Friday 26th June 09 Chobe National Park

I say goodbye to several friends this morning with Will and Hannah off to Zambia and Klaus and Uschi heading South. I receive several gifts of food and charcoal as my German friends will not be needing them and I will make good use of them. I pack up and head into the park. It is really quite lovely. I am Klaus Mais for 2 days and am booked to stop at the campsite Ihaha which, as I am experiencing while writing this, is full of noisy monkeys all around the tents at night. Hopefully they will go to sleep soon. I will try to get pictures sorted ready to send. I’ll have to be very selective.

Saturday 27th June 09 Chobe National Park

I have a nice breakfast and head off to view animals. Not a lot around for the first while but the afternoon brings some stunning sightings of herds of elephant. All in all a great day. At the campsite a group of around 14 girls arrive. I’m surprised they saw any animals because you can hear them coming a mile off. Seems to be keeping the monkeys away for now so it will be a different noise keeping me awake. Have to be up early tomorrow to try and get a good viewing in before leaving the park. I am going to let my Katse Dam friends down by going the long way round to Maun as I have had reports of the road being more difficult than normal and I am again only the one vehicle.

Sunday 28th June 09 To Planet Baobab Gwerta

I am up fed and away before most of the girls start clattering about and head along the waterfront. I see a raptor finishing off the remains of a buffalo and many other sights the highlight always being large groups of elephant. I then cut through the Kasane Forest Reserve onto the heavily potholed road to Nata. Main features of the drive are seeing a BMW X5 with one alloy shattered down to the spokes. Alloys aren’t for Africa. The other sad one is that I double my roadkill tally for the trip with a second bird unfortunately deciding to take off into me. Other than that it is a fairly difficult but uneventful 300 miles. I pull into a place called Planet Baobab for the night. It is characterised by several large Baobab trees which some people call the upside down tree. The place is a bit contrived but well thought out on the whole.

Monday 29th June To Maun

A fairly early start, in fact I think I am the first to leave and the road is very quiet. I take a back road (track) for a change from the tarmac and find it has no tyre marks since the rains. It is quite nice and was obviously once a main track which is now hardly used. I am rewarded by seeing a pack of hyenas coming towards me. They are bold as brass as they trot past. Back to the tarmac and another 100km on I get to Maun. I need to change money as I am down to my last 20 Pula (£2). Into the bank and the queue for Forex is quite long. It is here that I have an experience of how small this World is. A guy and his 2 kids come and stand behind me. I ask him a question which he doesn’t know the answer to and then we start to talk. Gets to the point where he tells me he is in the Landrover business and comes from a little place called Rosetta. This is near Nottingham Road that I mentioned on 19th May. Yes you’ve guessed it, I ask if his name is Paul. It is. He is the 2nd hand Landrover parts man whose place I called round at when he was out meaning I called him on the phone but never met him. He is a larger than life character and I hear quite a few tales.

I head to the Old Bridge Backpackers and get checked in. Only P30 a night so that is good although I may have to spend money with them on a Mocorro ride up the Delta which will be quite pricey. I head back to town to get provisions and am convinced I see Kevin and Lorraine on their bike. On returning to the backpackers sure enough there they are. It is good to see them again and we catch up on what each other has been doing. In come Paul and family and we now have a gaggle of people.

Tired I head to bed.

Tuesday 30th June Maun

I have declared today a rest day for me with a chance to take care of catching up on my blog. It is also a day to research and decide what to do here on a cost to reward basis. The one day mokorro trip is P550 and the 2 day overnight one is P700 with P50 to rent a tent as I didn’t bring a portable one with me. It seems like a false economy on this basis to do the one day and K&L agree. We all book for the 2 day trip. The rest of the day is spent catching up and also having Paul regale us with tales of 4WD trips around Lesotho and the like. The evening is taken up with making a chilli and preparing a stew to take for the overnight trip as it is self-catering. I get out the meths burner which I brought along with me to check I can use it. This will be a sort of back-up and also a test of whether it makes it into the small camping set for when I am back home. I head to bed at a civilised hour but the bar is close and quite noisy. It gets worse as there is a small group of English rugby fans who don’t know when to stop and they return to the camping area loud and raucous waking quite a few people. How embarrassing for us but fortunately we are not tarred with the same brush.

Wednesday 1st July Okavango Delta

We set off on a motor boat to take us to the Mokorro station. It is chilly and the river is running high. We are told to duck our heads to go under the bridge and he isn’t kidding. We pass the cricket (yes you heard correctly) pitch which is under about 6ft of water and after about an hour (we also pass a place which does paintball) we arrive at the village and are introduced to our guide Shoes!. There are 6 of us, K&L myself and 3 Dutch. 2 have been backpacking for 6 months and their friend has just come out for the last 2 weeks. We get into our boats and the polers push off. We are meant to cross the channel and Shoes goes first crossing easily. The next has the Dutch couple who made the mistake of asking if these boats ever sink. They hit the current wrong and their mokorro rolls over. They, and their gear, are in the water which is very cold. We are literally 200m into the trip. A motor launch races to pick the girl out of the water as the boy has already managed to climb into the only one of our 3 boats which feels stable. We successfully cross the channel twice as we all have to turn back. We get to shore and the kids are already changing clothes to ones that managed to stay dry. Camera gear is dismantled and laid out to try and dry. They decide they will not continue. We wait for a boat to come for them which is about 1 ½ hours and then we nervously set out. We have moved some of our valuables into more waterproof bags just in case. The trip passes without incident and we have a very tranquil time. I am slightly disappointed when we pull up to the island to see that there is actually a string of campsites albeit separated by about 150metres each. As we set up our tents Tee (my lady poler and, I find out later on, the mother of the guy who’s mocorro sank) shows the march of progress which I guess we can’t deny people but which rather takes away the feeling of being in the wilds, we hear the Nokia tune as she turns on her mobile phone!!

We have lunch then sit around a while. We then go on a short game walk and see elephant and wildebeest amongst other animals. It is then time to reheat our stew over the campfire and then a nice nights sleep ready for the following day.

Thursday 2nd July 09 Okavango Delta

After a fair nights sleep our tents are rattled by Shoes who is getting us up for a game walk. It is just light as we set off. There are wildebeest and zebra and another group of tourists. Their guide gives a talk like he is in the Natural history Museum and can talk for Europe. Unfortunately every time we head off to get ahead they are suddenly with us and it rather gets in the way. We see some nice sights particularly the bucks splashing through the water but the 4 hour walk is easily enough. On our return Tee has been eating again. She eats more pupp than enough. We make a brunch and then wait while the polers rest up for the return journey. The return trip is highlighted by some elephant crossing the Delta. It is a marvellous sight. We arrive at the Mokorro station and bid our guides farewell moving into a motor boat driven by Martin, a 3rd generation Botswanan with roots in Ireland. He drives like he wishes he were still in his plane. We get back and meet up with Paul and co who are waxing lyrical about their trip to Tsodilo Hills. This sets it as part of my agenda even though it adds 600km to my plan. There is a band on and quite late on I am encouraged to join them for a few tunes. It is quite nice fun and finishes off the visit here nicely.

Friday 3rd July 09 to Tsodilo Hills.

I say goodbye once more to Kev and Lorraine. I take the new route out of the backpackers as the old one is now flooded by the rising waters. It is a long journey today broken by many veterinary roadblocks. When I am through the last control I head into a village to treat myself to beef, which is cheap in this country. I ask for steak and the girl brings a huge slab of meat. I ask how much and it is the equivalent of £1.50. The butcher carves it down a bit into several more than enough pieces. I then head literally to the hills. I can see why the San found this place special as it is 3 hills in the middle of a flat land. I head to the camping, which is free, and cook dinner. Stray cattle are on the site and throughout the night they keep everyone awake by rocking their cars as they lick the spray that was put on at the checkpoints. It is most annoying and at one point I get up and chase them down the road. They don’t bother me again this night but it is already very late.

Saturday 4th July 09 Tsodilo to Ghanzi

I start the morning off by packing up so I can hit the road after my tour. My guide is a nice young man who scrambles up the rocks with the agility of a mountain goat leaving the tourist floundering in his wake. Actually it wasn’t that bad but there were places where using two hands was necessary and the camera rather gets in the way. I would have to say the specimens of rock art here were not as clear for me as those at Kamberg but the significance of the location made it a worthwhile trip. We chat away about various things in addition to the history. Again I am surprised to see the mobile phone out on the tour. I don’t begrudge him this as you need to come up the hill to get a signal. It just goes to show that even though this is supposed to be a sacred type of place the reach of modern gadgets goes further. I purchase my first souvenir of the trip on the way out, a San bow and arrows. I justify this by the fact that on the cruise ships I toured the world and have one mask, two musical instruments and a wood carving to show for it. I head south knowing that the fuel to come here puts me seriously short of Pula. I had planned to fuel up to take advantage of the prices before South Africa but know I would have to take another hit on a foreign exchange so calculate that I can get across the border on the budget I have left but only if the accommodation is cheap. I arrive at the hotel in Ghanzi which does camping for P30 per person. Just on budget. Perfect.