Our African journal – One year ago today – At the Okavango Delta in Botswana

I literally squeed when I saw a mother baboon carrying her baby. “Oh my god it’s a baby baboon!” I exclaimed in a high pitched squeal like an 11 year old girl. The baby dropped off the mother, stood on his hind legs a wobbly moment, then looked puzzled and fell over. Who would not squee at that?

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Dawn river cruise. Instant coffee from metal camp cups at sunrise, mixed with hot water from a Stanley insulated bottle

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Kasane International Airport, outside Chobe National Park in Botswana, is tiny, but it is clean and modern and efficient. [Note from 2020: Kasane is small, but a proper airport. Many of the other places we caught planes were just airstrips — a grassy field with a long cleared strip, often graded but not paved, to accept small planes.] We’re here on our way to Camp Xakanaxa (pronounced ka-ka-na-ka), in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. The plane is a Cessna 208 or 208B Caravan. It seats 12 but we are the only two passengers, along with pilot Clement and another guy, who I think is the baggage master. Other than the road, I don’t see a sign of human habitation from the air.

I watched the ground go by outside the window of our little plane. Dozed off. Woke up. Same. Ground was greener and wetter and swampy. We descend for landing. I see a few houses.

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The Okavango airport is a dirt airstrip with no buildings, just a structure like a Little League baseball dugout with a sign that says VIP Lounge. Good to see irony thrives in Africa. There is no Starbucks.

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TS, our driver, was moving fast and the truck was rocking and rolling over rutted roads. I was daydreaming when suddenly I was knocked off my seat and hit the unpadded metal floor on my ass, hard.

I was uninjured, which was lucky, because that’s how people get permanent, disabling back injuries. On the other hand, had I gotten a permanent, disabling back injury, it would have been a better story than everybody else’s story. Everybody else gets back injuries reaching for paper towels from the top shelf of their kitchen cabinets.

We parked next to two sleeping male lions, and waited a half hour for them to wake up. For the first part of that time there were about four other trucks parked in a semicircle, watching the lions. How would you like to be sleeping in bed and wake up to find 25 people in a semicircle around your bed staring at you while you slept?

TS asked whether he should get out of the truck and wake the lions up. We said sure, and he laughed. Funny guy, that TS. We agreed that taking a selfie with the lions would be a great way to become world famous and score many views and likes on YouTube. Unfortunately you would not be around to enjoy the celebrity.

Internet connectivity here at Xakanaxa is crap, electricity goes out at 10 pm so I’m just going to power down my phone at bedtime so it has maximum charge for tomorrow. Shocking!

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Mitch Wagner @MitchWagner