August 7, 2011

A hippo was grazing by our mokoros early this morning. I (unsurprisingly) slept through it.

I am now totally relaxed during our game walks (a far cry from two days ago). Since the Delta is so flooded, I know that it is pretty unlikely for us to see animals, so I am now treating our walks as bush excursions, learning about the land and the birds and the habits of the animals. I'll be in Kruger in a few days, and I'm sure I'll get plenty of wildlife viewing there.

Anyhow, just as I decided to become a paw print expert, we came across a lone zebra on our walk this morning. A zebra! Like, the black and white striped kind! He was like the zebras at the zoo, only there was no zoo! Wow! When he caught us spying on him, he trotted away, stopping periodically to see if we were still watching him. He eventually disappeared out of view, presumably wading to the next island.

We packed up camp after our walk, which made me a bit sad. This excursion has been really wonderful. I've enjoyed everyone's company immensely, and it has been especially interesting getting to know Thuso, Rueben, and Rama. We had a good conversation last night about politics in Botswana, and also about what it is like for them to be involved with the tourist industry. Thuso is serious and smart, Rueben is bright and funny, and Rama is quiet and industrious. I really liked listening to what they had to say.

Incidentally, yesterday I had a vey funny conversation with Rueben about marriage. In Botswana, it is law for a man to give the parents of his betrothed a payment of cattle. If he does not have cattle, he can instead pay 10,000 pula (roughly $1500). He must also pay for children, but I was a bit hazy on the details there. All of this is to encourage male familial responsibility; if a man wants to get married, he has to really want it. He is then encouraged to stay in the relationship, as it would be very expensive to find a new partner. Another thing when a guy is courting a girl, her family can fine him for any infraction of the family's rules. Rueben went off on a very funny monologue, in which he did voices for all of the different characters, detailing how much money he owes his girlfriend's family if he marries her, and why.

The mokoro ride back to the village was calm and peaceful. I would like to hold on to the image of the mokoro parting the reeds and grasses to reveal bright blue sky... It will come in handy when I need to calm my mind.

After saying our goodbyes, we went back to our Maun campsite, where we got to shower. The water was cold and intermittent, but it was amazing.

Early this evening, we journeyed to the airport for a game flight. I've flown in small planes before, but this one was tiny. (A Cessna 210, Dad.) I sat in the co-pilot's seat, and had full access to the steering wheel and all of the controls... it was really hard to not touch anything...

I'm usually a little skittish on planes, as I don't like feeling that something is entirely out of my control. Turbulence makes me nervous, and I am always watching the flight attendants for signs of distress. For some reason, though, the smaller the plane, the more relaxed I am. It all feels so much more manageable to get something like that in the air, and then maintain control of it. So while I admittedly tried to counter-balance the plane when the pilot did extreme wing tips, it was mostly really fun.

We flew over the Delta islands of golden grass and acacia surrounded by reedy wetlands and deep blue channels. The land in Botswana is remarkably flat, and so you can see for miles and miles. It was amazing to see wildlife from this vantage point I felt like I was filming a NOVA documentary. Elephants slowly plodding through the reeds, giraffes clustered around stands of acacia, zebras grazing, wildebeest on the move, hippos sunning themselves, impala and kudu and buffalo and steenboks and eagles, all glimpsed from about five hundred feet. It was exhilarating... (and the fact that I had the chorus of that Toto song in my head certainly didn't hinder the experience either...)

Back at the campground, David made a delicious dinner and we talked away in the cooling evening.