Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200703 1 Botswana South Africa



THURSDAY 1 MARCH 2007 – It’s been dry night but the Chobe River is obviously still rising as the reception area is now surrounded by floodwater.  We have booked to do some trips and Stan secured us all a pensioner’s discount bringing the price down to P100 (£9) for the morning land trip, P90 (£8) afternoon boat trip plus P70 (£6.30) national park fees.  Anthony has decided to join us and Nikodemus picks us up in the Safari truck just before 10am.  It’s 10.30am before we set out from Kasane after paying for the trip.  Nick stops frequently to give us information including the fact that the Chobe Game Reserve is completely unfenced giving the animals freedom to move around.  We soon encounter antelope and see hippos in a pool.  Next sighting are elephants and one hovers by a mud bath but then decides he doesn’t like being watched and makes an attempt to charge us from behind.  Nick knows the routine and reverses towards the elephant, knowing that if he were to drive away we could be followed for hundreds of kilometres.  His tactic works and the elephant heads off.  Down on the flooded riverbank there are lots of hippos.  The tour boats arrive and one of them goes very close to them.  The hippos rear up and make aggressive noises so the boat starts to back off but there’s another hippo behind it.  This hippos rears up and the boat sways dramatically as it is hit.  It’s a double decker boat and looks very unstable but luckily they level out and move off.  We have heard that a boat sank here last week when a wave went over it and we can clearly see how accidents happen.  An army Saracen type vehicle comes down the track, the anti poaching squad.  Continuing our journey through the park we see the endangered puku antelope and get a rare sighting of wild dogs plus lots of other wildlife and birds and of course many of the elephants that Chobe is famous for.  Other than camping the only accommodation in the park is the Chobe Game Lodge, which attracted Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor on the occasion of their second wedding.  At over US$1000 night it’s just a bit over our budget.  Stop for our complementary drink and to stretch our legs at an area we are assured is safe.  We are looking over the river towards Namibia but it now looks like a huge lake with many villages cut off on higher ground in the middle.  Outside the camp heading back for lunch a green mamba wriggles across the road and a herd of goats are the only customers waiting at the petrol station.  Arrive back at 2pm giving us just an hour before our next pick up.  A different driver collects us for the afternoon cruise and there is confusion as to where the boat will be.  At the

First place the pier has disappeared under water!  Eventually track down the small, shallow 15-seater craft and take the last few empty seats.  Heading down the river gives us a different slant on the park and much better sightings of birds including the pied kingfisher and fish eagles.  Our tour company have provided us with a cool box of drinks and snacks unlike the other customers.  The sky darkens and we begin to see lightening and soon feel thunder booming around us.  Looking back we can see the storm fast approaching and feel rather vulnerable as the boat only has a narrow canopy at the back and guess where we are sitting.  We’ve just about got time to wrap the camera up before the deluge begins.  There are many boats on the river and they all head for the safety of the banks, or relative safety bearing in mind we are now much nearer the wildlife including lions!  There’s nothing for it but to sit it out and get absolutely soaked to the skin, unfortunately it has now gone cold and the rain is so heavy that it feels like hail stones.  After about half an hour it eases off and we wring our clothes out before sitting back on our flooded seats.  Our next stop is in the area where we saw the hippos this morning.  None of the afternoon boats go so close and the hippos are mostly underwater but we do see a few sticking their heads out to yawn.  After going a bit further and seeing a monitor lizard, kudu and an elephant we turn back.  The sky has brightened and the colours and reflections are magnificent.  We are absolutely frozen when we disembark at 6.30pm and get even colder in the truck driving back.  It’s a big decision whether to have a hot shower or just put warm dry clothes on but with the roast beef in the oven the van soon warms up and we get cosy.  Stan & Judy’s tent has held up well but neighbours John & Janet, who were out on a different boat, left the side of theirs open and are grateful to borrow a dry blanket and pillow. Anthony fares even worse as his tent was not waterproof but he dries his stuff with the car air con and will sleep there after he has eaten with us.  Steve chats to one of the overland truck drivers and learns that due to the floodwaters the ferry has now been stopped, the Chobe Safari Lodge campsite in Kasane has been flooded out and closed and the Zambezi Lodge where we stayed in Katima Mulilo is completely under water.  Reckon we should be thankful to just be travelling ahead of the problems.



FRIDAY 2 MARCH – The water has risen even higher so we are happy to be leaving and heading south.  No sooner have we left town than the skies become clear blue and things warm up again.  The initial good road surface soon deteriorates to Mozambique pot holed standards but fortunately there is little traffic so dodging the dips is easier.  Roadside wildlife is mainly donkeys but we also see cows and a lone elephant.  Whilst not secured in any way the donkeys seem to be mainly in groups of 3 at regular intervals, maybe the people coming through on carts swap them over periodically for a fresh set!   Just south of Nata we pull off to Nata Lodge.  The campsite is a very dusty area with no electricity but the ablutions are fair and the swimming pool area is very pleasant for an afternoon’s relaxation.  An overland truck arrives late and apologises for parking right next to us but it’s the only place he can fit.  It’s the first night of the tour so we enjoy listening in to their welcome speech and watching the tent erection demonstration.


P45 (£4) pppn


SATURDAY 3 MARCH – The overland truck leaves at 7am so induces us to make an early start.  The road surface is now better but the stupid donkeys are a hazard, as they seem to have no road sense.  There’s a definite case of “drop the dead donkey” as we see one that must have been killed by a speeding vehicle.  One group begins to cross directly in front of us; the road is narrow so Steve has no choice but to put the anchors on.  We come to a halt giving the last donkey a gentle nudge off the road.  The next thing to cause us to stop is a huge, approx 2m, snake wriggling in the road.  Steve is keen to watch it and take a photo but I am more concerned that it is coming towards us and may climb into the engine as I have just read a book where this happens.  Needless to say we get our picture of the black mamba and drive off without further incident.  Francistown is huge and quite a shock to the system having not been in a large place since Windhoek.  When we pull up for me to check out the launderette Steve notices a lot more water coming from the engine, the radiator hose has split.  He finds out where we might get a spare and we set off post haste.  We pull onto the spare parts shop car park just as the trickle goes into Victoria Falls mode.  A crowd of bush mechanics descend on us and we manage to get a bucket underneath to catch most of the fluid as they remove the hose.  The shop do not have the part but send Steve & Stan off to a place that might.  They return over an hour later, after visiting many other places, with no new part but a metal tube clamped into the old hose where the split was.  Steve soon has it in place and it seems fine.  Thank goodness the problem happened where it did.  Head to the shopping centre for a huge stock up at the big PickNPay supermarket having had to make do with small town shops for ages.  About 5km out of town the Marang Hotel and Casino have a campsite and it suits all our needs.  Judy & I cool off in the pool whilst Steve gets hot under the collar watching Liverpool lose.  For entertainment there is a wedding party having photographs taken and on the other side a bouncy assault course is being set up for kids so no chance of a snooze.  With broadband Internet (P30, £2.70 hr) as well we are well catered for. 


P45 (£4) pp + P20 (£1.80) electric


SUNDAY 4 MARCH – Continuing our journey south the road surface increases, as does the volume of traffic but this in turn reduces the amount of wildlife lurking by the roadside.  Again we go through meat control points, at one we just drive through an area that should have disinfectant in but is dried up.  Palapye town runs from the main road, where the bus station is, to the centre a few km’s off the road.  Behind the railway station we easily find Camp Itumela and get a friendly greeting from the

Manager Sue.  She immediately offers us a discount and invites us to select a site.  The ablutions are fine and there is a nice campers kitchen with tables, chair and cooking utensils.  The swimming pool is full of kids but still very welcome.  The on site bush pub and amusement arcade are the other attractions.  We cook our jacket potatoes on the communal braai and escape with just a few drops of rain in the evening and even fit in a late night dip in the pool.


P40 reduced to P30 (£2.70) pp + a one off P15 (£1.35) electric


MONDAY 5 MARCH- We are long overdue a serious lie in and organised for it last night.  Judy gets up very early so we don’t like to linger too long and delay them having breakfast.  However with a kitchen and fridge available we have given them the where with all to eat.  We are woken before 7am by very noisy campers, it seems that in Southern Africa no one shows any consideration at all be it late night or early morning noise.  Next there are cars coming and going and workers making a racquet nearby.  I sit in bed reading quietly and give Steve his best shot but even he gives up just after 8am.   I’ve been holding out for a campsite with a washing machine but to no avail.  I finally give up all hope and do it all by hand ensuring that the next site we visit will have one!  Stan & Judy explore the town with little to report.  Again we make use of the fire to cook our evening meal and eat alongside a mini tour group of 4 Austrians and their guide.  We get a few drops of rain in the evening and a couple of brief showers through the night but still nothing like the amount of rain they should be getting during the wet season, not that we are complaining!



TUESDAY 6 MARCH – Make an early start but just a few yards down the road I have to ask Steve to quickly pull over.  There’s a lizard sitting on his left shoulder but by the time he has pulled up it has jumped off.  We open the van door but Judy didn’t see whether it jumped out or back in.  A few kilometres down the road and we know the answer when Steve looks in the rear view mirror and sees it on the bed.  Stan climbs on to the bed to try and open the window but again it moves off.  The next sighting is when its head pops up over the kitchen sink bowl.  Again it does a disappearing act.  When we stop for breakfast and fuel at Sherwood, the last stop in Botswana, it’s hiding behind the cooker.  Immigration formalities are trouble free and we cross the Limpopo River at Martins Drift to enter SOUTH AFRICA complete with our smuggled lizard.  Just south of Lephalale we check onto the campsite at Molalatau Lodge, to be greeted by a horse putting its head through the van window.  They are busy making new cabins so it’s a bit of a building site but the fees are R50pp instead of R65 and there’s a nice area to relax by the 2 swimming pools.  For the first time since we left South Africa the swimming pool has clear water and it’s the length that enables me to have a good swim.  Share the area with the horse and a family of geese.  Late afternoon there is a bit of a commotion at the far side of our van.  A snake has been spotted and the workers are now chasing it around the trailer, luckily they kill it so another boomslang bites the dust.  Later on a family of mongoose emerge from under one of the cabins completing the wildlife sighting for the day.  In the evening the lighting flashes and thunder rumbles around us.  Eventually we do get quite a downpour and the electricity goes off, much to Steve’s dismay as we are staying here so he can watch football on TV later.  Luckily the rain stops and power is restored. 


R50 (£4) pppn


WEDNESDAY 7 MARCH – Another early start gets us a few kilometres under our belts before the sun gets hot.  Our journey takes us past lots of private game reserves; through the fences we see antelope and zebra.  After a quick shop in Thabazimbi it’s out to the nearby Marakele National Park.  It’s so new that they are still creating the roads making their map totally useless and enabling us to immediately get lost.   After ambling around aimlessly we eventually reach the campsite with 3 areas each having their own ablutions block.  There’s a waterhole nearby so we pick a site overlooking it.  At this stage the fence around the site consists of just poles in the ground and signs warning us not to venture further but little to deter the animals coming in to see us!  The normal weather pattern emerges and we get a late afternoon thunder and lightening storm with just a few spots of rain.  The waterhole becomes more active and various antelope, warthogs, ostrich, giraffe and zebra take turns to entertain us. 


R60 (£4.80) pp daily conservation fee, R110 (£8.80) campsite for 2 people + R38 (£3.10) each extra person.


THURSDAY 8 MARCH – We manage a lie in, as it’s very quiet.  Judy has been up early photographing the wildebeest near the camp.  Driving in to town Steve spots our hitchhiker lizard trying to climb over his window to get back in, this time he gets his marching orders.  The main town centre of Thabazimbi is off the road and driving to it we pass some enormous and impressive houses.  It’s all much bigger than expected and has everything we need.  Next stop is Pilanesberg National Park where we check on to Manyane Campsite by the entrance gate.  It’s a very pleasant site and as soon as we have had lunch we head off into the park proper.  Admission is a very reasonable R20 (£1.60) pp and R15 (£1.20) for the van and because we are staying on the campsite it covers us for tomorrow as well.  The roads are good, mostly tar, and with our R15 (£1.20) guidebook and map it’s easy to follow the signs to do a tour.  The national park encompasses an ancient volcano producing dramatic and changeable scenery and a wide variety of flora and fauna.  We soon see elephant, zebra and giraffe and a variety of antelope.  After a brief stop at the Pilanesberg Centre we head off towards Makorwane Dam.  There are hippos in the water, a leopard tortoise crossing the road but most impressive of all are two huge white rhino’s that amble very close to the van.  Leave just before the park gates close at 6.30pm and spend a quiet evening in camp.


R180 (£14.40) per site with electricity


FRIDAY 9 MARCH – We wake up at 5am and are amongst the first into the park when the gates open at 6am.  This time we take the dirt roads than run south and make our way back towards the dam.  We spot a lone rock with sheer sides and are amazed to see that a couple of small antelope are somehow clinging on to the side.  There’s little else to see by way of wildlife but the scenery and views are excellent and the map also gives info on noteworthy geographical, cultural and historical features.  We get a great view of the dam from Fish Eagle lookout but the car park is too sloping for a breakfast stop.  Mankwe Lake View Platform lookout car park suffices and after this stop we begin to see more wildlife as we loop back to the main drag.  In fact we see exactly the same animals as yesterday with the exception of a leopard tortoise that must have changed it spots and emerged as a hyena!   Back to camp around 11am and after making use of the R10 (80p) washing machines we walk out to the mini golf, aviary and day visitors swimming pool area.  There’s not much in the aviary as baboons keep breaking in and leaving big holes in the netting but a guide points out the few species that are there.  Judy & Stan head off on one of the marked walking trails whilst Steve & I play a couple of rounds of mini golf, R5 (40p) pp, for me to be whooped both times.  Late afternoon the campsite fills up rapidly with families and groups of young people out for the weekend.  By dark it is packed out and we are completely surrounded.  Our evening meal is delayed when Judy gets some sort of sting or bite on her neck but after a worrying half hour it doesn’t seem to have been from a wasp, from which she is allergic, and she is feeling better.  There’s a buffet meal, R110 (£8.80) on offer and we have booked a table by the swimming pool.  It’s a lovely setting and the others are soon getting stuck in to the salad starters whilst I progress straight to the next course, having checked out the desserts first.  Stir-fries are available and you pile up a plate with your selection of meat and vegetables for the chef to cook with a choice of 8 sauces, delicious.  Roast chicken, impala, beef and kudu stew are served with accompaniments and Steve is amused to find that when Stan & Judy get there the impala that he had has been changed to lamb.  Next time up he asks for lamb but the server insists lamb is tomorrow night and tonight is impala.   Returning to the table we have a big debate about what meat it actually is.  Throughout the night people are served alternately lamb and impala off the same joint so maybe it’s a cross and really im-baa-la meat!  Anyway it’s a lovely meal and we are treated by Stan & Judy but all have to admit to having eaten far too much.  Unfortunately when we get back we find that we are in the noisiest area of the whole campsite but after a polite request they do quieten down later.



SATURDAY 10 MARCH – It’s a noisy morning on the site so we are all up quite early.  At the sinks a lady tells me that when they returned to their tent yesterday baboons had broken in, taken all the food and trashed the place.  Even worse the tent next door had the same treatment but with the addition of the animals defecating on the bed – yuk.  Our journey takes us around the outside of the park but we still get a great sighting of a large herd of elephant.  Approaching Sun City every lamppost has an advertising sign.  Admission is either R65 (£5.20) to the complex including R30 (£2.40) of tokens to spend (opted for by Stan and Judy) and R120 (£9.60) admission to complex and valley of the waves plus lunch for us.  Split up and arrange a rendezvous later.  A monorail takes us to the heart of the complex where we first explore “The Cascades” Hotel with a magnificent garden and swimming pool area and fine views from the glass lift that goes up outside the building.  The only way to get to the pool area is to walk all the way through the vast Entertainment Complex past dozens of machines, no doubt a nightmare if you have children.  You emerge on the top floor directly onto “The Bridge of Time” themed Disney style to look like the ones we saw in Cambodia.  On the hour the lion roars, steam sprays out and the bridge shakes but it’s all a bit tame.  At the far end of this we go through enormous gates to the Lost City where “The Valley of Waves” is situated.  It’s basically a water park with a large main pool ending in a man made beach plus many other pools.  The water slides all have long cues and the lazy river is extremely lazy.  The horn sounds for the waves and I head into the pool to be surprised when a 2m wave appears at the far end.  It’s so big that a number of people manage to surf it onto the beach.  We leave to catch a bus to the lake at Waterworld behind The Cabanas, as there is a free boat ride at 12 o’clock and guess who else turns up for it.  During the 25min leisurely trip around the lake we hear commentary about the creation of Sun City.  Catch the wrong free shuttle bus and end up getting a tour around the huge timeshare complex.  Return to the main pool and figure out the complicated lunch system with tokens enabling us to collect each part of the meal from different places.  The burger & chips, drink and ice cream are soon demolished.  The free R10 (80p) pp gaming tokens defeat us as we can’t figure out how to use any of the machines in the games arcade so give them to a small child who can!  Above the wave pool is another fantastic area all made to look like it has been found in the jungle.  There’s an amphitheatre, Royal Bath round swimming pool, themed bar and then the Royal Staircase leading up to the magnificent and very pricey Palace of the Lost City Hotel.  We are allowed over the bridge to the entrance but only guests can enter.  However we do get to see a wedding party taking photographs and can get an idea of how fantastic the hotel is with each room decorated individually.  After a last swim in the pool we have a quick look in Sun City Hotel, where there is another casino area, before returning to the van.  Stan & Judy are catching a bus from Rustenberg on Monday and would like to stay in that area for their last 2 nights.  Easier said than done as the directions we are given to the nearest campsite are poor and we actually arrive at Bergheim Holiday Resort after reception is closed but take a site anyway. 


R130 (£10.40) per site for up to 4 people


SUNDAY 11 MARCH – Stan & Judy check into a room to enable them to get everything, including the tent, packed.  Steve starts to heat the wood on the braai to cook lunch.  It’s just about ready for the food to go on when the whole stand falls over.  No one is hurt and a couple of girls camped nearby come over and offer us extra wood to begin again on another braai.  They both work in the mines in the area and tell us the whole area is full of mines, which explains the expensive houses we have seen and the amount of money being spent at places like Sun City.  The second attempt at the braai works well and Steve cooks up a delicious last meal for Judy & Stan.       


R230 (£18.40) rondavel


MONDAY 12 MARCH – We drive back to Rustenburg and shop at the Waterfall Mall.  The Intercape bus leaves from the nearby Engen garage at 11am and Stan & Judy are booked to travel on this to Johannesburg, R114 (£9).  It’s the end of their Swatour Safari after travelling 6,000km through 4 countries.  Once they are safely on board we drive west on the N4 for 50km then 10km on dirt road to get to Kiepersolkloof, a naturist resort.  Derek greets us and show us to the camping area beside the “manor” house.  The farm area is owned by the 10 original shareholders who each have houses here and has now been extended to include swimming pool and other facilities for visitors.  There’s only 1 other person staying and she is leaving tomorrow so it’s nice and quiet.  It’s bliss to strip off and relax in the sun with no deadlines and time our own.  The dream is shattered mid afternoon when a storm begins and the temperature drops rapidly as hail begins to fall.  Luckily it doesn’t last long and we can soon go back outside.  We’re now noticing a big difference in the evening with darkness upon us before 7pm and a drop in temperature.


R120 (£9.60) per couple or R100 (£8) per night if staying for a week


TUESDAY 13 MARCH – We have a very peaceful and restful night and wake at leisure with no noise around us.  Set out to explore some of the many tracks on the farm.  Derek has said it is fine to look at the houses, as they are all empty.  Some are very grand and many have outdoor Jacuzzis.  In one tub there are 3 dead frogs so maybe this is a new slant on the song of 3 coins in a fountain – 3 frogs in a Jacuzzi?  Next we walk down to the dam and then continue into the Kloof (gorge).  Return to relax by the pool.  Steve is on the lounger when he notices a snake wriggling directly towards him.  He calls me so I can get the camera but as soon as he makes a noise it turns and heads off quickly.  Derek comes down to chat to us later and says the description of the snake makes it sound like the spitting cobra which disables you by spitting a very painful venom in your eyes, before going in for the kill.   



WEDNESDAY 14 MARCH – Wake up early but keep going back to bed for naps and reading.  The mornings are quite cool until the sun warms things up around 9am at which time we sit out for breakfast.  Derek calls down and says he is doing his washing and will take our bedding and towels.  He’s very interested in going to Australia so invites us up for an evening braai and suggests we take the laptop so he can look at pictures, little does he know what he is letting himself in for as we have over 10,000!  Just before we head up for the braai the sky turns black and a storms is looming.  We joke that we could be in for an English BBQ rather than an African braai.  Derek lives in the original farmhouse and has his own ducks complete with pond and a couple of horses stabled round the back.  Late afternoon a whirlwind passed through and took part of the asbestos roof off the stables.  Now the wind is getting strong as the storms closes in on us giving us superb views of the lightening as he has views all around from his house on the hill.  The rain passes quickly and Derek manages to cook the lamb and boerworst on the braai for an enjoyable meal.  Steve manages to get his hands on the remote control and find football on TV but luckily Liverpool is not playing.



THURSDAY 15 MARCH – The morning passes quickly as I try to sort out problems with Derek’s computer.  In the afternoon he asks Steve for help doing a repair in one of the houses and this leads on to a full-guided tour.  Most of the homes are 2 bedroom and fairly simple.  Last year a pre fab style 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom one with a small plunge pool changed hands for R40, 000 (£3,200) and R35, 000 (£2,800) of that was the shareholder buy out fee.  A more substantial 1-bedroom brick home more recently sold for R80, 000 (£6,400) plus shareholder fees.  In any other country this would be a serious consideration for us.  Derek joins us for a pasta meal, which goes down well as we are sat out by the pool at our candlelit table marvelling at the starry sky.



FRIDAY 16 MARCH – An English chap called Derek calls down and asks us to join him and his wife Annie for “sundowners” at their house.  He stops chatting for quite some time and has only just left when caretaker Derek’s Dad Joe comes to say hello and stops for a chat.  At 5pm we head off up the hill to where Derek and Anne have had a superb house built on stilts giving them uninterrupted panoramic views.  In our opinion it’s the nicest house on the farm with indoor and outdoor jacuzzi’s   We find lots to chat about and return after dark to find a caravan has arrived, Albert and Chantal from Johannesburg.



SATURDAY 17 MARCH – There’s a new naturist resort opened near Groot Marico and we have been invited over as guests so that I can do a report for the Australian naturist “tan” magazine.  Coincidentally Derek & Annie have also made arrangements to visit today so we get a lift over with them.  From the main Bonaledi Farm it’s a further 4km on rough dirt roads to get to the hunting lodge area (known as Kudu Manzi) used by naturists.  Shana and her partner Dave, who run Kalypso Tours, make us all welcome and we explore the area with a bar and snooker table, restaurant below and sunbathing terrace above the natural pool.  The other 8 couples are staying overnight and are shown to their rondavel accommodation.  It must be the only naturist centre where you can do a nude safari and ride around on quad bikes.  After lunch we stay chatting but unfortunately Derek wants to leave at 4pm and the safari doesn’t head off until 4.30pm.  Back at Kiepersol we are joining Derek and Anne for a roast lamb dinner but they drop us off at the van first.  We don’t even make it to the door before we are hailed over to the swimming pool to join Derek with his Dad Joe, Chantal and Martin & Naomi for a drink.  In typical South African style we are invited to join their braai but must reluctantly say no and manage to escape after a couple of drinks to join the others for our meal.  Everyone is so friendly and we are having a great time so will stay on longer.






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