Sept 20, 2013 –Johannesburg, SA
We arrived, after about 20 hours in the air and 10 hours in airports at 7:00 am. Our requested pickup was connected and took us and NW of the city to Buffalo Campers, where we were picking up our Toyota Hilux 4×4 and spending the night. The place is close to being in the country, a few years back it was. We spent the rest of the day finalizing our financial matters, learning how to put up the roof top tent and buying food and supplies for camping. Back at the guest house, we were rewarded with a nice bonus of some pretty good birding in the 2 acre lot. By 9:00 pm, having spent the previous two nights catching a few hours sleep on planes we were sleeping deeply. We were very happy with the truck, our purchases, the birding and our accommodation.
Sept 21 – Hartebeest
We had a breakfast in the room about 6:00 am, having slept until 5:00. It was too cold and windy to see many birds and so after some final organizing and a talk with Vaughn, our Buffalo contact, we headed out at about 9:30. We don’t have firm plans, but will spend at least part of the day in Pretoria and see what happens.
We wandered a bit, and after getting a feeling for the street parking attendants, ended up in FreedomPark, a new park/museum, commemorating, in a sophisticated and beautiful way, the people of South Africa’s march towards freedom. The message can be partially captured by the Khoi proverb displayed as you enter the museum…”hapo ge, hapo tama….(a dream is not a dream until it is shared by the entire community). In other words, all peoples, and it could be extended to all life, must share equally in all aspects of the community. The museum shows the struggle that has taken place to bring SA to this point. I think the message is that they are now closer but must continually work towards the goal. The park has a kms of paths on which we saw more birds and some big student groups.
Having now spent most of the day we had a further visit to the VoortrekkerMonument, commemorating the grand trek from South to North over 200 years ago by the Afrikaans people looking to rid themselves of domination by the British.
Finally we headed west on the road towards Botswana and found ourselves in a cabin type unit near Hartebeeest dam, still not attempting to set up camp.
Sept 22 – Mokolodi Game Reserve, Botswana
Two hours into our morning drive brought us to the Botswana border and a fairly painless crossing. We got a 3 month visa and paid 200 Rand for the car. Apparently we will be able to leave and re-enter Bots by paying only a further 50 Pula. One potential problem occurred when I tried to take out 8000 Pula ($800+) from an atm and it seemed to process it, but did not give me any money. I was then unable to access my bank from any of three other kinds of bank. Rich was able to get 2500 Pula. We drove on towards Gabarone, the capital, but stopped just short of the city at a small game reserve called Mokolodi. We hired a campsite and then went on a game drive into the park, on a circuitous route that took us past a large lake. At the lake and along the way we saw a few antelope species, yellow billed hornbill, grey lourie, African Spoonbill, Egyptian Goose, Sacred Ibis. We didn’t see Rhinos or giraffes which are in the park. Our first night in the tent on top of the truck went well. We didn’t cook anything yet, but feel the rig is pretty good.
Sept 23 – Mahalapye
In the morning we did another game drive and then made our way into Gabarone, where we bought a few more provisions, including a cell chip for my phone, and then had a visit with the Wildlife and National Park office where we got some phone numbers of offices we can phone to make tent reservations. We drove another 150 km or so to Mahalapye where we stayed at Moko Motel, owned by a MMa Ramotswe type (traditional shaped) mosada (female). We have been eating at the places we stay and at the Moko we had chicken in the morning and a full English breakfast in the morning. The Botswana people (Setswana) seem very friendly and if the Gabarone is an indication they are pretty well off.
Sept 24 – Nata
On again in the morning, heading towards Francistown we here turned west heading to Nata, where our first destination is the Nata Bird Sanctuary. We camped at the Nata Lodge, which also has nice mid-range chalets. We did eat at the restaurant, three meals in all, and then went out on a three hour drive down into the Soma Pan. A Pan is a salt flat area produced by evaporating water. In the rainy season many pans are partially covered by water, but we were able to drive across many. Along the way we saw Wildebeest, a small brown backed jackal. We saw a Secretary Bird, many Pelicans, a Pied Avocet, among others. On the drive we were with a group of six, four of which were Canadian retired people who had been in many places and so we were able to trade travel stories.
Sept 25 – Gweta
A short way down the road towards Maun we stopped at Gweta Lodge where we negotiated an overnight trip onto the pans, where we will see another sunset and, hopefully, Meerkats. Also on the trip are seven British Medical students who have just finished a residency here in Botwana, and a German couple who are photograph enthusiasts with a small fortune in equipment.
I made my first wifi connection and used it to check my bank account, which showed $1000 from the faulty atm transaction and then was able to Skype TD and was able to put in process an investigation which hopefully will restore the money.
Our tour group loaded into a truck and headed off across the countryside out onto another of the pans that are part of Makgadikgadi pans. We arrived at our camp location, after being given the opportunity to walk the last couple of kms across the pans just before sunset. We sat around talking; having drinks until supper and then enjoyed a large fire until it was time to crawl into the sleeping rolls that were set out under the southern night sky. We all slept soundly waking briefly to notice the bright moon when it rose in the sky. In the morning after coffee and scones we played the Makgadikgadi Game. We each were blindfolded and asked to walk 200 steps towards a chair set well out on the pan. When we reached our 200 steps we removed our blindfolds and looked about. I was shocked to see I was only about 50 m from the trucks. Rich was even closer. The 11 of us were spread all over, only two being close to on line with our target. Unconsciously we must take a slightly longer step on one side, taking us in a circle. Great game.
Finally we headed for the Meerkats. Our guides have habituated a den of 12 to allow us very close and we each proceeded to take 1000 pictures of the lovely little creatures.
Sept 26,27 Maun
Back on the road, we continued on into Maun, where we spent some hours attempting to book camping places in Moremi and ChobeNatPark. Without much progess, we found a spot for the night at Island Safari lodge and will continue tomorrow.
The next day, we were into offices visited yesterday, and within a couple of hours we had booked four more nights, paid our Park fees, bought fuel for the truck, food for us for five days, and were back at the Safari Lodge to get ready to head into Moremi and Chobe Parks for the next five days. There will be no food or fuel in the Parks and we will be on unsealed roads for 400-600 kms depending upon how much meandering we do. Finally it feels like we will be doing what we have come to do.
Sorry no pictures yet