Wild camp east of Ralekgetho to Mokolodi Backpackers

My fibreglass repairs again were not completely dry because of the cold overnight temperatures. However I was making progress.

I got going once it had warmed up and headed the 120km to near Gaberone at Mokolodi Backpackers. I wanted to finish early so I could do more fibreglassing while it was warm in the middle of the day.

Along the way I stopped at an Engen service station. I walked past a man who was fixing something, and he said, “can I just tell you something?” . I was expecting a scam of some sort but he said “I have a friend who can get Ivory”. I told him I wasn’t interested. Is there an underground market for Ivory in Botswana?

I arrived around lunch time at Mokolodi Backpackers. A very nice place to stay at, and it seemed there was only one other guest other than me. More fibreglassing ensured.

Camped at Mokolodi Backpackers

Kameel South Africa to wild camp North of Kokotsha, Botswana

Two nights stay in Kameel. I walked up to the NW co-op store to get some more bits and pieces. I added outside lights and checked a few more things. Patrick provided his customary loaf of freshly baked bread.

I left Tuesday morning for the 205km drive to Bray the border crossing to Botswana. Bray is out of the way, but its small size and remoteness mean I have less hassles crossing the border. I drove first to Stella, then headed north-west. The road was pretty good at the start. About 100km in, it deteriorated down to a single sandy track, but still was not too difficult. I passed two trucks and six cars, so it wasn’t exactly busy.

I got to the border, to be slightly surprised there were two police there. Last crossing there was no-one but the immigration person. The police looked at the vehicle, but were mostly interested in whether I had any “drinks”. I didn’t have any drinks, but I have had on previous border crossings, so I must remember to be more organised next time. I eventually felt sorry for them and gave them 100Rand to buy “drinks”.

I met a woman at the border who worked at the medical centre and was just crossing the border into Botswana to get fuel. She did it sometimes as often as once a week.

I got to the Botswana side and got my road tax and passport stamped. I applied what I had learnt from a guide at a previous Botswana border crossing. When they ask how long you are going to be in Botswana tell them much longer than you intend to be. if something goes wrong and you need to stay in Botswana longer, it is very difficult and time consuming to get an extension.

I got a Mascom sim at the general store on the Botswana side. They used a special scanner to scan my passport to register my sim, but it failed after three attempts. So I headed off with no internet towards Werda.  The road from the border to Werda is fairly corrugated. I stopped once, but when I got to Werda I kept going hoping to make a wild camp on a cutline about 50km north. I turned off at the cutline, which is a sort of boundary firebreak between districts. I drove about a kilometre along the cutline until I met another cutline heading north, and I went up that. I stopped to have a look at the surrounding scrub when I suddenly found that part of the camper had broken. The rear box had separated from the camper and was hanging on by only one side.  I knew I would have to be doing some fibreglass repairs that night. I pulled of the cutline into the scrub and made camp.

I emptied the box, and it seemed like I had not lost any equipment. I suspect I had driven at least 50km with this break. I used two jacks to jack the box back in line, then proceeded to fibreglass it back together. It took me a couple of hours sanding and applying glass tape and epoxy in the dark. I hoped it would be enough to hold the box in place, so that I could fibreglass it more next day. I knew it wouldn’t hold any weight initially.

It was a quiet night after that. Just the sound of cattle wandering past, and occasional cars on the highway a km away.

Camped at Kameel
Patrick’s wonderful home made bread
The road from Stella to Bray in South Africa
The broken fibreglass storage box
I never noticed it in my side mirror it was too low
It was full of recovery gear
Looking underneath
Camped at sunset getting to work on fixing things
Jacking up the box ready to fibreglass it back in place

 

 

 

Johannesburg to Kameel – North West

I arrived at Johannesburg  on the 31st May 2024. I had -as usual- things to fix. However the big problem was my broken solar panel on the roof. About a week before I had left Australia, I put in an order to Takealot, the big online retailer in South Africa. One of those items was a replacement solar panel of the correct size to replace the one on the roof. Takealot was the only place I could see a solar panel of the same size. Unfortunately Takealot wasn’t going to deliver until later in the week.

So I installed an inverter I had brought from Australia. This was my second attempt at installing an inverter. My previous attempt brought only smoke. I went shopping gathering up food that would be difficult to get in Botswana and Zimbabwe (like Barley).

One day I drove out to a bike shop to get a couple of inner tubes for my bike. I got pulled over by the police for ten minutes or so. The cop was OK, but my previous experiences with police in Joberg make me wary.

It was warm the first couple of days in Joberg, but then it got cold. Several days there was ice outside in the morning. Some days it was only 14C with a biting wind. Eventually on Friday I got my delivery from Takealot, however missing the solar panel. On Saturday I finally got the solar panel, but it was not the size panel as per the description, and would not fit. So I decided it was time to give up on the solar panel and head off. I left Sunday morning at 7:30am. It was another icy morning, with me trying to get the ice of the windscreen, so I could see.

The 410km drive to Kaleem, was uneventful. I left on Sunday morning to minimise the number of Police roadblocks I might go through. I did drive through two, but they were both engaged with other vehicles.

Arriving at Kemeel is so relaxing. Its rural. Patrick is such a great host, and Kemeel is a friendly rural town.

Starting up Clancy after about 10 months of storage.
Parked in my usual spot. It gets sun in the morning.
Inverter installed. So far so good.
Several icy morning with ice on the camper and storage boxes outside
The solar panel arrives, but is the wrong size
Ready to leave for Kameel Sunday morning.

 

 

Thorn Tree Safaris Zambia to Johannesburg South Africa

I left Karen at Livingstone airport, and drove back into Livingstone, and then headed south. I got to the Zambian border, with the fixers trying to stop me at the beginning of the bridge at Kazungula. Over the bridge, into the combined border crossing on the Botswana side. It was about 15 minutes, paid my bridge toll to the Botswana customs, and had my vehicle checked, then I was out to Kazungula. I went to the supermarket, then headed south towards Nata.

I saw an elephant and baby not far south, and a few giraffes. However it was all pretty dry compared to when I had travelled south a bit more than a year ago. At the wild camp, which I had camped at a year ago, 200km down the road, I stopped about 30 minutes before sunset.

I had a quiet night, but even though I was 500m from the Nata road, I could still hear the traffic.

Next morning I got going about 7:30am.  I stopped at Nata for more fuel. Then continued south. The road south of Nata is a bit narrow with broken edges, so I wasn’t going fast, maybe 65kph. Eventually I got to Francistown, which was busy. I thought about headed to the shopping mall on the main street, but it was way too busy, and jammed with cars, so I continued on south. I was going to stay at a campsite at Palapye, but the latest iOverlander review said someone had got robbed their. So I decided to turn off earlier and head to an iOverlander wild camp, east of Palapye, that had got good reviews. I got to the quarry just before dusk, and it was a great quiet place to camp.

Up and going at 6:30am I headed for the border at Martins Drift. I tried to get fuel at the servo near the border, but their network was down, and they couldn’t take a credit card. I cleared the Botswana border, and then managed to weave through the trucks on the South African side. I managed this time to get a TIP (temporary import permit), after about 30 minutes of waiting. Then old though the Police check at the exit to the border crossing. I stopped amongst the dozens of trucks on the South African side and put up the starlink dish, and added data to my Vodacom sim, and then heade south-east. I got more fuel, and kept driving until I got to the Weesgerus campsite near Modimolle. I was jammed in with lots of other caravans, because it was school holidays.

Its an OK campground, and the next morning I got going around 7:30am. It was 10km to the N1, where I hit a police checkpoint. I managed to get though that and worked my way down the N1 for 180km to Johannesburg.  I arrived at Airport en Route around 1pm in the afternoon. Total trip around 5,000km.

stopped on the Nata road
First wild camp, around 200km south of Kazungula
Camped at the quarry east of Palapye
Weesgerus campsite near Modimolle

 

Kwalape Safari Lodge Botswana to Thorn Tree Safaris Zambia

It was another warm night. As Karen has pointed out we have had about 3 weeks of 35C+ weather.  We got everything ready for the Botswana to Zambia crossing. I knew this crossing could be difficult. When I crossed from Tanzania to Zambia last year, it took me more than 3 hours, and I had to employ a fixer to assist me.

We loaded up with fuel at Kazungula, and headed across the bridge over the Zambezi River to the combined Border facility. We had to go through the gatehouse and get a gate pass, something we didn’t expect, possibly because we have an Australian registered vehicle. We then went to the main passenger terminal building. The whole border process took 90 minutes, which was faster than I expected.

Then it was the 60km drive to Livingstone. We got to Livingstone and stopped at the Shoprite supermarket and got supplies. Then down the road to Thorn Tree Safari where I had stayed at a year earlier.  We suffered from the large number of mosquitoes at Thorn Tree overnight.

The next day Karen suggested we go to the Royal Livingstone hotel where we had drinks at the riverside deck, and could see the spray from Victoria Falls in the distance.

Then on Monday I dropped Karen at Livingstone airport, and she headed to Iringa Tanzania while I headed south towards Johannesburg.

 

Crossing the Kazungula Bridge into Zambia
Camped under the big tree at Thorn Tree
Zebras in the street in Livingstone
Royal Livingstone Hotel with the spray from Victoria Falls in the background
A Giraffe on the way out from the Royal Livingstone
The local Hippo at the Thorn Tree camp

Muduma National Park to Namwi Island Campsite to Kwalape Safari Lodge Botswana

After a great stay at Muduma National Park we headed north to Kongola. We stopped at the Metro supermarket at Kongola to buy some more water and cold drinks, as the water we had been using for the last couple of days at Muduma was not fantastic. It was then east across the strip to Katima Mulilio in a strong wind. However part way along there was a crash, and I saw something drop on the road behind us. The roof box, that I had redesigned last year with a new cover, and had travelled over 12,000km, had broken its latches, flown backwards in the wind, and smashed one of the solar panels on the back of the roof, and most of the hinge holding down the box. I managed to get a strap underneath and strap down the lid onto the box. We then continued the journey to Katima Mulilio.

Katima Mulilio was quite a large town with several shopping centres. We got more supplies at a PnP, and got some parts at a hardware to repair the roof box.

We headed 7km east of Katima to Namwi Island Campsite a shady campsite with grass and trees that we stayed at for 3 nights, giving us time to fix the roof box lid.

After that we went back into Katima to get some more supplies then headedto the Botswana border at Ngoma Bridge. We arrived at the border crossing at the same time as a bus, so it was a long queue to get processed. We were expecting the Botswana border to check our fridge for food, but they were more interested that the camper came from Australia. Then it was a drive toKasane for a nights accomadation. We tried three places before we found one with vacancies, even though it was past peak season. We camped at Kwalape Safari Lodge, which was near the road, but OK for a one night stay. We swotted up on the Zambia border crossing the next day, and the complexities involved in that.

the smashed solar panel from the roof box lid flying backwards
at PnP with a chocolate donut and more talcum powder to add to epoxy resin
Meat selection at the PnP

 

 

 

 

Nunda River Lodge to Muduma National Park

It took us a while to pack up at Nunda, we had been there for four days, and we had spread ourselves out. It was 9:30am before we left. We went first to the Hardware store in Divundu and after consulting with the security guard bought a Potjie, a South African cast iron pot with legs that you place on a campfire. We had not been able to get any more gas canisters, so it was wood fires from now on. We got more supplies and drinking water from the Metro supermarket in Divundu, one of the largest supermarkets we had been to in recent weeks. Then it was off west along the strip towards Kongola. We stopped to look at an elephant wandering near the road, part way to Kongola. We got more fuel at Kongola, then headed south. We stopped at a village and bought their entire stock of firewood (about $9 worth), all the kids coming out to help with the sale.

We arrived at the entrance to Muduma Park. We had heard you couldn’t book ahead, and that camp 3 and 4 were the best. However Camp 3 and 4 were booked, so we paid for Camp 2 for one night, then would shift to Camp 4 for 3 more nights. The camps in Muduma are wild, no facilities at all, not even a pit toilet.

Camp 2 was good, if not somewhat scary. There were Hippos in the Lagoon in front of the camp, Elephant dung everywhere. We saw Zebras, warthogs ,Baboons and antelope driving in. We also knew that there might be lions around as well. There are no fences anywhere.

We lit a fire and used our Potjie for the first night, and it went well.

Next morning after a night of Hippo calling we shifted to camp 4. During the drive to camp 4 we got held up by a herd of 40+ elephants blocking the track, which we waited 30 minutes to pass. At camp 4 we jammed ourselves in a spot overlooking the lagoon, which was great for viewing the Hippos, and Elephants in the distance. We stayed four days, five nights in camp 4. We extended our stay part way though, driving back to the entrance office.

The Hippos entertained us every night. The Baboons woke us up some mornings. We had Elephants walk past on afternoon. We had Warthogs having mud baths near us, and Antelopes.  Bats at night catching the bugs. It was hot weather, 39C most days, cooling to 22C overnight.

Our first night at Muduma at Campsite 2
Elephant traffic jam that stopped us for 30 minutes along the track from Camp2 to Camp 4
There were lots of baby Elephants in this group.
Camped at Camp 4 overlooking the Lagoon
Sunset from Camp 4
Fixing the solar input cable. The cable was damaged last year when I hit a pothole in Zambia, the fix failed, and I had to fix it again.
Baboons race past our camp
We drove back to the gate office to extend our stay. On the way back we stopped at the hide to watch a herd of elephants come and drink and cool off in the lagoon.
Some other elephants we passed on the way back from the gate
A dead elephant we also passed
We had lots of great African sunsets from camp 4
the view over the lagoon and the island, a panorama
We stopped for breakfast when leaving Muduma, next to a hundreds of years old Baobab, that the bottom of the tree bark had been rubbed away by Elephants scratching themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tsodilo Hills Botswana to Nunda River Lodge Namibia

The temporary waterhole caused by the overflowing water tank had almost disappeared by the morning. We packed up and headed along the dusty road, with a fair bit of traffic on it to the A35 bitumen.  Then heading north to Shakawe, where we went to the Choppies supermarket for more supplies. We then drove to three hardware stores looking for gas canisters, because we were getting low, however no luck. Then 7km south of Shakawe to Drotskys cabins. We were unenthused by Drotskys campsite, and we decided to make a run for the Namibian border and aim for Nunda River Lodge in Namibia on the Caprivi strip. So about 15km up the road we hit the border. Botswana is easy to leave, fill in a form and 30 seconds and your done. Took a bit longer on the Namibian side, but not too hard. Paid the Cross border charge for the vehicle, about $30, and we were on our way north. We arrived at Nunda and got to choose our campsite, so we choose one right next to the river, and the hippos.

The four days we spent at Nunda were hot, around 39C. We used the swimming pool a few times. I rode my bicycle into Divundu a couple of times, 16km return. I installed an external 240v  power point so we can get power outside the camper when we are camped with 240v power. The hippos visited almost every night. We often had a Hippo only 3m away from our tent.

Sitting at the bar watching the Okavango River
Nandu campsite
getting ready to ride into Divundu
A hippo just below our tent

Guma Lagoon to Tsodilo Hills

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.

Approaching the Tsolido Hills. They dominate the landscape of flat Botswana.
the coloured Sandstone of the Tsolido Hills
Boabab
the Rhino trail

 

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Camped at the Tsolido Hills community campsite

 

the donkeys came from all around to drink at the waterhole created by an overflowing water tank.

Thakadu Bush Camp to Guma Lagoon

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.

Greg’s severe $6 roadside haircut

 

the sandy track to Guma Lagoon

 

Lowering tyre pressure

 

Winding our way through the tracks at Etsha 13
the view from the deck at Guma Lagoon
First campsite at Guma Lagoon. Starlink dish on the ground that sort of worked, before we had to shift campsites.
Karen with the crocodile caught by our night drive boat driver
Spotlighting on the night drive
Karen working being a digital nomad again
First successful attempt at Roosterkeok bread
Our boat driver on our two hour day drive
the lush parts of Guma Lagoon
Malachite kingfisher
Crocodile basking on log
African fishing Eagle
Sitting on the deck at Guma Lagoon