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Peps and Pete Travels "On pleasure bent again"

"Guys! Thats not how you do the hokey pokey!"

BOTSWANA | Sunday, 17 June 2007 | Views [1414]

As most of our trip has been done independently, with the occasional day or overnight tour, we were wary of doing a tour. But issues like the situation in Zimbabwe convinced us that a tour would be the be the best option, so we signed up to do a 7 day day tour through the Okavango Delta, Chobe and finishing in Victoria Falls.

I guess tours have their pro's and cons - on the pro side everything is organised for you and you don't have to worry about organinsing anything and you get to do things that you may not have done had you been on your own, plus if you are lucky you get to meet decent people. The peroblem with tours is that they can be inflexible, full of poeple you don't get along with and very touristy, missing out on the real experience. But I guess that you have to balance what you want and need from a tour and then make your choice, and we were lucky, we managed to have a pretty good time on our tour.

From Joburg we drove for 2 days to reach Maun, the launching pad for our Okavango delta experience. We arrived in Maun pretty late and had a 4:45am start, so didn't do much other than eat and sleep. Once we woke up, we loaded our stuff onto the flatbed truck that would transport us to the Delta. We were going to head out into the Delta on Mokoro's, the traditional boats that are carved out of wood.

Once had unloaded our stuff, we were told to wait for a poler (the 'captain' of the Mokoro) to approach us. Our polers name was Disaster, who was fantastic - knowledgable, friendly and funny. We travelled along narrow streams framed by reeds for about 2 hours before we reached our campsite.

We camped under a huge tree, right next to the river. The delta is a national park complete with wild animals, so camping out there in an unsecured site was quite a buzz. We actually saw a fish eagle catch a fish from the river about 20m from wher we were camping, and we had elephants invade our swimming spot for a quick dip. We also Galen from BB05, who was on a Kumuka tour going in the opposite direction to us. In fact we continued to see him all the way around SA!

Our campsite was fairly rudimentary, but we did have a toilet - a hole in the ground really - amd everytime I needed to use the ablustions at night I was convinced that every movement or rustle of the leaves was a lion stalking some lilly white rump. Not a good position to be in and I eventually gave up on the nocturnal toilet visits all together.

We spent 2 nights in the delta, and on our last night we were serenaded by the melodious and harmonious voices of our polers. It was amazing to be seated round a campfire, enjoying a Gin and Tonic and listening to some excellent singers. We were expected to sing in return, but somehow a drunken version of Khe Sanh just cant compete. Other than the singing, my highlkight of the evening was the groups descent into anarchy over how exactly to do the hokey pokey.

Our next stop was Chobe National park on the banks of the Chobe River. We went on a boat cruise up the Chobe river and saw elephant, hippo, crocodile, Kudu, impala and buffalo as well as numerous birds. The boat cruise was fantastic - we brought along drinks and nibbles and were able to get really close to the animals. Doing a 'game drive' from a boat is a pretty unique experience. The following morning we had another early start to go on a game drive inside Chobe park. Unfortunatley I slept through most of the drive as I had been up all night with a tummy bug, but I was awake to see Giraffe (my favourite animal).

We then made for the border to cross into Zimbabwe and head for Victoria Falls. I have to say that crossing the border with a tummy bug has to be one of the worst experiences of the trip. Standing in a hot stuffy room with about 30 other people while 1 immigration official checks passports would be enough to make anyone sick!

Vic Falls was an eye opening experience - I had visited in 1999 and things were starting to decline - but now it feels like it is stalled. It is the most underdeveloped place that we've been to, as well as the most depressing. With interest rates at over 3000% and 80% unemployment life for Zimbaweans is tought. Prior to our visit we had read an article in TIME magazine which quoted that the price of a house 15 years ago would be insufficient to purchase a single brick in Zimbabwe today. Everywhere you go there are people loitering in the street with nothing to do, and this was in the touristy area of Vic Falls, I shudder to think what the rest of Zimbabwe would be like.

The Zim situation was a large factor in our decision to do a tour, and I think our choice was justified by a sight that we saw at a petrol station which read "Petrol: No; Diesel: No; Parrafin: No". Also our guide was able to give us inside knowledge and tips like don't talk politics with the locals - they may be police informants, don't take pictures of government infrastructure - unless you fancy trying out a Zimbabwe prision. But the best advice she gave us was not to use banks or ATMs to get money - they can't keep pace with inflation and so give a poor exchange rate, rather use the dreadlocked rastafarian sitting in the far, smokey corner of the bar.

That said, where else could you see a buffalo grazing in the central park right next to the main road of the town, or a warthog family foraging for food on the lawns of a five star hotel? Plus the falls were amazing. We were there when the Zambezi was at record levels, so the falls were incredible. We have heard that they can dry up to a trickle in the dry season, but not while we were there.

Pete also did a lion encounter - he visited a breeding/conservation program and got to play with young 18 month old lions. tHe guidelines that he was give for saftey were 1. Never turn your back on a lion; 2. Always appraoch the animals from their front; 3. Keep your stick handy incase of trouble; and 4. watch out for their 'naughty look'. He had an awesome time, as his photos show.

 

Tags: The Great Outdoors

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