My skin has never been this colour.
Five days of driving around Chobe and Moremi National Parks in northern Botswana have left me bronzed like never before, even with sunscreen. We drove for hours and hours in the blazing sun, windows open because we couldn't use the air conditioning in the name of fuel economy (none in the park!) It was hot and sticky and dusty, there was sand on my lips and in my ears and grit in my teeth and my back and legs stuck to the cheap unbreathable canvas upholstery we were sitting on.
We never stopped for lunch because there was nowhere to stop. I'm sick of oranges and peanut butter sandwiches eaten en-route. I hate drinking water that's been warmed by the heat of the day; our little fridge couldn't keep up with our demands as we guzzled up to five litres each every day trying to stay hydrated. There was no point in putting on clean clothes, because they were dusty on the outside and sweaty on the inside as soon as we stepped outside the tent.
One day I burned the soles of my feet because I had chosen to wear Havaianas the day that our truck got stuck in a single-lane sand track 50km long on the way to Savute. How did we get stuck? We stopped to help a truck going in the opposite direction. How did he get stuck? He stopped to tell us that the road ahead of us was really bad.
We all had to push; we all had to dig; did I mention we weren't using the air conditioning?
One night by the fire, a traveler we were chatting with got stung by a scorpion. We were all, stupidly, wearing sandals. He was wearing long pants, thick socks, and hiking boots -- smart scorpion, stupid tourists. That night I tried desperately to sleep as the lions growled on one side of the tent and the elephants trumpeted on the other side. Branches snapped nearby and in the morning we followed the elephant tracks through our campsite leading towards the water. The next night our neighbours were paid a visit by a hippopotamous sauntering through their site. They took refuge on the picnic table.
We saw herds of zebra grazing, lines of impala heading for water. Hippos lazed in ponds and tried to keep cool. Crocodiles waited for their next meals. Female elephants and their babies crossed the road in front of us, and we had no choice but to wait for all of them to decide to pass. A cheetah paced around a nervous herd of impala, trying to decide which would be her next meal. Giraffes stared at us as we rolled by. A pride of lionesses and their cubs frolicked in the tall grasses next to the road, and a leopard peeked through the trees at us as we tried to get a better glance at him before he crept away. Every photo opportunity was better than the last.
We spent hours and hours driving in circles, looking for animals. We didn't see as many as we would have hoped to, considering the time we spent. But what we saw -- wow.