Oct 5 Tsodilio Hills
We left Kasane about 7:30, through a neck of ChobePark and into Nambia. The border crossing was very easy, with no vehicle or visa charges. The drive west through the Caprivi Strip was uneventful. Namibian villages and people on the street seemed a little less affluent than in Botswana, although we did not stop to deal with anyone. It took us about four hours to drive to our turnoff south, which took us back into Botswana again. Our plans were loose, and we never did find a place to get Namibian currency. And now we had decided to head back down into Botswana, heading towards Tsodilo, as we had always planned on doing, but then to keep going south into the Kalahari, and so the need for Namibian currency will be put off for a while. Crossing back into Botswana it cost us 40 Pula, as we had kept our receipt from the first crossing. We found the turnoff into the Tsodilo Hills after a few questions and some mis-information from our maps. The drive, about 45 min on a moderate gravel road, soon revealed the hills rising in the Western Sky.
The Tsodilo Hills is one of the important San (Bushman) sites. It has been named a World Heritage site, and is famous for its 4000 San paintings dating back 50,000 years. Our arrival at the gate to the site was met by a san looking lady who charged us for entry and for camping and sent us into the community trust lands adjacent to the park. None of this was as described in our guide book, but we went along with it. The shower and facility block was completely out of order and so it was rough camping, but we had another nice night. The nights are still pleasantly warm while we are sitting and cool enough to sleep. As with the other community trust land the flies were bad here.
Oct 6, 7 Dqae Qare Game Reserve
We drove the few kms through the community trust fence to the park headquarters, arriving at about 7:30 am. There were campers there, the absolution blocks were nice and so we were taken a bit. Still lots of flies everywhere, so maybe it would not have been too much better. We arranged for a guide to take us on the short (2 hr) Rhino walk. We left at about 8:00, and it was already a bit hot for us. We walked a bit through deep scrub forest and at our first of 16 interest stops were told a bit about the paintings. One of the paintings in this first group was of a Rhino. After that we climbed up steeply using our hands on the granite boulders we had to scramble over. We are both a bit out of shape and I had my big camera on the front of me that I didn’t really use and worried about each time I had to scramble, but it felt good to be out on our feet. Rich made the observation that it would make a nice hike even without the paintings. Our guide was a young San boy, probably early 20s and fairly knowledgeable. It was a very nice way to spend the morning, we saw a small number of the many sites and painting here, but it was still enjoyable. It was be very hard to look at a significant percentage, with the heat making it fairly intolerable to walk much later than we were out.
Our map had indicated that the road would take us back to the highway a bit further south, and as we were heading south we continued on the down the road. It was closing in on noon now, and so my normal use of the sun to help with my direction was curtailed, but I did not feel right about the way we were going. Rich was snoozing a bit, so I woke him and we used our compasses and some guesswork and figured that the road had turned gradually and was now heading west, not south-east as we had expected. This was about 45 minutes into our drive and we had not seen a car in either direction. So we turned around and headed back, still not sure we were correct. There were two boys on the side of the road and we stopped to ask them, and when we did a man stepped out of the woods and in good English showed us where on the map we were heading and how to get to where we wanted. Our map was completely wrong.
We were now a good hour and a half behind where we had hoped to be, as we had about 400 km to get to our next stop. But the road was good and we pushed on. By about 5:00 we saw the sign into Dqae Qare and decided to give it a go. It is a small game reserve, run in part by San people. We had 7 km of 4×4 road which got us to a nice white building and we booked into the Game Farm, opting to spend the night in the lodge, supper and breakfast included. It was a good Gemsbok stew supper; our sleep was not that good though as it was hot and we had mosquitoes.
The next morning we sat in the eating hut for some time watching birds after having a full English breakfast, and then we headed out to do a game drive in our own vehicle through the Game Reserve. The roads were not bad, compared to Chobe and so we had an enjoyable time and saw a few animals. We then hung around our room, reading and snoozing until about 3:00, and then headed back out in the reserve to camp and spent the night under the Kalahari skies. We had another nice self sustained camping night.
Oct 8 Ghanzi
In the morning as we were driving out of the reserve we had our first site of a Gemsbok, sitting in the grass with its long straight horns sticking in the air. Not great pictures but a nice setting. We made our way back a few kms to Dkar, a San village. In the village we went to an art gallery and each bought some things, in part to support their efforts here. There is also a nice museum explaining aspects of their history. Not many, if any San live in the old way and probably not many would go back to the old ways, although unemployment must be high, amongst those living in these remote villages.
A few kms south brought us to Ghanzi, the major town providing access to the Kalahari. We got another 115 l of diesel, and made reservations or two nights in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. This will involve driving back the way we have come about 150 km, and then into the desert for another 3-400 km. Our two nights will be at different places and we will spend much of the next three days driving in the desert. We are hopeful that the roads will be better than in Moremi/Chobe as there will be far fewer vehicles to help in case of troubles. We are now checked into the Kalahari Arms, a nice hotel, but without internet access.
Oct 9,10 Central Kalahari Game Reserve
We were away from Ghanzi about 7:15 and were onto the sandy track leading into the reserve about 8:30. We saw another Gemsbok as we entered the reserve and got all excited. For the next two days and two nights we drove about 500 km on pretty good game trails. We had two very quiet campsites; all campsites in the CKGR are quiet. The campsites are about 40 km from each other, and occupied by only one party. Although our second night we shared ours with a German couple, no doubt due to the complicated booking procedures. The game here is spread throughout the reserve, but somewhat concentrated near small waterholes and pans, which may be salt or mud flats where water at one time stood. They say that centuries ago the rivers here ran, but as the climate dried, so did the rivers. Now no mater how much it rains the rivers never run. The vegetation is scrub brush, with occasional trees with dry tall yellow grass that grows in tufts in most places. And of course sand is the basis for everything. The Kalahari has more sand than any other desert, in part because of its size and in part the depth, up to 300 m deep. It is the quietness that is so special here. In two and a half days we saw three other parties.
But the wildlife is also wonderful. We soon quit giving Gemsbok more than a passing glance, as we saw 100s them. We had a number of other firsts as well. Springbok, Steenbok, a few other tiny species. We had repeats of the wildebeest and Kudu. A special sight was the rare black-back Jackal. We even saw a Giraffe, seemingly out of place here. We were very rarely out of sight of birds; many Ostriches, Secretary birds. Kori Bustards, Chanting Goshaw, were birds we had seen before but now had many good viewings of. Among firsts for us was the Tawny Eagle, the black Khorhaan, another very goofy bird, the very big and powerful Lapettfaced Vulture, and a very pretty sparrow like camp bird that kept us entertained with his singing and antics.
Our Kalahari sojourn will always be very special for us. We didn’t see the large black-maned Lion that is a capstone for this reserve, but it was fun looking.
Oct 11 – Ghanzi
We had 150 km to get out of the reserve on this day, and on it we had our best viewings of the Khorhaan, and the small antelopes, like the Steenbok we have come to love. And we saw the largest grouping of animals as Motopi Pan. We also followed for a long time cat tracks in the sandy tire tracks, obviously from the night before. A privilege you get from being first out in the morning.
We are now back in Ghanzi, camped in the hotel grounds we stayed in three nights ago. A nice feature of hotels here is that often nice hotels have campsites and we have taken advantage of this in the past and hope to in the future. Our truck is all deiseled up again and tomorrow we will be heading to Windhoek to begin our Namibian adventures.
Oct 12 Windhoek
We had and easy 530 km drive, crossing the border into Namibia, to Windhoek the capital. It is a nice city of about 350,000. Our entry into the hilly city showed many jacaranda trees in full purple blossom. It was late Saturday afternoon when we entered and the Wildlife office was closed, it is only open Mon-Fri. We checked into the lovely Tamboni, the guesthouse we had reserved, now facing two full days wait in order to get our bookings made. We will be trying to get campground bookings here for Etoshe Pan, our next main objective. Oh well, it is a nice city and a nice place to wait.