Monday, October 1, 2007

Canoeing in the Okavango Delta

Sorry, no photo this time. I was even going to upload some video clips, but alas, the internet cafe here in Windhoek prohibits plugging in USB devices. (Foiled again. Next time, Gadget, next time.)

Anyway, Mike and I have just finished out Botswana safari, where we went around the Okavango Delta for a few days in these dugout canoes called "mokoros." It was fun, but here's what I actually want to talk about:


Our safari overlapped with Independence Day in Botswana, meaning that instead of spending the national holiday with friends and family - and swilling beer like the rest of the nation - a few unlucky souls had to shepherd around a bunch of tourists.

I've rarely felt so much like a tourist, because in this case, our guides were obviously not too happy to be there. They fulfilled their responsibilities faultlessly, but there was rarely any levity in their voices or expressions. Can't say I blame them. After all, who wants to work on a holiday? How did they in particular draw the short straw? Who twisted their arm to make them agree? (For the tourist machine cares not for the nuts and bolts within it...)

Needless to say, this was something of an uncomfortable situation for me, because it reminded me that I'm a big rich tourist paying for an experience. I enjoy picturing myself as an open minded journeyman walking down the road less travelled...when in truth the road I'm on is worn and rutted from hundreds of thousands of footsteps.

Boy, now that I read this over it sounds pretty cynical. Here, I'll end with something of a moral: Sometimes, a safari is just a safari. So I should just chill out.

(i.e. Paying for a unique adventure is fine, but I shouldn't expect deep connections and/or transcendent experiences. Sometimes, my guide is there just for the money - which, hopefully, is a feeling everyone understands.)

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