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Victoria Falls to Chobe

October 12, 2000

It Begins...

After a nice relaxing breakfast and taking a few shots of the hotel, I waited in the lobby for the rest of the gang to appear.  Taking advantage of the time, I wrote my obligatory postcards to the immediate family: they would be the only postcards I would actually send (the rest I use for my photo albums), and I would beat them all home by a week!

I spotted Katja in the lobby and joined her and the rest of the troop outside.  I was really surprised at how few people were going on the trip: there were only nine of us!  Including Martina and Katja, I met Chris and Joanne (from Australia), Jan and Geraldine (from Holland), and Antonio and Christina (from Italy).   Everyone was paired up, so it looked like I was the odd man out!! Such a small group can be good (you get to know each other better) or bad (if there's friction, there's no where to go), but everyone seemed very nice.

Chobe Safari LodgeAlong with Susanna, we also met two other people who would be with us the whole trip: our driver Emaeus, and our cook Bentsen.  Both were very friendly and very professional.

I also got to ask Susanna a question that had been bothering me: would my luggage fit?? (Since this trip was mostly camping they were a bit more strict about such things..)  Fortunately since there were so few people on the truck (it was designed for more that 20 people) this would not be a problem.  Another crisis averted. :-)

Our truck was built for safaris: the passenger section was very high off the ground, and the sides rolled up to allow for pictures (and also to let the air in!).   It would prove to be a bit chilly in the morning sometimes, but most of the time it was great to have a bit of a breeze!

Unfortunately Susanna was riding in the front of the truck with Bentsen and Emaeus most of the time, so she was not able to talk a lot about the tour and surroundings when we were driving.  I had really liked that during my Australia tour.

Off to Chobe

Our first stop was to be Chobe, Botswana.  Driving through Zimbabwe, you really got to see how dry everything gets in the early summer: it reminded me a lot of Southern California.

At the border, we went through one of many hoof & mouth disease checkpoints (which is a fatal disease of cattle that has broken out on occasion).  We had to get out of the cab and walk through a puddle of disinfectant, while the truck basically did the same thing (only with a larger puddle).  They also did a quick inspection of the truck (for cattle smuggling?) and we were on our way, with some fresh stamps in our passports and a smell of disinfectant. :-)

We settled in at Chobe to some nice bungalows, with private bathrooms and beds with mosquito nets.  Being the odd man out, I got a bungalow to myself!   Ah, luxury. :-) We couldn't get used to it, though: it would be the last time we slept in beds for over a week!

We all had lunch in a little cafe: one of the waitresses there was highly amused at the fact I was American, and would call out to me "Hello, Mr. American Man!" several times that day. :-)

River Cruise

There was an option to take a river cruise that afternoon, and we all jumped at the chance to see some of the native wildlife.  Susanna joined us as well.   The cruise boats were small pontoon boats, with upper and lower levels, and swiveling seats.

Right off the bat, we saw a pod (herd? flock? buncha?) of hippos in the water, keeping themselves cool.  There were a few crocodiles on the banks,  and some ground hornbills running around.  Guinea fowl (reportedly the stupidest bird in Africa, at least according to Susanna) were abundant.

We had an amazing sight right off the bat: three elephants *swimming* in the river!  They crossed over from one side to the other, where some of their companions were having a mud bath.   Great shots!

There were lots of Impala (no, not the car) and Cape Buffalo around, grazing peacefully.   Various fish-diver birds dove in and out of the water, looking for, well, fish I assume. This was a really great cruise, according to Susanna: usually you don't see this many things on the first day!

The captain was suddenly excited: a lion had been spotted in the distance!  They were hardly ever seen, and unfortunately my camera wasn't quite up to the job of getting a good picture, but I had a look through Jan's telephoto lens: amazing!  I did get a much better picture of the hippos as they jostled with each other: my timing was just right!


That evening, we had a buffet dinner and Susanna had us fill out and sign "Next-Of-Kin" forms (hmmmm....).  I tried to get pictures of everyone (nearly blinding Joanne in the process).  We couldn't stay up too late, though: tomorrow we had to get up at 5:00 am for a game drive!  I was up all night checking my watch (I get so paranoid about being late for things!)

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2000  William Geoffrey Shotts. Last update: Saturday, November 02, 2002