|A pissed off, one tusked elephant|
|Side striped jackal|
|Hippo standing his ground|
|During his rant|
|Hippos doing their water thing|
|"I'm watching you"|
|Quite cheesed at us, I think|
|A Red Lechwe -- an antelope with webbed feet|
|Up to the gunwales|
|Yep, that's a road|
|We are more boat than truck|
|This elephant cut us off, wanting to cross the track|
|Zeebs, and in the middle...|
|An injured zeeb . Looks like the lion lost.|
|Finding us interesting|
|My favourite photo from all I took in Africa|
|A marbou stork and a heron|
|Blocking the road|
|The birds really do this|
|The Caravan coming in for a landing|
|The glass cockpit|
|Overtaking at 500'|
|More gorgeous colours|
|Thousands of flamingos|
- rushed onto the truck,
- rushed over to an ATM,
- raced to pull shoes out of luggage locked up in the truck's lockers, while the truck was barreling along at 100 km/hr (we had to disinfect them at a check point to stop the spread of hoof and mouth disease),
- raced to lunch,
- raced though lunch (a whirlwind frenzy of sandwich making and eating and cleaning – I actually never sat down, eating my sandwich while on the move)
- check in,
- get keys,
- go to our rooms,
- drop our bags,
- lock up stuff in the safe,
- go to the can,
- pull out warm gear and
- get back for a drive to the Nata section of the famous Makgadikgadi salt pans.
So we barely had time to see or even experience this, and certainly none in daylight:
|The beautiful bed, and behind it...|
|The clawfoot tub|
We were told dinner was at 7, and raced away to the "salt pans", which it turns out (where we went) are actually not salt pans but the inland sand and clay delta of the Nata River. I was expecting salt pans like the Atacama Desert of Chile, or Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, or the Great Salt Desert in Utah. Nope. Grass, some clay flats, a bit of wildlife and a brine lake that attracts pelicans and flamingoes. The true salt areas themselves are 40-60 km to the south (and are the result of an ancient lake drying up), and the pans occasionally fill with runoff, making them a dull salty clay and not at all like the salt pans I know.
|I suspect the reason we go there is that it's a community project|
|The clay (not salt) area|
|Ostriches & wildebeasts|
|Who don't stick around|
|Heading to the lake|
|This one caught one (note the bill)|
|How many pelican can cram onto a small island?|
|The flamingos took off when we got within 500 m|
|An en-mass exit|
|Pelicans heading home|
|And the sun sets|
|Fishing never ends|
Since driving in the dark here is risky at best, we raced home, arriving at 6:45. We were greeted on return by our truck team urging us to dinner, but told them we had essential "stuff" to do (such as peeing). With supposedly 15 min to dinner, Karen and I raced to our room, raced to change and drop cameras, raced to the bathroom, and got to the truck for dinner spot on the prescribed time of 7 PM.
Only we found everyone else already eating and mostly finished. So much for that “dinner at 7” instruction. There was no table; it was “sit around the campfire and eat off your lap” style. We served ourselves dinner, and since others were finished, our leader and guide launched into the nightly “here’s what’s happening tomorrow” talk - long before we were finished eating. The moment he was done, while Karen and I were still eating, everyone else folded up his or her chairs and left. By 7:15 -- just as I was finishing my first serving, deliberately small so I wouldn't spill on my lap -- the serving dishes were being scraped into the trash (so much for seconds) and the Nomad team were washing dishes. Just two others stayed back with us to enjoy the fire, still burning brightly – and note the strangeness of the day.
We understood we were in a blinding rush all day, and we understood why. The whole truck pitched in to help make the schedule, washing, chopping, or helping set up or tear down, and being efficient at necessary stops.
But there was no reason to rush dinner. There was no reason to start it before the 7 PM announced time (it was stew and boiled potatoes and salad, all of which would happily have held until the scheduled dinner time). In fact, a quiet relaxing dinner would have been quite appropriate given the pace of the rest of the day. I personally thought it rude and offensive of the others to pack up and leave while I was still eating.
It’s one of the things you learn in “truck life”. Our first few weeks as a “truck family” we bonded and did everything together. Since Windhoek? Not so much. Now there is one well-defined “clique” and “everyone else” (it’s just like high school, actually). Dynamics change, and while I may have found tonight’s experience a poor way to treat people, in many ways it was not unexpected given the “new” post-Windhoek “truck family” dynamic. There are those of on the truck who notice it and miss the earlier weeks of camaraderie.
Still, some on the truck have as an absolute priority things other than making sure the truck runs well. Having 11 people in a confined space for 10 hrs a day means that having the truck run well helps the whole truck have a better experience. Some put their need for their experience ahead of the “family”, and tonight was a clear outcome of that.
Such a shame, and such a poor finish to a day that started so well.
Today’s Africa Travel Tip: Visa and Visas
If you’re coming to southern Africa, get a Visa card. Not because “it’s everywhere you want to be,” but because it’s pretty much the only card accepted here.
The odd higher end establishment accepts American Express. Establishments accepting MasterCard are pretty rare, almost rarer than American Express. Most immigration forms (like Zimbabwe’s) ask “how much money do you have?” and the correct answer is "Visa".
Now, actual visas (that paper you need to get into Southern African countries can) be complicated, and you MUST do your research before you come on a safari that crosses borders.
As an example, take a Canadian entering Zimbabwe. As I write this, the visa costs $75, payable in US$, Pula or Rand. But let’s say you’re visiting Victoria Falls (the town in Zimbabwe) and want to cross the bridge and go into Zambia for the afternoon to see the other side of Victoria Falls (the falls themselves). A Zambia visa costs $50, US$ only. Or you can ask for a Kaza Dual Entry visa at one of 3 Zimbabwe/Zambia border posts in the Vic Falls area. A Kaza visa costs $50, payable in US$ only, that allows you to enter both Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Get a Kaza Visa entering , and you might get a form that you surrender upon exiting Zimbabwe going into Zambia. This allows them to track where you are, and if you try to save money by buying a Kaza visa and NOT go into Zambia, they will catch you when you exit Zimbabwe and charge you the $25 you didn’t pay PLUS fine you for using the wrong visa.
If you don’t have the correct visa and can’t get across a border, your safari truck will just leave you there, and say “too bad, so sad” and move on without you, leaving you to fend for yourself by hitchhiking; our guide has done this twice in 8 years. Our Hong Kong citizen truck-mates travelling on a Hong Kong passport spent quite some time at the Namibian border, because the Chinese need a visa you can’t buy at the border to enter. Hong Kong, however, isn’t China, though it took some convincing and checking for the border guard to confirm that.
So bring a Visa and get the correct visas.