Saturday, 1 August 2015

May 27: A terrible start on the way to Chobe

We had to get up to Chobe by noon, 300 km north of where we were staying, so had a 5:45 AM breakfast call and a 6:30 departure time. I set two alarms for 4:45 AM.

But neither went off. The batteries died overnight on one, and I didn’t actually switch the second on.

At 6:12 AM, there was a “Good Morning!” knock on the door. We were still sound asleep. Shit. A panicked rush to stuff the last minute stuff (including last night's laundry) in the suitcase; no shower, no toothbrushing, no shaving, no hitting the bathroom, no nothing. We JUST made the truck at 6:29 AM, hoped in and drove off, to the derision and amusement of some. Rimson was kind enough to hold us back some breakfast, so at least we had something to eat. I was able to pee about 15 minutes down the road when they stopped for an ATM, and I shaved at lunch. We felt like idiots. But it got worse.

We got to Kasane (just outside Chobe) at 11:00 AM, just in time for lunch, and Karen couldn’t find her wallet. Now, the way we travel, there’s never more than $50 in cash and one credit card in either Karen's of my wallet at any given time, so a wallet loss is annoying but inconsequential. Karen had 300 Pula, about $35, and her Visa card. We asked our guide and driver to call back, and sure enough, in our mad rush to get out of the hotel, we left her small (black) wallet on a (black) table. Never noticed it in the rushed last sweep of the room. Frustrating part was that if we had noticed it missing 1 hr earlier, we could have had it sent up on another Adventure truck from another company who was headed our way. No matter. We got them to cut up the card and let them keep the cash.

Getting to Kasane did feature some unexpected stuff: the first intensive agriculture we have seen since leaving South Africa. They grow huge swaths of sorghum up here, and put it in silos that are oh-so Albertan.

Fields of sorghum 
Grain elevators are grain elevators wherever you go
We saw elephants, giraffes and baboons along the way, too, and our lunch site was invaded by mongoose (mongeese?) and vervet monkeys.

Roadside elephant 
Mongeese looking for scraps 
Immediately after lunch, everyone chose to go on an optional game drive into Chobe National Park, home to about 50,000 elephants (and we may have seen about 10% of them) plus impala, vultures, hippos, kudu, baboons, cape buffalo – and houseboats.

Chobe Park entrance 
The park and the river 
Impala at the river 
Cape buffalo 
Elephants and... a houseboat? Yes, you can do that here. 
VERY cool bird. He fishes by opening his wings... 
...creating a shadow the fish swim into. 
River cruises 
Close encounters of the elephant kind 
A close up 
How we got the close up 
Mom & 2 kids 
Karen watches them saunter by 
Kid in a hurry to catch mom 
Getting a drink from mom 
Marbou stork 
Marbous sunbathing 
I certainly hope he's yawning 
More hippos 
Fishing birds 
Heffalumps and woozles 
Another yawner 
Nile crocodiles 
Hitching a ride 
Drinking in stereo 
Bath time!

More close encounters with elephants 
Here's looking at YOU, kid 
A mess o' elephants 
Everyone enjoys a good wallow 
Why elephants can wallow, but I can't 
At one point, we counted 50 elephants on the plains 
Giraffes in the forest
At the end of our game drive, we immediately jumped on a fairly large and slow boat for a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River -- along with folks from another Nomad truck, a G Adventures truck, another truck, and a bunch of other folks. Most of the truck folks young camper-types and were interested in a lot of things, though the critters weren't high on the list. They discussed parties and drinking and late nights and relationships and lots of other stuff, all pretty loudly. There was an interpretive guide on board making announcements about what we were seeing, but unless you stood next to him, he couldn't be heard (and he didn't care that much, either). But we saw more critters.

Off we go... 
Not a small river 
Nile crocodile 
Water monitor lizard 
Pileated kingfisher 
A swallow, hitchhiking on our boat 
The classic Cape Buffalo and Egret photo 
Elephants in the sunset
One elephant got pissed off at another elephant and literally ran to him. They had a stare down trumpeting argument, then the one got pushed off.

On a charge 
Face to face, complete with trumpeting 
Still mad. Still trumpeting 
And the sun sets 
Boaters boat 
Lots of people liked either the game drive or the river cruise, but few liked doing both. Doing both is pointless, in my view. The game drive we were on skirted the river in almost the same section as the river cruises. It would be better if the game drive did the savannah area of Chobe -- but then, I suppose, it would have to happen early morning or in the evening, whereas you can putter the river edge and always find wildlife. Chobe is a HUGE park, and the 3 hr drive penetrates the park very little. This is hampered by the one-way road restrictions in the park used to manage traffic.

I also wasn’t a fan of the 4x4 truck we used, as the canopy on it seriously restricted views in the back rows where we sat. If the animal was within 20’ of the truck, it was fine, and fortunately, that’s where many of them were.

After dinner, we tried to get on line to cancel the lost Visa card. The ‘net was not working at the hotel – not really a surprise. The staff really had no idea why it wasn't working nor when it would be back up. Welcome to Africa.

Tomorrow: another country, and a waterfall.


Today’s Africa Travel Tip: Pap

A staple of the diet in southern Africa is Pap, also called mieliepap or ugali or sadza or phaletshe. It’s a stiff porridge made with maize flour. It looks like mashed potatoes but tastes mostly like nothing. However, put a sauce on it, and it tastes like the sauce (though still has the consistency of thin cement about to set). It is an acquired taste that I never managed to acquire mostly due to the texture; Karen on the other hand, thought it good. Visiting the Himba, we took them bags of maize flour. Our truck team literally grew up on pap, eating it 3 times a day when they were kids. It’s not unusual for people to eat pap with their fingers, even with sauce on it.

Another dietary staple of southern Africa is a chakalaka sauce. Essentially a tomato sauce flavoured with herbs and a curry-style flavor, it can be served spicy or mild. It is commonly served on pap or as a side dish, and it is quite good. I consulted with Rimson, the chef on out truck team, and he told me he used the boxed chakalaka spice powder from Robertsons; I bought 2 boxes to bring home as a souvenir of Rimson’s cooking.

No comments: