Back in the summer of ’08 my mum, my sister and I went to The Okavango Delta in Botswana on a horse back safari. My step father died a short time before this trip, and my mum wanted the three of us to have this experience together (lucky us it was her treat!). While we were there we ate (like kings) each night on some rustic local hand painted plates that my mum took a shine to. Unfortunately the local pottery that made them had closed, so I painted these as a thank you when I got home to depict some of the funnier (to us anyway) experiences we had enjoyed during our trip.
As most mums would, mine has these on display in her kitchen. I like to look at them, for all the happy memories, but also cringe slightly at the awfulness of some of my painting. Lets gloss over that.
Each of the plates tries to sum up something that happened on the holiday. We saw so many more animals than my painting skills are up to, and although they wont mean anything to anyone else, each of these plates represents a funny incident, story or special memory of our trip.
The Okavango Delta is swarming with hippos. They look cute and cuddly, but don’t be fooled, they are ferocious. I think read that they are the biggest human killer in Africa (maybe dont quote me on that). So. Vicious to humans yet vegetarian!
At night in our camp, we were told very clearly to stay inside our tents, We could hear the hippos tramping directly outside. As you can imagine we didnt need to be told twice!
Riding in the Okavango Delta was an amazing experience. The presence of the horses relaxed the big game, and we were able to ride right up to the animals on horseback. Much closer (and more reactive) than in a jeep.
One BIG exception to this is lions. Horse meat is one of the lion families favourite foods. Consider yourself a cantering canapé while on horseback. At one point on the trip, our guide saw evidence of fresh lion tracks in the buffalo poo. The horses were far more edgy than usual, as they could sense the danger. The guides got us out of the area very quickly, but it was an exciting incident for us.
Anyone who goes on safari wants to see Elephants…..we rode for days….we saw fresh droppings and other evidence that they were near, and were giving up hope and then finally on the second last day we managed to get up close and personal to an Elephant family, complete with cute baby (that could have been straight out of Disneys jungle book).
We also saw some amazing birds, but I can’t remember any of their names.
We saw thousands of giraffe on the trip. In fact we came across so many, that we became completely blaze. By the end of the trip we weren’t even bothering to get our cameras even for the really REALLY cute baby giraffe.
Impala, Kudu, Antelope, Eland…..we saw them all….sadly not sure now remember which is which (or which these are). Lets just call them Antelope.
One of my favourite things was galloping with herds of zebra and buffalo. Our horses loved the pack mentality of being with the zebra. The latter very extremely smelly and noisy, and our guides were skilled in placing us to make sure we didn’t get caught up in a stamped.
We loved seeing a warthog family one day, and could just spy the warthog babies hiding in a hole. We also spotted bush babies….that we could find mainly by their eyes glinting.
Baboons and Vervet Monkeys
Grumpy baboons (yes that IS meant to be a baboon), and hilarious vervet monkeys. That white blob is actually an ant hill, even though it looks more like an iceberg. (I think I may have been pushed for time on this plate!)
Wow writing this all down, it does remind me that we had a wonderful trip. It’s maybe a little unconventional, and I’m sure “plate painting” isn’t going to replace instagram and facebook any time soon. However its amazing the memories that looking at these and writing the story behind them has brought up.
There are also so many more other wonderful exhilerating experiences not captured “in plate”:
* Swimming in the river at lunch time, while the guide stood by with a gun to look out for crocodiles;
* Swimming bareback on the horses when we were going in to fly camp, accessible only by going across the river.
* Amazing food conjured up by lovely smiling friendly local staff
* Fantastic sundowners, and drinking them exhausted while we chatted about the days experiences. And the way the sun switches off instantly as if being turned by a switch.
I’m clearly talking myself into going back (or painting a whole dinner service)…..if we can get enough anti-histimine to keep Mr PSGCs rampant horse allergies at bay……
Sadly, I’m not likely to go back, but if you fancy it…..
The company we travelled with was called In the saddle.com. They were amazing. Its certainly not a cheap trip. but if you reasonably competent on a horse and can scrape the cash together (or persuade a rich relative to pay) I cant recommend it highly enough.
I’d love to hear of anyone else who’s been to this area, planning to go, or who has collected interesting holiday mementos.