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Interlude in the Delta

Sitting in the pool at 05:30, it is  quiet and utterly tranquil. The only sounds are the occasional eerie calls of birds going about their business in the surrounding reeds.

“The flung stone that puts stars to flight”

The chance to bush camp in the Okavango Delta has long been a wish, ever since reading about the Delta and its wildlife and seeing a BBC documentary.

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Crossing the Delta en-route to the bush camp, we encounter a large pod of hippos cooling in the lagoon. Drifting a little too close, the alpha male starts to become defensive, causing a hasty retreat into the channels through the reeds.

Bush camping may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it brings rare moments that will be embedded in my memory for life.

Sitting in the pool at 05:30, it is  quiet and utterly tranquil. The only sounds are the occasional eerie calls of birds going about their business in the surrounding reeds.

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In the east, the rising sun gradually casts a pink glow over the surface of the pool, producing a perfect mirror image of the reeds in the dark still waters of the Delta.

The promise of another blazing hot day in the Delta, is countered by the coolness of the pool.

Sitting in the pool with water up to my nose, the surface is perfectly still, disturbed only by the Water Boatmen scurrying across the water, suspended by the surface tension.

Below the surface, dozens of little fish group around my body and arms; I am brought back from my reverie by nips from the larger minnows on the fleshy parts of  my body.

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The temptation is to stay a while longer, but its time to break camp and continue my journey south.

The brief interlude in the Okavango Delta will be treasured for a long time to come!

Oh I do Like to be Beside the Seaside…

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Well, that was a surprise! Swakopmund sits on the south Atlantic coast and feels like a seaside town that you find in continental Europe.

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Descending from the heat of the Namib desert, the climate was a bit of a surprise – in fact it was distinctly cool, necessitating at times coats and jumpers!

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Swakopmund, built as a seaside resort for wealthy to escape the heat of Windhoek, is an elegant resort akin to an English Victorian seaside town .

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The town of is laid out on a typical grid system, with buildings dating from the early 1900’s – plenty of examples which survive today with their typical Germanic styling.

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Lying on the edge of the Dorab National Park, its the centre for a range of activities, from sand boarding, dune buggies, sky diving and of course, a chance to see the “Little Five”.

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The Little Five, are just that – species endemic to this specific region – the chameleon, gecko, White Lady spider, side winder snake and skink.

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A short way up the coast at Cape Cross, there is an enormous seal colony, which at the time was thronged with seals and their day old pups – who sound just like lambs as they baa for their mothers.

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Getting up close was an interesting experience, watching the pups suckling and mothers chasing away other females.

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Perhaps the most memorable impression was the smell – a fish market on a very bad day!

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Swakopmund was a pleasant break from travelling – time to get the kit cleaned and bag resorted before the next leg on the road to Cape Town. 

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Pussy cat, pussy cat…

Fortunately, the cats were lying some five metres from where we were parked up, offering close up views – their faces still stained with blood from the catch.

A highlight of any game drive has to be the spotting the “Big Five” game animals – Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino and Buffalo. 

Etosha offers some of the best game viewing in southern Africa, with opportunities to see a wide variety of animals and birds, but of course, the highlight has to be the big cats.

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First up were a pair of cheetahs lying in the shade, digesting the catch of the day – this was lying in a bush nearby, probably a springbok.

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Fortunately, the cats were lying some five metres from where we were parked up, offering close up views – their faces still stained with blood from the catch.

Cheetahs are incredibly efficient hunters, using their incredible bursts of speed to chase down their prey (estimated at 60 – 80 kmph), but are limited to a single chase following which they have to recover (hence no cars called “Cheetah”).

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If that wasn’t good enough, after lunch, a pride of lions was found around a watering hole. The pride, comprising two males, five females and two pairs of cubs.

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The younger pair of cubs (a few months old), were the highlight of the afternoon as they cavorted with each other in the typical fashion that you expect from kittens!

Unfortunately the leopards proved to be elusive, but that was more than  made up by the wealth of other birds and animals, including elephant, rhino, giraffe and numerous antelopes, zebra, kudu, oryx, wildebeest etc.

A worthwhile trip and thoroughly recommended! 

Etosha–Life in the Pan

After some 10 minutes of digging, one of the badgers caught a mouse, only to have it snatched away in a swift move by one of the Goshawks. That Goshawk was so so quick, blink and you’d miss it!

Life in the pan is tough. This was amply demonstrated whilst watching a pair of Honey Badgers digging for mice.

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The problem was that the badgers weren’t alone – in attendance were three Pale Chanting Goshawks, and one Jackal, all intently watching the progress that the badgers were making.

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After some 10 minutes of digging, one of the badgers caught a mouse, only to have it snatched away in a swift move by one of the Goshawks. That Goshawk was so so quick, blink and you’d miss it!

Undeterred, the badgers continued digging, resulting in one finding a second mouse shortly afterwards, leaving the jackal to slink off in search of easier options.

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In the meantime, the Goshawk had retired to a near by termite mound to feast on his “catch”…

Blogging on the hoof…

As ever, technology relies on good Internet connections. Since leaving Victoria Falls, there has been limited connection.

That coupled with early starts (typically up at 05:00 or earlier, with long days travelling makes it difficult to keep up to date.

So in short, I’m not able to upload many photos or write the blog due to poor Internet / WiFi. Will catch up at our next stopover in Swakopmund in a few days.

Travelling on…

And its only day 3 of our three week overlanding trip from Victoria Falls to Cape Town…

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Having left Victoria Falls early Tuesday (10/12/18), a short hop took us into Botswana for a night in Kasane, the base for trips to the Chobe River National Park. A short cruise on the river to see some game – in the main hippos, plus another glorious African sunset.

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A very early start on Wednesday (11/12/18 – Steph’s birthday!) from Kasane for a 600+ km drive to Maun in the North West of Botswana. The fastest route unfortunately isn’t the shortest, as we dog legged south to Nata (312km), before turning west to Kasane (304km). A very hot and exhausting drive, relieved by a couple of highlights – one in particular, an African Wild Dog (or Painted Dog), an endangered species under threat due to the encroachment of man and habitat destruction. 

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Arriving at Maun mid afternoon, the temperatures were off the mercury,  as the town was roasting, the heat bouncing off the tarmac and buildings. The only respite was to dive into the nearest fast food outlet (Nandos) for a cooling carafe of non alcoholic cocktail. Then a quick trip to the bottle store and supermarket to stock up for the next two days bush camping in the Okavango Delta.

I’ll post again on our return from the Delta – assuming we survive the hippos and crocodiles! 

Its not all its cracked up to be…

The River Zambezi crashes some 120 metres in a spectacular drop into a massive rift in the rock, before turning sharp right to flow under the majestic Victoria Falls bridge.

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The Falls look rather less spectacular at present – a combination of the dry season (at the time of writing its raining heavily as the wet season approaches), coupled with the fact that the Zambian authorities have diverted the river to feed its hydro-electric facility.

The resultant falls – on the Zambian side (right side of the picture)– are limited to a few cascades, exposing the rock face which would normally be hidden behind a vast curtain of roaring water and the distinctive plume of ‘smoke’.

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Looking towards the Zimbabwean side of the falls, the plume of ‘smoke’ is very distinctive forming a vast cloud of spray high above the falls.

The Falls will revert to normal as the wet season approaches, but Livingstone would certainly have been less impressed had he seen them today!

The River Zambezi, marks the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The name Zambezi is reputed to be derived from Gwembe Tonga “Nsambeyi” where it is safe to bathe i.e. no crocodiles.

The Victoria Falls bridge spans the Zambezi gorge, providing a transport link between the countries. Commissioned by the British South African Company (BSAC), the bridge was a vital part of Sir Cecil Rhode’s unfulfilled dream of building a railway from ‘Cape to Cairo’.

The BSAC was a British government sanctioned company, given the role of managing the whole of Western and Northern Rhodesia (modern day Zambia). Given a Royal Charter in 1899 (modeled on the British East India Company), Rhodes hoped that the company would promote the colonisation of and economic exploitation of south central Africa, as part of the “Scramble for Africa”.

The bridge which was completed in 1905 (after Rhodes’ death), now serves as a route for the transport of minerals and other goods from the heartland of Zambia to all parts of the world, in particular China.

The Chinese are big investors in Zambia – and many other countries in Africa.

On the road from Lusaka to Livingstone, we passed dozens of lorries laden with copper ingots from the Copperbelt in Western Zambia, enroute to Maputo for onward shipment to China…the exploitation of Africa continues to this day.

The irony certainly wouldn’t have been missed by Rhodes!