It rains and it rains and it rains, our night spent in the tent has been punctuated by the relentless teeming of an out of season downpour. In a rare clearing we are up and full of vigour for the day ahead, eager to get away we are in the car, first stop the most essential of all, toilet time. Safe to say that we’re in much better spirits today which sees us up against our first challenge before we even leave the campsite, driving. The massive downpour that was our sleep sound machine last night has made the pools in the road far more than they were, attempting to straddle a high point through the mire the front right wheel plunges into a steep hole. I try to reverse but it’s a lost cause, were hopelessly bogged. Cue an angel with a smile, a big African smile. In no time the guys running the campsite have us towed out and we’re on our way; lesson learned.
Venturing out the same road that we took yesterday the puddles are pools and the pools are inland seas, at times the long straight road ahead invisible for the water that disappears around the next bend. This stretch of road we now know at least, no big elephant holes like at the campsite to greet us below the waters surface. If the road was horrid yesterday we can’t put words to what it is today, unrelenting concentration is required to get us through without a similar mistake. Our guardian angels left long behind at the campsite, we’re on our own now.
And on this day goes, plunging the car into water and somehow back up the other side over and over again through literally hundreds of pools we forge onwards. Free from the millstone that was years of built up hopes for Chobe I dive into a genuine off road driving challenge and all the fun that it entails. About six hours into this real life video game we get a small stretch of road that is easily drivable, and with it the wildlife of Africa come out to play. Where yesterday we were bowed to the frustration of the driving battle today the wonders that cross our road are again just that, wonders. Groups of Elephants, Zebra, Impala, Kudu and Giraffe draw excited expressions from us both, we’re kids again. This is a strange sensation to become used to, I’m driving and I have Elephants literally holding up traffic, it’s too weird to be used to, it will continue to amuse and amaze; only in Africa.
The fun is short lived, we descend back into a marshland depression so it’s again literally more water than road at most stages calling back concentration I’d happily let go of for a time. Getting a feel for the pools we dash through them in smooth repetition, I’ve been going for about seven hours and not a hint of getting trapped, so far so good. The battle with the road rages on as a vision appears, the pearly gates couldn’t be this welcome, a huge wide flat road with barely a blemish in it; I could nearly cry. Passing a truck we wave in excitement, we’re on our way and the battle with the road seems over.
This blessing of this road feels like a deliverance, a few pot holes and little pools add a little to the fun, barely rating a mention considering the hours of punishing driving we’ve been through so far. Passing the river Khwai we get a glimpse of the beauty of this area, the passive river is carpeted with water lilies, white flowers open to the sun conjuring images of a Monet right before us. There’s a few detours around small potholes but against what we’ve done already we plough straight through, the side tracks seem far tougher than the pools themselves. Nearly there another mire of a detour sits before one of the most innocuous pools today; innocuous in the way that an open cut mine is innocuous. We sink in with a thud, water pouring into the car, this is the definition of hopeless.
Salvation is nigh, the guys that we passed earlier comes up behind us, guardian angels in a bloody big truck. There’s not a word spoken, amid my embarrassment they’re out of the car, jeans rolled up and helping to reach into the water to find the tow loop on the car all the while with a big smile like it’s nothing at all. They’re dirty and muddy as we are and any notion of not helping seems to have never occurred, these guys deserve wings. On a slow pull our car is plucked from the mud along with just a little of my shame, we don’t need to walk to town it seems. Handing over some cash it’s best 200 Pula ever spent.
Eight hours of battling later we make it to the campsite, after driving successfully for so long I’m still despondent about getting bogged twice in one day. We wanted to experience wild Africa and that we are doing, my disappointment a slight blip on an otherwise fun challenge that has been getting here. We’re out of Chobe boundaries and into Moremi and this is what we had been hoping for all along, an open vista greets us from our campsite of a winding bend in the river dominated by tall swaying reeds. A gracious vista lays before us as the baboons tear fruit off the tree right above us. An Impala dances through our campsite as squirrels, mongoose and kingfishers grace a grand fallen tree before our space. One beer down and my disappointment is long gone, we feel like we’ve finally made it, this is the Africa we came to see.
A dinner of boervos, cous cous and Stellenbosch wine set for kings is our meal tonight, but it seems we’re not the only ones wanting in on the party. In the dark we hear a rumble in the reeds, this can only be Hippo’s, which means danger time. Sure enough a bloat of four Hippo’s strolls by less than ten metres from the campsite, we’re poised to dash to the car but we hold for a moment to watch the procession. Up so close the size of these monsters is truly intimidating, they couldn’t care about us but their mere presence has us on edge, these herbivores are Africa’s greatest killers of people after all and there’s a calf with them, a red flag for danger. This day keeps getting better, back to cooking but with a pulse just a little higher than before.
Finally food is up, a final stir draws a sharp ‘shit’ from Charlie, a Hyena is stalking about six metres away, shit indeed. Not one but four Hyenas are edging forward from the bushes, retreating only at the presentation of our torch. They’re gunning for my dinner and after today we’re taking no prisoners. Known to be scavengers only we’re fairly sure that we’re not going to be attacked but still, this is a nervy situation. We manage to shuffle the food to the car and serve our plates eating as we are circled and stalked by eyes from the shadows. Glowing golden sinister orbs from the darkest corners of the bush outshine any children’s story book monster. It’s not the relaxing end to the day we thought but it’s more than relaxing, it’s Africa.
It does seem fitting that to experience this barely believable setting we have had to push through some challenges, an easy ride to this place just wouldn’t seem right. As happy as we might be with ourselves it wouldn’t have been without the help of a few guardian angels and their big African smiles. At every point where we were vulnerable and defeated assistance found us in prophetic timing, good fortune accompanying good deeds. If this isn’t real Africa I don’t know what is, it seems fitting that it took a little help from Africans to deliver Africa to us.