The sky was just beginning to lighten as my alarm roused me at 4:45 a.m. Normally I’m not a morning person, but jet lag and excitement for my first day riding in Botswana made it easier than usual to get moving so early. I donned my breeches and riding sneakers, grabbed my helmet and half chaps and shrugged into my fleece jacket as I set out to meet my group for breakfast. April in Botswana is similar to April in Maryland–except that Botswana is heading into winter. So mornings and evenings can get chilly, particularly when traveling in open four-wheel-drive vehicles.
At breakfast I greeted my chaperone Paul Swart of Natural Migrations in Bend, Ore. Paul organized the trip for me in conjunction with the Botswana Tourism Board and was accompanying me for most of it. He grew up in South Africa and had been a guide in his home country as well as in Botswana, so I knew I was in good hands. We met our riding companions for the day–two young women from southern France. They were staying in a satellite camp in the Mashatu Game Reserve, part of the Northern Tuli Game Reserve. We were staying at the Main Camp.
Mashatu is located in the easternmost part of the country where Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe meet. The Tuli Block is bordered in the south by the Limpopo River, which I had crossed to enter the country the previous day. It definitely was not by any common means of transportation: Paul and I–and our luggage–arrived by cage, with half walls created from welded mesh grates, a metal roof and a wood floor, suspended over the river on a cable. I lifted my camera to my eye as our attendant on the South Africa side of the crossing called across to her colleague a half mile or so to the Botswana side to have him turn on the cable’s motor to carry us across. I clicked away at the scenery to take my mind off dangling 20 feet up from possible death by crocodile. It was at that point I knew I was in for the adventure of a lifetime.