Monday, April 29, 2013

Southern African Safari

Finally, I will tell you about our Christmas / New Year holiday safari extravaganza that took place absolutely ages ago, but still deserves a little love on this here blog. So buckle up. Its a long ride.

We started our journey with a flight to Walvis Bay, Nambia, a tiny airport in the middle of a honkin' huge sandy desert. After some hassel for my overloaded passport pages and our inability to dictate the exact address of our residence for that evening, the power crazed customs officer let us enter and off we went to find Swakopmund.

The weather was far cooler than we had imagined it would be in the desert Namib, but our place on the coast kept up somewhat bundled up in our light jackets and sometimes even scarves. We road 4-wheelers through the desert, seeing a chameleon and a very poisonous white lady spider, as well as sandboarded head first down steep dunes. At meals we were served portions of meat that would have satisfied giants.

After two nights in Swakopmund, we boarded a big ol' black overland truck with our cook - Loraine, our guide - Trymore, our driver - Zeb (all 3 Zimbabweans), and the rest of the tourist bunch - 2 Koreans, 1 South African, 5 Australians, 2 English (one being Felix), 2 Kiwi, and 4 Americans (3 Inglishes and a deaf woman from California - so brave and adventurous), later to be joined by 2 Argentinians.  A pretty diverse and interesting bunch, all very nice and most probably thinking Boley and Connie were cooler than the Chill and myself, although most of them were younger than me.

The first stop on our grand tour was Spitzkoppe, a breathtaking location where we camped under the brightest and most bountiful stars I've ever seen. We climbed rock formations, enjoyed a stunning sunset, Felix built a campfire, and we saw drawings from bushmen.

From there we headed to a cheetah farm (in hindsight, I think it was mean - they say they do it because the cheetahs kill livestock, but if they lock up the cheetah from the livestock certainly they could do the reverse since a cheetah is wild and livestock are not), but dang those oversized kittens are cute! We got to cuddle and play with them, although we were still on our toes - you can't forget they're killers with all those big teeth in their mouth!

Next we stayed in Etosha, one of Namibia's national parks, where the desert landscape slowly transformed into a low brush and then into bush, although the ground was mainly covered with sand. Lots of fine safari game was spotted and a great salt lake.

And then we crossed the border into Botswana where we headed straight to the Okuvango Delta, the world's only inland delta that empties into the desert, not the sea.  In order to get to our campsite, we took local dug out canoes called mukoros with skilled guides from the region who stand at the rear of the canoe and use a pole to push the boats along the channels of the delta. Some of the channels are made from hippos.  We camped for 3 nights without running water and our toilet was hole we dug. Upon arrival at the campsite, Boley started feeling slightly poorly. He thought it would pass, we gave him some aspirin, he took a nap. The short of it, he didn't get better. Not for the whole 3 days and nights we were in the sweltering delta. He got worse and then even worse, and then once we were on our way out of the delta, he passed out.  {warning: this is a start of a small rant - feel free to skip} The owner of Delta Rain campsite in Maun, Botswana did not think this was an emergency, so she quit answering her phone and did not give her driver permission to take my dad to a hospital. She thought it would be fine if he waited at least another 3 hours to get medical attention. DO NOT STAY THERE - SERIOUSLY! She also later tried to profit from our medical emergency by selling us plane tickets for twice their price and overcharging us for accommodation {end of rant}. Luckily, we had booked a helicopter flight over the delta and the pilot used that flight to take my dad directly to the hospital. Dad had to stay in the local hospital for 2 nights with a bad case of malaria and extreme dehydration.  The staff were thorough and competent and he felt a lot better when we left. Our big overland truck had left by then, as they had to stay on schedule. But due to a breakdown and a very large stretch of driving, with a short flight, we were able to catch up with them without having missed much.

Boley was not yet up for a day of driving in an open truck into Chobe National Park nor was he up for camping there, so we left him to continue his recovery in a very pleasant lodge with air conditioning while we went on a mini adventure. We saw a lot of animals most with their new offspring. Ahhhh! Baby hippos are about as stinkin' cute as they friggin' come. Camping in the park under stars was very romantic and memorable, although we did have a significant amount of rain to compete with after dinner.

Crossing yet another border into Zimbabwe, Boley was finally feeling better (nothing near 100% yet) and set off with Constance at his side to see the great Victoria Falls. They were rushing so they could return to Chobe the following day and Boley would not miss this epic park. Chobe is known as land of the giants due to its explosive elephant population. Pheer and I were more relaxed with our schedule, exploring the small town of Vic Falls and searching for a decent chocolate cake. While Mom and Dad were at Chobe the following day, we wandered to the falls and they did not disappoint. I can't really describe and pictures are no good, so I'll just have to suggest you see it for yourself!

After a night out with all our big truck buddies (which included a dance performance by Constance and Boley), it was time to start our journey home.  Our flight was to leave around 12:30pm, not a crazy early start but we did have to cross yet another border over to Zambia, pay and wait for visas, and get to the airport.  Felix, in all his great wisdom, turned down the first taxi ride that was offered to us when leaving the Zimbabwean immigration. This may have been smart for negotiating with the next taxi, but unfortunately, there wasn't a next taxi, and we were forced to walk 1000 miles across the long bridge, carrying our luggage, in 98% humidity at 101 degrees F while we were nagged and nagged and nagged about agreeing to taxi prices for when we finally got to the other side. There was also a man selling a wooden giraffe and, no for the 75th, we don't want it! Another visa, another line in immigration, another taxi ride and we were at Livingstone airport about to board our flight to Johannesburg, but there was yet another hiccup. We were not listed on the flight. No, of course we weren't. We were on the 12:30pm flight out of Victoria Falls airport, a five minute taxi from the hotel we slept at the night before! (I'll take the full blame for this snafu - forgot to check the tickets and had Livingstone firmly rooted in my brain. Whatta idiot!) Luckily, for a fee, they switched us onto the Livingstone to Jo'burg flight that was nearly at the same time, held the plane for us, and we made it to Jo'burg where we spent uneventful evening in a B & B and caught the flight to Entebbe the next day.

All in all, it was a pretty incredible vacation. We had a fabulous time and I was able to cross a couple places off my bucket list.  Boley's malaria took another two rounds of medication to kick it completely - not the souvenir he was looking for, but a good story, nonetheless, and he was so brave. We'll see if my parents ever return, but in the meantime, please come visit me, just take your malaria meds!

Find more pictures on facebook
This is so beautiful it made me want to cry
(I'm overly emotional lately)

1 comment:

  1. Am I allowed to be jealous? Looks fantastic (apart from the malaria). Kisses,