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Southern Africa – Day 27 – Mochaba Crossing Lodge, Mokoro Trip, Moremi NP – Botswana

After breakfast (and a mix up with times) we bundled into our safari vehicle (it’s an 8-seater – just for the 3 of us!) we travelled for about 1/2 an hour, passing thru a few tiny villages, traversing wooden log bridges, dodging pot holed mud patches & bouncing over sandy patches. Sitting in this vehicle is 100 times worse than the car- no seatbelt & no real areas to hold on! It is definitely an experience. We passed green grassy water marshes- they had lily pads & aquatic flowers growing – was quite picturesque. We came to another Moremi National park entrance – we had no idea the park was this big! Another ½ hour to where we would be at the village for the mokoro’s. We past numerous birds and a huge amount of giraffe.

We reached Ti Pe village where they had to arrange our polers, this is done on a roster system, the whole village came out to see this. Our polers name was Mitanza & Kay. We reached the delta where the mokoros are kept – they are now fiberglass, much lighter & better for the environment – no more cutting down the Sausage trees. We had to take off our shoes & roll up our pants to hop in. David was in his own with the food & drinks, while Brendan & I were in the other. We glided up thru many different channels, both narrow & open areas– I was completely lost- the channels are made by the hippo’s during the night. The water was very clear – the local people drink directly from it & is said that if you drink from the Okavango you will return – guess what we drank… We meandered thru tall bullrushes, papyrus & lily pads, it was starting to get extremely hot, and even though I had applied huge amounts of sunscreen I could feel my skin frying. We finally reached our unloading point, we had a quick bathroom stop behind some over grown bushes, then started on our bushwalk tour. Hmm more walking in the African bush…

We walked in single file around the African wilderness for 2 hours in the middle of the day, looking at impala, learning about different animal tracks – even a poo lesson. I didn’t know that female impala pee & poo at the same time, while males go in different area’s – you learn new things every day. David played with the pellets – they are shaped differently – also letting you know if the animal is male or female. We saw impala, buffalo, zebra & elephant – in the distance – on foot. We also were advised of the different plants the locals use for medicinal purposes.

It seems that just about every bush in Southern Africa is out to get you, they seem more dangerous than the predators, with all their thorns, spikes, serrated edges etc. Brendan had a 30mm thorn come right though his thick soled sandals and prick his foot. This is the second time this has happened to him! We marched back to the landing and had a picnic lunch before the ants invaded! Then a quicker trip back, through the delta, as we were now going with the current.

We drove back to Ti Pe and dropped our polers off – saying fond farewells to the village. We also picked up 2 more people needing a lift, Ray – he sat next to me, his cousin died from an elephant attack yesterday, we even stopped where it happened, was the 1st for the area this year, the man got between a mother & baby elephant & was gorged. Sad, but even Ray thought it was the man’s fault, not the elephant! Ray was very knowledgeable and quite a chatter box, he pointed out heap of birds and animals – sooo many giraffe- it was amazing.

Back at the lodge and showers were called for before a nice meal & bed!

Southern Africa – Day 26 – Khwai to Mochabe Crossing Lodge, Okavongo Delta – Botswana

We had a spattering of rain overnight, and the hippo’s were enjoying it, they serenaded me all night (Brendan & David slept thru it). Again, a cooler early morning, but heating up extremely quickly. The vervet monkeys were again impatiently waiting for us to get up so they could pester us. I took some foil with crumbs in it away from the campsite to shake out & was nearly mugged!

We packed up & stopped by the amenities (there was water this morning!) and met a family from Switzerland who had stayed the night and were headed to Savuti, (the 2 young girls were not a fan of the monkeys either, as the monkeys stole their biscuits) David gave them the details of where we had seen the animal sightings there, as they had not seen anything yet.

We travelled to South gate to sign out – there was plenty of animal tracks but no animals! We had to engage 4WD Low a few times as the vehicle isn’t equip with much self-recovery gear and some of the pot holes (craters) now had a bit of water in them, which could swallow a car whole!

On the outside of the park we actually saw more animals – 3 different giraffes on the road side as well as elephants & impala.

We travelled to Maun to get supplies & fuel, unfortunately the GPS didn’t like this detour and got us repeatedly lost trying to get back to the main road- we eventually worked it out … 20 minutes of needless driving in circles!

We made it to Mochaba Crossing Lodge where we are staying in luxury safari tents for the next 2 nights. While sitting in the bar / restaurant area for lunch (and having a few drinks) Brendan got stung by a wasp, on the arm, 3 times!

After a few hours catching up on the computers with painfully slow internet, we went back to the tent for cool showers before dinner. David had rump, while Brendan and I had the beef fillet. We sat around at the table for a while, until we moved to the more comfortable lounges, talking & watching – in the background- a dubbed Bollywood TV show that intrigued Brendan called – My golden home. We went to bed on a full stomach!

Southern Africa – Day 25 – North Gate Camp, Khwai, Moremi NP – Botswana

We had a cool night compared with others so we all slept well. This morning we had a sleep in – only 6.15am today! Once up we were surrounded by the vervet monkeys again and had a waterbuck walk thru the camp.

We did a morning drive hoping to see more animals, but only saw the usual- hippos, elephant, giraffe, waterbuck, impala and zebra.

Once back at camp we showered (I only had a luke warm one, but at least there was water now).

We did a bit more washing – sheets etc and used the camps washing lines, we set up in another site close by waiting for them to dry. As per usual after about 2 hours an other vehicle came in which is camping in this spot… so we had to move. The couple were an older Swiss couple who had the smaller version of our camper set up. They spoke a little English and were happy to show us their set up. We left them to it and got the clothes off the line. They then came down to our site and checked out our camper – they liked this much better as it had more space.

We sat back and watched as vehicle after vehicle poured in- a full campsite tonight!

As it started to get cooler, we took our chairs down to sit beside the river bank – at a safe distance- and watched the hippos while having a much needed beverage. This is really nice.

We have an early dinner tonight, so we can get to the toilets before dark! Don’t feel like dodging Spotted Hyenas tonight!

Southern Africa – Day 24 – Savuti to Khwai, Moremi NP – Botswana

Huge lightning and thunder storm, overnight- but only a few splatters of light rain.

Lots of flies this morning!

Today’s travel distance is only 137km but it is estimated to take 6 hours to get there yippee!

We had to let the tyres down today to go along the dry sandy track down to Khwai, while we were travelling along we had a large herd of elephants walk past our car which we had to stop for, this was the only real wildlife we saw. We pass thru the small village of Khwai, where several of the small children chase the car begging for sweets- is sad to see, but too many people in the past have not thought, and given the children lollies. No dentists in these parts!

We have to go across a long narrow wooden planked bridge to reach the north gate to the park where we have to sign in. In the river, below, are numerous hippos wadding in the water. We arrive at our campsite and start to unpack, there is a weird knocking sound- it is coming from a woodpecker in the tree above the car. We settle in and start to eat lunch when David starts to look funny and announce “oh boy” Brendan and I both immediately look around to see what is going on, a huge elephant is coming towards us, he just wanders in behind us paying no attention to us at all, to make his way down to the river which is just 30m from our site – what a cool visitor. As we finish lunch the vervet monkeys start to come around- they are a pest. They are conditioned to fear slingshots so David and Brendan make sling shot looking poses and the monkeys start to take off – only for a short while.

We take a drive around the park thru the many roads- we tended to stay along the shallow rivers edge, when we could. Large congregations of hippo are seen both in and out of the water- they are such fun to watch. We see a few single elephants- not herds like in the other national parks, a crocodile sunning him- or herself, a few giraffe drinking at the river edge, some wildebeest and more of the African Fishing Eagle.

I had managed to wash a whole line of clothes which were nearly dry, when someone (David and Brendan) started a fire and the smoke went directly onto all the clothes- I need to wash them again – not happy Jan!

After dinner we were just about to walk over to the toilets when we were visited by a hyena, it wasn’t shy and stayed around camp even when we shone lights on it. We then packed everything up and drove down! There was no water in the toilets, showers or taps – though there was a large container with a small bucket to decanter the water – so you could flush – oh the joys of camping…

It was a noisy night with lions, elephants and hippos all very vocal during the early morning hours.

Southern Africa – Day 23 – Savuti Campsite, Chobe NP – Botswana

Up early and packed up ready for our morning drive. We first went to the waterhole – but no animals, we drove around and by passed a tour vehicle who advised there was lions at ‘Hippo Vlei” (marsh) – we made our way down there, but once again didn’t see anything, continuing down the road towards cheetah plains we saw a lot of tour vehicles stopped – 2 cheetahs- yay. We couldn’t go off road to get too close but got some amazing pictures. The cheetahs stayed on the termite mound for a good 5 minutes before walking off onto the plains, just behind our car. We ran into our friendly guide again who advised lions at Hayes Pan – the complete opposite end of the park…arghhh. We braved the bumpy tracks again and all agreed to keep going rather than head back for breakfast- or now brunch. There are unmarked roads everywhere! We entered the GPS points and made our way there. We were thinking that the guide was having a lend, then Brendan, saw the 2 big make lions sitting under a bush – there were also 2 other tour vehicles watching 1 lion & the buffalo kill. Cool – 3 big male lions – we got close ( 5m) away from them- no worries! They were full –as they had just killed a buffalo, and hot!

We eventually left that sighting and made our way back to camp to have our extremely late breaky & some much needed showers in the elephant proof facilities!

I did a bit of hand washing – running out of undies…

We filled up the water bottles using our filtration system – you have to access the water from an elephant proof cement block.

Both David and Brendan tried to nap, but it is so hot & the wind has now picked up.

We decided on an early dinner & then to go out on drive – I didn’t want to cook again in the dark! We ended up boiling some eggs and having a ham & salad (plus a garnish of fine sand thanks to the wind!)

We found the track to see the rock art on the rocks, we climbed up a rocky path but couldn’t see anything, after about 10 minutes looking I gave up, Brendan tenaciously kept looking & eventually found it – back at the first place we looked ! we headed back to the campsite as there is no driving after 7pm in the park, we saw a huge elephant- he was the biggest we had ever seen – an absolute monster! We got back a little after 7… oops & set up our fire for the night- as it was so windy & uncomfortable, we had an early night.

Southern Africa – Day 22 – Kasane to Savuti, Chobe NP – Botswana

Checked out of the Old House & headed to the local hardware store – Haskins, to see if we could get some ground matting. They didn’t have anything but suggested the store across the road which was like our Costco. Nothing there either, but we found some coke cans and a container for our water filtration system. We headed for the Chobe National Park, ‘Transit’ gate. Once there you are supposed to stop at the stop sign & line – David went over thinking to go to the actual gate. The ranger came out & directed him back, before we could get out & sign in- there is a lot of paperwork. We had gone probably 10km before we realised the we had to go to Sedudu gate – just before Transit gate and pay our fees, even though David had asked the ranger whether we needed to pay before entering, and so had to turn around. Luckily the first guy wasn’t there and a ranger who was on leave said to go back & fix it up no problems. The ladies at Sedudu Gate weren’t overly helpful & didn’t want us to pay the Moremi fee as well, though our directions stated we should pay it here. The eftpos took forever. Stopped correctly at the stop sign this time – first ranger back & wanted me to re sign in! the roads were now hot, soft sand – we were in 4×4 and were bouncing all around the cabin – I felt both shaken & stirred!

We came upon a waterhole not far from our campsite- it had elephants and 3 groups of giraffe – totalling 21- the most we have seen together, they were all under the small shaded areas of trees.

We checked in and were advised – absolutely no walking in the park (the toilets are 100m from our campsite, so we have to drive- this means packing up everything when you need to go – not really useful) & that you must start a fire before 6.30 to keep the animals (lions, hyenas, cheetahs, elephants) away.

The ablution block has been made elephant proof as they have had issues in the past of trunks coming thru window looking for water while you shower!

We are camped under a large tree facing the river bank – which is completely dry.

I used the ‘She Wee’ for the first time – is really weird.. but useful.

We went out for another drive and saw a banded mongoose. That was it – there was only the hippo at the waterhole, so a bit disappointing – oh well

David was exhausted from concentrating on driving & had tingly arms.

We had to defrost the meat by the fire as I forgot to get it out, but dinner turned out quite nice.

We were visited by a spring hare after dinner.

Lightning again- maybe a storm? nah, still hot and dry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Southern Africa – Day 21 – Kasane, Botswana

After another scrumptious breakfast we left Lokuthula lodge and made our way to the Zimbabwe / Botswana boarder at Kazungula. We figured if it was like coming in, we would be here for ages. We were pleasantly surprised…basically it was don’t let the boom gate hit you on your way out! No problems, just stamp some paperwork and on your way- it took less than 5 minutes, David even commented to the official that this was the best border crossing yet… It was the same on the Botswana side, until… we pulled up to the last gate- firstly David didn’t stop where he was supposed to, then we had to all wash our shoes in a chemical bath & finally the officer checked our vehicle – then fridge, he pulled out various frozen meat packages & advised us that these were not to be bought in, then calmly put them all back in the freezer & told us to remember that for next time & we were ok to leave… bazar, David even checked with him that he didn’t want to quarantine them.

It was only a short drive to Kasane. The roads are terrible – pot holed. Anyway… the first thing we did was fill up on fuel – we were getting dry. The petrol station was really busy but ran smoothly.

We called in at local mall for some supplies. David finally got a local sim card. Brendan had to pay to use the toilets – again – is a thing in Botswana.

The Old House B&B was easily found, it is fairly large and not what we expected. The rooms are all separate & there is a pool, restaurant & even gift shop. There are lots of plants around the yard & a jetty. Around the edges of the buildings are small electric fences – apparently the hippos can come up on the lawns- though this is usually in winter.

A tropical storm came through, just as we were unpacking the car, of course! It lasted less than an hour, and cooled things down quite nicely.

Brendan has his own room.

We shared a pizza for lunch before getting ready for the sunset river cruise. The Chobe River separates Botswana and Namibia, and flows into the Zambesi River just up from Victoria Falls.

We sat on the top level and had great view. We saw hippos galore, crocodiles, a lion & cub, an African Fish Eagle , Cape Buffalo, impala, kudu, waterbuck, monitors and various birds. 3 hours, and hundreds of photos later, we viewed a magnificent sunset – the colours were fabulous.

Once back we had dinner & an earlyish night.

 

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Southern Africa – Day 20 – Victoria Falls – Zimbabwe

This morning we decided to do a helicopter ride over the falls before walking them. We headed over to the Safari Lodge to book in before making our way over to Boma for some breaky.

We were picked up at 11am by our driver Jack & were taken to the helipad- was about a 15min drive. We had our welcome drinks and were given our pre-fight safety talk, then were guided out to the chopper. A helicopter ride is a first for all of us. We got in and put on the headphones – mine didn’t work! We soon took off and were travelling at about 1500 feet. We flew across the Zambezi NP (we had to pay an extra $USD15 each for this)– which was extremely dry & into Zambian airspace, the views of the falls were very impressive- they are huge. Even though this is the low season & we were told it hasn’t been this dry in years, there was plenty of water & mist- it makes our waterfalls in Australia seem tiny.

I think that in high season you wouldn’t see as much but would still be awesome. We all managed to get hundreds of photos. All too soon we were headed back to the hanger & we were finished. Of course, we had to buy the DVD.

Back at the lodge we switched over camera’s (as it was going to be a bit wet & misty didn’t want to risk the good ones). Brendan & I were sitting out on the back deck when the warthogs decided to pay us a visit & eat our grass – there are 3 adults & 4 babies. One of them was extremely lazy, just flopped down onto its belly & ate – this was bazar. Even though they are wild animals they are definitely used to humans.

We caught the courtesy bus down to the Zimbabwean entrance to the falls – & decided not to cross over to the Zambian side, as it was dry towards the bridge.

It cost $USD30 each to enter! – everything is extremely expensive here in Zimbabwe.

There were 12 different view points along the route & it was about 3km of walking in total. The first spot was at a statue of Doctor Livingston and a good view for looking up into the gorge. The safety fences were made from sticks and were at about knee high- not really safe. We had some magnificent sightings and vantage points of the different sections of the falls. We met two Zimbabwean women, who asked me for a photo with them. In the middle section, where most of the water was flowing, we got extremely wet from the mist. The mist was actually nice way to cool down.

Victoria falls is the widest & has the longest drop in the world (Niagara has the most water) & is classified as one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

We stopped at the rainforest café for a drink & something small to eat – was quite hot in the sun.

We caught the courtesy bus back to the elephant walk stop, this is where the local people have their art & wears on display- a lot of statues, unfortunately during the walk we were met by people trying to guilt you into buying souvenirs from them.

Once done there, we made our way back to catch the bus. While waiting, the young guy who was hawking us yesterday – and watched our vehicle for us, somehow found us again. This time though he was just chatting with David about the politics/ schools / fuel etc until the bus came.

Southern Africa – Day 19 – Lokuthula Lodge – Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

It’s only 12.30, but I can’t sleep – the elephant are just outside the fence ( fence is actually not a good description – it is really a few medium size branches with gaps making a semi border around the campsite), they are splashing in the water and having a fantastic time, looking out the screen of the tent, all you can see is black shadows moving around – so close.

There is a lightning storm along the horizon which I can see for about a 270 degree, the wind has really picked up so we all cautiously check our surroundings before going outside and closing the awning up & putting the chairs etc away – better to be safe than sorry.

A few sprinkles on the roof top wake us – time to pack up the rest of the gear before it gets too bad. No showers this morning as I just couldn’t stand cold green bore water. The rangers arrive a 7 and we give them a coffee and cake before heading out.

The rain gets a bit heavier – luckily, we left when we did – the rangers advised that the campsite is actually closed for the wet season and you could get stuck for a few months if not careful, you could see this by driving on the roads after only a small drizzle, the rains are actually late – and David was thankful for this, as the vehicle hasn’t any real recovery gear.

It is only about 135 km to Victoria falls, and we didn’t see anything special on the way.

The drizzle has stopped and the sun is out.

It’s only 10.30 so we check where the accommodation is, then head into town to find some fuel. Ok no fuel, and cars parked for km’s on the side of the road in queue – no one is in them as they are not sure when any will be supplied yet. This is a concern.

We park & head to a café for morning tea before browsing the shops (curios). We kept getting asked to buy Zimbabwe money for souvenirs – we were offered a 50 billion dollar note ! – back in the late 90’s they had a currency crisis where their inflation rate was the 3rd highest in the world ever. The largest note printed was a 100 trillion dollar note issued between 1980 – 2009. There was 83 of them.

In the tourist info centre we meet a couple from Brisbane who need to get to Bulawayo – they have decided to leave the car & train it – no fuel.

We book into the lodge and find out that the 1 thing I wanted to do – go to Boma dinner & dance is only 200m away!

After dragging all the photo equipment in, we walk over to the Makuwa- Kuwa restaurant & viewing platform for a few drinks – 2 frozen strawberry daiquiris went down a treat!

Dinner was at 7pm, and as we walked over you could hear the employees singing – they are dressed in their show, traditional gear… As we entered, we are given a “chitenge” (like a sarong) to go over our clothes – which was good as they are all creased!

We started with a platter of appetisers – crocodile tail- Brendan an I thought it tasted like turkey, impala, corn fritters & vegetable pie – David wasn’t keen, but when in Africa… we all tried them, and surprisingly it was quite tasty.

We next had a buffet of salads- nothing too different, here. Then came the Mopane worm… it is a fried/ dried out worm – about 4cm in size, with a sauce – if you can get it down you get a certificate. I was the first to go (David was going last- so he could chicken out if Brendan & I made faces) it was not too bad, but got worse as you constantly chewed trying desperately to swallow – it does not taste like chicken – I felt like I was on survivor doing a taste challenge.

Brendan went next (I was still chewing) then we guilted David into it… we all got a certificate- woo hoo

 

 

 

For mains we had Elan meat balls, Buffalo Fillet, Chicken, Kudu stew, Peanut Butter Rice, ( there was also guinea fowl stew, but, that had all bits of intestine in it – ( I just couldn’t go there) various vegies & sauces. David & Brendan enjoyed the Kudu best – I liked the Buffalo. I was very proud of David as he tried most things!

Deserts was a mixture of fruits, puddings, profiteroles – nothing outrageous.

We were entertained by traditional dancing & drumming – though the Chinese tourist’s participation was not scheduled- they are so rude – David was starting to steam up as they kept standing in front of him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once we finished dinner, we were all given smaller drums & now the crowd participation began – we happily banged away on the drums – badly & not to the correct beat. Then a little dancing, both David & Brendan had to get up into the circle and strut their stuff for a bit. It was an enjoyable night.

 

Southern Africa – Day 18 – Deteema Dam Camp – Hwange NP, Zimbabwe

We were up early- but no lions this morning. Decided to go to Masuma dam again, but no animals there either. We were just about to leave when the ranger came over and asked if we would take him to the water pump to re fuel as it was empty… they have no vehicles. The water is pumped into the waterholes to maintain enough water for the elephants, which is especially needed at the moment as the rains are late, this year. So, what can you say, we loaded the fuel in and set off thinking it was just on the other side of the dam… no it is way back at Kapula. We had to take him there wait while he re-started the pump – manually, then take him back, before heading back to Kapula again ourselves. Our good deed was done for the day.

We started on our way to Deteema dam-a little later than expected – where we would camp for the night. Our GPS got us lost a few times (This is a reoccurring problem with “Tracks for Africa” GPS map) & the sign posts are virtually non-existent. We ended up on a few non-marked roads, and 4×4 needed in sections. We have only passed 2 other vehicles the whole trip, which was a bit scary. We eventually made it – didn’t see any animals though.

The site is basic… a stick perimeter – which was falling down, and lots of missing sticks, so it will never keep any animals out! It surrounds a hide, a male & female toilet & a lovely outside tin shower area with a tank raised on top – no power or lights -oh and the water coming out of the tank was green. No shower tonight! This looks over the dam/ waterhole. The rangers came down to book us in, they then went down to the pump & diverted some water from the dam to our tank so we could flush the toilets etc. then spent a good ½ hour getting us some firewood in their wheelbarrow – they do not have vehicles. It was at least 38 degC, so I didn’t envy them. When they got back we gave them some cool water and asked if we could go out onto the wall of the dam – we could, but only as far a certain tree….they then proceeded to walk David and I around the whole perimeter and gave a commentary of what animals we could expect. We were about half way around when a herd of elephants walked past our campsite & down to the water – this was a good start. Brendan who was sitting at the car – didn’t even notice them, they can be so quiet!

It was extremely hot, so we decided to go into the hide as it was a lot cooler – Brendan even slept on the concrete bench seats. As it started to cool down the dam was visited by more elephants, black back jackals, impala, kudu & a, lone, giraffe. We were just about to go back to the car and start tea when we saw the first juvenile lion, then the rest came – 11 juveniles in total – no parents which was a bit worrying, as you never see them without at least one adult lioness. Where is she? They made their way towards the water, some stalking, some playing with each other. Every time I looked thru the binoculars, I was sure they were looking directly at me, and there isn’t much standing between us. They stayed around for a good ½ hour – we got some good shots!

More elephants came & the crocodiles started splashing around, but it was now dark.

Cooking in the dark with red lights and bugs flying everywhere- yuck, oh well the things you have to do!

Early night tonight.

 

 

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