Thursday, April 1, 2010

As I was finishing up a philosophy paper that I had been avoiding for the past week, I realized it was past 2 AM already. I had to be outside of the pharmacy at 4:40 AM, packed and ready to go. Of course, I had only thrown a couple shirts in a duffel bag and was far from prepared for the impending trip. Still, I decided to sleep for an hour or so—as if that would help at all. I woke up reluctantly around 4 AM and sloppily put together the rest of my bag.

The early morning still dark from the late night, we all piled onto a large bus, our bags in our laps, and our heads in our hands. We drove the short distance to the Cape Town International Airport and checked in for our flight to Johannesburg. While we waited to board, some of us went to get coffee or something to eat. As I normally have trouble functioning in the AM, I didn’t fail to convey this fact. After ordering a Coke Light from the man behind the counter, I proceeded to spill the cup—ice and all—all over the counter and him. He was nice about it, but I still felt bad. He probably didn’t want to be awake either.

Soon enough, we boarded the plane and were on our way to Johannesburg. Once we landed, we all gathered our luggage and climbed onto the huge safari-esque truck. We stopped somewhere between Jo’burg and Botswana for lunch and I managed to find a South African soccer jersey for a cheap price. Better yet, the jersey was a kids’ size so it actually fit me! I’m still in love with it.

After hours of driving, we made it to the border and left South Africa for Botswana. We had to get our passports stamped and it took quite a while—although it may have seemed longer because of the suffocating heat. Once we passed through, we drove for a while more and ended up at Camp Ithumela in Botswana.

I set up my tent quickly and immediately got into a bathing suit. The truck was so hot and then the inside of the tent did me in—I made a beeline for the pool. Typical of Brittany Behavior, my next stop was the bar where I made friends with the owner, her daughter, and her son (the bartender). I ended up behind the bar at the end of the night—making drinks for the owner and her friends! They threatened to kidnap me as their new bartender—it was difficult to resist. I stayed up all night and when the morning came, I drunkenly took down my tent—or tried to—and was force-fed a slice of toast by our group leader.

Once everything was packed away, we set off for Maun, Botswana to a campsite near the Okavango Delta. Once again we drove for quite some time but eventually we made it there. Some people went on a plane ride over the Delta and saw lots of animals from the sky, but I decided to go to town and get some of the things I forgot to pack. It was just my luck that the stores had all closed since Botswana basically shuts down by 5 PM on Saturdays. Oh well.

This paired with the incessant driving began to get to me by the end of the day, as conveyed by this journal entry I wrote that night:

This trip is supposed to be amazing. I’ve still got faith, but so far I feel like I’ve just been travelling and not getting anywhere. I’m tired of being on that bus for several hours at a time, sweating profusely and reluctantly overhearing conversations I would have loathed in middle school, let alone presently. All of this is irritating enough, but I think the worst thing is how badly my stomach hurts. These malaria pills are giving me an unspeakable amount of discomfort! Of course when the statistic says something along the lines of 1 in 140 people will experience nausea from Malarone, I’d fall into the category of the former. Ugh.
Having dodged sleep last night, I thought it might come to me pretty easily tonight. Yet despite how exhausted I should be, I’ve found myself wide-awake, wishing I had a fan or at least the ability to pass out. I just finished And the Hippos Were Boiled in their Tanks collectively wrote by William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. It was pretty good but now I have nothing to read so this insomnia is all the more frustrating.

Things looked up as they always do and the trip began to get more interesting. I finally got to sleep at some point in the early morning hours, but it felt as if I’d slept for less than an hour when Mike, our travel coordinator, woke me up a little past 5 AM. It wasn’t long before everything was packed up and we were ready to head into the Okavango Delta. A huge open-aired Mercedes safari truck pulled up to the campsite and after we stocked the tents under the seats and grabbed our daypacks, we all hopped in. It took an hour and a half or so to get to the village bordering the Delta, but when we arrived there were a plethora of little boats called ‘mokoros’ waiting for us. The “pullers”—the people who steer the boat with a long stick—put our things inside and instructed us to get inside in groups of two. The boat ride down the Delta was amazing and lasted about an hour and a half. The water was covered in lily pads and flowers and bordered by long, green reeds on either side. It was so peaceful lying lazily in the boat while we were pushed to our destination: a secluded island somewhere in the middle of the Delta.

We spent the first day mostly relaxing and going for swims in the designated spot. The village people had dug a hole up a small hill to use as a toilet—not something I had done before or looked forward to. At the end of the day, we took a walking safari on another island nearby, but we didn’t see any animals—mostly plant life. However, the next morning’s longer safari yielded close views of elephants and a close encounter with a warthog. Our last day in the Okavango ended with a sunset mokoro ride where we all sat in the boats and watched the breathtaking view of the setting sun from the water. All I could think of was an old John Mayer song that perfectly describes how I felt at that moment: “Didn’t have a camera by my side this time—hoping I could see the world through both my eyes. Maybe I can tell you all about it when I’m in the mood to lose my way with words.”

We left early the next morning to head back to Maun. Once we arrived, we relaxed for a little bit and ate some lunch. Then we packed up our tents and headed for Zambia. Yet again, the drive was long but we stopped before we reached Zambia at a campsite called Planet Baobab in Botswana. This campsite was by far the most beautiful of all, which was why it was a bummer that we only stayed for one night. Still, we enjoyed the time we had there and swam in the enormous pool until the sun went down. We called it a night after gazing at the massive amount of stars that shone more brightly than I’d ever seen.

I’m going to post the above to hold everyone over…but there is more to come about the rest of the trip. Enjoy in the meantime!


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