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Tuesday, 01 September 2020

Poling the Okavango, Botswana - Page 2

Written by Richard Taylor
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The mokoro is the famous dugout canoe of the delta, these days made of fiberglass, the traditional tree under government protection. Doctor dropped a cooler into his boat and added a pair of bucket seats for the vagabonds. Flora followed suit for me. It looked an uncomfortable arrangement but the seat fit my contours surprisingly well. As Flora pushed off, I gripped the sides nervously until we were around the first bend. Then it occurred to me that ten dangling fingers might attract some attention and I pulled them onto my lap.

Crocs and such.

It was a lovely boat ride though, and the fingers would absentmindedly dangle again. But nothing took the bait and all was tranquil among the reeds and lily pads, except for Flora’s labored breathing, which sounded harsher as we pushed through a tangle of bulrush while Doctor navigated through the thick of things.

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Around another bend Flora suddenly stopped poling and pulled the mokoro back a bit. Ahead of us, the other boat was still.

“What is it?” I asked.

Samantha held up a finger. An enormous grey form was just visible behind the tall reeds, drinking or bathing or both.

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Doctor and Flora started poling backwards quietly. The elephant moved off.

We banked the boats for the walking portion of the tour. Doctor set the cooler on the ground and flipped one of the canoes over it. I was dubious about the efficacy of this boat flipping but there wasn’t much choice, unless we carried the cooler with us. Flora found a long branch for a walking stick and the trekking was quite easy, the pancake flatness of the delta punctuated by copious termite mounds, a more basic edifice than the showy cathedral model I’d seen in Ghana, favored by those snobby west African ants. Besides, the termite mound had greater utility.

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“The antelope use them for lookout posts,” said Doctor.

We stopped by the bleached skeleton of a giraffe.

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About two hundred meters away, an elephant was slowly paralleling us but seemed content to keep his distance.

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Doctor pointed out one of the tusker’s footprints, an odd mosaic pattern, as if someone had tamped a stressed leather cushion on the earth.

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Last modified on Tuesday, 01 September 2020

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