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Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 17 FINAL DAY!

HEADERNovember 20, 2015


In my seat on Delta Flight 1190 bound first for Akron/Canton.  Our expected take-off time is in 3 minutes.  I’m excited to be home in 1.5 hours but it was sad to say goodbye to Aryn, Kathryn and Judy in Atlanta.  The 16.5 hour flight felt faster than I expected.  I watched some movies but mostly slept.  Hard to believe that yesterday I was in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.  Let me catch you up on that morning’s events.

With our first expected meeting time at 10:15A, Vitalis was happy to tell us that we were all able to sleep in that last morning.  However, Aryn and I were up at 7:00A and met her mom and sister for a buffet breakfast by the pool.  I had a freshly-made ham and cheese omelette with a hearty side of fresh “pawpaw” (papaya) and coffee.

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Travel

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.  🙂

Travel

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.

Travel

Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 4

12.02.15.HEADER

November 6, 2015 – 12:00P

Rough night’s sleep.  My mind kept pondering over what to expect on our first game drive plus, the repetitive male lion mating call in the near distance took some getting used to.  haha!  Finally, I fell asleep sometime after 2:30A.  I woke up once to use the restroom.  Aryn had brought these mini battery operated candles that she had bought form the dollar store.  There is one beside our sink and one on the back of our toilet.  They provide a great little night light for the tent.  I was awoken this morning by native drums and a friendly “good morning” from one of our guides.  As I stretched myself into consciousness we heard a “plop” above our heads followed by a sliding sound down the pitch of our canvas roof.  We were like:  “What the heck is that?”  Then we saw a little baboon head pear over the edge of our roof into our room.  There were baboons jumping from the overhanging tree onto our roof and sliding down our roof.   They were playing!  It was hilarious.  They were also jumping down onto our stone front porch but as soon as we stood up from our beds, they left the porch.  They seem curious yet very skittish.  Much like the zebras we’ve encountered along the side of the road.

AfricaDay4.006

Baboons sliding down our roof

I have a new morning routine out here in the bush:  following my shower and moisturizer I have to apply sunblock and Deet for the mosquitos.

Breakfast was simple but filling.  Then it was off to our first game drive in Chobe National Park.  Our total group (minus our trip leader) equals 15.  We go out in 2 separate jeeps.  Out guides at this camp are “Six” and “Genius.”   They’re very friendly and incredibly knowledgable.  It’s amazing how they can spot even the smallest of creatures at a distance.  What I found the most interesting on this drive was the variety of different species co-habitating together.  In the grass across the Chobe River in Namibia we saw different types of antelopes (impalas and kudus) grazing with a “dazzle” of zebras and we saw a “clan” of hyenas running behind them all.  Amazing.  Inspiring.  And very educational.

AfricaDay4.001

Our game drive jeep

Our most frequent encounter on this trip were impala antelopes (mostly female).  We also saw a lot of zebra, sable antelope, cape buffalo, elephants (baby elephants are so cute btw) and get this … cows!  And they were wearing bells – no joke!  The beef industry is apparently huge in this region.  So these cows were all owned by a Namibian farmer.

AfricaDay4.005

Cape Buffalo

We also saw a lot of magnificent birds and even a few monkeys.  There were also a lot of small grey & blue spotted chicken-like animals called guinea fowls.  They travelled in packs and were quick to scatter as our jeep approached.  Our guide said they were nicknamed “Chobe Chickens” and someone in our jeep (I believe Donna) asked if they were edible.  “Six” said the meat of the guinea fowl is edible but so tough that they have to be cooked for many hours over hot coals and then once the meat is cooked the natives throw away the meat and eat the coals instead (because the meat is so tough).  haha!

Guinea Fowl

Guinea Fowl aka “Chobe Chicken”

“Six” is a funny guy.  The roads of the park are dirt and extremely bumpy.  They called riding through these parks the “African massage.”  Six kept joking:  “It’s not the driver or the jeep, blame the roads.”  He was a good driver and very aware of tree branches that encroached the road.  He would slow down the jeep and raise his had to try and lift the branches up over the roof of the jeep.  He would then joke:  “I am the branch manager.”  I found this hilarious since that’s what I do for a living – branch manager of a bank.  🙂

I also learned what a termite mound was.  Very interesting.  If they were solid they are still active, the ones with holes (exposing the inner tunnels) are no longer active.  The soil from these mounds is so dense and strong it’s used to build the walls of the homes in African villages.  They range in size but are typically tower-shaped structures some thousands of years old.  For example, it takes a termite colony 100 years to build a mound the size of a soccer ball.  Very interesting.

AfricaDay4.002

A 1,000 year-old termite mound

Lunch was delicious.  Had my first taste of shepherd’s pie – very tasty.  Now I’m sitting on the cement ground of our front porch at our “tent.”  Aryn is inside trying to take a nap before our 3:00P afternoon game drive and “sundowner drink.” – not sure what that is but it sounds fun!  I’m looking out at Chobe National Park.  It’s so beautiful and peaceful.  I can hear a hyena in the distance.  Before yesterday, I didn’t even know what a hyena sounded like.  Now I’m hearing them not only in person but in their natural habitat.  What a privilege.  Everything else around seems still and relatively quiet.  There is a gentle breeze that feels good amongst the, otherwise, hot air.

9:30P

Today’s afternoon/evening game drive was awesome.   Our first sighting was a “troop” of baboons around a grove of trees.  They were nestling their babies in their arms and when they walked their babies clung to their bellies and wrapped their tail around their mother’s tail.  So adorable.

AfricaDay4.004

Baboon mama and her babies

Next our jeep ventured into a trio of Southern Giraffes.  Six turned off the engine and while we sat their snapping a million photos another giraffe appeared from the trees, followed by two more until we were surrounded by 20 giraffes.  They kept coming from behind trees and cross the road right in front of us to go munch on more trees on the other side.  They were watching us as closely as we were watching them.   We must have sat there, in absolute awe, for, at least, a half hour, watching this “stride” of giraffes.  It was an amazing experience that I will never forget.  So cool!

AfricaDay4.003

I like that at the end of the day Vitalis briefs us on what to except the next day, including what time we need to wake up and be at breakfast.  After this briefing, our guides Six and Genius walk us to our “tents” by flashlight.  There are two guys dressed in all black that sit up along the trail leading to our tents.  Apparently, they stay up all night on guard.  They are watching for lions and leopards coming through camp.

Time for some sleep now.  It’s quieter tonight.  Mostly, I’m just hearing cicadas and crickets and the occasional baboon barking or hyena howling.  No lions tonight – as of yet.

Travel

Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 3

12.01.15.HEADER

November 5, 2015 – 6:50A

Rough night’s sleep with the first two hours of tossing and turning.  My mind was buzzing with curiosity over what our game drives would be like and what would camp and our “tents” be like.   From all the pictures I saw they had hardwood floors and you could stand up in them and move around but beyond that was a mystery.  Finally, I put in some ear plugs and that (slowly) did the trick of helping me get to sleep.  Now I’m gonna grab a much needed shower and then it’s off to breakfast downstairs with Aryn, her mom and her sister.

Note after breakfast:  Don’t eat the Marmite.  It’s a British food spread, dark brown in color and thicker than molasses but extremely salty.  I dabbed a bit of it on a corner of my toast just to try and Yuck!  Never again!

Our breakfast table at Protea Hotel in Johannesburg, SA

Our breakfast table at Protea Hotel in Johannesburg, SA

 

Johannesburg Airport

Johannesburg Airport

11:16A

On a plane from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe where we are meeting our trip leader, Vitalis, and catching a chartered bus to cross the boarder into Botswana.  Did some minor shopping at the Out of Africa store in Johannesburg Airport (a 4 pack of beaded Christmas tree ornaments and a Christmas CD of traditional holiday songs set to African music).  Very excited to listen to that this December!  Wifi was spotty at the airport so I had trouble sending texts to Aaron and my mom.

7:05P

When we arrived in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe we stood in line with other international travels to purchase a double-entry Visa (since we will be returning to Zimbabwe for our final days of the trip).  Outside the Victoria Falls airport was a group of tribally-dressed guys singing what seemed to be a welcome song in their native language.  One of the ladies from our trip, Nora (from Wisconsin) joined in and danced with them).  Our trip leader is so funny.  When we boarded the chartered bus he introduced us to the driver and said that “he had been waiting there for us since last night.”   haha!  Funny guy!  Glad he has a sense of humor.  He graciously welcomed us to Africa and proceeded to brief our group on what we can expect on this adventure.

There are certain moments in my life that are unforgettable:  the first time I saw the Colosseum, my first sighting of the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Eiffel Tower and today as we were driving down the road in our minibus we spotted an enormous elephant on the right (the side of the bus Aryn and I were sitting on).  He was among the trees and walking towards the road.  It happened too fast for me to grab my camera but this creatures presence made such an impression on me and filled me with so much intrigue that I will never forget that moment.  Maybe another twenty minutes or so down the road we spotted a few zebra (including a mama with her baby).

Two Zebras

Mama and baby zebra along the side of the road in Zimbabwe.

Later we passed more elephants.  I thought to myself: “I hope we see some giraffes and wouldn’t you know it, two appeared among the trees!  Vitalis had the driver stop so we could open our windows and take pictures.  Wow!  I was so excited to actually see these beautiful creatures in their natural environment.  As we continued on we saw impalas, a steenbok and some warthogs.   Oh and I almost forgot – baboons!

Road-side Giraffes

My first giraffe sighting in Africa!!! Two along the side of the road.

As we crossed the boarder into Botswana we saw a couple of warthogs strolling through the Customs parking lot. “Pumbas” as Vitalis calls them.  Before exiting the bus to get our passports stamped, Vitalis explained the exact procedures of what we needed to do to go through customs in Botswana.  This was very helpful so we weren’t exiting the bus like lost puppies trying to navigate our way in an strange new world.  Part of the entry procedure was to walk across this screened pad that disinfected our shoes.  This was to avoid disease and germs crossing country boarders.  From there we boarded a different bus and continued to our camp.

Arrived in Cabin 9 at Baobab Lodge just outside Chobe National Park in Botswana.   The main lodge was beautiful and overlooked huge yellow grassy planes that were inhabited by a variety of different antelope and a handful of zebra.  Up near the lodge wall was a lone elephant drinking from a small trough of water.

Thirsty Elephant

Looking down at thirsty elephant from the main lodge.

The staff welcomed us in song and handed us a champaign glass with a red and yellow layered sweet drink.  We gathered on the comfortable sofas in the main lodge from some quick introductions of the staff before they wanted to show us to our “tents.”   Leaving the lodge we were immediately blocked by 9 elephants traipsing through our camp.  One walked right up the stairs to the front door of one of the “tents” (which look more like lodges but with canvas walls and roof).  The staff threw rocks at the elephants and clapped their hands to get them to move on and finally up the hill they went behind the “tents” and we were able to proceed to our rooms.  As Aryn and I arrived at our camp there was one remaining elephant eating the leaves off a tree just beside our “tent.”  Hilariously intimidating.

Baobab Lodge Tent

“Tent” 9 at Baobab Lodge in Botswana. My home for the next 3 days.

Tented Camp

View from “tent” of path back to main lodge at Baobab Lodge in Botswana, Africa

The rooms seemed very comfortable with a bathroom in the back complete with a shower, flushable toilet, sink area and closet and shelf space to hang and set our clothes.  I was very excited to be calling this place “home” for the next 3 nights.

Safari Tent Interior

Interior of “tent” 9. One of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept in.

One of the trees outside our “tent was filled with baboons.  You can hear them calling out – sound like a deep bark).  They were eager to scatter as Aryn and I anytime we excited our “tent” to stand on our front porch.

The sunset is beautiful.  Heading out to walk up the dirt path to the main lodge for dinner.

9:15P

Dinner was delicious.  I particularly liked the vegetable lasagna.  Going to try and go to sleep now which should be interesting with all the mosquito netting around our beds.  Oh crap!  Aryn just screamed, okay more like a “gasp” she’s claiming.  Hold on a minute while I check out the situation.

There was a huge black, long-legged spider on the white tile wall of our shower.  I just killed it with my shoe.  To top it all off, during dinner we learned what a male lion’s mating call sounds like from one of our guides and there have been quite a few of those calls happening so far tonight.  In fact, we are hearing one right now that sounds like its un on the hill behind our “tent.”  Yikes!  Good luck getting any sleep tonight.  haha!