Monday, October 9, 2017

Day 1 19/10 - Vic Falls Zimbabwe

Hot - of course, 40,5 C (in the shade yes). This country smells different from South Africa where we came from this morning. And it's even drier than the poor Cape region where the water situation is on red alert, 5 out of 5, and we have learned how to flush the toilet by using water recovered from the morning shower.
Entering Zimbabwe is a very slow procedure. That's what we think because we have not yet experienced slow. Actually the airport passport visa procedure is quite efficient. Relatively speaking, compared to i.e. getting the luggage out from the airplane. But even this slow is not really slow. The next day a native man will explain to us: "If you are in a hurry, please do not come to this country."

So, a happy man named Lucky is awaiting us. On the way to the Flat Dog Lodge we ask him about his country. He is obviously not too happy with the 94 year old president. Inflation rate more than fifty percent, very high unemployment, uneven distribution of wealth, corruption, etc. etc. (This trip was done three weeks before the military took over). Flat Dog's location is highly rated on If you have a car. We don't, but we got happy Lucky to drive us wherever we want. Which is nowhere at the moment, sitting down with an ice cold beer is a MBO (much better option). The friendly staff suggest we go on a sunset river cruise. Deal. We are four guests and two crew from the Flatdog on the boat. A very, very nice way to soak in Real Africa (excuse-us South Africa). Gliding down the Zambezi river in slow pace, with a Zambezi beer (very nice those) in the hand, watching strange birds, crocs and floating hippos. There are not yet so many other boats on the river so we have a very close encounter with the first elephant breading heard that is approaching the river to swim, dive, play and cross over to the other side where the grass eventually is greener. Just amazing watching those biggest of the "big fives" enjoying themselves in the water. First come females, babies and youngsters. They splash, dive or snorkel, using the tip of their trunks as snorkel. Last in the water is The Big Matriarch, the wisest of them all. So - time to cross the Zambezi. Staying close together, protecting the baby elephants in the middle of the heard.
The evening sun is like an enormous blood orange. Reflecting itself in the river where the elephants are swimming. In awe.

We have dinner at the recommended restaurant Three Monkeys. Prices are quite high compared to SA but food is really nice. Roland is having one of the biggest burgers ever. Me loads of grilled veggies. Never walk in the dark. Yes we know that from SA, high risk of being mugged. Here in Zimbabwe the reason why we shall not walk in the dark is different, risk of encountering elephants, or even worse, the most unpredictable animal in Africa - Buffalos. The decision to take a taxi (this is a very tiny place, no Uber available) is easy. We arrive to our Flat and very Dark lodge. Electricity is out, our room is like a sauna, not even a fan to whisk around the oven hot air. And of course no a/c, that would be cheating, we are preparing for six nights in a tent. Deep sleep occurs anyhow.
Happy elephants after safe river crossing

 Me enjoying a sunset river cruise on the Zambezi river
 Sunset river crossing
Mr croc

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Day 2 20/10 - Vic Falls

Today is the day when we will explore the Victoria Falls. One of seven wonders of the world according to a sign by the entrance. I don't know about that but I do know that the procedure to get a ticket to this wonder makes the visa procedure at the airport appear as gepard fast. Roland try to cheer up the queue that has been standing still as a rock for more than half an hour, not an easy mission in this early morning hour . . . So, we eventually get inside the gates. Everything is even a little more dry than yesterday, so are the falls. But they are still very impressive with the canyon and the 100 meter drop off. Best of all is walking in the shade in the little rain forest created by the constant mist above the main fall. We meet our Canadian friends Bryan and Colleen. We were hiking the Whale Trail (another adventure, highly recommended) together just a couple of days ago and said bye bye in Cape Town. They offer us to spend the afternoon by the pool at their hotel. Can't say no to that. Especially when their hotel is the legendary Victoria Falls Hotel, the grand old lady, built in 1904. Surrender, this is a very special and beautiful place. Cooling down in the pool, having lunch in our swim suits, resting in the shade of an old mango tree. Life is good.
We decide to walk down "town" (Vic Falls is not really a town, more a bunch of houses along a road). The nicely dressed hotel boy looks at us with hissed eye brows. "But Madam, we have taxis out here." As if we had never heard of them. Roland needs a haircut, and a shave. We spend some time walking up and down the street, asking locals who points us in all kinds of directions. We have almost given up when a guy overhears us. He is a guide, probably from Great Britain judging from his pronunciation. Easy as a bit of carrot cake! In the salon besides Roland sits a young woman, she is having her natural black curly hair replaced by a black very not curly at all wig that is sawn onto her scull (not to the very scull but to the very short curls). I am thinking, in the Northern Hemisphere a young woman with straight blond hair is putting curlers to make it less straight.

Back at our lodge. Don't understand why they bother producing hot water in this country. Cold showers are great! Dress up in one of my two dresses i brought for this trip (next time I will bring only one), going back to have dinner with Bryan and Colleen on that fancy hotel. Last time before heading out in the bush. It is one of them big, grand, buffés. Don't really approve of those, but the sushi is very nice, so is the company and the bush man/woman entertainment going on with black thunder and yellow lightnings as a dramatic back ground. Luckily the rain did not come because we were all sitting outside.  Heading back to Flat and Black Lodge (with a cab yes), electricity is out again, so, another night with no fan in 30+ C (good training for six nights in a tent where there definitely will be no fan available).

 Zimbabwe school children waiting patiently at the entrance of the falls

Victoria Falls

Shade, a good book, a pool to cool down. Who could ask for more?

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Day 3 21/10 - Chobe national park - Botswana

Today the safari adventure begins, and yesterday the camera broke down completely!!! Ok, we will rely on the iPhones and on our little Nikon under water camera. So, sorry for picture quality.

The guy who is running the Outdoor Safari company we have picked for this trip has been acting quite confusing. He has been calling us, all over the world, and once he even got hold of my sister in Sweden. Always asking about things we have already agreed on. With our western point of view. We believe the confusion has something to do with it being unbelievable difficult to understand what he is saying over the phone. So, we are not surprised.

Happy Lucky is very kind and drives us super early to the border witch is Not next door to Vic Falls if someone believed it was. We are supposed to meet up at the Botswana side at 7.30 sharp. Lucky off load our luggage and gives us a little piece of paper with a stamp on that we are supposed to give to the armed guys in camouflage uniforms at the Zimbabwe side of the border. We see him leave, and start to drag the heavy two month luggage (including a lot of stuff we are not at all gonna use on this trip but, where else should we put it?) through no mans land. It's a dump. Wart hogs (Pumba you know) are digging in the dirt, truck drivers are lying in the ditches, we see no signs of neither Botswana nor Outdoor Safari. We ask one of the guys in a ditch that does not look like he is sleeping (or dead?). Ok - got it - we have to walk over there, he is pointing at some houses. Very far away. Our luggage is not arranged for carrying. One step at a time, how can 800 meters be som d . . . ed far! Soaked with sweat we approach the Botswana border, from the right side of the brown building. Which is not the right side, we have to approach from the left side, and there is a fence, another 500 meters. . .
The passport controller wants to know exactly where we are going to put up our tents. We have absolutely no clue. So, he shakes his head, leaves his chair, goes out of the building and stays outside for ten minutes. Maybe meditating, or smoking something funny because when he comes back he just stamps our passports and wave at us to leave. Yihaa, we made it, into Botswana we walk. 7.30 sharp!
And - Outdoor Safari - where are you?? (If you are in a hurry, please don't come to Africa.)
After a couple of phone calls ("where are you?" "At the border! Already!!!")and half an hour waiting  the free lance guide he has hired for our trip arrives. We enter the open Safari Nissan truck and hits the road. Talk about windy, and it starts to rain. The nice guide Obert (O) tries to compensate for our waiting time by driving over 100 km/h. Luckily we have our MEC rain jackets to put on, and sun glasses because the rain hits really hard. It's not a long drive. We arrive at a shopping center, meet the other two (mother Secret (S) and son Peter (P) who will look after us on this trip. We drive back and forth in the rain, grab some bananas, pies and drink yoghurts in a Spar store for breakfast and eat it at a pic nic table. Out door safari it is yes. Pumbas on the streets, elephant warning signs, nice fresh pouring rain. We are left at the Chobe Safari Lodge where we board a small motor boat. We are going on a river safari while O, P and S are getting organized for five nights in the bush. The wild life on the protected islands between Botswana and Namibia is just amazing. Big cats don't like water so they don't go there. It is like Eden. So many different animals, strange birds, hippo families and very close encounters with fat crocs. It is hard to describe in words, and even harder to describe with the limited photo resources we have. So we pin up the scenery inside our brains and will never forget this trip.
Back at the lodge we are served a very decent lunch, indoor. A monkey makes a successful smash and grab at the neighbour table. The river floating by just below. On the other side of the river a man in a traditional mokoro canoe, standing up, long pole in his hand.
When our team arrives they have added a trailer.
Hoods up - and into the wild.

After a couple of hours of first not so bumpy and then very bumpy ride we reach our first camp site. No lions in sight, just dry bushes, sand and dry trees waiting for the rain season to become green. But dry is good when it comes to animal spotting. The trailer behind our Nissan must weigh a couple of tons. We look with astonishment when they carry out iron beds, thick mattresses, kleen sheets, duvets, mats, tables, chairs, iron pans, oven, shower, toilet seat . . .  S spends at least twenty minutes just making our beds. Our way of camping is very different from this, a terma rest mattress on the ground and a tent you have to crawl into.
We do an evening game drive along the river, spotting lions laying under a tree. At return table is set with candles and clean cloth. Porcelain, wine glasses and so on. Bush restaurant five star, and five millions of them above our heads. We get strict instructions: whatever happens during the night, Do Not Leave The Tent!!
And there I lay in the pitch dark night in my freshly scented clean sheets. Listening for elephants or lion roar. How to distinguish them O did not explain but I fall quite quick asleep and do not wake up until the sun rise.

Finally entered Botswana - by foot. But where is our guide?

 One of many amazing birds on the shore of Chobe river

Water buck on Eden Island. They are smart, eats so much water greens so their flesh 
become tasteless and are therefore not hunted. By men or animal predators

 Cleaning patrol waiting for their turn

Lazy female lion - looking at us, but not moving a bit

Friday, October 6, 2017

Day 4 22/10 - Chobe to Savuti

Early start means 7.30. It takes more thanthree hours to pack down the camp and provide us with breakfast. We heard their soft voices out in the dark at 4ish in the morning. Make the camp fire going, heating up water for our foldable water basins outside our tent where we are supposed to take a morning wash.
O has promised us very bad roads today, but we start out on nice paved roads in high speed. See a sign saying 110 km to our next destination, Savuti. We will easily be there before lunch, just as it says in the program. Don't know why O sounded so worried about the road.
Oups! Where did the road go? After an hour or so, all we can see is sand. Eventually with some tracks in it. And a sign saying we have 76 k to go. And speed down to 10 or 15 k/h (not joking). And elephants have used this "road" frequently so there are big, big holes. And we bump up and down, shaking our bodies like crazy sitting rave dancers. And the trailer hops and flops and one of the cooler boxes decides to leave the vehicle and we have to stop and go off and get it. No animals in sight, just big piles of elephant poo. Not even a scorpion while I am peeing in the thorny bush. It is too hot for all living things. Even for our car. Both its cooler systems are boiling and we have to stop again. "No worries, this is very normal", reassures O. P takes one of the 25 liters containers with water and almost empty it. We might have travelled a couple of k, still 70 to go, at least. I wonder how long the water will last, there are two more containers. And then there is our drinking water. And the 12 cans of beer of course. Impossible for anything to cool down in this temperature, but on we go after waiting twenty minutes. And the road gets even worse. And the poor engine is working so hard, and O does not seem super confident with how to drive because he is using far to high gears, and I almost feel I could do it better. We are getting used to the frequent boiling stops. I thank God for the sun roof of the car. Down to walking pace, and then, black smoke, and the engine stops.
I don't recognize the swore words in their language but I am sure P is using loads of them. He is the one driving, O has given up. And the car belongs to P's friend, and here we are in the middle of nowhere with a broke down engine and no cell phone coverage. They try the water trick again, there goes the last drips in the last 25 liters container. How far have we travelled, how far yet to go? Can we walk 40 k? No way, not in this heat. Hakuna matata, O tells us not to worry. I am not worried, just a bit concerned.
Two cars are approaching from opposite direction, have not seen many of those today. And a miracle arrives. In one of the cars is a German car mechanics. All men dive together with heads down in the engine and discuss in different languages a lot of solutions. All tools are taken out. Turbo charger is removed.
"We need a sock, does anyone have a sock?"
I give them one of my Happy Socks, red with white dots all over it. It becomes a very pretty air filter. And the engine starts and we all say danke and thank you and bye bye. The advices ringing in my head. "Do not use high gears." "Go very slow." "The engine is weak, don't over heat it." and so on and so on. And in jumps O and puts his foot on the gas pedal and puts in the third gear and I can't sit silent any more and shouts. "NO, you have to go gentle!" And of course they laugh at me but P takes over the steering wheel. And he manage to take the car all the way to the entrance gate. With boiling stops, every ten minutes, using up all our drinking water except one litre. But not the beer!

An hour before sun set we reach our camp site. We have been on the road for almost twelve hours and are totally exhausted. We do not at all want to go out on an afternoon game drive as mentioned in the itinerary. We just want to eat and sleep, and I think O is very grateful for that.

 S making our luxury beds in our palace tent.

 Boiling engine for which time in a row?

How to use a Happy Sock as an air filter when burned turbo charger had been removed

Roland is game viewing

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Day 5 23/10 - Savuti to Moremi

Tonight we woke up several times from close up lion roars. We share our breakfast with beautiful and very social birds and leave around 6.30. After only a couple of hundred meters we meet the Lion King. Walking slowly after his lion queens. Our guys managed to repair the turbo and put it back yesterday. They also got some good advice how to drive this car, and how not to. Here the landscape is a little less dry. Some of the trees and bushes are green and the early morning air is relatively cool. Yesterday we saw very few animals. Today makes up for that more than well. We see elephant hearts with baby elephants. All walking in a row, just like the Jungle Book. Here and there lonely and very big male elephant bulls, and some bachelor groups which consists of male elephants, old enough to be kicked out of the breeding heard but not old enough to be by themselves. Wildebeest, zebras, all kinds of antelopes. Mighty tall giraffes and giraffe babies so well camouflaged that they are hard to discover. A leopard lies lazy on a tree branch just above us. We stop for lunch beside an Eden like river where hippos are playing and numerous birds are trying to catch a fish or two.
Time flies. After ten hours (could have been nine but we spent one hour looking for our designated camp site) in a car that moves like a small boat on a wild ocean we stumble out on the ground. The world is spinning as we stand still. Moremi game reserve, yeah, we are going to stay here for two nights!

 Lazy cat
 Village shopping centre
 Interesting river crossing
Southern yellow billed hornbill - very social bird indeed

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Day 6 24/10 - Moremi game reserve

Lions woke us up tonight again, and some elephants passed by (which we did not hear). We could see their big rounded tracks only meters from our tent. I look at the wrinkled soft sand where those giants had put their feet. Being able to move their tons of weight, without a sound. Early, early morning game drive is just beautiful. Nice cool breeze before the heat hits and all you wish for is shade, and cold water. Neither available unless you find a tree with leaves, and can sit just under it, near the trunk because the sun is shining from an absolute vertical position. Most trees have not sprung out their leaves, they are waiting for the rain. We are treated with a very nice brunch, S has made pizza over the open fire, in the bush oven she brought. It tastes delicious, we eat and soak in the wild life lessons our very well educated guide O has told us this morning. Our angels have rigged a shower, and we have explained to them they don't need to heat up the water. i make myself a bottle of ginger tea and spend the day under the only green tree, writing, moving my chair with the sun.

The more time we spend in this country, with these wonderfully relaxed and friendly people, the more we go into a sort of mega super relaxed cease the day hakuna matata mode. These people have so much to teach us. They seek unity instead of conflict, solving many problems around the fire at night. It is a culture of holding together instead of splitting apart. Botswana used to be one of the world's poorest countries. Now they are a role model for other countries. Free medical care, fre schooling, clean water. They have programs to give jobs, not just aid, to the most poor in society. And for animals, and that's why we are here, Botswana is paradise. The country has a zero tolerance against poaching. Their president Ian Khama is truly popular and in comparison to many other African leaders he has created an administrative system where corruption is only a small problem.

Next activity of the day is a sun set game drive. The Moremi reserve is just amazing, with it's water and very rich wild life. We stop at the Paradise Pools, no lions around so we are allowed to stretch our legs, which is just as wonderful as the setting sun. Water bucks and antelopes are grazing peacefully from the lush green grass beside the natural pools. A gigantic termite hill has created a little island, reflecting itself into the water mirror. Termites are blind, they live most of their lives in the dark and go out only to find food and building material for their homes. The queen who can become very very old lies 3000 eggs per day. When the termites have swarmed they loose their wings and lay on the ground to die. Fried they are very popular snacks, contains lots of fat. Put them in a jar and they are good to eat for a year. The impalas, also called the fast food of Africa, with their typical rounded M on their bums. These clever animals synchronize their births, so there will be an abundance of new born to feast on for all predators (including baboons). By doing this many of them will still survive and grow, and become too fast to catch. We stop by to watch a small monkey society, most of them sitting on the ground, eating roots. Youngsters fooling around, children close to their mums. So very much like us. O tells us about how they moan. If a baby dies the mother will carry it's body until it gets totally dry. Then she walks away from the heard, she does not eat for a long time. "You can feel and see her grief, it is heart breaking." There is so much to learn about every single species, and O is very good at sharing his knowledge.

Blue balls!

 Endangered giant wattled crane. Lays one egg every eight years.

 Termite hill creating it's own island in one of the Paradise Pools

Me and our fabulous guide Obert

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Day 7 25/10 - Moremi to Maun

Tonight we had visitors, twice. Somebody (not me) forgot a garbage bag on the ground yesterday and two gangs of lions and one of hyenas had a garbage fiesta only meters from where we all slept. Nobody dared go out to chase them off. Birds are feasting on the remains when the sun rise and we come out to greet the new day. Off we go, today to Maun which is a tourist hub for all sort of safari activities in Botswana. Our Nissan still works fine and we are getting used to the bumpiness. Heat strikes around 10 am. My guess is just under 40 C, in the shade. Poor Roland sits on the sunny side, but he's got dark skin and can handle it better than me. For a couple of hours, then he switch place with the even more dark skinned O. Worst road is just before arriving to Maun. It's like riding a giant washboard. Good massage for all inner organs. We arrive at a hotel. It looks just wonderful. Now temperature is a bit above 40. The plan is to put us on a camp ground that belongs to this hotel. No thank you, the decision is very easy to make. We upgrade to an air conditioned (did I mentioned before that AC was cheating, just changed my mind) room and spend the rest of the afternoon just cooling of.

Birds in their red mating dresses. And a permanent blue one. Sorry, no names.

The tiniest antelope of them all is the Steenbok

Look at the working body position. S could stand like that for hours.

Morning teamwork getting the truck ready 

Buffalo encounter on evening game drive

Day 1 19/10 - Vic Falls Zimbabwe

Hot - of course, 40,5 C (in the shade yes). This country smells different from South Africa where we came from this morning. And it's ev...