Monday, June 9th, 2014

I get up and finish packing.  It was very nice sleeping last night. I actually was a little warm at times last night.  Juan picks me up at 8:15am and helps me to the upper eating area for breakfast.  Before we leave for the airstrip Juan gets a call from one of the game drive vehicles out on safari, it will not start.  We have to go about 15 minutes out of the way to meet Baba, who is the closest to camp, to drop the mechanic with him.  Baba will then take him to the broken down vehicle.  We make it to the airstrip at 9:20am.  The plane has not arrived.  We drive the length of the airstrip to check for animals close by.  The plane arrives at 9:35am.  The plane is a GA8 Airvan that I’ve flown on twice previous.  Juan carries me from the vehicle to the plane floor, I then transfer to the seat.  There are 4 other people on the plane.  We have one stop before reaching Kasane, about a 15 minute flight, then 35 minutes to Kasane.    We land at the first stop at 10:03am, 15 minutes late.  Two people are getting off this flight and two other people are boarding.  The truck arrives at 10:21am.  It’s late because the helicopter that was to drop off/pick up would not start.  It’s a 2 hour drive from the safari camp to the airstrip.  The plane leaves at 10:29am and arrives in Kasane at 11:04am.  Kasane airport has a paved runway and small terminal.  Two girls from Germany on my flight are also staying at Chobe Game Lodge, Lydia and Oana.  We are met at the airport by Bee from Chobe Game Lodge.  The game drive vehicle is the biggest one so far.  At first look I didn’t think I would be able to get in without being picked up.  After taking a minute, I am able to transfer to the foot step, then put both feet on the foot step, then placing my left hand on my wheel transfer to the front passenger seat.  It is a difficult transfer but should get easier the more I do it.

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It’s a 15 minute ride on a few paved roads until we get to the park entrance.  Chobe Game Lodge is the only lodge inside Chobe National Park.  Once inside the park it’s another 20 minutes on bumpy sandy roads similar to what I’ve been on for 9 days.  On the drive in we see impalas, elephants and warthogs.  I am able to transfer out of the vehicle alone, much easier going down, I can do a controlled decent.  I meet Mytie, one of the staff, who shows me my room.  The entrance to the lodge has a 3” lip up to the lobby.  After the lobby, there are 14 steps down to the walkway to the first floors rooms.

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I wheel up the driveway to the sidewalk behind the first floor rooms.  The driveway is a slight uphill that I’m able to wheel myself.  There is a ramp to the sidewalk then a downhill to room 301.  This part of the sidewalk is too steep but I’m able to go down myself.  She goes over the daily schedule (6am – 9am morning game drive, 9:30am breakfast, 10:30am – 12:30pm boat safari, lunch 12:30pm, break until 3pm, 3pm – 3:30pm afternoon tea/coffee, 3:30pm – 6:30pm afternoon game drive, 7pm – 7:30pm drinks, 7:30pm dinner).  The room is accessible but I voice my concerns with Mytie that I will not be able to wheel up the sidewalk by myself.

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They also have room 101 that is through the restaurant pass the steps by the lobby.  I get pushed up the sidewalk and we go to room 101.  It is flat going through the restaurant, pass the lobby and to this room.  The entrance to the room has a 2” lip up.  The bed is too high, the shower needs a chair plus the transfers to the shower and toilet will be almost 180 degree transfers.  There is no cut out under the sink in the bathroom.  I will be able to use this room but some wheelchair users will not.  They even have their own grounds crew to keep the grass short.

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I go to lunch at the upper dining area I passed earlier.   Meals are served buffet style.  I meet James Wilson the director of marketing for Chobe Game Lodge.  We talked about my travels, my website and other accessible safaris.  At 3pm there is tea/coffee on the deck overlooking the Chobe River.  The brick walkway down is steep but I’m able manage alone.  The deck walkway is also too steep down and I get pushed up another section of the deck.  The deck is huge.   I herd of elephant are crossing the water while I’m having afternoon coffee.  There is an accessible toilet on the deck.  Not many wheelchair users will be able to wheel the steep ramps on the deck by themselves.

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The afternoon safari will be on a boat on the Chobe River.  I need a bunch of help getting to the boat landing.  I need help up part of the deck walkway.  There are 7 steps down but we are able to back down through the grass to avoid the steps.  There are two more steps that I back down with help from James.  There is sand that I need help to get through to the boat.  James and Nico pick me up in the chair and put me on the boat.  It’s about 3 foot high to the boat.  Getting to the boat is not close to being accessible.  That makes 3 out of 4 places I’ve stayed on safari that were supposed to be accessible that are not.  RB is our boat driver/guide.  There are 9 other people on the boat including Lydia and Oana.

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The Chobe River is the border for parts of Botswana and Namibia.  We see a bunch of birds; great white egret, white crowned lapwing, reed cormorant, fish eagle and white fronted bee eater.  The small holes in the face of the sand are where the bee eaters nest.

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There’s a kudu trying to make its way down to the water and a herd of elephant already at the water.  There’s large crocodile sunning itself on a small island that belongs to Namibia.  A larger crocodile is on the Botswana shore.  A new resort is being built in Namibia.  The boat ride continues seeing hippos and african darter.  We stop for a glass of wine at sunset.  If you look close if front of the trees a herd of elephant are crossing to Namibia.

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We get back to the dock at 6:10pm.  I get helped off the boat as I got on, pushed through the sand, up the paved walkway, picked up the two steps then pushed up the hill through the grass to my room by 3 workers.  Dinner tonight is at the riverside boma.  This is located down the deck in a grassy area.  I have drinks by the lobby before being helped to the boma by Nico.  He takes me to my table for one.  It looks I’m the only one traveling alone.  Dinner is also served buffet style.  The grass is cut very short and easy to wheel on.  There is a bathroom but don’t know if it’s accessible.  I was only sitting at the table a short time before Lydia comes over to ask if I’d like to join them.  I have dinner with them and talk until after 10pm.  Nico helps me up the ramps on the deck and the brick walkway.  I’m in bed by 10:30pm for a 5am wake up call.

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