds called cattle egrets.  They never left the parade and walked along with the elephants like they were part of the group.  Very interesting.

Elephants and Egrets

Parade of elephants and the cattle egrets following their footsteps.

Our second highlight was one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen in my life with fan palm trees in the foreground.  We joined the other jeep and parked to watch the sunset as we enjoyed our “sundowner” drinks.  The guides always have a wonderful selection of ice cold local beer, wine, soft drinks and water.  I had a local Zambian beer called a Mosi lager.

Palm Tree Sunset

At this point the sun has nearly set

Big Zambian Sun

Another view of the sunset

I really enjoyed our conversations tonight over a steak with potatoes and vegetable dinner.  Tomorrow’s wake-up call is at 6A.  That’s “good good” news that we are able to sleep in a bit longer.

P.S.  Laundry service at these camps has been terrific. We receive our washed & pressed laundry neatly folded and tied up in a bow by a long piece of dried grass.  It is sitting out on our beds waiting for us when we return from dinner.  Everything is smelling fresh and well-pressed – including our socks.  I have never in my life had my socks ironed.  How nice!  Thank you to all the wonderful staff (at all three camps) and all their amazing behind-the-scenes work.

Good night!

Travel

Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 9

Africa.Day09.Header

November 11, 2015 – 9:12A

It was nice to sleep in till 6A.  Had a quick & delicious breakfast before saying goodbye to Kay and all the wonderful and friendly staff at Wilderness Tented Camp before we all hopped in our 2 jeeps and MP and Paul drove us to the airstrip.

Kay and Brian

Kay and I by the bar in the main lodge at Wilderness Tented Camp

Proctor and Brian

Proctor and I in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Okavango Delta Guides

Paul, our guide Vitalis, and Proctor in front of one of the jeeps at the Okavango Delta airstrip. Donna and Barb are in the jeep.

We stopped to view a hippo walking around, a dozen or so more in the water and a steenbok laying in the grass.  Proctor said that steenboks are affectionately referred to as “chiwawas” because they are the smallest of the antelope.

Steenbok

Young Steenbok laying in the grass.

I couldn’t help but reflect that on the last few game drives I’ve really had fun bonding with two of our travelers Cheryl and Norma.  Cheryl is Italian and lives in San Diego, California.  She and Norma travel together.  Cheryl is very funny with a contagious laugh.  She is a great photographer and actually takes pictures of horses (or “anything with four legs” as Cheryl puts it) for a living.  Cheryl always has 2 cameras ready while we’re on these game drives and her 40 lbs (I’m guessing) backpack of camera equipment.  I’ll never forget seeing her lug that around everywhere.  haha!  Norma is retired and lives in Palm Springs.  I enjoyed a really nice chat with her as we sweated out the afternoon heat in the main lodge yesterday.  She is 74 and this is second Ultimate Africa trip with OAT.   The other day when Vitalis had us all tell one another a little something about our background and reason for coming to Africa, Norma talked about the peace that she’s experienced during her two trips to Africa.  She stated that she believes “God lives here.”  I also learned that Barbara, from Washington state, is an artist.  I would love to see some of her drawings and asked her if she was going to do sketches of some of the photos she and her husband Dana have taken.

I’m now on the 7-seater “puddle-jumper” with Aryn, Judy, Katherine and our pilot flying back to Kasane Airport.  It’s so cool being able to look down and spot elephants and giraffes feeding off trees.

I’ve learned so many new things on this trip.  I think back to the days and weeks before I left for this trip and people would ask me what it was going to be like.  My only response was I had no expectations.  I had never been on an African safari.   All I knew to expect was what I’d read from the little “Final Document Booklet” that OAT had mailed me.  This entire trip has been quite the learning experience.  I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about all the wonderful people I’ve met so far.  They are always smiling and seem to maintain a positive attitude.  I also get a sense that they take very little for granted.  They don’t seem to be wrapped up in gossip or “drama” as we say in the US.

Vitalis told us that the African culture  believes in witchcraft.  He shared two anecdotes of how the African culture relies on guilt to punish those who’ve wronged against you.

One Example:  There was a man who stole a plow from his neighbor in the middle of the night.   The plow was very heavy and he carried it home on his back but when he reached his home he could not get it off his back.  For a while he tolerated carrying around this heavy plow on his back, for many days and nights until he couldn’t take it any longer and decided to return the plow to its rightful owner, who, at first, said to him: “that’s not my plow, you can keep it” knowing that the witchcraft’s punishment of guilt would force the thief to continue lugging the heavy plow around on his shoulders.  Finally, after the plow owner felt the thief had learned his lesson, said:  “You know, come to think of it, that is my plow.  Thank you for returning it” and wouldn’t you know it, the plow was finally able to be released from the thief’s shoulders.

Second Example:  There was also a man who stole corn from a farmer’s field in his village and for days he suffered of corn kernels falling out of his scalp and hair.  Eventually, the thief couldn’t take it any more and fessed up to steeling the corn and the corn kernels stopped coming out of his hair.

On another note, Vitalis educated us on the cultural belief: ‘you get what you give.’  For example, if you are starving you can go to a neighboring family and they will feed you.  Also, if you are out of something in your kitchen (ie. cooking oil) you just go to a neighbor and ask if they will give you some cooking oil (versus walking all the way to the nearest store).  The African culture understands there will come a day when they are out of something in their kitchen or they are hungry and will need to seek a favor from that same neighbor.  I appreciate all the “learning and discovery” that Vitalis and the other camp staff members are providing us.  Well worth it.

We would be landing soon. Then it’s off by minibus, boat and another plane to Zambia.  (btw – I’m amazed how well I can write in my journal on this flight – very smooth flying).

2:50P

Flying at 12,400 feet in our “upgraded” 12-seater “puddle-jumper” over Zambia.  Looking down at a beautiful view of the great Zambezi River.  We had a half hour delay at Livingston Airpot due to an issue with a traveler’s luggage.  Unfortunately, Wifi was down at the airport.  What a bummer since, last night, I had prepared a long text of updates to quickly send off to Aaron and my mom.  Oh well.  I’ll try again in 3 days.

It is said that yesterday’s high temp was 105.  Today’s is 110 and we are flying north, which means closer to the equator so I can only imagine how hot it’s going to be in Zambia if this heat wave keeps up.  For the next three days we are staying in another “tented” camp but this one’s situated along the junction of two big rivers.  As always, I am excited to see what this next camp is going to be like.

While we were waiting on our bus, a group of natives came up to our bus windows selling copper bracelets and wood carvings of animals.  After some persistent bargaining, I bought 5 bracelets for $20 – a good price for five.  The bracelets are beautiful.  I have one for me, Aaron, my mom, my sister Lisa and my friend Lynne.  Vitalis said to rub the inner lining of the bracelet with clear nail polish to keep the copper from turning your wrist green.  I noticed that our pilot Kyle’s wrists were green where he was wearing 3 or 4 copper bracelets on each wrist.  Our pilots on this flight are Shane and Julie.  They are very friendly.  Shane is from Ireland and introduced himself to me at the Livingston Airport.  He was very nice and we actually talked a lot about Ireland as I am planning on traveling there in 2017.  He gave me a few tips on food to try and towns to visit. Thanks Shane!  Very nice guy.

I’m signing off for now.

5:10P

OMG!  I love this new camp!  It’s beautifully situated where the Lafupa River meets with the Kafue River that eventually flows into the Zambezi River.  We are literally 100 km from any other form of civilization.  How exciting!  The camp is called Lafupa Tented Camp in Kafue National Park (say that 10 x’s fast).  As our jeeps pulled up, we were welcomed by men singing and playing African drums along with a cool wet hand towel (which has been a standard at each camp).  The hand towel is handed to you to unfold and place over your neck or forehead or just rub all over your face if you wish to help cool down … haha!  The camp manager is Natalie.  Very sweet girl.  The back of the main lodge is a long stretching balcony that overlooks the beautiful rivers.  The view is absolutely stunning.

Lafupa River Deck

Deck at Lafupa Tented Camp’s main lodge overlooking Lafupa River & Kafue River intersection.

When we first arrived we were served another one of those sweet tri-color cocktail along with “High Tea.”

Welcome Cocktail

TriColor Welcome Cocktail served to us at Lafupa Tented Camp.

This was tea served with three different kinds of flat bread pizzas (chicken, ham and vegetable), filo dough triangles filled with creamy butternut squash and a chocolate and white cream roll (like a pumpkin roll).  Delicious.  We sat at 4-seated small round tables along the deck overlooking the sparkling tier and the staff delivered a quick orientation of the camp, only to be interrupted a few times by some nearby snorting hippos.

Seating Area

Seating Area of Main Lodge at Lafupa Tented Camp in Zambia

After “high tea” we were escorted to our “tents.”  Aryn and I, of course, are in the furthest tent from the main lodge – #9.  We’re practically in stitches laughing over how being the youngest, we’re placed in the furthest tent.  HAHA!

I’m sitting at the desk of our tent and absolutely loving the view of the Kafue River.  Right beside our front porch is a large indentation in the land leading down to the water.  This is what they call a “hippo highway” as it’s the repeated path that the hippos take to get from land to water.  Hmm … I wonder if we’ll have any visitors tonight.  The tent is extremely spacious.  It’s walls and ceiling are canvas with a cement floor and a wooden front porch with two director’s chairs.  I’ll definitely be sitting out there.  I absolutely love this place although I did love how at the previous camp our beds faced the opening flaps of the tent for a great view.  I also miss Kay and the staff there. They were all so nice and friendly.

Lafupa Tent

Inside Tent #9 at Lafupa Tented Camp in Zambia

We are surrounded by a lot of tall trees so it doesn’t feel as hot as I thought it would.  At 5:45P we are to meet at the main lodge to leave for our first game drive in Kafue National Park – so excited!

Monkey Mommy

Monkey mom carrying her tiny baby outside our tent at Kafue Tented Camp in Zambia

9:30P

We’re back at our “tent” after a delicious dinner.  For my “sundowner” drink I chose a Jack & Coke instead of a beer – which was very refreshing.  Our game drive was very interesting because half of it was a “night drive.”  The elephants are more aggressive here because of the history of poaching in the area.  We encountered an elephant and our guide “Golden” (short for “Golden Boy”) would only stop for a few seconds for pictures.  The elephant looked up from the tree he was eating, turned to face us and immediately started towards us with his trunk raised and that’s when “Golden” stepped on the gas.  Wow!  That elephant meant serious business.  I think all of our hearts literally skipped a few beats.  Next we heard the warning call of a puku (another type of antelope that is prevalent in these parts) and just then a leopard striding down from its perch on top of a termite mound and disappeared into the “thicket.”  So for the next half hour, we drove throughout the area with “Golden” directing the spotlight all around looking for the glowing eyes of that leopard.  What a unique and exciting experience. We never did see the leopard again but it was cool looking out with the spotlight and seeing pairs or dozens of pairs of eyes glowing back at you from a distance.  Someone mentioned the glowing eyes looked like a small town in the distance and I said:  “Yes, it looks like Bethlehem” and we all agreed that that was a perfect description of how peaceful and beautiful those eyes appeared among the dark African night.  Mostly, we saw puku and impala but we did see a mom, dad and baby hippo walking in the grass.  Later on, we spotted another few hippos, a beautiful genet cat, a scrub hair in the middle of the dirt road staring back at us and two spotted hyenas creeping along – very spooky.  My camera takes horrible night shots but one of the couples in our jeep Dana and Barbara had an amazing camera that beautifully captured one of the hyenas.  Dana promised to send me that shot!  I love these night drives!  Very peaceful and intriguing to be on the hunt for these wild animals at night.

Spotted Hyena

Spotted Hyena taken by Dana during our first night game drive in Zambia

During dinner, an elephant walked right up to the entrance of the main lodge but the staff quickly “shoo’d” it away.  Golden then told us a story about one night last week when one of the guests blew their air horn (which is supposed to be for medical emergencies ONLY) because their was a hippo outside the door of their tent.  The entire staff came running for the emergency, with Golden at the head of the group.  When he saw the hippo he warned everyone else to go back. The hippo immediately began chasing him.   Apparently, when hippos run after someone their jaws repeatedly open and close.  So imaging Golden’s fear as he looks back to see this giant opening and closing jaw at his heels.  The hippo chased him all the way inside the main lodge where Golden was finally able to dart behind a corner, which confused the hippo, and Golden managed to get away.  Wow!  What an incredible story.

Speaking of hippos, Aryn and I just heard one snorting and grunting outside our tent.  We’re hoping to hear more.  We just heard a hyena too.  Hoping to sleep well tonight and praying for cooler temperatures tomorrow.  The good news is there is a swimming pool here.

Okay … I’m sitting here at the desk in our tent and there is something very large moving very slowly right outside.  The noise started right behind where Aryn is laying in bed, across the room, surrounded by mosquito netting and writing in her journal.  She can literally hear it breathing down her neck.  Holy cow.  Hold on.

We just turned off our main lights and it moved to the back of our tent.  I stood up on our toilet seat to try looking out through the screens above the bathroom but it was too dark out to see anything.  By the sound of it we assume it must be a hippo because when we heard it eating the leaves, it was too quiet for an elephant which would be breaking off tree branches and leaves to eat where it sounds like this thing is going only for the grass on the ground.  I hope these canvas walls are strong.  Very exciting yet quite intimidating.

Oh Geez, it just pooped outside our tent – you can totally smell it.  It’s amazing to us that there is nothing more than a canvas wall separating us from this 2.5-3.5 ton wild beast.  OMG!  It is now scratching is body against the back corner of our tent.  Our entire camp walls and ceiling are now shaking.  Holy Geez!

Now it’s walking along the side of our tent and seems to be heading towards the water.  I can see it now through the screened windows and yes – it is a massive hippo.  Amazing!

Well, on that note, time for bed.  I hope I can fall asleep after that experience.  HAHA!  Night night!  Don’t let the hippos bite!  🙂

 

Travel

Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 8

day008

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!