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Day Sixty Four – Lion Awake at Third Bridge

25th November 2011

34 °C

Our time in Maun drew to a close and off we set; jerry cans full, towards Moremi Game Reserve. Moremi is a reserve inside the Delta, so far we’d seen the Okavango from the water and from the air, now it was time to see it on the ground.

We weren’t to be disappointed. An hour through the gates and a lioness crossed our path and sat under the tree that we were parked next to. She lay there for ten minutes about three metres from the car. I took a thousand pictures of the same pose and then she yawned, stood up and gracefully continued into the bush.

The concept of maps and roads I’ve already alluded too and it was here in Moremi that we were learning that a road on a map doesn’t necessarily exist, or whilst it may exist, a marsh and several feet of water may have grown/flooded across it. At times we’d have been better had we been in a flat bottomed boat rather than a long-legged Redvers. We drove through pool after pool along our ‘road’ and several times turned back on discovering our road was now a home to a small family of hippos and a marsh. Still Redvers’ new shoes coped admirably, the decision to fit mud tyres being the best we’ve made yet. We arrived at Third Bridge campsite an hour before dusk, we started a blazing fire and ate steak, chilli sauce and papa.

Probably the most exciting thing about the campsites in Botswana is that no one ever bothers to fence them. They are just sites in national parks where you camp, and this means anything can walk through the camp. How exciting. Our roof tent would come into its’ own, we’d be seven feet above the nasties that might eat us and we joked before bedtime about how a hippo might come for Redvers in the night. Our heads hit our feathered pillows; ear plugs were not installed as we were ‘with nature.’ As we fell asleep we heard hippo grunting in the bushes, birds roosting and cicadas squeaking their evening chorus. We fell asleep.

“Hon! Listen!” screamed Somers in a hushed and anxious tone. A second almighty roar eminated from somewhere about a hundred metres in front of Redvers followed by a series of lesser ‘hurgggh-hurggh-hurgh’ noises. “Jeepers,” I thought still half asleep but rapidly gaining my senses.

It’s difficult to explain how a campsite that seems so innocuous in daylight can become so terrifying in the dark. Only the slightest sliver of moon lit the night, it was not enough to see beyond vague shadows of trees around our camp. The roar came again. We lay on our bellies, resting our elbows on our pillows with our heads in our hands. Peering out into the dark shadows through the thin mesh of the tent door wondering where the lion was. I was already running through the escape plan. I hadn’t put the bonnet up; we’d been told it stops the lion jumping up and on to the roof. The car doors were locked, fumbling for the lock in the dark whilst simultaneously soiling your pants in two separate ways could be fatal. Somers suggested that as well as the mesh door, we zip up the canvas door of the tent, as if it were made of a lion proof fabric. I wondered how I could distract such a beast before jumping down and into the car and trying to run him over. We lay there in the dark. We were crapping ourselves.

A loud crack sounded, we had no idea what it was but we were sure that it was manmade. The lions roar was tempered, only the ‘hurgh-hurgh-hurgh’ remained and it grew steadily fainter as he moved away from us. Sleep came only intermittently for the rest of the night. We rose early, tired and started for Xakanaxa.

Posted by ibeamish 00:39 Archived in Botswana

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