Oct. 13, 2017 We took our fast boats to the border and soaked our shoes in disinfectant again to help stop hoof and mouth disease from spreading as we entered the next country. Did I not mention that before? Anyway, things went well and we climbed into our open jeeps and headed to Elephant Valley. It is cooler here in the evenings.
We finally saw a leopard. Twice in two different locations. The guide was sure that it was the same one. We saw the usual antelope that are as thick as fleas on a dog’s back in these countries also. We saw elephants again, too many to count. There are at least fifty thousand walking back and forth across from Zambia to Botswana across the Zambezi River at any given time. Needless to say we saw the results of animals being killed and eaten in the endless cycle of life. We watched a group of wild dogs and jackals feasting on the remains of antelope.
Our camp in Botswana was wonderful.There was a large expanse of grass surrounded by our huts. The rooms were tents with concrete floors and modern bathrooms, electricity and hot water. The outside eating ra was adjacent to an animal watering hole. In the evenings we could watch elephants come and drink. They are not fond of sharing and most animals give them a wide berth. They searched out the leaking pipe that feeds the pond and chose to drink from the small pool around it. They love the freshest water that they can find. We would often saw them with their trunks over the tops of water tanks drinking, rather than from the pool at their feet. They are intelligent creatures, and as silent as a cat when they walk past us. They are only heard as they rip down a small tree for breakfast or when they trumpeted, which seemed to be seldom.
The camp was across the valley as we approached it. The valley ran for miles or so it seemed as we crossed the river and climbed up the grass covered bank and headed into our camp. The valley was very shallow, perhaps a hundred feet or less, with a river running the length of it. The elephants come to it daily to drink and role in the mud. You cannot look out across the horizon during the day without seeing one type of animal or another.
Our group of of travelers was a varied one. We were from several different places in America and of different political identities. We remained pleasant with each other by looking for the things that we had in common and by trying to represent our brethren well by behaving like adults. What a concept?
We were twenty feet from napping lions again. A very disturbing thing, no matter how many times you do it. At one point we made a rest stop and were directed to the bathrooms a hundred feet away. I thought long and hard about getting out of the Land Rover to relieve myself. Eventually my need of comfort surpassed my desire for safety and I made a break for the restrooms. It was a new experience, looking for lions while needing to go to the bathroom.
We met a group of campers from Spain in the middle of the bush. My Spanish isn’t great, but we had a pleasant conversation I think. How are you, how are things at home, etc. It is always nice to meet new people from different countries and cultures on our trips who wanted to do the same things as us. Except for the whole camping thing, that is.
We had a very rough and fun ride out of the park due to it’s very stringent closing time and our distant location from the gate. The gate closes on time, no matter who is left inside. I think our driver believed in reincarnation. He drove like it anyway. It was the greatest thrill ride ever, though. Over and around sand, ruts, rocks and stones. Our camp is the most modern so far. We had electricity most of the night. People live around these wonderful animal parks that we are so fortunate to be able to travel through. I saw disabled cars on the side of the road at night in the middle of no where without drivers and wondered where they had gone. I saw people walking on the sides of these roads where the lion and the antelope roam. It is a little troubling for a city fellow to think about.
Poaching is still a big problem. Most of it is caused by the Chinese market for natural drugs and remedies created from these beautiful animal’s body parts. The locals are poor beyond our understanding and hunt to survive. You can help save these animals by letting the Chinese government know your feelings about this activity that their culture drives. They could educate their people about the use of modern drugs rather than folk medicine and that might help save these animals which are slowly being driven out of existence.