All great adventure stories normally start with that particular moment when that defining “idea” was conceived, when somehow all comes together to make things happen, when then plan has been set into motion and suddenly you are there, living the dream.
My story should have started like this. For my birthday I wanted an adventure, for a wandering soul I had been stuck in one place too long and my body was aching to get lost in a wild place, breathe under the stars, go back to basics. I should have been careful what I was wishing for because the Universe and I have a relationship based on our mutual sense of humor.
The adventure started from the very beginning. The signs were there, we just chose to ignore them.
“How is Moremi?”
“Should be dry, rains haven’t arrived yet”
“Can you please advise on road conditions from Khwai to Savute?”
“Please see attached your invoice for above mentioned dates”
“Is it possible to get to Third Bridge?”
“We have availability, rather arrive to Maun and enquire at the offices”
“Did you see Gweta flooded?”
All great adventure stories seem to leave one very important thing out: the struggle to get to the adventure. Ours came with emails parts not being answered, reports from friends living in the area and a general anxiety due to the real possibility of “not making it”.
I wanted to go with the flow (something I’ve been working on) but the safari operator in my heart had tough time going with it and not having a set plan, and in the name of self help we took the plunge and decided the best course of action was to “wing it”. I have always wanted to experience the freedom of going on a trip with no reservations, no set plans and letting ourselves go as far as the Universe (or more in this case, the rain) will dictate.
Leaving South Africa was easy, getting in Botswana was fine… initially. We left our first stop over with a shining sun and with high hopes headed towards Maun, the gateway to the Okavango Delta.
Next birthday: better video camera
One hour into the drive I started reminiscing about some the previous time I had been on that road. I saw my first stone chat (a black boring bird) in that rocky outcrop, there wasn’t a gas station here before and we had a flat tire here when I came with my mom. As if meant to be.. clonk clonk clonk.. To make matters easier our flat happened right in the middle of a very wet section of the road where trying to get the jack to work was a waste of time. The ground was still to wet so the jack just kept digging itself in, we eventually had to park by a close ridge like crazy people, unpack half of the car (under the seat may not be the easiest spot to access things Toyota!) and wasted about an hour of our time trying to get back on the road.
Upon reaching Maun we realized that our hope of continuing straight onto Moremi was pretty much impossible if we wanted to be cautious people and fix our tyre before carrying on. Why? Because, dear fellow travellers, after 12pm on a Saturday, Maun becomes a ghost town.
“Operation hours are:
Mon – Fri 7am-4pm
Sat 7am – 12pm”
That sign received us at every turn, at every shop. As much as I love not ever knowing days of the week, this time it came costly as we didn’t realize that in the real world, where the rest of humanity not living in the hospitality industry lives, it was 120pm on a Saturday. All of Maun was closed and there was no hope for assistance. By some seer luck we got to the offices of the Xomae camps and the lady was willing to help us book our accommodation even after hours. A small victory for such a day!
Preparing ourselves mentally that perhaps we would have to stay in Maun an extra day, I decided to do what all girls do, that all boys refuse to do: ask for directions. In the infinite wisdom that is not being scared of talking to the locals, the lady at the backpackers sent us to a roadside “shop” where our tyre got fixed by Tumelo who, although very helpful, was not sober at all.
We thanked him, paid him more than we would have ever considered appropriate for the job and headed back for our first meal of the day: real bacon cheeseburger. It made us happy, it made us full and it helped us get through the storm that was about to unleash on our heads.
Finally we were ready to head into the Okavango Delta.