Friday, January 11, 2013

Back.

Thank you all for following me through my adventures for the past 5 months! I had a blast! Hope you were able to enjoy a few photos and thoughts I shared.

FYI: My last two blog posts were written on my iPod so there are likely a few spelling/grammatical errors. I will take the time to edit this another day.

Cheers!

P.S. The skiing in Whitefish was real nice :D



Skiing with the Porc's!

Tanzania!


December 7th, 2012

So it's been a bit of a whirlwind adventure so far getting to Tanzania! On December 7th, I had plans to leave from Gabs and fly to Dar Es Salaam. This was a great idea in concept, but upon arriving at the airport I discovered my flight was canceled. So I said goodbye to all those at the airport that I could and went to the trusty CIEE office to sort out the changing of one more flight and my accommodations for the night. It only cost me an extra 40 USD to change the flight, so it could have been much worse.

After a bit of a hectic afternoon, made more manageable by the fast Internet of the deserted UB campus, I decided to go to River Walk for a late lunch and early supper with Rebecca before seeing Skyfall. It was a good way to lose some stress  and kill time. I spent the night at Southring Lodge, not far from the city center. 

December 8th, 2012

The following day I slept in a bit before adventuring out to find African Mall. This shopping center was rumored to have a place where I could get my hair cut for 30 pula, which is really quite cheap. I managed to find the place after walking around and asking a few people. After returning to shower, having lunch at rail park, and returning to the UB campus, I caught up with Mo. We walked to River Walk for ice cream from Milky Way. It was my last Botswana Milky Lane adventure, but it was great to catch up with Mo.

I then headed to Rebecca's home stay to chill out and make dinner. Rebecca, Lerona, and I all enjoined the home made meal of spaghetti, red meat sauce, and salad. Vegetables are becoming a necessity in my life again and I have missed then so! We then hung about for a while before watching source code, which we all enjoyed. I returned to the lodge around 10:30pm so I could be rested for the following day's journey.

December 9th 2012

I awoke around 5:30 am with time to spare before Bethel would pick me up at 8:30 am. So I read, showered, and reorganized my bags before he arrived. As usual, Bethel was about 5 minutes late and thus considered extremely prompt. I arrived to the airport around 9 and was checked in within the hour. I enjoyed a breakfast meal at the cafe before going through security. My flight was only delayed by 15 minutes and I began to believe my troubles were over.

I dosed throughout the flight to Nairobi, Kenya and the same to Dar Es Salaam. No problems, only another slight delay of the Dar departure, but all was well. Or so I thought. I arrived at the Dar immigration's office to find 1 of my 50 USD bills is out of date. This country only accepts newer bills. This caused a delay, but could be delta with as I simply needed to go out to the ATM, pull out Tanzanian Shillings, and then transfer them to dollars.  Unfortunately, the ATMs at the airport were out of money. Naturally. This caused a two hour delay as they sorted out the issue. Eventually, an elderly man referred to as 'The Boss came out to talk with me. I reassured him I would pay the visa upon exiting the country and he approved. I was finally allowed to proceed through immigration under the condition I pay upon departure. I agreed and thought that all would work out!

As I proceeded to the baggage claim, I found my luggage was not to be found. Oh well! I filled out the paper work and was hopeful to have it brought on later that night. I was finally out of the air port as thankfully the cab driver I arranged with the place I was staying was still waiting. I was sure he would be long gone as I was much delayed. He whisked us off to downtown Dar where I hoped to find a working ATM. This took two tries, but Barclays came though. Again, not ideal but it worked out. I finally arrived at Makadi Beach Lodge at around 11 pm only to leave again at 5:00 am for the airport to check back about my baggage and try to change money to pay for my visa.

December 10th, 2012

I'm sure the view from Makadi Beach lodge would have been very nice, but I was only there during the night. It was a warm 27 degrees, or 80.6 Fahrenheit, so my sleep was a bit restless. Thankfully, I awoke on time, and even took a stroll around the place. The stars over the ocean were beautiful! I only had a few minutes to enjoy them as Frank, my cab driver, was only about 5 minutes late to pickle me up.

We drove back towards town, using the ferry again, and through the downtown area. I always wait to see cities during the day and at night before deciding how I feel about them. This one is most assuredly a port town.

I arrive at the airport to find the ATMs not functioning and that my baggage had not arrived. Pretty much accomplished nothing but felt good about being at the airport early.  Things are starting make me a bit nervous as I am now cutting it close. We are to begin our assent of Kilimanjaro on the 12th. I have none of my technical clothing or footwear, only my shorts, chaos, and rain jacket. Awesome. I miss my nano puff Patagonia jacket already; sure hope it turns up tomorrow in Moshi! I checked in with Precision air, the one flight I had to call the company to change, and went through security without any glitches.

After sitting down for a bit of breakfast consisting of a bottle of water and a muffin, I put my headphones on to relax a bit. After about 20 minutes, two gentlemen in Precision Air attire approached me. They said they had been paging me, but obviously I didn't hear. They said they could not find my ticket number .  . . . etc . . . So I was to go back out through security and talk with the ticket office. It was necessary to explain the changes several times. I paid the 40 USD and was allowed to proceed back through the process again with a special note. It was written as follows:

'Dear Team,
Kindly assist this PAX as we can't residue his tickets he has onward connections and I fail to get confirmation on it.'

Awesome I think to myself, but this I not the time to worry about such things. I boarded Flight PW462 to Kilimanjaro Airport with what luggage I had left in the hope that the rest would catch up the following day. Never forget T.I.A. my friends, T.I.A.

Kilimanjaro Airport at last!!!!
The flight landed at Kilimanjaro Airport and I was collected by a gentleman from Twiga Home who drove me to the Soweto area of Moshi where I was welcomed into the Twiga Home. This guest house, or backpacker, is probably one of the most comfortable and nicest places I have stayed since arriving in Africa.

Twiga Home
I locked my bag in the closet and jumped on the Internet for a bit before receiving a call from the manager, Adelina. She told me all my friends were in town and the shuttle could take me there. I decided to catch up with them and explore downtown.

Downtown Moshi looks like a cross between Inhabani and the outskirts of Quito. The town is pretty small but quaint with African style. Many small shanty town type buildings are used for a variety of purposes, including vehicle repair, textile sales, and food services. These streets are teaming with folks moving from one activity to another.

Downtown Moshi
I met to with everyone at a coffee shop. It was really wonderful to see a few my fellow PLU Lutes Kelsie and Anna joined by Bill! I was also able to meet members from Kelsie's study away program that had just finished in Zanzibar. We did some brief catching up and I told the tale of my journey from Botswana to Moshi! I was interrupted by Julie, our driver, about a phone call from Adelina. She let me know that my list luggage was in Dar Es Salaam and would be arriving at the Kilimanjaro airport latter that afternoon. Relief shot through me as I realized that I would be able to climb without having to rent all of my gear and have warm wool socks :)  After purchasing a 1.5 liter of bottled water, we proceeded out to explore the textile shops around the downtown area. It was fun to see another country in Africa and see how uniquely different this culture is, but also how some similarities exist.

After a bit of shopping, we piled into the shuttle to take us back to Twig Home where we spent the afternoon relaxing and discussing our upcoming assent. The buzz of excitement filled the air as we joked about the gear we have or don't have and how we are all wondering if my luggage would actually make it. Also, I got my first glimpse of Kilimanjaro though the clouds and it was incredible!this mountain looms through the clouds. I have affectionately termed her the 'Beast'. We'll find out if it possible to make it to the top or not. It was a fun afternoon and we decided on going to dinner at Indoitaliano Restaurant.

We took the shuttle into town and enjoyed a tasty meal. I went with the buttered chicken with rice and garlic naan, pretty typical for me but really tasty. It was a great night of conversation and delicious food. It is interesting how Anna and I has similar experiences in Botswana and South Africa, but Kelsie and her fellows had a very different experience. Away is always uniquely different with a similar structures that are usually dependent on chance and personal. We headed back and I called it an early night as I had been up since 4:30 am and had not napped at all.

December 11, 2012

Woke up to see Kili, but it was covered by rain clouds.
Read and napped.
Breakfast a Twiga. Yogurt, muesli, and fresh fruit
Packed up and transferred belongings to mountain inn; attempted to pick up my luggage along the way. Failed.
Arrived mountain inn and discussed our arrangements and attempted to have my luggage sent this way. The mountain inn is really nice and fancy.

Mountain Inn - Pool next to the Restaurant

Mountain Inn - Room
Went back to town, cab ride was 7,000 shillings or about 4.20 USD, and ate lunch at The Coffee Shop. Bagel sandwich was amazing! Started drinking water excessively :)
Purchased snickers bars at grocery store.
Went to the bank to withdraw shillings.
Back to mountain inn. Called to find out about baggage; it was still a the Kilimanjaro airport. Decided it was highly improbably precision air would transfer it to Moshi. Decided to take a cab to the airport and pick it up. Good decision as it was only 55,000 Shillings (about 30 USD) which is a very cheap taxi price. Took about two hours to collect the bag and return to the mountain inn, but my luggage had arrived at last and I was ecstatic as were my fellow climbers.
Dinner, preceded by a Serengeti beer, was an excellent four course meal that we all enjoyed! Good conversation was followed by meeting Mrs. Luizer at long last! She briefed us on our adventure to come and ensured we had the vital gear for our assent.
I unpacked and re-packed after dinner and found just how thoroughly customs had gone though my baggage. Also, my headlamp was missing. Bummer. Packed up all my gear and only needed to rent treking poles, gloves, and a headlamp.
Tomorrow we climb to the Mandara Hut starting at 1,800 meters and staying at  2,700 meters.

December 12, 2012
Woke up at around 6:00 am to see if Kilimanjaro was visible, but it was a bit dark out still. At around 7:30 Bill and I rolled out of bed. I went for a stroll by the kitchen and was looking through the trees to see Kili, which was visible. One of the Mountain Inn employees took the time to show me a viewing point and I got my first full glimpse of Mount Kibo, as its said in Swahili.

We each had a Spanish omelette for breakfast accompanied by fresh fruit, toast, and pineapple juice. After breakfast, I rented treking poles, gloves, and a headlamp (apparently mine is gone). By 8:30 we were at the reception and ready to depart. Ester and our driver arrived around 8:45 and we were ready to leave around 9:00 am. Our semicolon hour drive assented 1000 meters as we drove to the Marangu Route entrance. It was a scenic drive and the rain shadow of the mountain is very apparent. Upon arrival, we unloaded our baggage, checked in, and waited for our portagers to weigh in their bags. They are only allows to carry 20kg or 44 lbs, and it takes four portagers per hiker.

Signing in at the Marangu Gate
Some suggestions and rules
So begins the adventure!
We departed around 11:40 am and headed up to the lunch spot, arriving around 1:20 pm, and then departing at 2:10 pm for the Mandara Hut. 

Lunch!
Most of the walk was slow and through a fairly typical tropical rain forest. This means it was extremely beautiful, shaded, and pleasant. We were even lucky enough to avoid the rain.


Upon our 3:48 pm arrival time to the hut, we took pictures, found the huts and bathrooms unimaginably nice, and then settled in for a spot of tea.

Our hut!
We were most pleased we arrived when we did as it soon started raining and raining hard. The rest of the afternoon was filled with Hearts, the card game, conversation, and dinner.  Dinner was ginormous, but you must eat while you sill capable of eating. We then discussed our plans for the following day with Robinson and Winifred, respectively our guide and assistant guides. It was good to have them somewhat giver. I fell asleep early as I am hoping to make up for sleep in the future days.

Trusty Mars Bar :D
December 13, 2012

Woke up 6:30 am, tea at 6:45, breakfast at 7:30 and departed camp at 8:35. Started in the rainforest and soon departed to the highlands, or Moorland.

Entering the Moorlands
Most elevation gain at before 11:30 am lunch. Started hiking at 12:05 again. Walked across drainages for the majority of our afternoon hike. 

Arrival at Horombo Camp!
Arrived at 1:35 to Horombo Hut, which rests at 3,720 meters. Relaxed and cleaned up. Had tea. I only had a minor headache and an acetaminophen cleared that up quickly. Then at 4:00 pm we went on a short hike up about 45 minutes. 

Short afternoon hike!
We then arrived back at camp at 5:25 and changed back into our sleeping/evening attire. Played a few rounds of hearts before dinner began to be served. My stomach was a bit upset until i had food in my stomach. Had soup and kakakakak followed by rice and chicken with vegetables. After dinner we were all ready for sleep, so to bed we went.

December 14, 2012

The morning started early as we were awoken for tea by trusty Simon. After tea, breakfast was enjoyed and final preparations to hike to Kibo were made. The 9.47 kilometer hike started around 8:50 am and took until around 1:30 pm. It was not too challenging of a hike, but we took it pole pole to ensure we did not shock our systems. We transitioned from moorland to desert. I felt that I was walking around the moon with Mount Kilimanjaro and Mawenze Peak (a peek at 5,100 meters) to the east of Kili. We eventually crossed over the saddle and could see into Kenya and Tanzania at the same time.

Horombo camp with Kili

This was a pretty casual hike and the hard part was being able to see Kibo hut of in the distance. All unwanted was to run up to it, but I knew this could shock my system due to the altitude change and reduce my chances of success. Speaking of running, a gentleman from Tanzania or Kenya passed us running too and from Horombo to Kibo huts. It was astounding that he could be running at that altitude. We asked Robinson and he said he had been staying there for the last 6 days training.


Welcome to the desert!
Upon arrival, we unpacked in the shared dormitory and rested in our respective bunks before an early dinner at 5:30. We attempted to stomach as much spaghetti and vegetable-bean mix  as possible before heading to bed at 6:30 pm. None of us ate a great deal of food as we were beginning to lose our appetite and simply wanted to sleep. Robinson briefed us about the up coming ascent and said we should be ready for tea around 11:00pm and ready to leave within the hour. I headed to bed with high expectation and jitters.

Arriving at Kibo Camp!
I was restless in my sleeping bag as my face and the backs of my hands were hot from sunburnt from earlier in the day. It took me almost an hour to find sleep and the right playlist to lull me there.

After a mere 3.5 hours of sleep, Robinson's flashlight shined in my face to bring me to a state of consciousness. While this worked, I was not thrilled about getting out of my warm sleeping bag to enter the cold of the stone hut. We all dressed in the other half of our warm clothing to prepare of our assent before having a spot of tea and a few biscuits.

December 15, 2012

We departed at 11:45 P.M. and began the unbearably slow trek up the mountain. Unfortunately, Anna had been feeling the altitude sickness since awaking up and fell back with Robinson after a ways up the pitch. Bill, Kelsie, and I all continued on as Anna continued on at a slightly slower pace. For the three of us, It took until 4:30 A.M. to reach Gliman's Point which is situated at 5,861 meters. This painstakingly slow walk was more of a mental game for me as I did not feel the altitude as I thought I would. I was only plagued by the occasional headache and very mild nausea. At Gilman's Peak, Kelsie started to feel the altitude and cold weather that we were all feeling, but we continued on shortly after arrival by request of Winifred. We then made the trek over to Uhuru Peak which took until 6:30 am. It was absolutely frigid and the wind was not helping our frozen extremities and exposed noses. We snapped photos and began our decent!

Uhuru Peak at the Summit!
  

After summiting, we returned to Gliman's Point to see Anna and Robinson awaiting our return. Their warm smiles were great to see, but neither Kelsie nor Anna was feeling superb. The only cure was to get back down lower in altitude.

It took until about 9:30 A.M. to return to Kibo hut for a snack breakfast; I was the only one with an apatite so I ate my fill. This was followed by packing up our possessions for portaging and preparing our day packs.

We departed at 10:30 A.M. along the trail and it took us until about 1:30 P.M. to reach Horombo Hut. We all rested after a long day of treking, with breaks for tea and dinner. It was a really splendid day and I was so thankful that Kili graced me with a summit. I was amazed that I was able to make it to the top feeling so well and able to return back down safely thus far. After another wonderful dinner, it was time for bed. I think it was well deserved after our adventurous day!

December 16, 2012

Our day started with arranging how to tip our guides, porters, and cooks. The following was devised as acceptable and appropriate amounts: 

Porters 30x6= 180 USD
Cook 1 = 40 USD
Cook 2 = 30 USD
Robinson (Guide 1) = 80 USD
Winifred (Guide 2) = 65 USD

These amounts were based on suggested ranges from Shah Tours and our personal feelings about how the trek went.


After arranging this, we enjoyed breakfast and prepared to descend all the way to the Marangu Gate. We were planned to stop off at Mandara hut for a hot lunch, which had not yet happened sounded tasty!

The hike was much easier than the previous day and we were excited to have fewer stones beneath our feet. We departed near 8:30 and spent 3 hours hiking down. The ecotone changed from Moorland back to tropical rainforest by the time we arrived at Mandara Hut. We enjoyed a lunch of Potato soup and visited with two pharmacists  who had also peaked that morning. They were very interested in the physiological impacts of the climb, and it was fun to hear a few scientists talk about their experiences! Interestingly enough, they used both diamox and steroids to keep altitude sickness at bay. In addition, they were monitoring their O2 stats to better assess the proper dosage for their needs. Kelsie, Anna, and I switched into our chacos for the remainder of the walk back to the gate, while Bill remained true to the hiking boots.

Back at the gate!
After arriving at the gate, taking a few photos, and signing into the treking log, we were given our certificates. This was followed by the tipping ceremony for the crew. Bill said a few well chosen and kind words. However, they may not have been fully understood by the crew as they probably speak very little English, if any at all . We all said our goodbyes and final thank you before descending down to the Mountain Inn.

A big thanks to our wonderful guides, porters, and cooks!!!
As we exited the safari style van, we realized just how sore we all were. We enjoyed warm showers and clean clothing. It felt so good to be comfortable and clean after a good, long, hard trek. We had an excellent dinner and enjoyed reminiscing about our adventures, particularly symptoms of altitude sickness. It was indeed a restful evening and we were all glad of it.

December 17, 2012

The following morning, I finished packing after enjoying a Spanish omelet, and then began the process of transferring to Twiga Home. It took a bit of waiting for the shuttle to pick is up from the Mountain Inn, but as it was free it was worth the wait.

I spent the remainder of the morning until 1 o'clock attempting to change the date of my flight home to the following day as I felt my time in Africa was at a close and I truly wanted to see my family. I have been missing them so dearly. I also was excited to get home a bit earlier to relax before a major portion of my family arrived for Christmas.

We then departed for lunch in town at The Coffee Shop, classic but tasty and had not caused distress to our gastrointestinal tracks. It was a fun last meal followed by a bit of shopping before returning to Twiga Home. I spent the afternoon making additional attempts to change my flights, while Bill relaxed and prepared to leave. It only cost a minimal fee to change the flights so I went for it.

Anna, Kelsie, and I went into Moshi for dinner and enjoyed our last evening by watching Love Actually, which reminded me of Valentines Day. It'a most certainly a romantic comedy, but I enjoyed the British humor.

December 18, 2012

After a short night of sleep, I finished packing, had breakfast and made the trek to the airport with the Twiga Home shuttle. George, the driver, was a bit late, but managed to get me to the Kilimanjaro Airport, but not before picking up three of his friends along the way! These gents were a hoot and a holler, in the words of my father, to have along. Upon my arrival at the airport, it only took 30 minutes to sort out paying for my flight change. I proceeded to security without a problem and border the flight to Dar Es Salaam via Zanzibar. This was a scenic flight, although Kili was not visible from the plane. I was glad I got a great view of it at breakfast. The flight was smooth, although the pilot might be a bit new as our landings were a bit rough.

Upon collecting my bags, I only needed to wait about an hour before I was able to check in with Emirate Air. Again, the process of sorting out my flight change went very smoothly and I understand why Emirate Air is ranked as a top airline. I will fly with them as need be in the future. I then proceeded to immigration, which I was unsure how long it would take to sort out as I had yet to pay my visa fee. This process, surprisingly enough, went very quickly. I arrived at the boarding gate with two hours to spare (I thought I would need all that extra time to sort out all those changes and payments). I think I'll chalk this one up to good fortune. Hopefully it continues and I am able to make it home to see the family.

Also, sure hope the skiing is good and the jet leg is minimal!

Okavango Delta Exploration!


December 1, 2012

CIEE asked that all the students arrive at the UB office at 9:00am to depart for the airport. I awoke around 6:30 am and repackage all of my clothing as I found I needed to wear something decent on our final evening in the Delta! I left on what is likely my final Botswana combi ride at 8:00 am wishing Pako a great week. About 30 minutes later, I arrived at UB paying 3.50 pula instead of the 3.30 as fares just rose. It was fun to see the familiar route pass by as I recalled my first trip to the UB. Mogodhitshane 7 and Tlokweng 4.

I arrived a bit early to the UB and waited around. During the morning, we spent around an hour making final preparations as dorm folks placed their extra luggage in the office. We headed to the airport a bit after 10:00 and checked in soon after that. We then made sure that we were checked in before having a bite of brunch. After finishing our meals, we went through security and walked out to the airplane.

Taha and Simone heading to the airplane
The hour and 25 minute flight took us to Maun where Kyle, Sharon, and a transport company met the group. We were wished away after collecting our checked outage to the Audi Camp about 25 minutes down the road. This camp sported very nice tent-hut hybrids that were very comfortable. After settling in a bit, we all chilled by the pool awaiting our sunset cruise up the river and back. This lasted from 4:00-6:30 pm.




It was a spectacular ride along the river, although we did not see very much wildlife. We all enjoyed being on the river surrounded by lush vegetation and a plethora of bird species. We returned to Audi Camp for a catered dinner, very tasty if I may say so, and a relaxing evening. It was enjoyable to be around great people and share a few laughs!

December 2, 20124
The following morning we awoke and enjoyed a buffet style breakfast before starting around 3.5 hour drive out to the camp Khwai. We saw giraffes, elephants, and even a chameleon on the road. It felt like a long trek, but it was enjoyable overall!
Mersadies and the Chameleon!

The camp is beautifully located on the  edge of a wide and lazy river. There has been rain just a few days ago so everything greened up very quickly! (See photos) This seems to be teeming with life, but we often are too noise and scare off any possible game that might walk through the camp. Our guides, Clinton, Scotty, and Neil, are pretty typical in attire and accent. They are all wonderful and good at their jobs. Camp consists of a long table where we can all enjoy meals under a well hung tarp, 13 tents for us, outdoor dug toilets, tree showers, a camp fire circle, and the dining crew's preparation and relaxation areas.



Water Monitor
After arriving and enjoying lunch, we headed out for a swim, followed by a game drive. We swam at a shallow spot in the river that was flowing at a decent rate! During the game drive we saw elephants, impala, stembau, hippopotamus, and a few other animals. The guides reported that there are African Dogs or Painted Wolfs very close to where we are staying. There are only 3,000 of this species left and are considered an endangered species, as they exist nowhere else outside of Africa.




The afternoon game drive was very enjoyable, but we stopped for a snack, drink, and a view of the sun set. It was a highly sociable time before driving back to camp from our watering hole. On the way back, the only real animal of I retest spotlighted was a spotted hyena! The hyena allowed us to look at him for a few minutes before trotting off with a smiling face.

Upon returning to camp, we found the warm glow of a campfire and a few rain drops to welcome us. It was really fun to sit around listening to stories and chatting away the evening before dinner. We had spaghetti with meat sauce and cooked vegetables. I have been greatly enjoying all the vegetables that are available at the camp! Strange to have such lush food in the middle of the Okavango. After retiring from dinner back to the campfire, drinks and a view of the stars through intermittent clouds was enjoyed by all!

December 3, 2012
We awoke at 5:30 via wake up call and enjoyed breakfast shortly there after. We headed out around 6:30 for a game drive and were able to see hippos, elephants, birds of all sorts, and the highlight being African Dogs or Painted Wolves. One of the guides told us that these were the most endangered of African animals. These dogs have a fascinating social hierarchy with an alpha male and female who are the only dogs to mate. Also, this species is endemic to this continent.

A safari guide spotted the dogs roaming around and called the other two safari pickups. These dogs, as we came to understand, were roaming around an impala nursery trying to scare up young impala. Soon after arriving an African Dog  scared up a baby impala and the hunt was on. Five seconds later, the baby impala was caught and the other African dogs were ripping the little fella apart. The chase and kill where incredibly quick and brought some of back to the crushing realities of our world. We were able to follow the dogs for most of the morning.



After this, we drove around the delta and enjoyed spotting a variety of animals including water bucks.


We returned to camp for a nap, lunch, and another nap. Afterwards, we went for another swim, followed by tea time and a game drive. We spotted the painted wolfs and the other animals we saw earlier.




We enjoyed another sunset over the river with a pod of hippos. It was a spectacular sunset that was enjoyed by all! A night drive back to camp followed by dinner and a campfire ended the daily most excellently.

December 4, 2012

 We woke up at 4:38 am to get started with the safari a bit earlier in the hopes of seeing some lions. We drove for an hour or so and then got a call over the radio that there was a very nice sighting of a pride of female adult and cub lions. Scotty sped back towards the other safari vehicles for about 30 minutes. We arrived to find 6 cubs and 2 adult females relaxing after a long night of hunting. There were zebras, hyenas, and elephants all around the lions. These cubs were rubbing faces with their mother in an attempt to show their hunger.







We watched them for a good hour before having to leave for the makoro trip down and back on a section of the river. These makoro were polled by Batswana men who grew up in the delta. We saw kingfishers, day water lilies, and some frog eggs under the lily pads. It was a long and hot ride down the shallow water. We saw a hippo skull and a few other minor things, but it was mostly a peaceful ride through a portion of the delta. After our ride, we went back to camp for lunch, which was brunch and really tasty!







Some spent the afternoon swimming and others lounging around the camp. I enjoyed the shade and conversation of those at camp. After about an hour of good conversation, the swimmers returned in time for tea and biscuits before departing for the afternoon game drive.


This afternoon we spotted a pair of Sideswiped jackals, Vervet monkeys and Baboons. The photos are a mere attempt to do their vivaciousness justice. The structure of non-human primates and theirs social interactions are simply astounding. We then moved on to see if we could spot the pride of lions we saw earlier in the day, choosing to skip the 'Sundowner' in favor of seeing more animals.



We drove back to the spot and found them casually lounging about in the shade. The afternoon sun breaking through the threatening clouds allotted for some spectacular lightening. Unfortunately, my camera's manual settings no longer function so I could only partially capture the beauty of the moment. We could see movement in the distance and hear the Wild Dogs calling. We were sure they were hunting again. Eventually, these dogs flushed out a group of impala who sprinted right in front of the pride. All the cats crouched in anticipation and my heart nearly stopped as I prepared to watch a kill. This pride, lead by two females, were too experienced to give away their position so readily. They remained hunkered down as all the impala hurried past. Scotty, our guide, sighed that he was really sure we were going to watch a kill. It was a major bummer that we did not, but we remained in the area to wait and see what happened.

The aftermath on the Wild Dogs' movement through the area left a group of Kudu on a raised mound at full attention. These fellas kept their ears perked as the pride watched closely. The cats were again waiting for the dark to use their adventitious night visibility, able to see with 1/10th the light it's prey needs to see.

As we waited patiently, the rain clouds began to look more ominous with lightening strikes and thunderclaps drawing nearer. One truck, Clintons', headed back to camp before the rains arrived. We waited a bit longer and watch one mother cat sneak off to stock the kudu. 

We did not watch much more as it was time to run from the rain. Thankfully we did not get poured on, but the camp did experience some extremely high winds causing the dining table tarp to sheer off a few aluminum support stakes. When I arrived, all this was already being repaired and so we joined the campfire circle. It was baari night so we waited for hot coals to he spread and the enjoyed our meal! It was another great day and we all enjoyed conversation arid the fire before calling it a night.

December 5th

The following morning we woke for our final day in Khawi before heading back to Maun. My safari rolled out of camp as soon as possible and we found ourselves back looking for the lions. We spent two hours following tracks that Scotty believed belonged to two male lions. We were unable to find them despite our best efforts.

We began  leisurely driving towards the bush airstrip in the Khawi River Lodge. Along the way, a mother and cub leopard passed right in front of our vehicle. This cub was much too old to be with its mother, but was ready for an easy kill. Watching the pair was spectacular. Photos cannot begin to show the fine line between playfulness and annoyance of the mother and cub's relationship.


Our guides thought it was time to leave these animals alone so we headed off toward the airstrip again. When we started leaving these leopards our guides realized they were walking directly toward a group of impala. We stopped and waited again to see what would happen, but nothing came about.


We arrived at the airstrip a bit early to have a spot of tea and chat while waiting for MackAir to arrive. We found ourselves soon wishing our guides fair well and taking off into the overcast sky. The three planes, two 11-passengers and one 7-passenger, took us back to Maun. The flight was smooth as it was a 'cool' morning and seeing the delta from above was nice. Our pilot, Ben, wove between a few clouds to avoid turbulence and a bit of enjoyment! Flying is simply the best.





Upon arriving back in Maun, we transferred to the Okavango River Lodge where we would camp for the night. A group of us decided to combi to Great Baskets, just a few kilometers down the road. We ended up walking while waiting for the combi and found ourselves at Textures, a small mall. Everything was overpriced so we began walking again. To our surprise, our safari cooks drive by in the company truck! We flagged them down, they told us we could jump in with Clinton who was a bit behind and we got a ride to Great Baskets. Clinton went inside and found someone to help us with purchases and general information. We found these baskets and weaved products reasonably priced for their high quality. While I didn't purchase a basket, due to lack of packing space, I found a few unique bracelets.

We then caught a combi, which turned out to be the service we had been using, and they agreed to give us a lift. We joined two folks from the USA who were wing transferred to another location. To our suppose, these were the parents if an exchange student we all knew on another program. The coincidences of the afternoon were unbelievable.

 We returned to ORL to nap, cleanup, and relax before heading to a fancy lodge down the way for our final goodbye dinner. It was a lovely evening with tasty food and beverage, fantastic people, great toasts, speeches, and goodbyes, and a lovely sunset. We were each given 'nasty names' from Mariela, who started it all from a song she invented. I was dubbed 'Nat-Geo-Nasty' because of all the photos I take and the outdoor activities I enjoy. I was honored.

December 6th

We departed the delta at 9:30 am and flew back towards Gabs. A bit of turbulence rocked our plan and there was soon much rain we had to circle before landing. Thankfully, we landed safely and smoothly. We all then departed ways and began the goodbyes as some were leaving at different times the following day.