Blessing the Rains in Botswana

Spoiler Alert: there was no rain in Botswana.

Nope, none. We weren’t that lucky. Instead, we resorted to singing Toto’s “Africa” on particularly hot nights when our tents rained sweat and humidity onto our nearly naked, boiling bodies.

Yes, boiling.

We were not roasting, that implies a dry heat. Nor were we baking, blazing, grilling, scalding, scorching, frying eggs on sidewalks, burning red hot, or sizzling.

We were boiling. Or perhaps steaming. Sitting in a pot of simmering water while we slowly cooked. Think lobster. And what good Bostonian doesn’t like thinking of lobster?

And butter.

But I digress. We were talking about heat.

Botswana was a special sort of hot that truly made you feel as though you were not “falling asleep” at night but simply “passing out.” Nothing like a good layer of tent nylon to really cook in.

On those nights that dripped like a Salvador Dali painting and induced hallucinations equally as vivid, strange sounds snuck through the camp sites. Singing, laugher boarding on hysteria, and deep, rattling snores that come with a heat-induced slumber.

And on those nights, I decided to #optoutside, as REI would put it, although 4 years ago, phoneless in Africa, I wasn’t hash tagging anything. Foregoing a tent, I hoisted my necessary provisions onto the truck roof and slept, well, Under African Skies. After the first sleeplessly hot night, I spent most nights with only a truck roof below for a bed, brilliant stars above for a blanket, and a mighty Baobab tree as a companion.

As I sit now and watch the snow swirl down after the first single digit Fahrenheit temps of the year, I could use a good dose of damp Botswana air.

Beyond the heat and humidity, which felt homey for a Bostonian who spent a few years in DC swampland, Botswana was simply a treat. It had not been part of my original itinerary but after hearing some horror stories of friends getting nearly washed away on the streets of Malawi, I decided to call an audible.

With no research ahead of time, I didn’t know what to expect. But around every turn in the road I was greeted with smiling green lands. As we drove and drove the landscape morphed and transformed into a verdant expanse in sharp contrast to the dry, red, dusty air of Namibia.

Quickly falling in love with the landscape, I opted to join a scenic flight over the Okavango Delta.Plane Filter

Cruising low with 4 other travelers and a pilot, we spotted elephants.

Elephants, elephants every where.

Big elephants and little elephants.

Elephants in the trees and elephants in the water.

Elephants for days.

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Wildebeest and buffalo and hippos and white rhinos to boot.  TWO white rhinos. Bless our lucky stars.

The animals were pretty neat, yes, but the flight allowed us to see the delta in a way that could never be comprehended from land.

Contrary to what many believe, the Okavango Delta is not actually the largest delta in the world (or even in Africa) but, you could have fooled me.

From our aerial view, the delta looked like the veritable heart of Africa. The lands pulsed out in every direction from the waterways which, from up here, looked more like veins and arteries, flowing with the lifeblood of a giant, sleeping, emerald green beast.

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Small game trails wound their way around brush and solitary trees connecting the scattered watering holes, scars on the otherwise lush landscape. 

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The flight ended quickly, like my journey through Botswana. The Okavango Delta remains one of the highlights of this time abroad, as seen from both land and air.

Following the flying adventure, we embarked on a makoro trip through the delta waters to an island camp ground. Makoro are traditional dug out canoes which are propelled by pole, similar to punting, and are used to glide through the shallow waters and vegetation common in the delta. Here we debated the lifelong question of death by alligator or hippopotamus. There was no conclusive decision in this discussion, which lasted through several days of makoro traveling and delta hiking.

If you are heading to Botswana and a makoro trip is in your future, I recommend picking up a copy of Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency 

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Misadventures on a “walking safari,” thieving Vervet Monkeys, traditional bonfire dances, and illuminating sunrises rounded out Botswana in what was a calm period of natural beauty.

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But calm doesn’t last long as adrenaline gets pumping in Zambia. Come hear about the thrills, same time next week…

 

 

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