After having gone through a global pandemic and having welcomed a new addition to our family at the same time, it had been a long while since RBOF had actually been on the road in any way, shape or form. Seven months after welcoming our new camper to the family, we decided to brave out into the bush and spend a day and night with him in the chalets at the Mokolodi Nature Reserve. Our streak of "bush excitement" was still as present as ever though...
Twas a pleasant September afternoon when we packed up our gear and baby into our Prado and headed out from Gaborone to the Mokolodi Nature Reserve, a mere 15km outside of town.
We reached our designated chalet by around 16h with the plan being to unpack, feed the baby and head off for a quick drive to the lake before coming back to light the fire and spend our first night in the bush after almost 2 years.
Needless to say, with our track record of camping and bush trips, things didn't go according to plan.
With the sun bathing the terrace of our chalet, we set Viktor's play area in front, not far from the door of the chalet and he was busy absorbing in the sights and sounds of the bush while we unpacked the car, put our food in the fridge of the small but equipped kitchen and brought in all the "baby gear" needed even for this short stay.
Our first issue was that there was no water in the chalet but after calling the reception to report this (all the while precariously balancing on some boulders behind the chalet to get cellphone reception), a ranger came by relatively quickly to remedy the problem - the main pipes leading to the chalet had been turned off earlier that day. While fiddling with the pipes the ranger asked us if we knew what a rhino was (I guess we seemed like amateur, first-time bush goers to him), to which we politely replied yes we do. He then nonchalantly mentioned that there was one hanging out by the water hole by the front chalets. We left him to do his plumbing thing and we strolled on down between the other chalets to the water hole and there, indeed, was a rhino strolling around, sipping water and munching on some of the dry grass around. We'd seen them numerous times before in the reserve, but usually deeper in the bush and never near the chalets.
Rhino seen, pipe fixed and water flowing, we made our way back to the chalet to quickly assemble the camp cot before heading off on our drive. Never had I been more frustrated with a such a simple task that after 30 minutes of sweating and swearing under my breath I couldn't for the life of me lock the sides of the camp cot in place! We had assembled it once before.... at home, when we bought it, after reading the manual (which I subsequently threw away saying "we don't need this anymore"), but the sides wouldn't lock into place no matter what I tried.
"It must have broken on the way here" I said nervously while Dina and Viktor looked on from the terrace in bewilderment. Hoping to end my suffering, Dina came in to try and help me with the stubborn camp cot. We fiddled and pulled and pushed to no avail and as we glanced out the door to see how the baby was doing we both gasped in horror as we saw a small troop of baboons down on the ground below staring up at the baby and looking at us...as we looked at them! We dropped the camp cot on the floor and ran out onto the terrace, shoo-ing the baboons away while trying not to scare the baby. We grabbed Viktor and ran back inside the chalet to give him some milk (we were more worried than he was)! I attempted to set up the cot one last time while Dina give the baby his bottle and as we glanced outside the window, the baboon troop had all congregated on the table and chairs on the veranda and were starting at us through the window as we stared out at them. After a moment of silence Dina whispered to me "Should we ask our guests if they'd like something to drink?" and we both burst out laughing, much to Viktor's and the baboon's amusement!
Needless to say, we were done with the camp cot for the time being. The sun was already on its way down there was no time for a drive to the lake and Viktor still had no place to sleep in.
We decided to head off for a drive anyway at least to the restaurant to have a drink and eat dinner and calm our nerves after the whole baboon incident. Viktor was unfazed and was still enjoying his new surroundings. On our way to the restaurant Dina recommended we use the wifi there to check on YouTube how to assemble the cot, which we ended up doing and in the first 10 seconds of the first video we looked up I figured out what we did wrong. The simplest of moves.... one click here, another click there and Bob's your uncle.... (insert face-palm emoji here). Having resolved that problem, we had a pleasant, relaxing supper, sipped our drinks and slowly made our way back to the chalet as the darkness enveloped the bush around us.
Back at "Baboon Chalet" as we nicknamed our home for the night, we FINALLY assembled the camp cot in 2 seconds, set it up on the terrace with Viktor playing in it, and got to lighting the fire (with the bundles of wood we bought at the reception upon arrival). The night air was pleasant and our surroundings were serene and peaceful, making us finally relax and enjoy our first evening in the bush in such a long time. As Dina's fire start blazing, I took Viktor out of his cot and down to the fire pit where we sat for a bit, enjoying the sounds of the bush night around us and the crackling of the fire in front of us.
Shortly after, we fed the little guy and put him to sleep in his now-fully-assembled cot and he was out within a few minutes. The two of us then poured ourselves a couple of well-deserved drinks, grabbed some snacks and plopped down into our camp chairs next to the fire, recapping and laughing at our mishaps earlier in the day. Our chalet was the one furthest back, right up against the small hill where all the baboons come to sleep at night so we could hear them "arguing" and "coughing" at each other from time to time. "I hope the baboons are wearing their masks and are adhering to social distancing" quipped Dina, and we both burst laughing out into the darkness of the night.
Early the next morning, I was awake at around 7am and was in the separate kitchen making us coffee and warming up Viktor's bottle. I sat on the terrace as the two of them slept, sipping my coffee and enjoying the cool, still morning air. Once the other two campers were up, we took a stroll down to the water hole (whose water level was quote low) and watched some kudu, impala and warthog come down to the water for their morning drink.
We then packed up our gear, including the infamous camp cot, and went out for a drive to the main Mokolodi lake where we relaxed for a bit, trying to spot the elusive hippos, before heading off home. For a first bush-trip with a baby, I think we did pretty well and had a nice, relaxing time there (minus the water pipe, camp cot and baboon incidents).
Viktor seemed to enjoy himself and was amazed by all the new sights and sounds around him and we broke the ice when it comes to bush travel with a baby. So until next time, and there will be a next time...soon, keep safe out there and remember, #GoTravelExplore!
"We are a Botswana-based family of 3, with a passion for going out into nature and the bush any chance we get!"