Central Kalahari

 Posted by Elizabeth at 6:07 pm
May 162011
 

We left Maun and headed for the Central Kalahari where we would spend the next 4 nights. At Makalamabedi we crossed the veterinary fence where the car had to drive through a solution to wash the wheels and we had to step in some liquid that was apparently soda ash to clean everything in order to contain foot and mouth disease. In typical African style, there was no concern that we had cow dung splattered all over the wheel arches and other shoes that we didn’t wash.

The road along the vet fence to the Central KalahariWe immediately turned right and followed the veterinary fence all the way to the entrance of the Central Kalahari. stopping to collect firewood along the way. At first it was reasonably soft, dry sand which definitely needed 4wd and low tyre pressures, but it became much more solid after a while and less bumpy, so it didn’t take as long as we expected. (Our GPS said something like 6 hours from Maun to the entrance and the lady at the National Parks office said 3, but you can’t always believe their estimates as half the time they haven’t driven there anyway). We were pleasantly surprised that it was only about 3 hours and she was right. At the entrance gate we filled up all our containers with water for showering to see us through the next 4 days (the water at the gate is far cleaner than the water in Maun).

Gemsbok, Central KalahariThe Central Kalahari was not at all what either of us was expecting. Everything you read says it is a sandy desert and arid, so of course we expected a real desert. It was nothing like that. Yes it is a desert as there is very little water, however there was long golden grass everywhere as well as lots of bushes and even trees. We were told by a local guide that the grass does disappear later in the dry season, but even so, there are still bushes and trees.

There are a lot of animals there, most of which congregate around the various pans (Deception Valley being the most popular) however the variety is lacking. There were thousands of gemsbok and springbok, very closely followed by wildebeest and then ostriches. We did see a couple of bat eared foxes, which we have never seen before, a couple of kudu and warthogs, several steenbok and I think we saw a couple of  Gemsbok, Central KalahariSpringboks, Central KalahariWildebeest, Central Kalahari

caracals, but they disappeared too quickly to be sure. We didn’t even manage to see a lion, although we were told by a couple of other groups that there was a lion sitting about 200m from where we were camping, and we only heard them once, which was quite disappointing when everyone else seemed to be seeing them, but that is the luck of the draw on safari. On our last night we think we heard some sort of antelope being killed, presumably by the lion that was near our camp, as there was this squeal of pain which got weaker and then was gone. After 4 days of gemsbok and springbok we had definitely had our fill.

Vultures, Central KalahariCentral KalahariStarling, Central KalahariSteenbok, Central KalahariYellow-billed Hornbill, Central KalahariBat-eared fox, Central Kalahari

Kori 4 Campsite, Central KalahariWe camped the first and last night at the National Central KalahariParks owned Kori 4 and Kori 1 campsites for a total of $9 each night, and the 2nd and 3rd nights at the Bigfoot owned sites Passarge 3 and Sunday Pan 2 for a total of $50 each night. The sites are 100% identical and if I were to do it again I would use only the National Parks owned campsites and take day trips to the other pans, although the NP sites are around Deception Valley which seems to be the most popular place for the animals anyway. The campsites are the real bush experience with pit toilets and bucket showers, but they were great as they were remote and not fenced and you could not hear another person. Ground Squirrel, Central Kalahari

Even though it was not what we expected, I am glad we visited even if we didn’t see the lions and would probably do it again, but as I said base myself around Deception Pan the whole time, taking trips to Passarge Valley and the waterholes.

Maun

 Posted by Elizabeth at 10:08 am
May 122011
 

Rock paintings at Tsodilo HillsOur night at Tsodilo Hills was interesting. There were cows throughout the campsite, one of them with a lovely LOUD bell on it! We chased them out of camp several times but they kept coming back. At one stage during the night we could hear one of them right below our tent making one hell of a racquet. I don’t know what it was doing exactly, but boy was it noisy.

Our guide was supposed to arrive at 7.30am so we could do the walk to see the rock paintings. Not surprisingly, given this is Africa and he probably didn’t wear a watch, by 8am he had not turned up. Luckily the curator of the museum took us instead. It is a 2 hour walk, part of which you need to scramble and climb up over rocks, which was pretty hard work and then there is an even longer section where you need to scramble down, which thankfully wasn’t so hard but was slow going being careful not to slip and having to ease your way down. The rock paintings were interesting to see and the walk was quite pleasant so I am glad we did it. Elephant on the way to Maun

We left there and headed towards Maun, passing through a couple of roadblocks, none of which were any issue. Our fridge was checked once for meat but that was it. We saw our first wild elephant on the side of the main road yesterday which was cool. It makes a change from the hundreds, if not thousands of cows, goats, donkeys, sheep and horses we are normally dodging on the roads. Hopefully we will start to see more wild animals along Elephant on the way to Maunthe roads as we head north.

We arrived in town just after 3pm and managed to book our car in for a service for this morning and organise our campsites for the Central Kalahari all by 4.30. A miracle in African time! The campsites in the Kalahari are managed by the National Parks and Bigfoot Safaris. Only the NP Office is in Maun, the other is in Gabarone, so you need to coordinate between the 2 to organise your bookings (you cannot turn up without a booking). The ladies in the NP Office were very helpful and rang Bigfoot for us and we managed to get sites between them for 4 nights. We have 2 nights at national park sites (at only 60 Pula or $9) and 2 nights at Bigfoot sites (at 336 Pula or $50). just a slight difference in cost and I doubt the sites themselves are any different! We head off tomorrow to the Kalahari, which we are looking forward to as it is remote, we should be camping by ourselves without amenities, and we might get lions in camp (even though I will be scared if that happens it will be awesome – just hope I am in the tent!).

Last night and tonight we will spend at Audi Camp. It is quite nice with a pool, bar and large restaurant. We ate in the restaurant last night and had a few drinks for a total of about $40. They also have Wi-Fi (that you pay for) which allowed us to finally update things. There was an overland group and a couple of other largish groups in camp but they didn’t disturb us, I could imagine though that it could get crowded and quite noisy at times.

We are currently waiting for our car to be serviced and will then stock up on food, water, fuel and money before we head off into the Kalahari tomorrow.

To Botswana

 Posted by Elizabeth at 7:19 pm
May 102011
 

We left Roys Camp and headed towards Popa Falls, stopping in at Rundu for fuel and money which is the largest town we have seen in some time having 4 supermarkets and all types of shops and banks.

Popa Falls, which are really just rapids, were not to be seen as the river is in flood, although the water is starting to drop now. Ngepi Camp was our overnight stop but unfortunately we could not get to the riverside camp sites as the road to them was too flooded. Getting into camp was a bit of an adventure in itself. The camp is about 4km off the The road to Ngepi Campmain road, and maybe a kilometre or so away from camp we suddenly ran out of road with just an expanse of water in front of us. A camp employee was stationed by the side of the road and informed us to engage 4wd and drive between the stakes, which made a curving track in the water, and we would be fine. That bit was 150-200m and we managed fine, although it was reasonably deep being above the side steps on our car, which conveniently gave the car a bit of a clean and got rid of some mud. Then around the next bend there was more water to cross. This time not as deep but it was across the river and flowing reasonably fast. The last bit was directly in front of reception where we had to cross a large lagoon that was also reasonably deep and then park up on the bank and climb out. So our first proper water crossings were to get into camp, not as I imagined it would be!

The road to Ngepi CampThe road to Ngepi Camp, Popa FallsThe road to Ngepi Camp, Popa Falls

The camp itself is known for its quirky toilets and showers. They are all open air built in amongst the plants and trees. The pictures explain it.

Ngepi Camp, Popa FallsNgepi Camp, Popa FallsNgepi Camp, Popa FallsNgepi Camp, Popa Falls

Last night was the first night we have heard hippos, we still haven’t seen one though. The river that the camp is on is full of them and they do come into camp, but not last night.

Today we travelled through Mahango National Park to get to the Botswana border. Lechwe, Mahango Game National ParkIf you are transiting there is no cost, so of course we were transiting but just happened to accidentally take the river road and do a game drive rather than the direct route through the park – bargain! We saw some new animals for this trip, some Tsessebee, Sable Antelope and Lechwe along with the usual impala and zebra.

Entry into Botswana was easy and took all of 10 minutes to leave Namibia and be in Botswana. The total cost for road tax, insurance and the road fund was 100 Pula, however as we didn’t have Pula we could pay in Namibian dollars, but it would be $160 (it was still only $23). Given that the Pula and the Namibian Dollar are almost equal that was a pretty big rip off and a great way for the government to make more money, but what can you do when there is no currency exchange at the border?

We are now at Tsodillo Hills where there are a large number of rock paintings done by the San people thousands of years ago. We will do the walk to see them in the morning with a guide. Things are definitely getting more rustic now and I think our luck has probably run out with civilised, clean amenities with hot water! The amenities are not particularly clean, and even though there is supposedly solar hot water, there was not a bit of warmth in the water (lucky it is still pretty hot at the moment). I also had to tackle wasps and other flying bugs in order to go to the toilet this afternoon – peeing in the bush is just so much easier some times!

Tomorrow we will head to Maun to try and get the car serviced, get money and food and try and reserve camping sites in the Kalahari (fingers crossed we are successful).

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