We left Guma Lagoon early, partly so we would traverse the 10km sandy track to Etsha 13 when it was cool, making the sandy track easier to drive on. We re-inflated our tyres at Etsha 13, only to find our compressor air line had a leak, but not bad enough to stop us inflating them. We headed up the crumbling bitumen of the A35 towards the turn-off to Tsodilo Hills. The road to Tsodilo hills is a dusty track, and at its end we reached the Tsodilo Hills community campsite. We paid out dues and checked out the campsite. Then we headed up to the Museum and the guides that could take us around the rock paintings. We arrived and found several other people at the museum, including a couple of Australians who were a bit surprised to find a South Australian registered car driving around Botswana. A guide came up and introduced himself, and persuaded us not to do the whole Rhino walk, but just to the do the first half and turn around. It was a hot afternoon, and not the ideal time to be hiking around the Tsolido Hills. The paintings were interesting. Some of the descriptions of the paintings seemed a little dubious, and the age of the paintings must vary a lot because the styles are so different.
After a hot walk of a couple of hours, we finished at 3pm, and retired to our campsite, where there was an overflowing tank bringing all sorts of animals from around.
The never ending dust at Thakudu was getting to us after 4 days, so it was time to move north. A suggestion by Bart, and an email inquiry and we were heading north from Ghanzi to Guma Lagoon. We drove into Ghanzi, first for supplies, and for Greg to get a severe haircut at a roadside stall for $A6. We then headed north, stopping part way to offer a touring bicycle rider some water, and hear his stories of bicycle touring Africa. We wild camped about 340km north about a kilometre off the road, never seeing anyone. The next day we drove about 70km to Etsha 13, towns that were previously refugee camps for Angolians from the Angolian civil war. Then it was a sandy 10km drive to Guma Lagoon. We deflated the tyres and wandered amongst the many tracks, passing some elephants in the distance until we got to Guma Lagoon. We planned to stay four days at Guma Lagoon. Unfortunately there was no mains power, and we were camped under trees. So we struggled for power, and the starlink dish struggled for internet through the trees. However we went on a “night drive” in a boat out on the lagoon, seeing birds and crocodiles. Then another day we took a two hour birdwatching boat trip out on the lagoon.
After our interesting morning with lions we headed North East towards Hukuntsi. It was a sandy track up to Zutswa, where we paid a donation of 100pula for using the track. Then the road got better towards Hukunsi. There were some road workers in a truck just out of Zutswa who flagged us down because they needed a jump start for their truck. We tried out new battery jump-starter, not expecting it to work on a truck (with two batteries), but it started it straight away, to the surprise of the truck driver.
We continued onto Hunkunsi and stopped at the Puma to get diesel, however they were out, waiting for a delivery. This complicated things. We were going to head north out of Hukuntsi, but we didn’t have enough fuel, so this would mean we would have to drive east to Kang. We got some supplies at the supermarket, and then headed east on a nice new road to Kang. At Kang it was the same story, no diesel at the Puma, however he directed us up the road to another servo, where we obtained diesel.
It was then a 24km drive to Kalahari Rest Lodge for an overnight stop. Next morning we left a bit later for the drive up the A2 highway to Ghanzi. We shopped at the Shoprite supermarket, getting some supplies for the three days we intended to stay at Thakadu Bush Camp. Thakadu Bush Camp is 8km out of Ghanzi, 3km off the highway, and we found a good campsite there.
After leaving our camp on the KAA cutline, we continued North-west. After 9km we stopped to talk to three people who were surveying lions. A South African, and two Botswanan trackers. They were looking for lions so they could work out the distribution. The Botswanan trackers told us how they tracked the lions, and they showed no fear of tracking the lions quite close.
We got to the KAA gate of the Kalahari Transfrontier Park around 1pm. The gate was surrounded by fences, all the gates closed, to keep lions out. We camped at campsite number 1, which had a toilet and a (broken) shower, and a basin with bore water. We were warned that there were lions around.
We setup overlooking the pan, there were no other campers around. We went to bed that night keeping a lookout for lions, but leaving a fair bit of stuff outside. During the night we heard lions several times. In the morning karen told me there were noises outside, so I got up and opened the camper door, to find three lions. Two of the lions were about 1.5m away taking turns to try to pull apart the folded up shower tent with their teeth and claws.
The three lions left. We didn’t see or hear any lions until four nights later, our last night at KAA campsite. We were awoken around 4:30am by two lions passing a couple of metres from the camper. We woke up again at 5:30am and drove to the nearby waterhole, but were stopped about 150m from our campsite by two male lions sitting either side of the road waiting in the dark. At dawn we followed the two lions to the waterhole, and watched them drink. Then we followed them in the camper up the road where they met up with the rest of the clan – in total 7 lions. Two males, three females and two cubs.
We spent two days at Mubuasehube Pan campsite 4. There were lions growling both nights. The lions spent both nights at the neighboring campsite about 200m away. We could see the lions walking along the pan the next day. We left Mubuasehube Pan and headed north to where the Tracks4Africa map showed it intersected with the KAA cutline. However before we got far we bumped into the people from the adjacent campsite, who said the road was blocked. We turned around and headed for the Mubuasehube gate. We headed north, stopped after a while to pump up the tyres, and eventually got to the KAA cutline. We headed about 40km along, stopping at a pan that crossed the cutline. We stopped about 2pm. About 7pm that night the first vehicle that we had seen drove past, and turned into talk to us. It was a ranger from KAA camp. He was worried about lions, and that we were too far from the track. We told him we would get going the next morning. We didn’t see or hear any lions that night.
We got going early, by 7:20am. We back-tracked towards Makopong, taking shortcuts along some fences where we knew the way. We were at a gate when a Toyota Landcruiser bakkie rolled up with a South African manager on board. He had noticed our tracks the previous day. He had left the front gate, the first we encountered, unlocked, because he was off firefighting. As a result we drove in. He kindly drove back to the front gate to unlock it (it was now locked) to let us out. It was great to chat with him.
We then drove the 40km back to Makopong, and then pumped up our tyres. It was then down the road to Tsabong. We refueled at Tsabong, then got some apples at Choppies, and then headed north to Mubuasehube park. The road was not too bad, but about 40km south of Mubuasehube, it got very sandy. Lower the tyre pressures again, and continue on getting to the gate at 3:30pm. We got our permit and headed to Mubuasehube Pan and our campsite for two nights.
We left late from Cornwall Safari Lodge, we thought we had plenty of time. We headed to Werda, and got some meat at the local store. Then it was down the road to Phepeng for extra fuel. Then back 22km up the road to Makopong and the turnoff for a sandy track that headed for 120km to Mabuasehube park. It was a very sandy track, and almost immediately we had to lower our tyre pressures. We got about 50km along the sandy track when we came across a gate. The gate was unlocked so we continued on finding more and more gates. Then the track was blocked by fences, and we would have to detour along the fence, find a gate, and then rejoin the track. The track was more and more overgrown. We eventually reached a fence and a locked gate, with another fence beyond it with another locked gate. We decided that the track just wasn’t in use anymore, and we would have to turn back. We camped along side the track, with cattle sitting nearby.
A long and eventful day. I was going out of Palapye by 8:30am. I had 350km and a border crossing to get to the caravan park at Modimolle. I could bail at the Big Fig campground near the border, if the border crossing went bad.
So down the A1 turn off towards Martins Drift. Its a 100km fairly straightforward drive. I get close to the Botswana border post, and the trucks start piling up. I get past the trucks, and the Botswana border post is nearly empty. So ten minutes and I am out. Then its across the single lane bridge that crosses the Limpopo and can be jammed with trucks. However I am in luck and I get straight across, then I hit the truck traffic jam at the RSA border. There seems to be no gate guard, different from last time. I have done this border post I think 4 times, and its always different. I manage to squeeze past the trucks to the car parking area. I go to immigration, and ask a truck driver if we have to show our vax certificates at a different building, but he says they don’t care about the vax certificates anymore. I go to the immigration window, and explain to the immigration guy that I just need a transit visa of 7 days because I am flying out. He gives me a month, (I think) its hard to read.
Then off to the Customs window for a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) for Clancy. I can see the book through the window with all the previous TIP’s written in the book, so I know I am at the right place. Eventually a woman comes in and opens the window. I pass over my rego papers and say I want a TIP. She asks where is the vehicle registered, I answer Australia. She says you don’t need one and waves me on. I am totally confused. Is this Customs laziness? or have the rules changed? or are Australian cars unlikely to be imported into RSA or what? So I enter South Africa, without a TIP.
I manage to squeeze myself into the truck queue, which is being held up by the Police inspection point further up. I have been through this inspection point before. I have no idea what the Police and looking for. I open up some flaps they have a cursory look and wave me on. This Police inspection point clags up the whole border post, for I don’t know what benefit.
I must also point out I crossed a whole country, namely Botswana, without once being stopped by the Police. Although there were police doing checks, they just didn’t check me.
So I stopped after the border post to get my MTN sim working and hit the road. I stopped at Mokopane (after getting caught in a 30minute traffic jam out of town) at a PnP to get some more supplies. Then onto the N1. I had 100km to get to Modimolle, on the N1, should be easy.
I went through one toll booth, then the second. The second toll plaza, had lots of traffic, and I was weaving around trying to get into the right queue when someone called out, and eventually I realised I had a flat tyre. So changing a tyre in the middle of a toll plaza with dozens of cars wizzing around. I shifted to a toll lane that was out of use. I got my safety triangles out, and my Hi-viz vest and got to work. It was close to dusk, but in 20 minutes I had it changed and got going. I went through the toll both, and out the other side. I turned on my lights, and the engine started cutting out. If I turned my lights off the engine was fine. I couldn’t understand what was wrong. Then down the road I stop at a service station, I measure battery voltages and try to figure out what is going on, but I can’t figure it out. I leave the servo, head south and then realise in all the confusion I had missed the turnoff to Modimolle, and I was stuck on the N1 heading south with an engine that was cutting in and out. I eventually got off the N1 at the turn-off to Bela Bela. I stopped at another servo, and figured out that my engine was cutting out because the oil pressure switch was momentarily turning off. This was still a voltage problem, but I knew I could disconnect the oil pressure switch, and at least drive with out the cutting out. So I drove into Bela Bela. It was 43km back to Modimolle, so I though I have to find something at Bela Bela. The options on iOverlander are not good. I try WarmBaths, a huge resort in the middle of Bela Bela. They want $A75 for a nights camping, I tell them no. I head up the road 6km to option 2. They want $A65 for a nights camping. I say no, but they so point me to a cheaper one about a km away. I am running out of options. I roll up and they open up reception for me. Its $A38, still enormous, but I don’t argue. I am camped amongst dozens of other caravans. Its all very strange.
I covered 450km today, which was the most I have ever done. That is mostly thanks to decent Botswana roads. I had a good night at the wild camp, but no wild animals appeared. It was really cold in the morning less than 12C, so I fired up the diesel heater, and after a while it actually worked.
I got going and just tried to cover the kilometers. Went through a vet fence were they checked my fridge, but I had not had meat for ages. South of the vet fence was a lone Elephant by the side of the road.
I got to Francistown, where maybe the last time I was there was maybe 7 years ago? Francistown had grown. It had a shopping mall, a freeway. A Builders where I got some replacement hose connections that I broke. I headed out of Francistown for a least 20km on a dual lane Freeway. The road became narrower after that but was still good, so I covered the kms. I got to Palapye close to dark, and was even more amazed by its transformation. Palapye used to be a collection of a few tiny shops. Now it has huge new subdivision north of town, many supermarkets, fast food joints, service stations. There are traffic jams, and so many people. This is what African development should be like. I go to Mozambique and nothing changes in 3 years, I go to Botswana and everything is improving. Thats what a decent government gets you.
I am camped at Camp Itumela in Palapye. Tomorrow Martins drift and the RSA border.
I packed up and drove down to Victoria Falls, expecting as I got close some enormous car park where I would park Clancy for a fee. Instead I ended up driving to the border building and realising this wasn’t it. I drove back and found the entrance to the falls. I parked on the road with the trucks waiting for the border. It was just me, no enormous car park. I guess not many people drive to Victoria Falls, they are driven there.
So I paid about $A30 to enter. Didn’t need to show my passport, even though the sign said I did. I took my raincoat and entered into the Falls area. Since I had already seen it from the Zimbabwean side, I knew what it was like. I think this time the falls were drier and thus easier to see. Less spray blocking the view. I tend to think though to really see Victoria Falls you probably need to go up in a Helicopter.
After 30 minutes of viewing I was off. I stopped at Shoprite for some more supplies and headed of to the border, it was 70km away. I was going to use the last of my Kw buying fuel at the border, but that was a mistake because there was no fuel station. I drove up the approaches to the bridge, with fixers trying to wave me down, and me ignoring them and driving past. I drove over the bridge, and was sent to the Health building where they took note of my vax certificate. I then drove to the main building were someone at the front told me where to go. I visited Zambia Immigration, no forms just another stamp. Then Zambian customs where he took some of the enormous number of pieces of paper I had gathered in Zambia. Then it was over to Botswana immigration where I got my visa and then my bridge toll and road tax, all paid by credit card. Botswana is so civilised. That was all done in about 15 minutes. Then it was out to car inspection, which was a superficial look, they are more interested that the car comes from Australia. Then I was out. The whole process took 30 minutes, its the best border crossing I have ever done!
I went to a money exchange then got some Pula in exchange for Rand. Then got a sim card with some data. Then some fuel, again paid with credit card, then off down the road. I was aiming for Panda camp 100km south. However when I got there I knew I could do another 100km. So I aimed for a wild camp another 100km south. Close to sunset, with a bit of searching I found it. Since I have seen Elephants, Oryx, and Giraffe on this road, I will have to be careful tonight.