Safari journal – one year ago today – we learn the local language and speak it badly

Leroo La Tau, our current safari camp, is in the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park in Botswana, on the banks of the Boteti River. The resort is on a cliff overlooking a river and plain. We can go out on a deck and see wildebeest and zebras and elephants and stuff. Last night when I woke in the middle of the night, I heard a terrible screeching. It sounded a little electronic. Today I imitated the sound for our guide, Gee. He said it sounded like a jackal.

Gee is knowledgeable, enthusiastic, efficient and friendly, as all our guides have been. He has a restful energy, unlike TS, who was great but who could be a bit jangly. The hotel staff loves Julie, and treat her like a queen, which she deserves! Julie has been trying to learn a few words of Tswana, one of the common languages of Botswana (the other is English). I have followed her lead. We regularly butcher “thank you” and are working on “hello” and “good morning.” There is also “slowly slowly,” which seems to translate roughly to “take it easy” or “mellow out” or “chill.” Also, “we are here,” which seems to have a deeper meaning I have not been able to ken.

I am drinking far more liquor now than I do at home. At home I have 0-4 drinks per month. Here I have been having 3-4 drinks per day. At the end of the afternoon drive we have “sundowners” in the field; the guide mixes drinks and lays out snacks on the Toyota tailgate, or on a little panel that folds down from the front of the truck. I hae gin and tonic. Before dinner, we have more drinks. I have discovered Amarula, a liquor made from local fruit and milk. I’m told it tastes like Baileys, which I have not had in many years. Amarula is delicious. Then we have wine with dinner. I feel like Keith Richards.

The reason I don’t drink Baileys at home is that milk gives me an upset stomach (though I can no trouble with cheese and yogurt, which I love and consume regularly). Here in Africa, though, the milk doesn’t bother me.

And now it’s night and we’re in bed. We can hear water lapping not too far below the cabin. And we can also hear a variety of animal sounds, including a loud grunting that may be one or more hippos just a few yards away.


Mitch W @MitchW