Sunday, 20 December 2009

A day in the Okavango


The following day at dawn we set out in the same groups on a morning game walk. The flies were less persistent and the cool morning air made it far easier to walk around. We headed off in opposite directions, walking in single file in silence. Occasionally our guide would stop and listen, prod something with his stick or look searchingly at a pile of animal excrement. Five minutes in and something caught my eye. I stopped to look. Initially all I saw were bushes but then a small head poked out – a small badger-like head which was soon followed by a small badger-like body. Two honey badgers emerged from the bush and trotted across the path right in front of us. These creatures are the size of a badger and wear a long black and white coat that reaches down towards their toes. They are pretty ferocious beasts, well known for attacking snakes or invading bee hives for honey. In fact, the day before the other group had come across bits of a python that had met its sad demise after a honey badger attack.

Later on we came across a lone buffalo (very dangerous), giraffe, impala and a family of baboons...all within just a few metres of us. We spent a good three hours wildlife tracking, taking in the sights, sounds and scents of this unique environment.

After heading back to camp for a few hours, some of us decided to go fishing on the mokoros. Slipping in to the mokoros, we headed out among the reeds until we reached a lake sized pool complete with resident hippos. The hippos were intrigued by us and headed over to check us out. After much snorting, grunting and yawning the novelty wore off and they dispersed back to their corner of the lake. Meanwhile we set up the fishing gear…which didn’t take all too long given that it consisted merely of a piece of cat gut with a hook attached and a scoop of mud full of worms.

Our poler Dipsy (yep…as in Dipsy the Teletubbie) attached a worm to the hook, flung the cat gut out and promptly reeled – or rather, tugged – in a fish in a matter of seconds. Claire and I followed suit with a little less success but within 10 minutes we’d both caught a fish (and a fair bit of reed!). Nat and Ravi were having a little more trouble and floundered about up until we all got too hot and bothered and left them to it.

That evening we headed out on the mokoros again…back to the hippo pool to watch the sun set. Again we enjoyed a spectacular sunset and one of the last few I’d experience in Africa. In the foreground, hippos dived and snorted and energetically prepared for a night grazing on land. Beyond that a sea of reeds and trees topped with the vibrant colours of the setting sun. As ever in Africa, another moment to remember!

Later on we rustled up a chilli con carne on the fire then watched as the polers and guides performed their tribal songs and dances. We were encouraged to join in which resulted in a bunch of mzungos squatting and jumping up and down in an attempt to imitate a frog. Their voices were beautiful and coupled with the fire and the sounds of the bush (flies and mozzies included!) made it a very special evening. We were then asked to perform…a difficult task considering we didn’t have a single singer or dancer among us. We opted for Jolie’s Banana Dance: a unique piece involving a significant amount of butt wiggling. The lyrics and sequence are as follows:

All the bananas in the world…UNITE! (arms from hanging straight down go out to the side and up to a point above the head to form a banana)
Peel banana, peel peel banana (peel yourself)
Shake banana, shake shake banana (shake)
Jump banana, jump jump banana (jump up and down)
Go banana GO! (punch fist in the air)

And not only did we do the Banana Dance but our polers and guides LOVED the Banana Dance. In fact they asked us to perform it again and again as they tried to learn the words. They even started singing it in their own language and doing the moves! Whilst our performance could have left us die a mortal death of embarrassment, we were fortunate to be saved by the musical genius that is the Banana Dance

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