16 June 2024
Day 58 21 January 2020 in Botswana ⋅ ⛅ 32 °C

The truck deposits up at a clearing in the bush beside a body of water. We’re at the Okavango Delta. There must be 50 or 60 people here; our lot, a group just departing, other groups arriving and of course, the polers, the people who will pole us across the delta waterways in their dugout canoes to our nights camp on an island. This was, by a long shot, my favourite time in Africa

(Please click on the image above to enlarge the whole gallery)

I look at the canoes, very like Irish currachs except flatter, and wonder if they will support my weight as well as my travelling partner who is a bit heavier than me. I go sit in the canoe on a chair minus the legs to provide back support with my overnight bag and camping equipment in between my legs. The poler, a sturdy young African woman named Kandi, pushes the boat out from the shore and nimbly hops aboard. We’re off.

(Please click on the image above to enlarge the whole gallery)

The journey itself is sublime. By far the most enjoyable boat journey I ever had. We skim lightly across the water, the top of the boat about 20cm from the surface of the water. I trail my fingers in the warm water as we go. Silence everywhere except for the startled cries of the stork and hrtoon we disturb. The boat itself is so well crafted that it makes hardly any noise at all on the water. My hand trailing makes more noise. I slowly lift my hand out of the water until just the tip of one finger is still immersed it makes more noise than the boat.

Several short clips of the canoe journey

The canoe itself is not an original dugout made from a tree but instead a fibreglass replica. It probably takes a lot of manpower and time to make a single dugout and I imaging they need a lot of maintenance or don’t last long. Also, I imagine that the demand for the services of these canoes greatly exceeds the supply. Hence the fibreglass.

Much of the journey is through narrow channels where we are brushed with reeds from both sides.

The water is shallow and water lilies abound. Water lilies are probably my favourite flower. I love the idea of them growing in the mud and reaching for the air through water.

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