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Tracks of Giants

A Homecoming

A Homecoming

For the Tracks team, the long haul across Namibia to the Okavango Delta was in so many ways the end of a major stage. While spectacularly impressive in many regions, we had all been looking forward to a change from the dry and often stark landscapes. I also have to confess to a sense of relief at the change of transport mode – the bicycles have at long last been stored on the roof of Johnny’s vehicle and will stay there until we reach the Caprivi in about a month’s time. A further marker occurred just before we reached the Okavango’s waters when we passed the 1 700km point, which means we have now completed one-third of the journey.

And for both Ian and me, reaching this magical place was also something of a homecoming. I lived in the Okavango Delta from 1990 to 2004, and some of my life’s most special memories and work experiences come from here. Many of these were with PJ and Ian and Sharon, and so to do the final 10 km walk through the floodwaters together brought out some of our favourite times and stories.

Yesterday was a well earned rest day at Guma Lagoon Camp, the premier fly-fishing and birding option in this part of the Delta. Owned by long-time locals Guy and Bev Lobjoit, Guma is nestled under a typically lush grove of fig, acacia and ebony trees on the very edge of one of the region’s largest permanent lagoons. It’s a wonderfully tranquil setting, and our sincere thanks go to them and managers Marc and Taryn De Jager for such a welcoming reception and their warm hospitality – we were particularly pleased at their offer to upgrade us from the camp site into tents. We are also grateful to them for organising our mekero team that will ensure our passage across the Delta.

After settling in, it wasn’t long before the talk turned to what lay beyond the magnificent view out front of camp. And after some expert advice dispensed by Guy and PJ about the art of tigerfishing around the campfire the evening before, most of the team signed up for a sunrise departure to explore the Delta waterways and try their luck at some fishing. The effort certainly paid off – all caught, but Johnny took the prize by landing a 6 kg specimen, the largest taken from the area in ages.

Today we set off through the backwaters on mekeros. It’s going to be such a treat to just sit back and relax while this watery world and all its finest attractions glide by. We have four nights camping out on the islands before reaching the eastern edge of the Panhandle. Here we will be met by Jon Sandenbergh and his team from Kayaktive Adventure Safaris. After a quick transfer into the kayaks, we then head up the Selinda Spillway to Zibidianja Lagoon and after a day’s rest, courtesy of Grant Woodrow and Wilderness Safaris at Linyanti Tented Camp, its back into the kayaks to paddle down the Savute Channel to the world-renowned Savute Marsh.

For this stage we also welcome two worthy travel companions, Murray McCallum and Clifford Toop. Murray is Ian McCallum’s son, and is an avid fly-fisherman and passionate environmentalist (Murray has an Honours degree in Geographical and Environmental Sciences and works as an environmental consultant.) Clifford and his wife Sharron, who is Liam’s Godmother, are close friends and neighbours of ours. Clifford runs a very successful building company, and when not on site can be found surfing the Garden Routes best breaks.

Of all the stages, these next few weeks are undoubtedly going to be the most adventurous. The terrain is isolated and filled with wildlife of all shapes and sizes, conditions that promise unexpected surprises. Nonetheless, everyone is itching to get onto the water and we are thrilled at the opportunity to be covering some of Africa’s wildest wilderness.

And sadly, we also had to say goodbye to Mandla Buthelezi who returns to his home in northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Mandla has been a committed and much loved member of the back-up team. We shall miss his wholesome meals, gentle humour, beaming smile, and those early morning fires that got the camp going. Go well Mandla, thanks for all your support and we look forward to having you back at the finish. Frank Raimondo will also leave us for this leg, but will be returning after a short break away in Italy. Thanks for your efforts to date Frank, and travel safely.

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