Monday, April 27, 2009

African dreaming.

You know that life is wonderful, truly wonderful when you arrive at the Okavango Delta. It is the Africa of dreams, the Africa of your imagining- scenic, peaceful with a beauty and stillness unlike anywhere else in the world

The delta is a series of inter connecting canals and estuary's with large plains, grasslands and marshes at its core that flood once a year.

After a 1 hour drive by land drover from Maurn we reached our departure point. Barko a tall, wiry Botswana man approached Rob and I and offered his boat for us to ride on. The boats like ancient, archaic gondolas or the punts you might find on a sunny day in Oxford or Cambridge were used to transport us in pairs to our camp site deep inside the delta.

Rob stuck up an easy conversation with Barko and when asked if there were holes in his boat was told 'just a few but don't worry we wont sink'.

The sun shone bright above us and even though it was only 10 am it was hot and strong- you could feel your skin burn by it's glance upon you.

Comfortably reclined at the front of the boat i fought sleep as Barko navigated us through the thick reeds in knee deep crystal clear water full of lillys and the occasional frog.

My relaxation was soon destroyed by a small leak at my right shoulder that allowed water to seep into my skin, it was not long before Rob who lay behind me was covered too and finally Barko our trusty guide was shin deep.

Convinced we were going down, we set about lightening the load- I made jokes about Rob's weight and he chastised me for yesterdays sausage roll- soon Lee the leader of all the guides pulled up in his new fibre glass boat and we off loaded all of our gear. Barko sped up and our last 30 minutes were spent drenched but in hysterics.

We made camp quickly and i placed my roll mat under some trees and had a long mid day snooze to the sounds of birds and crickets and the beauty of dragon flies making themselves at home on my body.

Later in the afternoon, we travelled by canal for about 30 minutes before setting off on a 1 hour walk through the serenity of the game park. It was magic and whilst the scenery was not too dissimilar to the Serengeti being on foot allowed me to feel like i was apart of the park too- like the other animals that called the Delta home I saw the reserve as they did. The silence was deafening and alone in my thoughts i pondered, content, happy and truly relaxed.

At sunset we cruised back on our boats, I took the opportunity to talk to Barko about his homeland, his family, his girlfriend and enjoyed our conversation like two long lost friends catching up on life. We watched the sun saying her goodbyes from the hippo pool and saw it disappear from the delta slowly, slithering behind the lake and the sky fill with full colour.

It seems that so much of the 'African experience' revolves around dusk and dawn and i usually see both here and end up tucked up in bed by 9 or 10pm. It seems like you can measure your day by the sunset, reflect on how much you've seen or done and remember what a wonderful world we live in when nature gives you delights like that for free.

That night our guides sang us traditionally Boatswain songs and the sound of their voices and harmonies were spellbinding- somehow Africans are just better singers that us Anglos. Really their impromptu song selection was almost better than anything i had ever heard before. Deep, smooth velvety voices carried soothing bass lines as the ladies sang high above them like birds flying in the wind. I slept liked a log, humming their African melodies in my sleep. Music here is like that, almost always hypnotic.

At dawn, we awoke with sleep still in our eyes and set off on a 4 hour walking safari. We watched Zebras graze at close range, baboons being baboons and not the sleazy scavengers that pester us at camp sites giving their whole species a bad name. We saw lots of birds too- Lilac breasted rollers, king fishers, pelicans and hook nose ones (i cant remember their name now).

Our ride back to Maurn, saw us jump in our boats again for one final paddle. This time at midday with the sun beating down overhead i was happy to be in a leaking boat, cooled by the clear delta water. It was a morning of reflection for me, the date of my mother's birthday. It seemed that despite the years that have passed since her death i always think of her on this date. My thoughts this year were not sad nor happy just reflective.

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