Saturday, November 25, 2006

On the delta

Makoro ride:
Making our way through the delta:
View from the delta:

Hippopotumuses spotted:

Male hippo who jumps like a whale:

Sunset on the water:

In Botswana, near the town of Maun, I took a makoro ride on the delta. A makoro is like a canoe, made from a tree trunk, propelled by a poler who uses a long wooden pole against the bottom of the delta, about 1.5m deep, to create momentum to move the craft.

There are a few wider, main waterways for the handful of motorboats in the area, though most vehicles are mokoros. Much of the journey is directly through reeds and plants that to the untrained eye look undisturbed, like a new path is made each time.

Moving through the delta on a makoro, one feels like a tooth of a comb that pushes the reeds aside while moving through, with the reeds closing quickly behind us. Unfortunately, this means one spends most of the ride getting pelted in the face by reeds and getting rained on by pollen or dry flower petals. One must duck on occasion to avoid the large, ugly spiders, most of which are the non-poisonous variety.

We went looking for hippos! In the morning we saw 2 fairly comotose-looking hippos, only their heads slightly bobbing out of the water. Later we saw 1 male, 2 females and a baby. We needed to be careful not to anger the male hippo because they are powerful creatures and can be quite deadly when provoked. Though hippos are fat with huge bodies, they are excellent swimmers and can swim faster than a poler can pole any day. Because the hippo seemed to be approaching us at times, our poler backed us up nervously. He jumped in the water a few times as he swam, reminding us of a whale without the tailfin.

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