lightening and steady thrumming of rain. From my cosy dry sleeping
place i listened to the summer sounds and smells in wonder. This is
summer rain in winter. Botswana has had just amazingly good rains
again this year - second year running. There is water everywhere -
pans in the back country; ancient river beds blossoming into green
ribbons; big rivers waking up and stretching out - making lakes in the
flat sand country. Water reaching into places it hasnt been in years;
Villages underwater, built long ago on historic floodplain areas -
now forced to move to higher ground - and apparently there is a second
flood on its way.
Driving out of town through the Chobe National Park - dark purple
curtains of rain drifted all around the landscape like elephants on a
moonlit plain. ooh err - were we going to get stuck in the mud again?
At Katchekow the road was washed away from the rain - just enough
space for one car to pass. Villages out at Satau are completely cut
off by floodwaters now - how will they be feeling about this winter
The clouds clear and we leave the rain belt - turning out onto the
park boundary - a wide cut line of sand tracks between the forest.
The sky is deep blue here, and everything washed clean by the rain -
leaves rejuvinated blaze a fresh green and rust orange bright against
The sand is our friend - the rain has made a hard surface to drive on.
But all the pans are full of water again. We porpoise in and out of
mini lakes - sending bow waves of peaty water surging in the sparkly
light. Slewing on slippery tracks here and there but managing to keep
Half way down the cutline is a pan with an ancient dark ebony tree
growing by the side of a termite mound, making a rampart into the
pan. We often stop here for leg stretches. Today a pack of wild dogs
are here, on a kill. We must be minutes behind the action because they
are only just dividing the spoils. Marbled patterned dogs with big
mickey mouse ears, twitter and flit around claiming torn strips of red
sinew, meat and membrane. Its a grisly scene, but the dogs are
excited. They move without hardly seeming to touch the ground,
skittering around the pan, ears and eyes flitting all around.
Something catches their attention in the mopane scrub beyond the pan.
One jumps and barks a warning. Like children playing Grand Mothers
Footsteps, they each approach inquisitively, yet wired for flight at
the slightest sound. As we watch, a huge male lion charges out of the
bush chasing the dogs. His body is like a barrel, his massive head
framed in a ginger and black mane which reaches down his chest.
The dogs flee to a safe distance which happens to be behind our
vehicle. The lion looks directly at us, wondering if he should chase
us too? his nostrils are wide and his head raised to pick up the
slightest scent; his mouth a wide black square full of teeth. `Its
strange that when a super predator looks in your general direction -
there is no question in your mind when he is focussed on you, and when
he is focussed on someone next to you. You know when its you. Theres a
sort of squirming in the pit of your stomach that reaches back to the
depths of vestigial memory.
He marks some bushes and vanishes back behind the mopane curtain. Two
steps and he is invisible again. The dogs take off down the cutline
ahead of us ready for the next kill.