Aitch and I flew from Maun to Xudum in August 2001 when Janet & Duncan were helping Landela Safaris run their show. We landed on the nearby bush strip.
After a few days in camp they had business in Maun and we accompanied them on the drive out of the Delta to Maun in the Land Cruiser. Rickety bridges, deep water crossings with water washing over the bonnet onto the windscreen.
On the drive back to camp after the day in the big smoke of the metropolis of Maun we entered a Tamboti grove and saw two leopard cubs in the road. They split and ran off to left and right, then ran alongside of us on either side for a minute calling to each other before we moved off and let them be.
We enjoyed mekoro trips, game drives & walks and afternoon boat trips stretching into evenings watching the sunset from the boat while fishing for silver catfish or silvertooth barbel – I forget what they called them. Later, wading in thigh-deep water sorting out the pumps. Only afterwards did I think hmm, crocs.
Visited Rann’s camp for lunch where Keith and Angie Rowles were our hosts. That’s where we first heard the now-common salute before starting a meal: “Born Up a Tree.”
Janet moved us from camp to camp as guests arrive, filling in where there were gaps in other camps. We transferred by boat, mekoro or 4X4 vehicle. One night we stayed in a tree house in Little Xudum camp.
Lazy days in camp drinking G&T’s
Later Xudum was taken over by &Beyond. Super luxury: R15 000 per person per night! Very different to the lovely rustic tented camp it was when we were there. I hate the way ‘conservationists’ use miles of wooden decking and flooring!
Aitch’s twin sister Janet and her partner Duncan were running Makololo camp in the wonderful Hwange Reserve in Zimbabwe. Duncan had just recently built the camp for Wilderness Safaris and now they were the camp managers. And they invited us to stay! We flew in to Vic Falls, they picked us up and we had a long slow ‘game drive’ to the village of Hwange; then into the park and a real game drive to the camp in the south-east corner of the huge reserve.
The camp that Duncan built – stunning wood and thatch comfort with only the four of us in residence. One night a woodland dormouse fell into the soup, poor little bugger! He seemed alright.
Sylvester the grumpy lion chased after us with seeming intent! We didn’t stick around to ask him what was bugging him! We accelerated away from his waterhole.
Saw two firsts, there – two lifers! A Red-necked Falcon and a Caspian Plover.
Sister-in-law Janet in Maun sent this: As you know, Duncan is project manager for Beks Ndlovu’s company African Bush Camps. He is currently refurbishing the camp we stayed at with Trish in Jan 2010 – Somalisa in SE Hwange.
This week Duncan wrote to Beks: “FYI . . Jurassic is causing a nuisance in camp. Broke into the new storeroom to get cabbages and potatoes. Then did the same to the new Acacia kitchen on Monday night. I believe quite a lot of damage and refused to be chased away.”
Beks wrote: Our project manager Duncan Elliott, who has spent many years in the bush building safari camps, sent me this message tonight whilst I was on vacation in Australia. Jurassic, by the way is an elephant at Somalisa who has a seriously warped sense of humor. He eats guests’ soap and toothpaste and refuses to go by our general ground rules . . He has a mind of his own!
I can’t help but reflect that today we have these encounters with wildlife and here is what I sent back to Duncan:
“What fun and games… You are amongst very few people in this world that can tell that kind of story? Do you think your grandchildren might have the same stories in years to come? Please kindly ask Jurassic to understand we have a new camp to open in less than a week and since he is family he needs to understand FHB ( family holds back)!”
As a schoolboy I was keen on kayaking and was tickled by a cartoon depicting a kayak on dry land trailing a dust plume with the caption Kalahari Canoe Club! I kept that on my wall for years. Kayak’ing in the desert was just a joke, right!?
In January 2010 we got to the Kalahari to hear the Nhabe River was flowing strongly into Lake Ngami and Aitch’s twin sis Janet and boyfriend Duncan had organised us kayaks! Hey! Maybe you really could kayak the Kalahari!
A reconnaissance trip to the area with GPS found us a put-in place where we could launch – no easy task as this Kalahari “desert” was knee-deep and chest-deep in green grass after the good rains. We returned the next day with two vehicles, four yellow plastic expedition kayaks and lunch, and set off on the beautiful river, flowing nicely between overhanging trees. It was my idea of Paradise! Green green everywhere, with plants, flowers, grasses and birds all putting on a spectacular show.
everything was green –
Five Giant Eagle Owls peering down at us blinking their pink eyelids from one thorn tree – that was special! As was a big green snake, I guessed over 2m long that came towards me on the bank as I drifted towards it. I was amazed it kept coming. When my kayak’s prow beached it still came on up to about a metre away, grabbed a small shrub in its mouth and only then beat a hasty retreat. A Kalahari Vegetarian Viper? I was thinking till I heard a loud hiss and saw the big flap-necked chameleon he had caught (together with some leaves) in his mouth. I had missed seeing a chameleon in that tiny green shrub! My guess is he was an Angolan Green Snake.
Another memorable sight was rounding a bend and seeing four cows drinking: One all-black, one all-brown, one all-white and one all-tan. They looked so striking against the lush new green backdrop that we remembered the camera but we had drifted past in the current and by the time we paddled back against the current they had dispersed. Here’s the white one:
Lunchtime we ate on the bank sitting on the kayaks. I remember hardboiled eggs and very tasty sarmies, thanks Jan!!
The girls then turned back as the paddling would be much slower against the current while Duncan and I headed on, determined to get into Lake Ngami.
And we did. How spectacular! The trees fell back and the sky opened up and huge reed beds stretched in every direction. Fish eagles cried, ducks scattered before us and herons and cormorants and waders were all over the place. At first we were still in a channel, but after another kilometre or so we could branch into other channels and lagoons out of the main current. We felt like David Livingstone in 1849. Sort of. Better.
Way too soon we had to turn back to get back upstream to the girls and the vehicles.
This is a trip crying out for a multi-day one-way expedition with seconds collecting you at a take-out point on the lakeshore. To do it though, you have to be free to leave at short notice on those rare occasions when the river is up. Or else you’ll be reviving the oldKalahari Canoe Club – with plumes of dust!