Having arrived in South Africa on Saturday and made it by the skin of our teeth to Botswana, sans luggage, we hadn’t had much time to draw breath. Once on hotel wi-fi, though, Francine, had received an email from Air-Link advising that the booking for our flight had been cancelled. Curious, considering that the flight was expecting us (we were on the manifest) and that we’d arrived. Francine’s concern was that, since our outbound flight booking “had been cancelled”, our return flight might also have been affected. She forwarded the email to Explore! and told Bibi, our leader. He suggested checking at the Air-Link office before our journey up to the delta, since we would then be without communication for three days in the wilds.
We were ready for departure to Shakawe at 08:30 and Bibi duly arrived with our open-sided safari “truck”. It was actually a long wheelbase Toyota Landcruiser (isn’t everything in Africa?) with truck leaf-spring suspension at the rear and 11 seats in the back in a 2-3-3-3 arrangement. There was a front passenger seat too, of course. We climbed aboard. With three tourists still stuck in Jo’burg, we were currently only 7 so there was plenty of room for bums and camera bags.
We went first to the airport to investigate return flights and bags. Happily the bags had been found and Air-Link confirmed that we were, indeed, on the return flight. Our three missing companions would arrive a while after midday along with our bags … in theory.
We stopped again to buy water and lunch. At the stop our friend managed to miss her footing clambering out of the Landcruiser, fell backwards and struck her head on the unforgiving concrete of the parking area. Happily no serious damage was done.
I should explain. Entering and exiting the Landcruiser is on one side only and via two metal rungs running most of the length of the side, there being a break across the rear wheel arch. The spacing of the steps is a little uneven so care is required. Lesson learned.
The weather wasn’t particularly cold but we were speeding along at 60mph or so in an open-sided vehicle. Early morning was thus chilly. The roads on this journey were tarmac but decorated with potholes. We’d learned in Kenya many years ago that more undulating dirt/gravel roads are generally more comfortable than unmaintained tarmac with hard 90°-edged potholes. Bibi drove well, though – fast but well – and the journey was pleasantly uneventful.
Nearly all the children we drove past on the journey waved joyously at us. We returned the favour, of course. We saw a few Ostriches and several Hornbills en route but little else on the wildlife front.
After almost 400kms of shake, rattle and roll, we arrived at Shakawe and transferred to a launch to take us to the houseboat, Okavango Spirit, our accommodation for the next three nights on the Cubango River. Captain Sam was delightful but felt it necessary to apologise for the ongoing refurbishment works of the houseboat. The rooms were bijou but it was fine and we’d get used to it. Each room had an en suite bathroom with shower but we had to listen for the generator; when that was running there would be a hot water supply so that was when showers were possible – well, hot ones anyway.
Capt. Sam and his crew, John, prepared some very welcome Spaghetti Bolognese with veggies for dinner.
Our three missing companions arrived at 21:00 after their long day flying from Jo’burg to Maun by their tiring drive on to Shakawe. They were accompanied by all our misplaced luggage. Hooray!