A Final Wrap Up

 Posted by Elizabeth at 9:23 am
Feb 192012
 

I thought it was about time I posted a final wrap up, after all we have been home now for nearly 5 months!

Our last couple of days were spent driving back to Johannesburg, so not particularly exciting. When we got to the airport things started to go wrong. Firstly we tried to check in our baggage to be told it was over weight and we would be charged an exorbitant fee to get it home. It was the same baggage, without all the spare toiletries we brought over with us, so would have been quite a bit less than what we brought over! They would not budge. They told us though that we could rearrange our baggage and move stuff to our hand luggage. Huh? How does that work? It still weighs the same amount (and our hand baggage was overweight, but they hadn’t figured that out). OK so we moved stuff around and managed to make them happy – still don’t get it but we were able to get through without us costing anything.

Next was immigration. We handed them our passports and the guy started to get revved up and excited, telling us we had overstayed our visa. What? How does that work? We haven’t been in South Africa for months. He was quite rude and aggressive but finally told us that the initial 90 day visa we got on arrival also meant that we could not come back in from a neighbouring country after the 90 days without going back to our home country first. Oh and the fine was something like $1000 a day that you overstayed. Where does it say that? (I have since checked and I cannot find this anywhere on the SA Immigration website). This is obviously to stop border runners, but it was pretty obvious from the stamps in our passport that we were not border runners – we’d been to Egypt for goodness sake! He took off with our passports and finally came back with his supervisor, who thankfully was sensible. She could see it was an honest mistake and let us go, but advised us that if we ever come back and travel around that we get a proper visa rather than one on entry so we can come and go as we please.

Finally we made it through and were on our way home. Whilst we wanted to see our family, neither of us really wanted to go home or go to work. Before we left people kept telling us how dangerous Africa is, that we were crazy, we should take a gun with us and so on. We landed in Sydney only to find out that someone was shot outside the local police station (maybe 5 km from where we live) and we supposedly live in a nice quiet, safe suburb. Just goes to show it doesn’t matter where in the world you are, things happen. You just need to be sensible and don’t put yourself in situations.

Would we do it again? ABSOLUTELY!


Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

 Posted by Elizabeth at 6:23 pm
Sep 262011
 

The last park of our African adventure was the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP). Everyone we spoke to raved about the park, especially the number of lions present so we were really looking forward to it. We left Kang and travelled through quite thick, sandy roads to the Mabuasehube gate on the Botswana side. The park is a multinational park with one side in Botswana and the other in South Africa.

Gemsbok, Kgalagadi Transfrontier ParkOur first camp was at Khiding Pan 2 for 3 nights. The camp is in a great location overlooking the pan and all the campsites have large shade shelters, pit toilets and showers (if there is water). We parked the car and started to setup camp looking forward to a pleasant afternoon relaxing and watching the animals. Unfortunately the few bees that were there initially multiplied dramatically and by the time the tent was up there were hundreds of bees swarming us. I couldn’t stand it so retreated to the safety of the tent. Poor Wayne managed to throw everything back into the car, getting stung twice in the process, and we decided to try the campsite next to us to escape the bees. Luckily no one showed up and the bees weren’t so bad. (Typically, all the campsites are booked, but inevitably there are vacant sites in reality). All we heard during the night were hyenas. Not a single lion! We also saw a brown hyena walking down the road – another first for us.

Springbok, Kgalagadi Transfrontier ParkThe next day we took a drive to check out the other pans and campsites, trying to find another one to move to as our booked site was still swarming with bees. At lunch we stopped at Mabua 4 and waited to see if anyone would turn up. A group of 6 South Africans arrived on the site beside us and we chatted to them for a while. About 4pm the guy (Alan) staying in the site we were on turned up. Both groups were more than happy for us to park ourselves between them, which we were very grateful for. We had a great night chatting around the campfire with the group of South Africans. Nothing at all was heard that night and we had not seen much at all during the day.

Gemsbok, Kgalagadi Transfrontier ParkOn our third day we were still struggling to find much game at all, with Gemsbok and Springbok about the only animals out on the pans. We were tossing up whether we should head across to Nossob in the South African side 2 days earlier than planned to try and see these lions everyone told us about. We ran into Isaac and Liesel, who we had met in Chobe, and after talking to them for a while we made the decision to head across the park. The Botswana side of the park though is really nice, the camps are rustic, peaceful and isolated and a perfect place to chill out, but as this was our last park we wanted to see some animals.

Crimson breasted shrike, galagadi Transfrontier ParkAt 11am we were packed and headed off towards Nossob. The road is about 200km and was pretty awful, ranging from thick sand, small dunes to climb over and terrible corrugations. We arrived at Nossob about 6pm and as we expected they found us a place to camp. Nossob camp is fenced and quite civilised with fuel, hot showers and a shop, along with quite a few people. We finally heard lions during the night which was fantastic!

The drive across somehow managed to destroy our battery system so we could no longer start the car using the primary battery. If we joined both the primary and secondary batteries it would allow us to start, we just needed to make sure the fridge did not drain the second battery too much. This is pretty much what happened when we had to replace both the batteries in Nairobi, and given that they are only about 2 months old I am quite sure it is an issue with the battery management system and not the actual battery. Oh well, it only has to survive a few more days and it will be back in Johannesburg and Bushlore can get it seen to.

Meerkat, Kgalagadi Transfrontier ParkThe next day we drove south towards Twee Rivieren with the hope of camping at Rooiputs (which is in Botswana and therefore a rustic bush camp). Luckily the camp attendant was on holidays, so we picked a spot and waited to see if anyone would show up. As it turns out a couple we helped to jumpstart their car in Mabua had left us a note as they had told us they were not going to use their booking for the previous night and we were welcome to take their site. We had already paid for a Botswana campsite in Mabua for the night so we were just moving camps (if there was one free). No one showed up and we spent a nice night at Rooiputs as we waited for the lions to come through camp as people told us they have never been to Rooiputs and not had lions in camp. You guessed it, no lions showed up! We didn’t even hear one.  On our way down though we did see 2 lions off in the distance so I guess that was something.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier ParkWe headed back up to Nossob where we spent the next 2 nights. On one of our drives we got to see 2 lions mating. Man do they make a lot of noise! We also saw 2 lazy lions chilling out under the tree beside the road, as they usually do. Finally we managed to see some Meerkats for the first time which were very cute. Other than that the game was still fairly sparse, although definitely better than in Mabua. No more lions were heard, just hyena and jackals.

 

Kgalagadi Transfrontier ParkKgalagadi Transfrontier ParkKgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Kgalagadi Transfrontier ParkOur last night was supposed to be at Twee Rivieren, another fenced and civilised camp, but we were hoping to be able to stay at Rooiputs again. As we were about to leave Nossob, Alan (who we had met in Mabua) arrived and invited us to share his camp in Rooiputs – fantastic! We headed south again and on the way saw 2 lions with their gemsbok kill lying under a tree. They were both very full and their faces and paws were covered in the blood of the gemsbok. Yet again no lions were seen in camp although we were told that a lion parked itself between the shower and toilet for several hours the night before in the camp we stayed at a couple of days prior – typical. We did hear them during the night along with hyena. We also saw our first african wild cat, which looks just like a regular cat.

During our time in the park we managed to see red hartebeest, gemsbok, springbok, brown hyena, dik dik, ostrich, wildebeest, steenbok, lion, ground squirrel, meerkat, black-backed jackal and african wild cat. It is a great park and we will need to visit it again and see if can we find a few more of those lions.


Back to Maun

 Posted by Elizabeth at 4:20 pm
Sep 192011
 

Once again we found ourselves in Maun in order to prepare for our last park in Africa, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. On our way back from Moremi we had to pass through a vet fence, which unfortunately we didn’t realise was there. They had a field day and took our rump steak and boerworst, then decided they had to check for fruit fly. They took our lettuce, beans, snow peas, capsicum but were too stupid to see the tomatoes so we managed to keep them. If we had known we would have hidden some of the things. I still do not understand the logic behind the flow of food in and out of these fences as it seems to me that you can’t take stuff into Maun from the west, but you also can’t take it out of Maun to the south. So where exactly are they trying to protect? Maybe one day someone will be able to explain it all to me!

As we came into Audi camp we noticed the one and only white bell tent in Africa. It had to be the same tent that Tim and Anjia brought with them (a couple from England we met in Iringa and then again in Dar). Sure enough, a friend of Tim’s was here using the car and its gear. Talk about a small world!

After stocking up with chicken for the next 9 days as there were more vet fences to go through (there are only so many ways you can eat chicken, believe me!), we took a long, boring, tar road drive to Kang on our way to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP). We overnighted at the Kalahari Rest Lodge which was perfectly fine for an overnight stop with large campsites, although it was sandy.

Next stop the  Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.


Moremi National Park

 Posted by Elizabeth at 6:36 pm
Sep 172011
 

Moremi National ParkIt is a long drive from Ihaha in Chobe to Third Bridge in Moremi so we were on the road at 6.15am. The road is good tar for about 40km south of Ngoma gate, from there it becomes sandy tracks or gravel all the way to Moremi. At Chobe we were told that we would need to take the western transit road then head east through Mababe, entering Moremi at South gate and then head north to Third Bridge. When we got to the south of Savuti we forgot about needing to go through Mababe and turned west for Moremi North gate instead. The going was fine until a few kilometres north of Khwai where we came across a large expanse of water with what looked like a number of tracks through it. Wayne got out and walked them all. The best option was solid ground, but at one point it was deep enough to come over the tops of his legs and was about 15 metres across. Hmmm decision time. Do we turn around and go through Mababe or continue on? We decided to turn back given we were on our own and did not know whether there would be any other water crossings that were worse than this one. Just a couple of kilometres back though we came across a local heading the way we had just come from. He told us he was going to cross it, had done it the day before and there was no deep water further on. He agreed to cross first and wait for us to cross in case we had any issues so we turned around and went back. He crossed the water without issue, but it still took us a few minutes to decide whether we were going to cross or not, during which time a herd of elephants decided to cross a few metres away. We needed to cross now or turn back. With some nervousness we went for it and crossed without a problem. Phew! There were a couple of other smaller water crossings, although one was nearly as deep but shorter in length but they were not a problem. Once we reached Moremi North gate they told us we would still need to go down to South gate as the northern route was blocked with water, but we had saved quite a detour by taking the water crossing.

Red Lechwe, Moremi National ParkFinally about 5pm we arrived at Third Bridge to be told that the camp manager wasn’t there and they couldn’t decide what campsite to put us on (someone was already on the one we had booked). Another couple also arrived and were told the same thing. After about 30 minutes the guy told us both to go to the same campsite and share it in case someone else turned up and had booked the currently vacant sites. Hmmm I don‘t think so. Someone was on our site, but we had to share in case someone else turned up and we were on their site? In the end the other couple went to the site he said and I told him we would go to another site and IF someone turned up they could share (knowing full well the site we picked was really too small to share and they would put them on another site before they would make us share). Not surprisingly no one turned up and we had the site to ourselves.

09153126a_resizeThe camp is nice and our site was grassed although I don’t think all the sites are. The showers were really hot with full water pressure (always a bonus), clean and fairly new. The camp is on some water but the reeds are really tall and there was so much water around that we didn’t see any animals in camp. We heard lion a couple of times and hyena but that was about it.

As there was still so much water in the delta a lot of roads were blocked and impassable. It was worse up at Xakanaxa where we could really only find one route to take. The game was pretty sparse as well because of the water although we did see a cheetah and her cub and a pride of lions on our last day. During our 4 days there we saw impala, elephant, giraffe, kudu, red lechwe, topi, cheetah, zebra, wildebeest, warthog, hippo and lion although none of them in any great number.

Lions, Moremi National ParkSecond bridge was out and you either had to take a detour or do a water crossing. One day we were parked right near the bridge and heard two local vehicles coming at a hundred miles an hour towards the water crossing. One went through fine, the other though ploughed into the water and came to a grinding halt as they sunk into the mud. Turns out the first car took the usual route but the second one wanted to try one of the alternative routes to see if they could make it – and I thought the locals knew what they were doing! We went over to help them out. The winch really struggled to pull them out as they were buried up to their axles in the mud, but eventually it succeeded.

Both of us had really been looking forward to Third Bridge but in the end were somewhat disappointed. The park and camp are lovely but we were hoping to have animals in camp and lots of game around but the abundance of water meant that was not going to happen. Oh well, we’ll just have to come back again.


Chobe National Park

 Posted by Elizabeth at 8:10 pm
Sep 132011
 
Chobe National Park

We left Hwange National Park and headed for the remote Botswana border at Pandamatenga. When we arrived at the Zimbabwe side there was only one guy around who seemed to just man the boom gate. The customs guy turned up a few minutes later and the immigration guy probably after 10 minutes smelling freshly cleaned. […]

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