Monday, April 30, 2012

Mokoros in the Okavango

Xigera Camp - Botswana

Dear Dorothy

The Anti Malarials with food seems to have worked. Still not 100% but certainly better that it has been in the past week.

After tea and a rest we headed out on a Morkoro. Traditionally pole driven hollowed out tree trunks. Here we use hollowed out fiberglass trunks. Nothing really exciting but it was nice and peaceful. We did see an infrequent sighting of a Pel's Fishing Owl. Of course I had to be lead by the hand in order to see it. Finally after clicking the shutter in the wrong area several times the guide Teko said "stand here"" and pointed directly at the critter. At long last I saw the owl. Way high in the tree resting in the shadows. I nice smaller orangish owl. I think I got a shot as the owl was looking in my direction.

The poler of the Mokoro was a young guide and a nice guy. The boat was a little tippy at times and I kept asking how deep the water was in order to know if I would have to swim with my camera above my head or I would be able to stand chest high with my camera over my head when we tipped over. Both worries were unfounded. He stopped poling to show me a frog. How he found it is a total mystery to me it was hanging on the side of a reed and was about the same color as the reed and the size of my little fingernail. He said we would see a Bell frog (they sound similar to the tink of a bell and in group is a very pleasant sound) and they were much bigger and easier to see. Ya, right. Same coloration and now the immense size of my ring fingernail. A giraffe was off in the distance at one point. Mostly it was nice just you play the white Bwana-ette and sit back comfortably as the world slowly passed by.

Hippo Xigera Camp
My team mates are Jim and Sherry from Houston. He a former Navy pilot and I'm sure a successful second and third career. She in a Neo-natal physician's assistant. He is gregarious. She has a bit of a stick up her butt but all in all not bad companions. They are open and happy to look at everything; of course larger mammals are on her radar. But she knows her stuff and remembers what she is shown. And remembers it much better than I do. We had the sundowner on a little island. He gin and tonic. Sherry a vodka tonic. Me a diet coke. I am so frigging exciting.

Back at camp we had time to potty and wash our faces before we were called to dinner. (Today it dawned on me this EXACTLY the way it is on a Carnival Cruise - Food, food, food. Times set and outing planned in advance.) Dinner was under the stars (I was going to say outside, but we always eat outside, just generally with a roof.) There I did have a vodka tonic. For the anti-malarial in the quinine water of course. When dinner was served the men were bitching that the serving order was always "Ladies first".  That is true. Well this time it was "Men first". The Botswanan woman next to and across from me both said something like "Ya. Back to the African way." The meal was the same high quality as before. A soup and a meat and several veggies plus a delectable dessert. The woman on my right Mavis is from the isle of Jersey and a bit of a talker. The conversation was without consequence but she seemed to enjoy it. The woman on my right was Lepo a woman who worked as the housekeeping staff manager for Botswana. She on the other hand did have something to say. A single mom of 3 kids 2.5, 5 and 10 years old. No hubby, which really surprised me. He is an absent father in Cape Town, but still wants pictures of the kids, even though child support is spotty at best. The kids spend most of their time with auntie because Lepo's job requires her to travel to the camps so often that it is easier to leave the kids at aunties. She says the kids kinda whine that they have to go home when she has the time off. I guess auntie spoils then a bit

Post dinner it was time for bed. I managed to read a chapter in my novel before the letters got fuzzy and I shut'er down for the night. I woke up a little before the break of dawn and dozed with one eye open until I heard the patter of big feet on the boardwalk announcing that the wakeup man commeth. Instead of the previous wakeup call he also said he had a Thermos of hot water for coffee or tea. I was like a firefighter sticking my feet into my pants and pilling them up as I ran to the door to unlatch it to respond to his alarm bell. It was nice to have French Pressed coffee in the room again.

Breakfast was breakfast. Cereals, yogurt, hot meats, pancakes, muffins, eggs. I'd bet that even my friend Vahan would get tired of eating on this trip. Then we hit the waterway for a motorboat cruise through the marshes and bayous for a few hours. It was a more of a normal trip than the Moroko. Flat bottomed aluminum boat. We screamed through the papyrus and were turning and backing through the weeds. I felt that I was back on the helicopter going down the canyon in Zambia. We came around a corner and he stopped the boat and little ripples were in front of the boat. I thought they were from stopping so fast, but it turned out to be a hippo just below the surface and the water was riding over its back. Then he splashed up with the water looking like a motorboat’s engine churning the water up and spun around and turned down a different channel. It really showed how powerful and quick an animal that size can be.

Cape Buffalo
Another pod of hippos came up later. A couple Fish Eagles. Elephants and a Cape buffalo (one of the Big Five) then on the way back the other three on the boat went wild. I saw another of the millions of deer like creatures I'd seen time and time again. They saw a Situnga. A rare sighting of an endangered water antelope. I managed to click a long shot of them as they bounded through the marsh. I think if I blow up the picture you might even recognize that it is and antelope and that it has horns. Maybe it will be just a dark blur in the center of the frame.

Back to the camp the long walk to, my tent to pee and then again back to the main hut for lunch, transferring of images from my camera's card to the computer, back to the room and a brief rejuvenating nap. Now the staff is setting up for tea and Papa and sister Eskimo have landed. The Eskimos are happier and noisier than if they were chewing on seal blubber.

So on that note I'm going to close this and mosey back to the room and exchange the 'puter for camera.

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