A Travellerspoint blog

Day Sixty Six and Sixty Seven – Paradise Found

27th and 28th November 2011

sunny 35 °C

We made our way out of Moremi traversing more pools and some, deeper than 60 centimetres in the middle, were too much to meet head on. Fortunately someone new this already and had bulldozed a new track through the bush for us. Leaving the park we passed through a village called Kwhai, it sits on the river Kwhai and it has a bridge. Passing through the town the tress had been decimated. Their trunks had been snapped clean in half, where trunks were too big the branches had all been snapped off. It was the aftermath of the elephants. It looked peculiarly like a war zone.

We were headed to the Kwhai Development Trust campsite. A local initiative that keeps conserves the park borders, a necessary migration passage, whilst generating and income for the local community. We followed the sat nav until we found ourselves in the middle of a field with three large bull elephants for company. It told us we’d arrived at our destination, we doubted it. A couple of wandering miles later we found a pitched tent that heralded the camp site. There were no signs, no fences and bar the occasional circle of scorched earth where a fire had been lit you’d struggle to believe it was an official camp site. There were pros to this. We and the tent we had just found were the only ones on a strip of land linking Moremi and Chobe game reserves. We were camping next to a river that currently contained both hippos and elephants and was one of the most stunning places we’d ever camped.

As a car appeared next to the pitched tent we introduced ourselves to Rachel and Keith. Rachel was South African born of British descent and is doing a PhD on bats and Keith is an Irish chap, married to Rachel and does volunteer work around Southern Africa. We got chatting, they were trying to spot leopards and wild dogs. I bit my tongue when Keith mentioned that their friends had seen “Tree leopards laast munth.” I wanted to tell him that we’d seen tree elephants on the way in but worried I’d just sound rude.

On one of our excursions Somers spotted an elephant carcass, tusks intact. We jumped out and took pictures with them, all standard stuff really. We debated whether to take them to hand in at the Chobe Gate office or leave them and tell someone where they were. We opted for the formed. “Err, hello officer, no, we were just about to hand this ten kilos of highly illegal ivory in. No really, there’s no need for prison now.” We took the co-ordinates like responsible tourists and very unlike the two that had just posed making elephant noises tusks in hand.

We stayed for two nights and as we sat around the fire on the second night there was the unmistakable sound of a male lions roar somewhere behind us. Five seconds later we were on the roof, bonnet up crouching and listening intently to the crackling of my steak burning on the fire. It came again, and had moved from behind us to our left. We sat on our roof, bemused and a little scared. The third time the roar had moved to our front and left, he’d walked past us. Boldened by our previous close encounters I said “Shall we...” and Laura said “Yes.” Four and half seconds later we were in the car bonnet down and Redvers was hunting lion.

We got one hundred metres along the track to the water front before realising we could only see the tunnel of light ahead of us and were now deafened by the engine. We stopped and listened. An elephant was grumbling away in the river, flood lighted by Redvers. We began to question if it had really been a lion. Maybe it was just an angry elephant. The lion interjected as if to reassure us that his roar was some way scarier than a bellowing elephant. The hunt was back on and another two hundred metres on we found him.

He was lying in one of the two wheels tracks that made up our road and he was huge. His mane looked like you could climb up into it and nestle down to a cosy nights’ sleep. His paws were as big as paving slabs, thick and meaty and his long sand coloured tail gave rise to a chocolate coloured tuft at its end that swooshed the night air. We sat with him for an hour, with a brief interlude to go and wake Keith and Rachel and get my camera from the roof tent. He would stand up walk a hundred metres or so whilst bellowing his deep vibrato before lying back in the road and sleeping in our headlights. We were so close we could smell him. We could see his breathing deepen with his sleep, see a mane in which you could lose your hands and forearms before touching his head, awesome is a word used too frequently, but awesome is exactly what he was.

We couldn’t pester him all night and so after an hour we decided to let him carry on sleeping and tried to start the engine. Ker-kunk-kunk-kunk. Ker-kit-kit-kunk. The battery was dead. Bloody lights. Laura jumped off the seat so that we could get t the batteries and we jump started him from the spare battery, thank God the batteries were in the car. We drove back to camp. Yet another nights’ sleep was interrupted by the loud and very close munching of a hippo. So loud we could hear the grass tearing from the ground and its teeth grinding as it chewed, all through the blind-fold of the night.

Posted by ibeamish 00:45 Archived in Botswana

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