Day 13: The Long Haul

Sept 16--Today is another of those long travel days. We left Kwai early and headed up and out of the preserve towards Chobe, our final Botswana destination. It's over 400km of the world's worst roads.

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The Kalahari sand that comprises the road is alternatively packed and unpacked, alternately flat and ridged. So the vehicles don't really travel a straight line, though the road does. It was a long, hot day. And it was made longer by multiple flat tires, to the point where we now have one spare left for four vehicles (all our vehicles carry two spares, so do the math). Unfortunately, Andrew, one of our guide/drivers, seems to be bearing the brunt of the tire onslaught, as he's already down three tires.

To show just how desolate the area we're traveling through is, we ate lunch under a tree in the middle of the road. Which is where our crew trucks passed us on the way to set up the next camp:

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Not that there aren't some things to see on the way. We stopped at Bushman Hill to look at early rock paintings and found a lion on the other side of the channel taking a siesta. 

The road won't always be quite so bad, though, at least in the final section, as Botswana is now on a big infrastructure improvement kick. Besides the new airports everywhere, including the one that'll take 747's at Maun, Botswana is finally getting serious about paving roads between the bigger towns and villages. We had to weave an insane path over and around already paved but not yet open road for many of the final miles of the trip, but next time I'm here, it will be macadam all of the way from the first village to Chobe. That'll still leave a big chunk of sand, but it'll also make the long trip more bearable.

The big payoff for the long bouncy ride through the heat of the day is Chobe. Mass quantities of animals. As we got to Chobe, we got our first taste of that. As in thousands of buffalo and hundreds of elephants in a single sighting. We'll have much more of the masses tomorrow, but it was nice to show the students that there really are large herds in Botswana. 

To prove the point, we finished the evening game drive staring at over 250 elephants congregated at the water. I'm pretty sure that no one on the trip thought that the elephant shot they'd get at Chobe was going to be a large pano. (Think about it: 250+ elephants take up a lot of space.)

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Tomorrow ought to be an animal show to end all animal shows. Exactly the way I planned it (;~). 

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