Day 5 at the Okovango Delta
March 31, 2010

Today was a day that won’t be forgotten quickly. It is now 9:30pm and I am not sure that I will have energy to finish writing this tonight as I am exhausted. The kids were almost falling asleep into their food at supper they were so tired (and this after Helen, Stephen and I all had afternoon naps!). Well – let me tell you what happened.

We were woken up at 5:30am with the delivery of orange juice. Helen and I didn’t sleep brilliantly. We weren’t disturbed by animals (it is remarkably quiet except for the frogs who make the biggest noise for the smallest creatures – they are about 1cm long and yet they make a huge noise). The problem was twofold. Firstly, it is very hot and still at night. We do have aircon in the bedroom but as there are no windows at all (just mozzie netting), the aircon is actually trying to cool the whole Delta and that isn’t very effective. I have woken up each morning in a pool of sweat. The second problem was that our house is built right next to and slightly under a Marula tree and the fruits are ripe at the moment so they keep falling off onto our roof which makes a loud thud and reverberates through the whole house. As you can imagine that tends to wake you up as even the frogs noise doesn’t block that out.

We set off the game drive at around 6:30am as the sun was rising and we saw a reasonable amount of game and birds. We even saw Roan Antelope which is very rare and generally seen much less than any of the predators. With all our game park trips I think our kids have never seen them previously or if they had it certainly wasn’t up close. We also saw reedbuck which we hadn’t seen on this trip and a number of lifers as well as quite a few other birds which we hadn’t seen yet on the trip. The one special sighting was that of a Giant Eagle Owl which we heard hooting and then managed to spot it in the trees very close to the road. At about 9:30 it was evident we weren’t getting back to camp for breakfast and it also explained the 5 plastic chairs on the back of the game truck. Our ranger (Stanza) said that the plan was to get to a pan where there were lots of water birds and where some Flamingo’s had been spotted earlier this week (Flamingo’s don’t usually come to the Delta and so this is a very rare occurrence). We were just about a kilometre from the pan when we had to do a water crossing. And that is where the fun started as about half way through at the deepest point the truck lost momentum and the tyres dug in and there we were stuck! I was sitting in the front seat and within moments the water was filling the entire foot well (well being an operative word to describe it!). The water level was just below the fronts eat level actually. Ska and Stanza insisted we remain in the vehicle while they took off their socks and shoes and got the jack out.

Their first plan was to jack the vehicle up and put logs under all the wheels. This isn’t an easy task and they managed to only do one side when suddenly one of the trucks appeared. The driver was actually lost and looking for the other group (a group of Mexicans) to take them their breakfast. He dropped off a rope and promised to return after he had delivered breakfast to them. In the meanwhile they tried the jack and log method and the first attempt didn’t seem to move the truck anywhere and probably only dug it in further. By this stage the kids had figured that wading around in the water was a better option than being truck bound. As kids usually do they got more and more immersed in the water and eventually Stephen & Michael were swimming and Chloe was trying to figure out how to do it with her skirt on. When Michael took off his shirt she put it on and it was long enough to be a dress on Chloe and so that became her bathing costume.

After about 45 minutes of trying, Stanza suggested that we have breakfast in the water and not at the pan. So we all got out and unpacked the chairs, tables, cadac and skottle and food containers. We set them up in ankle deep water and Stanza and Ska started to prepare breakfast for us in the Delta! Getting stuck in the Delta turned out to be a lovely experience of breakfast in the Delta. You have to see the pictures to believe it! We had egg, bacon and sausage all freshly prepared by Stanza. After breakfast while we were still waiting for the help to arrive, Stanza took us on a walking safari down to the pan and we saw the Flamingo’s (3 of them) and various other water birds including 1 lifer. It was now getting very hot and I could feel myself burning despite liberally applying sun cream twice within an hour. The mozzies and flies (biting type) were also mobbing us and so we gave up relatively quickly on the bird watching and headed back to the vehicle. Ska had been hard at work jacking up each wheel and putting logs under them. We couldn’t take the heat anymore so we got into the vehicle to get some shade (all the game vehicles in Botswana are covered fortunately). Ska tried to drive the vehicle out and while he probably made it forward by 50cm or so, the wheels dug in again and even deeper this time. [I got this far last night and then sleep overcame me!] It was evident that we had to be pulled out. We had to wait for another 10 minutes or so and then Thsepo arrived in the Landcruiser bakkie and fortunately the rope held and he managed to pull us out. In total we were stuck in the crossing for 2 hours. We were a long way from camp still and so we started to head back but only got back at around 1:30pm in the end. The game drives take it out of you as the roads are incredibly bumpy and you are bouncing up and down all the time. They say the roads are so bad due to the sandy soil and the water. They are slightly better at Xudum than at Sandibe but both places are considerably worse than any other game park we have visited.

As we were all tired and hot and full, we decided to skip lunch and all the afternoon activities and just spend the time in the camp. The staff were playing Delta Volleyball to which the kids were invited but they also decided to opt out of that after the morning spent swimming in the Delta. I feel asleep on the bed downstairs and Helen nodded off on the bed on the observation deck (yes – we have two beds!). Stephen also fell asleep later in the afternoon. We just spent the afternoon relaxing, swimming in the plunge pool (or at least Helen and Chloe swam) and just watching for game over the Delta. At about 5pm Helen suddenly noticed an African Barred Owlet sitting right in front of us in the tree. We weren’t sure how long he had been there but we had fantastic view of him before he flew into the neighbouring tree. Shortly after that we noticed a single elephant bull crossing the Delta toward the main lodge so we headed over to see how close it would come and to have some drinks before dinner. It didn’t get much closer but we did see it a few more times across the Delta.

Dinner was meant to be a bush dinner but when we heard that we had to share a table with 10 Mexicans we asked whether we could stay at the lodge rather. These guys were incredibly noisy and are big (no that is an understatement), MASSIVE drinkers. They kept apologising for their noisiness but quite honestly it does destroy some of the atmosphere of a peaceful game lodge. There was no surprise from the staff – they seemed to understand how we felt. To give you some idea of how they behaved, when I was over at the lodge at 4pm during afternoon tea, they were raiding the bar for Tequila instead of coffee. We were very glad in the end that we didn’t go over with them last night as they only left for dinner at 8:30pm and we were finished at 9pm. None of us would have made it and it would have been an unpleasant experience as well with the drinking, smoking and general loudness. (News of our comments about their noisiness must have gotten around because the manager even mentioned it to us this morning that things should be more peaceful now as they were leaving this morning.)

So another adventure filled day passed and we were all a little sunburnt for the experience and thoroughly exhausted but a day that definitely will not to be forgotten.

Yours from the sunburnt Temples.

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