Friday 4 July 2008 - Friday 4 July 2008
After a great day in the park we returned to our lodge to have dinner, which the lodge had prepared for us- squash soup, maize meal, spinach, stewed impala meat, and lemon mirange pie. Quite a feast, despite the fact that the impala tasted like putrid meat soaked in cheap beer (though Corrie loved it...).
The next morning we left the lodge around 6am to go back into the park with Leonard. Early morning in the winter is not a good time to see most of the more common animals (elephant, giraffe, hippo, etc.), but its also the best time to see lion. This time we didn't have much luck. We heard that a male lion was seen walking around the area, and we spent some time tracking his footprints in the sand, although we were never able to find him. Regardless, getting one last peak at the park, and learning about the park and animals from Leonard was worth waking up that early in the morning, and its not often you can spend sunrise tracking lions through africa...
We spent some time bumming around Kasane that afternoon, and taking care of the vehicle rental which we would drive to Maun the next day. Later that day we took a boat cruise through the park on the Chobe river. Our friends at the lodge had booked this cruise for us, but did so through a different, much larger lodge, directly in the center of Kasane. Arriving there left us all in a bit of a daze. We had spent the past week in some very remote parts of Zambia, Namibia, and Botswana, interacting almost exclusively with each other and black africans from very modest backgrounds and far different cultures from our own. Stepping into the Chobe Chilwero lodge we were met with hundreds of rich white tourists buzzing around the different souvenier shops, cafes, and white-linen restauarnts that surrounded the courtyard of the lodge. While the lodge was certainly nice, it was decked out head to toe in faux-african art, fake foliage, and homages to the colonial british explorers. I think seeing this poor attempt at recreating "the african experience" right in the middle of africa felt a little overwhelming and sad to all of us. But so it goes, where tourist go the tourist industry will follow and I'm sure these 'luxury-lodges' will become more plentiful as time goes on.
Regardless, the boat cruise was pleasant and relaxing, despite the fact that it was huge and overpacked with tourists. However, it did provide us with a different perspective of the park, and the animals that spend their time in the water (hippos, crocks, birds). We also caught a number of elephants "swimming" from one shore of the river to the other to graze on the greener grasses of the opposite bank. It was quite a site seeing just the tip of the forehead and top of the snout of this massive beast sticking out of the water as he made his way across. He seemed quite proud of himself when he met his buddy on the other side. When the two made their way back later in the evening, they were running, splashing and playing in the water as they headed back across. Couldn't help but smile.
That night we were invited to attend a braai (barbecue) with the lodge owners and their friends who were visiting from Zimbabwe. The food (prepared over an open fire) was excellent. We had ribs, chicken, steak, multiple salads, and crepes for dessert. We also had a chance to meet some new friends, Phil, Jana, and Clive, who live outside of Harare and run a safari operator in the parks in Zimbabwe. Obviously, given how desparate the situation has been in Zim, we were very interested to hear about their experiences. Jana mentioned that a few weeks ago she paid around 25 billion zimbabwean dollars for a carton of milk, and soon they would be trillionaires with the level of inflation. Although they said they are generally safe, despite being followed and intimidated multiple times in Harare before the election, they believe that Mugabe's administration will give way to civil war once they have taken all they can from the country and its people, and leave a power vacuume behind. Considering that this was the day America celebrates its independence, I felt pretty luck to be returning to a stable country where nearly all of my basic needs are met.