We had a week off from school for a mid term break so we planned a trip to Tuli Block which is a game reserve in the central (north and south) region and right on the eastern border next to Zimbabwe and South Africa. It could be described as a dry game park because there is very little water and at this time of year the trees are bare and look dead. The trees actually look like it is after a forest fire. They are black with no leaves and many branches gone because the elephants walk through stripping them. The beauty of this place is that it is truly wilderness, we hardly saw anyone else our entire 5 days there. This does make the animals a bit more skittish but that is part of the beauty and attraction of it.
They will get green after the first rains which could be soon but possibly not until November and then much more in December and January when it is super hot, remember reversed seasons. We have a hard time with that, still talk about this being Fall when it is actually Spring.
Our vacation started Monday afternoon when two Peace Corps Volunteers from Lesoto arrived to join us on our trek. They are a couple, Joan and Pat, from Colorado and started about four months before we did so are a little further along in their service. We met Joni when we went to Gúatamala in 2014. We did meet a guy who was a Santa, with a beard very similar to Gary’s and length of hair. They looked a lot alike. During a correspondence for something concerning Rotary, Teresa mentioned she was joining the PC and going to Botswana and the person she was writing said she had a friend who knew a couple who was just leaving for Lesoto who we might have met because they were in Rotary as well and in Guatemala when we were. Anyway we corresponded and turns out Joni was there, Pat was not and someone else (Jeff) was the Santa. We got confused and thought Joni and Jeff were a couple. Sorry Pat! Great couple, about our age and had lots of interesting stories about their service in Lesoto. We know that our service is called Posh Corps and it is really true. They live without half of the luxuries that we have, like electricity, water, refrigeration, ease of travel and shopping. Lesoto is all mountain, has a ski resort and is much poorer that Botswana. They work and live in an orphanage. They were a great example of how to accept and enjoy what you do have. Made us feel very humble and thankful that we have what we have (which is pretty much everything we could possibly need, if not want). They also run a rafting business, or did, in Colorado and since we do go to Colorado fairly frequently we will definitely be seeing them again. A little more digression, we also hosted a couple headed for Cape Town for the week so we had a full house Monday night.
Tuesday morning we went shopping with the four of us meeting up with the other four people that were going with us. Two from our Peace Corps group and two friends of one of them who have been backpacking all over the world for the past year. We met our driver and loaded everything into the combi and headed off. Left about 10:30 and (long trip) got to our bush camp about 7:30. You could take public transportation and get as far as Bobonong but that still leaves you about 80 kilometers to figure out. Our driver drove us, stayed with us and then drove us back. Her name was Thuso and she was absolutely fantastic. It was a very wise decision and really worked out for the best.
(Pat, Joni, Gary, Teresa, Thuso, Bethany, Joiwyn, Nicole. Phino took the picture)
We stayed in four small chalets, each with their own bathroom. There is no electricity but with solar lanterns, gas stove and freezer/fridge you didn’t miss it. No computers or cell service- heavenly. We cooked all of our own meals and they were great. We did go to a “bush dinner” on Friday night which was appropriate because that was September 30th and Botswana’s fiftieth anniversary and so it was kind of a celebration. We did miss the celebration in our village which is too bad because it would have been fun and interesting to see how the village celebrated as a village. Although talking to people afterwards, don’t know anyone who did go to the village celebration at the kgotla. We did get in on some celebrations (see blogs on torch carrying and beauty contest).
Of course the highlight of the trip was seeing the animals, we added several new ones to our list and lots of repeats. We saw lions although not too exciting, visited a hyena den complete with baby, saw a leopard which was cool, actually ran toward our vehicle and we drove away and then he/she laid down and watched us from a distance. A couple of crocodiles in the water hole next to our camp (a couple hundred meters away) so we decided against swimming. A spotted genet came to visit at night, elephants walked through our camp and we saw lots more including several babies and one that was nursing, definitely cool. Impossible to describe them all and you can see some of the pictures. The bird flying above us is a black eagle and we were standing on Eagle rock so he was a bit concerned. The rock we were on looks remarkably like the cliff in Lion King, but it wasn’t actually filmed there.
View from Eagle Rock including dry Limpopo River
We left Saturday morning and drove back, actually went through a couple of brief rain showers, first of the year. Some people reported a fair amount of rain and some on the 30th which is hopeful that this will be the year the drought ends.