A Mystery Solved

It is not often that I am left mystified by food. However, our Maun hotel dinner menu had featured as accompanying options: chips, mashed potato or pap. Pap? More of that later.

We’d heard hippo noises overnight; well, in the smaller hours of morning, really. I did pop up on deck early and spotted the signs of one passing the houseboat heading downstream but little of it showed above the surface and when it did, it was only very briefly to draw breath.

This was a day of three parts.

White-faced Whistling DucksAfter breakfast we headed downstream ourselves in the launch. We were soon overflown by a flight of White-faced Whistling Ducks. You can’t beat being in a new environment; no matter how common the species locally, they are all exciting to visitors.

African DarterThe sides of the river were a rich source of birdlife and we had more species than you could shake a camera at. In Sri Lanka, 2019, before the accursed Covid-19, we’d seen the Asian Darter/Snakebird; now we saw lots of its African equivalent. These birds are a lot like a Cormorant but with a longer neck which, with their body submerged, makes them look like a snake swimming in the water.

African Fish EagleLittle Bee-eaterA couple of species of the delightfully colourful Bee-eaters proved very numerous and, at the other end of the size scale, we saw a few African Fish Eagles, one of which decided we were disturbing its fishing and took flight.

We returned to the houseboat for brunch, including sausage, egg and baked beans – can’t be bad – at about 11:30.

Pseudagrion deningi, ShakaweCrocodileI was granted permission to wander ashore, though not too far – as well as hippos, one does have to be careful of these chaps on the left – having spotted a couple of damselflies in the shore vegetation. One of these was an old friend from Namibia, the Massai Sprite (Pseudagrion massaicum) but the 2nd was a new species and not widespread, the Dark Sprite (Pseudagrion deningi), with its trademark green undersides to the eye.

In the afternoon Capt. Sam made a slow journey against the flow of the river back upstream to make tomorrow’s early departure easier. En route he took into tow an offical boat, maybe army or wardens, which had become stranded in the middle of the river. The crew of four was very grateful.

Having returned to our original moorings, we were back in the launch to travel further up river this time, largely in search of hippos, I subsequently discovered. We most certainly found them and at one point our launch was surrounded by a pod of 12 or so. Hippos are one of the most dangerous animals in Africa so it’s perhaps not surprising how vulnerable you suddenly feel with a family group of these large animals staring at you and getting closer.

Hippo pod

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was another item on Bibi’s agenda and that was sunset. He’d done this so many times that he clearly knew how to time it and, having skilfully avoided being sunk by hippos, he now skilfully paused the launch in an open section just as the sun was sinking towards the western horizon.

And so to dinner. Today we were treated to steak accompanied by mashed potato, veggies and, yes, the mysterious pap. I hadn’t realized at the time but I had heard some of the pap preparation work – a rhythmic banging. Pap is pounded maizemeal boiled into a sort of porridge. Actually, it’s a lot like a white version of polenta though the latter has a rather more attractive name. I’m glad I’ve tasted it, these things must be done, but I’m not sure I’d rush back for seconds. For pudding there was guava and, yes, more custard. Not bad at all, their cartons of custard. 🙂

The last task of the evening was to set an alarm for 05:00 to depart at 06:00 on the next stage of our adventure. Tomorrow would be a long day.

Posted in 2022 Botswana

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