7-1: Road Trippin’

Road Trip to Botswana

The long drive to Botswana kicked off this morning, and somehow Evvy, Matt and I scored a spot in Davey’s truck.The good part was a more intimate setting than the minivan, but Davey had a few logistical errands to run and our positions in Davey’s truck meant we had to run those errands with him.First was a stop in Pretoria to get a truck hitch installed on the pick-up, so the four of us passed the time in a nearby café with hot chocolate. Next, we had to swing by a mall to locate pretty African-like soaps for all the guests.This involved Davey speed-walking me through the corridors of the mall from one shop to another until we found what we needed.

Mashatu Game Reserve was a five-hour drive from Jo’burg, and I had a terrible headache that shut me down for a few hours.I slept for much of the drive while Evvy, Davey, and Matty shared stories.

At one point a Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill (Zazu in “The Lion King”) flew out of the brush, right across our path, and landed smack against the windshield of the truck. This was traumatizing on a number of levels:First, the poor thing made a terrible crunch when it hit the glass and it certainly didn’t survive.And secondly, Davey – who is a wealth of knowledge about birds, rocks, and plants – told us how the hornbill nests.Essentially, the mother seals herself into a tree, where she uses all her feathers to create a nest, lays the eggs, and then nurses the babies through adolescence.During this time the family is completely dependent on the father to bring them food and nourishment. So we’ve potentially left a widow and orphans stuck in a tree somewhere, and have named ourselves “Team Zazu” in honor of our bird-hunting prowess.

Safari/Bike Ride

Mashatu Game Reserve is just at the border of South Africa and Botswana.It’s privately owned and run by a small group of rangers/hosts who accompany all guests across the land. We crossed into the reserve, over a small river, and into a small camp for snacks, relaxation, and a sunset bike ride.

My headache had become so bad that I actually got sick in the bathroom, but I was completely opposed to missing out on the afternoon’s activities since we’ll be biking through the resort and tonight was bike trip #1.We took some time to change into our biking gear and to get our equipment adjusted and situated.Despite feeling terribly ill, I was excited to get out and bike through Africa.How often does someone get the opportunity to see animals from the seat of a bike?We split into two groups: Pan Aqua (minus me), and smaller group of me, Davey, Matty, Evvy, Mark, Lesley, Skip and Susan.We followed our guide Paul who – if his muscle build can be used as any indication – clearly biked through the bush on a regular basis. He packed a rifle across his back and a few rounds of additional ammo around his waist.I wondered how quickly he could engage the gun if needed, but I figure all I have to do is out-bike the slowest biker, right?

Biking AND packing heat… now that’s talent

The roads were deeply rutted but also very sandy, which – along with the setting sun – made for difficult navigation. As the roads got darker, we realized that none of us had brought our torches so the large rocks and thorny bushes turned into blind obstacles. But fun obstacles.

A Sunset Cruise

I got ill once again during the bike ride and can now consider myself “one with the bush” who rallied until the very end.I made it all the way through, though we required the assistance of a vehicle to light the road for the last mile.

Our lovely campsite was located beneath a large Mashatu tree in a large clearing.The staff had dug us two “bush toilets”, which are holes in the ground complete with their own toilet paper and matches to appropriately dispose of the toilet paper.There was also a bucket shower that the staff would – on request – fill with hot water for a long, steamy shower.No one seemed particularly inclined toward the shower since we were all cold (and a little bush-shy) so it went relatively unused. Tomorrow, though, I’m thinking they’ll be a mad rush on the showers after a day of dusty biking.

Dinner was marinated pork with veggies and rice. I was feeling better after drinking some fruit juice, but stuck with the rice and a piece of bread out of deference for my still-queasy tummy.We entertained ourselves with stories, jokes, and a rain spider Davey found and brought to us.

My new little friend – a rain spider

We slept in cots beneath the stars of the Botswana sky, bundled into our subzero sleeping bags and pillows.Nic gave me a beanie (that’s South African for “knit cap”) since “the majority of your heat will escape from your head” – which sounds perfectly logical.

Evvy and I closed out the day with our traditional nighttime-laughing-ourselves-silly before drifting off into oblivion.