Wednesday, July 17, 2013 – fly and bus to Okavango Delta, Botswana

This morning we left exceedingly early, pre-dawn, to drive to the Kasane airport, a small airport near Livingstone, Zambia. On the way we saw a pair of hyenas running off the road and a big Sable antelope. Arthur and I and Winston and Polly Anna flew in a tiny 4-passenger plane. The rest of the group flew in a 12-passenger plane. Our pilot in the tiny plane is Christina, who is from Spain and looks like she’s in her late 20s. Winston, who has about 1,000 hours of flying time, flew co-pilot, Arthur and Polly Anna were in the middle, and Martha was the tail (or the butt?) We flew from Kasane to Banoka Bush Camp airstrip in the Okavango Delta of Botswana. We had to abort the first landing attempt because Christina spotted elephants on the airstrip.
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driving to the airport just before sunrise

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Arthur going to the little plane that Arthur and I and Winston and Polly Anna took to the Bokuso airstrip

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the runway at the Kasane airport

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our pilot, Christina _ from Spain, beside the 4-passenger plane that Arthur and I and Winston and Polly Anna took to the Bokuso airstrip

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Arthur inside our plane

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saying goodbye to the Chobe River flood plains

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salt lick

From there we drove in two safari jeeps to our camp. Our jeep was driven by Mgonka (Mr. T) and the other jeep was driven by Magwenyani (Chops). On the way Mr. T’s jeep got stuck in the sand, and then something was wrong with the engine, so we had to wait until a third jeep came by to pick us up
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we are really stuck deep in the sand

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Janet Shi looks like Lawrence of Arabia trying to keep the sand out of her face

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After being rescued, we drove through a Mopani (or Butterfly Tree) forest. It was the Mopani worm, the caterpillar of the Emperor moth that feeds on Mopani trees, that some foolhardy ones of us ate last night for an appetizer. The Mopani tree has a seed pod that contains an acid to keep down other plants around it. If animals graze on any of the leaves, the roots of that Mopani tree (AND other trees nearby!) send up large amounts of tannin that makes the leaves bitter. Elephants have learned that it is better to disconnect the tree from its roots before feeding on the leaves.
Both the Chobe area and the Okavango Delta area show great destruction from elephants. It turns out that Botswana has a greater number of elephants than their vast animal preserves can handle, and they are looking for other countries to take on some of the elephant animal groups.
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dried grass in the sun

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Abi Nyoni, Arthur Kay, June Kay, Scott Shephard, Monica Shephard, Janet Shi, and Polly Anna Randol in the other Range Rover

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fish eagle

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narrow log bridge to get to camp

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Driving to the camp we saw elephants, termite mounds, and an African Fish Eagle, and drove over a narrow log bridge. We were greeted at the camp with a singing welcome and hot wet towels. Our host is *Ko*koma (where the stars indicate a click).
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Okavango Delta swamps

We are welcomed to the Okavango Delta camp
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Our camp host, Nature

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basketry for sale, made by the staff

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cape buffalo

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Nature welcomes us to the camp

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Polly Anna Randol, Monica Shephard, Arthur Luehrmann, Scott Shephard, Arthur Kay, June Kay

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Judith Blecha, Marilyn Herel, Marian Moran, Winston Padgett, Monica Shephard, Polly Anna Randol, Arthur Luehrmann and Scott Shephard

That afternoon we took off on another game drive and saw a solitary young hippo. We also checked out a termite mound very near the camp. Termite mounds can be used as compasses since in this area they always point to the northwest because of sun and wind causing unequal drying.
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termite mound

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hippo in the water

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close-up of the outside of the termite mound

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Arthur and June Kay

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That evening Abi spoke to us about African marriages. Around 1970 parents chose your mate and arranged the marriage. You did not have to be present. If the husband died, it was the duty of his brother to marry the widow and take care of the family.
These days a marriage is more controlled by the bride and groom. Most of the countries in Africa allow polygamous marriages, with males allowed to marry up to 5 wives. Polyandrous marriages are not allowed. If a man has more than one wife, he must treat them all equally.
Abi and his wife, Loren, have been married for 12 years. They met by chance at a church meeting in her village, and Abi was smitten. He stayed in that village and had a friend drive him around for one week just to see her again. They courted for about 7 months. The parents of the intended groom contact a close family friend to make the initial contact with the parents of the intended bride. The two intended give presents to each other. The prospective groom and his parents formally visit the bride’s parents. At this meeting all the sisters of the prospective bride are dressed just like the prospective bride, and the prospective groom is asked which one he wants. If the bride’s parents agree, they give the couple a few weeks to make sure, and then set a date for the dowry. Abi’s in-laws told Abi that he should pay 6 cows. Since he is not a farmer and has no cows, they settled on a price equivalent for the cows. On the date set for the dowry, the prospective groom carries a plate with some money in it with another plate on top. He comes formally dressed and sits on the ground despite being urged to take a chair, leaving the chairs for the parents and aunties and uncles to show his good manners. Unless and until the in-laws accept the money, the young man cannot open his mouth to say anything. If they accept the money, then the parents bargain regarding the dowry. Once agreement is reached on the dowry terms, the couple is automatically married in the traditional way. Abi’s dowry was 6 cows — 4 now and 2 “on time” later.
Abi and Loren also wanted to have a civil, registered, marriage. They invited friends and opened the invitation to anyone who wanted to come. All the people who come chip in for the party. In addition to his 6-cow dowry, Abi bought a big bull to help feed the 300 guests who came.
Land is jointly “owned” in the community. If you have cows, you ask the headman where you can raise your cows and he will assign you an area. Cows are “walking Swiss banks”. Some Africans have had terrible experiences with western-style banks, and only trust cows as a measure of wealth.
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Polly Anna Randol, Scott Shephard, Arthur Kay, June Kay

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on the path to our cabin at sunset