04.03.2013 - 13.03.2013 32 °C
By this time we’ve already travelled for over 36 days on the tour. After a weekend of rest and frolics we were ready to head south!
On the Sunday, we met our new Belgian tour guide Bjorn for our final briefing. This was when we realized that this part of the tour was going to be different than the last 4 and a bit weeks we’d already spent travelling down the east coast.
With our new tour guide, new cook, new driver and new travel buddies in tow...we were off. Goodbye Zim, hello Botswana for a second time! This was a weird part of our tour given we just had just returned from Chobe National Park and now we were heading there again before making our way to the Okavango Delta. Although, we did manage another boat safari across the Chobe river before we left. Once again, we saw plenty of wildlife, it was only too bad it was grey and rainy when we went but the elephants didn't seem to mind. It also didn’t help that everybody else was already merry with their pre-packed coolers of goodness. Boo to poor planning!
The next morning we left at exactly at 5.45 and headed to Maun, the starting point of the delta. Our guide decided to let our cook Florence tend the reigns for the next few days whilst he stayed back. We looked forward to getting to know our Johannesburg born chef a lot better. And of course couldn’t wait for her home cooking!
The Delta is a huge expanse of water travelling from the Angolan highlands, forming the largest inland delta in the world. With our natural-wood dug (so we were led to believe, turned out they were fibreglass...sustainable friendly) packed mokoros, we were ready to explore the inlets it had to offer. We arrived at our camp after paddling for a good hour. It was there we were greeted by the locals who helped us set up camp.
It wasn’t before long, we realized we were without drink. We had water of course but no beer or wine to satisfy the taste buds on a hot Africa’s day. Before I even knew what was going on, our Polish friends had already asked our new local friends if they could help us out and Natalie had already volunteered me to go with them on what they said was a 40 minute journey. By that time everybody had already passed me along their orders and money, including the Polish guys whose idea it was in the first place. Within minutes I was on a mokoro to the village. It took 3 modes of transportation to make it happen...mokoro, walking and a donkey. Yes...donkey! Beers, “Skake-Shake” (local drink of fermented maize...I’ll get back to that later) and whatever else everybody ordered were successfully in tow. You may laugh, yet it worked and we were all happy campers after it taking 4 hours to get. The water had never looked so refreshing to jump in! The next couple days were filled with treks, mokoro rides, cards, food, chilling and dancing around the campfire. Oh the life!
By the way that “Shake-Skake” stuff was disgusting! You had to shake it and the 1L milk type carton expanded before you knew you could pour to drink it. From our understanding you can get different flavours, only since we were in the village...it was only the original maize, bitty, sour stuff from the box!
After 3 days, it was time to return. That wasn’t before a last brief encounter with a hippo. Apparently, the hippos had left their normal pool and moved to exact spot we were crossing. They decided to pop up where we passing on the way back. Hungry, angry hippos!
We made our way back for one more night, ready for the next day’s drive to our final destination of South Africa. In the morning we crossed the border into Blydepoort overlooking the Blyde River canyon. At 26kms long and an average of 800m deep it forms the northern part of the Drankensberg Mountain range and one of the largest canyons in the world. We stopped at various points along the way including the very high 'God’s Window' before stopping at the Bourke's Luck Potholes along the Blyde river.
From there we headed to one of the most well known and most visited parks in South Africa...Kruger National Park. We set up camp just outside the park on a private reserve owned by Richard Branson called Sabi Sands. It was only the previous weekend that his son was married on those same grounds, although our site was pretty far from there and our area was nothing spectacular in the slightest. It was an open site with no fences to protect us from the wandering wildlife. This warning says it all really!
The next morning we set off on our last game drive safari. It was only 18 minutes after the park opened that we saw our 8th leopard of the tour. They say that leopards are elusive but we have been so lucky. Within the next two hours we saw 4 of the big 5 except for the lion. We tried all afternoon to no avail, even with tips from the other cars driving through. As the day was fading we headed back to camp for one last night with the crew. Florence our chef cooked us up a farewell “Braai” to send us off. Delicious! A few drinks later around the fire...it was over, 46 days touring Africa and 10 countries, done!
The next morning we packed our tents one last time before heading to our last stop...Jo’burg. This was a fond farewell! We were sad to leave but ready to begin our roadtrip across SA and meet Leonie & Harriett. Thanks ATC! Thanks new friends! Thanks Africa!