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Clare’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 22 Nov 2007

Location: Hwange, Zimbabwe

MapAfter the desert we had a bit of a change of scene in that we moved in the Okavango Delta for a couple of days away from it all on an island. We drove to Maun (the kick off point for the delta) and then onto Sepupa Swamp Stop which is right on the edge of the start of the delta. We spent an amazing evening sat up on their Balcony/terrace thing watching three separate lightening storms crash over the delta before us. It was wierd cos we couldn't hear anything but judging from the amount of lightning they must have been pretty intense... instead we put on some rousing classical music and drank Savannah cider and watched the show.

The next day we drove to Mohembo to take the ferry over the river and drive back down the other side of the delta to our pick up point - which appeared to be properly in the middle of nowhere and not marked by any signs.... but there was another Dragoman truck there - a gang of people going south from Nairobi in an Encounter truck. We were zipped over to the island in a little motorboat and after a visit to the Hippo pool on the other side of the island we settled in to our evening of dinner, drinking and dancing. Some locals came over to the island to put on a great display of dancing and drumming and before long we were all up with them trying on the wooden rattle skirts and generally looking like idiots! Good times had by all though - plus we had the chance to exchange stories and tips with the other truck - NEW PEOPLE TO TALK TO!!!!!!!!!!

That night we got a pretty up close and personal view of how the thunderstorms are when you are IN them instead of watching them calmly from 30 miles away.... we were all woken in the early hours by the wind picking up - and nearly picking the tents up too...before long the lightening was flashing everywhere, the trees were heaving and the thunder was crashing, and I mean CRASHING all around us. Needless to say, I needed the loo having been woken after a bit of evening drinking so a couple of us girls, too scared to make the trip to the actual toilets ended up having a nervous al fresco pit stop under the tree. For reference, its not actually that easy to balance for these things when storms are crashing about you and its tipping with rain!

Next day the sky still looked a bit moody but we all determinedly set off with our polers in the Makoros to go across the delta to our island safari. The delta is amazing - mile after mile of reeds, papyrus, roots and islands filter the water completely clean of impurity - which means not only can you safely drink it but its crystal clear and full of lotus flowers. Drifting along silently in the Makoros is a truly beautiful way to experience being there. Hopefully I can upload some video to give you an idea of how it was. We had borrowed some umbrellas to give us some shade in the Makoros as the sun was pretty intense which meant that we ended up looking like a throw back to colonial times, drifing along in our canoes with gaily coloured parasols...either that or 'the ladies' from Little Britain! Once we got to the island where we were to do the walking safari we had two little treats, first we saw Wattled Cranes, highly endangered, rarely sighted and the first time the local Polers had seen them this season and then at the island itself a wild elephant happily munching on a burned out tree stump! We all disembarked (leaving our gaily coloured parasols behind) and did a slightly comedic 'stalk' to get a bit closer... The elephant stayed for a while and then turned and marched off into the undergrowth...pretty cool! Sadly that turned out to the highlight of the trip as we didn't really manage to see much else on the walking safari, and it was baking hot in the midday sun so we were all pretty relieved when we called it a day and headed back to our lovely camp.

Next day we had a final trip across the delta waters back to the truck to say goodbye to our polers and say thanks. Once back at the truck we all eagerly filled our water bottles from our treated tank on board only to discover that it had turned bright blue! The mystery was solved by the note left on the windscreen of our truck from the over Dragoman trip..... "hope you guys aren't too blue about leaving the Delta"! apparently when trucks meet its quite common for little pranks to be played on each other... annoyingly we would have no chance to reciprocate as they had already left the day before.... Anyway, another day, another country...onwards to Namibia!

We were only to be in Namibia for a couple of days in the Caprivi strip area. Ngepi Campsite was our destination and we all had a couple of great relaxing days there doing nothing much really! Maria, Joey, Louise, Joenie & I had a great afternoon playing cards while lying in the sun and Drew and Hugo played alot of chess (with the board I bought at Great Zim ruins). The campsite is on the river, but there are hippos and crocs so they have set up a cage in the river for swimming, its a bit bizarre as they call it the world's first Hippo and Croc cage dive! and you can still feel the river current, if you swim upstream, you just stay still in the middle of the pool... quite random, the campsite also has a load of novelty toilets so we did a little toilet tour... My favourite was the King's Throne, a toilet fit for a king which looks out over the river from a regally decked out platform!

The guys also played a tough volley ball match with the local guys which saw them get thrashed, but with great dignity of course; and we also helped some people celebrate birthdays by gatecrashing their cakes, buying them shots and then putting our professional barkeeps (Joey & Drew) into action to design a shot good enough to make onto the menu - thus earning us all a free shot each! They rose spectacularly to the occasion with Joey designing the Mothball - now available at Ngepi Campsite. Drew to be fair was let down by his ingredients - a pretty dodgy looking energy drink shooter which had been in their fridge for ages - but we got another shot out of it so there you go! So, after our battery re-charge at Ngepi we headed back into Botswana for the final leg of our trip, the last couple days before Vic Falls.

Back in Botswana, we headed to Kasani for a sunset river cruise on the Chobe, at first we were all a bit sceptical, the river looked pretty empty and the sky looked grey, but we all ate our words, half an hour in we saw our first hippos, much closer here than anywhere else and later the sky cleared for a gorgeous sunset while we saw more elephants, Waterbuck, Impala, Hippo, Fish Eagles, Crocs & Baboons. Hope you like the Elephant pics, I think they're the best I have. We crossed our final border the next day back into Zim for Hwange, which turned out to be a little abortive, the booking had not made it through to the campsite, so we could only stay one night at the lodge as they had another truck coming in. A shame as the lodge was great, had a big watering hole and lovely safari-esque decor and a TV room which excited us greatly! Still we headed off in the early morning for our game drive around Hwange and had another good haul, our first sight of Kudu, more Hippos, Crocs & Rhino, some Giraffe but sadly only from a long way away and some Macacque monkeys.

After a late, long breakfast we all piled in the truck for our final drive together to 'The Smoke That Thunders', Mosi-ai-tunya or as we know it Vic Falls. We could see the smoke from about 5 miles away but its the end of the dry season now, in the wet season, the smoke (spray) can be seen from 30 miles away and it rises almost 200 metres into the air. We were all pretty excited to be going as I'd just about persuaded all the young 'uns that it would be rude not to do the bungee jump, and they had just about persuaded me that there was a fair to middling chance that I wouldn't die White Water rafting on the Zambezi.... well, we'll see about that!