Plans change when you travel. Certainly for me anyway, especially during my recent trip to Southern Africa. You just need to adapt and reorganise yourself. Such was the case in Botswana when I visited the Okavango Delta near Maun.
I was travelling with my friends Céline and Louise. After the incredible Elephant Sands we headed to our next stop at Maun, some 350km west. However, after initially making good time, we found the worst road in Botswana. Despite being designated as an ‘A’ road, there was a 100 to 200km section which took several hours longer than it should have. Although laden with tarmac, there were so many potholes! At one point there was a large pothole covering one half of the road and a similar sized hole on the other. I had nowhere to go!
At this point Céline was starting to get stressed (not helped by our lack of sleep from the night before). The car was in her name and any damage would’ve been at her expense. Plus the Polo was not designed for this kind of terrain. At one point I was slaloming down the road like a drunk while the car coming the other way was doing likewise, resulting in us passing each other driving on the wrong side.
Eventually we made it to Maun and were met by the first rain I’d seen since arriving in Africa a month or so earlier. We decided camping in the rain wasn’t the best idea so rented a room between the three of us.
We were hoping it would stop the following day, as we’d planned to do a trek through the Delta. We had two options. Either a one-day trek, which was cheaper, or two days with an overnight in the Okavango Delta but involved more sitting around and was more expensive. Both excursions involved a trip in the Mokoro (a type of traditional canoe) whilst the two day trip had the advantage of spending a night camping in the Delta. Between the three of us we decided the one-day option was preferable given the cost and the time we had left.
Unfortunately, we awoke early the next morning to the patter of raindrops still falling on the tin roof. We cancelled the trip and took advantage of an unexpected free day to plan the rest of our route through Botswana. However, we still desperately wanted to see the Delta. That was why we were there after all. The day before we met a group of French girls who’d had similar fun dealing with the enormous potholes. They’d booked a tour in a small plane that flew over the Delta. This gave us another chance to see the area, so we decided to join them.
In the late afternoon we drove to the tiny Maun International Airport for the scenic flight over the Okavango Delta. There were eight of us sat in the little Cessna. Each with our own window to see the scenery. The pilot explained the route we would be taking and what we could hope to see. After the bumpy take-off we were quickly away from the town of Maun and flying barely 100m above the Delta. This was another incredible experience. We would still have preferred to trek through it but this gave us another perspective of the wonderful scenery.
It was hard to believe that such a stunning, untouched area could exist less than 10km from a large town. From our position in the tiny plane, we could see not only the wide green areas, intersected by the rivers of the delta, but also many of the animals that were now so familiar. Huge herds of wildebeest, elephants, rhino, a charging hippo. It was all there and we were so happy to have been able to see it.
Whilst it may not have been exactly what we were hoping for in the Okavango Delta, we made the best of a difficult situation. Adapting to change is one of the most important skills to have when travelling. Nothing usually goes the way you plan. But then it can be so much more fun when it doesn’t.