HELLO + WELCOME as we drive from Sydney to London via Africa. Our latest story comes from a wet and dirty time in Botswana.
It’s Kirsty behind the keyboard today. G is still drying off.
Crossing into Botswana felt like a big shift in the flow of the trip for us. We spent our last few days in Namibia at a riverfront campsite on the Caprivi Strip where we pottered around doing housework.
Yes, even when a car is your house… there is still work to do. It looked a little like this: Washing three loads of clothes and towels by hand. Wiping away Namibia’s fine dust. Cleaning mud from under the car. Tending to the water filter. Taking out the batteries and topping up their distilled water levels. But not before taking on traffic and Africa to find the water. Loading up on groceries.
And then, the big job – Gareth replaced the hinges on our pop-top bed that had snapped the week prior. It wasn’t much fun on a humid 35-degree day. At one point we thought we might have to take off the entire roof to be able to get at it because the access to each hinge was hidden by various sized casings. Somehow G kept at it and made it work.
We were the only travellers at the Botswana border. We were entering at the end of the rainy season and knew it was never going to be the perfect time to hit the country. Bots is known for it’s animals, but in the rainy season they disperse and the tall grasses make for difficult wildlife spotting.
The reality is, unless you power through Africa fast you will always hit the ‘wrong’ season somewhere. Botswana was that country for us.
When we arrived in Maun we performed circus tricks to arrange camping and National Parks permits. A system that defies logic where Botswana’s National Parks has attempted to decentralise the booking system by privatising campsites and not accepting cash at the entrance to their parks.
This meant that we to PLAN an entire two weeks of our lives. OMG!? As travellers who like fly by the seat of our pants it was a royal pain in the arse.
After a few hours of going between four offices in Maun we had our little plan and had parted with a whole lot of pre-paid money. Even though the plan was in place we both felt uneasy and our minds ticked over with questions thick and fast. ‘What if we love it and want to stay longer?’, ‘What if we hate it and it isn’t worth $130 a night!?’, ‘What if there’s no animals and we are wasting our money?’, ‘This sucks!’, ‘Ohh well, it is what it is’
Our plan was to visit Nxai Pan, Kubu Island, Savuti and Chobe parks over two weeks. In the end we were able to do only half of that and part with a chunk of that pre-paid money. The final kick in the guts came when we reached Chobe gate and saw that it was ‘all of a sudden’ possible to make the bookings there.
The rain. The illogical logic being touted as logic; ‘Say, what?’. The disinterested ‘tudes and rude glances of Botswanan National Parks staff, particularly the women. It was all a bit dull.
^ Goodmorning to you to Botswana; rain and 110 mosquito buzzing outside the window
^ Raining on my parade
^ Local wildlife
Luckily, the wild animals of Botswana brought the party.
:: Nxai Pan was flooded out and after being turned around at the gate, with $90 worth of permits in hand, we felt a bit low. Then the Wildlife Gods decided to lift our spirits by plonking some of the World’s most endangered animals on the side of the road! Just metres off a main arterial, we had a close encounter with five Painted Dogs (Wild Dogs) and watched them play around for a good half hour.
:: Kubu Island was also flooded so we headed North on tar. We thought the highlight of the day would be the free WI-FI at Wimpy (a burger joint). Then the Wildlife Gods decided it was go-time again. The road became littered with massive-f!k-off piles of elephant dung and we slowed to let the culprits pass.
:: After a long day of intense bush-bashing towards Savuti, a remote area of the popular Chobe National Park, we were tired. However the meat in the fridge was pushing it’s used by date so we cooked up a feast to store in the freezer. Toasties, a lamb curry and satay chicken. It must have smelt like we were setting up a restaurant because a huge elephant bull came to see if we had space for one more.
It was quite a moment to look up from the dishes and have our eyes focus on an eley! He turned up again that night to make a meal out of a tree in our campsite. Heart pounding stuff when you are laying in bed looking out through the canvas of your tent!
:: And for the final hurrah, a family of elephants decided to swim across the river in front of our Campsite at Ihaha in Chobe. The great thing about coming in the rainy season is that the animals are very active and charged up from the plentiful food and water.
A few more favourite photos from Botswana.
^ Elephant in the marshes of Chobe National Park
^ The roads in Savuti
^ After a fun 4X4 track (HELLO corrugations, sand and mud) we received quite a welcome to Savuti! A flooded waterhole stretched over the road and this fellow waved his trunk about.
^ Happy hippos in the morning light
^ Where ‘dem animals at?
Botswana was a mixed bag for us.
The highs were spectacular and the lows were pretty ‘mehh’. But when a campsite wants to charge you $100 a night and not bother to clean the site or amenities… it feels like someone, somewhere, is laughing at you while counting their dollars they just made off the ‘Stupid White Tourist’.
At one site Gareth and I sat looking at the garbage on the ground and foot-high ashes in the braii pit after returning from the mouldy bathrooms and said… ‘I feel like I’m camped in some bogan’s backyard and being charged for it’.
It’s that vibe that we felt a lot of the time in Bots as self-drivers. Lucky for them they have incredible animals… otherwise the money grabbers in the country might have to get their butt into gear.
Thanks for joining us for the highs and lows of this adventure guys. We love having you along for the ride.
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