LOST IN STOCKHOLM (5)

Botswana

In Africa, Travel by Brit Hemming Comments

We woke up to the sound of rain and packed our tents away. This morning we left our waterfront Campsite in Livingstone, Zambia and crossed the boarder into Botswana. To cross the border into Botswana you have to take a little ferry that was not running in the pouring rain so we had to wait about an hour before could finally cross. The ferry boat is very small and only fits about two trucks and a car on it. Apparently some trucks are tuck waiting for weeks before they can finally cross. The boarder crossing into Botswana was very different to most of the boarders we have crossed thus far. The first thing we noticed was how quiet it was. No one around trying to sell you anything and the visa for Botswana was free which was also a nice surprise.

It was only a short drive from the boarder to our campsite and we had sometime to relax before our game drive effectively breaking our 6pm curse. The safari vehicle came to pick us up around 3:30pm. It was an open vehicle with five rows of seating and a roof. Great for game drives on a sunny day, however about an hour into the park the sky opened up and a torrential downpour started. We were trapped in the middle of Chobe national park with no shelter and no warmth as the sky showered freezing cold water down on us. We made an executive decision to skip the game drive and just drive straight to our bush camp. Animals with any sense wouldn’t be out roaming in this terrible weather anyway. They would be seeking shelter from the torrential downpour and these conditions make for a lousy game drive in all honesty. And so we drove. In the freezing cold rain, at about 10km per hour stuck in an open safari vehicle, absolutely soaked to the bone. When we finally got to camp we were disappointed to learn that our tents had been assembled without the rain covers. Needless to say we spend the next few hours bailing water out of our tents. We had no shelter and no place to warm up or dry off. We did our best to bail the water out of our tents and keep our sleeping bags under the cooking tent and out of the rain. Our cook Jarred must have noticed the helpless look on my face because he stopped cooking for a few minutes and tried to help me dry off my tent with a tea towel. It wasn’t much but it helped. He has to be one of the sweetest men I’ve ever met in my life. So caring, compassionate and just has a general awareness of what the people around him are feeling. In times like these it’s the small gestures of kindness that go along way and help you laugh off the situation when all you wanted to do two minutes ago was scream at the top of your lungs with frustration. Once we finally gave up on our tent drying, we all huddled under the food tent for dinner and some after dinner hot chocolate. We tried to keep our head torches lit up as we were not the only one seeking shelter under that food tent. A group of scorpions seemed to decide this was a good place to seek shelter as well. With our feet up and our head torches scanning the sand we ate a much needed warm dinner and filled our bellies with hot chocolate for dessert. We could hear the lions roaring outside as our guide gathered us for a little briefing before we settled in for the night. “Before you leave your tent” he said, “make sure you take your torch and scan in 360 degrees around your tent. Now, if you see green eyes you are okay it’s just a herbivore. However, red, orange or yellow eyes means it’s a cat so if you see this you need to maintain eye contact, retreat slowly into your tent, zip it up and turn your flash light off. Remain as quiet as possible. We can hear the lions roaring now and it is hard to tell how close they are”. All I could think of is this guy freaking kidding me? If I see any eyes you better believe I’m not sticking around to see what colour they are. I’m going right back into my tent.

With the rain not letting up there was no fire and no point in staying up, so I decided to go to the tent and get an early night. I changed from my soaking wet clothes into damp clothes, climbed into my damp sleeping bag and tried to focus on anything but the sound of lions roaring outside of my tent. I woke up around 3am and really had to pee. I tried to ignore the sensation in my bladder and go back to sleep but nothing would work. Between the threat of being eaten by a lion or possible being bitten by a scorpion or one of those giant spiders we’d seen earlier I figured it was better to stay in my tent and take my chances holding it. I laid awake for about three hours doing the pee dance in my tent before I finally heard the cooks get up and figured it was safe enough to go outside and use the “Bush”. I had learned my lesson. If I ever go bush camping again I will not drink any liquids at least 4 hours before bedtime. I had adverted a crisis and did not get eaten by a lion in the process. All in all I counted my blessings and went back to my tent to pack up before breakfast. At least the rain had finally stopped.

That morning after breakfast we would finally get our game drive. We drove around for about an hour and saw hippos and elephant, zebra and giraffe. We finally saw some hungry looking female lions with their cubs and spent about 20 minutes watching the mommy lions try to sleep and the baby lions playing in the grass around them before we moved on. About 10 minutes down the road from the lions we heard a big gush of air along the side of the truck. Sure enough I looked over at the wheel and it was completely flat. Not a big deal I though as I had seen two spares on the truck. We all had to pile out of the safari vehicle and make a lot of noise to scare off the animals as the driver got out to change the tire. However, nothing is ever so simple in Africa. Turns out we had two spare tires but no jack, making the spare tires absolutely useless. TIA! We were now stranded in an open vehicle with no protection about 10 minutes away from some hungry lions and at least a two hour drive into the park. We stayed out of the truck and made lots of noise for the next two hours until helped showed up. When the tire was changed we were finally on our way, we had to drive quickly out of the park because at this point we were behind schedule, basically missing the rest of our game drive. This Chobe trip was definitely a bust but it sure was an adventure and we avoided being eaten by a lion so I would say that overall it was a sucessful venture. We made it back to camp just in time for a quick lunch. Afterwards we climbed back onto the truck ready for another days drive and exhausted I fell asleep.