Overland Camping Trip through Botswana & Namibia
During the weekend 16/17 October 2004 we decided to take a three-week break and undertake a camping trip through the portions of Southern Africa known as Botswana including the world-renowned Okavango Delta and the northern portion of Namibia.
Since we live in Pinetown, about 20 Km by road from the city of Durban on the Eastern Coast of South Africa, this would involve a journey of some 7 000 Km.
We gave ourselves one week to prepare, planning to leave on Sunday the 24th October and return home on or about Saturday 13th November.
Our available equipment for the trip consisted of a 4 man Safari Bow Tent, inflatable mattress, a couple of safari style fold up chairs and a number of gas cylinders with various cooking attachments, a charcoal braai (barbeque), a gas lamp and general smaller items and utensils.
Our vehicles were a seven-year-old Ford Ranchero Outback utility vehicle and a two-year-old seven-foot Glider luggage trailer. The utility was fitted with a 6oow inverter running off two 12v lead acid batteries (separately installed from the vehicle’s own battery but charged from its alternator), a 12 volt fridge (special offer from our local hardware store at SA Rand 999.00 (about US $ 170.00 at present exchange rates), as well as our trusty Coleman Steel Belt cooler box.
We carried a 20 l water bottle and in addition to the 126L tanks on the utility another 25L of petrol (gas/fuel).
On Monday 18th the run around started …. Checked passports … need Visa’s – NO, OK? … Checked International Driving Licenses … Arranged travel insurance for over border travel .. Checked customs regulations re what can be carried across the borders … got road maps for the remote areas … checked inoculation requirements … obtained anti-malaria medication (must be started 24 hours BEFORE entering an endemic malaria area) … got and attached the necessary national identification stickers for the vehicles going trans border … stocked up on provisions … arranged foreign exchange (US Dollars) etc etc etc.
Well, I can tell you that this took up the whole week.
Saturday 23rd Oct was spent backing up computer data, booking our cat “Chelsea” into a “Cat Hotel”, arranging home keys to be left with our neighbour “Dulcie” in case of emergency and generally securing the home premises. Then some preliminary packing into the utility. The trailer is kept fully packed at all times with ALL necessary camping equipment and is always ready to go. As you may guess we often decide on “the spur of the moment” to go shooting off on one or another trip! Perishables are pre-frozen in the deep freezer and then transferred to cooler box and fridge in the morning immediately before leaving.
Well that was it! Off to bed for an early morning start.
Departure: Day 1
We woke up early and packed the last few items, mainly perishables into the fridge & cooler box Km reading on clock 120 760 Km. Through the Marianhill Toll Plaza and along the N3 north toward Johannesburg.
At about 8.30 am we stopped for a roadside breakfast of bacon and egg rolls & coffee which Erica had prepared the evening before. Feeling refreshed, we continued on the highway. After some five hours of driving we were bypassing Johannesburg city on the ring road East and exiting off that highway onto N2 North towards Pretoria. The next diversion was onto the new N4 toll road toward Rustenburg, now heading almost dead West. We could not bypass Rustenburg due to the road works still in progress on the N4 at this point, so had to go through the town. Here we took the opportunity to top up with fuel. Then back onto the N4 on the western side of the town and toward Swartruggens.
The N4 is a good tar surfaced road and we were clipping long at a good 120 to 130 Km per hour. Suddenly the trailer swayed and I corrected, regaining our line of travel. I thought it was a cross wind and said so to Erica. After4 another 30 or 40 Km I slowed down since we were within 100 Km of our planned overnight stop on the South African side of the border, and I was starting to feel a little tired. I moved into the left hand lane of the highway and reduced speed to between 80 and 90 Km per hour. Another vehicle was approaching from the rear and I shifted into the left hand side emergency lane to allow him an easy passage. Hardly had I done so and all hell broke loose. Our vehicle was swaying violently half way across the road and back again and then back across onto the oncoming side. I had no idea what the cause of the severe sway was at that moment. I immediately reduced speed but did not apply the brakes since I thought that it might be a blowout on one of the tyres. Then we lost traction altogether and spun completely over the highway and off over the verge on the far side, coming to a stop at an angle and then sliding backwards down the slope to end up in grass and bush in a cloud of red dust. This all happened so quickly that I hadn’t even had time to realize fully what had taken place. As the dust cleared we could see that we were below the road level on the opposite side facing back the way we had been coming from.
The trailer amazingly was still attached to the tow hitch at a crazy angle to the vehicle. Even more amazing was that neither vehicle had rolled.
In the meantime the vehicle behind had made an emergency stop to avoid hitting ours and the driver was running over to assist us. More or less at the same time a highway maintenance crew pulled up to investigate and a four by four truck towing a trailer from the Botswana side also stopped to assist.
By this time, of course we were out of the vehicle, unhurt but quite shaken. Then I noticed that the one wheel of the trailer was off and laying a short distance away. At first I thought that the wheel nuts had come loose, but then noticed that they were still attached, as was part of the wheel hub. The rest of the hub was still attached to the axel of the trailer. We surmise that what happened was the wheel bearings must have seized causing the hub to
We managed to get the truck back on the road under own power and the trailer was dragged back up by the four by four. With the help of some bystanders (locals attracted by the commotion) we dragged it back across the highway and into the premises of a local farm.
After thanking all those that had assisted and giving a monetary incentive to the locals to keep an eye on the trailer, we limped back to Rustenburg. Although we were closer to Swartruggens at this stage, Rustenburg was the last town of any significance before leaving South Africa and we thought that we would have a better chance of getting assistance there. In the meantime we had been on the phone to the insurance company and they had put us in touch with a vehicle recovery service.
After half an hour or so we were back in town and managed to hire a trailer for a day (certainly not roadworthy, but beggars can’t be choosers) from Phillips Motors.
S A Rand 300.00 for the day. (US $ 50.00 approx.)
Then back out to the scene of our accident.
On the way were discussing the whole matter and realized that we had been extremely lucky that I had been travelling slower at the time, that there was no oncoming traffic at that moment, that the vehicle behind had not yet started overtaking, that we had not rolled etc etc. We came to the conclusion that it was not yet our time to go and someone must have been watching over us.
When we got back to the trailer we transferred the contents to the hired one, by which time the low bed truck from Lee’s Towing Services had arrived. In no time at all we were following them back toward Rustenburg where we arranged for them to take the trailer in to the repair shop first thing on Monday morning.
Then we booked ourselves into a campsite at the local Rustenburg Kloof Resort and set up tent. So no more than 650 Km of the trip and already in the brown stuff!
A couple of “emergency” drinks were downed and we collapsed, exhausted after a hectic first day.
Repairs: Day 2
In the morning and after a refreshing shower, various “Heath Robinson” type repairs were made to the taillights, mirror etc on the utility using buff tape, contact adhesive etc.
Then it was back into town to “Straptite”, the trailer repair shop, where we met Martin who was most accommodating and agreed to attend to our emergency as soon as Lee’s arrived with our trailer. We left to get the utility attended to and a little while later Martin phoned to confirm arrival of the trailer and give us the news: A new axel and one rim and he would remove the shattered remains of the trailer’s nose cone. Rand 1 245.00 (US $ 210.00)
In the meantime we had been directed to Rustenburg Wheel Alignment Centre who inspected the undercarriage of the Ford. Well here we also got off relatively lightly: However we discovered that all four-wheel rims were out of round, so it was: new wheel rims, new tie rod ends, wheel balance and re-alignment. Oh yes, lest I forget … Rand 4 220.00 (US $ 715.00). So somewhat battered and “crinkle cut” we were able to get our trailer back to the resort, transfer our goods back into it, return the hired trailer and return to camp for our evening meal. Yes it had taken the whole day to get everything sorted out! So with a dented budget and one day behind schedule, we retired to bed early to get an early start in the morning.
Over the Border: Day 3
We were up early, striking camp at about 4.30 am and on the road by 5.00 am. During the next three weeks we were to become dab hands at putting up and striking our Safari Dome!
Once again heading westward on the N4 and crossing the border at Objaterskop. This was a reasonable painless experience except for the fact that we had to purchase road permits for the vehicles and they refused to accept S A Rand or US Dollar, which was the only currency we had with us. So we were forced to change to Pula (Botswana’s currency unit) at the punitive exchange rate of Pula 4.00 to US $ 1.00 ! So, of course we changed the minimum amount. A very cursory inspection of the load on the Ford and a peep into the trailer, and we were on our way again.
Just over the border we pulled up at a fuel station to top up our tank. (It is good policy to keep your fuel supplies topped up at each opportunity since you can never be sure as to where you will be able to do so again). Well, to make this point clear – this station had no fuel. So onwards to Gaborone (The locals call it “Gabs&rdquo, the Capitol of Botswana. Here we topped up fuel, Changed currency at a more reasonable rate of 4.40 to the dollar and topped up our beer and water supplies. Then on along Botswana’s A1 highway heading northwards. What starts off as a multi lane highway soon deteriorates into a narrow tar road, in good condition however and we could comfortable maintain 100 Km per hour. Soon the ambient temperature was some 40 deg.C and we slogged along almost directly northwards for the next 850 Km dodging innumerous donkeys and goats along the way. (The roads in Botswana are not fenced and both domestic and wild animals are encountered frequently – drive with extreme caution).
This part of the country is dotted with geological features called “inselbergs” which are outcrops of weather resistant rock and “koppies” weathered rock boulders that stand up out of an otherwise flat landscape.
We passed through small villages (settlements sometimes, or even just a cluster of houses) with interesting names such as Mochudi, Mosomane, Dibete, Dinokwe and then across the Tropic through Mahalapye, Palapye, Serule and across the dry riverbed of the Shashe River on to Francistown.
Botswana is land-locked, surrounded by Namibia in the West, South Africa in the South and East, and Zambia and Zimbabwe in the Northeast. It lies between 20 and 30 degrees East of Greenwich and between 18 and 27 degrees south of the equator. About two thirds lies within the tropics, being north of the Tropic of Capricorn. A large portion (84%) is the Kalahari Desert, as it is known to most of us. Actually it is the Kgalagadi in Setswana, the language of the country. This desert, or more correctly “thirst land” is covered with stunted thorn trees ‘scrub, bush, and grasslands.
From Francistown it was on towards Nata, now turning off the A1 “Highway” slightly toward the northwest – still a good but narrow tar road. About 20 Km before reaching the settlement of Nata itself we came across a Nature Sanctuary on the edge of the Sowa Pan which is run by the locals as a Community Project. A basic camp with basic ablution facilities at Pula 70 for the night. We found a pleasant campsite under a small baobab tree.
Although the site had a built up braai facility we decide to eat “out of tins” since after the long day’s trip we were too tired to do anything else.
Thank goodness for the electric air pump running off our inverter to pump up the inflatable mattress and run our electric fan during the hot night!
On toward Maun: Day 4
Waking early with the break of day, we took a drive onto the Sowa Pan along the aptly named “Springbok Drive”, a sandy track eventually leading to a wooden platform overlooking a part of the pan with water. There are a number of these pans in Botswana. Pans are barren flat areas made up of salts and minerals from evaporation of the water, which periodically fills them. They fill with water in the rainy season and then attract wildlife and numerous birds that benefit from the absorbed nutrients.
We saw a number of Springbok and a few other animals along this route, but mainly birds, including crowned crane, northern black korhaan, pink backed pelican, black winged stilt, dabchicks, purple heron, kori bustard and brown snake eagles.
We stopped to have breakfast at the platform and under the watchful eye of a circling gray headed gull, enjoyed jaffles and coffee before returning to our campsite to strike camp. Jaffles make a great breakfast dish when out camping. They are made by using two slices of bread, which are placed in a “jaffles iron” together with a filling, usually egg, cheese, cold meat or baked beans or a combination thereof. The bread is then compressed into a pie shape and the iron is placed over an open fire or gas burner and browned.
We eventually left at about 10.00 am continuing toward Nata. There we again were confronted with a petrol station, which could not deliver, this time due to a power outage. However, another station close by had a generator running and we were able to top up our fuel supply again.
Then it was ever westwards as we travelled across the Xai Xai Pan and Kgalagadi Reserve towards Maun and the Delta.
It was again a hot dry day in the region of 40 deg.C and it was a welcome break to stop off at the Baobab Forest at “Planet Baobab”, a campsite and accommodation establishment about 1Km off the Maun road along a gravel road. Here we found a nice little bush pub under a large thatched lapa where a welcome cold beer (Peter) was consumed at speed and Erica enjoyed a generous bowl of ice cream, both very welcome in the heat of the day!
We took a walk around under the numerous baobab trees and had a look at the campsites and chalets. We got a good impression of the place and would consider it as an overnight stop on any future trip.
We arrived at Maun at 4.30 pm, stopping in the village for supplies and then on to our campsite at the Audi Camp which is to be found along the road toward Moremi. The name “Audi” means “Fish Eagle” and the number of these beautiful birds in the area justified it.
The eerie cry of this bird is certainly part of the African bush experience.
We obtained a campsite for Pula 70 per night and Pula 20 extra for the power. After setting up camp on the dusty but shaded site, we immediately headed for the pool near the restaurant under some welcome trees. Then it was to the pub under a thatched lapa for a few drinks with plenty of ice. Here we were introduced to “Festus”, named for the President of Botswana, a parrot that ended up sharing Erica’s drink with her. It was at this pub that we first came across the “block” of ice for our cooler box. What they do is hang up plastic bags of water in the freezer unit, so forming one large ice “block” – these are sold for Pula 10 each and are a much better bet than the bags of loose cubes which melt far too quickly. These immediately became the standard fare for keeping things cold in the extreme heat.
We found that we were consuming litters of water, coldrink etc due to the dry heat. Evidently our bodies needed the large amounts of liquid since in spite of the high level of consumption we were not feeling the need to urinate any more frequently than normal. It is highly recommended to keep a bottle of mineral water with you at all times to keep yourself hydrated.
For our evening meal we had obtained a “spatchcock” chicken, which we cooked on the open fire. This is what South Africans call a “flattie”, a chicken cut along the length of its body and opened out into a spread-eagled shape and then grilled usually with a basting sauce.
We soon got chatting to a group of Austrian policemen and women who were travelling together in a hired 4x4 with rooftop tents. They were camped in the site adjacent to ours and were sitting around chatting. They strongly recommended a campsite that they had come across off the Caprivi Strip on the north-western side of the Okavango Delta, known as Drotsky’s Cabins. The site is situated on the banks of the Okavango River where it enters the delta near the settlement of Shakawe. This sounded like a good place to investigate later in our trip and we made a mental note of it. Then, off to bed and slept like babies.
The Okavango Delta: Day 5
We were up early since had booked an all day trip into the delta scheduled to depart from Audi Camp at 7.00 am. We enjoyed a “communal” shower in the open (to the sky) showers, then a quick breakfast of cereal and packed our cameras, binoculars and cooler box for the day trip. We met up with about 20 others and boarded a large 4x4 truck, which would carry us through the deep sand tracks into the delta to the actual Okavango Swamps.
Our driver, by the name of “Lake” pointed out items of interest along the way as we headed westwards once again. He was difficult to hear though, due to the noise of the vehicle grinding along in low gear and we had to relay his words toward those in the back seats. He pointed out the date palms and fan palm, which occur in the area. He informed us that the locals milk the sap from the palms with which they brew a type of cider. Along the way we also came across a fair amount of animal and bird life for which we occasionally stopped. It took two hours to reach a little village on the banks of the delta where we met up with our Makoro guides.
(The Makoro is a dugout canoe, which is carved out of a single trunk of the Sausage Tree and is piloted by a person who stands in the stern and uses a pole to drive the makoro through the shallow waters of the channels).
Now we met up with “Rus”, our makoro guide. Soon he had Erica and I seated in his conveyance, together with our Coleman’s Cooler box with the all-important beers, water, coldrinks and lunch. He proved to be a knowledgeable fellow and was soon imparting some of his, obviously extensive swamp lore including the fish, plant, bird and animal life which inhabit this unique environment. Apparently in the wet summer season the water level in the delta is at it’s lowest in spite of the regular rains occurring at this time of year. This is explained by the fact that most of the water, in fact, travels from the highlands catchment areas in Angola and takes about four months to travel along the waterways to the Okavango river delta. As a result in the “dry” winter months the highest water levels occur. We travelled silently along the narrow channels between the reeds for some time observing the interesting water-skimming insects and micro-climate until at about 12.00 noon we stopped on the bank of a small reed-bay for a game walk through the bush on one of the islands and, later to sit under a tree and enjoy our picnic lunch.
The walk was somewhat subdued firstly because of the need for silence in order to see game, but also due to the extreme heat and energy sapping high level of humidity. We did see some vervet monkeys and a few antelope. Rus spent some time explaining the giant termite heaps, which we encountered. These are common in the whole area, some of them reaching heights of about 3 to 4 meters. These can accommodate several million individuals and apparently extend as far below ground as they show above. Indeed, these are veritable structured cities having a system of communication and air conditioning within the mound. Oh yes, air conditioning by convection through the passageways and chambers, which keeps the internal temperature of the mound constant.
The workers build the nest and provide food and grooming for the greatly enlarged egg-laying female and all other colony members. The soldiers provide protection for the colony, while the reproductive pair ensures a constant supply of eggs. In many species, egg production may approach 30,000 eggs per day. Rus also explained that these termite mounds are useful for navigation in the bushveldt where there are often not many landmarks to follow. Apparently the top of the larger termite mounds always bends toward the west – the direction of the setting sun. (We checked out this interesting fact when viewing other mounds later in our trip and verified its accuracy!!) This phenomenon is explained by the fact that the termites come out to build onto the exterior of the mound at night and, enjoying the slightly higher residual temperature of the sunset on the western side, favour working on that side, so generating the “slant”. Well, we never stop learning, do we?
After consuming the welcome lunch and beverages it was back into the Makoro for a slow trip back to the waiting truck and the two-hour trip back to the main road.
On the way back to the Audi Camp we encountered the “edge” of a passing thunderstorm and got soaked. However with the ambient temperature at 42 deg C no one complained too much! By the time we reached camp we were totally dry, only to find that in our absence there had been a torrential downpour accompanied by hail and strong winds. Luckily our particular campsite was secure. We had been expecting rain because the previous evening we had heard a bullfrog croaking, so before leaving camp had put all our things inside the safari bow and closed the flaps on the “windows”. Our less experienced neighbours from Austria were less “lucky” and returned from their one hour sightseeing flight over the delta to find their camp chairs drenched, together with towels and clothing on a makeshift line between the trees.
Then an “emergency” trip to the bush pub for a couple of ginger brandies with plenty of ice in a tall glass, Mom enjoyed her own concoction of lemonade, lime and Angostura Bitters (quite refreshing) in between a kiss and a chat from Festus, the parrot. We purchased another ice block to last through the 700K trip to Chobe the next day. Back at camp we enjoyed cold supper followed by fruit salad and cream. This was the perfect fare for the evening since although, following the storm, the temperature had dropped to about 30 deg, the humidity was exceptionally high – so still very hot. We retired to bed early due to the long trip planned for the next day.
To Chobe: Day 6
We left Maun early. I was feeling bilious for some reason. We thought that it might be a side effect from the malaria tablets, which we were taking. Took an anti-nausea pill and soon felt better. We had to retrace our route back to Nata from Maun since the road to Moremi is strictly 4x4 due to deep sand. This should not be attempted without 4x4 and even then preferably travelling together. At Nata we again topped up our fuel supply then Erica took over for about 130KM to give me a short rest. We saw kudu and warthogs along the roadside, which is not fenced. With the still extreme heat we found that we were drinking copious quantities of bottled water, fruit juice and anything generally wet which was available. The road from Nata to Kasane is long and straight with some 300KM between settlements. In Kasane we re-provisioned also procuring some very tender rump steak at excellent price. We drove for about 40 km looking for the campsite only to turn around in the Chobe National Park and find it just outside of Kasane! At 70 Pula per night we booked two nights, set up camp on the river bank (and next to the pub!). This large wood, reed and thatch structure was soon investigated and found to include a large balcony overlooking the Chobe River toward Namibia. We spotted elephant and buffalo over a few drinks and chatted with s French couple that we had met up with during the Makoro trip.
Then back to our camp to make a fire and cook some of our rump steak.
Our campsite was under a small tree on the bank next to a sign reading “Beware of Crocodiles” and we during the night we heard the hippo’s grunting just around the river bend downstream from our camp. We also heard the plaintiff cry of more than one fish eagle in the immediate vicinity.
Chobe: Day 7
Up early to join a guided 4x4 game viewing drive departing from the Chobe Safari Lodge at six am.
We again entered the Chobe Game Reserve, which had been closed, to overnight visitors due to an Anthrax and Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak there. We had to go through the footbath routine and the vehicles were sprayed with chemicals to avoid transferring the diseases. During the trip we saw a number of birds including Tawny Eagle, White Backed Vultures, Lilac Crested Rollers and the vocal Fish Eagle, the national bird of Zambia, just under 100KM to the north of us. We decided not to venture into Zimbabwe and Victoria Falls although only some 70 KM by road due to the political uncertainty and risk of arrest for petty (made up) offences. Also, we had been told that a group had been short of fuel and had been forced to pay US $20.00 per liter for fuel!!! A pity, being so close but not worth the risk. Maybe when Bob Mugabe is gone and there is more stability there, we will make a visit.
We stopped for lunch in the open bush alongside the river, a couple of very cold beers thanks to the ice bought earlier in Kasane and some really good bacon and egg rolls which we shared with some other folk from New Zealand.
Later when returning to camp we found two river monitors basking in the sun on our shade cloth carpet under the tent awning. Of course they made a quick departure on our arrival.
Then I made the mistake of trying to covert some US $ to Pula at the local Barclays Bank. Well two hours later …… grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Don’t do this, OK. Use your credit card and draw local currency directly, forget about travellers cheques or foreign currency, it’s not worth the hassle.
At about 1.45 we went for a cooling swim at the lodge pool and enjoyed a couple of cool ones at the pub there before leaving on a river cruise.
Not having seen too much in the way of game, we had decided to take an afternoon cruise up the Chobe River which forms the boundary between Botswana and Namibia, to the east of the Caprivi Strip. We were hoping to get onto one of the smaller boats with the New Zealanders but ended up instead on a large double-decked catamaran. This had one redeeming feature – a cash bar well stocked with cold beers and savannahs (cider). So a few of these were absorbed into the blood stream due to the heat of the day. In spite of this absorption factor, we did actually get to see a wide variety of game and bird life along the cruise. We met a group of people from the Orange Free State (in South Africa) and a woman from Sri-Lanka who was very keen on birding. Again on our way back towards the lodge we met up with a passing thunderstorm and all the folk from the upper deck came herding down the ladder at the front of the cat causing its nose to dip below the water. With water rushing over the boards we soon came to a stop and the matter was sorted out by shifting some folk toward the stern. Along the way we came across elephant crossing the river as well as a number of buffalo. If you visit Chobe, this trip up the river is a MUST DO. We have never seen such a large variety of game in such a (relatively) small area.
Back at camp we found soaked chairs – not so well prepared this time, but luckily no other disasters. These were soon dry enough to use again though and we set up the evening fire to later braai a butterflied fillet steak. While cooking our evening meal on the banks of the Chobe, with the gas lamp hissing in the tree above, a small duck popped up over the bank to find a resting place in the long grass next to our tent.
It gets dark very quickly here due to being so close to the equator, so it was soon pitch dark and we sat there quietly and listened to the hippos grunting at one another in the river.
On to Drotsky’s: Day 8
We left the campsite at about 6.30 am on Sunday morning heading back through the Chobe National Park towards the border gate at Ngoma Bridge. On the way we had to stop for a while to allow a heard of elephant to cross the road in front of us.
It took about an hour to get to the border where it was the usual round of filling in forms, vehicle register etc. Otherwise no hassle and it wasn’t long before we were on our way again on the Namibian side heading northwards towards the Caprivi Strip, bordering Zambia. A good, new road, in places still under construction. There is an 80 KM limit, which no one seems to worry about. However it is necessary due to the road being unfenced. There are numerous warnings along the road regarding animals. The first place of any note is Katima Mulilo , then through Kongola followed by a small settlement at Bagani where we turned left toward Popa Falls. Since my grandchildren call me “Popa” we had to stop and take a photograph of the signboard with yours truly next to it. Then through the border post at Mohemba on the way to Shakawe, passing back into Botswana, now on the north-western side of the delta where the Okavango River enters the swamps. At the border post we discovered that we were supposed to have purchased a road permit on entering Namibia. There is NO indication at the Ngoma Border Post to this effect!!!! Anyway we played dumb and helpless and promised to buy one on our way back into Namibia later in the week. Amazingly, we were allowed through without any fuss. Maybe the customs official had “got it all” that morning!
So it was back onto dirt roads again. At Shakawe we turned right and continued for a further 12KM southwards until we found the turn off to the left to Droltsky’s Cabins. This was the place that the Austrians had been telling us about and we’d decided that we should give it a try. A sandy dirt road but no need for four-wheel drive. Drotsky’s is so well established that it’s even marked on the map!
A delightful campsite and lodge set along the banks of the Okavango under the lush foliage of the riverine forest. It is a beautiful setting and very reasonably priced.
The lodge is built into and between the trees on wooden platforms, as are the restaurant and pub, overlooking the river course. The Okavango is a large flowing river and heavily populated by various birds. There are boats with guides for hire and sightseeing flights over the Delta can be arranged from here.
The price for the campsite included an electrical point and free firewood. There are basic, clean ablutions scattered among the trees. The sites are huge and could easily accommodate groups of campers and their vehicles. We almost had the place to ourselves though, which was great. Hot water
showers provided in the ablutions (lp gas fired). After the long and hot 600Km from Chobe that day, the pub was a godsend and we decided to wallow in luxury and enjoy the set menu in the restaurant that evening. That evening around the pub we met other travellers from Germany and Switzerland amongst others. We also met “Mr.” Drotsky who manned the bar.
This was followed by a good three-course meal in the restaurant overlooking the river. The meal was good value at 77 Pula each. Excellent tomato soup, home baked bread, followed by beef medallions and veggies on the side. This was followed by an excellent Crème Brule’.
Then we were back to our tent for a good nights rest.
Just Chillin: Day 9
We awoke to the sound of myriad birds in the forest canopy above our camp.
Erica made some coffee while I showered. Then we sat on our “veranda” and watched the squirrels, birds, insects and vervet monkeys (little shits) going about their business in the surrounding bush and trees. We walked over to the lodge for a hearty breakfast of cereal, joghurt, fruit, egg, bacon, sausages, and baked beans …… well, you get the picture. OK, so we pigged out.
We finished off with coffee and then, after getting directions from reception we set off to have a look at the Tsodilo Hills (Mountain of the Gods), a local landmark.
Here there are a number of cave and rock paintings dating back thousands of years. Although the road is indicated as a 4x4 track on the map, the facts are somewhat different. From Drotsky’s you go back along the dirt road and turn left towards Sepupa. The first 20 KM or so from Shakawe to the turnoff is a narrow tar road. Then you turn right at the settlement of Nxamasere onto a sandy dirt road for a further 40 KM before getting to the historical site. You reach a typical village of mud huts with thatched roof and in the middle of this settlement you turn right again and through the gates onto a poor dirt road into the site.
Tsoldilo rises above the Kalahari to a height of 1395 meters, Botswana’s highest ‘peak’. It is a sacred site described in the !Kung legends as a “family”, so the hills are named Male, Female and Child respectively. This is a World Heritage Site and features prime rock art with over 4 500 pictures at 400 sites dating between 850 and 100AD. They portray animals, geometric patterns, humans and what would seem to be a whale.
From excavations made it would seem that the area has been inhabited by humans for at least 100 000 years. Local guides are available to accompany you on one of the seven walking trails between the various sites. Numerous animals occur in and around the hills, namely leopard, vervet monkey, antbear, warthog, brown hyena, Kudu, wilddog, elephant and the Tsodilo Rock Gecko, which only occurs here. There are also many species of bird and insects. Flora includes baobabs, acacias, morula, and mophane and include plants with medicinal characteristics such as the sengaparile tuber (devils claw) used to treat high blood pressure. An interesting place well worth the trouble to visit.
On the way back to Drotsky’s we stopped at the village Shakawe to replenish our supply of ice for the cooler box. Erica again found a filet steak at the local butcher at Pula 21 per Kilo so we decided to cook this over the fire with some onion, veggies and couscous.
When we got back to camp the monkeys (little shits) were around again but had been unable to find anything to take! (All securely locked in the trailer – we’ve learnt the hard way!).
We plan to take a boat trip up the Okavango tomorrow morning before it gets too hot out there. We will hire a ‘birding” guide who will also pilot the boat. While preparing supper a yellow billed kite decided to drop in and perched on a branch high above our campsite, calling its mate.
The Okavango River: Day 10
We again got up early and sat outside the tent for a while drinking our coffee and observing various little birds (lbj) coming down from the canopy above to eat crumbs off the ground directly in front of our chairs. We also saw the monkeys (little shits) again but they kept their distance, heads bobbing up and down and sideways trying to gain advantage.
We walked over to the jetty at the lodge and met our guide at the landing where he was busy fuelling up Insert pics here
Before long we were cruising slowly up the river looking out for bird life, particularly the southern carmine bee-eater. Initially we saw a number of other birds including the African darter, various herons, the uncommon white-backed night heron well spotted by our guide in dense bush on the river bank, open-billed stork, hamerkop, white-faced duck, spur-winged goose, giant and pied kingfishers and others. Oh yes, we did eventually come across the carmine bee-eaters darting in and out of their holes in the river bank – dozens of them. Thanks to our guide who had an excellent knowledge of the birds and their habitats we had a very rewarding day on the river. Since we had overspent our time along the way, we had to make some speed on the way back to Drotsky’s, but by now the heat of the day was building and the wind against our faces was very welcome as we planed our way back downstream.
The rest of the day was spent relaxing at the camp – so great having a few days without driving those long distances. Later we braai’ed the remaining fillet with whole onions on the grid and tinned peas and asparagus. We were both feeling the need for salt, so drank the salty water from the two tins – amazingly tasty and refreshing!! We walked over to the lodge and paid our bill since we would be leaving early the next morning –
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