To get to the island we have to drive across five kilometers of floodplain. Its a beautiful drive past islands of trees, some dense with monkey vines and creepers, others an arrangement of palm trees on raised termite mounds. In between, there are white sand beaches, and acres of glossy green marsh grasses. Sometimes there are elephants, but more often a scattering of free range cattle and donkeys.
Its six months since we have been to the island. Exceptionally high flood waters from the Okavango River have flooded these plains, making it impossible to drive through. We are not sure we will make it this time, but Oneman, who lives on the island feels more confident. He knows this place. they have been returning to the village by makoro (dugout canoe) in recent months due to the floods. Now the water is too shallow for the canoe. With Oneman on board guiding us on a new route we feel more confident. Even so, launching off the dry sand into long waterlogged marshes is a leap of faith.
We cross a small stream, and squeeze our 4x4 vehicle through a tight alley of rigid thorn trees. The unforgiving thorns shriek against our paintwork like nails on blackboards. We hit water almost immediately, but its clear and we can see sand underneath so we press on. Flocks of waterbirds, open billed storks and egrets, take flight sending up showers of bright wet diamonds. We make it through that one. It wasnt deep.
We emerge onto an island and dip into water again on the other side. Its all going well so far and we start to enjoy the view. The air is softly hazy and all around the trees are full of blossom, filling the air with their heady scent. We drive across some dry white sand that squeaks and sings under our tyres. These plains are dry, and we suprise a herd of elephants who emerge from the dark shaded islands - suprised to see a vehicle approaching after all these months. A youngster charges out of the bush trumpeting, the adults make their way deeper into the flood- plains finally vanishing into the haze of water and blossom laden trees.
We have to cross a small gully. The water is tanin stained coasting over white sand. Looking down I see that we have only just skirted the edge of a really big hole. That was lucky. We make it through the next few long water crossings, ploughing steadily through bright water dotted with lillies and birds.
"This might be a little bit deep - lets go this way" Oneman points with authority and we dip around the side of a small island to face the final challenge. It looks innocuous enough but soon our heavy tyres are skidding on shiny marsh grasses, barely finding purchase. Somehow or another we move, oh so slowly, along. Half way we bounce through some holes made by elephants crossing the soft mud. Miraculously we do not get stuck...this time... and just around the corner, the island with its little village of tents, and the Catfish houseboat snuggled into a bay with a lemon tree full of flowers. It feels like we are far far away.