|Traveller Home Zimbabwe|
I took my five minute courtesy look and got back in the truck. A few stayed behind in the truck because they thought it'd be boring, and they were right. The dung beetles rolling their ball down the steps was more interesting. Once everyone was back if was off to Bulawayo, driving all day to get there. We were trucking along when BOOM! Our other rear tire had experienced a sudden increase in road temperature, combined with almost no tread, causing a large explosion. (That's just a long-winded way to say "blow out") Our second time - now we really couldn't believe it. Changed another tire before rolling into the City of Bulawayo campsite.
We set up camp then went out to dinner. We then had the first of many a smoking session with Steve the driver. Off to bed, for the next morning we were going on our first big game hunt.
Woke up the morning of the 23rd ready to go find some Rhino. We were off to the Rhodes Matapos National Park to check out some black and white rhino. The only thing is that the rangers have been de-horning the rhinos to try to prevent them from being poached, so the rhinos hide when they hear vehicles approaching.
27th November 1992, Written In the Okavango Delta, Botswana -
We were all really excited - it was our first safari in search of a dangerous animal. Our vehicle was a converted VW minivan with holes cut in the roof so everyone could standup to see the animals. We got to the park where Wally, our Rhodesian guide took us walking around while telling us about the environment. We jumped in the van and went for a short drive hunting the rhino, but none seemed to want to come out of hiding. We then stopped for lunch and met two other minivans of safairiers.
This safari company - "Black Rhino" is no nice. The guides are all Rhodesians, well educated and amazingly friendly. Plus they pampered us. They would set up the chairs for us, they would make something for us to drink, etc. It was really classy. Great food and they could tell you about anything in the park.
After lunch we started off towards the game park, all becoming anxious and excited to find some big animals. On the way to the park we came upon two other safari vans, each with 6-8 people all aiming cameras at something in the bush. We got over to them as quickly as possible because we wanted to play with our cameras too! This stop turned out to be a giraffe munching on a tree with a herd of zebra not too far off behind it. The giraffe couldn't have cared less about the minivans, but the zebra all stared at us for a spell before running off. The giraffe just walked around behind the tree, making us become bored with it so we started up the minivan and moved on towards the park.
At the park entrance the ranger told us to go right around the corner from his booth, for there were some rhino over there. We turned the van around and drove around the corner to spot a white rhino with her four month old baby standing next to her. It was amazing standing there watching the rhino graze. Since rhino have really poor eyesight the mother couldn't see us from where we were standing, but the baby could hear us and became really angry and started running around. The mother began to walk away a bit, then would stop and eat for a while. We stood there watching them for fifteen to twenty minutes before turning around and heading off into the middle of the game park.
29th November 1992, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe -
Once in the park all of us were standing up looking for game. Our van pulled up to another giraffe that we watched for a while. We drove around the park and saw many different animals for our first safari. We saw white and black rhino (the animal of the day), giraffe, zebra, warthogs, impala and crocodiles (from a distance). At about 4:00 p.m. we pulled up to a game viewing hut where we got our afternoon tea with pound cake, Unbelievable - it was really civilized. One of the girls on the other trucks screamed out, "Love those Rhodesians - they've always got to have their afternoon tea." We all had a chuckle over that one. After tea it was another short drive through the park where we saw a herd of wildebeests before heading back to Bulawayo for the night.
The morning of the 23rd we packed up and headed for the Botswanan border; we were on our way to the Okavango Delta. Once in Botswana we drove all day across the northern tip of the Kalahari Desert (spotting ostrich running away from the truck along the way) before pulling over and setting up camp in the middle of no where. Shortly before diner I pulled the gin bottle out of our mobile bar on the truck and had a gin (or two) while watching the spectacular African sunset. [Bugs everywhere that night - loads of flying beetles]
We were on the road again the morning of the 24th, on our way to Maun where we'd stay before going out on the Delta. Drove most of the day, which gets old after a while. The truck rattles around so much that writing is completely out of the question, reading takes major effort because you've got to follow the page jump around in your hand, so there's nothing else to do but sit there. We were so bored on the may to Maun that I started mixing gin and tonics at 11:00 a.m. - it was well needed.
Hit Maun and headed to the Island Safari Lodge, from where we'd be taken to the Delta the following day. This campground and also had a bunch of private rooms so there was a swimming pool, a snack shop and a bar - we headed to the bar for a few drinks before heading off to bed. I don't know what was going on with the weather, but at about 2:00 a.m. this windstorm came up and both Rich and I honestly believed the tent was going to either blow away or just collapse onto us. The winds were nothing like I'd experienced - if you're ever been in one of the wind storms in Scotland you're not too far off. The winds were so strong - they must have been going majorly fast. Rich says they were not hurricane force.
Went back to sleep with the wind howling away, only to be awakened a few hours later by the rising sun. We got up and got ready for the Delta. We were going out for three days ad two nights to be punted in a makoro through the vast Delta's waterways. The makoro is sort of like a Malawian dugout, only they're really deep and when you're sitting in them the water is only 3-4 inches below the level of the boat. We were picked up by a ranger from the Delta who drove us thirty minutes through the Botswanan desert over to the delta's edge where we met yet another park ranger in a speedboat, ready to take us farther in. We jumped in his speedboat and went for a thrilling thirty minute ride through the tall reeds to a village on one of the delta's islands. These rangers know what they're doing when they're flying through the one lane water channel, turning the boat so it rides up on the reeds when a sharp turn is ahead. The boat ride was like an amusement park ride - it was that cool.
Once we arrived at the locals' village we were transferred in pairs to the makoro boats to go even deeper into the Delta. It was so peaceful gliding through the reeds while lying in the bottom of this boat with my head at the level of the water. It took us a few hours to get to our campsite and by this time we were all ready to get out of the sun - it was so hot that day. We setup camp ad made dinner then sat around looking at the sunset.
Sunsets in Africa are like nothing I've ever seen. There's no pollution when you're out in the bush, so the colors of the sky are so much more brilliant. We sat and watched the colors blend in the sky and once the sun was gone we would turn around and face the field behind the tents, for there weren't any obstructions, allowing us to have a clear view of the velvet tapestry of stars that came out every night. Sans moonlight the stars were incredibly bright and the sky did look as though the stars were just sewn onto a piece of black velvet. I don't think I've ever seen the stars so clearly. (This was better viewing than in Malawi.)
When the sun went down all the small frogs living in the reeds started to croak. It's not actually a croak - it's the peaceful sound that's similar to the sound that bamboo wind chimes make when they lightly bang together. It was really relaxing sitting there listening to the frogs while looking up at the sky. Alas, we finally went to bed for we were going to look for elephants the next day.
NOTE: From this point forward the dates and locations of the section headers now correspond with the actual events.