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Big Blue Goretex Burrito 


Late afternoon shadows on a government building in Windhoek.

We spent two nights and a day in Windhoek. What to say, it is a city like most cities. Neil, Sara, Katy and I went on an uninspiring short hike on a hill on the outskirts of the city. We went to the national art gallery and saw a collection "typically" African black and white works by John Muafangejo. We also saw a good exhibit on the Namibian independence movement at the state museum.


Meercat striking a pose at a campsite in Nimibia.

From Windhoek, we headed east towards our next destination the Okavango delta in Botswana. It was quite a long distance, so we spent a night "bush" camping next to the road. I had organized a game of water assassin so I spent a paranoid night alone in my bivy sack waiting for my watery death. I was killed the next day when I least expected it, Neil the sly bastard shot me while offering me an orange. The game was over within 24 hours, Katherine was the last person standing.


Neil in a sleeping shelter at one of the camps.

As we traveled further and further north, the temperature increased noticeably. Down south we had on our winter hats and jackets, but by now shorts and a tee-shirt were the order of the day. We arrived at our campsite near the delta on another hot winter day, screw being here in the summer! The camp had a pool, but it was a sort of thick opaque green, only a few crazy ozzies risked a swim. We settled for some water shenanigans with our truck's supply of super-soakers.


Guides poling as along the river.

In the morning, we headed off for three days of canoeing in the Okavango delta. After an hour-long bouncy ride down a 4x4 sand track, we arrived at the river. Our boats and guides were waiting. We traveled in murangus, canoes carved by hand out of the sausage tree. It is said that it takes two people about a month to carve one of these boats. We sat two in each murangu, each boat had a native guide standing in the back of the boat. They propel us by pushing off the bank or the bottom of the river with long sticks. Neil and I had a good steed, our boat was riding high in the water. Others weren't as lucky, some of the boats had sides that were just barely above the waterline, lean too much in either direction and you were taking on water.


We're sharing the water with Africa's most dangerous animal, the hippo.

One settled in the boat, we had nothing left to do but relax in the sun and enjoy the scenery as it floated by. The river was very narrow, often reeds would brush over us as we took the meandering corners. From our low seats in the boat, we relied on the guides to point out any wildlife. We saw a number of species of birds and also some elephants. The elephants were drinking and bathing in the river about 100 yards ahead of us. The guides had to clap and bang on the boats to make them run off before we could proceed upstream.


Sunsetting on our game walk.

After a swimming stop and a lunch stop, we arrived in the afternoon at our campsite. It really felt like we were out in the wilderness, no buildings and no noise. The illusion lasted until we saw a land rover full of hunters drove by on the other side of the river, guess we weren't that remote after all.


Our boats parked at the camping site, elephants drinking in the background.

From our campsite, we could watch elephants coming to the river to drink. This was no game drive in the truck, we were actually right there among the wild things. The guides led us on an hour game walk, pointing out more elephants hidden in the trees. We also saw some vervet monkeys and a few types of antelope.


Skull of a water buffalo, as close as I ever came to seeing one.

It had been a long day and we turned in early. I found a nice moonlit patch on the outside of camp to sleep. I didn't think much about being the furthest person away from the fire. At least not until 4am when I awoke to the sounds of a lion roaring out in the woods. Hmmmm, Keith could become a big blue goretex burrito for some hungry animal. Not really very smart at all.


Marching single file through the Okavango grasslands.

We were off earlier in the morning for a five-hour game walk. It was a bit of a forced march, there was a guide in front, a guide in back, you had to just keep walking all the time. We saw some new varieties of antelope: red lecheee, reedbuck, tssesbe, and impala. We also saw elephants, but only from a distance, the guides always steered a course a long way from the elephants. The highlight of the game walk was a watering hole that had about five hippos swimming in it. When we went in closer to the water, a crocodile swam off from the shoreline. I tried for awhile to get the perfect shot of a yawning hippo, but I missed the few chances I had at it.


Heading off on a sunset cruise.

By now it was getting towards noon, the sun was high and it was time to get back to camp. We spent the middle of the day lazing in the sun and in the shallow waters of the river. In the evening, it was time for a sunset cruise. Our guides poled us up the narrow channel, the late day light gave the reeds a beautiful deep golden hue. On the way back, we pulled the boats together and watched yet another African sunset. We shared a bottle of Swartland Chardonnay between us, I think it was ever better warm.


Our guides hanging out at the back of the boats.

That night we traded stories around the campfire with our guide Caltex (named after a gas station he hung around as a child). His stories were a little hard to understand, one had something to do about ogres and egg eating crocodiles. When it was our turn to tell a tale, it was surprisingly hard to think of a story. Caltex could probably tell stories in his native tongue for hours on end. They have a rich oral tradition, we have a rich TV culture, we don't often tell stories anymore.


Sunset over the delta.

The next morning we packed up and poled back out of the delta. It was sad to leave, it is the kind of place you could spend weeks. We arrived back to the world; the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam had been bombed, at present count over 150 dead. Welcome back. I should call home, but the power is out and so are the phones, Africa.


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