Sunday, January 3, 2010

Polling Through the Delta

We woke up early. All the tents had to be broken down, and all bags packed, before the first group headed out to the island. Being on the second group offered no chance for sleeping in, or for enjoying a moments peace. But hey, we're overlanding. Who needs sleep and peace? Not this guy! What I did need, leaving on the second group, was a chance for a final shower, and an opportunity to use a real toilet, with a seat and everything, for the last and final time before we headed out into the bush.

After an hour and a half was spent in the shade watching monkeys with bright blue balls (not just a saying for these guys, people), steal more fruits from our kitchen, it was our turn to hop on board the motor boat and be driven to the mustering station.

Normally we would have all left at once in a high speed James Bond-esque chance down the river, but one of the boats had been sunk recently, coming too close to a hippo. Did we feel safe? Sure – why not.

At the mustering station we traded our motor boat for mocorros, hollowed out logs that resemble canoes. Each boat took two passengers, and was pushed along by a poller whose job it was to drive us the hour and a half to our camping island. Rather than paddles, they had long poles that they stuck into the mud, while standing up, pushing us through the reeds, across the delta.

There were crocodiles and hippos in these waters, but probably none all that close. Probably.

Moving in silence through the reeds was a beautiful thing, and a definite cultural experience. It reminded me of moving through the shallows at my cottage. I wondered where I could obtain such a pole, to practice my skills once I got back home? Few places would have waters still enough, and consistently shallow enough, for such a mode of transportation though.

Once on the island, we ate lunch, and then started to get restless. An empty water bottle was used as a bat to hit Feeble Berries around, in some sort of bottle ball. But this game became tired, and boring. Still – we had collected and stockpiled so many of these berries, each about the size of a golf ball, that we couldn't just give them all up. A new game would have to be formed.

And after slicing through some of the vines, this new game practically formed itself. Not all that different from bottle ball, we began to play knife ball.

The rules to knife ball are simple, one needs to stand on a precariously unstable log, three feet off the ground, holding a knife – the blade of which should be no less than six inches. Then, a pitcher will throw Feeble Berries a the batter. Points are scored for slicing the berry apart in mid air. This game proved to be quite popular, if not terribly terribly dangerous. Eventually it was stopped.

Sitting around the fire, we started to become bored, and twitchy. What was different? What was making us this way. Of course...

“Chef!” Hamish and I exclaimed, “there's a terrible problem!”
“What? What is it?!”
“None of us brought any booze!”

She joined in our fear, and horror. Something would have to be done. We talked with the pollers and they agreed to go into town the next day to pick some up, two and a half hours out, two and a half hours in. But they offered the worst exchange rate ever – 1:1 local currency for the American dollar. The rate should have been 6:1. But, banding together in this hour of need, we came together and threw in, and collected enough local so as we could all drink in peace.

But that was still a day away.

Now, I sat with pockets full of berries... doing nothing. One was tossed lightly at Hamish. He tossed one back. One was thrown at Mitchel. Then we sat quietly. Foolishly Amy threw one at Haish, “ACT OF WAR!” and it was off. Berries were flung everywhere, and more and more people were dragged into our war which would last hours. Trees were stripped of the berries, and welts, bruises, and red marks formed everywhere.

The battles passed the time, and injured few. Alliances were formed, alliances were broken. People drew shields and called themselves neutral. There would be no neutrality in this war!

The great Berry War was a true success. But then, as all things must, it ended.

Just in time for the winds to pick up, loosing berries on all of us, from above, and bringing branches and trees down on tents.

The only one free from the war was Danny. All sides feared to hit him. Danny, after all, will kill us all.

As the war ended, we headed to the mocorros where we wold be polled to another island to walk around, being told about plants, and animal prints forming in the mud. While nothing was seen on our journey, we did hear the evil laugh of hippos somewhere near by in the waters.

Bed time as eight thirty tonight. The earliest yet. It would be needed.

The bush toilet (a rapidly filling hole, on which sand was used to cover whatever might be left behind) was used twice by me on this day.

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