We wake up around 6am. No animals in camp. Smoke still smoldering in the pit a bit. Saw more sunrises this trip than I have in total for the past decade.
Mark is down from the treehouse already and looking around. “I was so hammered I slept well and didn’t notice if anything came into camp during the night.” “I was probably drunk and high snoring so much I may have kept them out. I do remember hearing something though.”
We look around for fresh tracks and it does look like there was some type of antelope here, dog-like tracks too, probably hyenas, and maybe some new elephant tracks on the outskirts.
Jamie and Peter get up and are both looking under the truck and around the camp for something. “What’s up?” “Where are our shoes?” “You left your shoes outside?” “Yeah they were on there.” Peter points to a small step stool. “You thought your shoes would be safe… elevated on that? It’s a stepping stool.” “Ya, keep the critters and scorpions out.” “Dude, we saw a scorpion halfway up a cliff face at Rhino Camp.” “Where’d they go?” “Both of you lost your shoes?” Jamie’s got slightly worried Jamie-face. He puts his arms up in the I dunno double-u shape.
Mark is chuckling, “Hyenas probably stole them and ate them.” Ok this is funny. They probably did. “Could be baboons too. They did mention that at the check in.”
It does suck, but it is hard to feel bad for them. Leaving their shoes outside after specifically being told not to leave anything outside or baboons will steal it. Now we’re just rolling with the joke at their expense. “I hope we see a baboon wearing your shoes today.” “…or a hyena in all four.” Hahaha, “Oh man!” “There are some hyena tracks over here. Right by your step stool. Take a look.” “Well ya, they were surrounding the whole camp last night.” “My bet is there’s a hyena chewing your guys’ shoes up right now.”
Cooking up some cheese grillers on the truck stove for breaky. Peter is still bothered by the shoes. “Do you remember hearing the step stool rattling?” “Haha. No, Shoelock Holmes, I do not.” “Fuck man, those were expensive!” Hmmm maybe I’ll lay off the chirping. For a bit anyways.
I hit the showers and run into a tall scruffy lankster guy at the bathroom mirror. “You guys have a fun night?” “Ya, it was the little girl’s birthday.” Ahh these are our camp ‘neighbors’. Sounds South African. “Saw your headlamps flashing everywhere at one point. You have some visitors last night?” “Shhheeesssh ya. Some hyenas were all over us. One ran off with the cast iron pot!” “Whoa what?” “Ya, little fahker took it right off the fire grill, ran into the bush with it! Still piping hot.” “Haha holy shit.” “Ya, crazy bastard.” “A couple of the boys left their shoes out and I think the hyenas got them too.” “Lol ahhh thankfully I stowed mine away. Ya, and then some elephants came into camp too.” “Ahh we were gonna come say hello and I think we saw them come out of the water. Eventful night.” “Always. Well best of luck to ya.” “You too, man.”
I get back to camp and report the news to the boys. Mark can’t help himself, “So I think what you’re saying is, there’s a pack of hyenas in the bush cooking up a batch of smelly shoe stew.” hahahaha “Yep. That’s exactly what’s happening. Hmmm what are these, Nikes? Delicious!” “Fine dining!” Everyone’s cracking up. Hard to be mad at this stupid shit now.
We pack up the truck and look over the Moremi Game Reserve and Chobe guides we nabbed from the helpful girl at the South Gate. “Looks like there’s a hippo pool on the way.” “Yep. Dumbo Hippo Pools.” “Dombo. Whaddya think?” “For sure.”
We roll out of Xakanaxa and the roads near the camp are great. The truck stereo auto-connects to Jamie’s phone and The Devil Inside by INXS comes on. “Haha ok man, sure.” “What? This is on here?” “You’re a closet fan, admit it.” “I mean… they are good…” “Haha ya, they are actually. But… let’s change it.” “Fair.”
“We could scoot up the road and get to here maybe.” We plot a route to some of the watering holes on the way to Dombo. First up is the Paradise Pools. Sounds promising but it’s a bust. Just a herd of Steenbok off the road in/out.
Still cute but it’s all about looking out for them big five (Lions, Leopards, Hippos, Elephants, and Water Buffalo). We pull away. INXS comes back on. “What the hell? This thing is possessed all the sudden.” “Wow dude. You love INXS!” “Not this much!”
Not long up the road and Jamie spots something on the left. “Whoa whoa! Back it up, back it up.” There’s a leopard cub. “Oh shit. Good eyes, dude.” He’s coming out of the brush now and crossing the other road right beside us.
It doesn’t seem bothered by us at all. Keeps a wary eye and crosses from the grass to the road in front of us and climbs up a tree. Wow. Beautiful. Climbs with ease. Gets high up into the branches in no time with a few powerful leaps and disappears into the canopy.
“That was badass!” “Where we at?” “824 Paradise pools.” “Should remember to write that on the board.” (There are ‘boards’ in the camps where you can report what you saw and where. Helps rangers keep track and other visitors find animals to sight too.)
We get back on the road towards the Dombo Hippo Pools. It’s actually surprising when you drive 20 minutes and don’t see a major animal like a giraffe or elephant. We do spot an aardvark trying to dig out some ants with it’s long snout.
This inspires a little ditty from Jamie that comes out of absolutely nowhere, “Aardvark nose, aardvark nose. If you break your garden hose, you can use an aardvark nose!” “Haha what the hell is that? You learn that in Moncton kindergarden?” “Once that INXS starts playing… haha” “Ya man, I get all inspired!”
We come across a lone, young giraffe who’s found the perfect height tree for it’s itchy neck. She spends some time on the neck and chin before going up around the ears. Ahhh yeah, getting all the spots. “Best itching post in the Delta, I tell ya.” “Ya, just loving it.”
Just around the bend, we scare the beegeebees out of a cute, little klipspringer by the road. Adorable, oversized eyes and tiny build. It jumps six feet in the air and bolts off into the brush like it’s life depends on it. “Lol poor fella.”
A little further down the road and there’s a convoy of 6 massive trucks coming our way so we pull over to make some room for them. First vehicles we’ve seen. Big ass military-style trucks. Giant tires and massive clearance, looks like they could cross pretty much any terrain. Steering wheels on either side of each truck. That’s interesting.
Soon we’re in zebra territory. The guide we picked up says these are Burchell’s Zebras. “A little prettier than the ones in Etosha, eh?” “Ya, beauties.”
The terrain changes to slightly more of a wetlands vibe. Must be getting close to the Hippo pools now. The road up ahead is washed out and we come to a stop to check. “No problem for those trucks we saw but might be too deep for us.” “Puddle Master?”
Our resident Water Depth Authority, Jamie Drisdelle, hops out and rolls his pant legs up to gauge crossability.
A few steps in and he’s made his professional assessment. “Ya, no fucking way we’re tackling that bad boy.” “Alright, let’s look for a way around.”
We backtrack to another road we saw and test it out. Seems to also be in the right-ish direction. Until we come to a tree blocking the road.
“That look intentional to you?” “Hmmm I dunno. There are a lot of trees down.” “Ya, actually. Looks like going around is a no go too.” “Alright, back it up.”
Another road close by just leads us to some muddy, deep water. Nope, not gonna work either. We look for yet another alternate route. Alright, seem to be making some progress over here.
The scenery changes again. Skeletal trees reaching up from the dirt. Small pools of water strewn throughout. “Burn area.” “Maybe a lightning strike wildfire or something.” “We’re Experts!”
We find what looks like a well-travelled service road. Ok now we’re talking. We make up some time from our blocked routes earlier.
A little ways along and it opens up again. The water flooded forest gets more lush and vibrant as we close in on Dombo.
We start to see other vehicles on the road. “Must be getting close.” “Yep, just around the bend here.” “Let’s go hippooooos!” “Oh yeah, this is the place.”
The road curves away to a driveway up to a large water reservoir. There are some wooden structures that form towers and hides for viewing. Ok cool. We pull in slow and quiet so as not to startle any animals here.
We park and hop out. Mark points to a wooden hut, “And if there was any doubt that we were in the right place.”
“Ah perfect. Might hit that, actually.”