Monday, September 5, 2016

A Mokoro Ride at Guma Lagoon, Botswana

Up early again and after many cold mornings with mostly cold breakfasts, we were thrilled to open a container and find scrambled eggs. That generated a lot of excitement, but not as much as a platter of sausages, followed by bacon, followed by something else hot. We were giddy!

The staff at the camp is predominately male and they gathered around to wish us goodbye as we got into our land cruiser.

I love their singing so much. They are so joyful. It was such a great experience.


We had about 400 km to go today and were hoping to be at the camp at Guma Lagoon by 3:00 p.m. Our track record hadn't been great so far, but we are on African time, right?

Yup, we had to do all the miles back over the dusty road...


But we were prepared this time. It was still bloody cold.

Donkeys...

We stopped here to use the washrooms. They had some lovely things and I could have bought several of these hangings. Admire and move on!


No bargaining here...

This was where Chief was leaving us. He had been such a great guide and a very kind person. Note the sheepdog whistle. The Kiwis were converting everyone!

Botswana proud...this year they are celebrating 50 years of independence, so we were seeing lots of flags and items in the colours of the flag.

Ed and I were sitting in the back. All of a sudden the handle Ed was holding was no longer attached to anything. We decided to put on our seatbelts as we were getting bumped around on the washboard sections of the road.

There were all kinds of businesses along the road and quite often we saw structures like the concrete one in the middle. We were never sure if they were still in the construction phase or had been abandoned.

A tree branch painted in the colours of the Botswana flag...

We stopped here to change vehicles for the drive to the camp at Guma Lagoon. These local kids did their best to get our attention and any items we might like to give them.

Here the problems began...Manuel had arranged for this vehicle and trailer to take us to the camp. But because we were a bit late, another group had already laid claim to it. The guides got into a bit of a heated exchange, each trying to look after their guests' interests. We didn't mind waiting. We had a shady tree and cool drinks, but Manuel wanted us to be at the camp relaxing.

The other group started putting their luggage in the trailer, but ended up having to take it all out when the owner of the camp stepped in to settle the dispute.

So we were on our way to the camp in this vehicle with 3 tiered seating in the back. Barb, Ed and I were in the top tier and our feet didn't touch the floor. We were being bounced around so badly, Barb almost flew out at one point. Pat suggested bracing ourselves against the seat in front of us, which we did. At one point, a pack of dogs started chasing us. We were laughing pretty hard at the situation...bouncing all over the place, trying to hold on, and now being chased by snarling dogs. Someone blew one of the sheepdog whistles and yelled at the dogs who decided we meant business and left us alone. It turns out the dogs are local hunting dogs and are bored, so every vehicle that comes by is entertainment for them. We were pretty happy to reach the camp.


Yes, apparently there is a hippo that wanders around. With their reputation for being crabby and unpredictable, I was hoping we didn't meet up with him.

Another lovely tent...they really were well equipped and very comfortable. Unfortunately, it was very hot, so you pretty much had to abandon the tents during the day. With the early wake ups, sometimes you thought you might sneak in a quick nap in the afternoon. Not in those tents...

Another style of mosquito netting that we did get the hang of...

I never really understood this shower. The water would end up all over the bathroom floor. I asked the others how they were managing and they said their shower curtain worked well. Shower curtain??

Hard to believe you're in a tent, right? The basket on the right was for laundry, no "smalls." It is a cultural thing that they won't wash your underwear. No problem...we hand washed it and hung it out on the front of the tent using Jim's cannula as a clothesline. It dried in no time.

This was the only place we had any creepy crawlie issues. I had noticed 4 legs sticking out from the baseboard beside the toilet. I couldn't see the body, but I knew it was pretty big when the legs caught my attention. We mentioned it to the staff and they came over and sprayed. Well, that got that one and we found a bunch of curled up bodies on the floor when we came back from dinner. That spider had buddies. The next morning, these guys appeared. They were small compared to the others. I gave up...

Lovely plants outside the tent...

And a beautiful sunrise the next morning. This is the Okavango River that flows into the delta and then disappears. Amazing...


I loved this sitting area with the trees and vines and the pretty colours of the cushions.

After a nice hot breakfast, we headed out in this boat to begin our experience in a mokoro canoe.

The boat driver giving us our safety drill...

We went through the lagoon filled with papyrus plants...

Arriving about 15 minutes later to get positioned in our canoes. These mokoro canoes are the traditional dugout canoes and are propelled by a poler standing in the back of the canoe.

We're ready!

It soon became evident that the one with the camera should be in the front!

This was an absolutely amazing experience...

Our poler had been doing this for about 15 years...

Many beautiful lily pads and flowers...and it was so peaceful and serene.


Manuel and Mbusi chilling with Barb and Ed behind...

Sometimes it looked like there was no water at all...

This looked like a heron in the trees...

The polers were wonderful and you soon got over your fear of tipping over.

We reached an island where everyone got out and those who wanted to went on a 90 minute walking tour of the island. It was about 11:00 a.m. by now and it was stinking hot. We were supposed to see wildlife, so I didn't want to miss anything, but a long walk in 40 degree weather wasn't exciting me too much! Suck it up, Buttercup! We didn't see much wildlife, but we had a nice walk and learned more about...elephant poo.

By the time we got back to where our polers were resting, we were bathed in sweat. I was looking forward to a cool ride back.

The beauty was everywhere...

We got clever on the way back and switched positions...



It would be really easy to get lost in those bushes...

Our poler had quite a different technique...others would go around corners. He loved to cut them...


It was a really unique experience...



Very comfy...

These are the papyrus bushes that those lovely, expensive papyrus cards are made from. It's also used for mats, rope and baskets.

Our canoe ride was over and it was back on the powerboat to return to the camp.

Almost there...

The dining/bar area...they had nice brown bag lunches for us when we returned with fresh rolls with cheese and little snacks. We sat outside and enjoyed some downtime.

More skulls around camp...

That evening Manuel and Mbusi were making dinner for us. What they were serving was a big secret and we took great delight in trying to trick them into telling us, without success. We sat on the deck and enjoyed the sunset while we were waiting.

Look at the wooden railings...

Gus, the owner of the camp, coming back to the lodge. Look how serene it is...

Our dinner was really good. Manuel and Mbusi worked very hard to make us a great meal. We had chicken, corn on the cob, some hot chili thing, yummy vegetables. Dessert was ice cream soup, not intentionally, but I don't know how you put out ice cream in 40 degree weather and hope it won't melt. It still tasted good.

This camp also did not have electricity and we had been without Wi-Fi and not connected to the world for 5 days. Gasp! Can you imagine?

Tomorrow we are off to Namibia...