Caross News

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Belated Botswana news – Botswana to Johannesburg

After 7 months on the road we crossed what we thought would be our penultimate border and negotiated our last river crossing by ferry. Africa is always full of surprises and this crossing was no different. Following queues, confusion and a hefty R160 payment we managed to cross the river. Lucky for us we still had Rands tucked away. Caron was rather excited about entering Botswana but was also nervous. Despite having travelled in all sorts of terrain she had heard that Botswana was truly wild, sand roads and very sparse population. Anything could happen!

We headed for a campsite in Kasane and hoped for a cold beer overlooking the Chobe River. Success – we had awesome sunset views overlooking the Chobe. We got to meet a bush pig that could open marshmallow packets. We also started to encounter more South Africans, a reminder that we were getting closer to the end of our trip. The general idea at that stage was to drive through Chobe National Park to Maun, but an anthrax outbreak in the park meant that access to the river in the park was restricted; rains meant that the roads were potentially horrendous – time for a change of plans. We decided that we would quickly nip out to Namibia, drive across the Caprivi Strip and then back into north western Botswana.

Off we headed through another border post and giggled that the adventure certainly would not be over until we drove in to Johannesburg.

The Caprivi Strip has always been one of those places that stands out on a map, begging to be visited. On the ground it was fairly unremarkable, aside from its brilliant road. Yes we were definitely getting closer to home - the roads were improving. We even found a roadside pick nick spot, complete and clean. More remarkable was that we were able to use the picnic site without an audience gathering, Namibia and Botswana have far lower population than most of the countries that we had visited.

The whole reason for wanting to be in the North West corner of Botswana was to get to see the rock art at the Tsodilo hills. The road to the Tsodilo is legendary for being a test of ones 4x4 driving skills and we were rather apprehensive. Lucky for us the road has just been upgraded and provided very little challenge. There is even a sign indicating the turn-off from the main road. This was a wonderful surprise and certainly quite unlike other culturally significant sites we had visited.

The Tsodilo hills are three large lumps of rock that rise out of the flat Kalahari, male hill, female hill and the child hill. The hills house one of the most significant rock art collections in Africa. The camp sites were remote and had great facilities. We were free to wonder around the area, discover and view the art. Some of the significant art was marked but one certainly was left with the feeling that one had only seen the tip of the iceberg. The area is wonderfully peaceful and one leaves with reluctance. It is a very special place that deserves time for the adventurous spirit to explore and soak in its wonders and rich history.

From rock art to boat trips – we headed to Guma Lagoon were we were treated with an Okavango adventure. Our guide and ourselves began our journey in a speed boat and headed into the network of bulrush and water Lilly channels. My heart stopped as we zoomed past huge crocodiles basking in the sun. We picked up our makoro on one of the islands poled around for 2 days. Birds took off around us, red lechwe and situtunga leapt through the water. Luckily we did not have any close encounters with hippos and were able to relax and absorb the magic of the delta. The water level was really low but we were relieved we were not required to get out and push.

From the ground to the air – we headed to Maun and got in a plane for an aerial view of the Okavango. What an awesome treat! The plane dipped and dived as we saw elephant, giraffe, buffalo and vast herds of antelope.

Whilst in Maun we met up with Mary (we met Mary in Tanzania), drank copious amounts of red wine and giggled about our adventures. She recommended we head for the Central Kalahari as it had just started raining and everything was green.

Little did we know what a treat was awaiting us? Kilometres of sand track, green pans, open areas and loads of animals. The camp sites were very basic but good. There were pit loo’s and shower buckets enclosed in reed shelters at some of the sites. They were very well constructed and quite a treat. We were expecting the “Tanzanian hole in the ground”. We carried all water and food supplies. We spent our time gazing at awesome sunsets, watching lion mate and spar and cheetah hunt. There were both big and small animals. We watched ground squirrels for hours and found it quite fascinating how they use their bushy tails as sunshields. As we were leaving the park we saw baby bat-eared foxes. Wow is all we can say!!!! Caron loved the wide open spaces and says it was the one place where she truly felt free. Strangely in Africa one is never alone as little people pop out the bush when one least expects it. The Central Kalahari is one place where one is alone and it is a privilege. Thank you Botswana for giving us a truly “free African experience.”

Sadly we had to head home as they say, “time was not our friend” and time was running out. Xmas was one it way. We spent the night at the Karma Rhino Sanctuary and just absorbed the bush and all it had to offer. As we drove towards the South African border post we reflected on our trip and just tried to absorb all we had experienced. We chatted, joked and at times just were quiet in our own thoughts. All we can really say is how lucky we were to have had such an adventure. One thing is for sure we will start planning the next one as soon as we have touched down in the land of reality.

Our final night was spent at Marakele National Park in South Africa. Aaaah we could see we were home with all the kitted 4x4, caravans, bush toys and fantastic facilities. When we heard the hairdryer going in the bathrooms we knew we were home!!!!