A few weeks ago we were in Namibia, and tomorrow we drive onto Zim. Time seems to have flown in Botswana. But we’ll remember these last 19 days for a very long time.
We’re writing this post from a place called Kasane, on the banks of the beautiful croc, hippo and tigerfish-infested Chobe River. It’s a small town by anyone’s standards, but after what we’ve just come through, it feels like Shanghai. Ten days ago we left Maun, on the south-eastern corner of the Okavango Delta, and headed northeast towards Kasane. It’s a famous route among hardcore 4×4 enthusiasts, traversing the unspoilt, game-rich wilderness of the Moremi and Chobe Game Reserves. And that’s all it traverses. There is no town, no village, no shop, no garage, no cell phone tower, no drinking water and definitely no tar (apart from some 40 odd kilometers on either side). You quite literally have to haul everything along with you. We’ve never really seen ourselves as hardcore 4×4 enthusiasts. But after somehow managing to make it all the way to Kasane in one piece, that view may have changed.
We entered Botswana at Shakawe, about 30 kilometers south of the much-vaunted Ngepi River Lodge. It’s round about here that the Okavango River starts to spread out a bit into a few braids and side-channels, not quite becoming a true delta just yet, but also not looking entirely like a river. It’s called the Panhandle, and it’s an area I’d wanted to fish for ages, so we were quite excited to be there. We spent our first night in Botswana a little downriver of Shakawe at The Sepupa Swamp Stop (possibly the best name for a place ever) where we crossed paths with Richard and Marina, a super-cool Australian couple nearing the end of a big trip across India and Southern Africa. It was a fortunate meeting. Mainly because they were such nice people who we will definitely keep in contact with, but also because we ended up splitting the cost of a boat trip to an island in the delta with them.
Early the next morning, we packed our tents, fishing gear and a night’s worth of food, beer and wine (it was actually about 3 night’s worth of wine) into a small boat and set off downstream into the heart of the delta, expertly navigated by our trusty skipper; Fish. Whenever Fish felt we were in the right spot, we’d stop for a few casts and it wasn’t long before we had managed to boat some fair-sized tigers. We spent the night at a very rustic bush camp on Pepere Island, where we flattened the food and drink stocks, planned future adventures and stared thoughtfully into a bonfire. It was a great day and an equally good night.
From Pepere it was back to Sepupa and then off to Maun, where we camped for a few nights at the extremely laid back Old Bridge Backpackers, just out of town. Maun is the main launching point into the Delta and the surrounding game parks and it seems like most travellers there are either recuperating from spending time away from civilisation, or gearing up for it. We were doing the latter. Although had we known what lay in store for us, perhaps we’d have spent a little more time preparing.
Our ten days in the Chobe and Moremi will go down as one of the highlights of our lives. Richard had said a similar thing back in Sepupa and I’m sure most people who have made a trip to this part of the world, would feel the same way. It’s extremely beautiful and teeming with game. But what makes it really unique is not how much wildlife there is; it’s the fact that nothing separates you from the wildlife. There are absolutely no fences. Anywhere. Not even small ones. You drive around watching lions, leopards, hippos, elephants, hyenas and buffalo going about their daily business. Then you drive back to camp, get out of your car, and get going on your own daily business. It was terrifying at first (to be completely honest), but it was also the best part of the whole experience.
Our first night in Moremi was at Third Bridge. At about seven o’clock we were sitting around the fire, feeling pretty confident about the whole situation, when we heard the first lion roar. By two minutes past seven, we were zipped away in our tiny, paper-thin tent where, weirdly enough, we felt a whole lot safer. However we hardly slept. The roaring continued through the night, and just before sunrise a herd of elephants decided to set up camp exactly where we had. Our early morning drive had to be postponed till about eight, when they finally decided to get a move on and we could finally get out of our tent. Over the next ten days these kinds of interactions became fairly routine. But they became no less frightening, or exhilarating. At Linyanti, on our last afternoon, a pack of wild dogs bolted through our camp site whilst we were offloading firewood from the boot, no more than five meters away. We had hyenas sniffing us through the tent on a few occasions and one morning we found leopard spoor about a meter from where our heads had been. Somewhere along the line, something nearby let off a fart of such magnitude, it caused the tent walls to flutter.
If you survive the wildlife of the Chobe and Moremi, you still need to outplay the deep sand and the river crossings and outlast your supplies (ha, see what we did there). It almost feels like we’ve achieved something profound by getting all the way to Kasane, which of course we haven’t. However, we were quite proud of ourselves as we rolled into town yesterday. Ten days ago we went into the wild. But unlike Alexander Supertramp, we made it out the other side.
Bring on Zimbabwe!