Photographers dream of getting an opportunity to take pictures of animals from above. In Botswana you can book a helicopter in Maun to spot herds moving across the Okavango Delta. Uwe repeatedly mentioned how “we” could have the chance to see the delta from the air, and finally I agreed.
When I imagined this ride I thought of a normal helicopter, constructed of reassuringly thick and reinforced metal alloy. One with three seats in the front, three in the back. I pictured myself ensconced in a middle seat safely far from a sliding door that was propped open for the photographers. We’d be up in the skies for 45 minutes that would zip by.
But, no, the flight was in a helicopter less than half the size I’d expected. When I saw the little tin toy we were going to ride in, my stomach began to flip. Our tiny death trap had no middle seat — and no doors.
Okay, so it wasn’t tin.
But it sure felt like it. We were high in the sky, riding in a fragile toy helicopter. A miniature toy constructed out of some kind of light metal that would crush with the slightest wind. A toy without any doors or even a safety bar, for f***’s sake. The only thing between me and a sure death was the seat belt. And my husband had decided to go for it and booked an hour-long flight instead of the 45 minutes I thought “we’d” decided on.
“What do you hope for from your flight?” they asked.
I pointed at Uwe. “He wants to take pictures, and I just want to not faint or throw up.”
My husband was in the back seat in that version of Heaven photographers go to in these situations. I sat in front next to Thorvald with both hands firmly gripping the seat under me. Breathe! I reminded myself, followed very quickly by, Screw that. Just don’t pass out. Thorvald kept circling and banking so Uwe could get the best shots. Each time he banked, my stomach circled right along with the itty bitty ‘copter.
I looked down and figured, If this thing falls out of the sky, we’re toast. I might as well enjoy the last hour of my allotted time on Earth – especially if it’s not taking place on the ground. I made myself unclamp my fingers from the seat, and even leaned towards the (nonexistent) door.
The vistas took my breath away. Tracks in the delta as far as the eye could see, made and followed by migrating herds.
Verdant areas where the showers of the last two days had filled pools.
African buffalo, zebras and elephants roamed across the land.
Pods of hippos seen from above looked like floating lily pads.
When I was looking through Uwe’s photographs for this post, for the first time I saw this pic of two men carrying attachable doors across the runway. So there ARE doors if you insist on having them.
I don’t know if I would have insisted if I’d known that ahead of time. As it was, once Thorvald brought us without a bump back onto the earth, I looked at him and said, “Let’s go up again!”
NOTES: ©2023 Jadi Campbell. All photos ©2023 Uwe Hartmann. For more of Uwe’s photos from our trips and his photography, go to viewpics.de.
My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded and The Trail Back Out.
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