pgjonker.co.za

Part 1 – Cape to Kasane

[Also in Afrikaans @ http://pgjonker.co.za/?p=192]

BOTSWANA & ZAMBIA TOUR 2008

Part 1

(by PG Jonker)

Preamble

For years my wife and I have been dreaming about a trip to Vic Falls.  So when we heard that family and friends of ours are planning a tour to Vic Falls, this seemed like the time to do the tour.

Cape to Kasane in three days

Departure

Day 1

Our time of departure is somewhat hampered by the Department of Education and Training.  Two of the scholars on the tour must still write exams on the Thursday morning of our departure.  So we only leave after 11h00 from Durbanville.  Of the seven vehicles on the tour, only two will start their travel in convoy.  The rest will each be travelling on their own.  We’ll see where we meet up with the rest of the crowd.

By late evening we reach Kimberly, without having managed to catch up with any of the other vehicles in the convoy.  Half past nine on a Thursday evening we could find no take-away outlet open, and make do with the few day-old sandwiches left.  We get comfy accommodation at the Kalahari Lodge just South of Kimberly, pay a night watch a R50 tip to look after our packed bakkie, and get a wonderful night’s sleep.

Day 2

After an early breakfast at a petrol station in Kimberley, we travel to our destination somewhere way past Lephalale.  We hope to catch up with at least part of the convoy by then!

Our route takes us through the old Western Transvaal and through some towns that now apparently have rate payer’s boycotts.  I can understand why.

In the rural areas the landscape looks, well, less green than, for instance, the Boland in winter.

In Rustenburg I cannot help but wonder why they have traffic rules.  I’m the only one that sticks to any of the traffic rules and to the speed limit.  However, it turns out that these rules are for my protection.  If you stick to the speed limit of an absurd 80km/h on an open road, it is a lot easier to prevent a head-on collision with an oncoming taxi overtaking another taxi on a blind ascent.  This happens on a few occasions, with the occupants of the taxi appearing totally unfazed by the occurrence.

Eventually we reach Lephalale.  We establish cell phone contact with the rest of the convoy.  In spite of the town not being very big, various attempts to join our convoy turn out to be unsuccessful.  So we decide to go wait outside town for them to pass.

Shortly after we fell in at the back of the convoy it becomes dark.  The leader of the pack is driving pedal to the metal, and it takes some doing to keep up.  After a few turn-offs we were later not quite sure whether we were still following the right convoy.  Eventually we arrive at Mareba lodge, some 137km past Lephalale, finding ourselves to still be part of the right convoy.

The thing with these long distance travels is that one gets so absorbed that the whole day passes without you really taking much cognisance of what is happening around you.  As a result, after two full days on the road, I have only two photos to show for it.  Each of the reading on my GPS at the end of the day, indicating that we have travelled 953 and 958km’s respectively!

Botswana

Day 4

After a day of relaxation at the Mareba Lodge, we depart for Botswana.  We enter Botswana at the Zanzibar border crossing.  No, we were nowhere near Zanzibar, this is one of the crossings between Limpopo and Botswana.

It takes a while to do the paper work for the seven vehicles.  The low-water bridge takes us through a few inches deep water.

Limpopo

At the Botswana side Henk realises that he lost his folder with all the passports and his car’s registration papers.  A short but frantic search fortunately renders success.  The bag was left on the rear bumper of the Isuzu bakkie, where it merrily made it across the river without falling off.  One should bear this little spot in mind for your mother in law.

By way of natural selection the convoy splits into three smaller groups, with driving habits more or less dictating into which group you fall.  We take the rear guard, together with two other vehicles, being the slow couches in the group.

Not having been able to obtain Pulas before we left South Africa, I pull in at the petrol station in Francistown with trepidation.  I show the pump attendant all my cards that I have.  He chooses his preferred brand, and fills up my tank.  With abated breath I watch the attendant processing the transaction with my credit card.  It is a huge relief to see the transaction go through without any problems!  A first of many happy encounters with my credit card at the pay points of Botswana vendors.

At Nata we fill up again, and then we hit the road for the last 300km’s to Kasane.  The road is good.  We should be in Kasane in no time.  Not so!  The broad tar road becomes somewhat less wide as we proceed.  Then there is a board that warns against potholes.  No problem, fortunately I mos drive a bakkie.   Not too far off there is another board that says “Severe Potholes”.   Mmm.

Well, to cut the long story short, eventually we find ourselves on an extended series of potholes, connected with stretches of tar in between.

It will appear that trucks that otherwise would have travelled through Zimbabwe now take this route through Botswana.  And it is clear that the road is not up to the task.

Progress is slow.  My wife has taken up position on the back seat from where she manages everything but the bakkie.  She is the crèche, nurse, chef and entertainer, all in one.  All I need to do is to keep the bakkie on the road.

Quite often a large truck will approach from the opposite direction on our side of the road, as this side appears to be marginally better than the other side.  All we can hope for is for those drivers to get back to their side of the road before the reach us.  This all duly did, as is evidenced by the fact that I am here to relate the story.

Eventually it becomes dark before we reach Kasane.  Ever so often there are skid marks on the tar where, I would presume, Kudu’s caused some emergency braking.  Very often you can see the eyes of presumably Kudu’s next to the road.  The going is slow, and my eyes are strained to look out for any antelopes on the road.  At one stage my eyes start playing games with me and I notice a huge shadow next to the road.  It looks just like an elephant.  Then, as I pass within a meter of the shadow I realise it is an elephant, standing on the road, minding his own business.  We narrowly miss the elephant.

Eventually we reach Kasane.  Our el cheepo two way radio that we bought on the morning before we left successfully establishes contact with the rest of the crowd, and we join them at Toro Lodge a short while later.  The GPS is of huge assistance in the dark.

We manage to squeeze ourselves in at the overcrowded Toro Lodge where we stay for two nights.

Today we did a rather tiresome 753km.

Chobe

Day 5

A game drive through the Chobe reserve turns out hugely rewarding with a great variety of animals spotted.

Foto: Hanneke Loots

A Land Cruiser load of tourists all dressed in similar hats and dust masks (of the type worn against Asian flu) and with fitting long lenses turn out to be just as entertaining as the animals to watch.  OK, OK, I’m just jealous of those lenses.

The afternoon we take a boat trip from the Chobe Safari Lodge.   This is about as good as it can get.

Fish Eagle II

We spend quite a few hours on the boat, where the younger folks make themselves comfortable on the upper deck, and the old ducks preferring to stay below.

 

The number and variety of animals are immense.  The scenery is breathtaking.  The experience is simply something one will never forget.

Amongst other animals we spot a large number of hippos.  One solitary hippo looks rather more alive than the others, who admittedly were all sleeping.  Skipper, Moses, gives him a wide berth.  The boats do not respond well to aggressive hippo’s Moses explains to me.  He also shows me the marks on the boat of a previous encounter with a hippo.

Moses and the guide

Moses is a local who spent most of his formative years in Chicago, Illinois, where his folks started up a tourism business.  Now they are back permanently, having decided to retire in Kasane.

The cherry on top of a very memorable afternoon is the sight of two elephants fighting against the backdrop of the sun setting over one of the islands.  The bigger one of the two eventually manages to drive the smaller one off the island.

Clash of the Giants

In the evening I need to go fill up my bakkie, but is seems that the whole of Kasane is at the petrol station, with most filling up something like 5 litres of fuel.  It takes a while to get an open pump.

Continued in Part 2

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2 Responses to “Part 1 – Cape to Kasane”

  • PG. Right now, I am in Botswana and Zambia. That tower you had to sign into your presence in the area,reminds of something of the 1600’s The wildlife, eliphants,lions , what an experience. I cannot think of anything better to give the young ones today, then to experience life itself. Something they will never forget.Of course it never goes without its problems. You must be a great dad. sorina J

  • Awesome trip report PG.

    Thanks for sharing.