Saturday 27 April - The next day we took our leave of civilisation as we knew it and headed for the Petroport on the N1 on the road to Polokwane and ultimately, Botswana. At the Petroport, we met up with Alex and two of our party, John and Lina.
After we had all put the necessary stickers on our cars and all been given short-wave radios so Alex could keep in touch with us, we set off for the Botswana border, collecting the other couple, Mark and Penni along the way.
After surviving our first border crossing which felt more like negotiating through Checkpoint Charlie at the Berlin Wall and managing to fend off many unscrupulous money-changers, we finally made it to our first overnight camp stop at Kwa Nokeng Lodge. This is a lovely facility situated at the Martin’s Drift Border Post – there is a variety of different accommodation from cottages, chalets to tents and of course, camping facilities.
Once Alex had picked his spot and negotiated his trailer into the right position, we all shyly began setting up our tents, making sure we didn’t look as if we didn’t know what we were doing. Fortunately John had had a bit of practice during his solo sorties into the bush and we soon had our tent in the upright position and the beds in place. Mark and Penni were still reading the instructions and John and Lina were hiding behind a bush on the far side of the camp site as Lina seemed to have no intention of assisting with anything!
During the course of the first evening around the camp fire we established that each couple comprised one person who was on their dream holiday and the other who was not! This was going to be interesting. After a tasty chicken casserole supper we retired to our tents, forgetting to put anything away so the next day everything was covered in a layer of dew – our first lesson in what not to do!
Sunday 28 April – After a light breakfast, we set about packing everything away – isn’t it funny that nothing ever fits in the bag it originally came in!!! As soon as we were on the road Alex came on to our short-wave radios with the coordinates for our destination that night, something he would do every day so that we could feed them into our Garmins and get a good idea how the trip was doing. This really saved our bacon when we got lost in the city of Dar es Salaam but that is another story.
An hour after we left the campsite we pulled over for our first “peep” stop. As we were all in our twilight years, this was an ongoing necessity on a regular basis. The “drill” was that the drivers would go to the other side of the road with their backs to us while we open both nearside doors and crouched in between. The men would have to stay where they were until we had all finished and then Alex’s lady assistant would sound the “all clear”. A most civilised arrangement!
After a Wimpy lunch in Francistown we arrived at a very nice camp site called Elephant Sands which boasted a natural waterhole where elephant came down to drink every night – right next to the main buildings. The 16 000 ha conservancy is unfenced so we had to keep an eye open for any stray elephants or any other wildlife who might have wanted to take a short cut through our camp site.
A yummy supper of ribs was followed by a very cold night in the tent and I was happy that I had insisted on bringing my very warm duvet instead of the sleeping bag John had suggested. In fact, I actually slept in my clothes that night which is a practice I would repeat many times during our travels.
Monday 29 April – Feeling very confident about our tent de-erection, we were quite disappointed to learn that, in fact, we were doing it all the wrong way and had to be given a private lesson from Alex on how to fold a tent down. I must say, once we had learnt how to do it properly, it was a doddle!
Having heard that there was no hot water, we decided to skirt round having a shower and set off for our next port of call, still in Botswana – Kasane at the Thebe River Safaris. The gods must have been smiling on me as it was decided that we would spend the night in the lodge instead of camping – I became a human being again. Lovely hot shower, a bed with legs on it, I even had an opportunity to do some washing and hang it up in the shower – yippee.
It was here that we took the Chobe River Sunset Cruise which is definitely a must when you are in Kasane.
The experience was amazing – so many animals – elephant, hippo, buffalo, crocs, kudu, impala, baboons, and to top it all, the most stunning sunset as we returned. Alex even decided to spoil us and organised a lovely meal in the lodge restaurant so I was really starting to feel that this was not so bad after all!!
Next up – Zambia, Vic Falls, Road Side Stalls and….. a SPA?
Please do let me know how you are enjoying this series. I have had a number of emails from various readers saying that doing a trip like this is also on their “Bucket List” so they are loving all the information – my mind is even slowly starting to think that maybe…just maybe, I could be convinced….