May 18th — Heading to Botswana

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Doug Celebrating arrival at Impodimo[A few days after an unintended cliffhanger we have not one, but two updates today! Everyone on the safari is safe and sound, and they have now made their way north into Botswana --with the earlier fuel situation resolved.]

I knew that the 4 am wake up call would not be fun, but still it was hard to sound anything but groggy to the cheerful voice on the other end of the phone telling us the vehicles would be departing  at 4:30-sharp! Our trusty pilots had convened to formulate a plan for this  travel day. It was always going to be a bit challenging, as we would have go through South African customs to depart S.A., refuel, then  land again once inside Botswana to enter through THEIR customs, and then proceed to our destination, Vumbura, in the Okavango Delta. Yesterday we were informed that the  airport where we planned to clear customs to GET OUT of S.A. and refuel, was out of fuel until next week! This meant a back-track for fuel, then 2 more customs stops, before reaching our destination. Ahhhh, the joys of adventure flying…

So, the bleary-eyed pilots and their spousal units piled into the open safari, wrapped in every warm thing we had brought and aided by some hot water bottles provided by the lodge for the 1 hour drive to the airstrip where we left our planes 3 days ago. The plan was  to arrive a bit earlier than the passengers, so as to begin “pre-flighting” before they got there. We rumbled through the darkness, catching glimpses of the brilliant stars over head through our stocking caps and head scarves and hoping we would find the planes as we left them. I.e. no elephants had decided that the tail section would make a good seat or that one might see his reflection in the shiny propellers and decide to charge them. (We were told this actually happened about a year ago.) At the instruction of the guides, we did have the males of our party “mark” (in the animal sense) the tires  after we parked the planes, to prevent the hyenas, who apparently consider rubber a tasty delicacy, from eating our tires.

After dodging a few wildebeast, and being slowed by a rabbit who just refused to turn off into the bush, our vehicle finally came to a stop. Oops! Our guide had missed the turnoff. Back we go…

We arrive at the airstrip at the same time as our passengers (so much for early pre-flighting) and controlled chaos ensues as we load all the baggage, inspect the planes, and make pit stops. We are ready for take off. David Wyman is flying lead today and after the safari vehicles make a pass down the runway to scatter any wayward  animals, he departs.

We are  Beaver #2 today and begin our take off roll down the runway. Suddenly, a safari vehicle lights up the runway as he enters from the  left. Doug pulls back the power and hits the brakes. The interloper the vehicle is chasing  is a beautiful male antelope,  who  exits stage right and Doug puts the power back in. Chuckling at the sight, we continue our take off roll, and are grateful that the antelope chose to cross AFTER David’s plane. Another 100 feet down the runway and  we again feel the plane lurch forward. “What is THAT?”,  asks Doug as he pulls back the power yet again,
…Oh…those lumps in the runway…they are Helmeted Guinea Fowl. We wait patiently as they waddle  their way off the runway, and we finally resume our take off roll with airborne success this time. We are off!

As we make our 180 turn to the left, we become aware of a magnificent glow in the east, as the giant orange  orb becomes visible through the light cloud layer. Good morning Africa. Our flying adventure for the day has begun…

">MOF Trustee Anne Simpson on Safari ">Elephant joining us for afternoon tea Reflections on a Thirsty Giraffe

2 thoughts on “May 18th — Heading to Botswana

  1. Trip

    Wonderful report, Robbi! Your descriptions make me feel like I am there, but, of course, there are no words or photos to capture the feeling in your heart and soul of actually experiencing it.

    Hope the tire “marking” worked…;-)


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