Friday, October 19, 2007
Overnight, we heard all kinds of
animals tramping around right outside the camper, warthogs and baboons
for sure, and who knows what else! We could also hear lions in
distance to the east. This is one time I was glad I didn't have
to get up in the night to pee. We were awakened to the sound of
baboons invading our camp, so we got an early start and were out
game driving by 5:45 a.m. After four nights in the parks, we'd
yet to see any cats, so we were hoping they'd be out in the cool air of
the early morning.
Ihaha, Chobe National Park, to Kasane, Botswana
Zebras in the Chobe
We drove east, hugging the river
bank, and soon came across a spotted
hyena drinking from then river, and then we saw two more. A rare
daytime sighting! They took off in a run, but we captured them
anyway (via camera, of course).
Later in our drive we rounded a
curve and encountered a herd of
African, or Cape, buffalo. Turning around was an option, but I
hate to backtrack. The buffalo looked like overgrown cows to
me. I'm from Oklahoma, and I'm not going to be intimidated by
cows, at least not when I'm in a vehicle. Tom was apprehensive,
but I told him, "Just drive through them; they're just stupid
cows." Tom gingerly picked our way through the herd, inching
forward when he had the chance, and we soon made it past the buffaloes
and continued on our way. Only later did we learn that buffalo
are known as Africa's most dangerous animal, killing dozens of people
per year. Oops! I think their fearsome reputation must be
exaggerated, although they are aggressive enough to fend off lion
attacks. All the people who warned me to be careful, and no one
even mentioned to look out for the killer cows!
African buffalo - They
look like stupid cows to me
The Serondela Picnic Site is
located on what used to be Serondela
Campsite until the new campsite was established at Ihaha.
Serondela had to be closed to campers because it became overrun by
elephants. Personally, I think Ihaha is a better spot because
it's further from the town of Kasane, 30km away, and thus too far for
day trippers. The eastern entrance to Chobe National Park is only
4km from Kasane, and the first dozen or so kilometers of the park is
frequented by big safari trucks full of tourists coming in for the day
on wildlife drives from the lodges. It's still not crowded, by any
means, but compared to the seclusion we've enjoyed these past four
days, the tracks approaching the eastern gate are just teeming with
people. We stopped and made our morning coffee at Serondela and
found the site nice but not extraordinary.
Look at all the babies!
Our early start was rewarded
with sightings of elephants, zebras,
antelopes, hyenas, African buffalo, and even a honey badger, but still
no cats. Eventually, I gave up hope of seeing any cats at
all. I didn't give up looking, but I did give up hoping.
Then, finally, just a few kilometers from exiting the park,
There were two of them just sitting under a tree next to the road,
waiting for us to come by and take their picture. How cooperative!
Two lazy lions
I don't like
the way she's looking at me
Our quest for cats finally
satisfied, at 9:30 we left Chobe via Sidudu
Gate, signing out and showing our previous paperwork, then traveled 4km
to Kasane. Back in civilization for the first time in days, we
had a lot of errands to run, but the first thing was gas. We went
straight to the only filling station in Kasane, which had recently
burned down! We were so low on fuel this would have totally
freaked me out if I hadn't had a heads-up about it from my Internet
buddy Bruce, who had traveled through here a month before. There
is another filling station 8km up the road in the tiny town of
Kazungula, thank goodness. We were down to our last 15 liters.
Next, back in Kasane, we went to an auto parts store, and Tom bought a
temporary taillight for 60 pula ($10). He didn't hook it up, but
at least we had something that could be jerry-rigged in the event we
got stuck in the no-man's-land between countries during a border
crossing. In case we were denied entry due to the missing
taillight, this was our insurance policy. We inquired at
the auto parts store about a nut and bolt for our stairs, but no luck.
After that, we wanted to book a sundowner cruise on the Chobe River for
this evening, something Kasane is famous for, and we needed to find a
campsite for tonight. Hopefully, we would be able to book the
cruise wherever we found lodging, and if the cruises were in walking
distance of the camping, that would be perfect. Then we could set
up camp before the cruise and not have to mess with it afterwards.
Chobe Safari Lodge met all our requirements. It's a very nice
lodge with good facilities, and they run cruises that leave from their
own private jetty. It couldn't have been more convenient!
It was no problem booking a three-hour river trip for that same
evening, 180 pula per person, including park entrance fees. And
they had a little gift shop selling postcards and would mail them for
you from the lodge.
The campsites, unlike the rest of Chobe Safari Lodge's nice facilities,
are pretty poor - dusty and cramped and full of large overlander
groups. The self-drivers like us just get crammed in anywhere
between the bigger groups. Camping was 55 pula per person, so 110
for the two of us. There's an electric fence topped with razor
wire enclosing the grounds to keep out the wildlife and a guard walking
the perimeter 24 hours a day armed with a slingshot to keep the monkeys
at bay. The lodge campsite personnel gave us a couple of choices
of small pitches. From our pitch, there was a nice view of the
river through the fence. We set out our table and chairs to claim
our spot and went to run more errands.
We stopped at an ATM for pula, did a bit of grocery and beer shopping,
and finally, on our ninth day in Africa, got an opportunity to use the
Internet. When I sat down at the computer, a warning popped up on
the screen stating that the computer was not running a genuine copy of
Microsoft Windows. We considered this sketchy for an Internet
facility open to the public, so we didn't check our email, which could
possibly contain private information, but simply sent out one brief
note to our family and friends from an alternate email address just to
Marry [sic] Christmas
Back at our campsite, we found a
large group of Italians had
set up camp in the pitch next to us and were totally encroaching on our
little piece of turf. They even had their crap lying across our
chairs, which were supposedly safeguarding our space. Eventually
they moved the majority of their stuff off of our site and onto theirs,
but they felt free to walk across our territory at will. I miss
the seclusion of the parks!
It was a short walk to the pier to catch our cruise at 3:30. I
was vexed to see our Italian neighbors heading over at the same time
we were, but it turned out that there were two boats, and they were on
the other one. Yes!
Chobe Safari Lodge
from the Chobe River, Kasane, Botswana
The cruise boat held about 40 passengers and had a cash bar. An
announcement was made that every currency was accepted at the bar
except Zimbabwean dollars and Zambian kwacha. Yeah, I'll
bet. I wish I'd brought some pesos or bolivianos just to test
them! Anyway, we had pula, so we were all set. At one point
I bought a bottle of water for 6.50 pula. An older couple asked
me how much it cost and then spent some considerable effort between
themselves trying to do the currency conversion. Just before
their heads exploded, Tom and I told them it was about a dollar.
The main activity when visiting Kasane is a sundowner cruise. It
would be ludicrous to come here and not do this! Late afternoon
and evening is the time of day many animals come down to the water to
drink, so the variety and number of game is superb, and you've got a
great view, capped off with an amazing African sunset. It was
More dumb cows a/k/a
African buffalo a/k/a Cape buffalo
What a croc!
The boat didn't go very far
upriver, but it really didn't need to,
there's such an abundance of wildlife nearby. We got some great
crocodile photos, the first close-up crocs of the trip. The rest
of the game we'd seen pretty well from land, but it was a completely
different perspective seeing them from the water, the hippos
especially, who were obviously agitated by our presence.
That is a LOT of hippos
Aren't they cute?
Most of the cruise was spent in
the area of Sedudu Island. Sedudu
Island is a low, flat island in the Chobe River, the river that forms
the boundary between Namibia and Botswana. The border is defined
as the deepest channel, but in the Chobe River that definition is
imprecise and changes over time. Both countries have claimed the
island over the years, but in 1996 an international tribunal ruled the
island belongs to Botswana. The flag of Botswana flies
prominently over the 5-square-kilometer island, and a lonely Botswanan
military plane flew back and forth along the river patrolling the
border for the three hours we spent there.
It was a short walk back to our
campsite from the boat jetty after the
cruise, and it was nice not having to set up camp after dark. Our
truck was parked in our tiny campsite such that the camper door was
dangerously close to the electric boundary fence, so we had to be
careful not electrocute ourselves as we were entering and exiting.
For dinner tonight I diced and fried a good cut of steak we'd bought
earlier in the day, threw in a can of "mild & spicy" chakalaka,
which was still pretty hot, and added a can of kidney beans. It
was mmm-mmm good.
What do you get when you
and elephant with a rhino?
64 kilometers Ihaha to Kasane to Kazungula to Kasane, with game drives.
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