We leave Jo-berg for Maun, and are soon escorted to a tiny Cessna four seater with Louis, our South African born 20-something, tatoo-decorated pilot in shorts. Below us stretches the Okavanga Delta; Mopane and palm trees adorn a landscape dotted with faery-castle termite hills and blue-ribbon rivers. We spot a herd of buffalo, two young elephant bulls splashing through a channel, flocks of white egret soaring below. We have arrived.
It takes us a bit longer than the anticipated hour to get to the lodge: an elephant created a traffic jam, blocking our way and insisting we return from where we’d come. You don’t argue with an elephant, you don’t even take the time to turn you Land Cruiser around, you just put it in reverse and hit the gas!!!
At Sanctuary Baines lodge, we are greeted by a fabulous traditional African acapella choir and our hostess, Lara.
I follow Lara to the lounge and there sits Ally McBeal, smiling widely.
“Hello! How are you?”
I stumble over my awkward hiking boots and mumbled a pathetic “hi” back, sit down and start worrying that my doctor has given me the wrong anti-malarials, accidentally prescribing the ones that are known to cause hallucinations.
Lara is briefing us on our stay and I finally collect myself just as Mr. Ally McBeal, aka Harrison Ford enters the lounge. I am not hallucinating! They are here, on safari in the Okavanga Delta as part of his involvement with Conservation International.
That night, Calista and Harrison (this is a first name kind of place) join us around the campfire, acting like regular folk, talking about the animals they’d seen and the adventures they’d had, asking about our experiences and basically doing what everyone does around a post-game drive moment. They’ve seen 5 leopards since their arrival in Botswana. I mention that I have spent more than three months on safari and never had more than a brief glimpse at a leopard.
“You’ll see leopard” Harrison states with Indiana Jones confidence. I think I am going to swoon. Indy, wearing his iconic glasses, but not the hat, sitting around the campfire, here with us in Africa.
Africa… absolutely improbable