Thursday 18th June 09 to Palapye
There are great showers here at Tzaneen and I get spruced up having a last look at the great views before I say farewell to Louis and head off. I have a long drive ahead and settle in for the day. Fairly uneventful except for a curious event at the border. I have stamped out of South Africa and go to the exit gate. The policeman asks if I have anything I shouldn’t, I ask for an example and with a huge grin he says ‘Like a special bomb!’ I tell him that if I make this joke I get arrested but it is a fun encounter. Going into the Botswana side I pay all my compulsory taxes and then head for the exit gate to find I have no exit pass. When the girl returned my passport she dropped it and the pass slipped out. I get it back, present it and am on my way. I arrive at the camping at Palapye and have an enjoyable time trying watching the 20/20 World cup semi-final between South Africa and Pakistan. Once a couple of the guys watching start referring to the Pakistan team in a derogatory manner my allegiance is with the Asian team. It isn’t everyone but when the few people make these comments they seem to carry a strange weight behind them. There is a nice German guy there who gives me advance warning that they have had a big amount of rain which has made the pans very wet. Watch this space!!……….
Friday 19th June Palapye to ? near Mea Pan (Bush camp)
I go to one of the parks offices to find out about the entrance fees for game reserves and then head towards a camp marked on my GPS. I head through a village crossing a few damp muddy bits (this is the dry season) and head up the main track. It gets bad and I decide to head back down the road towards the main road again. I go through a section getting stuck but able to self recover reasonably easy with my sand tracks. I decide to camp for the night and am completely alone but only a few kms from the village if necessary. A very peaceful night. I also lay out a tarpaulin and do my oil change putting the old oil in a jerry can and as far as I can see I leave no trace on the landscape other than my tyre tracks.
Saturday 20th June 09 Near Mea Pan
I try the road in the opposite direction intending to get back on the main road however there are some areas which I would not even go for in a fully prepared trials vehicle. I have to turn around but am slightly concerned about going through the bit that trapped me yesterday. I see no other choice and there is no firmer route than the ruts from yesterday. Unfortunately they aren’t firm enough. I am stuck. Worse than that I am stuck quite deeply. 1st I try getting the sandladders in but I don’t move forwards. Next I try the winch with my ground anchor but the route is too soft and the anchor ploughs towards me. Then I try Hi-lift jacking onto the sand ladders and small branches. All the time I am actually digging a little deeper and am soon down to a point where there is a wall of mud in front of the axles. I dig this out. I am joined by a man who lives down the road. His name is Matabi. He cuts a larger tree and I place small branches to stop the hi-lift sinking jacking the vehicle up to get these logs underneath the rear wheels. Combining this with the sand ladders the vehicle comes free till the next really soft bit about 10 metres ahead. I try not to let the wheels spin long enough to dig down but the ground is very soft and I am instantly in a fair rut. The process of before is repeated. It takes 6 sets of preparation and driving to finally get through the section onto solid ground. I am shattered as this has taken from 9am to 4pm. I give Matabi my trainers, which I didn’t want and he really liked and a bowl of shaving soap which seemed to be more of a favourite with him. I spend the next hour cleaning and packing the recovery gear and then move 2km down the road to be close to the track which I should be able to use to regain the main road. I am slightly disturbed when I hear the sounds of a vehicle struggling on that track and the sound of chopping wood before it drives away………
Sunday 21st June to Nata Bird Sanctuary
I drive to the main road having to make a few detours to avoid paths which would ruin another day. Once on the main road I head to Francistown and fuel up. I also get the wheels pressure washed as the steering is shaking from the imbalance caused by the mud in the rims. I then get on the road to Nata but am again having a large vibration from one of the wheels. I pull over and have a look and sure enough the guys had missed a big lump of mud. I clear this and then am on my way with no troubles. I pull into the bird sanctuary to camp and head onto their camping ground. I need to do laundry but have hardly go out of the car when a young man in a pickup pulls up and asks me to go and rescue someone stuck on the roads to the pan. I follow him out there and sure enough there is a Defender stuck. I walk out to them through the mud and water with the young man who’s name is Calvin. The ground is fairly firm on the one side and they are in the adjacent ruts. I plan the recovery which due to the nature of the ground I decide is best with the winch as I can stay on the firm ground. It all goes well and within ½ an hour they are out and we all head back to the campsite. I cook pasta and they cook meat and we all share. They are a German couple called Klaus and Uschi. (Sorry if the spelling is wrong). We all have a lovely evening chatting and it appears they are about to give up on their holiday as something has gone wrong each day. They wanted to see Victoria Falls but are thinking of turning around 350km short. I suggest that as it is a tar road they try it and if they don’t feel better after one more day then maybe give up. I think this has been just a little too many adventures in one trip but they will sleep on it.
Monday 22nd June to Kasane
I am up after the others as I am still tired from Saturday. Klaus and Uschi are heading north and I am pleased by that. Calvin is heading home and good luck to him. I am pleased to have met him. The road north is characterised by many potholes and some quite huge roadkill. I pull into Chobe Safari Lodge to use their campsite and am pleased to see my German friends have made it. I head to the shop for some food and see 2 familiar faces at the checkout. It is Will and Hannah, who I last saw in Ghana. It is good to see them again and I am invited for dinner. We have a good chat and I also see K&U who are happy they carried on and are booked to Vic Falls tomorrow. It is a good day all round.
Tuesday 23rd June Kasane
I have a rest day. I catch up on stuff with Will and Hannah and get some laundry done at last. K&U come back gushing about the Falls so I book for tomorrow. I cook for Will and Hannah and Klaus and Uschi join us later.
Wednesday 24th June to Victoria Falls
Up early and onto a bus to the Zimbabwe border. Why did I choose this side of the falls? Partly cost and partly wanting to get an idea of the position without hearing it from a media source. The visa cost is not cheap but Canadians pay more! The border crossing is quick and we drive to the Victoria Falls Hotel where you can go onto the veranda and take a photo of Falls and bridge. We are then dropped at the Falls park gate where we pay $US20 to get in. It is quiet and we go our separate ways to the various viewpoints. It is stunning. The rains they had have made it a greater spectacle than would normally be the case at this time of year. Outside the park I go to the bridge border post and get a pass from immigration to allow me into the no-mans land on the bridge to take more pictures. Many people try to sell me a bungee jump. They ask if I am jumping today but I reply that I am happy so I don’t need to, they don’t get the joke but get the message. Further back by the craft market the pressure selling makes me turn around as I am not really in the market for the curios and I don’t like being told what to do and where to shop. The ride back is uneventful but it is a trip I’m glad I made. As for the country, we had a guy who works there on the bus going into the country who was definitely trying to push the idea that it is perfectly safe and it is the media that has killed their tourist industry. I ask if the stuff about food and disease is true. He says yes but that it is still safer than South Africa. He says that they have had ‘only’ 8 murders of farmers in 1 year and that every country has similar occurrences but theirs make the news because ‘we have a stupid president’! He also says it is only the president who is anti-British and the people are very pro Brit. Who knows but as with all countries you can’t necessarily take the media or what a tour operator says as Gospel.
Thursday 25th June Forest reserve trip
Will and Hannah are off to the Forest reserve where they saw a lion the other day. I am invited along. It is a pleasant drive and we head off down the tracks. We have come in only their vehicle so we are cautious whenever we encounter any even slightly damp patches. Lunch is taken under a nice tree where someone’s camp fire still smoulders. The wildlife is scarce but it is a nice trip. On the way back I notice a bucket of lights light up on the dashboard and draw Wills attention to this. We pull off just as the temperature gauge is climbing rapidly and switch off. The fan belts have gone. With the help of a passing stranger the belts are replaced and all is well. We get back to camp and I cook bunny chow. I’ll let you puzzle over that one. Tomorrow I am off to take advantage of the reservations which Klaus and Uschi made in Chobi Park but aren’t taking as they had one too many animal experiences and are now taking the gentle way back. It is a well received gift. I am glad they have carried on to here as they are now back in their comfort zone and when they return to Germany I am sure they will gradually appreciate all of their African adventure. I am glad to have met them.