Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Another Day, Another Country

Tuesday, 11/20

Another day, another country. Today we drove across the border to Botswana for a tour of Chobe National Park. Everything moves slowly as we get our passports stamped. For whatever reason, they wouldn't allow our guide to get copies of the entry forms ahead of time, so we had to wait until we arrived at the tiny building, pick up a form and fill it out, then wait to be approved. More entry and exit stamps. Looking at my passport, you'd think I was a major world traveler. Today we exit Zimbabwe, enter Botswana, then do the reverse as we leave. Four more stamps!

Unlike Zimbabwe, Botswana has a stable economy. Its population is diminished as well, however, due to HIV and AIDS. Roadside billboards and posters urging “real men” to get checked, and to use condoms (which are handed out via free dispensers in the border crossing offices, and I assume elsewhere) abound.

In the park, we boarded a boat for a river cruise. Lots and lots of hippos and elephants,

plus a glimpse of nature in action. Crocodiles are maternal, and we watched a mother croc in the water below her nest.

A water monitor lizard wandered by

and she shot out of the water with hearty vocalizations to let him know he wasn’t welcome.

Waterbuck antelope, plus numerous birds again, many with familiar Florida counterparts, like the anhinga. Same genus, different species. A pair of African fish-eating eagles, looking very much like small American bald eagles, perched in a tree, screeching. Females are larger and have a lower-pitched voice. After lunch (guess what! A buffet!), we boarded the open vehicles for a land tour of the park. Although the literature spoke of the multitudes of elephant in the park, we’d actually seen more on the river. We did see several puka, antelope which are found only in Chobe, and a leopard tortoise as new species, but most of the critters were taking refuge from the heat.

The weather changed, and we were caught in a thunderstorm, so our tour was cut short. Nothing like driving down the highway in an open vehicle in the rain. There’s a canvas top, but no side windows, and not a whole lot in the front. Camera protection was the watchword.

We had great seats for dinner at the hotel, overlooking the waterhole. Everything is open—no glass to spoil the views.

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