03.09.2014 - 10.09.2014 27 °C
Botswana has been a a fleeting visit. From Namibia we travelled west into a country that's 85% desert, but with some of the most beautiful luscious wetlands I have ever seen.
Like a lot of Africa it is a country with stark contrasts. Botswana is arguably one of the most economically dependable and wealthy countries of Africa, due to its relatively stable political history and supply of diamonds. However when you look at this in relation to the San/Bushman population who have been slowly displaced from their nomadic lifestyle and now are a significant social welfare burden on the state you realise that having money doesn't solve everything in African society.
We spent some time with the San tribe just over the border from Namibia, they showed us their hunting techniques, their most important flora and how to utilise it and then showed us a bit of the traditional way of living. The San population is dwindling because of the pull of city life and the challenges of living nomadically in a country that has a lot of controlled national parks and protected areas.
From here we headed into the Okovango Delta where I went up on a scenic flight over the western corner of this expansive wetlands. It is a beautiful sight to see. Everywhere you look there is wildlife, stunning mixtures of blue water, green lush reeds and brown dry baked grass. It was probably one of the most stunningly surprising landscapes I have had the privilege of seeing.
Once back on the ground we swapped our wings for a paddle and jumped on a mokoro (traditional canoe) up into the Delta for the night under the stars. The camp was luxurious considering we have spent all but two nights on sleeping mats in tents - basically luxurious meant there was beds to sleep in, an 'ensuite' of long drop and bucket shower filled from the delta water and heated up on the fire and a three course dinner, eaten with our hands. Happiness filled. They treated us to some traditional song and dance after dinner and (once covered in insect repellant) I slept fantastically.
Before heading to bed though, I tried to take a photo of the stars. The Milky Way was amazingly bright as we were so far from city lights, however this didn't work. Mostly because if you want to take a photo of the stars you need a long exposure, right? So I had to get myself away from the tents, into the wilderness - fine you are thinking, a cheeky headlamp will guide your path, you'll be fine Kayleigh. You would be correct. However... for the exposure I had to stand in the middle of an national park with hyena, lion, elephants and god knows what other things for 30 seconds while the photo took in complete darkness. I should have been wearing brown pants, I was terrified. Nothing happened, but your head psychs you out. Every noise is amplified, every crunch is a predator, ever buzz is a malaria mosquito, every splash is a croc moving along the shore towards you. I tried twice, then after deciding that was an admiral attempt, I did the girliest thing I could do. I to my room, got into the bed and pulled up the covers as fast as I could!
This was increased when we stayed at an elephant camp, that basically had elephants roaming around everywhere, we had to sign a waiver just to pitch our tents. Pretty awesome, but there was a wee fear that I might wake up with an elephant foot crushing through my tent.
From there we headed to Chobe National park, I was a little hungover so I thought the sunset game cruise might be a little dull. I was wrong, there was a crazy amount wildlife, pretty cool to have a croc, hippo and elephant all I'm the same photo. Elephants fighting, buffalo herds, crocs and monkeys battling it out, we even had a patriotic hippo posing in front of the Botswana flag.
The night we stayed in the Elephant camp there was a hilarious truck moment. We had acquired a couple in Swakopmund that never really joined the group. Billy Connelly would call them a 'beige cardigan' of a couple. Anyway long story short the guy flipped out, complaining that the music was too loud, he had asked nicely and he was sick of it. Shouting, finger pointing, swearing and the like came out of him while the rest of us just sat there a little shocked. Mostly that someone would go from zero to hero quite so quickly, especially when you weren't even at zero more like minus 2.
Anyway the whole group one by one moved to the back of the truck (near the music and the cooler box) and opened a beer... It wasn't a planned activity everyone just individually banded together over a common 'enemy'. The couple then complained to the tour guide who told us to turn it down, so we did... But then we sung really loud instead. Then we got told to stop singing... Then the couple got moved up to the cab of the truck with the driver. Hilarious, it was probably the only time in the whole trip that everyone spent time together, 16 people against 2, very childish really. But as a positive we finally all talked to each other and generally had a good time... Until we broke the tables.... Haha... Good night.