This is part two of a three part series on Kayaking in Maun, while I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Botswana. My experiences and thoughts are my own and do not represent the governments of The United States or Botswana.

It was maybe the worst night of sleep I’d ever experienced in my life. Hearing the laughs of the hyenas through my earbuds, nearly getting ripped to pieces just because I needed to empty my bladder, and at some point during the night (after the suicidal trip to the portable) I could have sworn something lifted up the edge of my tent. When I told everyone of my excursion into the dark, they all stared at me as if I was the dumbest person alive. I probably am. I took this time to remind them that this was my first time camping and no one told me to pee outside my tent if I really needed to. (Not that I would have; my thing about toilets, you know.)

Cedric took us across the river to explore again.

Though the morning was glorious, we didn’t see much. A couple of heads of Giraffe, hiding in the Acacia trees ran off as soon as they spotted us. A warthog bounded through the plains.  Saw some more of those cranes everyone keeps insisting are so rare. Maybe another elephant or two. We trudged through calf deep waters instead of walking around. Made it through without a single leech, I’m proud to say.

This morning, even though we were all exhausted from the night before, felt easier. We got dressed, ate breakfast, loaded our things back onto the boat and then hopped back in our kayaks. I had a little visitor, that I called Baby River Frog, because it was just an ickle little baby frog, no bigger than my pinkie nail, and it sat in my kayak as though it was about to paddle down the river. When I tried to scoop Baby River Frog out, it hopped under my seat. It was time to go and I didn’t know what else I could do. So I sat on it. RIP Baby River Frog; we hardly knew thee.

Day Two’s paddle time was twice as long as day one. While there were still no crocodile sightings, there were several more hippo stops. For most of our paddling, I was pulling up the rear but I occasionally put some real effort in, and was right behind our guide when he heard the warning snort.

“Everyone to the right! Quickly!” he shouted and pointed.

He steered away from the hippo. I started paddling with fear and adrenaline rushing through me, but something weird happened. Instead of going right, the way I was paddling, I headed left, straight into the path of the hippo. I couldn’t seem to help the way my float drifted. John looked at me incredulously. “To the right, damn it!” he shouted again. I looked up at him in plain terror. Was this how I was going to die?

With his thumb and pointer finger, he whistled to the boat that came up behind us, and started to rev the engine. I found enough pull and got myself out of the way of the boat, if not out of the way of the hippo. Everything was okay again.

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After that particular experience, I decided it wasn’t so bad if I stayed in the back. I would be closer to the boat, which felt relatively safer than being surrounded on all sides by kayakers and reeds that I inevitably would run into.

We stopped for lunch in a pull out that hippos mostly used to climb out of the water. It being the middle of the day, and hippos having dry skin issues, we didn’t have to worry about one crashing through the reeds. We didn’t have to, but I did anyway.

While I had no problem getting into the water, getting out of it was quite the issue.

When we made it to our camp, I fell over into the river. My feet got tangled and I lost my balance. Luckily, Only my legs got wet, and after walking through the thickets of the tall grass before dinner, I was dry again. 

We had steak and potatoes for dinner. My arms and upper body cried from the over work, but it felt great, my muscles getting used again.

We camped under a grove of trees near the river. It was lovely and felt more like a campground than the spot before. We shared stories and had great conversations about Peace Corps and biking across continents. Even though I eventually put my headphones on for bed, the night was quieter this time around. And yes, I used the bathroom before it got dark this time. Lesson, learned.

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