Sunday, 31 July 2016

Botswana

Charles and I were excited to be heading to Botswana, the two nights we had spent there coming from Zambia were amazing; lots of wild life, great people; so crossing the border we felt a slight feeling of trepidation! The border was fairly disorganised, much like when we went in, a lot of trucks and women doing very little behind counters apart from looking on Facebook! We have been at West African borders better organised and asked for less, than theirs! Anyway we got through only having to pay road tax, as our insurance and carbon tax were still valid.

All crossed and heading towards Gaberone we began to look for somewhere to sleep.. Having come from South Africa, Zambia, Malawi and Northern Botswana where finding somewhere to sleep was not a problem due to lodges being everywhere, we didn't foresee it being an issue! It was actually very hard, after trying 4 places, all of which were closed, we reached Modipane Rest Lodge by following some dodgey road signs! Arriving we found a lovely little place, however they wanted 250 pula to camp which roughly is £17 (14 pula to the pound). We settled on 200 pula (even then we grumbled) and we set up, we were both knackered, not having driven further than 20km the last two weeks doing over 300 was a shock (we had however, managed to power through Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.. Charles is addicted, even more so than me!). The site was lovely, nice showers and toilets, with a fire built and lit for us. The owner came over and chatted away to us, it turned out we were only  the second camping guests and he wanted to extend it further and add to it! He must have chatted to the staff because 10 minutes later a lady came over saying they had over charged us and gave us 120 pula back making it 80 pula for the night! It had gone from being very expensive to very cheap. Our first night back in the tent after two weeks of a warm room and comfy bed was a shock to the system, the night was cold and also noisy.. It was going to take a few nights to get back into the swing of things! 

Waking up in the morning and Charles was looking green and feeling rough! It seems he had caught the bug I had a couple of weeks ago, I knew things were going to be rough for him but he wanted to press on to Khutse, a game reserve 250 km further on. After stocking up, and buying a SIM card we were on our way! Having only bought a few food things, SIM card (data was so expensive £28 for 2 gigabites of data was the most we had ever paid by a long way), plus fuel we were realising Botswana was going to leave a dent in the wallet.. It didn't get any cheaper! On arriving at Khutse we paid 580 pula (£41) for 2 days in the park, and 1000 pula (£71) for the camping, park fees not as expensive as Zambia which were £51 per day but the camping fees were much cheaper! The park warden, when we asked him why the camping was so expensive he told us it was because they were run by a private company and not the government - we found the same in Nikya in Malawi. 

Driving in we were hopeful, the land was fairly dry, visibility over the grass mixed with some higher but lots of open pans. Sadly we saw only Springbok and Oriyx - both firsts for me but quite common animals! It took us about 3 hours to drive to the campsite and it was basic.. Pit toilet and add you own water shower! It had, however, one major advantage.. It was in the middle of nowhere, with no fences and next to all the wildlife! As the night grew darker, the stars came out and the jackels were barking, then quiet. It was very eary! That night it was freezing, two sleeping bags and Charles acting as a heater, could not shield from the low temperatures! We woke up to frost on the bonnet but the fire still burning which was a welcome break from the cold!

(The 'white' stuff is frost!)

We went out the next morning with high hopes. We were rewarded with some pretty cool sights, jackels, honey badgers, 30+ vultures on the ground and then up onto the hot air currents as well as the springboks and Oriyxs. We were very lucky to see a Bataleur eagle on the ground, Charles was mesmerised, one of his favourite birds just sitting there next to the watering hole! We spent the second evening in a similar fashion to the first, boiling some water for the DIY shower, lighting a fire and listening to the wild life around us. Charles was still ill, he isn't often ill so when he complains I know things are bad.. Very little was staying in or down, however that night he did manage something which was a relief! That night was just as cold, however this time I was prepared, wearing more clothes and managed through the night under the sleeping bags! 

(The basic shower!)

(Crossing the Tropic of Capricorn in Khutse)

Leaving Khutse we had to make a decision on the direction we wanted to head in, our aim was to go across the bottom of Botswana and into Namibia, travel up Namibia then cross back into Botswana to do the Northern parts. This meant from Khutse we needed to head along the Great Kalahari Road towards border - a journey that would take many days! We looked at the map and realised that Botswana really doesn't have much linking the tourist attractions (the parks), and that breaking up the journey was going to be hard! We decided to head towards Jweneng, a huge diamond mining town, a town I am pretty sure has been build and funded by the company who run the mine. We wanted to go and see the mine, and also saw there was a day park you could also go into (also funded and run by the mine company!). The slight catch was there was no where to camp, and wild camping around the area wasn't really an option. We arrived and spent an hour or so driving around finding somewhere, each place was either a wild good chase or full (with people working for the mine!). Finally we arrived at the Cresta Hotel and were told we could camp in their car park, fantastic, Charles was knackered and feeling rough so it was a welcome relief to hear we could stay somewhere relatively safe! All was well, we sat in the warmth of the restaurant deciding on the next day's plans and went back to reception to chat about where they wanted us to park and if they had an outside toilet we could use. It was at this point we were told we couldn't camp, the lady who said we could hadn't asked the manager, and the manager wouldn't allow us due to insurance and I guess their hotel licence (take me back to West Africa where they just don't care!). By this point it was 8pm and dark, all we wanted to do was sleep! We were very fortunate, the lady behind the desk at reception took pity on us and charged us a single rate for a double room (with our breakfast included), whilst it cost us far more than we would have ever paid it was somewhere to sleep and a warm room for Charles. It was lovely, the room was amazing, a huge bed, a television, heating, and a bathroom with a bath! Whilst it wasn't the original plan, we weren't complaining.. Breakfast was great.. Buffet style, all you could eat full English breakfast, fruit, cereal and freshly cooked muffins and scones.. Diet not going so well!! I think both of us have really learnt to take things as they come, plans don't always work out, and often they are out of your control, the main thing we have concluded is not to get annoyed at each other. It creates a much more positive attitude to work out how to solve something than get irritated.. It was like that that night. 

(A bath was such a luxury!)

We knew that our next distance was relatively short, only about 200 km, and it would take us to the outside of the Kalahari Game Reserve. The night before we had made a decision to not go into the Game Reserve due to the cost (the Botswana side is vastly expensive), and maybe go into the Kalahari Game Reserve if time and money permitted on the way back through. The Kalahari Rest Lodge was a perfect stop, large roomy pitches, a nice bar and a swimming pool were just what we needed - the site also included an orphaned 10 month old wilderbeest who we just gorgeous, he would trot around after one of workers there, braying loudly when he went out of sight! We nicknamed him William (sorry Will - my brother!). Charles still not well, was asleep after an hour of being there, I hoped he would finally be able to rest and sleep it off! 


We spent 3 nights there, chilling, chatting to family, wondering around and driving around their game reserve. It wasn't till be got in the car and headed towards the back of the camp site we realised how big the site was.. We drove for kilometres before we hit their boundary, past hunting lodges, lots of animals and birds. Just a really great place - driving around their land was free which was great- you could see all the local animals for 240 pula a day to camp! On our third night we met James, a Central African guide who is privately contracted out by tourists to take them mainly around Botswana.. It wasn't long before the beers were out alongside the maps with him plotting us a route for when we come back - all the smaller campsites and wild camping spots to make our stay more interesting (and cheaper!). 

Our last stop before crossing the border was Ghanzi, where we stayed at Thaduku Camp Site, a site similar to Kalahari Rest Stop. Situated in the middle of a huge piece of land, with the bar over looking a watering hole! Within minutes of being there we had seen wilderbeest, zebra, kudo, ostriches and wart hogs! Sometimes you don't need to pay extortionate park fees to see some beautiful animals! 

(View from the bar at Thakadu!)

So whilst I sit here with the above view enjoying a glass of wine, we are very much looking forward to Namibia, and also coming back here in a few weeks time! 

#botswana #khutse #tropicofcapricorn