acacia blossoms

acacia blossoms

Friday, November 28, 2008

more mundane

I am feeling that Billys Story is a tough one to follow. So in the eternal balance of things I am going to write about mundane, day to day stuff.

Yesterday I painted the office. What a relief. I didn’t really mean to get into an epic, but had the paint in waiting, and started to dab at the worst bits, thinking I could progress slowly moving around the room – shifting mountains of paper and computer parts as I went.

However Rayson appeared at the door, caught me red handed and the whole thing turned professional from then on. Good thing really. Rayson is our life support system. He runs this place. He knows how everything works and if we want to make structural changes, at this stage we ask him first. He is a Shangaan from this area, and a man of few words – except when he is on his own…. He talks to himself. I have heard him many times, and assumed he had visitors – but not so. He is one of those rare people that seems content with his own company. When he gets tired of that, which is not too often, he goes visiting next door, or home to Guyani.

He stepped into the room and rolled his eyes. I blustered about saying ‘no its ok, if we start here we can move this stuff over there and then back again as we go around’. As usual he ignored me and decided it was better to move EVERYTHING. Its not a big room – about five meters square? But there is a LOT of stuff in there… paper, files, books, gadgets, CDs, cameras blah blah more and more stuff. I started bagging everything and soon the rest of the house was full and the office was empty -
except for the big table and a mountain in the middle.

There was the familiar crash on the roof and thundering footsteps as the monkeys paid us a visit. Most of the troop are off feeding in the new summer green, but there is one male who thinks we should still be on the circuit. Now and again I hear K shouting as the monkey had found his way into the house. Then a female with a new baby came with a troop of youngsters. She sat outside patiently feeding her baby – its little grey face peeping out of her fur, watching the older ones play grandmothers footsteps with me at the door. No guys – this is not a game – don’t come in here ok.

It was a hot hot day and the monkeys made themselves comfortable on the cushions on the stoep. Some underneath on the cool cement, some languishing in comfort on pillows. Whilst Rayson and I sweated away in the tiny office slapping paint on tired walls.

The warthogs have completely dispersed too. There is one very pregnant female who now looks more like a pot bellied pig than a warthog. Her babies must be due soon then she will have a train of little chipolatas following her around. Leopard bait – so she will have to be uber-vigilant.

Our lawn is trying to recover. Bright needles of green are springing up, though it is taking longer than the surrounding veld. In the evening there is a herd of impala that sleep near the house. We see their white tails fluttering like bunting in the grey light. The males have started rutting already and race around chasing each other making that weird noise like tearing cardboard.

The office is now finished. The colour came out much whiter than intended – more a soft ivory than a stone/suede colour but its fine and fresh and light. The big old table is painted blue and several crate loads of rubbish have been carted out. It’s a great feeling.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Africa book list

Reya has been asking about books to read that give you a feel for living in Africa. So here is a quick list of recent reads that I enjoyed. I have skipped all the classics, and I am sure many newer ones that I have forgotten, and have also omitted any that I havent personally read yet. If anyone has any more suggestions please feel free to add.

Don’t Lets Go To The Dogs Tonight by Alexander Fuller (loved it; Zimbabwe times)

Scribbling the Cat by Alexander Fuller (fascinating)

Rules of the Wild by Francesca Marciano (modern life Nairobi - great read)

When a Crocodile Eats the Sun by Peter Godwin (tragic tale of Zimbabwe today)

Dark Star Safari by Paul Theraux (great travel writing)

Africa House by Christina Lamb (fascinating history of unique place in Zambia)

The Last King of Scotland by Giles Foden (Uganda - Amin regime - did you see the movie?)

Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (missionary family in Congo - wonderful)

Twenty Chickens for a Saddle by Robyn Scott (childhood in Botswana - great read)

The No1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith (lovely gentle tales)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Billys story

I wrote this at the height of the drought a month or so ago. Am not sure if its appropriate but it is an African story so here goes...

It’s a hot afternoon. The warthogs fix me with a beady stare trying to induce me to feed them early and more often. Monkeys pound the tin roof hoping for a share of anything that’s going, or can be opportunistically snatched.

Billy drives in on his way home from the bush. I offer him a cold beer and we sit on the stoep catching up on news. As we talk he tells a story that has recently happened in his area and is a symptom of the changing times, the drought and what happens when humans and animals compete in the same areas for the same resources. It is an African story – where humans meet wild animals at ground level. It is a story that has its roots in the history of life on earth and echoes way down through the eons of time..

It was October in Mozambique – suicide month. The ground baked and shimmered like last nights coals. The young women of the village had to walk far to collect water, and firewood. In the breathless heat, they walked slowly, chatting and laughing together as they spoke of the web of lives that held the village together. Boyfriends, husbands, children , old folk – friends and enemies. It was all there in a rich pageant. Their bare feet, hardened by years of earth walking, sink gently into the quartzy sand with each step where city feet would recoil from heat. Their mahogany skin shining as heat drew moisture from their personal reserves.

In the forest up ahead a breeding herd of elephants moved restlessly in search of water to drink and bathe; leaves and bark to browse. The green grasses of summer a distant memory – food is scarce – water is scarce – the way to each is fraught with danger. Youngsters hurried next to the giant stride of their mothers – their footsteps marking out a regular rhythm. Despite the quiet urgency of their passage a pack of scrawny village dogs races out to bark and chase them. Villagers, alerted, start banging pots to chase the herd away. The headman reached for his rifle. In the drowsy heat he does not want the elephants in his village, raiding his crops; terrorising his family.

The matriarch streams moisture from her temporal gland. Already under stress, she starts to panic. If she doesn’t lead the herd to water or food, the calves will start to drop.

The women are coming over the rise. They are in sight of the village but they are watching the road; carrying heavy loads of firewood or drums of water balanced on their heads – bringing it home to their families. They do not see the elephants.

The matriarch hears their lively chatter. She feels trapped, under pressure. She mock charges – kicking sand in the air. Hoping to stop the approach of the women until her herd has crossed the road safely away from the village. The women do not see her.
She mock charges again – kicking a spray of sand into the torpid air. Still the women do not see her. She has to charge. Anger rises with fear and she can no longer stop herself. She puts her head down and starts to run – covering the ground with a speed that belies her size.

Too late the women look up. They scatter, dropping wood and water – running running. The matriarch has them in her sights – she closes on them quickly and all her panic fear and anger is raged upon one unlucky girl – like a floodgate opened.

Billy is called to the village. The girl has been trampled to death.. but more than that… her body parts are scattered far and wide. Her head is off; her legs are thrown carelessly 50m from her torso. Arms also severed. A killing spree. The village is outraged – anger and fear peaking in their clamour for revenge. Billy must track the elephant – shoot it.

The police arrive. Billy must first find the body parts. No, his job is to find the elephant – the police must look to the victim. No-one wants that job. The police gather what they can and leave. Billy goes with a tracker from the village. Its more than 40C and they follow the track for hours until finally they lose sight of it amongst the rocks.

Returning to the village the funeral is already in process. They must bury the girl quickly in this heat. The mother is keening her grief; on seeing Billy she wails louder moving close to his vehicle – her cries an outpouring of grief that must run its course. Billy and the tracker are exhausted – the heat and dehydration taking their toll. They have walked far into the bush, following tracks at a fast pace - only realising how far they had gone when they turned to walk back.

Before he can leave, he must go to meetings to discuss the death by elephant, and the conflict between people and the animals of the national park. It is a conflict as old as Africa itself and still no-one has come up with an effective solution. As human populations increase, encroaching more and more into wildlife areas, so the conflicts intensify.

A week later, an elephant is crop raiding at the village. Billy has to shoot it. The elephant falls 40m from the grave of the young girl. Its not the same elephant but honour is somehow satisfied for now.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Lori's thanksgiving meme

Lovely Lori has suggested a new meme version of the wierd and random one -
"Since Thanksgiving is right around the corner and it is one of my favorite times of the year, can we start a Meme that lists the 7 things we are Thankful for?"

OK the main ones are always my fantastic family of friends – I am SO lucky that they hang in with me, and keep me sane when I think I’m not, laugh at my jokes, share their troubles and joys and families. That’s a big thank you for that.

I am thankful for my health, despite some of the abuse I have laid on my body – I m still here and I am thankful for that; that I can see, and hear, and smell and taste and walk about, read, write, speak, - ok I’ll leave out singing and dancing!

When I went caving recently – not properly, just wandering about underground following a piece of string – I was REALLY thankful to get back into the fresh air and sunlight! I am thankful to be alive on this beautiful planet, with the opportunities to explore remote and beautiful places of Africa.

I am thankful that I have enough to eat and drink, and a roof over my head ;

I am thankful I had such wonderful parents

I am thankful for my very interesting life which is sometimes challenging but never dull;

I am thankful for the opportunity to get to know all of you in the blogging fraternity and share windows on your lives in so many different places in the world! you uplift and inspire me in so many ways;

Oh is that 7 already? Guess I have so much more to be thankful for that the list could go on and on.
Anyhow I tag anyone who wants to do this meme -but I name these three - Karen at Border Town Notes;
Chesapeake Bay Woman
; and Katherine from the Last Visible Dog


Friday, November 21, 2008

bookshelf meme

Bookshelf meme

Rob of Inukshuck Adventures over in Canada has tagged me on this here goes... Do visit his site - its a fabulous window on life in Toronto.

The rules:
(a) Fiction book(b) Autobiography(c) Non-fiction book(d) A fourth book of your choice from any genre.Explain why the books are essential reads in no more than 30 words per book.

1 Firstly, The Secret Life Of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd has to be one of my all time favourites. I have bought several copies and passed them on. Not only does it appeal to my long term fascination with bee-keeping and farming; but it also embraces those who feel marginalised and celebrates the healing power of love across the social barriers. I also love the symbolism, and setting, the characters; and of course the bees.

2 Then there is Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts……… Although billed as fiction it is, I believe, also the story of his life so I hope it qualifies. Rivetting descriptions of the chaotic warmth of Mumbai slum lands, and an epic tale of survival overcoming so many mountainous odds.

3 Anatomy of the Spirit by Carolyn Myss – because I am fascinated with energy healing and this deals with the interconnectedness of mind, body and spirit – how spiritual and emotional stresses can manifest in the physical body. It’s a great reference book to go back to again and again.

4 Twenty Chickens for a Saddle by Robyn Scott – I read this recently. It’s a story about an unusual African childhood in Botswana. Various issues of African life seen through the eyes of a young girl whose father is a doctor, and whose mother is a committed homeopath – and all the many characters they encounter inside the family and out. Wonderful reading!

Lastly I ‘d love to tag everyone because I always love to hear of new reads. But as I'm supposed to tag 4 I choose Angela, Adrianne, Katherine and reluctant memsahib

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Summer Cold

I have been battling with a summer cold since we arrived in Selinda. Can you believe it! I haven’t had a cold in years and now in celebration of the start of true summer I am walking around sneezing and croaking, and taking med lemon at night. Hah.
At first I thought it might be an allergy or hay fever, but it just carries on – not getting worse nor better. ho hum.

Yesterday was a day of storms. Great atmospheric benefactors cruised all around us distributing their heavy loads of purple rain to thirsty grasslands and animals. Pans are replenished, and fresh green leaves sprouting forth like a miasma of neon gasses softening the landscape.

Impala nurture their increasing nursery of young; tsessebe too have softly pliant youngsters in tow. Tsessebe are the fastest antelope of all despite their almost ungainly appearance and extraordinary colouring of burgundy red, with tawny flanks and purple overlays. Their youngsters are the colour of yellow grass – a perfect camouflage like lions – in the half light they are invisible. I wonder why the adults bothered to change colour at all except maybe to find each other after a long run.

This morning three wildebeest galloped past the house like forwardly mobile rocking horses. The first wildebeest had a tiny newborn calf running at its flank like a miniature shadow in brown.

The elephants are still looking a little on the thin side. Pelvic bones protruding and in some cases rib cages visible through toughened hides. With green grass starting to appear they are feasting again and soon will not have to travel so far between feeding grounds and water. Although eating tiny grass shoots is like feeding a hungry giant with a teaspoon.

Today started fresh and cool, but as the sun rose half way up the sky, humidity began a sudden climb. We are surrounded by purple storm clouds again behind the bright sunlight. Thunder grumbles and groans as if the clouds are complaining about the weight they have to carry now. Grey veils of falling rain trail behind them leaning left or right with the prevailing wind.

We have planted many of the new baby trees around the house. Most of them are baobabs and so will probably outlast both us and the house before they reach maturity. However, our plan to rehabituate the forest island, which has been depleted by hungry elephants, is at last in progress.

Planting new trees is a very satisfactory pastime. Especially when in semi urban areas such as Kasane, and the rural villages around it, there seems to be a campaign to bring down as many of the giant hardwoods and riverine forest as possible. A big shade tree acts as an environmental coolant equal to up to twenty air conditioning units at a time.

One would think in a continent of extreme heat and desertification, shade trees would be valued as much as rivers and waterways. However, on our way out of town this week we passed a place near Kavimba where a whole stand of massive umbrella thorn trees (acacia tortillas) have been ring barked presumably to make way for a small field.

While I am at it, I have another sad tale to share – blame it on the summer cold! The kasane rubbish dump has been an eyesore for years, with unmanaged dumping of waste plastics, tins bottles and all manner of soft and hard ware. It is now under extensive remodelling but the problems persist.

Situated on the main road leading to the entrance of Chobe National park it has become a source of attraction for wildlife species that live on the edge of the town. Marabou Storks, baboons, hyenas, honey badgers, vultures and even elephants can be seen there rooting amongst the plastic bags that drift around the periphery.
Recently elephant droppings have been found containing plastic bags, and last week three elephants died of gastro intestinal blockages due to plastic waste. Shame on us all!

Plastic bags are such useful items but they must be disposed of properly. I hate that dolphins and turtles mistake them for jelly fish in the sea and also die as a result of ingesting the indigestible material. Now we can add our magnificent elephant friends to the toll of human toxic waste. When will we ever learn that we cannot exist alone in a desert on this wonderful planet?

Friday, November 14, 2008


Whichever way you looked at it we were stuck. We were coming back from a trip to the nearest town, Kasane. And eight hour trip each way. We had stayed an extra day in kasane due to rain there – we felt we might be pushing our luck to set off in rain even if the chances of encountering some on the way were high.

We made it through the villages and down the park boundary without getting stuck either in sand or mud; the rain was kind to us and although we saw some fabulous storms all around, it held off and we were making reasonable time. After rain the thick sand ridges are easier to drive on, as they become harder. The mud however makes up for this by becoming a glutinous slimey mass of squidged up tracks and old elephant holes covered by water. These are known as ‘pans’ and we call the black sticky mud ‘cotton soil’ – I’m not sure why? – but it is rock hard in the dry season and lumpy to travel over; turning to buttery glue-clay during the rains.

We passed the half way mark, turning onto the transit road through the private concessions. 4km later and we stopped at a particularly tricky crossing, trying to find a bit of firm ground to drive across the pan. We were so nearly there, and then the car just slid sideways disappearing into the biggest hole – so deep the exhaust was under water.

We knew straight away that anything we tried would make it worse, but action is always better than nothing so we got busy. We jacked and dug, and put wood and grass under the wheels – using every technique we could think of, but we just slid further and further in. I took my shoes off to wade into the mud and started to dig out the back wheel.. It was encased in sludgy clay. The stuff was so incredibly sticky that I battled to get each load off the spade. I had visions of us being a fossil find of the future. If this clay dried out we would be a permanent fixture.

Lucky us though! Three hours later and one of the big supply trucks that brings stuff out to the safari lodges came around the corner. How lucky was that? It could have been days!

Anyhow with more digging, pushing, and tying a few ropey lengths together (in the absence of a proper tow rope); attaching the pulling power of a massive truck… and we were rewarded with the wonderful sight of the vehicle popping out of its hole – hurrah!

In the two days we had been away, the new mopane leaves were out. The afternoon sun backlit bright dayglo colours of greens, peachy oranges and pinks on every gnarled mopane scrub, stump or branch. Like fluttery flags celebrating rebirth and renewal after the baptism of first rain.

Into this colour fest, the impala have dropped their young. All legs, ears and inquisitive eyes, they skitter and prance through a world ablaze with luminous greens, and air screaming with the sounds of cicada beetles. Surely they think this is how it always is?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

random wierd meme

A hot still day. Cotton wool balls of clouds ranged around the horizon under an upturned blue glass bowl of a sky. On the footpath tiny red fluffy beetles have appeared after the rain – velvet dust mites. They look so cute and festive as they go about their dust mite business.

Katherine and Angela have both tagged me to reveal seven random and or weird things about myself. Well I am glad we are not talking anatomical features here!

And here are the rules:
1. Link to your tagger and list these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself - some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs.

1. When there is thunder in the air I get incredibly sleepy ; sometimes I can hardly keep my head up.
2. I am a bookaholic – and have to have a reading book with me at all times. I have just finished The Five People you Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom; and am now reading Three Cups of Tea by Greg Morgensen; I like books so much I give all the best ones away immediately. Then sometimes I wish I could read them again.
3. I had a pet suricat called Mafuta – he came to us as a problem child from his previous owners. He was lots of fun but soon he started biting everyone except me. He liked to sleep in my bed holding onto my ankle really tight – I guess they do that in suricat families – sleep holding each other tight.
4. I own an inch of a totem pole somewhere in British Columbia, Canada. It was a present from an Aunt and Uncle and there is a certificate to prove it. I think I must go and check on my property one day.
5. I nearly ended up in a crocodiles tummy one really hot day in Zimbabwe on top of chizarira escarpment. The whole landscape was burned and we came across a fresh water spring. ‘surely there cant be any crocodiles in here!’ famous last words – as I bent down to splash myself with cold water there was a noise behind me; I saw the look on k’s face – he says he shouted – I turned to see the underbelly of the croc as it decided I was too big a mouthful after all and had risen out of the water and turned back in midair. That’s when I learned to walk on water too but it was only for then;.
6. I don’t like throwing jam jars or containers away because they might be useful for something – and they usually are – but sometimes there is a pile up.
7. When I was in mozambique last time, a fish jumped out of the water and hit me on the head, knocking my sunglasses clean off and into the water. I didn’t notice at first because I was too busy rubbing the place where it had hit me. I tried to find them but the current had taken them away.

Enough she cried – now your turn.

I tag Rob inukshuk adventures
Adrianne bodhi tree
Reya the gold puppy
Fire byrd
Crystal jigsaw

Absolute vanilla
Karen border town notes

Saturday, November 8, 2008

first rain

Midday heat lies like a thick wool blanket over every living thing; flattening energy, making it difficult to move or think. Animals move slowly deliberately across the scene heading for water because they have to. A kori bustard – shelters under a small candle pod acacia bush in stark silhouette. We snooze at midday and wake soaked in sweat.

We are in the Selinda Reserve, northern Botswana. Yellow grasslands scented with wild sage surround islands of tall trees, and bright blue waterways weave their way along ancient channel beds. Big game country – land of elephants, buffalos, lions, and all the migrant antelope and grazers – safari land.

In the office, staff are betting on when the first rains will fall. On the notice board amongst the orders and rotas, a list of dates – some well past already separating the optimists from the pessimists. An electric fan stirs the turgid air but doesn’t cool. Perspiration runs down every face but the buzz of the safari industry does not allow the pace to stop.

We arrived in camp the evening before after a long drive through thick hot sand from Shakawe. If ever I complain about heat again I shall think of the man that works at the Veterinary Gate – guarding against foot and mouth outbreaks – living in a dome tent miles from anywhere in a sea of baking hot sand and burnt sticks of trees. Two hours after we left Saronga on the Okavango River, we had been heading roughly northeast on an ever diminishing track. The last village a few grass huts, and a bushman family with more small children than visible adults. An old grandmother attempted discipline on two young girls; while her son – wearing a woollen balaclava despite the heat – put us back on the right track.

At the Veterinary Gate the officer in charge climbs out of his dome tent into the midday blast of heat. He brings us an A4 exercise book divided into columns. In this we must write drivers name, date, vehicle registration number, where we are coming from, where we are going to, then a signature which he must endorse with is own signature. Beaded sweat droplets are pouring down his face but he has his uniform overalls on and is there to check if we are carrying any meat or livestock over the fence.

The issue of rain is on everyone’s minds and lips. We tell him that we heard there was rain in Shakawe the night before so perhaps it will arrive here soon. We all look at the wide blue sky and pure white heat of the horizon before shielding our eyes again.

On and on for hours and hours through windy sand tracks – rocking and rolling, lashed by bare branches and sticks. We stop to help a broken down truck. “Can you help – our battery is f.cked” They have been stuck in the sticks for five hours. We dole out cups of water to thirsty people and join in the jubilation when the truck is jump started from our battery.

The heat builds and builds through the night and the next day. By mid afternoon a gentle breeze becomes a wind, gaining strength and whipping up leaves. The white horizon begins to take the form of clouds building. We scarcely dare hope and superstition abounds – if we close the car windows we might chase the rain away.
By evening the scent of rain is on the air, distant thunder rolls as the celestial furniture moving company drops a piano down the stairs. Lightening skitters and dances but we are cautious – this rain storm is not yet ours. By nightfall, the curtains are horizontal – drops hit the roof, increasing to a watery thrumming; waterfalls cascade off the tin roof and make myriad tiny water features on the wooden deck. IT’S RAINING.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Barbel Run

Barbel Run and other matters…

Wow – well I have just been able to connect to the internet and blogland for the first time in nearly two weeks and have feasted on all the wonderful blogs I have missed. Well not all as I am on borrowed internet time here so feel I have to be hasty. So I copied some to a file to read later.

After all the months of campaign rhetoric and politicking, the American elections kind of caught us by surprise. We had just arrived in camp that evening. We were listening to the news on the satellite radio as voting started and then the power went down as the generator was turned off for the night. For the first time ever I missed having a TV here. By morning it was all over. How quick was that?? Snippets on the radio, and shared info tell of a world in celebration. Its an exciting time – and our thoughts are raising a toast to our friends across the sea.

While world events twist and turn, smaller dramas occur along the dark waterways of one of Africa’s great river systems.

Barbel are huge whiskered catfish – dwellers in the murkey depths; like big smooth skinned eels with wide flat heads they have the ability to ‘walk’ on land to fresh water should their existing pools dry up.

We are in the Okavango Delta in Botswana working on the houseboat - the river sliding by, sparkling bright between tall reeds and acres of lush green papyrus. Water lily leaves form a mosaic around the boat between which occasionally small fish flash through sunlit patches. The sun bakes everything it can touch turning the wooden deck to a griddle pan.

Down river a flock of white birds fly up, circling, landing, flying up again. Steadily they draw closer and soon they are accompanied by a sound like water running over rapids. A fish eagle cries from the riverine forest and the watery gurgling sounds become a cacophony of smacking splashing noises. Barbel shapes break the surface all along the edge of the reeds, tails and heads – mouths agape. The barbel run is on.

This seasonal event draws fishermen from around the world, and fires the imagination of anyone interested in natural events. The Okavango delta is the worlds only inland delta as the river waters fan out into the Kalahari basin creating a jewel like maze of palm tree islands, floodplains and meandering waterways.

Once a year, as flood waters start to drop, the fish that have been breeding in the sanctuary of the dense papyrus and reed beds are forced back into the mainstream. This stimulates a feeding frenzy amongst the barbel who gather to feast on this new influx. In turn the birds feast on the periphery of the boiling pot – great white egrets, squacco herons, green backed herons, slaty egrets, purple herons, white herons, whiskered terns, pied kingfishers, cormorants, yellow billed kites - and crocodiles feast on the barbel. On the tailing edge of all this commotion are the tiger fish – our ultimate predator fish.

The bright white egrets move all along the activity zone competing for optimum positions; resting on huge green pompoms of papyrus – their white plumage dazzling against the green; suddenly all take off at once and we are surrounded by a flurry of white like giant snowflakes whirling around us – reflecting white shapes on the disturbed water.

For twenty four hours the air around us is filled with the sounds of smacking gurgling splashing water, the raucous cries of the flocks of herons and egrets, and the whisper of wind through the reeds. But the procession is ever moving, and finally the gurgling slows to an occasional splash, the frantic flocks wheel on further upstream, and the river resumes its steady dark progress.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

where am i?

We are in northern Botswana -our feet in Kalahari sand under a wide arcing sky. Rain is all around us. This morning the crump of thunder reverberates and the bull frogs are going crazy in the channel with their rhythmic calls.

We are staying in a wooden house perched on an anthill overlooking a grassy floodplain. Elephants buffalo giraffe and others walk past here on their way to drink at Lake Zibidianja at the head of the Savuti channel. This area is known as Selinda and we are in the Selinda Reserve. On Google earth we are just off the southern most point of Caprivi Strip on the Botswana side.

As Botswana is primarily a desert country, these northern waterways are critical to the survival of many wildlife species that migrate here as inland waterholes dry up during the winter. An ancient channel bed known as the Spillway links the Selinda area with the Okavango Delta. In years of good flood waters an arm of water reaches out from either side, and locals speculate on whether the Spillway will ‘flow’ again should the two arms connect.

Lake Zibidianja is fed by the Kwando River which flows in from Angola – as the waters leave the lake the river becomes known as the Linyanti. This river with two names forms part of the border between Botswana and Namibia. At the southern point of the Lake is the Savuti Channel – another ancient river bed that has a history of drying up for fifty years, then flowing again, then drying up. Apparently this is due to the slightest shift in the tectonic plates that underpin this country. Recently water has been pushing into the channel again bringing the kiss of life to forgotten hippo pools and water bird habitats.

We left the drought stricken lowveld ten days ago and drove up to Maun, the safari capital of Botswana. Here we spent a few days reconnecting with old pals and catching up on news and safari anecdotes before driving up the west side of the Delta to an island near Ikoga where we keep our houseboat, the Catfish Running. With daytime temperatures in the middle 40’s being on the river was probably the best place to be! We had arranged to meet with Dan there who was coming to fit the steering and hydraulics; and later with Denis who was to help us fix wonky planks on the decks, and install decking to the front and rear (fore and aft?); Before they arrived however we had the river to ourselves and found, as luck would have it, that we were in the epicentre of a barbel run. But that’s another story for the next posting …