A Travellerspoint blog

Day 07: In Search for the King

Voyeurism on the plains

sunny 95 °F

This morning I was in the lobby for coffee by 5:30AM and in the "not-a-jeep" with some of the group for a 6:00AM drive in search of lions. [I made the mistake of referring to the 4WD, open-air safari vehicles as "jeeps" once. Not gonna do that again] Lions are very elusIve and there aren't a whole lot of them. They walk down to the river very early in the morning and then when it gets hot they walk back up the hill and hide in the shade of the bushes. It'd be pure luck if you happened upon one in the middle of the afternoon, so you strategize. You drive around until you see lion prints which confirms that they are around somewhere and then you search the grasslands by the river and near the prints. Ta-Daa! There was a mating pair, half hidden behind some tall grass. Lions do not mate for life, they mate to procreate. The male chooses a mate and begins the arduous task of trying to impregnate her every 15-20 minutes for about four days. If she is happy with this guy, and enjoys the "date", she will become pregnant, and he will walk away in search of another mate. This particular lion looked like he was on about day #3. He looked tired and a bit thin. Yes, we kept watching. We wanted to see them stroll up the hill. Instead, the poor male has a very painful foot and won't walk more than a few steps at a time. At some point we decided that It was time for breakfast, so the two drivers drove us to a picnic area on the hill and began to unpack hard boiled eggs, bacon, sausage, yogurt, fruit, coffee, juices. What a fun experience! A breakfast on the plains of Botswana! When we were done, the guys packed everything back up and drove us down to see how the happy couple is progressing. Not very well. He is never going to proudly walk up the hill with his bride. His foot hurts too much. After about an hour of mount, rest, hobble, rest, mount, etc. we abandoned our post and came back to the Lodge.

It must be 90 degrees out there. I was going to take a ride into the local village but I opted for a gin & tonic by the pool. I guess I'm not a very good ambassador. Speaking of pictures (which I wasn't) - I have been asked several times to post some. I don't know how. I am working on a Kindle, which does have a camera, but you cannot frame a picture (no eye) and I can't figure out where the photos are stored. I could try harder but I'm not going to. I have my iPhone with which I could send pics to FB, but in Botswana, the cost of data is outrageous, so I have turned the darned thing off. My iPhone is now an alarm clock and a Kodak Instamatic - that's all.

Tomorrow we leave this wonderful lodge and take the short flight to the next safari camp. We'll be there for two nights. This the two day experience that set the duffel bag standard for the entire three week journey. The little prop planes that we will take tomorrow can only accomodate a very limited amount of cargo volume and weight. Thus, the cart pulls the horse. This is also the camp with no WiFi, and only a limited amount of solar power - not enough to run a blow dryer. I guess it doesn't matter any more. I'm getting used to looking like crap and the lions don't care. They're busy.

Posted by Follow Carol 08:00 Archived in Botswana Comments (3)

Day 06: Out All Day

In search of hippos and crocs

It's fairly early in the morning as I write this. I'm sitting in the bar area where there is WiFi, drinking strong coffee and being in the way of the six or seven staff members who are busily sweeping and dusting. The lodge manager keeps coming by to ensure I have enough coffee. Cool breeze, birds chirping, Wi-Fi, coffee, I am in heaven. This lodge is full of the most amazing wood and metal sculpture. I bet it is for sale and I bet they'll arrange shipment. Hmmmm. . . .

It's a minor thing in the scheme of things, but why has no one figured out that when you blow dry your hair, you need a long enough cord to reach your head, and you need a mirror? This is a common complaint of mine outside of the US. I know, I know, I'm on safari, not on the Riviera. However, I really do not want to scare the animals with my new Rod Stewart look. (Wake up hippo, I think I've got something to say to you)

Much later: Back in the bar after a day-long game drive. Today we drove to a dock on the Chobe River and boarded a flat bottomed river boat to search up and down stream for animals that hang out by the river. It was not all that difficult. Within minutes we were viewing elephants and hippos. The hippos are a bit harder to spot because they take their naps submerged. We never did see one walking. But we saw a bunch of them resting. Meanwhile, crocodiles abound. They are not that easy to see either, but one poor buffalo got trapped in a bog in the river and drowned (or died a horrific death at the jaws of a croc) So we were the witnesses of the subsequent tearing apart. There were those who couldn't stand to watch and there were those who were transfixed. I was ambivalent. I guess that says something about me as a person, "oh, you're in trouble? It sucks being you"

But the elephants!, a couple hundred of them take their afternoon breaks by the river. They drink water and bathe. They like to cross the shallow river to get to the best grazing land (in neighboring Namibia). I can't explain the majesty of it, I can't convey what I felt. But to be 100 feet away from a herd of elephants (and their babies) walking and swimming across the river is almost spiritual. So many times we were looking at elephants, buffalo, and giant Sable Antelope, all in the same picture frame. Unbelievable. Then of course there were the birds. I can't do them justice, so if you are a birder, get down here.

OK - time for Wild Kingdom. There have been a few reality segments in this ongoing daily saga. There was the buffalo feast that the crocs were gravitating to, and there was that one baby elephant that had fallen victim to a big cat and had had 1/2 of its trunk removed. That poor baby is OK now, but can't survive. He is still nursing, but when he isn't, he will have a hard time feeding himself. And my favorite was the gay giraffe pedophile. Nuff said.

Posted by Follow Carol 13:17 Archived in Botswana Comments (1)

Day 05: The Safari Starts

Muchenje Lodge

sunny 85 °F

We left Zambia today. I believe I left a piece of my heart there. Now I completely understand why I have never met anyone who has been to Africa who does not want to go back. It's wonderful here. The people are so nice and they are so attractive. Plus, there are monkeys and elephants! What's not to love?
After breakfast we began the slightly complicated process of transport from Zambia to Botswana. Our Zambia guide drove us to a ferry dock on the Zambezi River where scores of big trucks wait to be ferried to the other side. The ferry can only accomodate one truck at a time, so the wait can be days. Thankfully, there are several speedboat operators who will take humans across for a small fee. One of Botswana' s main exports is beef, and they are in constant fear of an outbreak of hoof and mouth, so when you enter the country they make you step both feet into a pan of some chemically treated water, and your vehicle must drive through a trough of the same chemical. That was icky. I wasn't particularly comfortable with that but I had no choice. It wasn't 15 seconds before I got over it, though.
This lodge is unreal. They don't have many rooms so there is only us and a young couple staying here (and they leave tomorrow). When we arrived they promptly prepared gin & tonics (or whatever else you want, but g&t's are de rigueur). Then they served a buffet lunch and then we went out on our first game drive. We saw elephants, baboons, zebras, impala, giraffes, islands (huge antelope). At one point we saw all of the above at one watering hole. It was amazing! The guides are experts in all things animal. Plus, I guess birds are a big deal here. I am not much of a bird person myself, so I would be happy to just have the guide identify the bird and move on. But I was in a jeep with a couple of birders so we were stopping every five minutes to view a bird through our binoculars. If it wasn't for the fact that one of my favorite ladies on the trip is an avid birder, I would have begun to lose patience with that. Not fair, I know. But remember, this trip is not about animals for me, it's about art and culture. I am beginning to get very enthusiastic about all these animals though.
So enthusiastic that I went with 5 or 6 others on a night game drive after dinner. The idea is to try to see a leopard prowling around. We didn't, but it was a nice (albeit bumpy) cruise around the game preserve anyway.
More game drives tomorrow!

Posted by Follow Carol 13:43 Archived in Botswana Comments (3)

Day 04: Visiting Victoria Falls

and encountering more wildlife

sunny 85 °F

Well, that was something one does not do every day. I just walked through a herd of ~20 impala grazing on the hotel lawn between my room and the main building. It was 6:00 and the sun was beginning to come up. I have been awake since 2:15 reading and carrying on email conversations (very long distance) with two friends of mine. Finally the hour that coffee is served arrived and I began the long stroll to the main buildings. First I was met by a loud and pretty birdsong that told me how far from home I am. No Ron, I do not know the type of bird nor will I endeavor to mimic the sound for you. Then, a hundred yards later I saw that there was a herd of impala on my path. A couple of them looked up but were not the least bit alarmed, so I wasn't either. Naturally, I resisted the urge to pet them. But it was pretty cool just walking through them.

After breakfast we gathered for the short ride to Victoria Falls which is one of the natural wonders of the world. It's not the tallest waterfall nor the biggest in terms of volume, but it is the worlds largest "sheet of falling water". While it IS pretty impressive, today it did not live up to the hype. We're in the dry season so the Zambezi isn't as mighty as it could be. Also, (per our guide) the government diverts some of the water for hydro-electric purposes. Not sure which government, and does the other one know? Zimbabwe owns 1/2 of that river. What DID totally exceed our expectations was the hundreds of baboons we encountered on our trek around the Victoria Falls National Park. They are completely wild and completely bored with humans, unless you act like you have food. They wandered by us and played around us most of the time we were there. In fact, it was difficult for the guide to keep our attention when he was trying to explain something to us.

Did I ever explain my opinion of hotel fabulousness? Well, the hotel in Dubai was state of the art, totally efficient and luxurious fabulous. Then there are those hotels that are gracious old world charm fabulous. Just sayin' I'll be right back, I need to put the towel rack back on the wall.

The cocktail hour this evening was very exciting. I was sitting on the veranda drinking wine with a couple of "the girls" when one of them spotted an elephant down on the shore of the river. So we walked down to join the accumulating throng of oggling tourists. Lo and behold, there they were, not 20 feet away, four elephants grazing on hotel vegetation. Dad, Mom, teenage son, and baby (girl I think). This little family is not part of the hotel property but just taking stroll down the river. I swear, I could not believe my eyes (or my good fortune).

Posted by Follow Carol 23:12 Archived in Zambia Comments (1)

Day 03: Zambia and Getting There

Becoming too well acquainted with airport lobbies.

sunny 86 °F

At the moment, I am ensconced in a comfortable chair, feet up, electronics plugged in, cappuccino In hand. Life is good because we spoiled middle aged women could not bear the thought of spending the 4 hour layover in the regular waiting area in the Johannesburg airport. We each paid the equivalent of $30 for the privilege of comfort, food, showers, and some pretty decent cappuccino. We arrived here after catching a red-eye out of Dubai. I hate red-eyes but overnighting in "Business" is a whole lot easier than in Steerage. I think my basic travel requirements are evolving. I am happily packing less and less while needing more and more. If this is aging, I'm fine with it.

I met an interesting guy on the plane - an attorney flying home from Dubai where he often meets with clients about construction issues. I guess he's pretty busy - all those bizarre Dubai buildings must have required a lot of negotiating to even break ground. So now that the US is allowing its citizens the right to travel to a perfectly harmless country, this guy is picking up some clients who are developing hotel properties in Cuba. So if you want to see Havana before it turns into Miami, book now.

I am very enamored of the traditional United Arab Emirates business attire for men. Wow. There is nothing like a crisp, bright white, ankle length "kandura" with a long white headscarf to make a man look wealthy. Of course it doesn't hurt that most Emirati probably are. And since the men hold all of the power in the UAE, the well-dressed, well-heeled, businessman in Dubai enjoys a fullfilling home life with the four wives he essentially owns. No wonder they look so self-confident. OK, enough Carol. (PS: I really do like the sleek, white kandura)

Much later: We made it to Zambia (finally) and I am sitting in my room drinking the last drops of a passable Chard and thinking of my day. We are so excited to be in Zambia. It's not that the area viewed from the plane is beautiful, it's that it's f'n Zambia, dude! It just gets better when we get to the hotel. After a 20 minute ride we turn into what looks like a colonial estate set on the Zambezi River. The property is huge with spacious common rooms and several 8-plexes lined up up-river through the owner's private game preserve. My roomie and I live in the last building. It's all very impressive but it is not the Africa experience some of my comrades think it is. Let me explain, at 4:00 we met in the main hall to be driven to the dock where we met the river boat that would take us for a "sunset cruise" down "The Mighty Zambezi". On the way out of the property, several of the ladies competed with each other over the perfect space in the bus to photograph some zebras that were strolling through the property. It became a bit argumentative when one pushed her way into the view of another. Oh yeah, it's quite an experience to see zebras walking about minding their own business. But keep in mind, these animals are not really in the wild. They are being kept by the property owner. In fact, he also keeps elephants and Impala. I hope I'm not in the bus when one of them spots one of the elephants. All hell will break lose.

I have to be honest, the Zambezi River cruise was a bit cheesy, but it was really fun, nonetheless. Cheesy, because it is so touristy. There are a lot of 3-decker boats sharing the same piece of river But it's'quite beautiful out on an the Zambezi in the early evening. We saw a lot of birds, a few hippos,, some monkeys, crocodiles, and a dying warthog, all in their natural environment.

Because I did not want to sit on the 2nd or 3rd level of the riverboat with a lot of chattering people this evening, I stayed on the "ground floor" where it was very peaceful watching the river go by. (Tourists are born with a propensity to seek higher elevations.) As luck would have it, the guide prefers to sit down there, so I chatted with him quite a bit. Per him, the unemployment rate in Zambia is 60%, so he is the only breadwinner in his extended family of eight. It's a good job but it's a tough situation. Tourism is very big here at #3 of the top industries. #1 is copper and #2 is agriculture. They just elected a new president. "Elected" is a good thing, hopefully this new guy is good.

OK, I'm falling asleep. More fun in Zambia tomorrow!

Posted by Follow Carol 12:21 Archived in Zambia Comments (0)

(Entries 11 - 15 of 18) « Page 1 2 [3] 4 »