Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The Hemingway Safari: Moremi (Part 7)

We are eager, we are awake early, it was barely dawn, so AH and I decided we could walk to breakfast without an escort. Just as we hit the main path to the lodge, we heard “ROOAAAAARR Roooaaaaarrrr, ROOOOOOAAAAARRRR” and I can tell you, it sounded like they were right on our heels. The earth shook! AH laughed as I nearly ran all the way to the lodge, even though Godfrey has told us not to run from lions, but to stop still and look them right in the eye. When lion roars, there is no more frightening sound on the earth. I would like to think I would have the presence of mind to stop and look one calmly in the eye, so he would know I am dominant, but when I hear that roar, my resolve melts away. I don’t think I want to find out if I am that brave.

We depart for Moremi, where we were camping once again. Savute was dry and golden, but driving into Moremi, we are passing branches of a river and ponds, and it is lush and green.

Before we get into Moremi, we have to stop at the North Gate, where two truck loads of French tourists are stopped, and have been stopped for four hours, as an impasse has developed. The entry fee to the park must be paid in Botswanan pula, but all these tourists have is American dollars. The Drifter’s guide and the gate guard have established their positions, and won’t budge. The tourists sit and swelter. Godfrey talks the gate officials into taking a promissary note from the company, saying they can collect from the company in Maun. Godfrey thinks outside the box. He sees solutions and possibilities where others see problems and dead ends.

Once he has resolved the French Tourists problems, we cross the bridge into Moremi. There aren’t a lot of times on this trip when I feared for my life, but this was one of them – and we ended up crossing this bridge several times. It was made of skinny trees, tied together. Some were stuck in the swamp we were crossing, vertically, and then the rest were tied, horizontally, together. You could hear them breaking as we crossed. The bridge was tippy. Our big truck was heavy. Godfrey knew what he was doing, but he told us that last week a rough camping truck had gone off the bridge.

There are hippos is this area, and crocodiles. I DON’T want to go off this bridge, this tippy, creaking, cracking bridge.

Now for all that I loved Savute Elephant Camp, we all agreed that we loved our own little camp as much. AH and our travelling companion are even saying they like our own camp better, and I have to agree, I really like the smallness and intimacy of our own private little camp, too. And, even better, as we drive up, lunch is all set up out under a couple trees. Sky, the cook, has joined the team, and is feeling better, and has fixed a wonderful lunch, including a curried banana salad and a rice salad and cold cuts and cheeses. We have time for lunch, time for a shower and some rest before tea and our afternoon game drive.

As we are resting, however, I can hear crashing around, and I can hear hippos grunting. Hippos have a very low, resonant grunt. Now, granted, when it is cold, sound travels, but this is the heat of the afternoon, and I hear hippos.

Oh yes, Godfrey tells us, we are near the hippo pond. Isn’t this a great camping site, one of his favorites! When we leave for our afternoon game drive, we find that the hippo pond is not 300 meters away from us! But we are in an official camp site, and we just have to trust that our tents are not on a hippo path.

Hippos are not cute. They are huge, and bad tempered, and very territorial. I really really don’t want to run into a hippo, and I don’t want a hippo to run into our tent. I love the sounds they make, though, and grow to love having them as neighbors.

We search and search for leopards and cheetas, to no avail. We see duiker, a tiny little antelope, and more zebras. We see comical Secretary birds, and marabu storks. We see lots of hippos.

Arriving back at our camp is nearly magical, driving in to see all the kerosene lamps lit and our chairs around the fireplace. A little like coming home. There is enought hot water in our shower that AH and I can both take showers, and then dinner – Sky has fixed fish curry! tiny new potatoes! Chinese snow peas! Crispy cooked carrots! And, oh my, creme caramel. Here we are in what AH calls Nowhere squared, and we are eating this incredible meal.

AH and Godfrey decide to solve some of the world’s problems over cognac, and I crawl off to my hot water bottle. We are all tucked in and sound asleep by 9:30 most nights, breathing fresh air, listening to the sounds of our neighboring hippos.

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September 17, 2006 - Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Botswana, Cooking, Cultural, Travel | ,

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