Part One – The First Leg
This trip report is posted with recognition to the author, Frans Nieman, who granted us the permission to use his trip report on our page. Frans wrote ………….
This is my first ever trip report, and English is not my mother tongue, so please read past the spelling, grammar and tenses issues. MS Word also has one up on me. I would feel guilty completing this trip and not try and give something back after the massive volume of information tapped from here (4X4 Community Forum). Hopefully someone find something useful. If you do take the time to read this report, please take the time to read the fine print at the end also.
I would first like to thank all of you on the forum for all the previous reports and posts as well as advice. Without that I would have been totally lost trying to put a trip like this together. Secondly a BIG thank you to Tara & Mendy from Botswana Footprints for all the bookings and advice.
The dream to visit CKGR started a number of years ago, and initially the trip was formulated as a 14 day CKGR visit. Reading more and more reports, and also a year delay for the trip resulted in a trip that kept on growing to the extent that leave limitation eventually determined the extent of it.
So, everything booked and paid for, the waiting started. Then February and the rain started. We grew more and more anxious with every post and report of flooding, found myself on weather websites more often than what was good for me. March came but all info still indicated that Moremi is seriously flooded.
To top that it seemed to take forever to repair 3rd Bridge. We stayed positive, but started to develop plan B. Indications was that it “should” be okay by the time we visit. At least CKGR was again accessible.
Plan A looked like this:
Apr 6 Depart late evening
Apr 7 Tuuthebe Lodge, Lethlakane
Apr 8 Motswere Gate, CKGR
Apr 9, 10 Pasarge 2, CKGR
Apr 11, 12, 13 Piper Pan 1, CKGR
Apr 14, 15, 16, 17 Kori 3, CKGR
Apr 18, 19 Khumaga 2, Makgadikgadi
Apr 20, 21, 22 South Camp 2, Nxai Pan
Apr 23, 24, 25, 26 3rd Bridge, Moremi
Apr 27, 28, 29 Paradise, Savuti
Apr 30, May 1, 2 Ihaha 3, Chobe
May 3, 4, 5 Senyati, Kasane
May 6 Bush Camp, Hunters Road
May 7, 8 Camping, Elephant Sands
May 9, 10 Kubu Island
May 11, 12 Khama Rhino Sanctuary
May 13 Molope 1, Blouberg Nature Res
May 14 Return home
The route planned is below. Total distance planned was 3992 km without game drives etc. Including planned game drives according to expected fuel consumption and capacity, the total planned distance would be 6200 km. This included a trip from Senyati to Vic Falls, which was done by taxi. The total distance travelled came to 6535 km. It was a solo trip, against the advice of many, no sat phone. I have read enough reports to take this on solo. I did not keep track of fuel consumption the entire trip, but realised early on that consumption was significantly better than expected. This allowed us game drives as we pleased. On the 3 occasions I did calculate, it came to 7.4/7.2/7.1 km/l respectively. This was a combination of tar, game drives, sand, towing etc.
Plan B at mid-March was to only change 3rd Bridge to an extra night at Nxai if available, and then try for 3 nights at Muchenje. Time will tell. Plan C did not exist. I learned that it may be possible to postpone bookings to 2018, preferred not to think about that again. This in my mind would not constitute plan C, we would have to devise something as we go. I have learned over the years that nothing in nature comes on order. One must appreciate what you do manage to experience.
All preparations were working out nicely, shopping lists drawn up for Palapye/Serowe, Maun, Kasane & local and we started slowly to stock up. What seemed so far into the future was getting closer fast. Camping equipment was ready, myself and my wife Mientjie were ready to start packing. It was going to be a solo trip with our Defender 90 and the new Bush Lapa Boskriek 737. This combination was tested on 3 trips prior to this one. Everything was working fine. Must say I was rather nervous towing in Botswana conditions even for a normal rainfall year, and with all the warnings about thick sand. Again only time will tell. Fuel capacity was 260 l and water capacity 200 l. This seemed a heavy load by itself, but at least it was split between the vehicle and caravan.
Eventually the 6th of April 2017 arrived. All packed and ready for the first long haul.
We left home slightly later than planned, heading for Stockpoort. Finally, the wait is over. It was raining, mmmm. Between Carousel and Bela-Bela it was raining so hard that we were down to 30 – 40 km/h. At Kranskop the rain subsided and finally stopped. Maybe it did not rain in CKGR and Moremi. Unsure of road conditions in general after the widespread rains, and a slow traveler, the early start would give us ample time to shop along the way once in Botswana and still reach Tuuthebe Lodge at a reasonable time.
Remember not to travel through Lephalale past the power station at shift change 6 in the morning. Almost like the N1 north past Menlyn at 5 in the afternoon. Stockpoort went very smooth both sides. I was only asked what vegetables I was carrying. The carrots were declared and okayed by the official. All were very friendly and we were through in about 25 min both sides. We decided to skip Palapye ito shopping and head for the new mall I read about in Serowe. Reached Serowe in good time and could supplement all planned foodstuff from the Spar.
We reached Tuuthebe Lodge in Lethlakhane around 15:00, booked in and enjoyed the luxury of a chalet that would not be seen for the next 36 odd nights. A quick trip into town and the stock list was complete. Up early, coffee and rusks, the last decent shower for a while, we were off to Motswere Gate. Water was filled already at Khama Rhino and wood was sorted there as well. Diesel filled up at Mopipi and the load could be felt.
At Rakops I wanted to fill the diesel usage from Mopipi, but was unable to find the filling station. Having what I thought enough fuel, I did not put in too much effort and moved on. At the turnoff to CKGR tyres were deflated and the excitement grew. We were now entering the remote and wild areas we were dreaming about.
The huge flocks of birds about 5 km in on this road was quite spectacular and upped the already high spirits quite a bit. The picture below doesn’t do this spectacle justice.
The 45 km to Motswere Gate was very dusty in places and one could notice the battles that were fought during the wet weather, but overall not too bad. The 30l drum on the roof rack taken to be used as a washing machine came loose twice, luckily never fell off. This was filled with water, which came in handy towards the end at Kori. The drum, ……… not going with again.
We arrived and registered at Motswere and sorted out the stay for the night at the gate site. This made this day and the next easy on us, thanks Christa. Wood was available, but no water. We made what we called the one night stand camp and settled down, enjoying the surroundings although still at the gate.
Our first campfire for Botswana. We watched bush channel 1 till way after dark.
Up early again and we were off to Passarge 2. Was nice seeing Tiaan from Tiaans camp and got some up to date info on Khumaga from him. This is where I started to encounter some of the dreaded sand I read about. I had no difficulty at all. The game started to appear here and there and we were in heaven. Where it opens into plains at the first big intersection we were greeted by great numbers of different game.
En route to Passarge.
The road became very overgrown towards the north up to where it opens to the valley towards the west. The Landy & Boskriek gathered their CKGR stripes.
Arriving to this at Passarge 2 was just beyond words to me, and it was clean and there were no hijackers.
Camp was now to be set up as full monty. This we did to make provision for overnight storage of everything (the wing divider was also added to create a “room” at the door). Easy enough to set up, took us by the third time around 50 min going at a slow pace.
Passarge 2 to us was a very nice site with the plains in front. Be aware that you only have the choice of going east or west on same road for quite a distance. This was no issue to us, or else you chill in camp and watch the game passing by. Very peaceful.
Going to bed on the first night, everything was packed away as advised by so many. The garbage bag was put on top of the roof rack. Fast asleep sometime during the night I was waked by the following, excuse the Afrikaans: “ Liefie daar is `n voël op die kar se dak. Liefie daar is `n groot voël op die kar se dak”. Probable too slow in responding the following came in a slightly higher tone: “ Liefie daar is `n moerse voël op die kar se dak”. I was now up. Great sighting, not so great picture. The garbage bag was promptly moved to the nose box of the caravan.
The 2 nights flew by and we were moving on to Piper 1. Just a few km down the road we came across 6 lions. The male & 1 female were quite far in the long grass, the female below and 3 youngsters in the road. The youngsters ducked into the bushes, but this one posed nicely for us
We were soon on the “snakes & ladders” road. This was seriously overgrown, and arriving at Piper I discovered that the taillight cable has been damaged where clever hooked it around the front stabilizer to take up the slack. I had the drawing, tools and duct tape. Easy fix. Don’t hook it around there again.
En route to Piper the dreaded moment arrived with an oncoming vehicle and we were on a thick sand stretch, caravan in tow. I adopted the theory of – if I am towing I would expect a single vehicle to make way, if I am towing and a convoy approach I will give way, if I am not towing I will always give way unless the oncoming vehicle beats me to it. There was only one vehicle so I stood my ground. The guy gave way to me and I thanked and passed. All too soon a second vehicle approached. Again, the guy tried to give way but battled to get the vehicle up the embankment and kept approaching looking like his front wheels are a plough. Maybe a little less speed and bit more deflating? I decided to give way, selected low range and climbed up the other side without any hassles. This was a relieve, remember this was now really thick sand with a seriously high embankment on the sides. I can still see his wife’s face as I climbed out the tracks, with the Landy capable of quite a bit of leg stretch. It went something like this: “WHAAOOOOWWWW”
At the first pan at Piper we met fellow Bush Lapa owners and had a quick chat. Theirs were not in tow though, sorry can’t remember the no. Arriving at Piper 1 we were to be met by hijackers. A quick talk and checking their paperwork they were requested to move on to 2 where they were booked. We set up camp on the drowning spot where Stan advised us not to. It was dry and there has been no weather around since in Botswana, so we took the chance.
Piper 1 was absolutely outstanding for us. In fact, the Piper Pan area blew our minds away. We were in love with this place. Game was plentiful, and we enjoyed the short drives around the pans. There were lots of birdlife as well. During our 3 nights stay here we had lions roar every night, with one settling down from about 03:30 one morning, roaring every now and then, about 50 m from camp in the road towards the waterhole. This was just exhilarating. Here is the culprit.
Early morning sighting.
This morning was quite chilly, this poor guy felt it as well.
On the second day at Piper, I had very many insect bites around and just above my ankles. I suspect that it was caused by sand flees or something. We are using a concoction for flies that was suggested I think on the Zambia section for tsetse flies. One part liquid form Tabard, one part Dettol and 2 parts water. I applied this generously, and low and behold by the end of the day the itching was gone. Thanks for the recipe Christa.
As the last afternoon at Piper came closer, signs of possible storm developed. We broke camp and moved to higher ground. It did rain that night, but it was not a storm. The next morning the drowning spot was quite messy with mud. Thanks Stan, we did not have to pack up in the muddy spot. I still consider us lucky to have had early warning to move in time.
As all good things come to an end, it was time to move on to Kori 3. On the way to Kori we came across spoor of 2 lions that must have been the biggest spoor I have seen, but they were nowhere to be seen. The road was very bad in places, deep ruts, deep dried out & some wet mud holes and serious powder dust, but we were on our maiden trip of this kind and having a blast. These conditions were to be expected and did not bother. On this stretch I really started to respect the ability of out touring combination and more so the suspension on the Landy. It took a serious workout. Very happy the 2 of us again arriving at a clean and vacant Kori 3
Here Mientjie was a bit concerned that the long drop was quite a distance away, but then again, we do not need it during the night. The stay soft bottles picked up from someone here worked a charm – sorry can’t remember who. Kori was really peaceful. We stayed for 4 nights. On the third and last night’s we had an invasion of some millions of “besies”, which luckily disappeared at sunset.
On the second night we had a caracal in camp. Although a very young one, this was magical. We have never seen a caracal in the wild, and here it was in camp. Needless to say, we were over the moon. The picture does not do the sighting justice.
This is top of my list as favourite bird, and were we treated this morning.
On the third day at Kori we had the only cheetah sighting for the trip. Quite far from the road unfortunately.
On day 3 clouds gathered and it looked like we might experience our first Kalahari storm. It was a light one, but still pretty impressive scenes unfolded. After this the “besies” started.
The rain resulted in some water ponding on the wings bag on top of the caravan. This drew some birds that were just fantastic to sit and watch in camp.
This guy also utilised the blessing.
The morning after the rain the pan was quite misty, creating a very special atmosphere. I tried to capture it but failed with pictures displaying the real experience. This poor guy felt it.
The night before departure we went down to one night stand mode. Want to get going as early as possible as we are moving to Khumaga and may have to backtrack to Mopipi to refuel. The last shower from the gas geyser in the Boskriek, and as the last soap was rinsed of, the water died on us. Just made it. I upped the original water capacity of 200 l to 240 l, because I knew the geyser will use a lot more water than a shower bag. Glad I did. Must say, this was a very nice luxury every night.
These guys also kept us entertained in camp at Kori.
Here are some pictures of other sightings, scenery and the magic of CKGR. We enjoyed the stay here a lot, but what was outstanding to me was the solitude late afternoon and nights. Traffic during the day was not too much, but much more than usual as it was school holidays. I will now plot the school holidays first before allocating dates for planning trips.
Off to Khumaga. For the 4th morning in a row we found the spoor of a leopard, this time running right past camp in the road. This must be a female with a cub, but we never managed to spot her.
If no diesel was available at Rakops, that would mean backtracking to Mopipi. This was planned into the trip. This time round I did find the filling station, only to find it dry for over a month already.
On to Mopipi and back to Khumaga. Crossing the Boteti with the ferry.
Booking in at the gate.
This camp impressed us big time. We camped at no 2, and if I ever revisit I will try and get it again. I was quite impressed with the ablutions and the staff, very friendly people, as were everyone else on the trip so far. The Boteti had quite a bit of water, and on afternoon drives along the river, game was plentiful. We had our first elephants for the trip, and a first for us were the cranes.
Some of the sightings at Khumaga.
We took a drive to tree island, very boring drive, but did see a very large herd of Zebra in the distance.
In searching through the pictures, I realised that there is only 2 from Kumaga campsite, one on washing day. Mientjie was not too impressed with me for packing only 8 underpants, resulting in her doing washing at intervals to cater for this. Much appreciated my love.
The other was breakfast.
Met some Forum members who were our neighbours at Kori here. Can’t remember your names guys, but nice to see young people enjoying nature and behaving while doing it. Hope you came right with fuel, as I learned from Nxai entrance gate that Gweta was dry.
Nxai Pan South camp was next. Read reports that the road was really bad, so we made an early start, although not too far. However, we have also learned over the years to rather allow yourself as much time as possible as you never know what unknowns or opportunities might pop up. I encountered the thickest sand yet closer to the exit gate in the north, and still had no problems. About 10 km before Phuduhudu we were fortunate to see about 20 – 25 giraffes.
Arriving at Nxai entrance, we unhitched the Bush Lapa and made a run for Gweta. The official at the gate advised me I will find a chemist there, as the B&C was running low. Yes, there is one but no stock, so beer it was for the next 3 days. The veld next to the road closer to Gweta was still a swamp.
Back at Nxai, we registered, hooked up the hotel again and started on the road that made me remove my tow bar extension. It was really not that bad.
Evidence of elephants increased and we were amazed at these white elephants we came across. Looked like he was full of cream.
Booked in and upon enquiry were told that eland was likely to be found on the area to Khama Khama pan. The official advised us that this was a bad road. More on this later.
Camp was set up at no 2. The trees are not that bad, enjoyed the site. If I can be shielded from afternoon sun I am happy.
The Zebras expected between Khumaga and Nxai did not realise. Even the official at the office said they had no idea where they went this year. A result of the February rains. Good for Botswana the pula.
This will always fascinate me and probably many others.
Nxai was a bit of a disappointment for wildlife, but a lovely park. We did see very many giraffe, which proved to be the most sighted animals on this trip. Also one of the biggest herds of springbuck I ever saw. It was much bigger than what the picture presents.
We set out to Khama pan in search of eland. We never found eland, but had one of best of many laughs on this trip. The road was not used for months, and I missed a spider web across the road between 2 trees. One of those as in an earlier picture in CKGR. Mientjie warned me too late so sorry spider, your web is gone. Mientjie thought we may have a passenger now. She advised to stop and look for it before it creeps into the car somehow. Yah right, how is that going to happen, so clever did not stop and look for the spider. I decided to circle the pan clockwise, with the grass now being above bonnet height. And the Landy`s bonnet is very high with OME lift as well.
About 3 – 4 km onto the circle part of this route she started to have a bit of a fit. As she was clinging to the window in search of those elusive eland, I was surprised to find her almost on my shoulder on her way behind me, all in a split second, making the funniest noises. I was thinking a lion must have tried to pull her out the car, but realised the window is only half way down, and it is unlikely in this tall grass. Btw this was about the only time where a seed net was really needed. When she realised she cannot get further in behind me, she started to kick the halfway open window. This is when I noticed Mr. spider from the tree. It must have been looking her right in the eye when started with the fit. I promptly requested to ease off with the kicking, and rather attempt to close the
window. This was apparently not an option as it was still there, just below the edge of the window. By now we were not moving anymore. Eventually she slowly slide back to close the window. Funny how a window goes down when it should go up. By now I could hardly see anymore as the tears from laughing was running down my face. Okay so the window ended up in the closed position and Mr. spider decided to go down. I was now not requested but instructed to go and find that spider and ensure it stayed behind. I gladly obliged as the tone gave me a hint that there is no other choice. I found it and
made sure it did not travel along further, and it was not harmed. Only relocated from the tree to here in the long grass.
After this trip some housekeeping was needed underneath the Landy again. A visit to Baines Baobabs produced some magnificent scenery.
The next leg was the one I was most worried about, even before all the rain. We were now on our way to 3rd Bridge. Plan B ….. We also had to do some restocking in Maun. Plan B was sorted. While at Nxai, I managed to get hold of Xomae`s offices and confirmed that 3rd Bridge was indeed still not reachable, but my booking was moved to South Gate. Okay so I have somewhere to go.
On our last night at Nxai it started raining again. Quite a lot. Up went the stress again, we were going to a wet Moremi!!!
Part two to follow.