Day 22 – August 4
(CHRIS) We actually got up before sunrise for a change and were the first 3rd Bridge campers to hit the road. We drove back to our beautiful pond and saw the pink sun rise. We had coffee and oranges there as the earth woke up. There was a peeping hippo in that pond – all alone with a dozen crocs and not a care in the world. We saw a rare wild dog with its multicolored coat, puffy tail, and German shepherd build. He was chasing an impala. I wandered from the car once and spotted a pack of 20 of these later. They were running pretty fast so I ran to the car in case they turned my way. We later found out that there are only 5000 wild dogs left in the world. They are really cool looking.
Eventually, we gave up on the hippo landing and drove on. We saw a new antelope variety. The waterbuck has a white ring around his butt to distinguish him – what a claim to fame. We saw many baboons – one baby even riding piggy back. Zebras, giraffes, and elephants were everywhere.
We had a few scary moments because the road was covered over in muddy water. We went around where we could and thru where it looked shallow enough, but were eventually stumped by a huge, deep flooded area. We watched 2 bigger trucks barely make it thru – water coming up to the doors and onto their hoods. We looked around for a way about but we were stymied by marsh on all sides. Finally, just as Paul was about to test a portion by walking thru on foot, a nice small SUV and owner came up. They had no more clearance than us and offered to go 1st. When they made it thru, we decided to give it a go. Sam did a nice, steady drive and altho the water was at our doors, we stayed dry and the Asia pulled thru without slowing down. Good thing too – getting stuck would have been hell and turning back would have cost us almost a full day.
We decided to get to the famous Hippo Pools and eat lunch there. However, we made a wrong turn and felt crabby, so we stopped in a grassy field and ate… - PB&J! What a surprise! But it was good and we also had cookies and pineapple rings, so we were content. We finally found the Hippo pools and they were packed. We saw more than 30 hippos, some sleeping on land, some sleeping in water, some sleeping in mud. All this sleep bored us, so we threw dung and mud at them until they showed some activity and showed us their huge, scary teeth. FAT IS BEAUTIFUL. (But I would never marry a hippo.) We also saw more crocs and an awesome 3 foot lizard that ran rapidly and weirdly in front of our car.
Not long after, when passing thru a dry part of the park close to our exit at North Gate, we saw a magnificent creature basking in the shade of a tree not 20 feet from the road. Add another check to the Big 5 list – it was a leopard. And she was all ours – no other tourists for miles around. So we drove within 10 feet of her and examined her closely. Strong, spotted – vicious yellow eyes. Sleek, dynamic, luxurious – room for 4 and includes power steering. She was a beauty – she casually walked away when we got too close, but not before shooting us a glance that made me roll up my window with supersonic speed. What a beauty she was.
At the exit to Moremi, we expected the worst. We had stayed longer than our permit allowed. However, the guard only saw, “Day Permit” and did not notice the date (yesterday) on the permit. Thus, we were not charged for camping or for another day’s park fees. We were free – he opened the gate and we started thru… WAIT! He stopped us again. What is this? He saw the jackal skull we had re-attached to the bumper. We tried to explain it was from Namibia but he was not believing us and thought it was wrong either way. He was very upset and confiscated it. We were just happy that is all he did. We got away lucky – No more skulls for us (the ostrich had fallen off the day before.)
The border of Chobe Park basically touches Moremi so we were in before we knew it. More elephants, etc… The roads were sandy and slow but we got to the gate (well inside the park) at 5:30. He told us to proceed to Savuti. Go 66 km’s and get there by 7pm – no driving after that time. We knew it was nearly impossible because of the road quality, but Paul mad a valiant effort. He drove, dodging and weaving the bumps and picking his side of the road nicely. We were 15 minutes late, tho. But no gate and no guard! So we found a campsite - #5 – and stoked up a fire to scary sounds in the forest.
We had seen our first close-up hyena from the car minutes before arriving. This made all these noises very terrifying. He was huge, spotted, big teeth and claws. He looked hungry. Walking from camp and car to the bathroom was a nightmare. I said Hail Mary’s the whole way. Baboons were bothering our next door neighbors, but Sam waved an ax into the night periodically and I belched as loud as I could occasionally and they never bothered us as we cooked and ate our chicken stew.
The boys weren’t too happy with the stew and a lot went into the huge fire we had built. It was so big and hot that it melted a plastic bottle 4 feet away from it. Sleep came easy again that night…