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.