|Weather: sunny and stormy
Landscape: wet and marshy
Our third country is Botswana, into which we dip for a few days to stay in the Okavango River Delta. The truck is left behind in Namibia with Kara, and the nine of us are whisked through the easiest border crossings in Africa. Instead of suspicious customs interrogation, all I get is "Mr White, have you ever played cricket or golf?". I think the two immigration officials were just alleviating the boredom by generating random questions for each other's entertainment.
A few hours by pickup and speedboat, and we are plonked into makoros, basically dug out canoes, with a local poler at one end clutching a six foot stick which will propel us across the shallow waterways. It's a bit like punting, but Cambridge it ain't.
We spend a couple of hours being poled through lily pools and bullrushes past crocs, hippos and elephants, egrets and eagles. At one point, we had to stop and make as much noise as possible, so as to scare off three elephants that were blocking our waterway. There's no swimming pool or bar at our camping spot tonight; this is our one and only night of wild bush camping. A latrine is dug and a fire started. The fire will cook us a simple pasta meal, and is kept going through the night, elephant dung being added periodically, to keep away mosquitoes and larger wildlife. This is the land of elephants and hippos, so it's a bit disconcerting as the only lone camper, to have to store our food supplies overnight in the spare space in my tent. The fire does its job, though, and the only disturbance comes from Julia wanting more booze from the cool box to keep the party under the tree going through the rain.
Dinner was by necessity prepared hurriedly. The marshy terrain is flat and you can see massive electrical storms coming from some way off. Just as we're eating, the pre-dusk sky glows a brilliant orange and the storm catches up with us. It's violent but brief, and gives me an excuse for a much needed early night, to balance out too many enforced early morning rises.
The next day we take our first foot safari, and find that Africa's abundant wildlife extends into Botswana. We get a brief overview of what to do if the wildlife comes after you: in the case of leopards, you just say your prayers. We don't see leopards, but there are monkeys, baboons, warthogs, hyenas, zebras, giraffes, wildebeests and elephants, but we are pleased that they are less interested in us than we are in them.
Then we are transported to a houseboat in another section of the peaceful delta. Never mind the scenery, though, the houseboat has real mattresses and a chef. Even Clara seems to enjoy herself here. Camp life is put behind us for a night and we have a nice three course meal, play Monopoly (the South African version), and Hearts, and have a go at drinking the bar dry. Having no washing up to do is the best cause for a celebration that I can think of, and it's the most relaxing evening of the trip so far.
Some of the group go out fishing and bring back catfish, which is tasty when fried for us for breakfast the next morning. Everyone agrees that the Delta was the highlight of the trip so far. But now it's back into Namibia and the reality of living in a tent. To break us back in gently, Kara has booked us in for a meal at the cosy camp restaurant.