Saturday, November 21, 2009

Postings from Pretoria #24

21 November 2009

Hello there... Rodger French here.

Photo Update Alert:

"Victoria Falls" - “Botswana” - “Chobe Elephants”

Our grand African “safari” continues:

Day 4 – Off to the Kazungula Border Post, gateway to Botswana. This was our day off, which I well and truly needed, afflicted as I was with “Zambezi River thighs” (extreme muscle soreness and 2nd degree sunburn). We checked into the Chobe Marina Lodge – complete with wart hogs and vervet monkeys frolicking in our backyard - and had dinner. We also set up our itinerary for the next two days.

[Sidebar: Naturally, we took reading material with us for those quieter moments. I read, “Playing the Enemy” by John Carlin, an account of Nelson Mandela’s embrace of rugby as a tool for reconciliation between Blacks and Afrikaners. Highly recommended.]

Day 5First Activity: Up at 05h00 for the morning game drive into Chobe National Park with our guide “John the Baptist.” It was a beautiful morning and we spotted all manner of wildlife, including kudus, impalas, pukus, sable antelope, buffaloes, hyenas, dung beetles (I‘m a big fan), and birds galore.

We also looked in on two breeding herds of elephants taking turns in the Chobe River. Chobe is known for pachyderms and, it being spring, there were quite a few calves in evidence. Seeing large groups of these fascinating animals in the wild was a wonderful experience.

In other National Geographic moments, we observed a fish eagle share a tree with a vulture (this is simply not done), a yellow-billed kite steal a mostly-dead frog from a brown hamerkop, and a lioness drag a very-dead buffalo carcass into the bush. Typically, all the bush vehicles in the area (13, by my count) converged at once on the grisly scene. The lioness was very cool about it, going about her business and occasionally posing for photoz.

Second Activity: Later that afternoon, we opted for a river cruise, which became an exercise in sun avoidance for moi et mes thighs. Nonetheless, we had a lovely time looking for birds, crocodiles, hippos, and elephants in the waters and on the shore. And, of course, another glorious African sunset.

Day 6First Activity: Up at 05h00 for the morning game drive with our guide Simon. We drove into the bush rather than to the river and, while there was generally less wildlife about, we did spy a small herd of zebras, a very rare occurrence at this time of year. And we came across our lioness again, hanging out, presumably digesting buffalo.

Second Activity: We opted for a 15h30 game drive with Simon and crossed paths with a herd of elephants headed from the river into the bush for the evening. The animals in Chobe are use to and have no reason to fear humans and their large vehicles, so we were able to observe these elephants at very close quarters for an extended period of time.

[Elephant Safety Tips: As long as you do not insert yourself between the large females and the young calves, you’ll be tolerated. And when they’re ready to move on, get out of the way.]

On our way back, there was the lioness, lying on her back under a tree, waiting to have her tummy scratched. We demurred.

Day Last - Loaded into the van, transited the Kazungula Border Post, and stopped at the Victoria Falls Hotel to switch to the airport vehicle. This afforded an opportunity to say hello to the bell captain and the bellhops, who remembered us and happily moved our luggage the necessary twenty feet or so. Everyone was tipped, naturally. Then it was off to the airport and back to JoBurg.

I think it fair to say that all four of us had an extraordinary experience. We traveled at a level of comfort that was appropriate and affordable, and did our fair share to support the local economies. Chances are, none of us will ever get to visit these places again, so we packed as much adventure into a few days as could reasonably be expected. I am grateful for the opportunity and the company.

As you’re able: Spend the money, visit your friends, see the world. Onward.


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