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Bush dog

2003 : Self-driving trip in Botswana + Welgevonden & Madikwe

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Bush dog

This report relates a trip made in July 2003. It began with a twelve days self-driving expedition, in Botswana, followed by eight days in South Africa, in Welgevonden and Madikwe.

At Maun’s airport, someone welcomed us (my wife was with me on this trip) and drove us to Audi Camp where we would meet our travel companions : cousins, friends and friends of friends. This was in total, we included, a group of fourteen people, nine men and five women. The others had, a few days before, taken up, in Johannesburg, the four vehicles. In the meanwhile, they had spent a couple of days in the Okavango. They arrived in the afternoon.

 

This trip had been organized by Bruno, a good friend of mine, who is also the person who sets up all my African travels for over twenty years. Bruno and his brother, who was also with us, are born in Africa where they spent their entire youth. Bruno was severely wounded by gunfire, together with someone that is closely related to me, four years ago, in the northeast of Ethiopia, close to the Erythrean border, on the Erta Ale volcano, but this is another story that I might tell later in a specific topic. Despite his large experience of Africa, he had hired a guide. That was his only mistake. Without being nasty, I would say that he was not good at all. For this reason, I will not mention his name. In fact, he was only very active during the meals.

The next day, after a first night in the tents on the cars’ roof and after shopping, mainly food for a few days, we took the road to CKGR. At the vet fence, the police was controlling the cars, especially those registered in South Africa, in search of raw meat. When we told them that we were not South Africans and that we were continuing our way along the fence, on the track to the right, they did not search the vehicles. Several people, to prevent the confiscation of the meat discovered in their vehicle, were busy cooking it along the road.

 

After some kilometers on the track, we loose one spare wheel. I explain, to have a bigger cruising range, Bruno had asked, to the renting company to fix an additional fuel tank. It was mounted on the rear underside in place of the spare wheel and the wheel was fixed under the tank. The wheel was therefore closest to the ground and the weight of the combination did certainly not help the situation. What was not a problem on a tarred road became one on rough tracks. We decided to transfer the spare wheels inside the vehicles, which was not easy because they were already pretty well filled. We also somehow consolidated the additional tank mounting points. Obviously, it was enough because we no longer have encountered additional problems.

 

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We drove about hundred kilometers along the fence to get to where we needed to go on the other side. It was a small check point, only two controllers. They looked very pleased to see us. Perhaps, were we their first cars of the day. They searched two cars without having to report anything. Then they asked to have a look at the one that contained the fridge but impossible to open the back door. We gave them the key so they can try themselves and they did not succeed. Eventually, they did not insist and let us go.

At the end of the afternoon, we arrived at the campsite which we had been assigned to, nearby the Sunday Pans. We eventually managed to open the car with the fridge. It was in fact very easy, one had to brake hard in order to slightly move forward the vehicle's contents. We all prepared dinner, which was great : leaks/onions/celeries soup followed by a grilled leg of goat and stir fried vegetables. As the nights in the Kalahari are extremely cold in July, some went to sleep with gloves, socks and even a wool cap.

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Atravelynn

You either have great notes or a tremendous memory to recall the leaks and the onions in your soup. That awful guide probably remembers the soup too.

 

I think we have found the centerfold photo for the 4th Safaritalk edition, or if that one is already formatted, then certainly edition 6.

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Bush dog

@@Atravelynn

 

I do have great notes indeed, but written by my wife!

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Bush dog


The next morning, up at 6 a.m. Some had already woken up 45 minutes earlier to prepare breakfast. A bit more than one hour later, we were all gone on game drive, saw a lot of springboks and gemsboks, jackals also, a honey badger and bustards and korhaans, but no cats. We stopped for lunch (a huge omelette with bacon and mushrooms).


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On the way to our campsite, we spotted a group of meerkats.


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While we set up camp, we noticed, behind the ridge towards Deception Valley, a deep red glow. I really thought that it was a fire. No, it was the moon, huge, full and red, the most beautiful moonrise I ever saw. We finished the day with another sumptuous dinner (the rest of the leg of goat and a butternut soup).

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Bush dog

I do not know what happened, the pictures should be, as usual, attached between the paragraphs. If someone has an explanation, please tell me.

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Marks

Not sure about the missing pics (I can at least confirm they don't work on my end, either) - looks like maybe either the path or the code ("attachment" vs "img") might be wrong?

In any case, the ones that do work are good - and not just the centerfold!
I'll definitely be along for the ride on this thread.

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Kitsafari

@@Bush dog how did 14 people squeezed into the 3 roof tents? i can only assume some slept in the car?

 

@@Atravelynn - centrefold indeed!

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Bush dog

@@Marks

 

The five attached pictures that are after the text are those that should have been between the paragraphs. There are no missing pictures in fact, they just appeared at the wrong place. Why????

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Bush dog

@@Kitsafari

 

There are two tents on each vehicle. On the picture, all tents are not unfolded and one vehicle is not on it.

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penolva

@@Marks

 

The five attached pictures that are after the text are those that should have been between the paragraphs. There are no missing pictures in fact, they just appeared at the wrong place. Why????

If you add them one by one in the 'more reply options ' you can then add them one by one into the text. However they are great pictures and I am fascinated to read about your adventure. Pen

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Bush dog

@@penolva

 

Thanks a lot!

 

That's what I did. I will see how it goes when I will edit the next episode.

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penolva

@@penolva

 

Thanks a lot!

 

That's what I did. I will see how it goes when I will edit the next episode.

Great, just remember to put the cursor where you want the pic before you add it.

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Bush dog


The next morning, we left the campsite very early. We found cheetah tracks and tried of course to find them but without success. That was not very smart considering the long road that we had to do. So, we tried to maintain a high cruising speed on the track leading to Rakops. It was not easy because the ruts were deep and strongly resembled miniature canyons. When we reached the tarred road, we turned right. The landscape is desolate, probably because overgrazing. One can see that desertification was on its way.

 

At Mopipi, we turned left, crossed the small city and headed to Nwetwe Pan, on an extremely broken track, in helping us GPS and compass. The “guide”, despite that he was in charge of the GPS, put us in a wrong direction. One of our companions, who is an orienteering fan, caught the lead car and put us on the right path. We reached a village. Oh surprise, almost all the inhabitants were dead drunk. It was found, however, a sober on a horse, to put us definitely on the right track. It was with some satisfaction that we finally arrived on the pan itself where driving was much easier because of their flat, level white surface.

 

On this wide white open space, the four vehicles were positioned in line and we agreed on the cruising speed: 100 kms/hour. This allowed us to make up some lost time (late departure, group inertia, …). Looking away, the illusion, that the ancient sea still exists, was present. We reached Gabasadi Island at the end of the afternoon. Although we had booked the night at Planet Baobab, the “guide” made the suggestion to spend it on the island. He said that, after the pan, the road was winding and that he was afraid of losing his way in the dark. Personally, I thought that he was mainly hungry. Bruno preferred to continue, my wife (because one more day without a shower was too much) and myself (because I had a terrible headache) also.

 

The road, after the pan, was, indeed, long and difficult but not because of orientation problems. I was with my wife and Bruno in the rear of the group because we had two spare wheels. In the meanwhile, the night had fallen. Because the wind had also fallen and the temperature inversion, the layer of dust raised by the three vehicles, which preceded us, remained suspended in the air, forming a mass as opaque as the most thick fog. The visibility was limited to less than one meter. It took us more than two hours to travel through the last twenty kilometers. And then, suddenly, the perfect visibility, a tarred road and the first houses of Gweta. One of the vehicles was waiting for us.

 

At Planet Baobab, it was so nice, after three days, to have a shower. Dinner, however, was rather disappointing compared to those we had under the stars.

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Bush dog

The next day, the entire group, except the "guide" and me who set off for a game drive, went to Jack's Camp to do quad on the pan. We only saws birds.

At noon, we had arranged to meet the group at Chapman's baobab for a picnic.

 

Baobab just outside Planet Baobab.

 

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After lunch, we were back at the lodge for a complete cleaning, exterior and interior, of the vehicles in which there was a thick layer of sand.

 

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Bush dog

The next day, after a lazy morning, we left for Nxai Pan, which is not far. At the park entrance, one drew our attention to the presence of lions near the waterholes. Despite the guide’s opinion (it was about lunch time and he was hungry?), who said that they were certainly sleeping and that the sighting would be better in the evening, we forged ahead.

 

Good decision, two lionesses and three cubs were on the rocks near the first waterhole. One female stood up, sauntered along and eventually lay in the sand on the other side of the pond. Around it, tens of springboks, a few wildebeests and impalas, all of them thirsty, waited for the lions’ departure to drink. The second female moved away from the cubs, went down and suddenly chased a springbok that narrowly escaped death. The first female, although very close, did not move. An elephant arrived at the second hole and the cubs, cautiously got closer to the females that are now almost together. The elephant began to drink but seemed disturbed by the presence of lions. Then it happened what I feared. The water level was quite low from the edge of the hole. The only way to drink was to go in the hole but in doing so the risk of being caught by the predators became extremely high. The lionesses were in fact waiting for a potential prey to make that mistake and eventually an impatient springbok jumped into the water. By the time it realized its mistake, it was too late. When it jumped out of the whole, the second lioness was almost on it. In seconds, everything ended in a cloud of dust and it was the kill.

 

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That’s where we were, the first hole is on the left and the second in front of the car.

 

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Pictures of the kill. They are not quite good (all scans of slides like all the pictures in this report), but as you can see, we were far from the action and not allowed to go beyond the trunk and the stones. I inserted them all in order not to harm the understanding of the story. You can see, on the third picture, the future victim jumping out of the hole.

 

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penolva

Glad you can put pictures in the text! I think they have a lovely quality about them especially the meerkats. The lion hunting and making the killing is extraordinary when you consider people using modern cameras would take several hundred photos to achieve those shots you took on slide and had to wait until you returned home before you could see them. Pen

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Bush dog

Making the kill, the lions had moved closer to the elephant that did not appreciate it. I thought for a moment that it was going to charge them but continued to drink while expressing loudly its disapproval. Having paid their tithe to the lions, the springboks flocked to the pond. It was almost three in the afternoon and we went to install our camp at South Camp and had lunch/afternoon tea.

 

 

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Marks

@@Marks

 

The five attached pictures that are after the text are those that should have been between the paragraphs. There are no missing pictures in fact, they just appeared at the wrong place. Why????

 

Sorry I did not reply in time, looks like you got it sorted, though.

The lion chase is good, but those last couple of elephant pictures - wow! Rarely have I seen such an example of size and dynamic motion distilled into a photo.

 

Also, cannot help but think of Planet Hollywood when I hear of Planet Baobab, though it goes without saying that the latter looks to be far preferable.

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Bush dog

The afternoon game drive was quieter: giraffes, bat-eared foxes, lions and elephants again, many jackals and raptors. We even saw, in the distance, a big pack of wild dogs but they were cruising and quickly disappeared from sight. At the waterhole, the restless elephant had been replaced by a much quieter and the lions were gone.

 

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In Nxai Pan, there are ablution blocks but they were not clean at all and the showers flow was extremely low. Obviously, they were absolutely not maintained or cleaned, most of the windows being broken. And so it was in Moremi, our next destination. Nowadays, has the situation improved?????

 

It was our last evening with the group. Indeed, the next morning, they were leaving for Johannesburg, while we and Bruno were continuing our journey. Surrounded by bush babies in the trees, we prepared a large plate of spaghetti with all the remaining vegetables and flambé pancakes with Cointreau.

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Atravelynn

Pictures of the kill are really cool. Excellent waterhole action. Your vehicle caravan shots are of an intrepid adventure. Adorable meerkats.

 

I seem to be able to view photos within your text accounts. But there is an oddity in post #4. Your text about the springboks and then about beautiful red moon flows out of the content area, off to the right side of the page, entering the dark green. Never saw that before. Only in post #4.

 

Between your wife's notes and your photos, you have a memoir!

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Bush dog

@@Atravelynn

 

Thanks a lot, Lynn.

 

From #14, except for a small minor problem, everything is back to normal when I add replies. I still don't know the origin of the problems, more particularly the bizarre font, and the fact that you see the text flowing out of the content area is even stranger, especially as in my case, it stays within it.

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Bush dog

The next morning, the group left early because they had a very long road. We went to have a look at the waterhole. No animals, so we left the park. We just stopped at Maun in order to go shopping. We had not booked anything in Moremi. Indeed, there are a lot of places in the public campsites. We set up our camp at North Gate and went on game drive.

 

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We had dinner with, nearby, the presence of a salivating hyena. In those big campsites, one can regularly see hyenas, baboons and from time to time lions, attracted by cooking smells. The bins are solid steel cages with thick close bars, firmly anchored in the ground. Nevertheless, especially baboons, they show great ingenuity in arriving to extract food scraps from it.

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Bush dog

The next morning, we had one of my best leopard sightings. First, it plays a game of hide and seek with us, disappearing in thick bushes and reappearing on the other side. Then it arrived in a clearing with a beautiful thick tree. It smelt the trunk and decided to climb on it. After several changes of position and took different poses, it decided to go back on the ground. Then, further, it climbed on a second tree and went straight to the top, drove a vulture, scanned the surroundings and down again. The show was over, it definitely vanished in the tall grass.

 

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Bush dog

Apart from many elephants, the afternoon was much quieter.

 

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This time, we had dinner with, nearby, the presence of two salivating hyenas.

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Tom Kellie

~ @@Bush dog

 

The tusks of the elephant on the left seem exceptionally massive.

Am I imagining that?

I've looked at the images for several minutes, unable to toss out the impression that the circumference of each tusk where it's nearest to the skull is very thick.

Very impressive! The tree foliage looks so vividly green.

Thank you for posting these images.

Tom K.

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