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Day 1. 6:30 a.m. It's a pleasant temperature as we hop in the safari truck and head out for the day. I'm so very excited to see what creatures will greet us today. With just shorts and tee-shirt and flip-flops on, the air rushing by almost feels bona fide cool. Perhaps I'll put on a light long-sleeved shirt.
9:00 a.m. We've seen a delightful assortment of wildlife and not too many other safari vehicles. The sun is out, it has warmed considerably and I shed my sleeved shirt some time ago.
10:00 a.m. Whew, it's starting to get pretty roasty. Wouldn't mind a little of that early morning cool coming back now. Time to get the neck coolers out. The animals seem to be shouldering the weather okay.
10:45 a.m. The heat is really starting to kick in. The animals seem to be looking for some siesta shade already. They're smart!
11:30 a.m. We passed a water hole and I tried to dive in, it looked so deliciously cool and refreshing. The guide insisted for some weird reason that I could not splash around with the elephants. Poor sport, I say. I'd give anything for a swim about now. I've never wanted to be a duck in Africa so badly.
12:00 p.m. Brutality starting to set in. Animals looking for shade everywhere to stand in or better yet, to lie down in ... beneath trees, beside bushes, or if nothing else, behind their companion. There is shade beneath the safari truck's canopy, but it provides me little relief.
1:00 p.m. Sweltering. Our guide tells us that this is when the impala start committing suicide. When you notice one hanging up in a tree, it's because they couldn't take the heat anymore.** Time for lunch back at camp in the still, still air saturated with raw heat. Shade seems pointless until you step into the sun and realize it can get worse.
2:00 p.m. It's so hot. In a torpor. Will I ever feel the delightful prick of coolness again??
2:30 p.m. It's really, really hot. Don't know if I can go on. I will step into the bucket shower in camp and see if I can feel alive again.
3:00 p.m. Temporarily revived! Sweat and dirt washed away. Wet hair working like a swamp cooler.
3:08 p.m. Hair completely dry. Sweat building up. It's really really very hot.
3:30 p.m. Now it's hotter.
4:00 p.m. It's still hot. Time for a cold beer.
4:30 p.m. Moving in the truck again, at least now there is some wind in my face. Has such a small pleasure ever felt so divine?
5:00 p.m. Cold beer, gin and tonic, rehydrated neck coolers, stacked one on top of another. I might survive the heat after all.
5:30 p.m. Animals starting to feel they might survive, as well. Elephants walking down to the river as the sun lowers and the light dims.
6:00 p.m. The iconic African sunset is beginning. Dusky water holes attract the grateful wildlife. Some will drink and go to bed, others are getting ready for an active night grazing in the moonlight; predators are hoping to catch some midnight dinner.
7:00 p.m. Back in camp for the night. It's warm. Quite warm. But I'll live to see another day of mind-bending heat. And when I think of all the amazing animals I saw today living their wild lives in the Delta, there is zero doubt that it's worth it. The descending night sky bands with magical colors and a sliver of moon that heartily confirm this conviction.
Day 2. ... Cool, warm, hot, hotter, hotter still, really damn hot, lord-help-me hot, survivable, really warm, warm. Goodnight again.
Day 3+ ... repeat.
By the way, do you know about neck coolers? So, OK, I look kind of like a weirdo dork wearing them, but I just don't care. They really help me cool off, and I recommend them to anybody who, like me, is not well heat-adjusted and heading off into a hot climate. Erik and I both use them. You can order them on Amazon and I'm sure a lot of other places. They are filled with little gel crystals that soak up water and hold it in, so when you wrap them around your neck it has a similar effect to a swamp cooler, with the evaporation from the fabric cooling you down. I've never worn two at the same time until the Okavango Delta in September!
**Footnote: I nearly left that bit about the impala suicide as is. Our guide said it to us totally deadpan and then moved on to another topic. This is the dry humor I've encountered in several Afrikaaners and I love it, but a lot of people don't always know when a joke has been said. So for the record, impala do not climb trees (they're antelopes) and kill themselves; rather, if you see one hanging in a tree, it is a leopard kill. Leopards store their kills up in high tree branches. Our guide also told us that giraffes sleep by putting their head in the crook of some tree branches and then lift their feet off the ground and dangle there asleep. I couldn't even count the number of stories that Berrie has told me in this vein. It keeps you on your toes! I'm sure I have digested a few lies from them, not even recognizing the joke! So if I start telling you about the elephant shoe industry and the men who make the shoes -- like horseshoes to protect the elephants' feet -- you'll know who to blame. They get a lot of private amusement from us foreigners any time we buy one of their silly statements. Also for the record, I did not really ask to play in the water hole with elephants! Hopefully you know *me* well enough to know that!