Botswana- bush time!

Botswana, 11/28/2014

I do not remember where my last blog ended but if I am not mistaken it was around the end of our Etosha experience. That has been about two weeks ago.. whaaa time is flying and since then it seems to only get better.

After leaving Etosha we went towards Grootfontein in Namibia. This was a wonderful place with a super interesting internet cafe (see pictures). It had a nice pool and in comparison to Etosha (and the southern part of Namibia) the scenery finally started to get a lot greener. More plants, trees, water.. etc..

The next day we left towards our last campsite in Namibia. We met some really nice Dutch couples along the way and we decided to see each other at the Ngepi campsite again. I already spoke about them in my last blog I think. In comparison to the first 2 weeks the driving days started to get shorter. This was only a 2-3 hour drive which was more than nice for a change.

Funny anecdote that fully represents the TIA-feeling (This is Africa), we stopped to put diesel in the car, check the pressure of the tyres and get some lunch. There was also a shop at the gas station so Toni and me wanted to buy a Twix, Mars, some sweets and some crips.. We get to the cassier and she starts to scan the products.
Then she suddenly says:
„ you cannot buy these 2”.
Why not?
„ Because we got a new computer system and these products have not been put in yet so the system does not recognize them”
OK… but there is a price on the box, so we can just pay that and we will not need a receipt
„ no sorry you cannot buy this….

Haha.. well this is just a short and simple example.

Ngepi was a beautiful place next to the river. That means that a night you hear hippo’s, see crocs swimming and hear a lot of frogs. We decided to stay 2 nights to chill out a bit and remind ourselves that it is also holiday :-)! Before that we had actually slept every night at a different campsite and also driven close to 500km every day.
Ngepi had a great floating pool, cool toilets and showers, lovely bar and beautiful campsites near the river. Toni even managed to sleep a siesta (see pictures). We had dinner with the whole group, played some games and more than anything, we had nice wines, cooked simple but lovely dinner and laughed.

The next day we said goodbye to Ryan and Vicky who were traveling further into Namibia and we were going to cross the border at Mahango to Botswana. Chris and Marlous also planned to go the same way so we joined together. Just before leaving the campsite that morning we were asked by two boys if they could hitch-hike with us to the border.We took the bags and Marlous and Chris

took the boys. They were two boys that just finished uni in Cape Town and were traveling around Africa for 2 months. We thought we would do a deed for these two boys and give them a lift.
After having heard terror stories about the border crossing I have to say this was a piece of cake. All went well, no products were taken out of our fridge like diary products and fresh veggies.. so all good.

Together with Marlous and Chris we decided to break up our journey between Namibia and Maun (because we heard that the road was in real bad condition and it was around 660 km) So we had read about a nice campsite Guma Lagoon and called them to make a reservation. At the time of calling all the asked was „ Do you have a 4 wheel drive…” In retrospective I should have maybe already asked her why at that moment, but all I thought was „ yeah we do.. finally we get to use this thing” .. When we got to the exit towards the campsite her question all of a sudden became clear… the road was terrible… Soo much sand and I was solo thankful to have a rally-driving boyfriend at that moment. Low-gear High-gear, low4, high4 … all of these words had sounded like Chinese to me, but Toni knew perfectly what to do , and in 20 min we got to Guma Lagoon….our first stop in Botswana… extremely heavy road… so happy we were not on our own and also I so happy that I had Toni with me on the trip to teach me.
This lodge was amazing placed at the lake… amazing views and good Gin Tonics. When I asked the guy of the campsite about any things we should be aware of we were told about the resident hippo. Yeah… really a hippo that comes by at night. That night we had a really nice dinner prepared by Marlous…. Risotto! with dried porcinni and some lovely cheese. There was a kitchen provided at this campsite that we could use and we were allowed to eat it in the restaurant of the lodge… (See pictures) So bring „ your own food and drinks” :—). Some regular guests were even jealous of our meal.

That night we also met the great couple Julie and Peter (she is from China and he is from German) They are traveling the world for two years with an amazingly-custom made van called the Sand Dragon. When got talking to them that night, one glass of wine together became 2 bottles and a nice group was accidentally formed. Since then (so that must be around 10 days) we have been traveling in convoy with them. Some of the roads and routes that would follow were difficult and it was advised to travel with more cars. Both Marlous and Chris as well as Julie and Peter have really nice blogs to follow. One of them is in Dutch but the other in English. Both with amazing stories and pictures. For those interested: www.machweg.nl and www.oursanddragon.com

So our adventures in Botswana continue: our first stop was Maun. In the lonely planet this is meant to be the Botswana center of tourism and the most used starting point for tours in the Okavango Delta. After quite a lot of camping and visiting some disappointing ones in Maun we decided it was hotel time. So we checked in to a hotel for 2 nights. Basic, but clean and with airco… so good enough. They had a nice laundry service, a protected car park, good showers and beds with clean sheets… we were in heaven :-)! Senthaga hotel is was gonna be for the next few days!! That night we had a great dinner at Thamakalakane Lodge in Maun. Since in africa we had not dared to drive at night yet but this lodge (just outside of town) was a good enough excuse to break that rule. After some amazing carpaccio and some other decent dishes we decided it had been worth it.

The next day was a standard „ what to do day, when back in civilisation”. We did groceries, emptied the ATM, bought drinks, filled of with fuel, filled up the water tank, finally uploaded my previous blog and picked up the laundry. The other two couples had a (separate) but similar itinerary that day. The day before we had

already spent 4 hours booking campsite inside of Moremi and Chobe and arrange the park fees for those. This sounds easy, but there is a real order to do these things. You first need to book (and pay) a campsite and after that you can go the pay the fees to enter the park for the specific day that you sleep there. yet all the campsites have different offices ( we were staying in 3 different campsites) and also the park fees need to be paid elsewhere… So in the end that meant 4 different places, and at least 30-45 min of patience at each office… This was better and more efficient way of learning about myself than any management course I have done in the past. :-) haha!

To break those two days and make it another unforgettable experience, we had decided to make a scenic (1 hour) flight over the delta. See pictures…. Amazing!! and really funny detail… we had a spanish pilot! He was from Valencia and had been flying there for a

year! One of his colleagues was also from Mallorca… what a small world. I think the pictures can not come close to how beautiful it was in reality but it is better than no pictures at all. The size of the delta… soooo big.. Sooo green….. animals, water! Nature at its fullest and best!!

After two days in Maun it was time for the real stuff in the bush that we had all been looking forward to. We headed towards Moremi. This was the real thing. but words cannot come close to explaining it. But I will try in a few sentences. Sandy roads, elephants, giraffes, hippo;s at the lunch table, muddy roads, driving through water, driving with a GPS and getting lost…and getting stuck too! Not our car but one of the other couples.. But in all fairness it could have been me if Toni would not have been there. Luckily we were still traveling with the three cars and could help each other out. Julie and Peter’s amazing custom made van even had an electrical Winch that could help us get the car out of the mud… and we did!

So the journey continued for a full 3 days. We had decided that every couple would be responsible for dinner preparation of one night. We would make pasta the second day… On the morning of the second day we were having breakfast at Third Bridge campsite before heading towards Xakanaxa. While having breakfast at the table we suddenly saw a tail sticking out of our car…. BABOONS!!! they we inside stealing our stuff.. We ran towards the car and luckily it was a plastic bag with food.. Because the creatures are also known for being able to open doors and bags, steal cameras and phones and then drop them from a tree…. So no stress.. Until we found out they had actually stolen the bag with raw pasta for that nights :-)!!! haha we luckily recovered one still close bag from them and the rest of the couples also had some extra pasta… We secretly hoped that the monkeys would have some stomach ache that day from eating raw

pasta.

After two amazing nights and three days in Moremi our schedules separated (for a little while) because it was time for Toni to go home and for me to pick up Tessa! yeah!! Toni would be leaving from Maun airport on the Sunday and Tess would arrive there on the Saturday. With the other two couples we had already made arrangements to meet at the Mobabe Gate into Chobe national park. The deal was meeting them again 3 days later at that point because again driving with one or 2 cars cars towards the very sandy Savuti camp was recommended. We would meet at 09.30 and if one of us was not there we would turn on our Satellites phones and try and reach each other.

Toni and me drove back to Maun and decided to check in into the same hotel (so 4 hotel night in 4 weeks time!) wat a luxury. In that way Toni would have a good night sleep before starting a horrible 27 hours return trip and Tess would be able to have a decent first night sleep in Africa. The temperatures had been raising like a mad over the last few days.. it was around 38-40 degrees and airco was a nice change!
It was a very funny feeling to pick up a friend on the other side of the world in Africa and being there with Toni. She was on time and we were happy to see her. That day flew by re-arranging the car, getting Toni his tuff out, Tess’s stuff in, cleaning the car, again supplies of food and water and even a short-quick reference course from Toni to myself and Tess on changing tyres See the pictures.

The next day Toni left, I must say I had not really seen this one coming but I was emotionally quite unstable that day. Tears came to my eyes every 30 min and the idea of continuing this journey without him was suddenly not so nice. It was great that Tess had arrived and

obviously it was going to be great and fun with two girls but a needed a small reset. Tess was the best friend ever, she game me all my space, a shoulder to cry on and plenty of reasons to smile again.So after two days I was back to normal.
For Toni and myself this trip was an experience of a lifetime but next to that also a test for our relationship. Now I can say it was not a test but a confirmation of the cool, funny, fresh, challenging, special (maybe sometimes difficult) relationship we have! Just to let you all know haha!!

So last weeks Tess is on board and after a first night of camping together (sleeping in 1 tent because we were too scared to sleep separate)we met with the other couples again. It was time for Chobe!The roads there was better than we expected but still a challenge.. Maybe also the fact that I had been having a lot of personal training and advice on driving helped. I was able to control (maybe even master :-)) the low 4 gears and my best friend Toyota Hilux „ Tough-ee” got us trough everything. We got stuck once for 2 mins but managed to get out without external help and we got to savuti alive!! Yes!!!!

The temperatures in Savuti were extreme… 46 Degrees in the sun but probably around 40 degrees in the shade— we did not really have. Most of us had around 3 cold showers each day to stay cool and alive. During the nights the campsite was again busy with animal-visitors. Elephant during dinner preparation who walked by, lions at nights while sleeping… more than exciting and definitely not getting out of the tent to go to the toilet.

At Savuti they had a protected abolution area, this is were the toilets and showers are. It was made elephant proof because a few years ago some elephants had broken in to get to all the water lines onder the

ground. So inside the shower we felt safe. After a great chili con carne for dinner the next morning we got up at 05.30 for a game drive through the park. That is the best time to spot wildlife because it is not that hot yet (for us) but also the animals. Great drive! we saw loads of buffalos that we had not seen yet! and again plenty of groups of elephants. Sometimes a little but too close for comfort but after some initial scares we all got away ok.
When returning to Savuti Peter made French Toast (wentelteefjes) for breakfast… lovely breakfast!!! and another second hot day at Savuti developed. The day goed by slowly and not moving too much is best. Some of us played Rumikub, others read, other slept and we started preparing for dinner early. The night that followed but a tricky one: thunderstorm, windy, elephants, a fire close by… Lets just say that no one really slept well and it was time to return to civilization.

The next morning we drove to Kasane, a beautiful road and journey and a happy surprise to check in at Chobe Safaris Lodge. It is a great campsite were we can make use of the super swimming pool, wifi, bar with GT’s and burgers. We have been here 3 nights and will be leaving tomorrow to cross the border to Zambia. Peter and Julie will also cross the border and Marlous and Chris will carry on their travel towards the south of Botswana.
This place is great we have done an organized game drive (in an open car), a cruise on a boat on the river Chobe, including fighting hippo’s and crocodiles…( see pictures) we are enjoying some luxury again, yet combined with camping. During the boat cruise on the river we even managed to touch Namibian ground again on the other side (See the picture of Tess who was allowed to jump off the boat for a minute)

Earlier during the trip one of the rooftop tents had started to show signs of usage and some pieces had broken. I called Bushlore and

they very correctly helped me out and advised me to call their crew in Kasane. They came yesterday to change the tents and give us a new one! Great service! All with all I am happy!

Big kisses to you all from Africa from me and Tess

I expect my next blog to be from malawi in 2-3 weeks again! (hope you are all happy with the big number of pictures... it took hours to upload :-((

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