The Okavango Delta
By the morning, I was extremely weak, achey, sick and not able to leave a toilet for more than an hour. Fortunately, being that our truck trip is advertised as “families welcome”, lots of mums on the trip came well prepared with a small pharmacy of drugs to ease my pain. I boarded the truck to the swamps with trepidation as to whether it would be a good idea to travel nearly 5 hours into the wilderness with no communication to the outside world.
After a 1.5 hour very bumpy truck ride, we arrived at the river’s edge. As soon as I got out of the truck, I laid down by the water and waited for everyone else to get the mokoros (dug-out canoes that are pushed along the shallow waters by a man with a long pole) ready for our 3-hour journey into the Delta. Finally we were all set to go, and I wobbled into my canoe and slumped down covering my head with my hat and tried to get some sleep. I felt so annoyed at myself that I had come all this way to Botswana to see one of the most amazing natural wonders of the world, and I was too sick to see any of it! I did crack open an eyelid when I heard a commotion that there was a lone elephant bull feeding by the side of the river, but other than that, was basically trying my best not to throw up (although I did have to vomit once on the journey – much to our poler’s shock and worry).
Upon arriving at our “jungle” (so the other polers called it), everyone put their tents up and I crawled into mine and went straight into my sleeping bag, shivering and aching. I was beginning to think that I had malaria, because I had very similar symptoms to when I had it in Kenya. For the rest of the day I stayed in my tent, only going out to use the bush toilet once to throw up and nearly fainting twice on the way there and back. When I wobbled back to camp, the tour guide saw me and said that maybe I’d feel better sitting by the river’s edge perched up next to a tree and watching the sunset. As camp was quiet with no screaming kids running around (everyone else had gone for a walk in the bush) I thought this mustn’t be too bad of an idea. The guide brought me over a small cup of Coke because we had been talking about the possibility of it settling stomachs. It did perk me up for an hour or so, and I sat by the fire and actually had a conversation for the first time in 24 hours. I was still however not feeling up to eating. I scrambled back into bed and rested for the rest of the night, awoken only a few times by the delightful sounds of a lonesome spotted hyena calling.
Second day in the Delta. I awoke at 5:30 am to the hustle and bustle of a waking campsite. We were meant to be going off on a 4-hour hike in the bush. I stretched out of my sleeping bag and, with caution, slowly got to my feet. No dizziness and little achiness, but still a lot of weakness and quite bad nausea. I decided to try to go for a short walk, and if it got too much, I could always come back. The tour guide put me with the family of four, with two young children, as they knew these would be a slow group and would probably not stay out too long. For extra precautions, they took two walking guides with us, just in case I had to turn back. Thankfully I made it a good 3 hours out in the bush and we saw lots of antelope species going about their morning duties. It’s a totally different experience walking around in the bush looking for animals rather than driving or going by boat, so it was great to have the opportunity to do it. Later that day our polers took us out in our mokoros for another sunset cruise: the third one in a matter of days! I don’t think you can ever bore of being out on the water watching the sun go down though, at least not in the African bush. Once again we saw an elephant grazing by the river’s edge and we also went to visit a hippo pool, but alas all the residents were vacant at that point. We returned to camp happy and fortunately my bad stomach and aches and pains were mostly gone. I ate properly for the first time in 36 hours! After dinner, our polers put on a traditional singing and dancing ceremony around the fire, which was great to watch. Shortly afterwards I went to bed, although I wish I had stayed up a little longer as the kids in the group tried to reciprocate the musical evening by singing a song about zombies!
Another early morning: up at 5:45 am to pack everything in camp and put our belongings onto the mokoros for the 3-hour journey back to the landing point. I was happy that my return journey in the mokoro was much nicer than the initial one and I was finally able to enjoy the ride. The mokoros are so peaceful and serene, and you really do feel like the only people in the whole of the Delta. Our truck drive back was a little more eventful as the ancient huge vehicle that was returning us to camp in Maun broke down multiple times on the way back. Fortunately for us, the driver was an engineer, so kept tinkering with the engine at the side of the road until we finally made it back. The rest of the day was spent lounging about on a fantastically comfy bed in a little log cabin (we decided to upgrade from our usual tent for only $8 – bargain!). I amused myself every so often by peering into the neighbouring cabin occupied by a rather bold old Australian man who seemed very unembarrassed about wandering around in the smallest pair of speedos!
Next blog: South Africa - Blyde River Canyon and Kruger