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10. Botswana? That's a Croc

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Chobe National Park, Botswana
Friday, November 19, 2010

I was up early and got a thirty minute fast walk in before breakfast and my 7:30am drive from Victoria Falls to the Botswana border. George drove; it took one hour exactly. Actually, it is fun to cross an international border between two third-world countries way out in the sticks. There is much formality and filling out of forms (that will never be looked at again) and stamping; yes, there is much stamping. Stamping at third world border crossings must be done with vigor, with grace and with authority. I'd say it was a tie between the official from Zimbabwe and the official from Botswana. Both were spectacularly vigorous, graceful and authoritarian. The Botswanaian was friendlier.

A side note: when you drive from Zimbabwe into Botswana you must drive your vehicle through a pool of disinfectant and all passengers and the driver must exit the vehicle and walk over a piece of carpet that has been drenched in disinfectant. I don’t know why and nobody is telling.

George drops me at the border and Elliot picks me up. Elliot and I are soon joined by Morgan, a French businessman from Paris who has a couple of days to kill before his meetings in Harare and by Leonard, an elderly, obese South African recovering from spinal surgery who may be one of the most obnoxious people I’ve ever met. A loud talker, Leonard (pronounced Leo-Nerd with the accent on the Leo), was married for fourteen years but has been divorced for thirty-one years and, he says, will never marry again. I am sure that is true because I doubt anyone would have him.

Elliot drives us to the Chobe, Botswana, National Park gate adjacent to the Chobe River. We handle admission formalities and are delivered to Elliot’s boat. We cast off and begin a sublime trip up the Chobe seeing lots and lots and lots of elephant, hippo, cape buffalo, and a few crocodiles, elands, monitor lizards, storks, turtles, vultures; oh, and lots of other tourists on other boats. Twenty-four Koreans make an amazing sight with their hats and kerchiefs and surgical face masks and cameras and scurrying about on their double-decker scenic barge/cruiser. Being with Leonard is looking better than I thought.

This extreme Northern part of Botswana (Namibia is on the other bank of the Chobe) is described as "one of the finest undisturbed natural areas on the African continent." Eliot says there are 60,000 elephants here, doubling the “brochure” claim of 30,000. We see several hundred, forty in one herd. The cruise is wonderful. We stop for lunch at a riverside lodge which is welcoming a busload of Japanese tourists. The Koreans dock their boat and the two groups deliberately avoid one another as they pass through the giant open air lobby. I wonder if the United Nations has an easier time than the Botswana hotel employees have with this sort of thing.

Leonard is a pig. He harasses Helgah, our server and I finally tell him off. He will not make eye contact with me for the rest of the day and, thankfully, is silent from that moment onward. (Eliot and Morgan thank me later)

After lunch of eland stew (some pieces of meat are amazingly tender and others cannot be chewed), we pile into Eliot’s Toyota pickup truck that is outfitted with three elevated rows of viewing seats over the bed (Leonard sits in the cab because he cannot make it into the elevated seats) and away we go. Morgan and I smile at having the back of the vehicle all to ourselves. Eliot can deal with Leonard.

The landscape here is very, very dry. We are in a four-wheel-drive mode of transportation and we need each wheel to dig in the deep dust which fills the rutted tracks upon which we navigate. The elephants are plentiful and many stand only twenty or so feet from the path upon which we drive. Several times, we stop, turn off the engine and just sit...a way to “be” with the elephants. They rumble in an amazingly low pitch but are otherwise completely silent. They can walk ten feet past you and you hear nothing. There are many calves, one nursing. The calves, when tired, simply plop on the ground and fall asleep, moving not a single muscle. The first one we saw do this caused Morgan to say that the animal had died and I thought Morgan was right. But, after about ten minutes, the calf abruptly awoke, got clumsily to its feet and headed to its mother for a snack.large_b5abab70-2fee-11ea-80b6-ff8396a47c0d.jpglarge_b544d350-2fee-11ea-810c-5f0d7db9a6ea.jpglarge_b5445e20-2fee-11ea-b9cb-83295e312673.jpglarge_b546a810-2fee-11ea-80b6-ff8396a47c0d.jpglarge_b5456f90-2fee-11ea-a99c-d7e826842ec3.jpg

It is “family” time in Chobe. We saw baby hippo, baby warthog, baby elephant (of course) and came across a baby impala that was still wet from emerging from its mom only moments before we saw it. Wobbly to say the least, the young one lurched forward and back, left and right but still was able to follow along after its mother who seemed none the worse for wear from the event.

It is important to note here that we saw not a single lion or leopard or cheetah today. The newborns are more thankful for that than we are regretful.

What a day. I have seen more elephant and hippo today than any other safari day in my life. I love it.

We drive back to the border, re-do the formalities, I pay for another Zimbabwe double entry visa ($45 more) and greet George who delivers me one hour later back at the Kingdom hotel. I doze for half the trip. The power at the Kingdom is out for air conditioning but the power is on for lights and ceiling fans and everything else. I don’t understand but, then, I don’t have to understand. One could say, with apologies to Heidi Peterson and Jeff Clayton that mine is the Kingdom without power or glory for tonight. Amen.

It is time to shower the dust off, wash my hair, get the last of the sunscreen residue out of my completely gray beard and write my blog entry for the day. It will be fun to see if the internet runs on air conditioning power or other power. I am at peace with the world, looking forward to the circus that is dinner.

Tomorrow: off to Namibia, the 65th country I will have visited in my lifetime global trek. I’ll keep you posted.

Posted by paulej4 14:08 Archived in Botswana

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