Okavango Expedition 2013: Still Stuck and in Search of Water

I love this delta deeply, but have we been had today?

Tired out and burnt by a place that will make your way impossible if no animals are welcome. This wilderness knows how to recuperate after thousands of animals and insects have feasted, dispersed, pollinated and fertilized. We have now demonstrated that most of the wetland bird species do not stay around after the flood has passed…. They follow the receding floodwaters. We had witnessed the feeding frenzy in this remote wilderness in June and August on previous expeditions, but now there is nothing, just long hard miles of pulling or pushing our mokoros (dug-out canoes) across dry floodplains, always in search of water in this wetland.

Pulling mokoros through the dry flood plain.
Pulling mokoros through the dry flood plain.

The research team is tired to say the least. They have pushed hundreds of kilograms of gear and mokoros for 17 hours in two days in the hot sun. There are more and more elephant and signs of hippo. Tomorrow we need to push all the way into the Mombo area and hope the water lets us. Right now, we are basically lost with an idea on how to get back on track and, most importantly back onto the water. We all feel stuck.

The results from the research are important, even though we feel like we are getting nowhere and seeing nothing. We always knew that the flood was 1/3 in volume and flow rate as last year. We knew that the transit to Chief’s Island via Madinari Island would be near impossible. We are completing an important data set.

I hope I impressed these hardships on the research team in Cape Town before leaving? This is harder than I ever imagined and we have not yet caught up with the flood or the water yet…

Steve looking a little worn out from the day

From Paul Steyn’s expedition diary

The team is currently quite jaded. We’ve spent the last four days knee-deep in mud and reeds, fighting our way to the deeper channels that will eventually take us to Chiefs Island. At one point we only made 900 meters in 3 hours.

The quiet flowing sections of a few days ago now seem more like a dream, and the present reality of our situation is harsher and littered with the unknown. How long will it take us to find water? Once we do, will it be deep enough to pole? How long will it take to get to Chiefs (‘Wonderland’ as we keep referring to it)?

I wasn’t quite sure what to write about in this post as very little has changed in the last few days other than our basic position. Then, about 10 minutes ago, lions began roaring in the distance which signals a semblance of hope. Lions follow general game, and the game follows water. Maybe tomorrow won’t be such a long day?

We’ll wait and see.

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  1. Kate
    September 14, 2013, 3:47 pm

    This is amazing! I imagine at this point you’re probably asking yourselves how on earth you ended up there at this point in your lives but only after it’s done will you see the magnitude of the impact you have made for the Okavango. Great work. Best of luck, guys.