Day Three: Mokoros and Wine. Up early again for our two-day mokoro trip. Mokoros are dugout canoes poled through the ever-present marshlands, each by a single experienced poler from a group that focuses on that trade alone. By van to a motorboat drop-off, by motorboat to the mokoro polers’ village. Then just over two hours in a literal flotilla of mokoros, three for the five of us, three more for our tents and food, to our island.
Home for the next 24 hours was a brushy nook along the marsh bank. Trees and brush, tiny clearings for tents and the portable shower and the stand-alone toilet with its pit and shovel. I must say it is a quite enjoyable little interlude to sit comfortably in your own small clearing, happily peeing into a hole that you and your fellow campers will fill one small shovel at a time over the duration of your stay. Occasionally one of the roaming cows puzzles over your activities for a moment and then ambles away.
Our tents and dining table were already set up as the mokoros with the camping gear had come directly to the site while our personal polers had stopped to explain the flora and fauna of the marshes along the way. The chef had prepared a just-right lunch for us. Not too filling but still substantial with sandwiches, salad, cookies and drinks. The white bread in Botswana is very good with weight and chewiness and taste.
There is a bit of a problem with an afternoon siesta since the tents are too hot and there are no comfortable chairs, ground covers or hammocks. So before our mokoro ride to the hippo lagoon we just sat on logs and told tall tales. Well, the boys did, Teresa and I served in the necessary posts of listeners. The youngest generation always enjoys their dad’s and uncle’s tales of their mildly wild Albuquerque boyhoods.
The afternoon visit to the big bad hippos was just the smallest bit of scary. While we had almost total faith in our polers’ knowledge, abilities and experience, sitting in the flimsy dugouts not so many yards away from snorting diving mean-faced hippopotami did inspire intense moments of vulnerability—at least from Teresa and me, and Steven admits to a moment or as well.
But safely back to base camp and a very fine dinner of tomato-based stew with chicken, carrots, celery, potatoes; sautéed veggies; Mediterranean salad and the smoothest of red and white wines. Calvin, our chef, accepted our surprised and grateful compliments with grace and jokes. And this all led to an evening around the campfire telling riddles; the staff trying to top the campers and generally winning.
We all slept surprisingly well in our hot little camping tents with mats and minimal bedding and no toilet nearby. A big creature snorted and clumped about the tents at night, drowning out family snorer par excellence. Odd how it didn’t frighten any of us—just seemed like what should happen on a night in the Okavango Delta! Our guides told us it was probably a baby hippo. Not those darn baby hippos up at night again we said.