Chobe, Kasane, and Victoria Falls
April 7 – 14th
By Sarah Kechejian (University of Vermont)
Out of the bush and into Kasane we went this week. Tuesday presentations of the herbivore data collected in Mababe concluded our training sessions while a later musical performance by the chairman, Ketapilwe, gave us exit from the village community. He spoke no English but his sincere gratitude and hospitality were evident in his wrinkled smile and warm handshake.
We were able to get another glimpse of traditional Basarwa culture when another local man showed us how he created his hunting equipment, farming tools and artwork. His mission is to create the pieces while teaching the children in his community Sasarwa, the historic language of the Basarwa, and educate them on his craft. The children sat giggling behind him while he made fire with a bagpipe-looking fire starter. To teach the children some vocabulary, he repetitively named objects hanging on a clothesline that a child would run over and touch to identify. His wooded spears and bows made everyone wish for reliable Botswana to United States package shipping.
Wednesday we set out at 7 am to venture north through Chobe National Park and into the city of Kasane. Chobe didn’t offer any new animals, but some unusual topography caught us off guard as we drove through. Actual hills! The road wound through multiple rises of exposed rock, enticing us to come climb. While in Chobe, we came upon four lions settled in the shade of large rain trees and smaller acacia bushes. A group of tourists were parked in a open air safari vehicle on the other side of the felines, snapping photos. It was almost more entertaining watching the people crane their necks for a better shot then it was to watch the lazy lions lounge.
Getting to Kasane in the early evening, we set up camp at the Chobe Safari Lodge, conveniently located within walking distance of Spar, our beloved grocer. Kasane is more tourist developed then Maun and is situated on the Chobe river. Along with the plethora of European accents, warthogs, vervet monkeys and mongooses add to the entertainment of the lodge. (We have been on “lockdown” since a warthog stole our trash bag and the colony of vervet monkeys stole a banana out of my backpack, a block of cheese left out on the table, and Matt’s sandwich that he left sitting by his tent).
To the Caracal biodiversity center we went on Thursday to view snakes and the center’s other occupants like the rehabilitated warthog and two parrots that were rescued from the illegal market. Sixteen, Phoebe, Jack, Sam and I got to wrap a male python around our shoulders and feel him explore our tree like limbs. I was not as composed as the others as the python constricted around my arms.
Susie booked a boat cruise for a delightful Friday morning spin around the Chobe river. Tottering down the river, we came to the converging borders of Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia. We stayed on the Botswana side of the grass island called Sedudu, going along until the lily pads cut off our open water way. On our cruise we came within 5 meters of a sun bathing 2.5m crocodile (exciting and chilling) and saw a dead buffalo hidden in the bushes of the park (less exciting and more chilling). Hippo pods seemed to be in every pocket of shallow water. Susanna was positively popping with the multiple sightings of kingfishers. That night, we dined out at Pizza Plus Coffee and Curry (PPCC), having the options of Indian, Chinese and American (7/8 went for Indian–Jack got a standard size Mexican pizza).
Saturday brought us a great adventure over the Zambian border. We took a day trip to Victoria Falls, the largest waterfall in the world. Matt estimated that 17 million cubic meters of water a second come over the falls–I’m not sure that is correct but I’m supporting it. It is over a mile long! The spray got all of us undies-deep drenched in a matter of seconds as we walked the dubiously safe stone walkways on the opposing side of the gorge. It was perfect spending the peak heat hours walking in the rainy forest and trying to see the falls through the mist. We got to see the healthy community of baboons play around, eating, nursing, chasing each other. The park also offered a steep path down to the “boiling pot,” the water just around the bend below the falls. We stayed down there, lying on rocks to dry off, before we set out back to Botswana.
This week was a shot of relaxing thrills (if they exist?) filled with engaging, educational, hilarious excursions rousing our spirits to start out strong in a new community and finish these last weeks without a hint of resignation.