Out of the desert, briefly

Hi all,

We’ve spent the last 5 nights camping in and around the Kgalagardi Trans-Frontier Park and the adjoining Wildlife Management Areas.

Friday – quarry just south of the Wildlife Management Area next to the KTFP, south of Mabuasehube Gate
Saturday – camping area just inside Mabuasehube Gate. We tried to get a campsite at Khiding, further inside the park, but there were no vacancies. Allegedly. We’ve mentioned/complained about the crazy, fragmented booking systems for National Parks and Wildlife Reserves in Bots before, and it’s no better. The people at the entry gates to the parks have no idea if or where there are vacancies, but if you don’t have accommodation booked inside the park, you can’t get in. There are 3 campsites at Mabuasehube Gate, and we apparently got the last vacant site, but one of the 3 sites was unoccupied the whole time we were there. I’m sure it would be a similar story at all the campgrounds inside the park as well. People book, don’t need to pay until they are at the entrance gate, don’t show up and someone else misses out.
Sunday and Monday – Jacks Pan, north of the KTFP north-east corner. We met a South African couple, Quentin and Natasha, here and had a lovely time swapping stories. They love Botswana as much as we do and spend as much of their spare time here as they can. The night before we arrived at Jack’s Pan, they had a horrible night with a group of loud, rude campers who got drunk, played loud music almost all night and were nasty when Natasha asked them to quieten down. I can imagine how they must have felt when they heard and saw Clancy approaching their little haven. When we first met them, we assured them that we are quiet, don’t play music, don’t drink much and keep ‘campers hours’ – in bed early, sleep at least 12 hours. And we kept a reasonable distance between our campsite and theirs. On Sunday night, we heard a lion roar several times quite close to our campsite. The next morning, we chatted with Quentin and Natasha and they had seen the lion amble past their campsite just after sunset and head towards the pan. They lost sight of him then, but tracked his footprints in the morning and realised that he had been lying on the vehicle track at the edge on the pan, and that’s when he started roaring. Apparently there are 2 lions who live in the area – this big one and his smaller brother. We stayed here on Monday night and didn’t see or hear him again, unfortunately. We spent about an hour sitting in the car just after sunset, in case he walked the same way as he’d done on Sunday.
Tuesday – Peach Pan, north of the KTFP

We’re on our way to Hukuntsi now, and plan to get to Ghanzi tomorrow.

Camped in a roadside quarry north of Tsabong
Looking over Jacks Pan
Sunset at Jacks Pan
Sunset Jacks Pan
The abandoned ablutions at Mubua gate camp
Mabuasehube Gate camping area 3
Mabuasehube Gate camp
Sunset at Mabuasehube Gate camp

Lion footprints 50m from camp at Jacks Pan (with my size 13 feet)
Jacks Pan
Sunset Jacks Pan

The Barking Gheckos at dusk at Jacks Pan (turn on the sound)

Sunset Jacks Pan
Judy making bread
The long cut-line along the Transfrontier Park border
Camped at Peach Pan
Kaa Pan
Everythings eaten on Kaa Pan
Looking back along the cutline more than 160km long on the border of the Transfrontier Park
Some horns at Peach Pan
The Namibian Tree birds. We will remember what they are called eventually, they were all over Namibia
We need a permit to camp at Peach Pan, and transit the KD2 road. We got to the self-serve permit station to find…no permits. #Africa

Back in Botswana

It seems hard to believe now, that the first time we visited this beautiful country the only thing I wanted to do was go to Gaborone. It’s not far from the SA/Bots border and I’d read so much about it in the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency books. I just wanted to see it for myself, and maybe catch a glimpse of the Tiny White Van.

We’re now visiting Bots for the 4th time and each time we fall a bit more in love with the place, the people, the incredible scenery and the overall ‘vibe’. And we keep on finding more places to see and more reasons to visit.

We crossed the border at McCarthy’s Rest/Tsabong yesterday and almost as soon as we’d arrived in Bots, we relaxed and heaved a sigh of something close to relief that were back here. Our last full day in Sth Africa had been a bit of a trial – the last big town before the border, Kuruman, is a rough place and we were glad to get out of there. Then the first place we tried for a campsite didn’t offer camping any more, despite multiple signs on the road advertising same. And then when we got to the next place, OppiKnoppi, we got our first flat tyre. At least we were able to spend the night there, in a nice cabin that cost us R150pp – around $30 total.

Last night we stayed at the Tsabong Eco-Tourism Camel Park, which is about 10kms out of Tsabong, and 30kms from the border. We have a powered campsite, which has a braai (of course!), huge stack of firewood, outdoor sink and we also have our own bathroom area with toilet, shower and fancy washbasin. And plenty of hot water! We got here early enough yesterday afternoon that we were able to do a load of washing, Greg got some stuff done and I had an afternoon nap. A couple of groups of camels wandered past our campsite, but otherwise we had our space to ourselves. Lovely place, I’d recommend it to everyone visiting this area

We’re heading ‘bush’ and will be off the air for about a week. Going to the eastern part of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park at Mabuasehube, then west to Kaa, leaving the park and heading to Hukunsti, where we’ll have internet access again hopefully, Kang and then north to Ghanzi. Sadly we’ll miss the Heavy Metal Festival in Ghanzi, but we’ve read about it and it looked like a hoot! Then to the CKGR – Central Kalahari Game Reserve. That’s the plan.
See you in a week!

Tsabong Camel Park
A camel at Tsabon Camel Park
Cooking dinner making Yogurt

 

 

Camped at Tsabong Camel park

On the Road, at last

I bet at least 50% of you now have that Willie Nelson song ticking over in your brain. Sorry about that!

We headed out of Jo’burg yesterday morning. Finally. We really enjoyed spending 10 days at Airport En Route. It’s the longest we’ve spent anywhere apart from home in … forever. We settled into a nice little routine of Greg working on stuff on Clancy – new roof box, diesel-powered heater for our living space that we can also use to heat our outdoor shower tent, water heater for our showers. When he needed things from the hardware, or we needed something from the supermarket, Greg would ride his bike to the shops. I cooked, read a lot and did my best to maintain the campers’ kitchen to the high standard the owners keep it. There’s something about a very clean kitchen that seems to make us want to keep it that way, and our hostess Marion thanked me for keeping it so clean, but she still liked to splash plenty of Ajax around.

Most of the time, we were the only people there, but a couple of nights before we left there was a family from French Guiana who stayed overnight. And where is French Guinana? Just north of Brazil, and east of Surinam. If you have read ‘Papillon’, you’d recognise it. It was a former French penal colony and our host David took great delight in pointing out that all their campers were from former penal colonies – ie, us and the French Guianans.

We’re on our way to the SA/Bots border crossing  at McCarthy’s Rest, north-west of Jo’burg. We drove through the centre of Jo’burg yesterday, we hadn’t meant to, but we got to revisit some of the places we got to know quite well when we stayed in an Airbnb in Maboneng on our first trip to Sth Africa. We were driving along and all of a sudden I realised we were in that trendy area. It looks better at night when all the pretty lights are on and there are plenty of people out and about, but it still looked good.

Last night we stayed at a campground just off the N14, at Barberspan Lake, 300kms west of Jo’burg.We had a lakeside campsite, and were the only ones there! There were only 6 campsites, but loads of A-frame chalets which were also all empty. I guess it gets busy during school holidays, at least I hope it does, for the sake of the owners and their staff.

Tonight we’re staying at the Red Sands Country Lodge, just a bit west of Kuruman. It’s an impressive set-up … lots of rondeval-style cabins, campsites with private facilities plus campsites without their own bathrooms, restaurant, bar, pool etc etc. We’re just staying in an ordinary campsite and using the shared bathroom, but we do have our own sink, braai and bench with power points and light. It’s very nice and at the lower end of what we pay for a campsite – R240, around $25.

We’re planning on crossing into Botswana tomorrow and have read various reports of what food we can and can’t take across. We know we can’t take fresh meat, and why would we when Botswana beef is so good and so cheap? But then we’ve read of people having UHT milk confiscated, no idea why, and fish and all kinds of other fresh food. Seems like it depends on whether the customs officer is hungry or not! When we crossed from Namibia to Bots earlier this year, we had apples and potatoes taken, despite a notice in the office with information on maximum allowed quantities, and what we had was nowhere near the limit.

Camped by the Barberspan Lake
Location of Barberspan Lake
Red sands lodge
Red Sands

 

Still in Jozi

Our plans to only stay a couple of days in Jo’burg while we get a few things done have sort of gone out the window. Greg has been building another fibreglass box on the roof  to hold 2 more tyres with solar panels covering them. It’s taking a bit longer than anticipated, but we don’t really mind. We like it here at Airport En Route, and our hosts Marion and David don’t seem to mind us spending some extra time here. There have only been a couple of other overnight campers – one family at the start of their trip and another at the end of theirs – so most of the time we have the lovely campers’ kitchen and bathroom to ourselves.

The weather here is gorgeous at the moment, especially considering it’s winter here too – up to 25C during the day, down to -3 a couple of mornings, sunshine, clear skies. It’s much colder at home.  The countryside here looks like Adelaide in summer – very brown and dry. A combination of frequent morning frosts and not much rain. Apparently it’s not usually so warm at this time of the year and the locals are worried that they may be in for a hot summer. I’ve been feeling like one ear is blocked, as if I’m still on a plane and when I mentioned it to Greg, he reminded me that we’re at an altitude of 1750m here! Which also explains why I thought it was taking longer to cook and bake stuff. It’s the altitude.

We returned the rental car on Sunday and now if we need anything from the supermarket or hardware, Greg rides his bike. It’s about 4kms to the nearest large hardware store and there’s a good shopping centre nearby.

While Greg has been adding, subtracting and modifying stuff on Clancy, I’ve been cooking, refining my bread recipe and doing lots of reading. It’s all been very laid-back and low-key and I’m sure we’ll be happy to get on the road to Botswana, but for now, we’re happy doing what we’re doing.

Some guys were repainting road markings on a road nearby. They were painting stop markings, but they didn’t use a stencil like we do in Australia, they paint it with a roller freehand, and it looks really good!
Adding the diesel heater into the storage area
Fibreglass panels most brought on the plane in pieces and fibre-glassed together
Making a mounting for the diesel fuel tank for the heater
The spare tyre storage
Mounting the inlet and controller for the diesel heater

 

 

Season 2 begins

We follow a lot of Overlanders on social media. Recently I read the final post of a guy who had been travelling for several years and he included the last lines from the movie, The Martian, in which Mark Watney says:

At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you… everything’s going to go south and you’re going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem… and you solve the next one… and then the next. And if you solve enough problems, you get to come home.

Seems like very good advice for overlanders as well as astronauts.

We hit our first problem before we’d even landed in Jo’burg. On the flight from Singapore to Joburg, we realised that we’d forgotten to bring the keys to the camper part of Clancy. We’ve brought almost 90kgs of luggage and no keys. Excellent.  Actually, we’d forgotten to bring any keys at all, but we’d left a car key here with David and Marion at Airport En Route, the vehicle storage place/campground that has been Clancy’s home for the last 4 months. And from now on,the first and last items on our very long lists of stuff we need to bring will be KEYS!

It all worked out okay though. We were able to spend our first night here in an ensuite room at Marion and David’s, which meant we didn’t have to scurry 30m across frosty lawn to the toilets in the middle of the night. The next morning Greg got to work on the camper door lock and managed to lever it open, and we could then access the set of keys we’d left in the camper.

Greg re-installed the injectors he’d removed at the end of Season 1 to get refurbished, and that all went smoothly, got Clancy started without too much trouble and we’re now back to sleeping in the camper, but we’re using the nice camp kitchen here while we can.

It’s good to be back.

Clancy parked in the cold foggy morning in Johannesburg. Now we have to figure out how to break in…
Greg replacing the injectors in the 2H diesel
Unpacking everything

 

 

 

Starting to do repairs, a long list of things to do.
First nights dinner. South African Boerworst and these tiny potatoes that we see a lot in South Africa.
The days are cold in the morning but warm up and the days are bright and sunny getting over 20C
We thought about buying them but we didn’t. Bought 2 already-barbecued chickens instead

 

Moremi Game Reserve

Some pictures from our stay in Moremi Game Reserve Botswana 23rd-25th March 2019

Camped at a wild camp near South Gate of Moremi Game Reserve. We head a lions roar in the morning. We camped here before we headed into the park towards 3rd Bridge.
After entering South Gate of Moremi Game Reserve, we drove only a few kilometres to find a group of Elephants at a water hole.
Crossing 1st Bridge on the way to Third Bridge. We got lost along with several other people on the way to first bridge.
Seeing Giraffes on the way to Third Bridge campsite.
Our first night at Third Bridge in Moremi Game Reserve. This was the first night at A$140 per night camping at Third Bridge campsite.
Camped for the second night at Third Bridge campsite. We had to shift campsite because the campsite we stayed in the night before was booked out. The second night campsite was much nicer.
Zebras around Third Bridge
We drove though a group of Giraffes heading to South Gate of Moremi Game Reserve

Hippos at a water hole heading to South Gate Moremi
Camped again at the Wild campsite outside of South Gate Moremi. We never got tired of tropical sunsets.
Camped at the wild camp outside South Gate Moremi, we awoke surrounded by Zebras and Giraffes

Back in Maun

Another very quick one – we’ve just spent a few days camped in and near Moremi National Park. We saw lots of wildlife including a wild dog!

Very exciting as they are rare and we haven’t seen one before. Now we’re heading to Francistown on the A3, which is hopefully a decent sealed road.

When we have some decent internet, probably when we get to South Africa, we’ll post photos. At the moment we’ve hooked into Botswana Post’s free internet access, 10 minutes at a time.

Botswana the Beautiful

We’re back in one of our favourite countries in the world – our favourite African country (so far!) – Botswana.

We wild-camped last night and now we’re in Maun (rhymes with town), having just organised to camp at 3rd Bridge in Moremi National Park, part of the Okavango Delta.  It’s costing us USD $100 per night for a campsite. Yes, you read that correctly. A hundred bucks. US. Per night.

We’ll be offline for a few days, see you next week!

Camped amongst the Elephant Dung. We heard elephants, but we didn’t see any.

Back in Namibia

From the ridiculous to the sublime:

After our median-strip camp north of Katwitwi on our last night in Angola, we were thrilled to find a campground in Rundu that had large grassy sites. And power! And a camp kitchen with a sink with running water! And an amenities block with hot water for showers! We felt like we’d landed in the lap of luxury.

The Sarusungu Lodge is about 3kms out of Rundu, on the Okavango River. We had river views and could see Angola on the other side. It was close enough to town that Greg rode his bike there a couple of times, once to buy some things and then to book Clancy in for a wheel alignment.

We spent the weekend at Sarusungu. Greg did some repairs to Clancy, with the assistance of one of the campground’s groundsmen, who offered to lend tools, suggestions and probably learnt a fair bit about fibreglass in the process. I wish I’d taken a photo of the 2 of them sitting together on our green camping mat, peering up at the hole in the wheelwell and figuring out how best to repair it.

Meanwhile, I did many, many loads of handwashing, and felt very lucky indeed to have a sink with cold, clean running water and not have to trudge up to 2kms to get that water from the nearest tank/river/creek/dam/puddle. And then to be able to hang it on a clothesline I’d strung between several trees. With pegs! Angolan women spread theirs out on sand or rocks or grass or fence posts … no pegs there. Everything dried quickly so by the end of the day we had lots of clean clothes and bedlinen.

We really noticed a difference in Rundu, compared with when we visited 4 years ago. Back then it was a dusty town with only a couple of sealed roads. This time, lots of the town’s streets have been sealed, there’s new housing, new shops, new businesses, even a private hospital!

The first time we drove through this part of the country, we thought it was all quite primitive, with the compounds of thatched huts made of sticks or mud. Now we think they are all so neat and tidy after some of the things we saw in Angola. Perspective.

Last night we stayed at another good campground, the Mobola River Lodge just a bit west of Divundu. Once again, it’s on the Okavango River with lovely grassy sites and excellent amenities – power, outdoor shower and camp kitchen at each campsite, and we can see across to Angola. Seems like we’re not quite ready to let Angola go. When we were at Sarusungu, I heard a baby cry over  in the Angolan village cross the river. It was the first Angolan baby I’d heard cry! They spend most of their early lives being carried on their mothers’ backs, so their needs can be met quickly while the mothers are doing other things -carrying water, looking after their older kids, working in fields. Extreme multi-tasking!

We’ve added a new appliance to our kitchen kit – a single electric hotplate so that we don’t have to use our gas stove when we camp in campgrounds. I cooked dinner on it last night and am currently ‘baking’ our frypan bread rolls on it and it’s good. I just need to get used to the slower response time of cooking with electricity, and the temperature control, but haven’t burnt anything … so far!

We’re heading south across the border to Botswana today, and will probably be offline until we get to Maun in a couple of days. I love Botswana and have been looking forward to spending some more time there, in part of the country we haven’t seen yet.

Camped at Sarusungu in Rundu Namibia
extending the wheel arch one side because I didn’t make it long enough. The wheel was bottoming out on the suspension and rubbing away the fibreglass in one spot.
Clancy getting wheel aligned in Rundu
Camped at Mobola River Lodge
The Okavango River from the campsite
Sunset over the Okavango

 

 

Leaving Angola

We did it! 3 weeks in Angola and we didn’t get sick, injured, arrested or robbed. We really enjoyed (most of) our time there, and feel like we got to see a good cross-section of the country and managed to keep away from the capital Luanda which doesn’t seem to have anything much to recommend it. The Scottish oil worker we met at Arco lives there and he told us not to bother.

We’ve spent the last few  days without internet, so let’s have a quick catch-up.

We thought that rather than just head back over the Santa Clara border, we’d see a bit more of the country and cross over further east at Katuitwi / Katwitwi. Greg had saved a trip report of someone’s Angola tag-along tour from a couple of years ago and he gave good information about places they had camped along the way, the condition of the road south to the border and how long it took the group of 15 at each border post. The Angolan post had been recently completed when the author crossed it in 2016, and it had taken the group 8 hours to drive the last 250-ish kms on an unsealed road. So, slow going but we’ve been used to that in Angola.

Blergh, big mistake! The road must have deteriorated since 2016 and it took us a day and a half to do what the tag along group had done in 8 hours. To any overlanders reading this, Don’t Do It! Cross over at Santa Clara or Ruacana.

The author had also very helpfully mentioned a couple of quarries they had camped at along the way, and we stayed at them too, but as we realised the last section would take us more than a day, we had to find somewhere to camp about 60kms north of the border post. In this still-heavily landmined area we couldn’t risk just going off-road and finding something, and there were no convenient tracks for us to just head down, so we ended up on a narrow piece of land between 2 tracks where vehicles had driven to get from one to another. Basically, we camped on a median strip!

The border crossing at both the Angolan and Namibian posts was pretty easy, once we actually found where to go at the spiffy newish mostly unused Angolan post. There were 3 entry booths and an enormous commercial building, a bit like the one at Santa Clara,but it was all sitting empty and overgrown with weeds. No signage, so we just drove until we were stopped by a string across the road, then had to be shown where to find the single immigration desk hidden at the back of a building. It all went smoothly but we were a bit baffled that the customs lady insisted on inspecting nearly all our storage boxes. Um, we’re leaving, what could be in any of those boxes that might be of interest? Anyway, her English was good so I gave her my 2 Women’s Weekly mags. It’s such a quiet post, I thought she might need something to do to keep occupied.

The Namibian side was fine, but Greg had to show the Customs lady there how to fill in our carnet as they don’t get many of them. I noticed on the Immigration officer’s daily log that we were number 4 & 5 to pass through, at about 10.30am. And then when the policeman was checking our paperwork, Greg noticed that ours was the first vehicle for the day. For some reason, even though we had paid our road tax when we entered from South Africa and it was valid for 3 months, we had to pay it again because we were entering from Angola.

And then we were back in Namibia, driving on the left hand side of the road, on a sealed road with line markings and street signs and all that stuff were used to. It was bliss!

This is getting a bit long, so I’ll just add a few general comments about Angola – everyone we met, spoke to and even drove past seems happy and friendly. As a nation the population has a lovely disposition despite, or maybe because of, the incredible hardship of that long civil war and the ongoing poverty amongst the majority.

One of the saddest things we saw were small patches of shredded casava/manioc/yucca being dried on the margin of the main sealed road south before it became a rutted nightmare – what the South Africans call the ‘yellow lane’, the safety or breakdown lane. Better-off locals would dry it in flat baskets or on large squares of fabric within their compound. The poorest people just dried it direct on the bitumen and hope that no vehicle drives over it. When the manioc is dried, it is scraped up, pounded to flour and then mixed with water to make a grey porridgey gloopy mass that is consumed at breakfast, lunch and dinner with small amounts of spice, meat and vegetables. Maize is treated in a similar way.

We saw so many abandoned or incomplete projects, buildings, roads, bridges, multi-storey hotels. This is not a poor country, thanks to its oil, but mismanagement, waste and probably corruption is on a scale we have never seen before.

Would we recommend Angola as a travel destination? Unless you’re an experienced Overlander and have visited other African countries … no. But if you are an Overlander .. absolutely. We’ll remember those 3 weeks for the rest of our lives.

casava/manioc/yucca being dried on the margin of the road
The terrible road to the Namibian border
One of the many abandoned buildings along the road
One of the few vehicles plying this road, a 6 wheel drive truck – broken down
The eroded sandy road to the border
Filling up the tanks with water from the Kubango / Okavango River

 

Getting water from the Kubango / Okavango River
One of the abandoned businesses that failed because the road building never finished
Abandoned construction equipment including a D6 Caterpillar and a abandoned road construction camp
Shower time at the sand quarry where we camped
Charcoal burning
Every cellphone tower had a guard. They usually lived in a grass hut, next to the latest in 21st century technology.
A frog that sheltered under our steps at the quarry campsite
Camped on a median strip, the last night in Angola
Our route in Angola
Camped at Rundu, the first camping ground after 21 days