African Safari – Part 4
We were “knocked up” at 5:30 our third morning at The River Club. (The innuendo refers to a knock on the door to wake you, rather than … whatever you were thinking).
After breakfast, we seven — Marilyn and Peter B, Arden and Charleen, Bruce, husband Peter and I — headed to Botswana. It was an hour’s drive to a point on the Zambezi River where we would be taken across by motor boat, our van, by ferry. The crossing is notorious for hours-long lines to cross a relatively narrow stretch of river, all complicated by the politics of the four countries that touch there — Zambia, which we were leaving, Botswana, where we were going, non-confrontational Namibia, and unpredictable Zimbabwe. Each makes claims on the only place in the world where four countries meet, though even that “point” is argued. Read about the four corners “quadripoint” here.
The magic that began the day before in Simonga Village wafted along with us during a blissful several hours on the Chobe River near Kasane, Botswana. It was like moving through an exquisite, real-life, real-time diorama. No Disneyland safari park, this!
Between them, our eagle-eyed guide Russell, and safari organizer and raconteur Kate, kept us enchanted with their encyclopedic knowledge and endless stories!
Russell spotted this well-camouflaged, four-foot long water monitor lizard stretched sinuously on a log.Later, we saw the same bloat of hippos munching on grass, even though they don’t normally eat in daytime. Hippos don’t see well, but this one acted as if he had 20/20 vision.
Cape buffalo, said to be as dangerous as hippos, look as if they should have ferocious headaches from the massive horns that look like heavy-duty truck bumpers. We got a “smile” from a medium-sized crocodile as we passed. The rest of his bask lurked nearby. None of us will ever forget this memory of elephants at river’s edge, but the two dead
ellies we saw later were a terrible sight as well as a gag-inducing one. We held our noses, all except Peter who can’t smell at all, not even several tons of dead elephant just beyond the bow. Between Peter’s faulty nose and his sometimes enviable ability to sleep through anything, he missed many of the most memorable events on our trip.
Though Kate was the story-teller, the entertainer, Russell had a repertoire too. He told us that he’d guided one of President Bush’s daughters earlier that year,  so the secluded spots he picked for his safari-goers to “go,” were now referred to as “George” or “Laura!” We laughed at the symbolism of Russell’s “bathroom humor.” He also confessed that his little daughter always begged him to play “Barbies” with her. The idea of that big fearless outdoorsman fitting a Barbie doll into her minuscule clothes made us roar with laughter.
From Kasane we flew in two toy-like airplanes to a landing strip that wasn’t much longer than our driveway at home. This was the back of beyond! The “terminal” was a metal awning set on four poles, Kate handled the bags, and a hulking Land Rover awaited, keys in the ignition. Russell’s smile was set on high beam as he hopped into the driver’s seat. “Now our work begins,” he said.
Until then, none of us realized that we hadn’t been “on safari” yet. We’d enjoyed a well-orchestrated, gentle easing-in to the real adventure to come in the African bush.
That day we had seen a small zoo’s worth of animals, but it would be another twenty-four hours before we saw a dazzle. And we never did see a leap.
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More stories from our best trip ever will follow before too long, but for now I’m heading back to where I am — here!
Some of the photos above were taken by Peter B.
We took the same shots, but he had the better camera and shared his results with me.