Friday May 18- Land of the Giants

This day was technically our last day before our trip home via "favourite chariot numero dos" and we had a trip to Chobe National Park, Land of the Giants, in Botswana scheduled for the day followed by dinner at Boma, a restaurant at the Safari Lodge acclaimed for their local meat selection.

So our air conditioned mini-bus (yes, air conditioning is a luxury in Africa so it was very welcome) arrive bright at early at our rest camp to pick up myself, Alex and our two favourite travelling partners (kidding, these are the same people who made the trip to Victoria Falls nearly unbearable).  We then ventured to the Safari Lodge to pick up Celine and then we were on our way for a little road trip to the Botswana border.

The drive to the border was a couple of hours.  When we arrived at the border, we had to walk across a chemical pad (because we all know how dirty it is in Zimbabwe, and how a chemical soaked carpet is going to kill everything lingering on your body... jokes.  Zim is not dirty and it is not filled with diseases so clearly someone is overreacting about things). We left our lovely coach behind and entered the border patrol building where we got another stamp in our passport.

Just a little fyi- I like stamps in my passport and I was totally bummed when we didn't get one when we flew into airports on our way to Zimbabwe.  Also, I was super bummed when I did not get to go to Zambia because that meant I would not get another stamp in my passport.  Lame, right?  Don't judge.

So after taking a pit stop at the border patrol, we were officially welcomed to Botswana with a new vehicle.  This little chariot was an open backed vehicle with 3 rows of seats, and had a canopy over top.  We were also joined by another group of 3 people and I aggressively claimed my back row seat.  Where you sit is important, and if you have to throw a couple elbows, it is worth it in the end.

So we took off again on our road trip and made our way into Botswana where we slowly made our way closer to the Cuando (?) river which runs through Chobe.  We passed through a town (I don't remember the name) which was extremely poor on our way to a beautiful hotel and lodge.  When we arrived at the hotel, we disembarked our vehicle and made our way to our next mode of transportation, a boat.

The plan for the day was that we would go on a boat and travel down the Cuando river and look or wildlife in and out of the water, and then we would make our way back to the hotel for lunch, at which point we would get back onto our open truck and go for a game drive.  So we loaded onto our boat, a mini barge  with individual canvas seats that went around the outside of the boat, and took off down the river.

The scenery was beautiful with the trees hanging over the water line, and the thick brush and trees.  But what we were really looking for was hippos.  Obviously wildlife is exciting and seeing elephants, giraffes, impala, and other beasts is great but we have not had the opportunity to see hippos and Chobe was known for their hippos.  So we took off into the river which was spotted with other boats of various types, all carrying passengers looking for wildlife.  Immediately we make our way to the water patrol, which is a little shack floating in the water, just off the water's edge.  While our guide went to check in, mongoose started to bombarded the shoreline, the dock, the shack and the boat.  The littler critters were coming from everywhere and seemed endless.  Finally, as our guide came back, the mongoose stampede subsided and we were able to make our way back onto the water.

Along the water's edge were water buffalo lounging in the shade of a tree and enjoying the comfort of the water and water monitor lizards on the trees.  There were impala at every turn but the most noticeable group of impala was a large group, with a couple at the waters edge, front legs spread and heads dipping towards the water.  They look quite hilarious but they cannot bend their legs to drink so they spread them so they can get their head close enough to the water.  Meanwhile, the rest of the group of impala were being held off some distance from the waters edge by an enormous crocodile.  The giant was bathing on the water edge and had eyes on any impala that dared to cross him.

We continued on our way, and saw more impala, buffalo, lizards, crocs and monkeys playing n the trees.  And finally, when we had given up hope on hippos, we saw mini islands rising out of the water.  They were bobbing around, with their backs and heads peeking out of the water.  Not wanting to spend all our time looking at a couple of hippos or provoke them because they are territorial, we kept going and tuck across the  middle of the river to pass on the other side the marsh land.  On the other side of the river, crocs were sunbathing while birds dried their wings.  Then out of no where, a little happy family of hippos was having a nap.  It was a typical family scene: mom and dad were having a nap and sunbathing while a little pink and purple body, their itty bitty baby hippo bopped around and nudged its parents in hopes that they would wake up.  And when neither of the parents woke up, the little baby, no more than 3 weeks old crawled between mom and dad and tucked itself in for a nap.  So cute!

We were quickly approaching lunch time so we made our back to the hotel when were went and had the most fabulous buffet lunch.  This is kind of a big deal because we had roast (they called it steak, but it really was a roast by Canadian standards) and it was delish.  Rivalled Canadian beef for sure.  Please don't kick me out of Alberta or Canada for saying that!

After lunch, we went back to ur truck, threw a couple of elbows and got our seats and took off towards the Land of Giants.  Chobe is called the Land of Giants because of the elephants.  There are thousands upon thousands of elephants at Chobe, and so there are literally giants, everywhere.

So we followed our red dirt road into the park and paralleled the river.  There were little pumbas/warthogs along the side of the road on their front knees digging up dirt with their noses and there were elephants.  As we reached the water, there were more water buffalo and more elephants making their way to the water for an afternoon drink.  their were vultures overhead and giraffes peeking out the top of bushes while enjoying a snack.

We kept going and saw more elephants of all ages.  At one particular time in our trip, Alex and I figured that since we were getting so close to the animals, literally close enough to touch, that we would take pictures of each other while sitting on the edge of the truck.  If the animal stayed for long enough, we would switch seats and take pictures of the other person with the animal in the background.  So being totally genius we pulled up a group of elephants and there was a small, but obviously an adolescent elephant, standing on the road side.  These little guys are usually aggressive, trying to be 'big man on campus' but this was really not something we had considered.  So we took pictures of Alex first and then we swapped seats to take pictures of me.  Unknown to us was that elephants get aggressive with excessive movement, and with Alex and I bouncing around in the back the elephants ears fanned out, he started to stop his foot and started to trumpet while taking a few aggressive steps forward.  Then, with some nervous giggles which provokes the ele more, the elephant started to charge towards the truck and stopped just short of the bed of the open truck.  It may have in fact been closer but our guide stepped on the gas a little bit and got us out of the way, then sternly reminded us that there is no moving or loud noises around elephants.

Point taken, sir.  Tusks scare the hell out of me when they come barrelling at me attached to a giant.

We began our way back and to the hotel, the same way we came, and when we were coming over a hill that overlooked the river, we say an island.  But this island was unlike any I have ever seen before.  It was made of hippos.  My guesstimate is that there were over one hundred hippos all pushed together and snuggling on a shallow spot in the river and they were so packed together that it looked like an island of hippo bodies.

Also along our way we noticed moving elephant poo, being pushed by a giant dung beetle and an itty bitty turtle just trucking along the side of the road.
Celine, Alex and I.  What a trio!

We made it out of Chobe National Park and started back towards the border patrol where passed into Zimbabwe without worrying about chemical pads and disinfecting.  We got back into our airconditioned coach and started back to Vic Falls where we had a quick cat nap so that we were ready for Boma.

When we rolled back into Victoria Falls, we dropped off Celine at the Safari Lodge and then continued onwards to our rest camp.  Alex and I had very little time to get ready and not look like we had been reciving an African massage in the back of an open truck for the whole day.  While running around trying to get ready in the short amount of time we had, I conveniently sliced off part of my middle finger which doctor Alex and Katherine took care of and bandaged.

Donning a bulbous middle finger (which  will have you all know is very inconvenient when trying to do ANYTHING, especially apply makeup) that was gross and blood stained (who doesn't look good with a little gore right?) we loaded up into the van and made our way back to the Safari Lodge where Boma was.

When we arrived at the boma, we were wrapped up and made to look a bit more traditional, and given two dots by our eye which was the face paint given to women.  Just after getting dressed up and looking the part, Celine joined us, and of course, was accompanied by the friendly gentleman we met on the dinner cruise the night before.  We still do not know why he was there because he was staying in Victoria Falls by himself and he had said the night before that he had nothing planned for today, so we suspect that we had mentioned the Boma in passing... but regardless- there he was.  Awkotaco.
Note the man in back row in the middle... the "gentleman"

We were seated at our table were the gentleman just assumed he was going to be sitting by Celine, Alex and myself and he was quickly told to leave.  Oh Kailos, you will never know how appreciative we were of you at that very moment.

We were entertained by some traditional dancing and songs then went for dinner, buffet style, which was a spread of meats including alligator, quail, quinea fowl, kudo, warthog, impala and pretty much everything else that was running out back.  Obviously I tried it all.  And it was great!

After dinner, we joined the entertainment by playing the drums that were at each seat and getting additional face paint which included dots around the eye and sunset pictures.  All to quickly, we decided to leave so that we could go to Shoestrings to celebrate our last night and celebrate Dan's birthday.

But here's a twist.  It wasn't my last night nor was it Alex's. We had begged and pleaded with Kailos to let us stay another night with Celine at the Safari Lodge so that we could enjoy the town.  While we had been at Botswana, everyone else had gone and toured the markets and enjoyed the sights and we didn't want to leave without getting our fill of Victoria Falls!  We were also pretty fed up with the two older ladies who had come with us on our Botswana trip and Alex and I were not sure we would survive another 8+ hour drive with them.  It may be a fight to the death.... Hunger Games style.  Anywho, Alex and I went to Shoestrings to celebrate the fact that we would have a comfortable ride back home to Gweru via a double decker coach bus with air condition and without the older ladies and uncomfortable seats.  Added bonus?  Staying with Celine at Safari Lodge.

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