Our first few days in Mozambique

After our long, involved border crossing into Angola earlier this year, we weren’t sure what to expect when we got to the SA/Moz border at Pafuri. Greg organised our vehicle insurance online, thankfully, as it would not have been possible to do on the spot. We deliberately chose places to stay close to the border on each side, in case it took us a long time, but it all went very smoothly.

To get to the Pafuri border, one has to drive through the very northern part of Kruger National Park, so we had to pay the entry fee of R774 AUD$77. We were in the park for about an hour, but we did get to see part of the park we hadn’t seen before and some wildlife – a couple of elephants, a couple of water buffalo, a couple of blue wildebeest, some warthogs and some monkeys.

We’d been assured that we didn’t need a ‘fixer’ to ‘help’ us get through Immigration and Customs on the Moz side, and in fact there was no one around apart from officials and only a few people entering and leaving Moz. A very quiet border post. We knew we had to pay for a visa and had brought enough USD with us. At first the Immigration official would only accept Rand, but we didn’t have enough. So he said he’d accept Rand for one visa and USD for the other. Still not enough, so he finally agreed to accept USD for both visas, but only notes that had been printed after 2009 …. <eyeroll> He ended up making USD 10 out of us because we couldn’t come up with a hundred bucks in post-2009 notes. Whatever. We’d thought the visas cost USD $80 each, so we felt like we were ahead.

Then on to getting the Temporary Import Permit TIP for the car, which was a very straightforward (and free!) process. I like asking people where their family home is, and they like to tell us, and I think that helps us make a connection and ease us through the bureaucratic stuff. And then to Customs, whose ‘office’ was a desk and 2 chairs under a large shelter. They wrote us up in their big book, checked our paperwork and had a look at Clancy. They were mainly interested in whether we had brought any alcohol with us, not because we weren’t allowed to, but to see what they could get out of us. We’d hidden our booze because last time we entered Kruger we weren’t allowed to bring any in with us. This time no one checked. When we were in Louis Trichardt, Greg had bought the supermarket’s entire stock of 2L Pepsi Max bottles and before we crossed the border, I said to him ‘I bet we end up bringing n – 1 bottles into Moz with us. And that’s exactly what happened. The customs guy asked us what we had brought for them, Greg offered them a bottle of Pepsi Max (locally known as a refresco, small bribe. In Angola it was a gasosa) and we were good to go.

We planned to stay at the Dumela campground about 7kms from the border. They had posters up at the Kruger entrance office and at the Moz immigration office, but finding the actual campground was not easy. Partly due to poor signage, but also because iOverlander has the wrong coordinates entered in its information section. Or rather, it has the location of the reception/office rather than the actual campground. The  office is at the top of a very steep, windy, 4WD only dirt track that makes Greg’s driveway at Willunga look like a straight, level piece of road (hint: it’s neither of those things!). So we got to the reception and the receptionist told us we were in the wrong place and that the campsite was down the hill. She didn’t mention anything about paying camping fees and at that stage we just thought we were in the wrong place. We flailed about in the bush for a while, trying to find the campsite and ended up back on the main track (definitely not a ‘road’) and finally found a sign to the campground with instructions to go and pay at Reception first. Um, nope, not going back up that track again, we’ll pay at the campsite.  It was okay and we were the only ones there.

Next day, Wednesday, we were up, packed and on the road before 7am. Incredible. Our final destination was Praia Xai Xai, almost 500kms away. We knew it would take us a couple of days, but didn’t know much about the condition of the road, and as the first part was nothing more than a single dirt track, we wanted as much daylight as possible to drive in as we were only averaging around 25 – 30kms/hr. The road did improve when we got to Mapai, and for a while it was a really good sealed road, but parts of it were terrible – just a very thin layer of tar painted over sand. Other parts were very potholed and some bits were rutted sand/dirt. We found a quarry about 300kms south and camped there on Wednesday night.

Just vefore we decided to finish for the day, we drove through our first police checkpoint in Moz. A policeman checked Greg’s drivers licence and Clancy’s paperwork while a soldier checked our passports. I had to get the passports out of the places we hide them in our living area and while I was doing that, the soldier came around and said ‘Oh, this is your little house!’ Maybe he thought it was a delivery truck or something. Apparently all our paperwork was in order as we were waved off. We’ve driven through a few more checkpoints but haven’t been stopped at any more yet. In contrast, by the time we’d been in Angola for a few days, we’d been stopped at quite a few already.

Now we’re at the beach just south-east of Xai Xai, spending a couple of days at the Montego Resort. We’d really like to spend up to a week somewhere, but the beach here isn’t all that good for swimming, so we’ll head further up the coast tomorrow to see what we can find. Weather’s great, it’s off-season so we shouldn’t have any problems finding somewhere to stay.

Fever trees next to the Limpopo river, just inside the border past Pafuri gate
Abandoned brick kiln near the Limpopo River
more abandoned buildings. The Limpopo River flooded in 2000, and got to be 5km wide, so this town near the Limpopo is mostly abandoned

 

A method of building construction we had never seen before. This one is deteriorated but essentially its a frame of timber but in-filled with rocks.
This is a better example of a timber framed rock in-filled building
Overtaking one of many trucks transporting charcoal
A train we passed we guessed pulling fuel wagons headed to Zimbabwe
train headed to Zimbabwe
Driving through Mabalane, about half way on our Journey from Pafuri crossing to Xai-Xai
The main street of Mabalane
A cop stop outside Mabalane
The “main road” N221 from Mapai to Chokwe. It could be could tar or rutted sand
Camped for the night in a sand quarry south of Mabalane
Crossing the Limpopo River at a weir at Chinhacanine
An avenue of Eucalyptus trees we drove through
Market town
We continually dodged wandering cattle
The toll gate before the toll bridge. We paid R100 to cross the bridge over the Limpopo River, except there was no bridge, it had been washed away years ago.
crossing the dry Limpopo River
Crossing the Limpopo River, this is the ferry on the dried out river. I don’t think we would fit on it.
A small market running in a little village south of Pafuri gate
Once we got further south it was potholes after potholes
If you don’t have a jack, get a pole and a few guys….
Kids pushing hand made toy cars
We finally reach the ocean after 2 days of heading south
Camped at Montego Resort

Bots to Moz

We’ve been offline for a short while as we crossed back from Botswana to Sth Africa last Saturday, then made our way across the north-east of SA to Kruger National Park and crossed into Mozambique via Pafuri Gate on Tuesday.

On our last night in Botswana, we wild-camped north of Serowe on a disused road we found when we were there in March. We used the Martin’s Drift/Groblersbrug border crossing from Bots to SA for the 4th time. Martin’s Drift on the Botswana side was, as usual, quick, easy and predictable. Groblersbrug was the usual confusion of not knowing where to go because the Immigration section had been moved again, although being Saturday afternoon, it wasn’t as busy as we’ve seen it. There was a huge line of trucks waiting to cross into Bots, though – at least 3kms long.

We stayed at the Big Fig Inn near Tom Burke, just a few kms from the border. Lovely campground with grassy sites. The first grass we’ve seen in quite a while.  On Sunday we headed east towards Louis Trichardt. We’d driven along a really terrible stretch of road from Tom Burke to Alldays on our first trip here, so we wanted to avoid that this time. Google Maps offered an alternative, but neglected to mention that parts of it were dirt! Blrgh. Anyway, we reached our second campsite, Zvakanaka, just north of Louis Trichard and it was a lovely set-up too. We had a site with our own shelter, power, water, braai. Ablutions including a front-loading washing machine were nearby. Great views over the Soutpansberg mountain range. 

On Monday we did some stuff in Louis Trichard – groceries, tyre & inner tubes, hardware, more groceries, then continued east to our third campsite, Nthakeni, at Nkotswi. On the way, we stopped and fuelled up at Masisi, the last fuel source for us in Sth Africa, and in the part of Moz we were heading to, fuel supplies are unreliable. On our first trip to Sth Africa, we were heading to Pafuri Gate and were stopped by a roadblock at Masisi – the bridge over the river had been washed away, so we had to head south to another gate.

Nthakeni Bush and River Camp was an absolute gem. Located on the  Mutale River, it offers a range of accommodation and provides employment for local villagers. Our campsite had its own outdoor shower, (indoor) toilet and the best camp kitchen I’ve seen. Well-equipped, nicely laid out, it was excellent!

It would have been great to spend more time at any or all of the 3 South African campgrounds we visited, but …. places to go, borders to cross, a new country to explore …

Last camp in Botswana, unused road on ioverlander
Camped at Zvakanaka
Zvakanaka
the lizard ladder at Zvakanaka
Night-time and washing at Zvakanaka
Soutpansberg mountain range
Nthakeni Bush and River Camp
the river near Nthakeni Bush and River Camp
Nthakeni Bush and River Camp
Judy cooking in the kitchen at Nthakeni Bush and River Camp

An aggressive looking Cape Buffalo in Kruger National Park
Elephants in the distance Kruger National Park
Monkeys and Warthogs Kruger National Park

A Silver Lining

(aka – We drove across the Kalahari Desert in 2WD and got another flat tyre)

We spent our last night in the CKGR at Deception Camp 1, then set out on Wednesday morning to drive out of the Reserve, get back on the sealed road at Rakops and head south towards Orapa. We got a mere 6kms down the track when Tyre Dog pressure monitoring system started letting us know that we had a puncture.
Damn.
So we pull over to a clear flat spot off the single vehicle-width track, grab our 2 jacks and other tyre-fixing stuff and get on with it.
Just as Greg was getting the first jack underneath, 2 government Landcruiser utes stopped. I thanked them for stopping, explained that we had a flat tyre but we were okay and thought they would just keep on driving, but they pulled both vehicles off the track and all 6 passengers got out to assess the situation. Within seconds the 2 drivers were on the green mat-covered ground with Greg, sussing it all out. Someone got a jack from one of the utes, so we had 3 jacks, and they got to work.
The group works for a mobile health unit, based in Ghanzi. They had visited the 2 lodges within the Reserve and were on their way to a clinic in Rakops. There were 2 Health Care workers including Registered Nurse Onalethata Matsenkule who trained in Melbourne and lived in Australia for 9 years. He has even visited Adelaide! In addition to the 2 drivers, there was a mechanic and a female assistant mechanic.
We had an almost heart-stopping moment when one of the drivers moved out from under Clancy a split second before the jack collapsed in the soft sand, but otherwise it all went smoothly. I chatted with Onalethata while Greg and the men replaced the tyre. I showed off Clancy’s interior, the guys chatted about how fantastic 1H and 2H Toyota engines are, then Greg showed them the electrical features of the camper. We gave the group a 6-pack of Sahara Cider, thanked them all profusely and waved them off to get to their health clinic.
The rest of our drive out of the Reserve was uneventful, although the last part of the unsealed road back to the B300 sealed road near Rakops was the worst of the whole CKGR route.
We pulled off the road at the turn-off to Rakops and had a very late lunch. Just as we were finishing, a government car pulled up beside us ….. it was our friends the drivers and health workers! We were happy to see them and let them know that the rest of our drive out of the park was fine.
It was such a lovely experience, meeting this group of friendly, helpful locals. Shame about the tyre – we’re up to 5 punctures for this trip so far. Hopefully not on track to match Season 1’s tally of 10 punctures and 2 blow-outs.

Kubu Island

Kubu Island is a site that I have wanted to visit for many years, ever since I watched Andrew St Pierre White’s videos about his visits. Kubu Island is a granite island that rises out of the Makgadikgadi Pan in Botswana. Kubu Island is covered with Boabab trees and is a complete contrast to the flat salt Makgadikgadi Pan surrounding it. The Makgadikgadi Pans are the largest salt pan complex in the world covering 16,000 square kilometres.

We stopped at Mmatshumo village on the way into Kubu Island to get our permit and pay our camping fees, totalling 480pula (about A$70). Its then a 50km drive along a variable road to Kubu Island. We camped at campsite No. 1 (since we were early). We retired during the heat of the afternoon (remember its winter in Botswana – 32C). Then around sunset we climbed up Kubu Island to watch the sunset from the top. You could see the shadow of the island stretching eastward over the pan.

Kubu Island is regarded as a monument, and sacred to the local people. There is archaeological evidence that people have been using the island for ceremonies for more than a thousand years.

It was a cool windy night, so we made use again of the diesel heater to heat the cabin.

 

Some of the better parts of the road to Kubu Island
There were areas of really fine bulldust. We would produce great clouds of bulldust covering the camper
Starting onto the Makgadikgadi Pan
Some Cacti that we last saw in Angola in the Namibe Desert

Driving around Kubu Island
In campsite 1 at Kubu Island
Sunset at the top of kubu Island
Looking over the pans to the north at sunset from the top of Kubu Island
Looking west over the Pans from Kubu Island at Sunset
The plaque at the entrance to Kubu Island

 

 

Leaving Kubu Island
Driving on the Makgadikgadi Pans near Kubu island
Crossing a Vet fence to stop cattle moving between areas

 

Magnificent Isolation in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve CKGR

The ‘it’s so hard to work out how to book at Botswana’s wildlife reserves’ theme continues with our current venture into the Central Kalahari Game Reserve CKGR.

The Reserve has 3 kinds of campsites:
– privately run ones which charge loads of money but provide everything. We drove into one near the DWNP Kori campsites by mistake and it had a game drive vehicle and nice-looking semi-permanent tents including a bathroom tent. We met a couple of the staff who were going for a walk. One of them asked us if we had any cigarettes, but as we don’t smoke we weren’t able to assist.
– sites run by the Department of Wildlife & National Parks DWNP which provide a concrete braai area, drop toilet, bucket shower, although the actual bucket seems to be missing about 50% of the time
– Bigfoot Tours sites which cost 12 times the price of the DWNP – 350 pula per person vs 30 pula per person for DWNP sites.In the case of the Bigfoot one we had a look at at Letiahou, it had absolutely nothing apart from an ashy braai area. Bigfoot also doesn’t bother to answer emails.
Everyone pays the same park and vehicle entry fees – 120 pula per person, 50 pula per vehicle under 3.5 tonnes.
In order to get into the CKGR, you have to have some accommodation booked.
We visited the DWNP office in Ghanzi on Friday afternoon, to see if we could get a booking somewhere, anywhere in the park. The nearest DWNP campsite to the north-western gate Tsau, is San Pan, which is about 90kms from the gate. We asked if we could book a night there, and then several nights at Deception Valley, which is about 40kms from the north eastern gate Matswere. A very helpful young DWNP ranger was able to get us the night at San Pan, but all 6 Deception campsites were booked out. On paper, or in some central computerised booking system, but not really. More on that later. So then we asked if we could get 4 nights at San Pan. 6 phone calls later ( !?!?! ) – success! We got our 4 nights in the CKGR, and figured we’d work out the details of where we would actually stay later. Apparently it is possible to pay by cash or credit card at the office, but the finance person wasn’t there, so we had to pay cash at Tsau Gate the next morning.
We wild camped just off the track to Tsau Gate, about 9kms west of it, so we could enter the reserve early. We weren’t sure how long it would take us to drive to San Pan.
I still wasn’t quite convinced that we’d get into the reserve without any hassles. The DWNP is a bit notorious for double-booking sites, or having no confirmation of bookings and various other obstacles, and all we had was the code of the camp written on a piece of paper. It did all go smoothly though. We found our booking details written on a piece of paper on the staff noticeboard in the tented office just near the main office building which is ‘under renovation’, we had the correct money to pay (entry gates to reserves here are notorious for not having any change), we got an official hand-written receipt stamped with the official DWNP stamp and we were good to go. Total cost for 4 nights camping for 2 people, 5 days of entry into the reserve for 2 people and vehicle entry for 5 days was 1690 pula, around AUD$240.
We spent 2 nights at San Pan, a large single campsite that has a fireplace, drop toilet AND a bucket. We used our own shower set-up in the shower space as it had a good concrete floor. On the day we were at San, we had 2 lots of visitors – a French couple who were running low on diesel and came to ask if we had any spare that they could buy. We had about 1/2 a tank and 3 full jerrycans, so Greg tipped a jerrycan into theirs, and they drove off to one of the Bigfoot campsites near Passarge Pan.
Then later in the afternoon, a Scottish/German couple drove up, having booked the campsite a day or so earlier … see what I mean about double-booking?! We were happy to share with them, but they decided to go a bit further south to Phokoje campsite as they were leaving via the south gate.

Yesterday(Monday) morning, after 2 nights and a full day at San, we headed east, intending to stay at one of the 6 Deception camps or one of the 4 Kori camps nearby. When we visited the Kori camps in the middle of the afternoon, 2 were empty, one had one vehicle and one had about 6 permanent-looking tents and no people or vehicles. Later in the day we checked out the Deception camps. 3 were occupied, 3 were not, so we took Campsite 1, which looked like it had been vacant for a while.
It seems that people or tour operators book the campsites as soon as the season opens, and then because they have no ‘skin in the game’, ie haven’t paid any money, they don’t bother cancelling the bookings if their plans change. The sites appear to be booked in DWNP’s database, but many go empty and other people miss out. Meanwhile, DWNP is missing out on a lot of entry and camping fees because the sites are not actually occupied.

We’ve seen a lot more wildife that we expected to. Conditions in Bots are pretty dry this year and we didn’t see much in and around the Trans-Frontier Park, but have since heard that there’s a lion whose territory includes the Mabua Entry Gate campground.

There are several permanent, artificially fed waterholes in the northern CKGR area and they keep herds of gemsbok and springbok from straying too far. Which also helps keep lions & other predators and black-backed jackals & other scavengers close. We haven’t seen a lion or any other predators, but the French couple told us they had seen one at Letiahau the night before we met them. The second couple saw some bat-eared foxes at Kori campsites. We saw a lone giraffe just a few kms from San Pan and when we were near Tsau Gate outside the Reserve we saw elephant dung but no elephants. We haven’t seen any evidence of any within the Reserve. Last night a honey badger tipped our washing up trough over, to get to the water in it, and Greg saw a rabbit during the night.
We seem to be turning into bird-watchers. My favourite bird is the crimson-breasted shrike, which has a bright red front, black back and a long white stripe down each wing. I first saw one when we camped at the quarry south of Mabuasehube Gate, have seen them occasionally since then and we were visited by 2 this morning. We have also seen a couple of yellow-billed hornbills today and many other smaller birds that we don’t know the names of. A bird book is on the next list of what we need to acquire or bring for our next trip. I’ll try and find one locally.

We’re reading a great book, Cry of the Kalahari, which was written by ecologists Mark and Delia Owens, about the 7 years they spent studying lions, brown hyenas and other wildife in Deception Valley in the CKGR, from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s. They lived in a tent the whole time they were here, but back then, there were no DWNP or Bigfoot campsites, and very few, if any, roads or tracks. They drove an ancient Land Rover, then a slightly younger Land Cruiser, used a compass to mark locations and get directions because GPS hadn’t been invented, dealt with bushfires, at least one major flood and one very long, very devastating drought, re-supplied at Maun when it was just a village and learnt a lot about the wildlife they studied. They went on to write 2 more books about their lives in Africa, and last year Delia wrote and published her first novel ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’. My bff Sally sent me a copy of ‘Crawdads’, which is a really great read, and when I finished it, I found out about Delia’s other, earlier books and her amazing life in Southern Africa.

Loading ever litre of water we could carry at Ghanzi, in the end we had 120 litres
Our wild camp before Tsau gate. Essentially we blocked a little used road.
Black backed Jackel at Passarge Pan Waterhole
Passage Pan waterhole
San Pan campsite from down the entrance track
Camped at San Pan campsite
the never ending problem of the leaking diesel heater tank. We siliconed it closed, but it still didn’t stop the leaks
Broken shower rose at San Pan campsite with innovative fix
First use of our special sand pegs, driven in with an electric drill
Sunset at San Pan campsite
Sunset at the San Pan campsite bucket shower
Dawn over San Pan campsite
Looking down towards San Pan from the camp-site
A giraffe we passed on the way towards Deception Pan

 

 

Judy’s favourite bird – a crimson-breasted shrike

another black backed Jacket
An African Emu, I think they are called Ostriches
Yellow billed Hornbill

Camped at Deception 01 campsite
Camped at Deception 01 campsite
Judy making our daily bread
the daily bread
One of the Yellow Billed Hornbill that hung around our campsite at Deception
the bread is nearly cooked
its cooked!
Bread ready to eat!

The very scratched sides of Clancy from rubbing thousands of thorny Kalahari bushes

The Very Varied Virtues of Velcro

Wouldn’t that be a great title for one of Alexander McCall Smith’s Sunday Philosophy Club Series books? Perhaps he could do a cross-over, where Isabel Dalhousie visits Mma Precious Ramotswe in Gaborone, Botswana, and they go off on a safari together; then Precious visits Isabel in the UK and is constantly amazed at the grey skies and how much it rains there.

Anyway …. when we were fitting out Clancy the Camper, we decided that marine carpet would be good for most of the vertical and horizontal surfaces as it would decrease the amount of condensation in our living space. It’s worked really well. We do still get some condensation on the ceiling, but in the current climate with humidity around 10% most of the time, it evaporates very quickly.

Something we hadn’t thought about when deciding on marine carpet is how fantastic it is for holding velcro and thus the seemingly endless number of remotes, chargers, sensors, switches and other assorted paraphenalia we have managed to accumulate and stick to the carpet-covered walls. We’ve stuck strips of velcro to the back of the battery charger, fire blanket, at least 4 remote controls for lights, a thermometer, a USB charger or two (and many of the charging cables come with their own thin double-sided velcro as well), the carbon monoxide sensor, 2 small banana boxes full of miscellanea and probably a couple more things I can’t see at the moment and have forgotten about. We also have a fridge temperature monitoring system, but it came with magnets on the back, so we also have a couple of strips of metal glued to the carpet. Otherwise, the sensor would have got the velcro treatment too.

We also use long strips of velcro to hold the bluetooth speaker to the dashboard. We’re currently listening to Jo Nesbo’s latest Harry Hole book, Knife, but only when we’re on sealed roads. Too bouncy when we’re on unsealed roads and tracks.

There are 2 large storage spaces in Clancy’s living space – a short, wide area at the front and a taller, wide area at the back. By some minor miracle, I found some fabric-sided storage boxes at Ikea which are the perfect dimensions to fit in the front storage area. We each have one for our clothes and there’s a bit of space left over for our carry-on travel packs and other assorted stuff. We use the taller area at the back for our bedding, mattresses, TV & printer (both stored in their boxes) and various other items. Holding everything in was a bit of a challenge and Greg came up with a couple of timber bars that slot into brackets. We put a rolled-up deflated mattress behind each bar to hold it all back and that works well on sealed roads, but on bumpy tracks the timber would dislodge and a lot of it would fall out. Last time we tried elastic bands which did sort of work most of the time, but this time we’ve got it figured out. Greg bought metres and metres of thin double-sided velcro on Ebay and we wind short pieces of it around the timber bars at each end, with a very long piece wound in a figure-8 pattern in the middle. Nothing has moved, nothing has fallen down so that seems to be a success.

There’s also a strip of the same thin double-sided velcro holding the fire extinguisher in our living area in place. The extinguisher sits in a holder which is screwed to the wall, and the velcro is just to make sure it doesn’t jump out of its holding bracket.

The usb charger the fridge monitor, the light controller, the CO monitor, and some other velcro
the restraint bars tied down by velcro
the battery charger and the fire blanket
Outside light switch, outside light controller, kodi raspberry pi, spare light controller

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