We set the alarms for 5am so that we could be ready for our 0630 pick up in order to meet up with the overland truck at Shoestrings. The next casualty of the trip was my quick try towel that got left in the shower hut this morning as. We had bought donuts from afternoon before and munched on those while waiting to get picked up and then in the minibus while we rounded everyone up.
We arrived at Shoestrings where we packed the truck, and we saw John and Christine that we had met the night before. We were quickly on the bus and headed off to the border. The Kumuka bus was a bright blue overland truck with a front cab with a driver, and a massive compartment about three feet off the ground where there was a bunk in the back and then two sets of facing chairs and a table on either side and then two rows of four at the front. The chairs aren’t terribly comfortable, but there’s lots of space. Sarah, our Australian tour guide sat up in the front cab with Jay, our English driver, who gained his experience in the British armed forces driving military trucks. There was a telephone that connected the front cab with the passengers that was used for communication while we were moving. Our bags were packed in compartments lining the side of the truck with the kitchen supplies, food and cookery, on the other side. On the back side of the truck, the compartment held the tents and cooking gas. Alisa and I and John and Christine were the only people just starting a Kumuka tour. The rest were made up of two groups that had already been on the road. The group that came with the truck, a group of 4 or 5 had come all the way from Nairobi, and the other group 6 or 7 had come up from Johannesburg through Mozambique.
It was a fairly quick and quiet ride to the border where we were the only ones crossing. On the Botswana side we rolled through a pool of standing water and also had to get out to stamp our feet in the damp cloth on the side of the pool. This was a legacy of the foot and mouth disease that nearly destroyed the country’s livestock industry.
We arrive at the Thebe River Lodge soon after and quickly set up camp and head out to meet our truck for the morning game drive into Chobe National Park. The morning game drive was pleasant, but seemed really short, despite taking 3 hours. Perhaps it was the amount of time we sat in one place. I’m all for observing the wildlife, but I also would have liked to have done more than just 10 kms of the road into the park. However, it was always going to be too late in the day for Alisa’s cats, and we only saw animals that we had seen previously. I think this might be my last African game drive, unless I go to Kruger, or at a time very early in the morning in order to see the big cats. Anything else just seems a bit redundant at this point. The hype about Chobe definitely affected my impressions though, and while wildlife was abundant, and the lake made for nice pictures, there was nothing all too special when compared to other parks.
We returned and ate lunch that was already being prepared by Sarah in our camp’s pavilion. The ‘catch’ with Kumuka is that the participants on the trip assist and take part in the cooking, cleaning, and truck maintenance rather than having all that taken care of. Considering the price difference, and that the tasks help with group cohesion it really isn’t that much of a ‘catch’. However, even though there was a duty roster with different teams that rotated among the different duties, Alisa and I were a bit hesitant to jump in as the people who had been on the truck since Nairobi kind of ran the show and we had to try to insert ourselves into the clean up in order not to look like we were just standing around.
We took a nice long on the floor of our tent, and based on how quickly I fell asleep, I didn’t think sleeping on the ground would be too bad. For some reason or another we had overlooked the fact that we did not have sleeping mats, and were now stuck with sleeping on the ground for the next week.
After our nap, we head back to Chobe, where we board a house boat like vessel and take off down the river, entering the park, and then cruising by the banks we had seen this morning. This compounded my disappointed, as we would just be retracting the steps we took this morning. Perhaps that’s the only part of the park that we were allowed to have access to? The park is over 15,000 sq kms, so one would think there would have been more to see than just this same strip of the river bank. We did cruise further out from the banks though and got some excellent shots of the setting sun over the horizon.
We returned and set up our sleeping arrangements. Alisa had her sleep sheet, which she was now worried would not provide enough protection from the cold, so she had me open my sleeping bag the whole way and we would stick our feet into the bottom and wrap ourselves with it as an outer layer. We also used the World Cup fleece blankets Elna had given us upon our arrival as padding, and my blow up pillow that I got for R35 in Joburg, which immediately became a great investment.
With that set up we headed off to dinner, which was to be provided by the lodge tonight and it was a buffet style dinner, with typical South African fare: chicken, borwoers, rice, mashed potatoes, and salad. We were still trying to integrate into two already formed groups, but with the World Cup Final that night John and I struck up a conversation that would continue to through the night.
We moved to the bar area of the Lodge where everyone had gathered and Alisa got us two double shots of Amarula to watch the game with. Alisa disappeared just into the first half of extra time, so she missed Andres Iniesta winning the World Cup for Spain, but when I returned I found she had already warmed our sleeping arrangements, so it worked out quite nicely.
Tomorrow we’re up to head to Maun for our base camp at the Delta.