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Botswana Botswana Explorer’s route 2018: What could possibly go wrong?

Peter Connan

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Peter Connan

Which is one I missed completely!


Also,as you can all see from the last photo @xelas posted, this road was so busy that we made our fire right in the middle of it, and nobody showed up to complain!

Edited by Peter Connan
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Peter Connan

Day 2:





The day broke with heavy cloud to the north. JJ wanted everyone to get coffee and breakfast before packing up camp, but they had scarcely made fire when it became evident that we were about to get wet. I took this as my que and Sonja and I put our bedding back in the roof-tent, packed up the ground sheet and folded up the roof-tent just as it started drizzling. Then we started with Alex’s tent. This is an old-fashioned dome tent which is clipped to a spring-steel frame. Un-clipping it takes around 2 minutes, and by the time this was dome, dams were forming on the heap of canvas that had just been a tent, so hard was it raining. By the time we had it folded and packed (another ten minutes) we were drenched to the bone.


Around this point people started shouting at us to stop breaking the rules, so we folded out the awning again and stood around watching the rain. I think everybody expected it to stop within minutes, but it eventually became evident that it was going to carry on for a while yet, so eventually the concept of coffee and breakfast was canned, and we completed striking camp.

Of course, shortly after we got moving, the rain did stop, but we carried on going.



Wet wet wet


Shortly we found our first muddy patches, and playing it carefully, JJ asked the convoy to stop while he went ahead, but the mud wasn’t too bad and we all got through without incident.



First mud



Part two














In the cut area, they had left the odd big Marula tree standing, and we stopped at one of these for the kids to taste the iconic fruit. 

Alex used every such oportunity wisely!






Grey-headed Sparrow





A little while later we also had to detour around a steep hill.



The hill


Coming down the other side of the hill, a broad vista of beautiful countryside lay before us, the town of Lephephe barely visible in the distance.









Butterfly Bonanza



Common Scimitarbil


However, the town held no romance and little of interest for us, and we were soon clear of it, continuing along the cut-line.

However, what had been a deserted and little-used two-spoor was now the primary access road to the diamond mines inside the CKGR. A fairly broad strip of heavy sand, with the one side obviously being used by the large six-wheel-drive articulated dump-trucks, and the other by smaller vehicles.

In the direction we were travelling, the dump-trucks were using the left-hand side, which meant that we were now driving on the wrong side of the road, so each time a vehicle approached from the front, we had to make way. This happened three or four times in the next 100km or so. At around mid-day, we halted for a quick lunch.







Lunch break


A side note on driving technique: when driving in deeply rutted sand roads, the vehicle want overwhelmingly to stay within the ruts, and it sometimes seems as if one can leave the steering wheel. DON'T! It may suddenly change it's mind, and many vehicles have rolled like this. The other opportunity for rolling is when trying to get out of those ruts, such as when trying to make room for other traffic. This must always be done slowly, and keep your hands on the wheel in the same place, so that you can only give half a turn of lock. I have found that taking one's foot off the accelerator helps the car find grip to climb out of the ruts.


Eventually we reached the turn-off to the mines, after which the road again became a tiny little two-spoor. As we were now travelling along the border of the CKGR, or possibly even inside it (there were two parallel roads in some places), we all kept our eyes open in the hope of seeing some game, but with no luck.



Applies to Bee-eaters too!


The miles rolled on, but because of the good rain there were no open areas to pitch camp on, and eventually we just pulled off the road and made camp.
















Red-eyed Bulbul with dinner




JJ (or maybe I should say Piet) made us a nice filling Spaghetti Bolognaise before we retired for the night under threatening skies.


Edited by Peter Connan
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@Peter Connan Very atmospheric shot of the rain approaching and I really like the BIF captures.

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I've been looking forward to this trip report @Peter Connan and @xelas! Nice to have the combined narrative and photos...very enjoyable so far and some great photos!


I'm disappointed to see that there weren't and Discovery 3's in the group though. That could have been a real adventure! :rolleyes:

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1 hour ago, Davesg said:

I'm disappointed to see that there weren't and Discovery 3's in the group though. That could have been a real adventure! :rolleyes:


Welcome aboard, Dave! You are well versed in all sorts of "What could possibly go wrong?" so you will enjoy this report.

About Discovery #?! Hmmm, maybe next time when there  will be also a flat bed truck :D:P:lol: in the caravan.

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Great report and wonderful pictures for both of you @Peter Connan and @xelas

The bird with the "dinner" and the one with the butterfly are terrific :D


I'm looking forward to reading next posts.

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Peter Connan

Thank you very much @pomkiwi, @Davesgand @Levante


Dave, stay tuned, you may be surprised!

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Day 2 (30th March):


My first night in the ground tent in Africa ... I have slept like a baby! It was a really long day, and all the excitement etc. However, when I have seen the sleeping mat that Peter provided for me, I was a bit nervous. Even the tarting the years of the 7th decade of my life requires some creatures comfort. Yet, this night and every other night I have slept well, and what is even more important, in the morning I was able to get up without any much problems.


On forums there are many debates about ground tent vs. roof top tent for camping in Africa. After testing both, personally I prefer the ground tent. Putting it up and down requires about the same time as for the RTT with the benefit of no climbing up the vehicle is necessary. As I am a bit vertically challenged I was able to stand up when putting my clothes off and on. It was never too cold or too hot inside the tent (which depends on the month of the year and the location). Not one mosquito found its way inside the tent. The only area where the RTT is better is in the perceiving safety feeling.


Ground tent vs. roof top tent



Morning was fresh and clouds were rolling above us. Now, as anticipated already yesterday, my (our) birding plan was to wake up early, get out and browse for birds around nearby bushes. That was an excellent plan with only one weakness ... those same bushes were also heavily sought after by people with shovels !! And it does not feel right to walk around them with a long lens in your hand :rolleyes:.  Oh well, what to say, basic needs have always right of the way.



Piet and JJ optimistically started to prepare our first breakfast. If JJ is showing me that the breakfast is this close or something else I have not asked him.





At that moment the breakfast was much probable option ...




but not 10 minutes later a huge rain shower drenched us all :(.





What we have learned in next days was that also all of the breakfast supplies were drenched; so no more breakfasts prepared by JJ, only hot coffee was there each morning done by Piet. 


After about an hour the rain stopped and we were ready to roll ...




... but not before last minute exchange of vital informations.





It was a long way ahead of us. Some stretches of this drive were quite boring for the passenger, at least the one on the rear bench (me). The landscape is much less interesting as the one I have seen in Namibia. Also, the fact that on all my previous travels I was busy being a sole driver, and here this was the job of Peter, there was not much to do. Here I need to mention that in our vehicle we have had an excellent DJ who took care of the music during the entire length of our adventure. Thank You, Sonja!





Pit stops have very strict rules: Ladies left side of the road, Gents rights side of the road, kids stays on the road!





I was trying to use every available opportunity to go around and get some birds photos. These two are the best from day 2:


Rattling Cisticola



Marico Flycatcher




Ladies were asking if there is any shop at the mine, and if it is open; JJ was cautious enough (= bribed) to say No!





Clouds were rolling above us all day long which produced some striking views.





This evening our leader decided for a very strange place to set the camp ... almost in the middle of the road! We did put down the warning triangles at both sides to warn the potential drivers about our tents and tables and chairs.



We have camped somewhere ... there :ph34r:!





That must have been a very important family discussion. By the inclination of the Patty (yes, every proper off-road vehicle needs a name) I would say the topic was about who will sleep on which side :rolleyes: ..





For dinner it was time to organise a well maintained road block ^_^; what was the reason for the protest I don't know, yet after the dinner served, I could have an idea or two :P.





Being it a sunrise or a sunset, Africa sky is always full of magical colours!









Edited by xelas
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Love it! @xelas your sense of humour has made my evening! :D


After your comment about our misadventures Pippa says you might get some Brooklax in your next meal here in Cape Town! :P

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Enjoying this immensely so far!  I'd love to do something like this but alas it will have to wait another 3 years.  I really do dream of these types of adventures.  

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Peter Connan

Day 3:




By now we were roughly a day behind schedule, and so it was decided to take the next big cut-line to the east, to join up with the Palapye-Lethlakane tar road.



Shaft-tailed Whydah



White-backed Vulture



At this point, mud was still fun and exciting!








Just before reaching the tar road, we stopped for a quick lunch. Arriving in Lethlakane around 14h30, we filled our tanks and brimmed our jerry-cans and water tanks, as the next stretch would be the long one, before heading to the pans. Of course, there are shops in Lethlakane, so we lost even more time, and we only got out of town at twenty to four. At Mmatshumo we turned off the main Kubu Island road, and headed a bit further east before turning North again. This section was scrub Mopani, and at some point we stopped and collected some dead stuff for firewood. There were many puddles of water in the road, some quite extensive, probably reaching 400mm deep in places. Eventually we broke out onto the pans, to be met by an amazing sight. Ntsokotsa pan is a probably one of the smaller pans in the area, being only about 6km x 8km, but it was full of water. It f there had been waves, it would have looked like we had arrived at the ocean! Without further ado, we set up camp.



Full, but yet more!



But a rainbow promises relief

I set up my camera to take a series of shots for a time-lapse video. But as it got dark, many didn't notice it.

Graham brought his chair and sat down right in front of it.




Not that I can blame him. The susnet was glorious!



Heading to the toilet with the best view in the world!









Swimming in the pans.



What a view







Most of us then proceded to go swimming in the pan. It wasn’t very deep, but still, about 20-30m in, it was close to waste deep, and there must have been many millions of litres. To top it all off, there was a beautiful sunset with patches of rain in the distance. \


We were responsible for our own dinner tonight, which in our case was Lasagne (which Sonja had made at home) and gem-squash. Possibly the best dinner of the trip!


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11 hours ago, Davesg said:

After your comment about our misadventures Pippa says you might get some Brooklax in your next meal here in Cape Town! :P


Dave, I could use some of those already in Botswana :D

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Elsa Hoffmann

It feels like I am traveling with you. Love the report 

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Game Warden

What an adventure...

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7 minutes ago, Game Warden said:

What an adventure...


And the best parts are still to be posted !

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Elsa Hoffmann
Just now, xelas said:


And the best parts are still to be posted !

Thats the part that scares me haha - MUCH safer traveling here on my Mac... 

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Game Warden

Is there to be an essential packing list?

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12 minutes ago, Elsa Hoffmann said:

Thats the part that scares me haha - MUCH safer traveling here on my Mac... 


I've done it anyone can do it, specially you, Elsa! With Peter and Sonja each trip is as safe as it can be ...

Edited by xelas
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What a great story to read and truly brilliant photography @Peter Connan and @xelas ! I am with Elsa in feeling that my Mac is the best place to live this adventure with you....

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Day 3 (31st March):


It was raining hard during the night! Not good. Positive news was that the tent has withstand all what rain god has thrown at it, not a drop inside it. It stopped before morning, and we woke up into a dry and crisp morning. Due to previous morning disaster our breakfast were coffee and rusks both prepared by Sonja.




While Peter took his chances at birds, I have looked for smaller inhabitants of the dunes.







As there was no communal breakfast the convoy was ready to start, all lined up and with spotters in their positions.









Driving was steady but at relatively slow speed so I have tried my PIF skills for the first time. Not bad results, I recon


Melodious Lark 



Greater Kestrel



Lilac-breasted Roller



Pale Chanting Goshawk




Then we have encounter a couple of water puddles, probably left-overs from the night showers. Here finally the kids behind the wheels got their chance to play in the mud :rolleyes:!











Not everyone was doing it straight, some like it sideways :o.





After finishing with the sand tracks and before entering on the tar the tyre pressure has to be increased. There were some serious machinery at work for this task to be completed quickly, not like the small battery-charged compressors that rental car companies are supplying with their vehicles (and it takes ages to get the pressure from 1,2 bar to 2,0 bar :angry:).









The not so small but very dusty and boring-looking town of Lethlakane I have remembered because here I've been bitten by a mosquito; one of only 2 bites during the whole trip! Why did I remembered that one bite?! Well, if you will stay to the very end of this trip report with us the secret will be revealed.



Edited by xelas
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After leaving Lethlakane behind, and driving on a tar road for some more, there was another turn left into the dense bush. And in that dense bush our enemy was lurking at us! Not that we knew at that time this will become our fierce enemy; it was a bit unnerving but having confidence in Peter's driving skills, it was more fun and thrill ...









After several wet crossings we have emerged on what should be the start of the dry pan ... yeah, sure, after all that rain in Botswana, what were we expecting to find?!





While others were starting to work on the camp the bravest have decided to test the water. It was not deep, and until stirred it was clean, and for sure it was soft and salty and probably full of minerals! Many have decided to finally wash themselves, me included, while others have happily pretend to be at the coast of a lake if not of an ocean.









Colours of the sky have been tremendous, and were changing all the time. Many have just absorbed the show that only Mother Nature can put together, from the first row seats.











We all knew Peter other passion is night sky photography. To his disappointment not only passing clouds but also the full moon have prevented him any chance of giving us yet another splendid night sky photo. Myself I have tried my luck with moon, handheld. Not a bad result IMO.









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"Why did I remembered that one bite?"


Did you get Malaria?  I'm betting that's why you remembered it...

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How much is your bet, Daniel?

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Nice TR guys.


@Peter Connan - are those screens on the bull bars of some of the vehicles to keep grass seeds out of the radiator grill?   Or some kind of dust prefilter?

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