один мир на двоих (stusik_i_sharik) wrote,
один мир на двоих

Budget Choice Botswana

Given Botswana’s tourist attraction prices, we’ve been watching our budget closer than usual, though I still didn’t think it would have come to dumpster-diving. Well, I was wrong – we did end up at the city dump. Contemplating alternative access options to our next and last of Botswana’s overpriced national parks, we were driving through the outskirts of Kasane, when a large flock of marabou storks on a hill caught our attention. It was getting late, and good light was escaping with the setting sun, so without much deliberation I and Vova jumped out, leaving Shurik with the car, and all but ran towards the hill which we soon realized was a mountain of trash. Fixed on the didn't help eatmission to get an up-close shot of the marabou, we pressed on until a loud trumpet sound stopped us in our tracks – a huge male elephant was flailing its ears, charging at us tusks first - protecting his dump! Vova was saying something but all I could hear were the clicks of my shutter. I’ve managed to snap a few photos just before Vova dragged me away by the wrist saying something like” When a zoologist tells you to run from an elephant, you run FROM the elephant…”

As much fun as chasing elephants at their dumpsters was, we still needed a plan to get into Chobe National Park. Talking to the local wildlife and national parks director proved useless and even ridiculous when he refused to let us visit the park without the right paperwork for "security reasons". "You are making it sound like I'm entering the park to form a hippo communist party, or steal a buffalo!" I tried to joke with the official, but that didn't help either. An hour of more of convincing arguments, and all I achieved was getting the man to let me use his phone to call his own superiors in the capital, which was more than I had accomplished in other Botswana government offices, but still not enough. Frustrated and with now a genuine grudge I and Vova left the offices to come back to Shurik whom, it turned out, we'd very fortunately left behind in an internet cafe to fix our malfunctioning computer. Suddenly our line of action became very clear: the park officers hadn't seen Shurik, so he could drive our car into the park the next morning, paying only for himself, as Vova and I would be hiding in the trunk, under the tent and a thick layer of sleeping bags.

In the morning I was extremely high strung. That night we had more adventures: when we finally found a good place to bush-camp, it turned out to be prime elephant territory, and we spent half the night hiding in our car for the fear of being stumped to death in our sleep. We were ready long before the break of dawn and made such a mess in the trunk only a madman would attempt searching through it, and hid inside. Shurik drove as best he could, but by the end of the ordeal I was very surprised all my ribs were intact and I didn't have a heat stroke. Inside the park all three of us could ride on top the roof, steering with our toes if we liked, and nobody would notice. Except for a few lodge jeeps on morning safaris, which tended to move off rather quickly, this park was as deserted as most of Botswana's treasured wildernesses. Our highlight was seeing a huge male hippo resting in a shade of a thorny bush after loosing a battle for dominance. Our plan worked. Both on the way in and out - we couldn't risk getting caught at the exit either. Half a kilometer out of the park we emerged - dirty, sweaty, but with a great feeling of accomplishment. Another half a kilometer, and we were at the border post, finally out of sunny Botswana.

Chobe Gallery
Tags: places:africa:botswana, wildlife
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