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BOTSWANA     DIARY 2   2016   

Map + Plan

   
 

Photos   Diary 1 + 2

From the north-western Botswana in Diary 1, we head into the flooded Okavango Delta and then right through the Kalahari Desert.

26/1 Despite the lack of sleep, we are ready for the deep exploration of the Okavango Delta in the early morning. The 40 kilometres to the next check-point; Xakanaxa Gate, is scatted with wildlife spotting - and deep pools. Accordantly to the ranger at our camp, the road might be closed further out due to flooding, and the canoe trips cancelled due to drought. We heard it before, and it does not stop a pair of determined explorers like us.
We head out of the loose sandy road in a rather high speed for a game-drive. Unfortunately, that is the way to negotiate the loose sand. The road soon narrows down to two wheel tracks with grass - or lots of water - in-between. Lakes are filled with birds like geese, egrets, ibis', storks, herons, beach-birds and others.
We reach the landmark; Fourth Bridge, and it turns out to be two wooden bridges, grossing a river. The first is made up by old rafts, the second by new telephone poles. It does make a lot of noise, while we crosses it, but it lasts. I think it does look like someone has been driving this road some days ago, but the rangers had no information of its state.
We reach what most of all look like a neglected golf course. Here are lots of wildlife like Blue Wildebeests, Impalas, Zebras, and a new species; Red Lechwe. It is another small gazelle, quite like the Impala, but more furry and lacking the M on the bud. Here are also a new species of storks; The Spoon Billed.

After two hours, we reach Third Bridge, which is a combination of a wooden, wobbling bridge and a deep lake, which we have to cross. Here, we sign in for our campsite - seven kilometres further out. We were told to book the Mokoro canoes here, but they don't have a clue. Maybe the road is flooded? It is only fifteen kilometres further out in the Delta, and we give it a try.
The first part is just like a Danish Beach-forest in May. One with a real loose sandy soil, that is. Then we reach another type of area, and it is surely flooded. Here are geese and even a crocodile in one of the pools, crossing the road. We do a bit of off-road driving to get around the biggest, unknowingly deep pools. Somehow, I can't get the co-driver to walk through it first, as co-drivers are supposed to.
The wildlife does not disappoint at all. Huge groups of giraffes, wildebeests, some zebras, numerous Impalas and some Red Lechwe. Here are also elephants, and quite frankly; I can do without. They tend to hide in the dense bushes, and have a real attitude against us, when we try to follow the road through. They even seem to trap us in, and having a laugh. Or at least a loud fanfare. Personally, I don't like sitting on a narrow road with trees on both sides and ear-flapping elephants both at front and rear.
One road pool has some beautiful cranes. We are forced to drive rather close to them, but they don't seem to bother at all. The next obstacle of a pool, make us drive right through a herd of giraffes and zebras, relaxing in the shadows. They let us by without noticing at all. Why can't elephants do the same?

We reach the island of Mboma, from where the Mokoro allegedly should start. A Rasta-guy turns op, and is eager to give us a tour. First, we make our selves a bit of lunch and put on some sunscreen. The Mokoro canoe was originally made from one large trunk, but it takes a 100 years old tree, and it only last for five years. Now, it is glass fibre, but the design exactly the same.
We sit on tiny chairs in the front, while our poler provides the energy. The sides of the canal is made up from mainly one meter tall reed and ferns. The surface of the water is spotted with water lilies and other flooding plants, but far from crowded. It is easy to see the golden, sandy bottom a meter down.
In many places, the hippos landing sites are clear: They really tear up the turf. We glide effortless out through one canal after the other. Warblers are everywhere, a cormorant sits in one of the few trees, on one of the rare islands in this flooding world. An Open Billed Stork passes over our heads, unknown birds voices accompanies the poles silent braking of the surface.
We make a break on a tiny island with a little hill, offering a view over a larger area. The sky is fantastic, and it mirrors into the water's surface. We see a two meter crocodile swimming submerged right next to the Mokoro, and many fish, mainly cichlids, are everywhere. Dragonflies and other insects use the Mokoro for landing-site, as we go even deeper into the huge marshland.
As we reach a bigger canal. the water occasionally widens out, and hippos rests here. One of the tiny Malachite Kingfisher sits in a bush near to us, and I wished I had a proper camera - again. We watch the hippos, and they watch us. When the hippos are gathering too much interest for us, we start the tour homewards. We are back on solid ground after two hours, way too long for us to be in the sun - but worth it!

We drive slowly back, trying to see even more wildlife. More big groups of giraffes and always Impalas. Hammer Head Herons, refusing to leave their flooded wheel track, zebras posing, warthogs bathing, large herds of wildebeests relaxing, and elephants too close. Great lans are right next to the road too, taking their way more relaxed.
The wooden bridges are not that nerve wrecking this time, but they still complain loudly. We update the rangers on the road, and drive on. Just outside Xakanaxa Gate, we see a huge hippo walking thought the forest along with the road. Then it crosses it, right in front of us, and give a wide open mouth-greeting towards us. Just before we turn into the campsite, we pass two huge buffalos in a pond. When they move, it looks like smoke, but it is thousands of flies. No wonder they always look so pissed.
We are the only residences, and in stead for the reserved spot, way out in the marshes, we park right next to the toilet building. The elephant dung within the camp kind of indicate nightly adventures might be a bad idea. The mattress is placed in the sun, and I try to connect the fridge with some electricity through the rusty and smashed-up plug. The dancing 40 kilo High-Jack is not the most gentle neighbour.
While we prepare dinner, some small, spotted antelopes passes right through our camp. A small walk around reveals all kind of animal tracks - big ones. God thing we got the mosquito net to protect us....

27/1 We are woken during the night by a violent storm, but in the morning, everything is quiet again. We feared a thunderstorm could have filled the pools on the road, trapping us out here. We finish fast, and set out to Paradise Pools. Already on the way, we have a close encounter with three African Dogs, using the same trail as us.
The area is dominated by numerous shallow pools and huge trees. The wildlife is fantastic, and we see all the familiar faces and even some new ones. Here are huge groups of Impalas, many zebras, Red Lechwe, giraffes and hippos. And the birdlife is teeming too. The blue starlings are bigger than the one we usually see, and they have a black face. Holy Ibis, Spoon Storks, cormorants, weavers in numbers like leaves, small brown ducks, cuckoos and so much more.
The trails are flooded - or are the trails just leading right through the pools? Anyway, our great truck seems unstoppable. A singe game drive from a lodge crosses our path, but beside from that, we have it all to our selves. We investigate and enjoy the area for a couple of hours, and then return to South Gate and Maun. We have been driving 400 kilometres within the Okavango Delta, and they have been great.
The rich wildlife continues outside the park. We pass a large group of elephants, few metres from the road. When we loop back, they cross the road right in front of us, and continues along the road on the other side.
On the way back, we pass once more the Foot and Mouth Disease check point and sterilisation station. An officer checks that we have no raw meat in the fridge, and we are asked to step in to a slightly moist pan. The tires are not sterilized here, neither are the five kilos of mud on the car. But they have a big, double fence, dividing the area from some other area. It would have been just as efficient it they just took a photo of the two of us.

Back in Maun, we do some shopping for the Kalahari expedition, gas the car and clean the windows. It is now a brown car we got, completely covered in mud.
The last of the afternoon is spent in the restaurant, catching up on emails, watching our videos and: Scary; finding 310 photos from the Victoria Falls and Zambezi National Park, which I have missed. Thunder is rolling in, and perhaps the call for a house was the right?
Sunset at the restaurant, overlooking the Okavango River, munching on crumple cake with cheese-topping and ice crme. Could be worse...

28/1 An early start on the day to plan the route, work and do yoga. Then we drive down to Rakops in the central Botswana. From here, a narrow sandy trail leads into Central Kalahari Desert National Park. As we enter the trail, we are checked for meat products, and the soles of our sandals are sterilized. The road is marked from the rain last week, and huge pools have to be navigated. In some places, it is dense, green bushes, other places have scattered grass in sandy soil. In one stretch, some fantastic flowering bulbs are found in large numbers.
Numerous cattle, goats and donkeys are crossing the road time and time again. Small rondawels with huge bomas are found along the road, but the cattle are proper marked with yellow plastic tags. 50 kilometres in, the entrance to the park is found. On the way there, we see two ostriches crossing the road. The road is just two wheel-tracks in real loose sand. Here is elephant dung, but we fail to see the origin. Flowers, on the other hand, are numerous in some areas.
At the entrance, we have to explain, we have no reservation due to Bigfoot's negligence. They don't answer their phone, they don't reply to emails, their website is last updated in 2013 and their mail-form bounces. The helpful officer tells us, they have a representative at the site, and he even gets her.  We are told; we are in luck, they do have campsites for us at the wanted locations. It is a bit step; 200 pula per head per night. Must be luxury sites, it is more than a rondawel with kitchen in South Africa for a single!
They have a board with sightings of Lions, Leopards, Cheetahs and Wild Dogs, and it have a lot of pins  for this months. Especially lions and cheetahs are plentiful.

We clean the windows, which have been covered in mud that refuses to be washed off with the window-wipers. The beginning of the park is way more green than I had expected. On the other hand; the park is just as big as the entire Denmark, and I guess, it will change while we drive through.
The plan is to go from the middle east to the north-west today. We keep a fairly good speed, but the deep pools on the road slow us down. Here are only little sign of other animals than birds and some Steinboks. Then we see a few Springboks and a Cow Antelope, but nothing else. Here are several interesting plants, some of them are a species of bulbs, found in huge numbers, resembling Dutch tulip fields.
A few Large Trappe/Buzzard are seen on the open areas, and then the Oryx turns up. They are my favourites, and I wished we could spend more time with them. Unfortunately, we have only managed to drive 36 kilometres within two hours, and the campsite is 120 kilometres away, and it gets dark half past six - in two hours.
We start what best can be describes as The Dakar Race meet safari. 60-80 km/t on winding, loos sand, mud pools and mole-hills are not for the faint hearted. The last 120 kilometres of road has not been driven since last weeks rain, but it sure has been walked! Other places look like a riverbed or a sandy beach.
We don't get to see many animals, but several groups of giraffes are blocking the way, and we have to sneak slowly by. Another time, it is two large tortoises, romancing on the road. One time, I have to stop at what might be a flowering Raphionacme.

We reach the Motopi Waterhole half past six, and see some Oryxs, a jackal and some ducks. The camp is close - we thought, and we will check-in. Here are only three sites in the entire camp, located several kilometres apart. No staff, no water, just a hole in the ground and a fireplace - for 400 pula! Not even a fence to protect us from the numerous lions and other big cats, found exactly here. We had kind of hoped for an restaurant and alike...
We drive back to the waterhole to get the last sightings in the dusk. As we drive off our campsite, a big cat jumps off. It looked most of all as a puma, but it is most likely a female lion. The waterhole is disappointing. Ox-egrets and ducks are all we find here. Further out on the savannah, Springboks, Oryx and wildebeests can be seen, but they remain distant.
On the way back to camp, we see a group of ostriches in the dusk. Then a big owl crosses the road, right in front of us. We put up the tent and get some cold dinner. I try to work, but despite I have only the light from the screen, I am covered in all kinds of insects real fast, and the temperature goes up above my comfort within the car.
During the night, we hear lions roaring in all directions. It sound like it is close, and it probably is.

29/1 Just as I'm about to leave the "safety" of the tent, a deep cough-like sound is heard, right outside. It turns out to be a Giant lan, which come running right across camp. I am real careful and aware, when I climb down, but it seems we are free of predators for now. Here is only a few big, black beetles. Why they make the camp in bushes, I can't figure. I rather prefer under trees or in the plain open.
We prepare snacks and water for the day, and polish the windows. The dirt from yesterday is like expensive paint: Can be thinned time and time again, without being transparent.
We are driving right through the Central Kalahari today, but way less than yesterday's 450 kilometres. We start at the local waterhole, and here, Oryxs, Springboks and a few Blue Wildebeests are gathered. The tiny ducks are swimming while the egrets sit on the shore. A Big Buzzard has lost some feathers, and they are huge! Bigger than the wing-feather of a swan.
The next area we meet has a lot of flowering Ipomoea bolusiana. A large flock of ostriches are gathered near the road, but slowly head into the area. Ground Squirrels are plentiful in some areas, digging up white stones. They seem to ignore the car, but disappears when a door is opened.
A duck-sized bird, could be a Small Buzzard, is making a lot of noise, and flying up, just to fall down again - and again. Different quails hide or run in front of the car - as they always do. The sightings of the magnificent Oryxs are more and more plentiful. Some are found in herds of 50 animals, some young ones in-between.
A single Cow Antelope can be seen near the Oryxs or near the Springboks. Some groups of Springboks numbers 75 or more individuals.

The areas we drive through are big, but clearly divided. Some are low but dense bushes, some sparse grass, some barren pans, some taller bushes. The surface of the road changes with the vegetation. Some are deep, loose sand, some washingboard-like, some smooth clay-like. Only a few places during today's stint, have pools.
We see significantly more animals in the open areas, but they might be scattered evenly. The large groups of Oryx, ostriches and Springboks seem to be everywhere. Some of the ostriches' have chicks, and the groups number 30 or more. One area has a lot of the nice, red-flowering bulb. Some with buds, some with flowers and some with new bulblets.
The road starts to be scattered with rather fresh elephant dung. Bushes are ripped up along the road, and deep holes are dug. Elephants are bullies and destroyers in this world.
Just before four, we reach the road, leading to our private camp. We have not seen any fresh wheel-tracks the entire day, and it feels like we have an area the size of Denmark to our selves. Nice as long as the car behaves, else it will be  long walk!
Within the last few kilometres to the camp, we find two cheetahs in the shadow on a little tree, in a huge open pan. We drive under ten metres from them, and they slowly walk to some bushes, 25 metres away.
The camp is located next to the Piper Waterhole and the huge Piper Pan. Some great looking bushes with thick, red-brownish and fat stems are everywhere, and we even find a pair of small Acacias to park under.
I catch up with yesterdays photos, while Gry prepare dinner. I rather finish up before dark, knowing which insect-soup will be here after dark.
The camp is just like the other one: A hole in the ground, and a shower from a bucket - if you brought water yourself. After dinner, we drive a short evening tour in the last light. We see two red foxes and some real dark clouds, coming our way. Definitely not good, us being 100 kilometres out on a pan! We just manage to put up the tent, before the drizzle starts.

30/1 The rain remained a threat and we wake up to a dry and sunny day at Piper Pan. I botanize a bit around camp, and find some interesting bulbs. After breakfast, we do a little loop in the pan before heading out of Central Kalahari. Here is lots of Springboks, Oryx and a few Blue Wildebeests.
We drive slowly out of the park, and look for big cats. Despite we have heard them, we fail to see them. It is a tricky trail; either deep, loose sand, washing board or short stretches with smooth surface. The first two demand a speed over 40 km/t, the last can be driven that way.
The elephants don't keep to destroying the wilderness, they also spoil the road. Trees and bushes are scattered across the trail, and half meter deep holes mark where they have dug up roots. Their dung is everywhere, some real fresh. I fear meeting them on the sandy trail, flanked by dense bushes. We are in luck, and meet one group, which has visit from a huge bull in musk, in an open area. They are feeding comfortable long away from our trail, and we get bye. A big tortoise is ignoring them, and minds its own business. The big bull do not ignore us; we get the salute and big ears.

After 80 kilometres, we reach the exit, and with that, another campsite. They have bathrooms WITH water, although cold, and we decide we are deserving a bath. Then we check out of the park and report our sightings. It turns out we were the only people in the park, including rangers. From here, it is a double sandy trail for the next 100 kilometres. Many times, I'm forced down in first, low and 4x4 in the loose sand.
After two hours, we are half way, and a firm surface calls for a brake. At the same time, the first car in three days is approaching us. He drives in our track, and I can't figure how to pass him, if it wasn't for the firm surface here. It makes up way less than one percent of the entire stretch.
After the snack-break, my hands can move again, and my shoulders have loosened up a bit. We were told, the surface will improve after 40 kilometres, and I can't wait.
We meet another gravelroad at New Xade, and do a loop in the town. The advertised souvenir shop is closed, but we see all the traditional San people rondawels and grass-huts, found in bomas. Back on the road, we are met by a rather good washing board road for the next 80 kilometres. If it wasn't for the potholes, I would have enjoyed it. The last 40 kilometres to Gantsi/Gantzi/Ghanzi are sealed and a joy! We have managed to cross the Kalahari in a big Z, and it was worth it.

We find the only hotel with a restaurant - only one in town - but I think 800 pula for a rondawel is too steep, and we go for a 60 pula campsite. It is within the hotel's compound, and kind of cosy - when the man with the lawnmower is done. It is, by the way, a perfect kept lawn. We ask for a place to buy souvenirs, but are told; the shop in town is closed.
A bit of relaxation at camp, updating diary and studding the next stint. The plan is to head for the true desert in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The only road leading into the park is across the South African border, and back. However, we have 400 kilometres of - hopefully - sealed road to cross first. While we sit in the campground at five, we are drained by mosquitoes. They use to stay away till after seven - I wonder what will happen then?
In an attempt to find a postcard and a souvenir, we head down town in the late afternoon. We are truly in the homeland of the San People, but far from in tourist country. Besides from some banks, a Shell station and three supermarkets, there are only small street shops, selling plastic and candy.
Back at camp, we check emails, and I try to upload Zimbabwe photos. We have two hours, but the connection is not good, and too many files fail to be uploaded. The hotel's restaurant opens at seven, and we are so ready. We wait a real long time for the food, but it is quite good when it finally turns up. Back to work a bit in the steamy car, watching the mosquitoes outside.

31/1 After a slow start on the day, we head first towards Kang, 270 kilometres south. A rather long stop at the local Shell station reveals the thirst even a car can get, in the deep sands of the Kalahari, know as Land of Thirst. It is a perfect road with only a few big trucks. The wide shoulders of the road are a fantastic flowerbed, almost excludible with yellow flowers from around five species.
We see a few Steinboks, some horses and donkeys and a lot of cows. It seems like the entire stretch is through cattle country, and if someone is living here, it is way out in the dense bushes. The first 250 kilometres are bushes and trees with green grass underneath. Then it is some other bushes and trees with sand under.
We pass a single roadkill, feeding 20 vultures. Huge dung beetles crawl and fly over the road, and unfortunately, we hit close to ten. I feel bad about it, but at least, they don't spill their guts over the windshield.
Kang is a bit off the route, and a drive through it, only reveal a few supermarkets, a gas station and a Sunday closed post office. After a short break, we head on towards Hukuntsi, only 110 kilometres further South-West. Same good road, no traffic at all. We pass the roads for the two other satellite towns of Tshane and Lehututu.
Hukuntsi seems to be one supermarket, one gas station and one appreciated hotel - town.
We get a nice room for 550 pula, and enjoy the air-condition while we do a bit of laundry and diary. Then we do the big loop in town - which lasts for ten minutes. Gry catch up on African soap-operas, I on the expenses accountancies involved in an expedition like this.
The sign say they have a restaurant, but when I ask for it, it seems like it only serves breakfast.

1/2 Another slow start on the day, but we only have 160 kilometres to Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The first ten are sealed road, which end at the strange, little town of Lokgwabe. It must originate from diamond mining; modern houses scattered around a barren desert, and not a shop.
From here, it is a wide, well maintained sandy road, which unfortunately has some long, real soft parts. It is actually that soft, that moles are making hills across it, even in the firmer parts. A few times, I'm in first, low gear 4x4, and struggling. We pass Wildlife Management Area KD 12 and Mabuasehube Game Reserve on the route towards Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
The entire road most of all reminds of a wildlife park, except from a few cattle in the first part. As with the other parks, Mabuasehube Game Reserve expect us to book campsites in advance, then we can only buy the permit at an office in one of the big towns. Again, the officer at the gate just fills out the form, and because we don't plan to spend the night here, we only pay 44 pula. We are told, some of the lions were seen yesterday at a specific pan; flat, barren area, and we head that way.
Inside, the grass is yellow and in many places, the red, yellow, beige and white sand are barren. At the pan, we only see vultures, Springboks and Blue Wildebeests. When we drive further into the desert, some fine looking white and large flowers of bulbs are found in confined areas. Some other small herbs are flowering too, but it looks so dry!
Here are quails and the noisy strange bird, we have seen so often in the past. A few new small birds fly from Acacia to Acacia, and the huge shadows from passing vultures passes the sand. A few Oryxs crosses the road, and what appears as greyish Steinboks stand in the shade of the bushes.
In another pan, some ostriches walk around in the open space. A group of Blue Wildebeests are way more relaxed than those we have encountered before, and even I get a few good photos. The park is not as dry, nor as flat as I had expected, but it is great to see the colourful sand and green bushes.
After four hours, we have done the loops in this part, given up on mid-day lions and head on towards the border-city of Tsbong. It is another 150 kilometres on sandy road, and I try to maintain 80 km/t. It requires a firm grip on the steering wheel, and a cool co-driver. Several times, we loos momentum, and have to start from first, low. Only when we reach a firm surface, we can accelerate again. A small tornado crosses the road right in front of us, and it is in no hurry, heading on.

Tsbong is just like the other small towns we have passed; one gas station, one supermarket and one hotel along with a few, real small shops. We get a rondawel, but only because someone cancelled. They admit, they never been this busy before. Despite we have a complete kitchen, we head out for a pizza. Then it is the usual doings for the rest of the evening. Well, and the Simpsons Movie.

2/2 We don't have much of a plan for the day, just spending our last pula, then cross the South African border, 25 kilometres south of here. We spend the morning enjoying the nice and big rondawel. Then a bright idea come in play; considering how dull this part of South Africa is: Why not spend a few days in Lesotho, only 100 kilometres from Bloemfontein where Gry is leaving from?
We fill the car and spend the last pula on candy before we head for McCarthy's Rest border. Both the Botswana and the South African side are real nice, boths the officers efficient and with some good laughs. Then, we are in South Africa!

Botswana is a fantastic, real unspoiled country, but it is efficient and has a lot of wildlife. We have been driving 2850 kilometres, and I have taken 1250 photos - way less than I would have taken with a proper camera - and that might be a good thing...
 

BOTSWANA EXPENSES
1/6 of flight 1.045  
11 day 4x4 5.258  
Food 655  
Hotels 1.500  
1/6 gadgets 1.100  
Diesel 1.760  
Entrees 1.220  
DKK 12.538 1680

                    

 

 

 

   Diary 1 + 2  Map + Plan  Photos