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May 10 2013

Dreaming of Botswana … still …

We were very excited when our vehicle arrived in Cape Town – amongst other things, it meant that we could finalise a plan that had been brewing for a while: join Global Adventures on their Botswana Recce.

Their plan to visit Botswana had been a year or more in the making, and the excitement was certainly tangible when we set off from Johannesburg a few days before we were due to meet Scott and Karl in Khama Rhino Sanctuary in Botswana.  They arrived, hot and tired from international flights and a long day’s driving, as well as successfully navigating their first southern African border crossing.

It was great to finally all be sitting around the camp fire, at the start of an exciting adventure.

The itinerary was a tough one, with long days of driving and much to see.  After Khama Rhino Sanctuary we head up to Letlakane to arrange our park permits for the coming parks.  Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us, it was a public holiday, so the Department for Wildlife and National Parks was closed.  The attendants at the gate were as helpful as they could be, and called around various friends to ascertain that we could pay for park fees at the gate.  After a ‘quick’ stop at Shoprite for a few provisions, we were back on the road to Central Kalahari Game Reserve.  We filled fuel at the last stop before leaving the tar road at Rakops and starting the sand road towards the gate and then onwards to our campsite.

A total distance of 420km (110km on sandy roads) for the day took us almost 11 hours, including the stop in Letlakane – never underestimate the time taken on sandy roads!

Central Kalahari was the first real wilderness experience for all of us – you know you are remote when the nearest people to you are 15km away, and only if that campsite is occupied!  The night sounds seemed larger than life, and I think it was a real baptism for our fellow adventurers.

This was the real Africa.

After 2 nights in Central Kalahari Game reserve, and barely seeing even a tiny corner, we were back on the road.  We had a quick stop in Rakops for fuel and provisions – all a somewhat basic service.  Then we tried to follow the signpost for the “Tax Collector Tree” to see what it was about, but were rather unsuccessful.

Not far up the road, we turned off to reach the ferry that would take us across the Boteti River and into Makgadigadi Pans National Park.  Scott and Karl really enjoyed the ferry man and his simple ferry which had to make 2 trips to take both vehicles and all the occupants across the river.  It reminded us of our ferry crossing in Senegal.

After a slightly surreal night in the park – in what felt like a combination of Apocolypse Now and a UK Safari Park, we were off to Maun.  There was a bit of admin to complete: Park entry fees for the remaining parks, fuel to take us through 5 days in the next 2 parks, food for the next 5 days.  Scott and Karl also needed to stop past the Land Rover repair shop to have a faulty lock on the rear door fixed.  Then, it was off to the lodge / camping for the night.  For Global Adventures, it was a night in a real bed!  Each had their own chalet overlooking the Thamalakane river.  Kapp2Cape were tucked away in the small campsite away from the water’s edge.

We continued to meet interesting people, and this time met a German couple, Thomas and Claudia, who were doing a month tour starting and finishing in Windhoek, Namibia. They had rented a 4×4 vehicle for this trip, but were enjoying it so much that they were considering buying a vehicle on the next trip and storing it whilst back in Europe.  Interesting concept.  Makes us realise what a special part of the world this is.

We caught up on laundry and also tried our hands at baking our own beer bread over the fire – success!

Next morning, we were up early and back on the road.  Next park: Moremi Game Reserve.  Although the distances weren’t that great for the day, we averaged a mere 10km an hour as we stopped to watch animals and birds.  The 50km from the gate entrance to our campsite at Third Bridge took us 5 hours!

In a rare event, we had 2 nights in the same campsite.  As we prepared for our makoro trip the following morning, we realised Scott and Karl had no idea what a makoro was.  Rather than us tell them – that would be too easy – we suggested they peruse their trusty Bradt guide to see a photo.  The look on their faces was priceless as they realised this was no 10 seater aluminium boat!!  As we were to find out, the mokoros are now made out of fibreglass – although still in their traditional shape – as the government is concerned about the number of trees being felled to make new makoros each year.  It was a most enjoyable trip once we all got used to the balance.  Weaving between the reeds with only the sounds of the guide steering the little boat through the maze of waterways was so peaceful.

In Third bridge we were pleasantly surprised to bump into Kevin and Seriana again (from Palapye … remember?).  They had met up with their friends – Roman and Janine – in Maun and were travelling together.  They were following an almost identical itinerary to us!  As it turns out, they would be staying in Savute the same night as we were!  Small world this travelling world.

After 3 nights in Moremi Game Reserve and many memorable experiences, we were off to Chobe National Park.  By this stage, sensory overload had set in.  There was just so much to take in: so many animals, so many birds and so much excitement!  Even Scott and Karl had reached the point where they were driving past “just another elephant”!!

And, so after all our driving and exploring, we reached the end of our Botswana adventure.  Our last night with Global Adventures was spent enjoying sundowners over the Chobe River at Ihaha campsite.  We could not have wished for a more perfect final evening!

The next morning we parted ways: Namibia was calling our name, and Scott and Karl still had another week and a few more parks before they arrive back in Johannesburg.

We do enjoy sharing our travels with others – or as in this case, sharing others’ travels with them.  We wish Global Adventures good luck in their coming adventures (Romania and Tunisia in the next 18 months) and look forward to travelling again with them.

For us, this exploration of Botswana has given us a mere taste – it has whet our appetite for more.  While we would love to stay longer now, we have so many other countries to visit!  We look forward to an opportunity to visit again in the future.

Care to join us?

2 comments

  1. Margaret (gemini)

    in answer to your final question —–any day

  2. scott laddiman

    Fantastic traveling with you..!!! Life long memories…!!! Im sure we will meet again and enjoy some new Adventures soon…. but first I need to recover….lol….!!!

    All the best and I will be following your travels with interest…

    Scott.

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