Stuck in the Mud

Moremi (2014): Part 4 – Our 5 Nights at 3rd Bridge

Our 5 nights at 3rd Bridge campsite in Moremi.

It took about half an hour for John and the others to check in at the entrance gate before we finally set off for 3rd Bridge. It was only a 50km drive so one would think that we had plenty of time to reach the camp before their 6:00pm cut-off time. Not necessarily…the road to 3rd Bridge can be quite rough and sandy in patches. As we were later to find out!

Aphotograph of the travelling group

Group Photograph (thanks to John): Ben, Graham, Louise, Warren, Kelly, Pippa, Me, Brett, Julia, Judith and John

We had four vehicles. John, Judith and Julia (Judith’s niece) led the way with Warren, Brett and Kelly (Warren’s girl friend) following them. Graham, Louise and their son Ben were third in line with Pippa and I at the end of the convoy. We made good progress initially, with only a couple of stops along the way for a bit of game viewing. One stop was to view two Cheetah lying about in the late afternoon sunshine. Unfortunately they were quite a long distance away so getting a decent photograph of them was impossible.

A view of 2 Cheetah lying on a small hill in the late afternoon sunshine

Pippa’s shot of the Cheetah relaxing in the late afternoon sunshine

Crossing the first of the bridges along that route through Moremi was a leap of faith. The bridges are made of rough wooden poles and don’t look particularly strong. The other 3 cars had crossed without falling through though. That gave Pippa and I some comfort!

Graham crossing 1st Bridge which is constructed of wooden poles

Graham crossing 1st Bridge. The condition of this bridge was relatively good!

I battled a bit crossing 2nd Bridge. There was quite a deep trough in front of it. We had plenty of traction getting the front wheels up but I didn’t maintain enough momentum and the back wheels lost traction against the first pole. I had to reverse a bit and give it another go. A bit more speed and up we went, with a bit of a bump for the car and the trailer. There was another bump going off the other side into a trough but fortunately no damage was done.

A short while after that we hit a particularly sandy stretch of the road and Warren got stuck. John and Graham went to assess the situation. John was towing a trailer and it would have meant unhitching that to be able to reverse back and tow them out. Graham got back into his Land Cruiser and showed some serious off-road driving skills to drive through some deep sand on the side and around the boys’ car to get in front to do the tow.

We were cutting it fine to get to the camp in time but fortunately the road improved and we made it.

The setting sun not far from 3rd Bridge campsite.

Not far from 3rd Bridge campsite with the sun starting to go down

It didn’t take us long to set up camp after checking in at the campsite office. In my haste to join the others around the fire to catch up on news of their trip and their two nights at Nxai Pans I’d abandoned Pippa at the trailer. She was still busy unpacking a few things and getting our food ready for the evening meal. We were camped up against some dense bush and she was understandably nervous on her own. When I eventually did go back to see how she was getting on I discovered a rather tearful and stressed wife struggling on her own. I was in a bit of trouble! Quite justified. It didn’t happen again.

I hadn’t selected the best position for our tent. It was in a very sandy area and the route from there to the fire or up the other way towards the ablution block was almost impossible for me to manage on my own. It didn’t take John long to haul out his shovel and move some loose sand away to make a pathway. Very thoughtful of him and it certainly made things a lot easier…but then again, isn’t that what younger brothers are for? 🙂

A sunrise photograph taken by Pippa on our first morning

Pippa was up early on our first morning to get this sunrise shot.

We were all up and about the next morning getting ready to go for a drive when a staff vehicle drove up and told us that there were Lion in the campsite.  We quickly got into our cars to go and find them. Initially we saw only one male lying down in the grass next to the road.

A majestic Lion lying down in the grass in the campsite

Majestic Lion relaxing in the campsite

He was quite relaxed and happy to pose for us but soon got up and moved off in the direction of the ablution block. It was only then that another male came out from behind the bush and followed. None of us had seen the second one…a good reminder of the importance of watching each other’s backs in the camp!

The Lion eventually stood up and walked off

On the move!

We followed them as they moved past the ablution block and down the road to 3rd Bridge. By this time quite a few more vehicles and spectators had arrived.

The lion yawned after moving off down towards the bridge

A bit boring being the centre of so much attention!

One of the lions lying down while the other moved towards the bridge

One decided it was time for another rest before crossing the bridge

The Lion stopped next to a sign on the bridge which said slow down

Seems as if he could read the sign!

We sat and watched them until they’d both moved across the bridge and into the bush on the other side. We then went off for a short drive. There wasn’t much to see so John suggested we go back and cross over 3rd Bridge to try and find the Lions. He led the way across with me second in line, watching nervously. The water level in front of the bridge was okay but when he went off the other side the level was quite high up on his car. He managed without any problem but I’m afraid I chickened out and waved Warren through. He had no such fear and off he went…successfully as well. I did feel like a bit of a wimp to be honest.

Pippa and I went back to the camp and I decided to go up to the ablution block while it was quiet to have a clean-up. I couldn’t get to the shower cubicle because of a narrow doorway so had a basin bath. Not a problem with no-one else around. When I’d finished I went out to find Pippa and noticed that all the cleaning staff had been standing around watching me through the windows. Wheelchair campers are clearly a rarity at 3rd Bridge!

A bit later in the day we noticed that a car had got stuck in the water while crossing the bridge. The campsite staff went to tow him out but really struggled. They eventually had to jack the car up and place rocks under the wheels before being able to get the car out. The recovery took a couple of hours. It made me feel a bit better about my decision earlier not to follow John!

Later that afternoon we all went off for another drive. There wasn’t a lot to see…a few Elephant, Wildebeest and a couple of different types of antelope. None of them in great numbers though.

A view of some Wildebeest relaxing next a water hole

Wildebeest relaxing in the afternoon.

View of a single elephant browsing in the bush

Browsing in the grass

We stopped for sundowners at a particularly nice setting next to one of the many pools of water in the area. There were some Elephant wandering around in the distance. The view with the sun starting to go down was beautiful.

A view of a small herd of Elephant next to a water pool.

A small herd of Elephant

A view overlooking water with thye sun starting to set and Elephant on the other side.

Lovely view with the sun starting to set and a few Elephant across the other side of the water.

Reflections

We went back to camp to light a fire and enjoy drinks and a braai. It had been a great start to our stay in Moremi. The Lion sighting first thing in the morning was an absolute bonus!

A view of the sun setting

Sunset…always a beautiful sight

We followed pretty much the same routine over the next few days. Out for an early morning drive, back to camp later in the morning to have breakfast and relax and then out again later in the afternoon. We’d sometimes do our drives as a group but most often we’d split up and do our own thing. Graham and Louise in particular enjoyed spending more time out and about on their own, exploring the less travelled tracks. The nice thing about that was hearing about different sightings and experiences while we had our evening drinks and chatted next to the fire.

A Blacksmith Lapwing walking in the grass

Blacksmith Lapwing

A Lilac-breasted Roller posing for us

A Lilac-breasted Roller that was very happy posing for us all

We were really lucky to have come across a Wild Dog den fairly close to the road on our second morning. There must have been pups hidden away as they were all very edgy and on the look-out for danger.

A small pack of Wild Dogs at their den

Wild Dogs at their den

We watched them for a couple of hours and were quite excited when a few of them moved off across the road towards a water pool. They were very alert and seemed to be on a hunting expedition.

A Wild Dog looking alert and going off on a hunt

Moving off for a short hunting session

We followed and were lucky to see them chase an Impala. Unfortunately they gave up the chase quite quickly. I was disappointed not to have been able to get any decent photos of the action. Pippa was more fortunate!

A Wild Dog chasing Impala

Pippa’s photo of a Wild Dog chasing Impala

We spent quite a lot of our time over the next few days watching the Wild Dogs. There was some exciting action early one morning. We’d been watching for a while and then we noticed a Lioness moving up towards the den.

A Lioness moved towards the Wild Dog den

Lioness moving up towards the Wild Dog den

The dogs became very excited when they saw her and ran around yelping and jumping up and down to attract her attention. It was really interesting to see how they distracted her and moved her off towards a small herd of Wildebeest.

The Lioness being moved away from the den by a Wild Dog

The Lioness being guided away from the den

The Lioness caught sight of a small herd of Wildebeest

She caught sight of the Wildebeest

The Wildebeest caught her attention and we thought we might be in luck with a hunt. It wasn’t to be though. The Wildebeest grouped together in a phalanx and chased her off.

A small herd of Wildebeest chasing off the Lioness

Power in numbers!

They then turned on the Wild Dogs and chased them away as well. Lots of action and all very exciting!

A Wild Dog being chased by the Wildebeest.

The Wild Dogs’ turn to be chased!

We did have some more sedate sightings while out and about on our drives and there was always something to see.

A small group of Zebra grazing.

Zebra always seem to be around

2 African Spoonbill running next to the water's edge

African Spoonbill… the game’s on!

A Korhaan in the bush next the side of the road.

A wide eyed Korhaan.

A photograph of a Tsessebe looking almost luminous in the early morning light

Tsessebe…looks almost luminous in the early morning light!

We went on a boat trip on our third afternoon at 3rd Bridge. It was fascinating sailing through the channels of the Okavango Delta. The water is crystal clear from the filtering through the reed beds as it meanders deeper inland. There were a lot of small crocodiles that were clearly visible in the water. I kept wondering where the bigger ones were! We also saw Leguaans (Monitor Lizards), plenty of birds, as well as Red Lechwe grazing in the shallows.

A Leguaan in the reeds

Leguaan

I’d been feeling a bit ill through the day and was quite relieved when we eventually went back to shore and our camp. Three hours of sailing through reed channels was a bit much for me.

A photograph of me looking a bit glum on the boat.

Not a happy chap!

It was a relief getting back to land. Not to mention the cigarette that Graham had ready for me!

Our last day in Moremi was a disappointment for me. I was feeling really ill by then and as a result Pippa and I spent most of the day in the camp. We went on a short morning drive and then again in the afternoon. A lot of that time was spent at the Wild Dog den.

Ever alert!

A view of a Wild Dog later in the afternnon surveying the surrounding area.

Surveying the surrounding area in the late afternoon

Pippa and I returned to our camp later that afternoon and started to get a few things done to make it easier and quicker to pack up in the morning. I started pulling tent pegs out while she packed a few things away in the trailer. I hadn’t pulled more than 3 pegs out before suddenly starting to feel faint. Pippa took one look at me and sent me off to lie down. She said I was as white as a sheet and thought I was about to have a heart attack.

I got up a little while later and after discussing symptoms with Pippa she felt that I probably had a bladder infection. She and Judith found some medication in their First Aid kits which I took to help fight off the infection. I hoped that it would work quickly and that I’d be fit enough to cope with the drive back to Maun the next day.

The rest of the group had a fire going by this time so I poured myself a whiskey and went to sit with them. It tasted terrible. I poured it out into the sand next to me…no better indication of how ill I was feeling. I needed fluids to flush my system though and Pippa made sure that I kept drinking water. It’s surprising that I didn’t rust!

We had a lot of wood to burn on that final night and Graham had a fire going that Guy Fawkes would have been proud of. The mood was good with lots of chatting and banter, especially amongst the youngsters. Eventually though we all headed off to bed with the intention of an early start in the morning to pack up and begin our long journey home.

Part 5 – Back to Maun and the journey home to follow.

 

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