An early start, but we’re almost used it it now. It was 0630 am and we had the chance to see one of the main character differences between me and B. B likes everything to have a home when we pack. I like to get packed fast – slapdash beats organized every time for me. For the delta we needed to decant our luggage into a single bag for the both us, meaning we had to make choices – and this is always harder for B than me. Fortunately we navigated the potential argument between tortoise and hare and set off for the wilderness.
Before getting there, however, I was able to conduct basic observations of the impact of international brands on the advertising in Maun. It’s clear that Coca-Cola is nailing it. Within a 10 minute period I counted 17 different Coke signs. These were either the signs for shops, Coca-Cola painted red buildings, or just smaller branded posters on the outside of stores. Really amazing, given that no other brand was really making any sort of impression at all. They’re running an interesting campaign in their can design too – it says something like “A billion reasons to believe in Africa” – I’m not yet sure what the Africans think of this, but it’s an interesting way to assert a continental consciousness through drinking an unhealthy beverage. Anyway, stay tuned for more African brand analysis…
After a short drive we were greeted at the river by our leaders for the next 2 nights. We helped pack our things onto “Makoros” – boats made from hollowed out “sausage trees” (so-named because their fruit literally look like sausages hanging in a butcher). Think of the boats in Venice, Oxford or Cambridge but in a “bush style”.
So B and I were transported for about 2 hours by “Nicki” our local poler. Her English wasn’t great, unfortunately, otherwise we’d have asked more questions, but she could pick out the wildlife (mainly birds) en route through a smooth, channel surrounded by reeds and lillies.
Here’s an eagle in the top of the tree:
We arrived at our campsite and 1 can honestly say it was the shittiest (‘scuse my French) I’ve ever seen. In this case it was full of elephant droppings (mostly dried). Dumbo and his mates weren’t nearby at this time of year but it was a good reminder that we were really camping in the wild.
After a lazy first day sheltering from the heat of the sun, we went out for a “nature walk” guided by Simon, our group leader, who you could imagine acting in the Botswana equivalent of the “Last King of Scotland”. Not to say he shared tendencies towards mass murder, but he had this piercing stare and a languid speaking style that gave everything he said more suspense and drama. I liked him.
We looked around at the flora and learned about termite mounds, which were amazingly frequent on the landscape. Apparently the direction of their erosion / construction helps direct navigation for the bushmen since the prevailing wind (from the west) is evident in the mounds’ erosion.
The mounds are the faves of Aardvarks / Anteaters who love nuzzling into these on a typical night out – and Hyeanas often use the caverns carved out as their homes once the ants are gone. By the way, can anyone remember the name of that anteater cartoon that was around when we were kids? It’s really bugging me that I can’t remember.
It was good to feel the fresh air of this remote spot. 12 years ago in the same place I’d seen a herd of wild dogs chase down and kill from within a group of Impala. No such rare drama was seen today but we did see some Zebra and 2 elephant in the distance.
As the sun went down we saw a rainbow in the distance and wondered whether it would be a wet night. We were also reminded we were in a dangerous place – as we crossed the river channel (by Makoro) to get back to our camp site our guides called us to see a hippo that arrived shortly thereafter. He made a few trademark grunts while staying in the water, emphasising that we should steer clear I think. The hippo, as the number one killer of humans in Africa, was not something we felt like messing with.