Beauty in Botsana

We have visited three incredible Parks in Botswana that are distinctly different from one another, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Moremi Wildlife Reserve, and Chobe National Park.

The Kalahari was the driest but we did see some waterholes that were replenished by recent rains that turned the landscape verdant with splashes of colorful bushes and flowers. There are some solar-run bore holes to provide other waterholes for animals, but all in all a human thinks a lot about water out here. We carried over 160 liters. Rivers haven’t flowed here for over 16,000 years. Sand is another remarkable feature of the Kalahari and the other parks. Our little convoy barely raises any dust due to all the clean sands that come in a great variety of texture and colors from deep burgundy reds to wedding dress whites. The other remarkable feature, shared by many of the parks, are the pans. And no where were these ancient dry lake beds more spectacular than in the Kalahari. The color range they go through between dawn and sunset is spellbinding. I hope I always remember how those late afternoon purple and orange hues hovered over the Piper Pans, rimmed by the short grasses and squat trees.

Moremi was a total different ball park. Instead of the vast vistas of the Kalahari, Moremi was full of a variety of vegetation, big trees, bushes, tall grasses and lots of water. The animals here seemed to sort of pop out at you. Our first night’s goal in Moremi was to camp at the third bridge, fairly deep into the Okavanga Delta. Since it was late afternoon turning to evening, copious amounts of animals were out so that at each bend in the road we had to be wary that some bok didn’t spring out in front of us or we didn’t come face to face with an Elephant, a Cape Buffalo or some other creature. The going was slow though because of the constant waterholes we had to drive through, some of which came over our hoods. The number and variety of animals we saw boggles the mind. We saw numerous lion tracks on the road, then saw a big male lion saunter right in front of us and walk over to lay under a tree. While we were taking photos, an elephant on the other side of the road decided to blow his trumpet which made us jump in our seats. Up the track a few giraffe turned their heads from the tree tops to check us out. We managed to make it into the third bridge camp just before dark and were graciously welcomed by the camp host and the fee collector who interrupted his volleyball game with his sons to accommodate us. The next day we encountered even more rough track with deep pools. I bottomed out in one hole and needed to bend back some of the undercarriage shrouding that started clicking on the front axle. All in all the the ground was firm and the Toyotas handled everything with ease, though the Ranger at the Northern Exit gate seemed surprised we made it through and said they had been referring people to the lower track.

We camped in a beautiful campsite before entering the south gate of Chobi? Not a soul was around, except several elephants, monkeys, and the ever present hooved beasts. There were nice showers, huge shade trees and a constant interplay of birds and other creatures along the creek below. We left money under a rock in the vacant hut for our night’s stay and left no trace behind. We saw lots of Ostritch and Elephants in Southern Chobi and I was particularly fond of the area around Savuti where the great Bao Bab trees were numerous and kopjee’s (rock outcropings) dotted the land like erupting carbuncles. There was a reddish tint to the country around there that I would have loved to see in the evening but we pressed on to meet up with Mike and Heidi who were awaiting us in Kasane.
At the northern gate the ranger said there was a sick man that needed a ride out to the first town on the tar where he could get a bus to the hospital. We did some rearranging and packed in John, who was a game guide for one of the lodges in the Park. He proved to be a nice and informative companion and we ended up taking him all the way into Kasane. You could see his lymph glands were swollen just by looking at him and he looked like he had strept when we couldn’t stand it any longer and had to have a look down his throat. Poor guy. The only thing worse then traveling with 2 nurses is 3 nurses. He was quiet and never complained. We stopped under a shade tree for a late lunch and made him a ginger/lemon tea. He chose to stick with us even though we were going to take the northern park route.
The northern Chobi Park road was a real adventure and far surpassed anything Disneyworld has come up with. But if you had to compare, it would be closer to Jurasic Park. Although the route is not long, I think about 60 kilometers, it took us over 3 1/2 hours. Everything started out slow enough, deep sand the first few kilometers winding through trees, then coming out on the stunning view of the Linyanti with Namibia across the far shore. We saw many animals. We watched elephants bathing and throwing dirt on themselves, giraffes and gemsbok, Buffaloes, turtles, more animals then I can recount. John suffered our questions and entertained us with stories of the animals habits and habitats, how to distinguish male from female giraffes, etc. As evening approached more and more animals appeared, mostly elephants heading down toward the river and just mucking about. It became apparent that if we were to make the park gate before closing and risk getting locked in and a possible fine we had to stop gandering and step on it. That last hour of driving was as exciting as any movie I’ve ever seen. We must of seen 500 elephants, many of them on the track, and the adolescent males particularly who were reluctant to give way and blared their trumpets at us. We screeched into the gate at 1900, 10 minutes past closing time. Jim and Terry, and Swalbe and Karen pulled in about 15 minutes after us and had an equally exhilarating ride. The gate was locked and no one was around. Eventually an attendant came over from the main highway gate to tell us the only guy who had the keys had to take his coworker to the hospital because she got bit by a scorpion. Well that guy called the man with the keys and he came back and we silently tolerated his stern lecture. However he let his guard down and had to crack a smile when we told him there were just so many beautiful blooming animals there was nothing we could do and Scwalbe told him about the lions that were laying right in middle if the road. We all parted on good terms (and no fine). We dropped John and his belongings at his home in Kasane and were happy to finally pull into our camp under the gaze of a bunch of baboons.

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