Saturday, 12 May 2007

MOKOROING IN THE OKAVANGO DELTA

I spent all day discovering the unique wonder that is the Okavango Delta by mokoro - a traditional dugout canoe introduced to the place by the Bayei people in the 18th century.
No amount of words can ever come close to describe this most exquisite experience… Imagine floating in clear waters all surrounded by water lilies – that just about sums it up. But there’s a lot more…


You get in the mokoro and it takes you into water trails and channels through what is locally called “hippo-grass” and papyri plants over a tapestry of white water lilies, with just an occasional purple or pinkish one… all surrounded by the sounds of the water being gently caressed by the mokoro as it is moved along by its savvy poler, the wilderness around (all sorts of rare insects, birds and bees included) and the silence beyond… All you see in front of you is the water trail, the green grass and the water lilies and, as you look up, the clear blue sky, the sun and some of the most rare birds on the planet…


I mean, not that long ago, I did a three-day hydrotherapy session at a place also all surrounded by nature, but it didn’t come anywhere close to mokoroing like this in the Okavango Delta for one day in all it gives you of physical and spiritual relaxation, peace of mind and a true sense of being in one with nature!



At some point you start sharing the trail and the view with a convoy of mokoros carrying tourists coming back from a night or two in the delta. Almost everybody greets and smiles at you, except for a few who are either asleep or deeply immersed in a book… at which sight you cannot help but feel totally baffled at how can some people come to a paradise like this, and pay a small fortune for it too, and instead of soaking up and in all the beauty and goodness of the scenery till the very last drop, be capable of spending any time reading a… Jeffrey Archer’s novel?!


Anyway, after the first two or three hours of progressing deep inside the delta, you stop by a small open space by a lake, where you leave the mokoro to find a buffalo’s skull with the horns on for good measure and effect waiting for you, which you can use as a resting seat by a huge secular tree. You then put on those boots that are made for walkin’ and move on walkin’ all over the bush… But, as you start the journey which will take some two hours, and having had the truck that took you to the mokoro station stopped for a while to let a huge lebolobolo (puff adder) slowly cross the road, you ask about the snakes… Yes, you are told, there are all sorts of them here, basically the all gamut, but some of them are not venomous and will probably only asphyxiate you! In any case they are all sleeping around in the grass… Well, you count on your boots and keep walking on!


Past your first baobab (a baby one) all surrounded by mukua (its fruit) you get into fields of wild sage and start seeing signs of elephants all over the place and as you ask where are they and are told that they might be also somewhere inside the bush because it’s too hot for them out there in the open, you come across a small lake where you can see at least five hippo heads and as many local men pulling fishing nets from the water… while you start wondering if they are not in fact negotiating the nets with the hippos, you are asked to look to one side and at some distance, there it is: an elephant and… a bit further away another one… and then another one! And your mind just stops, humbled by the sight of the majestic creatures you suddenly find yourself surrounded by; your head moving left, right and center, because you keep wanting to see the hippos coming out and the end result of the negotiation with the fishermen, while not losing sight of the elephants approaching. The first one you saw is moving closer and you expect they are all coming to the lake for water… and as he moves forward you cannot but be absolutely mesmerized by the imposing presence of this giant! I mean, I’ve seen elephants and hippos before, but it was always in controlled environments like zoos or game drives, never like this totally unexpectedly and totally in the wild!


Well, eventually the elephants didn’t come any closer because it appears that they’ve found a pool closer to where they were coming from… The hippos didn’t come out either and we didn’t get to see the fishing nets completely pulled out as we left the place while the men were still busy at their negotiation with the submerged hippos… As you make your way back you are told of all the animals you could have seen around but didn’t get the chance to: zebras, buffalos, giraffes, hyenas, lions, impalas (these we saw while still in the mokoro), the list just goes on and on…


Once back at the spot where you left your stuff unattended to find it intact, you are now free to take off those boots, which are all covered with dust and bush fire ashes, have a light meal, lots of water and get to use the most interestingly designed and eco-friendly loo you’ve ever experienced…

Back to the mokoro, you start your return journey and witness the unique spectacle of the water lilies closing at the same pace as the sun goes down… and you start to feel some sympathy for those tourists you saw sleeping in the morning… but still don’t understand those who were reading!



P.S.: my camera has let me down… so, the pictures seen here are borrowed from a number of different people, but are all from the Okavango Delta...

(SEE THE GEOGRAPHY OF THE OKAVANGO HERE)

I spent all day discovering the unique wonder that is the Okavango Delta by mokoro - a traditional dugout canoe introduced to the place by the Bayei people in the 18th century.
No amount of words can ever come close to describe this most exquisite experience… Imagine floating in clear waters all surrounded by water lilies – that just about sums it up. But there’s a lot more…


You get in the mokoro and it takes you into water trails and channels through what is locally called “hippo-grass” and papyri plants over a tapestry of white water lilies, with just an occasional purple or pinkish one… all surrounded by the sounds of the water being gently caressed by the mokoro as it is moved along by its savvy poler, the wilderness around (all sorts of rare insects, birds and bees included) and the silence beyond… All you see in front of you is the water trail, the green grass and the water lilies and, as you look up, the clear blue sky, the sun and some of the most rare birds on the planet…


I mean, not that long ago, I did a three-day hydrotherapy session at a place also all surrounded by nature, but it didn’t come anywhere close to mokoroing like this in the Okavango Delta for one day in all it gives you of physical and spiritual relaxation, peace of mind and a true sense of being in one with nature!



At some point you start sharing the trail and the view with a convoy of mokoros carrying tourists coming back from a night or two in the delta. Almost everybody greets and smiles at you, except for a few who are either asleep or deeply immersed in a book… at which sight you cannot help but feel totally baffled at how can some people come to a paradise like this, and pay a small fortune for it too, and instead of soaking up and in all the beauty and goodness of the scenery till the very last drop, be capable of spending any time reading a… Jeffrey Archer’s novel?!


Anyway, after the first two or three hours of progressing deep inside the delta, you stop by a small open space by a lake, where you leave the mokoro to find a buffalo’s skull with the horns on for good measure and effect waiting for you, which you can use as a resting seat by a huge secular tree. You then put on those boots that are made for walkin’ and move on walkin’ all over the bush… But, as you start the journey which will take some two hours, and having had the truck that took you to the mokoro station stopped for a while to let a huge lebolobolo (puff adder) slowly cross the road, you ask about the snakes… Yes, you are told, there are all sorts of them here, basically the all gamut, but some of them are not venomous and will probably only asphyxiate you! In any case they are all sleeping around in the grass… Well, you count on your boots and keep walking on!


Past your first baobab (a baby one) all surrounded by mukua (its fruit) you get into fields of wild sage and start seeing signs of elephants all over the place and as you ask where are they and are told that they might be also somewhere inside the bush because it’s too hot for them out there in the open, you come across a small lake where you can see at least five hippo heads and as many local men pulling fishing nets from the water… while you start wondering if they are not in fact negotiating the nets with the hippos, you are asked to look to one side and at some distance, there it is: an elephant and… a bit further away another one… and then another one! And your mind just stops, humbled by the sight of the majestic creatures you suddenly find yourself surrounded by; your head moving left, right and center, because you keep wanting to see the hippos coming out and the end result of the negotiation with the fishermen, while not losing sight of the elephants approaching. The first one you saw is moving closer and you expect they are all coming to the lake for water… and as he moves forward you cannot but be absolutely mesmerized by the imposing presence of this giant! I mean, I’ve seen elephants and hippos before, but it was always in controlled environments like zoos or game drives, never like this totally unexpectedly and totally in the wild!


Well, eventually the elephants didn’t come any closer because it appears that they’ve found a pool closer to where they were coming from… The hippos didn’t come out either and we didn’t get to see the fishing nets completely pulled out as we left the place while the men were still busy at their negotiation with the submerged hippos… As you make your way back you are told of all the animals you could have seen around but didn’t get the chance to: zebras, buffalos, giraffes, hyenas, lions, impalas (these we saw while still in the mokoro), the list just goes on and on…


Once back at the spot where you left your stuff unattended to find it intact, you are now free to take off those boots, which are all covered with dust and bush fire ashes, have a light meal, lots of water and get to use the most interestingly designed and eco-friendly loo you’ve ever experienced…

Back to the mokoro, you start your return journey and witness the unique spectacle of the water lilies closing at the same pace as the sun goes down… and you start to feel some sympathy for those tourists you saw sleeping in the morning… but still don’t understand those who were reading!



P.S.: my camera has let me down… so, the pictures seen here are borrowed from a number of different people, but are all from the Okavango Delta...

(SEE THE GEOGRAPHY OF THE OKAVANGO HERE)

8 comments:

Nick said...

Wonderful!

Thanks for letting the rest of us into your mokoro.
Marvellous text and pictures!

Koluki said...

Thanks for the comment Nick. Next time, if there's one, I'll invite you to come along!

ndesanjo said...

Thanks for the font gift:)
For two years I lived somewhere, not far from the delta, now I have read your piece, I wish I went there to experience nature and beauty.

Koluki said...

Ndesanjo,

You're most welcome, my brother!
Thanks also for the link. But, in fairness, your title should be "Botswana: Discovering the Beauty of the Okavango Delta", because even though the Okavango (or Kubango) River springs from Angola, its Delta falls in Botswana. I attached a map of the Okavango to the post.

Now, can I know were did you live close to the Delta?

Maybe next time we should arrange a group trip there - you, myself, Nick and anyone else up for it, everybody coming from different parts of the world, wouldn't it be great?

ndesanjo said...

Ooh, I wrote Angola...let me correct it right now. Thanks. Maybe bloggers can visit there after the "African bloggers conference":)
While floating with your mokoro, did you see a giant Baobab tree from a distance? That's where I spent my time trying to achieve the African nirvana!

Koluki said...

"African bloggers conference", really? Where? When? Tell me more?

... Well, while floating with my mokoro I saw a number of Baobabs (by the way, we call them 'Imbondeiro' in Angola), some smaller, some bigger... so, yes, maybe I saw your Nirvana Baobab...

ndesanjo said...

Check this:
1. http://tinyurl.com/yschzg

2. http://tinyurl.com/22xc57

There is one Imbondeiro, which looks like flowery hands collecting rain water...do you remember seeing that one? It is different from the rest.
Check the links above.

Koluki said...

OK, I've checked the links but still need some more time to read and digest all the info in them... Wow, I didn't know there was so much controversy around the 'african blogosphere'! In any case, from what I could gather, it appears that there's still no date or place settled for it...

Now, let me see... I saw an imbondeiro that fits your description, but... it didn't appear to me that around the spot where it was located there was any place suitable for a human being to settle for 2 years. But... I believe you!

Let me say that when my camera let me down I was still able to take some pictures with my cellphone. As soon as I manage to download them I'll post them here in replacement of the current ones. I've taken one of that imbondeiro...