Mokoro Cruising

A Mokoro is traditionally a dug-out canoe made from a single tree.

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The availability of inexpensive alternatives mean that most tour companies use boats made from plastic or fibreglass.

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The boat is not the important part, the adventure we had is.

We were picked up from our hotel early in the morning and were taken to the edge of Maun city where we waited for a motorboat to be ready for us. The boat was to take us up the river to the Mokoro pickup site.

The trip up river was beautiful. So far we had seen dry yellow grasses but near the river plants were thriving and green. All along the banks of the river were farms. Many animals had escaped their fences and stood belly deep in the waters to eat the best plants they could find.

When you arrive on site there are many Mokoro and many people loading them with supplies. There are also the tourist who do their best to stay out of the way and wait until it is their time to depart.

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When you do depart you get into your canoe, hoping not to tip. Then you are pushed off shore and your poler (the person steering the canoe) hops aboard. You travel through paths in the reeds that are narrow and unused by the motorboats. The paths seem to be made just for the canoes. We later learned that this was not so. The paths were made by hippos walking along and crushing the reeds. After that you hope you don’t run into one because all you can think about is that hippos are the deadliest animals in Africa.

The trip is quite and relaxing. Occasionally you come to come to a wider space, a hippo pool where the hippos sometimes hang out. We didn’t see any and I have mixed feelings of sadness and safety about that.

We stopped part way through the journey to give the polers a break and to have tea and a snack. I was amazed that they were able to find the tiny island that we had our tea break on. I didn’t see it until just before we hit it.

Then we were back on the mokoro until we arrived at Chief’s Island in the Okavango Delta. Here others had come ahead with the camping equipment and set up before we arrived. Seeing the camp put together was amazing. They were able to do so much with a few mokoros of things. It was very obvious that they had done this before.

We arranged our tents and enjoyed camp while the day was hot. We went for a short walk where we learned about local plants and their food and medicinal properties. Only one impala to be seen.

We returned to camp for a bit to escape the sun, then it was off for a walk and animal hunt. We walked what seemed liked hours in the hot sun before we saw anything. We left a bit of a bushy area and there was a watering hole where many zebra and wildebeest we have their dinner and drinks.

When we turned around to walk back to the camp we came across a giraffe in the distance. We would walk closer, it would get uncomfortable and run away, we would walk closer, it would run away, and the cycle continued a few times until we headed in different directions.

We reached camp just before it became dark, around 6pm. Dinner needed some more time to cook, so we went to watch the sunset and then mom and I got out the cards and played for awhile until dinner was ready.

Dinner was chicken stew and roasted vegetables. They were delicious and all the more wonderful because they were cooked over the open flames of a camp fire. Chef even made pudding for dessert over the fire for us. Everyone worked so hard so we would have an enjoyable time.

After dinner we sat around the fire for a bit and talked with everyone but after awhile we headed to bed because we were going to be up again to go for a sunrise walk the next morning.

Camp had a toilet that had been dug behind the camp site a bit. We were warned that if we had to use the bathroom at night we should do #1 behind the tent and only do #2 in the bathroom if we really had to. We should go everywhere  with a flashlight and scan the bushes for eyes. What a way to freak us out.

I woke up to a strange noise that night. I thought I heard giggling when I woke up. I put it off to dreams at first, until I hit again. It was at that time I realized two things, #1 I had to pee and #2 there were hyenas somewhere behind camp and I was holding it until morning. I listened the hyenas until they stopped and I eventually drifted back to sleep.

We woke up early the next morning and waited until we heard movement in camp until we got up. We had a quick cup of tea before beginning our walk. We travelled in to opposite direction of where we went the day before. It wasn’t long before we reached the island and settled in to watch the sun rise over the neighbouring island.

While we watched the sun rise a large group of students travelled from their island my mokoro to our island. They stayed for awhile and watched the sunrise before heading off to walk the island. Went the sky faded to blue we headed back to camp for breakfast and to pack up our stuff the the deconstruction of camp.

Camp was broken just as quickly as it was set up, the mokoros were loaded and we were taken back to the station at the village. Along the way we went through a hippo pool. At the edge of the pool far from us there was a hippo hiding in the reeds. Mary, who was my poler, thought that the hippo had a young in the reeds and that was why it didn’t come closer or pop it’s head up farther.