Hippo heaven!

20 October 2018

Cornelia slept until 08:00 this morning, by which time we were dressed and ready for the day, having sorted out the laundry that we were hoping to have done. She woke up in a great mood and we all went up to breakfast together, looking forward to our day of rest! Cornelia was thrilled that Daddy had spied and pointed out the jar of Nutella, and made her own pain au chocolat, by filling a croissant with the spread.

In the dining room, we met the two dogs, Nini and Nana, who live here and Bugsy sat next to them stroking them gently. Then we had a quick visit to the on site shop for a bracelet (for me) and an activity pack and t-shirt for Bugsy, after which I moved the van into the shade, to try and keep the fridge and freezer as cool as possible. (Impossible in nearly 40 degrees, but it was better than nothing!)

We spent a bit of time up in the well-furnished communal area, looking at the assortment of books that you could borrow, and relaxing, and then Ian and Cornelia went back to the room while I took advantage of some slow WiFi to get a couple of blogs up. The photos each take about 3-5 minutes to upload, so it is a slow process that drains my phone’s battery very quickly!

I returned to the chalet to find Ian and Cornelia having a pretend picnic on the floor using her Connect4 counters, which was rather sweet. Then she was ready for the pool, at last.

She was happy to go in by herself and our conversation went like this:

Me: How’s the water?!

Cornelia: It’s quite refreshing! Quite warm but quite refreshing! And once your skin is in, it’s quite fresh!

I love these clever descriptions that she comes up with!

She did a bit of swimming by herself, before she raced across the pool with Daddy. She was happy as could be splashing around and chasing him! All three of us spent some time in the pool, before drying out in the warm African breeze.

I went to have a look for any hippos in the river, without success, but it was so enchanting and wonderful to be resting in front of the Kavango River, absorbing the heat, the breeze, the beauty, the magic of it all. It is rather a heartwarming and peaceful experience.

The peace was broken a little when an over-excited four year old threw her towel over two loungers (to make a bridge, of course) before I had time to stop her… and her towel smashed a glass onto the floor. She burst into horrified tears, which became worse when she saw that I’d cut my finger picking up the shards. (I was fine – it was just a small sliver.) I managed to calm her down and Ian took over, asking Harris (the guy who’d taken our lunch order) to sweep up the rest, and we moved over to the table and chairs at which we would have lunch.

Finger wrapped in tissue, we enjoyed our lunch (huge toasties for Ian and Bugsy, chicken salad for me) before Ian and I each had 45 minutes of “alone” time.

I sat up in the communal area for my 45 minutes, reading the new book I had borrowed, and trying in vain to upload photos. When I returned to the chalet, Ian and Cornelia had been making puzzles together and were having a lovely time. Ian then went off for his 45 minutes and returned just in time for our 16:00 boat cruise.

What a treat! It was meant to be a two hour trip but was closer to three. Amos, our skipper, took us about 3kms upstream during which we saw loads of hippos and a couple of tiny crocodiles. The hippos are amazing. There is only one male in the family, recognisable by the scars on his body, where he will have fought (and won) the right to be the head of the herd. All the other hippos in the group are female. When a hippo gives birth, if it’s a female, they both return immediately to the herd to live together. If it’s a male, he goes off with his mother for 18 months, and when he returns, he may fight his father for dominance. It is extraordinary!

We also stopped by to see some red bee eaters (birds) that live in the holes in the sand wall, to avoid being eaten by snakes.

I chatted at length to Amos. He lives along the riverbank and has a large amount of land. In fact, our lodges are built on his land, with agreement from him. He said that if he ever falls out with the owners of the lodge, he will have the right to boot them off. He has electricity in his home, obtained by selling ten of his herd of 50 cattle. Much business is done here with exchange of goods, rather than money, particularly amongst the local poorer people. He feels threatened by rich white people who want to come and live by the beautiful, fertile river, and worries for the future of his family, but also appreciates how tourism brings jobs and money to the area.

In between us having this conversation, Cornelia had befriended two German kids on the boat, a little boy (who became known to us as “the ten year old boy” as Cornelia kept forgetting his name) and his younger sister. She basically ran around the boat non stop, repeating a short tune, for over fifteen minutes! She was hyperactive and hilarious! I gave no idea where this sudden burst of energy cane from, but she had everyone laughing as they watched her. The German children joined in, jumping out at her and making her shriek with the giggles.

And all of this, surrounded by the most beautiful landscape again. I am almost fed up of trying to describe the beauty of the places we are seeing, but the river and the Popa Falls that we visited on the boat (where we could step off the boat and onto the sand and walk around the small falls) is so romantically beautiful. The colours were rich and warm, and the sound of the water rushing by filled the air with the senses that are awakened when you’re watching the waves crash on a shore. It was, again, utterly magnificent.

We all returned to our chalet, happy and content, and ready for supper. We changed quickly and went up to the dining room. On the way past the pool (conveniently our chalet was the first after the pool), we saw some long tables that had been laid for dinner, and brown paper bags were lining the edge of the pool and the pathway. A woman was scooping what looked like sand into them, so I asked her if they were going to put candles in them. Sure enough, that’s exactly what was going on. It would look beautiful!

At dinner, we enjoyed our steak and potato wedges and cheesecake, while Cornelia wolfed down her chicken and chips at top speed, so she could go and play with her friends again, this time including a couple of English-speaking girls. They were thrilled to see that Paw Patrol was on the TV in the lounge area, and curled up watching it quietly, while we drank our gin and tonics, and chatted to one of the lodge owners, a friendly guy who had built Shametu in 2015, and was really aiming to make the site luxurious. (Doing rather well, so far as we were concerned!)

As we wandered back to our lodge, via the now well-lit path, the tables that had been laid out earlier were filled with visitors enjoying a traditional African show of singing and dancing, which we enjoyed from the comfort of our chalet. Despite having to spend an hour unpicking staples and blue pieces of paper from every single item of returned laundry (I kid you not), we had all thoroughly enjoyed a truly special day.

One thought on “Hippo heaven!

  1. Seems like another fully-packed day. I sympathize with the local man, who only wants a measure of simplicity. There is actually far too much property “flipping” going on, by people with no ties to a local area.


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