The Tale We Didn’t Tell at the Time

It happened a few days after we left Jo’burg, when we were heading for Botswana. We didn’t tell anyone at the time because we didn’t want our parents to freak out, but we did tell them as soon as we got home. And have been dining out on the tale ever since! Ha!

We weren’t laughing about it at the time, but nothing was taken and Greg was okay, so we’re regarding it as a lesson we needed to learn.

I did write a short post the day it happened, and have just added it to the blog

So … we were in Kuruman which is south west of Jo’burg. Not far from Kimberley where there are diamond mines. We wanted to get a spare tyre and were told about a place, but were warned to be careful. It was a pretty dodgy part of town with lots of people and cars. Another guy who was working in the car park also warned us to be careful.

I stayed in the car, Greg went and got the tyre and while I was momentarily distracted as he was walking back to the car with the tyre, some little bastard tried to reach in through the open car window on the driver’s side and grab whatever he could. He didn’t get anything and I then made sure both windows were up and both doors were locked while Greg went to another shop to see if he could get some inner tubes.

While he was gone, someone came up and begged for money, and someone else told me there was something wrong with the back of Clancy but I just ignored both of them and waited for Greg to get back so we could get going. When he got back to the car, there were a few guys near him and I thought I’d just wait until they went past and then unlock his door. But they were after his little backpack and tried to grab it. It had his passport, credit cards and wallet in it and there was no way he was letting his passport go!
If it had just been cash he might have. So he held on, got pushed to the ground and ended up rolling under the car and started yelling out ‘Help! Help!’. Good move – that got rid of the guys and got people to come and see what was going on. Meanwhile, I’m sitting in the car too scared to unlock the door because I thought if I did that, the guys would grab whatever they could out of the car.

So Greg rolled right under the car and came out on my side. Few scratches but that was all the damage, apart from a broken strap on his backpack. About 20 people came to see what was happening. In hindsight, I should have just leant on the car horn and made loads of noise. That would have either scared the guys off, or got people to us faster, so see what all the noise was about.

Lesson learnt – now when we’re in a town or village, we don’t carry a bag, we keep our passports hidden inside the camper, and keep our drivers licences hidden near the drivers seat because cops want to see them when they pull us over. We only carry enough cash for whatever we’re planning to buy, or take one credit card if we’re buying groceries or other large purchases.

We were really lucky.

Heading home

We’re on our way home. Currently sitting in our favourite airport, Changi

We’ve discarded stuff, cleaned up, packed up and left Clancy locked up in storage until we go back to Joburg in 5 or 6 months. We’ll be sure to bring keys with us next time.

Compared with the 90-ish kgs of stuff we took over with us, we are bringing a mere 10kgs home, plus our laptops. No checked bags, just one very light 5kg travel pack each.

We were very lucky that on this trip, our problems were minimal. 5 punctures compared with 12 on our last trip, and we had none for the last 4 weeks. Last time, we got our final puncture 2 kms from our final destination!  A minor radiator problem that a bottle of Bars Leaks fixed. Inevitable wear and tear on our dear Clancy, but that’s always going to be a feature of overland travel.

Here are a few random stats –

Nights we have spent in Clancy since Greg finished building him – 100, over our 2 African trips and the 2 trial runs we did at home.

Kms driven since we left Cape Town in mid-February – 13,800

Number of punctures in 14 weeks of travelling in Southern Africa – 17

Kgs of bread flour used to make our (almost) daily bread on this trip – 10

Number of butane gas cartridges used on this trip – 8. We were able to use our electric hotplate a lot more than we thought we would.

Thanks for travelling with us, it’s been a really great trip. See  you next time!

Stored in Johannesburg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manyeleti Game Reserve

Leon at African Bush Backpackers told us about Manyeleti and recommended it as a good place to spent a couple of days. It’s just west of Kruger’s Orpen Gate, but can also be accessed from the south via the R40 and some side roads. Our host at Hippo Waterfront Lodge recommended that we avoid the R538 between White River and Hazyview as it’s busy,  may have a lot of livestock wandering across the road and can take long time to drive a short distance . We’ve learnt to listen to advice from locals!

After we left Marloth Park, we spent a night at Panorama Rest Camp, a lovely campground near Graskop. It had a horizon pool overlooking the kloof gorge, good facilities including coin-operated washing machines and dryers (which we made very good use of) AND beautiful azalea hedges that were in flower when we visited. Some were 3+ metres high! We were planning on driving north to Blyde River Canyon, then to Manyeleti, but when we got up the next morning it was so foggy we could barely see a car length in front of us. So going sightseeing seemed a bit pointless, and we’ll add Blyde River to our ‘to do’ list.

We crawled down the R533 and heaved a quiet sigh of relief when we were low enough to be able to see a decent distance in front. Headed north on the R40 to Acornhoek where we stopped at a shopping mall and stretched our legs and met a very dapper Car Guard … bow tie, shiny shoes and a lovely man. When we got back to Clancy, he was standing close by, talking to a young Austrian woman. She took a photo of us with the guard, his son and his son’s friend.

Then along the R531 to Orpin Gate. The entrance to Manyeleti is on the right, just before the gate. We paid the day fee of R55 per person, got a map of the reserve and drove south to Main Camp. Manyeleti Gate is about 4kms south of Main Camp.

There are several private lodges/tented camps/other accommodation in the Reserve in addition to Main Camp, which offers cabins, rondevals, campsites and Senate, a tented camp area. We parked Clancy on one of the campsites, which is a large area with a cold water sink, braai and paved area. Ablutions nearby were okay and people staying at Senate share those. We paid R250 per campsite per night  – they charge per campsite, not per person. We only paid the day fee for our first day there.

The day we arrived, we went on an afternoon game drive, being very mindful that the camp’s gate closes at 6pm. Saw a huge herd of cape buffalo and wildebeest, antelopes, a couple of elephants. Next day we went out earlier in the afternoon and found a big group of elephants in some scrub. Largest group we’ve seen! There were 4 or 5 babies including one very tiny one, and I guess the rest of the females are pregnant. They weren’t too bothered by us, or rather, by Clancy, and we sat and watched them for ages.

Poor Clancy has had a bit of radiator trouble, a small leak, nothing too serious, but we’ll be bringing a replacement radiator to add to the spare parts collection. Greg bought a bottle of Bars Leaks when we were in Malalane, just out of Marloth Park, so he added  the contents to the radiator …. problem solved. Magic stuff.

We spent our second-last night at Elangeni Holiday Resort, just off the N4 west of Nelspruit, then drove the 250ish kms back to Joburg to the place where we store Clancy and camp when we’re here.

The hole in a radiator fixed with Bars-leak
Camped at Panorama Rest Camp
the horizon pool at Panorama Rest Camp
the horizon pool at Panorama Rest Camp
the horizon pool at Panorama Rest Camp, with full moon rising over it
The Car Guard, us, and his son and a friend at Acornhoek
A large herd of Cape Buffalo at Manyeleti
Levelling Clancy at Manyeleti main camp
Elephants at Manyeleti
The campsite at Manyeleti
More Elephants at Manyeleti
More Elephants at Manyeleti
More Elephants at Manyeleti
More Elephants at Manyeleti
More Elephants at Manyeleti
Cape Buffalo skull at Manyeleti
A vulture?
Camped at Elangeni Holiday Resort

Marloth Park, South Africa

After our first night back in South Africa at the Hippo Waterfront Lodge, we needed to figure out how to spend our final week here. We had this great idea that we’d just go into Kruger National Park for a few days, so we rolled up yesterday afternoon and discovered that all the campgrounds within driving distance were full … most of them up until the 15th! We later discovered that South Africans can visit Kruger for free this week, so our timing was particularly lousy. And yeah, our forward planning skills could be better too, but this is how we roll. (later edit: It turns out that this week it is free for South Africans to stay in Kruger, thus no campsites)
We did think that maybe we could go back to Bots and catch up with Anna and Henry if they were somewhere in southern Bots, but they’re heading to CKGR, so we nixed that idea.
Next thought was to visit Marloth Park, which adjoins Kruger and has a campground, other accommodation and lots of private residences in it. It’s kind of like a private, gated game reserve. We knew our friend Lilli had been, or possibly still is, here somewhere so thought it might be an interesting place to visit, and also maybe meet up with her if she’s still here. We have followed her overlanding travels for a while and nearly got to meet up with her in Namibia on our last trip, but we weren’t close enough to each other for that to happen. 
Almost as soon as we’d driven through the gate, an antelopey-thing zapped across the road in front of us. There is no shortage of wildlife here. We tried to get a campsite but the campground was full. Being mindful that it was getting late in the afternoon and we try very hard not to drive at night, we asked the receptionist if there was anywhere else in the park we could try. She suggested the carpark behind the service station which we looked at and decided against. Then we consulted our beloved iOverlander and found African Bush Backpackers just a few kms away. The person who had added it mentioned that they allowed her to park in their carpark and camp there, so we thought we’d give it a try. Success! Lovely, friendly, helpful owners, Leon and Sarah, who were happy for us to park Clancy, run a power cord from the office and use their facilities. And, for lots of extra bonus points, they know Lilli and she’s still here, staying with a friend not far from here.
Thus ensued many messages via Instagram, organising a time and place to meet up. 11am this morning, can’t wait!
The wildlife just wanders past the Backpackers – so far we’ve seen zebras, a warthog, a bushbaby (much tinier than I imagined) and a couple of different types of antelopey-things. Leon puts hay out at this time of the year as there’s not much to graze on. There were a mama and tiny baby zebra, only 1 or 2 weeks old. The rest of the females are pregnant, they usually deliver their babies in January, so this new little one was a bit of a surprise. 
Pregnant Zebras from the braai area of African bush backpackers
Pregnant Zebras from the braai area of African bush backpackers
Crocodile River bordering Kruger National Park, just down the road from African Bush Backpackers
the border fence Kruger National Park, just down the road from African Bush Backpackers

Kudu just inside Kruger
Camped on the driveway at African Bush Backpackers

Missing Moz already

After 3 nights at Areia Branca Lodge, we started heading south towards Maputo. On our last afternoon, we had a long visit from the Lodge owners’ 7 year old son Eric. He had a lovely time playing with the remote controls for the LED lights in our living area, changing the lights’ colours and making them flash, and arranging all the stuff on our carpet-lined walls. He told us that he’d had malaria and so had his mum, dad and brothers. The next morning he showed me his fish tank which had 2 newly-caught prawns, 4 puffer fish, a sand fish and some other fish.

We spent another night at our favourite Moz ‘resort’, Sunset Beach and yes, I had another crayfish dinner. Then last night we stayed at Esperanca do Mar, a coastal ‘resort’ about 30kms north of Maputo. Our GPS took us down a very sandy track to the back entrance of the place – we missed the sign pointing us down a much better, more direct road but we used it this morning to leave. We were shown to a campsite with a private bathroom, but Clancy couldn’t get past a low-hanging branch, and a longer, alternate route was completely blocked by thorny branches. I told the caretaker that we really just wanted a place to park for the night, cos we’re completely self-sufficient. She agree to let us camp outside a 2-bedroom cabin and use its bathroom for R200 AUD$20, which was a vast improvement on the R520 AUD$52 that she wanted to charge us for the campsite with the private bathroom. That’s a ridiculous price for a campsite! We wouldn’t have paid it, would have gone elsewhere. I’d misinterpreted the pricing, thinking she was quoting in Moz metacais, and there are 4 MZN to the Rand. I should have realised that the pricing in MZN was too cheap, but it just confuses me when prices aren’t quoted in local currency.

We drove through the outskirts of Maputo this morning and headed west to the Moz/SA border at Ressano Garcia/Lebombo. There’s a well-known scam on the Ring Road just out of Maputo – the road isn’t finished yet and there’s a bit of a detour through a few side streets. Local teenage boys try to earn money by ‘showing you the way’, and we had several offers including one on my side who tried to hang on to Clancy for a while. With 2 GPS and a few vehicles in front of us, we didn’t need any help.

The border crossing was fairly smooth, although there was some confusion about the stamp in my entry visa. I think the Immigration officer thought it should have been embossed rather than just stamped, but as we’d come in through a very small border post with no fancy stuff at all, he finally accepted that the stamp was legit and I hadn’t just done it myself. Ha! As if!

Just outside Immigration and Customs on the Moz side, a table was set up with 2 workers offering free malaria testing. We’ll do that, thanks very much. Drop of blood on a slide, mixed with 3 drops of solution, wait a few minutes, read the results. Both negative, thankfully, but we do have antimalarial treatment medication if we need it.

The South African side was fine until we tried to get a TIP Temporary Import Permit for Clancy. We’d read that it can be a bit like extracting teeth, getting one at Lebombo, so we were prepared for a degree of difficulty.

Up until now we have used a Carnet, sort of like a passport for the car, but it expires in November and we have to return it to the AAA Australian Automobile Association. We want to leave Clancy in SA until early next year, so need to switch to using TIPs instead, which allows us to bring Clancy into South Africa for up to 6 months at a time. The first Customs officer wasn’t sure about any of it, so she called her colleague, who informed us that we must use the Carnet, and then go to Pretoria to get it sorted out. Um, no, we’re not doing that. First woman called her supervisor, who was incredibly helpful and understood exactly what we wanted after it was (again) explained. He also took the time to explain it all to the first Customs officer, so hopefully she is now better informed about the process. From then, it was easy, we got our TIP and were on our way.

And hey, we got through a whole country with no flat tyres. Hurrah!

We called into a shopping centre in Nelspruit and went grocery shopping at Checkers. Wow, there was so much choice and so many things and stuff we hadn’t seen in a while. We’re staying just out of Nelspruit tonight at the Hippo Waterfront Lodge. We’ve heard hippos but haven’t seen any.

So, a few thoughts about our time in Moz. When we first arrived, I asked Greg what he wanted to do while we were there. He wanted to spend time at the beach. I wanted to eat seafood and spend time at the beach. I’d say we achieved what we set out to do. Even though Moz is a much poorer country than Angola, we saw far fewer beggars. Having noted that though, both countries have a large percentage of their populations living at subsistence level.

As we were driving south from Pafuri, I really couldn’t work out what the locals ate apart from beef and goat – they weren’t growing any crops. When we got to the coast, we saw a lot of agriculture, mostly small plots being grown for the household’s consumption. Lots of cassava, which we also saw in parts of Angola. Here’s an interesting article about how to prepare it safely to avoid cyanide poisoning. I saw it for sale at the market I visited in Inhambane with Johnny, but didn’t buy any.

There’s a general election next month and the ruling party, Frelimo, has plastered the country with posters, flags and banners. I predict that after the election, the majority of those flags and banners will become shawls, skirts, sarongs and home furnishings. We’ve already seen one woman wearing one as a skirt and another using one as a shawl. You read it here first, folks.

One of my abiding memories of Moz will be the red and white colours of a lot of the shops in towns and villages. 3 brands have used bars, food shops, restaurants, cafes and mobile phone shops to advertise their products. Vodacom, Mac Mahon beer and Coca Cola have all plastered their advertising over buildings everywhere. We drank 2M ‘dos m’ beers a few times and  enjoyed them.

Just one of the many groups of sellers that line the main road in many towns
Crossing the Limpopo River
Toll both before the Limpopo bridge at Xai-Xai

 

Cashew sellers with many bags of cashews for sale
Cashew sellers with many bags of cashews for sale
Bus stopped before the toll at the Limpopo River bridge surrounded by sellers

 

the beach at Sunset at Sunset Beach Lodge
A very hand made fence of branches from African thorn bushes. This fence was about 100m long in total
Locals use these boats to fish out from the coast of Mozambique
Camped at Esperanca do Mar
the beach near Esperanca do Mar Mozambique
Two kids running towards us as soon as they saw us, to hound us into taking their “directions” to get off the half-built ring road around Maputo (for money, we had been warned before). We had two GPS’s with the route, we did not need help.
The still under construction Maputo Ring road (its been about 6 years)

 

Camped at Hippo waterfront

could not see any Hippos but we heard them later

 

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.

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