You are currently browsing the daily archive for May 13, 2010.

We sorted out our additional Chobi tickets after finding a place to camp with the Khwai River Trust, a community based organisation that has a camp just outside of the Moremi.

We headed to the third bridge camp site inside the reserve. We had to cover the sixty or so miles to get to the main gate. The road turned bad on the journey up but we still managed to get a good speed of 80kmp, so made ground quickly.

Inside the south gate, we hit the sand. Some of the routes were still impassable, so we took the middle route to the third bridge. Some quality driving. Muddy pools and long stretches of thick sand. We scared off a herd of elephants, seeing their backsides as they scurried off into the bush!

We still really want to see large herds of elephants and cheetah. They’ve eluded us so far, but here or Chobi might supply the goods. We got lost near Xakanaxa and it took us down one minor track. I saw something in the bushes along this track and couldn’t make out what it was. Next, a lion pops its head out from the grass. We then counted another seven male lions all lying down in the grass. They were larger than we had seen before and healthier, without scars or wounds. We got lucky with the lions again.

Fifteen kilometers from the camp, we got stuck behind a convoy of vehicles all heading to the same campsite. We took up the rear. They stopped and walked through some long stretches of water. We all got through, then we had to beep down the Toyota in front when its spare wheel came off. After we got settled at the camp site, we got a fire going. There was a lone elephant eating nearby which was gradually getting closer. It ventured off after a while whilst we were cooking over the fire. In the night we heard lions and hyenas in the distance. A wild night’s sleep right in the middle of the reserve.

We got up early to take in a safari drive on our way to the Mboma Boat Station. We wanted to take a Mokoro ( A traditional dug-out canoe design, made of fibre glass in the reserve) trip through the delta for two hours. It offered a totally different experience. Thinking we wouldn’t see any game, we saw a large bull elephant eating amongst the reeds. It stayed away from us for a while, then came closer and crossed the narrow channel right in form of us. Bun seems to have no fear when it comes to elephants but for me it’s the one animal that I want to keep well away from. I’ve heard too many stories of angry elephants! As well as wildlife, we saw the night and day lilies that are everywhere on the delta.

We stopped for lunch near the airstrip and then went off on many loops trying to find cheetahs. No luck, so we headed to south gate camp. We BBQ some meat over the fire. When we were done with the bones we chucked them into the  bush behind us. We had a feeling that this would attract some wild beast and it did. Bun had dropped off in the tent and I was using the laptop when I heard some loud sniffing nearby and shook Bun to wake up. It had to be a hyenna and it was. It spent ages walking about sniffing and finding our bones! Bun then got her headtorch and unzipped her window to see if she could see it. It was in the bush nearby before it ran off. Bun then asked me to climb down the steps and get some toilet paper. I had to climb down the ladder naked to get it whilst knowing that the hyena was nearby, probably checking us out!

We headed from Kubu Island to Planet Baobab, a really good lodge near the Naxi Pan. It had been suggested by Ben and Shan, a couple on their honeymoon heading north who we met in Uganda. After the long drive to get from Kubu, to the main road, we didn’t see much game aside from birds, but did see a group of ostriches on the salt pans in the distance.

Screeching sound coming from the brakes after the Kubu route and it got gradually worse. We reached Planet Baobab pretty early and took it easy for the rest of the day.

We decided to take a day off the nest day, catching up on washing and just relaxing around the lodge. We attempted to clean the brakes, so spent a while taking the back wheels off and cleaning the discs and pads.

Flat road to Maun on Tuesday – a dead straight road which Bun covered in a few hours. Daytime tempratures are hot this time of year, which only get hotter until September when the rains return.

We took Landcrusier to Toyota to look into the brakes a bit more. We got it back to them after a lunch stop near the airport. We stayed at the Old Bridge Backpackers, outside of town on the Moremi road. Another good spot to stay.

The next morning we took the Landcrusier back to Toyota to finish off the job. Six hours later, we got the vehicle back! Not sure why it took so long and we got two massive stones back that had been stuck in the brakes somewhere. They annoyed us for taking so long, but labour costs are cheap here, so it only came to about £20 to get it sorted.

It delayed our next mission of sorting out the rest of the week. We had a rush around sorting out our Okavango trip, to the Moremi Game Reserve. It’s an easy enough job booking the entry to the park, but the accommodation once inside the park is a different story. Most of the lodges and camps have been privatised. The wildlife authority only own a few sites, and they had been booked out. We sorted out the other options by heading off to a few companies to book somewhere to stay whilst we are in the reserve.

We also wanted to combine a trip to Chobi National Park. Having missed this as we came through Zimbabwe, we decided that we could do a long trip over the next four days to get north to Kasane near the Zambian border to see the best of Chobi. Sounded a crazy thing to do, but we didn’t want to miss out on seeing it whilst we were here.

That meant we needed full supplies of water and food. We got the firewood from Planet Baobab the day before and that was on the roof rack.

Maun is different from other game reserve towns. Here there are many independant travellers in 4×4, on their way to Chobi and the Kalahari. Everyone is in town to book tickets and organise lodges and campsites. They are mainly coming from South Africa and Namibia.

We set off for Kubu Island at a respectable time, not our usual six in the morning get away. Amazingly Alan let me drive, he must have been tired from all the supermarket shopping. We headed from Francistown towards Oparta, the main town which is south of the Sua and Makgadimakgdi pans. Our idea was to follow the tarmac till we reached a turn off towards Kubu Island. From the turn off it was a gravel track as there was a new road being constructed.

We reached Mmatshumo, and stopped as there was a young guy waving madly at us. He was wearing skinny jeans!! The first pair I have seen, apart from Alan’s, and a Nike t-shirt, and looked totally out of place considering the out the way location. Not the usual Safari outfit worn by guides. He introduced himself as Whiskey and while chatting to him and it became apparent that he was waiting for a group of cars From South Africa – they had requested a guide to take them to the island.

He gave us the low-down on which tracks to take and said if we got stuck he would be following with his group and could pull us out! To our dismay he said it would take three hours to do 40 kms. The numerous pans we would cross were of varying conditions, some were still wet and were dangerous to drive over in a heavy overland vehicle.

We left him, driving into the maze of gravel/sand tracks that snaked their way through the acacia bush. This eventually opened out onto a pan and we got excited thinking we could bomb cross the pan leaving a cloud of dust as we went. Instead we got a flooded pan that was almost impossible to determine the clear track through the mud. Somehow we got through, Bun driving like a demon (Alan’s words not mine), whilst  he was hanging out of the window taking pictures of the pans.

We hit a vetinary fence at the other side of the pan, a dividing line between local livestock and wild animals to stop the spread of disease. These are common in Botswana due to a foot and mouth outbreak in 2007 that massively affected one of the country’s main incomes, the export of beef. The landscape changed after the fence and turned into marsh land reminding me of the scenery in Norfolk, with lots of bird life including a pair of majestic Secretary birds. The track was completely submerged in water so much so that at some points you could not tell if you were driving through a lake or on the track. One of these stretches of water lasted for about a kilometre but I ploughed on creating large bough waves, proving that our car is a real cruiser!!

We then began to see signs of life (groups of huts) in the distance. As the reeds thinned out into acacia bush plains again,  the swimming turned into weaving in and out of the hardy thorn bushes, causing me to grit my teeth hearing them scrape down the side of the car, like nails on a black board. The track led us through a large spread out village and I was wondering how these people survive in this remote location during the rainy season, when a large tractor came into view pulling a trailer full of people.

We continued to follow the track round the bushes and through the flooded pools for about another hour, when finely the spiny bushes gave way to flat open spaces. This stretched as far as the eye could see, except for a group of mounds,  fabulous smoothed rounded  rocks and fat baobab trees looming ahead of us. I sped off across the pan leaving a cloud of dust in our wake.

Anyone who saw the ‘Top Gear, Botswana’ special will know and recognise this image. They stripped their vehicle to save weight and got away with it at the driest time of year. I think they should have attempted it in the wet season which would have been a real challenge, as we discovered.

Close up the Island looked incredible, the white boulders glowing in the evening light with the contrast of the eeire black silhouettes of the massive thick trunked  baobabs. Plus we arrived just in time for a breathtakingly beautiful sunset streaking the sky with apricot, orange and pinks.

Al and I then decided to set up camp under a baobab tree on a flatter grassy part of the Island. We got out of the car, stretched our legs and within a couple of minutes were infested by thousands of mosquitoes – the air was humming with the size of the swarms. We retreated back to the pans to escape their bites and wait for the group hoping that the guide we had met earlier would let us camp there.

The group arrived in no time at all led by the guide who was in the back of an old Toyota pick-up with several friends in equally surprising outfits.  Thankfully he said that as a one off we could camp on the pans. We set up camp and I made risotto, my first in ages, and we had wine and smoked bacon and luckilly the winds were strong for a while which kept the mozies away.

May 2010