Drotsky’s Cabins with Kat-‘n-The-Four-Kin-Airey’s – Botswana
Skedaddle is what we did to meet up with the Aireys who were in search of a Honey Badger. Nothing beats meeting up with family, particularly when you’ve been starved of your familials like we have, especially over the festive season when we all experience a little slump. Sometimes, late at night, when we wondered what everyone back home was up to, our eyes would mist over secretly.
When we received the call to inform us that Butch’s nephew, Brett and his family would be in the vicinity, we made plans to meet up without hesitation. As soon as we’d set up our campsite at Shametu, we were off to meet for tea—a G and T.
We’d all do our thing for Christmas, but on Boxing Day, we’d meet and continue our journey to Drotsky’s Cabins in Botswana together. Santa, the sneaky bugger, left us a gift under the Airey’s tree. A monogrammed Lizzard stainless steel water bottle each. We’ve not stopped using them since. Butch asks, “would you like your drink in your Lizzard or your Yeti” I have to consider my choices carefully now. Both are superior products.
Our route took us through Mdumu game reserve, where we took a leisurely drive and later stopped for a picnic lunch next to the river and floodplains. We would travel along the beginning of the western border of the swamps.
Butch and I have become so accustomed to being alone, where all the mishaps are our own, we couldn’t help knocking elbows and throwing a high five while crying out with laughter when Brett told us he’d driven straight into a tree, bruising his front bumper. I was reminded of “he who laughs last laughs loudest.” I smothered my giggles immediately.
Ahead of us was the Botswana border, which was a breeze. Our stocks were low, and we needed to fill our baskets with fresh vegetables and other necessities, which we did at the Boxer shop in Shakawe. Butch and Brett went off to buy new SIM cards while Debbie and I did the groceries.
The heat was unbearable, and we couldn’t wait to check in at Drotsky’s Cabins.
I love Fruit Cake. It’s a tradition in our home to have a Christmas cake which, unfortunately, we didn’t have this year. Woolworths in Swakopmund was the only shop I’d come across in all our travels; thus far, that stocked the little Fruit cake slab with a thin line of marzipan and icing. I bought the entire stock of two. Ebenezer Scrooge couldn’t do a better job hiding this little treasure; only I could slice it and present it at tea time like a slice of heavenly manna.
Walking towards the bar I spotted a cake sitting pretty on the desk at Drotsky’s Cabin, a proper Christmas Cake. The cake, wrapped in cellophane, looked like a beautiful, bowed first prize at the school raffle. It had my name on it.
That was Mrs Eileen Drotsky. Giving me a moment to compose myself she went off to get tea set up.
I skipped to the dining room where a lovely mug of Ceylon tea was made (my interest was not wholly on the tea, but for propriety’s sake, I pretended.) I was drooling and gluttonously awaiting The Cake. Four slabs were on a cake plate when we sat down to tea overlooking the parklike gardens flowing into the sluggish river below.
I did remember my manners. I eyed my generous slice of cake like a dying man crawling across the Sahara for water. The cake, it turns out, was a gift from Eileen’s sister-in-law, renowned for her fruit cakes. Only after I’d had two slices of cake and sipped my tea did my conscience start pricking in guilty delight.
I loved every crumb. Eileen, I’m sorry I was so rude. You saved me from making a complete fool of myself. Debbie, who came looking for me, knew she had to refuse the last slice. My eyes probably said it all. Sorry, Debs. Still savouring the fruit, nuts and Maraschino cherries, I joined the family in the bar where my drink forlornly sat, sweating, the ice melting in the heat. The soggy coaster stuck like a limp lettuce leaf to the bottom of my glass.
Under the trees on a vast campsite with a glorious river view, we set up camp: the five Aireys and us. While Butch and I sat impatiently waiting for them to set up, our offers to help were declined. We enjoyed the shenanigans and again did a happy dance in our Honey Badger with a bed all made up and a cooling fan ready to be switched on.
I know it’s terrible to be envious, but I was. I admit it. I saw Debbie with Rae and Cat and the extraordinary relationship they have. How the girls jumped in to help and support their Mum was lovely to experience. Moments like these bring the loss I experience to the fore and make me long for my girls (all six of them).
Women’s laughter filled the air as the girls laid the table, plated delicious tapas platters, lighting candles at night while taking over menial tasks like doing the dishes or laundry. They did everything quickly and efficiently, never complaining of backache or fatigue!
It is customary to have access to children when they’re “small” because they’re dependent on their parents, but once they taste independence and become adults, we, the oldies, lose contact. We’re not cool enough, bright, or exciting when our paths veer in different directions.
Older people need the company of youngsters, and they might even learn something from us; I’ll have you know. We didn’t know what to expect, and I anxiously awaited the outcome of the three generations under the same trees. Would Butch and I be amusing enough, informative enough, and clued up with technology to meet the high standards of three savvy youngsters?
Keagan, Kat and Rae were so charming we fell under their spell instantly. I think Butch was bowled over by Kat. She’s inquisitive, attentive, fun to be with and capable to boot. They shared an interest in birds which endeared her to Butch even more. Her questions were intelligent, and her interest and willingness to learn were genuine.
With his Robertson physique and good looks, Keagan could, I’m sure, charm a nun and defrock her right out of her habit. Keags got his Great-grandfather Oupa Jan’s, an extraordinarily handsome man in his time and a talented rugby player, genes. With his fine sense of humour and commitment to Kat and his family, Keagan ticked all our boxes.
We have made pinky promises that we will get to your exercises in due course, but watching you and Kat makes us doubt our abilities. Butch and I are committed to exercising regularly to ensure our good health and ability to complete the course we’ve embarked on.
Rae-Rae you indeed are sunshine. We loved how informed you are about the critical decisions awaiting you, how committed you are to the causes you support and how willing you are to listen, take note and consider advice from others who are often uninformed with only well-intentioned, emotional opinions. Issues that women my age had no access to, like abortion, fertility, single parenthood, marriage, menopause, careers and domesticity, you’ve educated yourself and have clear-cut principles. You will, I know, make informed decisions in due course.
The way you all support each other so very fearlessly is remarkable. A family who fights together stays together.
Butch and I went on two lovely long cycles exploring the area we were staying in. We experienced the potholes of Botswana and the heat while pedalling ever onwards. We really do enjoy our cycles, it's the best way to explore.
Our little pit stops for a drink and snack allows us to feel the place and being so close to communities enables us to greet and wave, the communication, although brief is a connection which I think is important. We're not just tourists in ivory towers.
We took turns preparing and making supper at night, mainly on the braai. For us, it was a treat to sit down to a delicious dinner without lifting a finger. Debbie served her friend’s Christmas cake, carefully wrapped and stowed all the way from Johannesburg on a few occasions, and I loved it. Conversations were lively, with much laughter recalling the day’s events.
The boat trip on the Kavango river was a highlight. The experienced skipper skillfully navigated his boat, hugging the embankment where the waters were deep enough, enabling us to get good sightings of waterbirds. When an experienced boatsman is at the helm, it makes a world of difference to the photography opportunities one has.
He was the first to notice the build-up of clouds, the subsequent early flashes of lightning, and the rumbles of thunder approaching. We flat-out ignored all these early warnings, unprepared to jump ship and return to the jetty. We would ride it out; we informed our skipper.
How thrilled we are that we did. Debbie was presented with a magnificent head covering fashioned out of a waterlily leaf which kept her high and dry. The rest of us used whatever we could lay our hands on to protect our cameras. My hairdo was a mess anyway; nothing can straighten a frizz, I let it go.
One does not want to be on the water when lightning strikes the boat. We floated and ran aground on the nearest island, waiting until the storm passed. Tropical summer storms aren’t like the Mediterranean storms we’re accustomed to in the Cape, and before we knew it, the sun was shining brightly, and we scrambled back to our seats to continue our trip.
We celebrated by opening the coolboxes. With snacks and a sundowner, we lazily chugged on.
Guides have keen eyesight, and soon our captain spotted a magnificent African Fish Eagle with his beady eye on us. With the sun setting on his back, he was in the perfect position to spot supper. His head thrown back while perched in the dead tree sparked his familiar cries, ‘kyow-kow-kow’ ringing out in the quiet. This is the Africa we love.
The guide anticipated this. The next minute he mimics a call. The bird looks up and makes eye contact with the skipper. The guide locked eyes with the Fish Eagle, extended his arm to signal and smoothly tossed the fish he’d netted earlier in an arch. To our amazement, the Fish Eagle took the bait, and within seconds he swooped in, dived and snatched the fish up into his claws. In one swoop, the bird turned, changed course and flew off. Supper served.
The storm was anything but over, and during the night, the heavens opened and the cloudburst soaked tents, ground covers, tablecloths and a few electricals. The washing line was drooping as heavy and sodden clothes dragged it down to an inch from the mud.
Our Oz tent came in handy. A super quick pop-up tent for Kat and Keagan. With promises that they’ll love it, they accepted the offer. Kat said they slept like babies, and “that’s proper camping”, giving their set-up the once over.
Brett and Keagan assisted Butch with some of our maintenance issues and inspected our wifi modem. The answer to our problems, he said, is our lack of a booster aerial which he’ll sort out as soon as he gets home. We received the package, and our new booster aerial has been sorted. The kids really do have solutions for everything. Boompie and I say thank you.
All too soon, the time to move on drew closer, and it was up sticks for all of us. Butch and I were off to Elephant Sands and them to Kasane.
Folding the pop-up tent delayed their departure by a good half an hour. A plan coming together for us. When they finally shut the lids to their trailers, they packed our hearts in too. The lap of honour past us couldn’t be more poignant, leaving two heartbroken old farts in their wake. We went looking for the Pel's Fishing owl, we are not good with saying goodbye.
We couldn’t leave without saying goodbye to the Drotskys, where we spent a good hour chatting before finally setting forth. There wasn’t much enthusiasm in the old Honey Badger, but we soon perked up as we trundled along.
I informed Butch that I would write to my friend, the Queen of Tarts, who we’d be seeing soon, requesting her to please save me a slice of Christmas cake. She’s a smuggler of note; no contraband is too contra for her. I was sure she would manage the task put to her. They were flying in from the UK to meet us in a fortnight. Butch thought I’d lost the plot. I reminded him it was my Kryptonite and I needed cheering up. He figured "Happy wife, happy life."
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