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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana

We saw a leopard! We were driving down the final dusty stretch of road leading into the Moremi Wilderness, near the south gate entrance. Glenn pointed out the 'dog' in the road up ahead as a sign that we were nearing the park. I said, "I don't think that is a dog, it looks like a big cat." We drove a little closer and could see that it was a leopard stalking his dinner and paying us no attention, whatsoever. Just when we had almost 'forgotten' about seeing the more elusive animals, there they are. Such is life…send out the thoughts and they will manifest. Now I can focus my attention on Africa's wild dogs, one of the most endangered species on the continent. Here doggie, doggie, doggies.

On our first night in Moremi we were welcomed by a couple of spotted hyenas. By the look of things, they own the campground, making their nightly rounds kicking up anything they can easily drag away, sneaking into tents and pretty much scaring the bejezus out of the campers. I have to admit, it was one of our most entertaining nights yet.

Just to set the stage: GP and I are sitting near our little fire with a relatively small spot light, the size of a couple AA batteries, tucked into the drink holder of one of our camp chairs. We don't have florescent camp lights clipped to every tree, a bunch of tarps, rugs and ground sheets thrown around. We don't have any of those nifty camp dividers partitioning off our little chunk of dirt, nor do we have a bunch of shelving units, tables, cabinets, BBQs, microwaves or any of the other camp type accessories that the African's use to cordon off their site. We travel light. And when we are really going for it, we bust out our aluminum dinner table, clip our Darcy light to the top of a wine bottle, light a candle and voila! That is the extent of our camp. So here we sit - in the dark - soaking up the warmth of the fire.

Of course, in a campground, you are rarely the first person to spot a 'visitor'. You can see the flashlights from every other camp scanning the bushes long before the little fuzzer strolls over your way. From the radius of a dozen flashlights we could see the glowing outline of a spotted hyena trotting closer, followed by shrieks, hoots, clanging and all of the other silly things people do when they are scared; so you're rarely surprised.

All of this started going down around dinnertime, another boon to being vegetarian: stuff isn't so much interested in our leafy offerings. All we had to do was wait it out. The African's really put the carne in carnivore; these guys cook up a veritable barnyard slaughter at every meal, so GP and I sat back with relative ease (except for one small incident) to watch the antics unfold. There were screams, herds of people shuttling one another to and from the bathrooms, men barking, people chasing the hyenas around in their cars, a flashlight 'laser' show scanning, scanning and all sorts of diversionary tactics. Those poor hyenas…the madness they have to put up with every night just to get a shoe or two.

After an hour or so the mayhem subsided and out came the cameras. But my favorite part of the entire evening was listening to Glenn shout over to the camp across the way, "Hey, he wants to go back to South Africa with you and be your dog", or "neighbor, your doggie's hungry," or my favorite, "fluffy wants a pet, here he comes." He was shouting this with such glee that I could not stop laughing. It was scary only because we don't have experience with these particular animals and what you hear about them is often so misleading, but watching other people who are more scared than you are, takes most of the scary away. They were just being hyenas!

The next morning I woke to a lion roaring…in our camp! The neighbors said they could feel it in their chests. Of course, I sleep just this side of comatose or death, so the fact that it woke ME gives you an idea just how loud it was. In the morning we heard reports from two other campers that the hyenas had raided their tents. One guy walked by wearing two different crocks (one less pair of Crocks in the world is not a bad thing). Apparently the hyena entered the tent with the guy's wife in it! These are no petty criminals, but seasoned campsite robbers…and entertaining beyond measure.

After a week in Moremi we are back in Maun for a few days to restock, recharge and get our front wheel bearings tightened. From here we are going NW into Botswana's Tsodilla Hills, the 'Louvre of the Desert,' to check out the San People's stone art. Apparently the villages along the delta are renowned for their basket making, so there will be a bit of shopping along the way. Maun is considered the tourist hub of the delta, so we are looking forward to getting back into the villages and away from the haunts of the rich and paranoid.

We love you big time!

C+ G

Here are some of our photos from our time in the delta. For more photos go to:

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