Sept 28, 29 Xakanzxa, in Moremi GR
We left Maun early and ran out of pavement after 30 km. After another 20 km of loose sand created by construction we entered Moremi GR through the South Gate. This is the major reserve in the Okavango Delta, and where we will spend the next three days. The official at the gate gave us great direction on where to find wildlife as we made our way to our campground at Xakanzxa.
The road through the day was very bad, bordering on impassable, as it surely would be for non 4×4. We were often in high range 4×4, and when it was tough we had to stop and shift into low range. What made the road so bad was that it is loose sand, and when a lot has been chewed up it is easy to bog down if you do not keep your speed up. At one point we came upon two vehicles, where the first was stuck. They were trying to dig it out, basically an unlikely solution. The fellow who knew what he was doing had us drive around, back up and we attached a long web strap and we were able to pull the stuck vehicle out. We also drove around or over some very suspect bridges getting to our campsite.
This all took us about nine hours, and all the while we were able to see much wildlife. No end of birds, a number of ungulates, elephants and giraffes. Our campsite was along one of the lagoons with long pampas grass somewhat blocking the view of the water. But we had beer and showers so all was great. Our truck worked wonderfully on the bad roads.
Camping is very good, with the showers and big lots with hardly any view of other campers. There are also only ten sites in a campground. We cook simply, have a beer when we stop, wine with our one pot meal and watch the sunsets. My canvas socks that Lilly made for me are great, as there is a lot of sand and dirt everywhere. I don’t wear socks very often, usually either just sandals or sandals over my canvas booties. Sleeping is good, as it is not too hot, and in the wee hours of the morning I might finally pull a sleeping bag over. After a few nights in the rooftop tent, we are now using the ground tent. More roomy and we can use our truck during the day.
The next day, we carried out tent down the row of camp sites to the one assigned for our second night, and then we went our for a short game drive, that though was only about 10 km, lasted us about three hours. We saw more new birds, and got good photos of some we had seen before. A highlight for me was getting in behind a herd of elephants as the wandered along grazing and dipping in the water.
Rich and my birding interests have begun to settle out. Rich is building his birding lists and seeing and properly identifying the bird, with the help of our bird books is his objective. I am more interested in taking photographs, especially with the new lens that I acquired before the trip. Some of my photos are to help Rich with his identification, but my main objective is to see if I can get some good photos of some of the birds we see. The second night we went on a two hour boat ride and saw more new birds yet, and had some nice sunset views.
Sept 30 Mogotho in Khwai Community Trust
We left around 8:00 am, late for us, as we only had about 60 km and all day to bump along watching for birds and wildlife. Soon after leaving we entered Paradise Pools area and had a number of new birds, including a highlight for me the Crimson Bee-eater that I had been unable to capture on film successfully in the past. Over the next days we will see many, but the first siting is always special. We spent much of the day wandering off of the prescribed route, at times purposefully, often inadvertently. We had a brief stop at the Hippo Pools, which had a hide, the first we have encountered. Most importantly on this day we did see a number of ungulates we had not seen in the past. We arrived at the campsite around 2:00, and so had an enforced quiet time, each working on our notes. The driving was shorter and not so challenging today, and hopefully tomorrow as we enter ChobePark, for our long driving day, distance wise, the road will stay reasonable.
Oct 1,2, Ihaha Campground, Chobe Park
We left early and entered Chobe about an hour later. For a while it looked like the road might be better, but as we entered Savuti, a sub-region of Chobe, the road reverted to the loose sand we have been struggling with. We saw animals all day, and as usual, added a few new birds. Just before leaving Savuti we hit a long stretch of very loose deep sand, and this happens we just power along, not able to stop for anything. For a while the road left Chobe and entered a Community Trust land. Along this stretch we caught and passed a family pulling a trailer with Alberta plates. We carried on and after a bit hit a stretch of lovely pavement that lasted 40 km until we hit Chobe again.
From here we hit some deep sand and then I let my speed off at the wrong time and we bogged down. We spent half an hour digging and fretting and then the Albertans came along. Jason and Kelly Porter and their 4 year old son Leith are on a year trip in Eastern and Southern Africa (www.superterram.ca) They shipped their 25 yr old, very hopped up, Toyota Land Cruiser to Cape Town and have bought and modified an off-road trailer in SA. They are real off-roaders or overlanders as they are sometimes called. Jason started by getting all the right 4×4 buttons pushed in our vehicle and then let air out of our tires down to about 15 psi, down from 45. We still couldn’t get out and so he pulled us out. We carried on going very slow because of the air pressure. Along the way we saw three lions lying in the dirt. Not a very good photo opportunity, but still it was exciting.
The final 20 km or so was along the ChobeRiver. The river is set in a broad valley, mostly grasslands with bands of tree. We had a continuous animal display in the lovely late afternoon light, as we drove to the campsite at Ihaha. Our campsite is on the river from which we have animals to watch and birds to identify. The Porters are next to us and we had a nice evening visit after supper.
We had a lazy morning, in part waiting for the Porter’s son to wake up. Jason, with his built in air compressor brought our tires up to about 30 psi. As we are spending a second night at Ihaha we headed out for a short game drive of about three hours. I guess it is pretty revealing when we can drive by Elephants, Giraffes, Water Buffalo, numerous kinds of antelope and many birds now common to us without pulling our cameras out.
Back at the camp we sat in the shade, in our lawn chairs, looking out at the show. Over the next few hours we began to discover that we were missing Ryvita, margarine, granola, and we do not know what else. The baboons, who we know have raided our garbage, very cleverly stole these things without disrupting anything else, even though we thought they were shut up or we were watching. We have had wonderful sunsets along the way but our last night here at Ihaha may have topped them all. We watched about 40 elephants kicking up dust and playing in the dirt while the sun settled into the horizon.
Oct 3,4 Kasane
With only 30 km to Kasane we did some meandering, chalking up about 60 km, before entering the town at the NE corner of Botswana, bordering Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia. We have now left the major game reserves in Botwana. They proved to be everything we could have hoped for. The roads were more challenging, even as dry as they were. Our truck did wonderfully and our food planning for the five days out, even with the burglaries, did us just fine. The evenings cooled down to the pleasant sitting out level and mosquitoes did not bother us overly.
In Kasane, Rich will do a boat ride and then a trip to VicFalls. When we have gassed up and filled the larder again, we will head into Namiba and the Caprivi Stip. We have finally figured out a dilemma with our gas (or should I say diesel). After Johannesburg, we have filled up twice, each time putting in between 60 and 70 l, which gets us just over 700 km. The gas gauge had never budged from over the F mark. On the close to 700 km we did through the Parks, always grinding away in the sand, often in 4×4, we finally had the gauge drop slightly under the F mark. We put in 85 l. There is an extra 80 l tank, on top of the 80 l tank that comes with the truck, and we finally dipped into the normal tank. The good news is that we now know we can do about 1400 km on good roads and 1200 km on bad roads if we need, and that the gas gauge will tell us how much we have when we dip into the second tank.