Into the Heart of the Okavango
Rob had a clearly defined objective for the next five days: Drive aimlessly around the Okavango & view the game.
The itinerary would follow the diurnal rhythms of the bush: wake up before day break & view some lion kills, have breakfast, sleep over the hottest part of the day, have supper as the sun is going down & then do some more game-viewing & hopefully spot a lion kill.
Every night we would eat before the sun went down, make a huge bonfire & then go game viewing. Without fail, lion tracks would be found in the vicinity of our tents the following morning. The ever present danger of predation meant nobody was allowed out of their tents after dark.
The longer that we were in the bush, the browner our clothes became & the greasier our hair. As we were all becoming less civilised at the same rate, this transformation was not noticed at all.
Meal portions were modest at best but with their monotony one battled to even finish that. Amazingly one felt replete on these inadequate rations & the clothes started getting bigger as time progressed.
Within days, we had all lost track of the day of the week & the time of day was measured by the position of the sun. Hours & minutes became an artificial artefact of civilisation as one’s body converted to bush time.
The six of us became attuned to the bush. One’s hearing started to notice the slightest twitter or movement in the bush. Even one’s sense of smell was heightened. All of one’s senses became one with nature.
We had no fixed abode during this period. Rather we were like itinerant tramps always on the move. In one of many of the reed blocked channels we swam with the ever-present danger of hippos being a concern.
We were wary with heightened senses but reckoned on the fact that hippos were essentially nocturnal creatures. Even with our lack of cleanliness, we relied on the residual stink of civilisation to alert the hippos to our presence.
Days merged into one another until after approximately a week of our bohemian existence, Rob announced that it was our time to move on & leave the delta. The last stop in the Okavango would be a spot of the map called Third Lake, if I recall correctly, an area renowned for its abundance of game.
Its exact location was a secret known only to the regulars to the Okavango. Rob unerringly drove without the aid of a compass or a real map of the area straight to this huge pool of water. That night was going to be special. Instead of salami, we would have a treat; some frozen steaks & baked beans. Of course the carbohydrate would still be mielie meal but any change in the diet was welcome relief.
Just as the braai was started, a foreign object appeared – another vehicle – & parked some 300 metres away from us but closer to the water itself. Having not seen another human being for a week & another white person for two weeks, we sauntered across for a chat. As they intended to braai as well, we invited them across. By now the sun was setting & the dangers presented by predators mounted. The group of ten of us strolled back to our Land Rover; four fresh faces to chat to.
For us the change in diet felt like heaven as we were even allocated two beers for the night. The moon was well into the sky before we relented & bid farewell to our supper guests. In a jolly mood, they sauntered back to their vehicle which was now out of view in the dim light.
After scarcely walking fifty metres, Rob sensed the danger of their unplanned expedition into the night.
In concern he shouted across for them to stay exactly where they were & we would drive across to them.
With Rob in the cab & the rest of us in the back without the tarpaulin on, we drove across, with one of us holding a game watching spot light.
The four sojourners remonstrated in anger with us about the unnecessary trip but Rob would not relent; they had to climb aboard. Clearly they were inexperienced in the ways of the wild & Rob let them know in no uncertain terms what he thought. Unswayed in any way, he insisted that they comply. With extreme reluctance they clambered aboard.
To relieve tensions, Rob offered that they join us to view lion hunting in the vicinity. As the faint track led us towards our visitors’ Land Rover, the bush was calm & undisturbed. As the moon rose steadily, the visibility rose significantly.
Suddenly when we were within 50 metres of the vehicle, a veritable zoo of predators awaited us. A pride of lions was devouring the remains of a buck that they had just killed. Waiting at the water’s edge for their turn to feed was a float of crocodiles while in the west a cackle of hyenas waited in anticipation.
All told a total in excess of 20 predators circled this one dead animal. With wide eyes, the American tourists starred at the predators. The lions noisily munched on the carcass while the others soundlessly waited their turn.
With the kill being within 20 metres of the vehicle, our visitors were unable to alight. Instead they gratefully accompanied us on our expedition.
The next morning early when we drove past their abode for the night, they had already departed. Whether this was in fright at the unexpected turn of events or their intention originally was to make an early start, we will never know. However we have always suspected the former rather than the latter reason.
Episodes of Living the Rhythms of a Bush Life
Living the Rhythms of a Bush Life Part 1: Prologue & 10km Trip
Living the Rhythms of a Bush Life Part 2: Makgadikgadi & Nxai Pan
Living the Rhythms of a Bush Life Part 3: Bain’s Baobab, The Mokoro Interlude & Starvation Rations
Living the Rhythms of a Bush Life Part 4: Into the Heart of the Okavango
Living the Rhythms of a Bush Life Part 5: Through Moremi to Chobe & Home