Day 284: A Different Planet

Fri. 24th May 2013

Dawn at Moremi Crossing - from the balcony of our tentI might have missed the elephant in the middle of the night (see Janet’s post from yesterday) but I was woken at around 6am by the sound of what (I think was) a hippo using his tail to spray his dung around. We heard and saw this yesterday – there is a rapid splashing noise as the tail works to and fro. Heading out of the tent and standing on the balcony in the grey early morning light just before the sun appears, there was no sign of any movement. Noise travels a long way here and so it could have been anywhere.

Panorama view from our tentNot so much a pig in a poke as a Warthog in a Mokoro canoeAt breakfast, we all assemble and swap stories of assorted nocturnal elephant viewing and animal noises. Big Dave seems to have worked his way right along the river bank and given everyone a treat. We are leaving Moremi Crossing today and we really don’t want to go. We have been lucky enough to stay in some first class hotels in our time but this really ranks right up there with them. We love the style and simplicity of this place (let alone the proximity to the wildlife) and the service has been absolutely top notch with the staff calling us by name. We would recommend this place to anyone (Moremi Crossing website).

The departure lounge at Ntswi - with Liz and LieselWe fly out back Maun in 3 batches and we quickly ‘volunteer’ for the last flight out to give us just one more hour here and one last chance to spot that elusive lion (but no joy!). After a boat transfer to the airstrip we have a short wait in the ‘departure lounge’ – a bench under the shade of a large tree – and then we hear the drone of the plane coming in. Its only a four seater this time (a Cessna 206) and I’m lucky enough to get the seat by the pilot for prime views on the way back. After our 2 days in the Delta, we’re able to put the scenery into a bit more context – the waterways bringing some greenery to the otherwise brown and white flats. The water level is starting to rise with the onset of the rainy season in Angola – it would be interesting to see what the Delta looked like at high water. Perhaps we’ll have to come back!

The Delta a real mix of colours and landscapesZenzo is waiting for us with Janis and the others when we get back to Maun (after trooping through the door marked ‘Domestic Arrivals’). There is just time for a quick pit stop in town and to load up with essential supplies (i.e. water and wine for tonight). Once again, Zenzo’s intention is to get the driving all done by lunchtime and we have around 200km to cover to the small town of Gweta. So, it is pedal to the metal and – apart from the Foot and Mouth checkpoint where we all have to troop out and dip our shoes on the disinfectant mat – there is only one short stop for us to water the bushes.

Baobab tree at sunsetOur lodge tonight is the wonderfully named Planet Baobab. The reason for the name is immediately apparent as the grounds are dotted with these giant Baobab trees and the area has a reputation for being the Baobab capital of the world. We can also see why they are called ‘upside down trees’ as having dropped their leaves for the ‘winter’, that is exactly how they look. Zenzo explains that the trunks are spongy and do not have rings and so aging the trees is difficult. It is believed, however, that they can live for somewhere between 2,000 and 5,000 years.

Baobab fruitOne of the trees was fruiting – green furry fruit about the size, shape and colour of a Kiwi fruit. Zenzo picked up a fallen fruit which was ripe and dry and broke it open to reveal white powdery lumps inside with the brown/black seeds embedded. He explained that locals suck on the lumps instead of sweets and handed out some pieces for us to try – more sour than sweet, unusual but not unpleasant perhaps like baking soda??

Quirky is the word, I believe!In keeping with the rest of the camp, the huts we will be staying in are quirky and unusual – circular thatched huts each individually painted. Inside, a smaller, non-concentric circular living and sleeping area is separated from the toilet and shower rooms. All very symmetrical but the twin beds are separated by the width of the hut – no cuddling in the middle of the night tonight! Full marks for individuality and funkiness but less so for practicality.

Fountain catching fire in the setting sunThe benefit of getting our drive finished before lunch was that we were able to have a relaxing afternoon by the pool soaking up the sun. There was also time for more photography practice as the sun set directly behind the fountain in the pool making the water look like it is on fire. After 2 days of complete isolation in the Okavango Delta, we were very keen to catch up with the world (and the blog). We eventually got connected to the Internet after a battle with the WiFi and a prolonged discussion with the lodge IT Manager who made it plain that we were ‘bugging her’. It seems that here as in the UK, the biggest problem with IT is IT Managers. Still, that is why IT Consultants are needed!

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