Our camp the second night is more beautiful than the first. We stop midafternoon where there is a small seasonal pond in front of us. Life is all about water. Elephants, giraffe, kudu, impala, baboon, hippo, crocodile, wildebeest, and an array of birdlife entertain us. Large marabou storks are fishing along the water's edge for their supper. We start the campfire so that we will have good coals to cook with. Impala have been coming to the pond to drink. They look around for some time before drinking quickly and leaving to continue grazing. One impala wanders into deeper water for a drink. There are at least a dozen crocodiles on the far bank. One of them waits until the impala is facing the other way and quietly slips into the water. The croc comes up behind the impala, grabs it with his huge jaws, and twists it over and over again until it drowns.
We watch as the crocodile drags the impala onto the bank. It starts to chomp away. Other crocodiles move in and a series of fights start. Different crocs are pulling at different parts of the impala. Some retaliating and defending go on, but the situation is hopeless. About six different crocodiles get parts of the impala. In the end, the hunter has to settle for a leg and shoulder.
Twilight is approaching, and we are getting ready for supper. With the sunlight gone, some of the hippos have come out of the pond and are grazing close to us. When the fire dies down enough to cook supper, the hippos move in closer. We throw more wood on the fire to keep them away. The cycle is repeated until we feel comfortable enough to cook.
It is worth the wait. We feast on fillets and vegetables that were simmered in fine red wine. We enjoy the same meal for breakfast the next morning, only the portions are smaller. A herd of about 30 wildebeests takes almost an hour to wander our way, moving at a grazing pace. Something, perhaps a lion moving behind the bushes, startles them, and they all stampede back the way they came.
We break camp when the first elephant comes back for a morning drink. Charlie wants to keep the sun on his left as we head west, back to one of the supply roads to Moremi Game Reserve. After about an hour and a half, some concern is raised that we haven't met the road yet. After stopping for a cold beer, we head for what looks like some opening in the bush. Much of the landscape can look very similar, but we pass a striking, low-level sand crater. The remains of two long-dead trees in the middle of the crater look like two tables waiting for guests to arrive for lunch. It's an eerie setting, but finding the road is on our minds, so we pass up another rest break.
About an hour later, the going is getting rough, with places that are tough to go through. Charlie is now taking an odd glance at the fuel gauge. We know the road has to be close. Indications look good when we come across a set of tire tracks. Charlie gets out to make sure they are not our tracks. They are Land Rover tracks, but not ours. Our spirits are lifted as we continue.
We are making good time because we don't have to worry about getting stuck in sand sinkholes or which way to go. The road should run into us at any moment. Still, Charlie gets out of the vehicle twice to confirm that these are not our tracks. Fallen branches over the tracks convince me. We come steaming around some bushes and out into the open. What do we see, but our two tables sitting in the crater. It took us an hour and a half to go in one big counter-clockwise circle.
We are beside ourselves. We have sticks in the sand measuring shadows and the direction of the noonday sun. Which way is west? Charlie and I are like two ends of the compass, pointing in opposite directions. Ten more minutes in the heat, another cold beer, and we are able to agree on the direction we hope is west, toward the road.
Charlie smiles, puts the brakes on, and we stop right in front of the road. We sit back and put our feet up on the dash and have the best cold beer of the trip. We knew we would find it. When we would find it was the concern. Soon Sally, our Land Rover, is booting down the road like she can smell pavement. We need to get cleaned up, go out for supper, share a few stories of the trip with friends, and find out what they have been doing for the weekend.