Maun to Makagadikgadi
Vulture, Giant Eagle Owl, Mongoose, Zebra, Impala, Blue Wildebeest, Kudu, Elephant, Lions, Ostrich, Duiker, Bush Buck, Hornbill, Giraffe.
We woke early and packed up camp (not so much fun) and stared the 280km drive from Maun to Makgadikgadi game reserve. We couldn’t take any fresh meat with us because we were passing through a veterinary check point for foot and mouth disease. This involved us having to dip our shoes into a bucket of bleach or something that once resembled that, not really sure how effective it was.
This next part of the drive is when I saw my first animal other than donkeys, cows and goats. Which roam the streets freely and have right of way. I was amazed not to see a single car vs goat accident. It was a vulture, this was a little bit exciting but really I am not a fan of the damn ugly bird and the only thing I like about them is it might mean there is a fresh kill in the area and I might get to see a lion.
To enter into the game reserve we had to make a river crossing on a ferry. Now do not conjure images of on ocean going ferry. It was merely a slightly pimped out raft with a 10 stroke engine, this moment made it all seem a little more real to me. It was the first moment I really felt like I was on an African safari.
Magkadkgadi game reserve upon entering is a sea of grey and brown weather beaten sticks with the occasional green tree raising through. Before we had even reached our camp site I saw my first zebra. I was a giddy child, jumping up and down in my seat, taking far to many photos. I named him Thomas. He is beautiful and he stole my heart.
Everything I know about Africa has come from reading The power of one, David Attenbourgh documentaries and the Lion King. So since one of these is a cartoon with talking animals we can all assume I am ill prepared. Lucky mum and SD have been here 2 and 7 times respectively and can enlighten me. Not to mention the library of books about Botswana, mammals and birds we are carrying around. This trip will not only be recreational it will be educational and already I have been trying my best to remember the countries and their location on the continent. I suck balls at geography and directions, I still struggle with my left and right and never say to me ‘It’s east of blah blah’, I will stare at you blankly until you give me a land mark.
Now back to the animals. After setting up camp we headed out on what was officially my first game drive. I saw so many animals it was surreal. The Lions came out of nowhere. We thought that they had finished with the kill and SD was driving forward for me to get a better view and take photos. Gruesome I know but it’s part of life here and I wanted to capture every second. We round the tree and there they where. Four lions lolling in the shade, peaceful and cuddly. Mere meters away from us, a lioness a young male and two young females. The male got up and started plodding towards the car. Mum starts panicking and screeching to close the window as it is rather close. I am in the back trying to close the window, take photos, watch and not panic to much all at the same time. Whilst I am imagining it walking up to the window jump up and scratch me across the face with it’s giant paw. Obviously this didn’t happen but the rush form seeing these creatures so close was unbelievable and getting to see them so early on in my trip, Aggghhh… I loose my words when I try to describe it. They look like you could walk up and curl up with them, hug them and just generally keep them as a pet. They are serene creatures that just happen to be killing machines.
We make our way back to camp to relax. Mum sits knitting in the afternoon sun. The world is peaceful the sun on our faces as we look out at the Boteti river from our campsite at Xhumaga. I replay sections of the power of one in my head. I know it’s not set here but around every tree and on the ridges I see Peekay and Doc. Images I have created in my mind from this book merge with the scenery and I hear their voices (well what I imagine they sound like) and I praise Bryce Courtney and his writing skills. This is like living a dream a fantasy, I have been transported to my imagination and for once I am thankful it’s so over active.
The camp site is basic. Just a toilet block and a fire place at each position. There aren’t many campsites and they are far apart, this really is the wilderness. At night you can hear the animals thumping through the bush and camp, mum keeps waking me up to listen. My favourite thing though was the stars. I hadn’t seen the stars like this since I was on the boat in Turkey and it reminded me of home the vast open sky, high above me. In Berlin I don’t see the stars and the European sky seems lower, the world seems smaller more crowded than the Australian sky.
During the night we heard a lions roar. It filled up all the space around us sucking the breath out of the evening then silence descended on the camp. A lion had made a kill. This would mean tomorrow we go hunting for the lions again.
Impala, Kudu, Vultures, Hornbill, Hippos, Red Breast Strike, Giant Eagle Owl, Zebra, Wildebeest, Walhberg Eagle, Giraffe, Duiker, Black Back Jackal, Ostrich, Elephants
This morning there hasn’t been as many animal sightings. We went back to where we saw the lions, all that remained was a carcass and vultures. It appeared as if all the animals have run away. Hiding on the other side of the park or they could be just 50 meters off the track, hidden amongst the scrub.
This afternoon we drove back along the river drive track. We parked out on the flat watching a herd of wildebeest and zebras feed in the distance. Waiting for the elephants to silently come down to the river front to drink in the cool of the afternoon. When the grazing herd started to scatter and sprint from the waters edge. I immediately thought it was a crocodile but it was something far more exciting. HIPPOPOTAMUS!
We watched as three made their way down the river, poking their heads up at five minute intervals. Little ears like antenna or periscopes popping up spying on the world then back down. I could watch them for hours. Imagining their giant bodies beneath the water running along the river bed. I was also lucky enough to see more giraffe. Coy beautiful creatures, hiding behind tress and scrubs with their long necks.
It amazes me how camouflaged the creatures are. Particularly the elephants, they are massive yet so silent and hidden by what looks to be a few sticks. It can take me a few minutes to find them when they are only meters from the car. The light and shadows of the bush play tricks on your eyes and you just can’t see them it reminds me that evolution truly is amazing.
As the sunsets reflections of purple light fill the pools of the Boteti bellow us as the evening gin and tonics are prepared. I watch as elephants play bellow in the water and I wonder will I hear more lions tonight.
Makgadikgadi – Maun – Kazakine
Zebra, Impala, Kudu, Wildebeest, Mongoose, Squirrels
I was woken by the sound of hooves walking through water. I open my tent and look down onto the Boteti to see a small herd of zebra feeding at the waters edge and some wildebeest strolling down the center of the river with impala grazing amongst them. Welcome to Africa. We left camp early for Maun where we ended to pick up supplies for the next 7 days. This included all our drinking water and of course a ridiculous amount of gin and tonic.
Shopping was an interesting experience. We went to Chippies instead of the Spar, not sure if this had anything to do with what happened but it’s just part of the story. It seems inside the store some local boys took a shine to me. I am not sure why, as at this point I was un showered with filthy hair and was wearing fluro green and hot pink shorts, I was generally a disheveled mess. They spotted me near the hot food section of the supermarket and continued to follow me around from there. One particular suitor was a lovely tall man with a royal blue polo shirt. He whistled at me and said something I didn’t understand then winked. I smiled uneasily and hurriedly searched for the bread. From this moment he prowled around behind me. He seemed to be king of this pack of local boys/ men. He lurked behind the baked goods and would duck away when I turned around to look at him. Since I was with mum I was safe, similar to a baby wildebeest. I would look behind and see 3-4 guys lurking, watching or finding a reason to walk down our isle. As soon as I left my mums side to go in search of some pasta they descended on me. One tried to high five me whilst another to engage me in conversation next to the long life milk. Since I had no idea what he was saying I just stared like a deer caught in head lights trying to not be too rude. It was awkward and weird and I felt very on show my mother however was oblivious to the whole thing.
The drive to Kazakine felt long and I slept for most of it however when we arrived everyone was a little bit frazzled and grumpy. However this was all fixed after taking a shower in the open air with the sun setting over the African bush and then sitting by the fire sipping gin and tonics.