....There were also other valuable experiences, less pleasurable. Detail tends to become blurred, but I clearly remember one occasion, some distance from Xunaraxa, when the campís game-drive vehicle was rolled....

Andrew Bannister, a close friend, was driving it. Inge Moolman, Jurieís sister, and Bibi were also with us. Andrew was going too fast, Inge and I were complaining in no uncertain terms, when the vehicle skidded and overturned on a sandy corner. We should have used more caution as these vehicles - their large wheels and higher than normal centre of gravity Ė does tend to make them slightly unstable, especially when going round sandy corners at speed. It all happened in slow motion, as did the long hours that passed while we waited for help. Andrew was (and still is) quite a character and did somehow manage to charm his way back into our good books. On that trip he developed a habit of shooting a catty (catapult) from inside the car, so, as usually the windows happened to be closed when he let rip, nine windows were cracked before the safari ended.
Christmas in the Okavango Delta was as African as a Christmas could be. The Christmas tree was a large branch cut from a thorny acacia. The decorations were birdsí nests, dung trinkets, seedpods, feathers, pieces of bone and shell. The lighting came from candles mounted on the horns of a buffalo trophy we found in the campís workshop.
Our celebration of the 1986 New Year was possibly one of the weirdest parties, or occasions, at which I have ever been present. We donned our party outfits, which, basically were the cleanest threads we managed to find in our bags, and headed towards Xaxaba camp on Chiefís Island where we had arranged permission to leave the vehicle on their airstrip. The route to Chiefís Island was quite tricky as one had to negotiate a path linking high ground and winding around lagoons. There were places where we had to cross swampy areas, with a lot of trust being placed in the vehicle tracks left by those who had preceded us. The bash was at a camp called Oddballs on another island, inaccessible by vehicle, which was well known in the area as being the place to party. Somehow we had managed to get ourselves stuck in the mud on the Xaxaba airstrip. After digging ourselves and the vehicle out of the mud we looked less than desirable partygoers! Next step was to hire two makoros to get us over the waterway and onto Oddballs Island. No problem. This we did and arrived as it was getting dark.
No sooner had we had our first drinks than we were asked to pay the cover charge, which was five times more than the total amount of cash we had on us at the time. As luck would have it the owner went easy on us and let us stay. Actually he had no choice, as there was no way of getting us off his island in the dark, what with the hippos being particularly unhappy because of all the people moving about. The midnight hour duly came and went. Later we witnessed a stunning sunrise to the chorus of distant fish eagles calling over the reed banks.
We were starting to get hungry and needed to get going, but realised we had a problem. We had no money to pay the makoros to take us back across the 800m or so of water to Chiefís Island, so, having little choice, we shed our clothes and waded through the waist-high water, back to terra firma, trying to ignore the honking of the hippos and the various creepy crawlies that must have been lurking about our ankles.
It was on this same trek that for the first time I visited Savuti, a vast oasis savannah in the arid country of Botswana. Geologically this savannah is a very interesting place. Over less than a hundred years the Savuti river, which runs through the savannah, has been known to stop and start flowing several times, as a result of tectonic plate movements on the earthís surface. As already mentioned Botswana is extremely flat and the slightest geological rise or fall in the terrain can alter its landscape within a few short years. At the time I was first there the river had stopped flowing, and all the water remaining in its channel was in small pools literally overflowing with stranded hippos. Even the lucky ones were barely able to cover themselves with a bit of mud. Jurie had been to Savuti many times from childhood on, and could recall fishing in the swift-flowing river of a few years before. It had at that time eventually fanned out into a huge flood plain or marsh. Piet Moolman, being in the electronics industry, had developed and supplied radio collars for Chris McBride, who was conducting lion research in the area. Jurieís family would go there during school holidays and track and record the data Chris was collecting.
What a territory! It was inevitable that I would become completely hooked on it! With its being so flat you could see further across its panoramas than I had thought possible. The skeletal remains of towering leadwood trees poked out above the savannah. They had been very much alive some years before, but, as the marsh filled up, they had succumbed to the waterlogged conditions. The colours of the sky, dramatic cloud formations, and my first experience of a hunt, all built on my initial impressions. The hunt occurred on our first drive out from our campsite when we saw a pack of Cape Hunting Dogs organising themselves around a herd of zebra. The zebra formed ranks facing out in various directions, with the foals sheltering among their ranks. With almost military interaction the dogs closed in on the zebrasí formation. Zebras kicked, bucked, and bit their way throughout the attack until the dogs went off defeated.
The public campsite at Savuti was very rudimentary. The only indication of our not being in the bush were the specially-designed water taps marking each camp spot where people could set up their tents for the night. The taps were so designed as to prevent baboons and elephants from opening them to get at the water. The ablution facilities were very basic and were not in working order because elephants had ripped up the water pipes. No water was at the time being supplied to the animals, because there was still a little available in the hippo pools along the river channel.
By the time we were on that leg of our trip we had run out of most of our supplies, but had worked out some basic diplomatic begging skills. We would approach other campers and bum a cup of flour, an egg, and sometimes a drop of milk. These were the essential ingredients for pancakes, our all-time big treat on that, or any other, camping trip. Sometimes we would even use plain water in place of milk if we had not been successful on the scavenge!
Other favourite meals we evolved at that time, and put to good use in the years to come, were whole-wheat bread and English scones. At first glance such a point may hardly seem hardly worth mentioning, but it should be remembered that all our food had to be prepared on the bonnet of the car, and cooked on an open fire in the potjies (cast iron pots) that served as ovens. Through experience I now know the exact type of wood, as well as the sizes of coal, to obtain a specified temperature and ensure perfect results!

Wholewheat bread recipe

2 cups Nutty Wheat Flour
2 cups Cake Flour
5 grams instant dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 table spoon oil
Warm water to mix

Mix all ingredients to a stiff dough. Sprinkle flour on the carís bonnet and knead the dough until it is the consistency of well-chewed bubble gum. Place in a bowl and cover with a damp tea towel and place in the sun to rise. On a cloudy day, place near a slow fire and turn the bowl often. When the dough has doubled in size, knead again and place in a flat-bottomed, greased potjie. Grease the inside of the lid and place on the potjie. The lid may be sealed with some dough, but with experience this may not be necessary. Place potjie on a bed of scattered leadwood coals and place 3 medium size coals on the lid which gives you a temperature of about 180 C. Bake for about 1 hour. When the loaf is baked, turn onto a tea towel to cool down a bit and then eat while still hot and steaming!

En route back to South Africa, about two hundred kilometers east of Maun, we stopped at the never-ending flat Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, being one of those amazing spaces that are too huge to describe - the only option seemed to be to strip and run naked on the sun-baked surface! On other occasions we have seen the pans tinted with the pink hue of a million flamingos settled there to feed and breed after the rains have fallen.
I wonder how many times we have had an experience or seen a spectacle that may take forever to happen again, or, indeed, may never do so. There are so many things I long to see, and do, again, but canít make myself go back for fear of missing something else still to come elsewhere.

To read previous chapters of ďOur African WayĒ, please click the following link:

Our African Way