"Well, much less so than Etosha was. And, hey, you definitely don't get to see animals killing and eating the other animals at the zoo."
- Alex, and me
Betwixt the Delta and Chobe, we paused for a brief respite at something called Planet Baobob a camp site situated amidst 3,500-year old baobob trees. Night fell peacefully, bringing with it the brightest moon I've ever seen; and an early morning brought a truly amazing dawn (as seen from the roof of the truck, where I was happily pulling packing duty). On the road again, sometime around the break when someone found (and saved for Mark; everyone's well-trained) a wounded tsetse, I leaned over and mentioned to Mark, apropos of nothing, "Okay, try this one on for size: If I hadn't happened to be wondering where Thad was when my boss walked by my cube . . . I wouldn't have spent three months in Germany last summer; and I wouldn't be spending this two months in Africa right now. That's how funny a thing life is."
Great news! It appears that Paul and Jo might continue on as our guides all the way to Nairobi! This would completely rock for us on any number of levels; though, we can't exult too much, as the two of them are very tired and keen for a respite back in Cape Town. Other scuttlebutt around the truck include the fact that we're only a day from Vic Falls and Nomad's lodge in same (many of the folks are keen on showers, beds, etc.)
Mark: This is the last night in a tent, I think.
Me: I guess I don't even think of it. Tents are just where we sleep. Not that we do a heck of a lot of that . . . But I don't mind. For instance, back home, I'd generally drop a live ferret down my pants, head-first, than get up at dawn on any one day, much less every day. Now I adore it. Come to think of it, how could you come to Africa and not camp? The whole point of visiting Africa is that it's the birthplace of genus Homo. Why would you put a Hilton between you and your evolutionary heritage?
Okay on to Chobe Park! We spent so much time listening to Doug rave about Chobe, that it became a running gag for anything nice anyone pointed out, there was always much better in Chobe (monkeys riding elephants, dancing girls, etc.). And it was better than Etosha. For one thing, we were in an open truck (bars on the side only); for another the park was prettier and the roads were winding two-rutters that followed the landscape (rather than thoroughfares that happened to be unpaved). Also, the animals were actually scattered around in the habitat, and doing things (other than drinking at a waterhole, which was all you'd think anyone ever did in Etosha). Okay; here's what we saw:
- Some impala. (These are referred to locally as "McDonalds" because they've got big Ms on their asses, and because you find them everywhere.)
- Hundreds of elephants. Elephants
walking by the river. Elephants bathing in the river. Elephants bathing int he mud. Elephants bathing in dust. (Those elephants sure like their baths!) Elephants whose faces have seen a lot of mileage. Elephants with baby faces.
- A pride of at least four lions, panting in the shade, not 30 feet from our truck! Holy cow! We sat exclaiming and shooting, until the matriarch (presumably) perked up, then picked herself up and then came right at the truck! (The one with the little metal bars for sides!) This caused significant, sudden consternation, let me assure you. It turns out, we were very slow on picking up why the lions were in that spot it was directly across from the baby elephant carcass they had taken down the afternoon before. A vulture had gotten ambitious in regard to lunch, and had to be reminded who brings home the bacon around this park. After chasing off the meat thief, our lioness returned to the shade again crossing about two feet behind the truck. Surprisingly, one vulture didn't come to try again but several. This time our heroine was done screwing around:
Also, this time she parked herself onsite, actually seeming to enjoy meat-sitting duty. The scavengers retrenched to more defensible territory.
- We saw a dust cyclone, which seem to be pretty common around here.
- We got to see Alex drop his telephoto lens out of the truck and TK get out and intrepidly recover it. Turns out TK has been doing this for 11 years. His scariest moment? When he turned off the engine with the truck in 3rd gear. When an elephant picked that moment to charge . . . "the vehicle failed." The elephant went right into the back of the truck; "and all the people in the back seat ended up in the front seat."
- We saw yet more elephants: "Hey, you! With the face!"
- And a buffalo! Sort of! Damn thing was well hidden; but the sighting counts. That leaves only leopard, and my Big 5 Scorecard will be complete!
We wound down the day with a sunset cruise on a flatbottom boat, on the Chobe River. On this, we saw:
- An elephant so enjoying a tree-bark lunch that it was smiling.
- Another so hot it was swimming.
- Hungy, hungry hippos.
- A croc, showing off its fine dentition.
- A rare hippo out of water.
- The obligatory on-water sunset.
I also had a really good conversation with Brian, on the subjects of photography and immediate experience (including of trips). I had finally sat down and put my camera away, and I shared with him that it was a bit of a relief from the constant feeling of [self-]pressure to get the next great shot, all the time, to miss nothing. "Yeah, I gave up on photography a long time ago," Brian admitted. "The thing is, you're supposed to be here, looking at these animals. And instead, with the camera, you have to stop doing that, and do something else." He further relates that he's not that turned on by what we might call "trophy tourism." For instance, he spent a single day in London a while back, and went from site to site on a rapid greatest-hits tour. But he felt he might as well have looked at postcards, as look on each scene itself for 10 minutes. By happy contrast, his experience in South Africa has been very different: "I took classes there, I met people there, I got a sense of what life is actually like." I'm not doing justice to the thoughts he shared on these subjects (I was also pretty note-taking'd out by then), but this is the gist. And suffice it to say he seemed quite wise in the matter, and gifted me with good food for thought.
Next: Vic Falls.