John and I went to Maun over Easter. John will give the details of the trip – and I want to supplement by adding a commentary.
I felt very compelled to vacation NOW! The Easter break would allow us to take a four-day vacation without taking any time off. Many PC volunteers were going on to Maun that weekend, including the mature crowd, the married couples and the younger adults. Another group of Bots 10 and miscellaneous others were taking a trip to the Kalahari Desert. We wanted to join people – but mostly we wanted a nice vacation and we didn’t want to spend our time on the bus or in budget hotels which would require sleeping bags and or our own linens. I felt I was entitled to something nice. Most of the planned trips were budget trips so we decided to go on our own – which ended up suiting us well.
After many phone calls, emails, texts and back and forth of this and that, here and there who is and isn’t coming, we called a tour guide and he said he would arrange everything for $1300 US dollars – for a three-day trip, with tents; camping. That would not include transport costs to and from Maun or the hotel we would stay at the first and last night. OK – fine – we are in Africa and choices are limited.
Several people had traveled to Maun before us and most complained bitterly about the bus ride, especially if one possesses an older bone and soft tissue body. The bus seats make Southwest airplanes look spacious – my legs don’t fit, and I don’t know how anybody over 5’6” can fit at all. The bus driver allows twice the capacity to board and people stand like sardines smashed in the isle. Also many people on the bus don’t bathe regularly. Finally – Africans don’t like to open the windows because they believe disease is in the air – and there is no air conditioning. It is an estimated 11 hour bus ride. Flights were $350 a piece and one hour. A lot of money – but we will be on a safari in Africa – so we decide to spare our body the pain.
The plane is delayed for two hours and we miss the sunset flight, but we still loved the plane knowing the alternatives. Our hotel room is fairly nice by Africa standards and it is one of those eco lodges that builds itself in the jungle around the trees, with mostly natural materials. This assumes we believe concrete block buildings are natural materials because the concrete was made from the stones in the quarry about 50 miles from Maun. The rooms, service and food
compare to Holiday Inn Express, but it is very pretty on the outside. The hotel has space for campers behind the lodge who pay 50 pula instead of 700 pula. We talked to several of those people who were “touring” Africa and they said the camping gets real old real fast.
I think they also feel like they are on some cheap trip and have been cheated of the grandeur of Africa – but I think the grandeur is a romantic notion and it is just work everywhere you go – sometimes very hard work, and sometimes just run of the mill work – but never really relaxing. I hoped this fairly expensive safari would provide the alluding splendor in a relaxing environment.
As usual – the guide is two hours late in arriving – but this is considered on time in Africa. He comes with a fully loaded pick-up truck that has two chairs welded into the back. Our safari truck really lets us feel the open county – but it gives people with motor skills issues some reasons for panic when rutted and pot hole filled roads are met.
We went to Moremi Game Reserve which is advertised as follows: “Moremi Game Reserve lies in the heart of the Okavango Delta in Botswana. It is considered to be the most beautiful wildlife sanctuary in Africa and is the ideal Botswana safari destination” Fairly enticing.
There is a big dry erase board at each entry point to the Reserve, where people
can report siting’s of wild animals. We see: Lions, pythons, elephants, giraffe, leopards, and we are quite excited.
We saw a few cute little monkey’s upon entry to the reserve and then lots of pretty scenery – which reminded me of the camping trip we took in Flagstaff Co. with brother Brad, mixed with the Big Sky feel of Montana.
When we got to our fairly remote camp site, the tour guide and his staff did most of the work setting up a fairly elaborate camp which included a kitchen,
toilet/outhouse, shower, and three separate tents. Our tent had cots and mattresses with nice warm blankets. John and I put up the kitchen table and chairs and collected fire wood.
The cook started dinner and everything was up and ready to go within a few hours. We had dinner and sat around a fire for a few hours asking hordes of questions about the animals and the area. Our guide was knowledgeable and nice and we both like him. (See our “Visit Us” page for details).
The elephants were magnificent – they are so huge and all they eat is grass, and some bark. How does anything that big survive just eating grass and bark? It makes dieting seem hopeless. I did notice at every siting the elephants were eating constantly. Elephants were quite abundant – a herd walked within 50 yards of our camp one evening and another herd in the morning. Another morning there was a single elephant about 20 yards from our camp. Sometimes I would swear we could actually see them thinking. Once we were on a boat and saw a group of 4 with two little ones crossing the river. The last one stopped before she got out of the river and stared us down – she gave us a look like, “Don’t make me come down there.” We knew we needed to give them some time to get away from the river before we went any further.
We also loved the giraffes. They are such strange-looking animals – it is also a
wonder that they live on nutrients from trees. They don’t look very fast or agile, although they are reported to run at 70 KPH. At one point we counted 8 giraffe’s in a ringed circle around us and thought how nice it was to be surrounded by giraffes. That was sort of boarding on “the splendor of Africa”.
The herds of zebra’s were pretty cool too. I always thought zebras were just black and white, but now I know they all have brown stripes too. John was not as impressed with the zebra’s as I was. He said that aside from the stripes – they mostly look like donkeys – which are very pedestrian here. I will point out they have special manes too.
A few times we would come to a meadow with multiple kinds of animals
including zebra’s, wildebeests, warthogs, and some birds – and it looked idyllic. Several times I would stop to wonder or amaze at the thought of my living in Africa.
We saw hundreds of impala’s and many other types of African antelopes.
It was also remarkable when we would pull over in our safari truck, in the middle of nowhere, under some beautiful tree and take out a table, table-cloth, dishes and our packed lunch and just have a wonderful lunch right in the
middle of the delta – with all the animals, and no trace of human beings. It was especially cool when we stopped for “tea” instead of lunch. I did have a Meryl Streep “Out of Africa” feeling then.
However, there is none of the romantic glamor of living in the bush or being
close to nature that is more special here than other places I have been. Africa is absolutely unique – but overall, it is special in the way many places are special. I do love that I can find this out first hand, as I would not believe it if someone told me that.
In my desire to make the world fair I have believed the underdeveloped hardness of Africa is negated by its pure beauty which I was surely going to find right around the corner.
We load up the truck and continue our quest and it is hot, dusty, and the ride is bumpy. When we go back to what I know is a luxury camp, it is still just a camp site. No electricity, running water, permanent furniture or sign of civilization. We also have some small constant concern about malaria (at least I do). We went to bed about 9:30 PM.
At the end of the day I see Africa is primitive and just sort of hard. I have come to believe primitive does not equate to splendor and it rarely gets up to the romantic level either. It is what it is – no more and no less.
I don’t want to complain. The stars are phenomenal, the air is clean, the sun sets and moon rising are more spectacular than the ones we enjoy every night in Molepolole, and I am in a rather pristine part of the world. But, the truth be told, it is much more like Blood Diamond than Out of Africa.
I am enjoying this experience very much and would not trade it for anything. But I also don’t want to glamorize the hardness of living in Africa. Even when I am in the most beautiful parts, with the most exotic animals, in a luxury camp site – it is rugged. Most people are surviving, but many are poor and struggling and almost all of them would give anything to trade passports with me.
I must remind myself that I can afford to enjoy this ruggedness with my US citizenship, money in the bank, college degree in hand, and a competitive capitalist culture to always compel me to seek, pursue everything, and believe the sky is the limit. While trite – the idea that any of us can grow up to be president of the county, the belief is also meaningful beyond any explanation I can give in this blog.
I loved this little vacation, and loved the delta, the animals, our guide and his helpers – I love being in Africa – it was truly unique and has its beautiful places. But the splendor I continue to see as brighter, deeper and more valuable each day is freedom, choices, work ethic, the conveniences and the luxuries afford to us in the United States.