Published: May 27th 2012May 23rd 2012
Wednesday May 23 was an epic. We left our last safari camp at 7 AM expecting to arrive back in Maun before supper time. It’s about 100 km of soft sand in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, followed by another 150 km on paved pothole road between Rakops and Maun. The donkeys eat the pavement if it has too much salt, resulting in very deep potholes, not to mention the animals that are constantly in the road.
Our travelling partners (5 Italians) were unusually quiet as they had not seen any predators during our 8 day safari and were obviously disappointed. However after 3 hours of 4WD on sandy track we sighted two lions mating right near the road. Then Willem spotted 3 cheetah brothers sniffing around a termite mound, and suddenly our travelling partners began talking again. Since they were going on to a further 5-day safari into Moremi Game Reserve, we knew they wouldn’t be disappointed, but they couldn’t have known that.
Our share of excitement over the predator sightings was eclipsed by the truck burning out a bearing in the sand track 180 km from parts and a mechanic. This resulted in an overheated axle that twisted under stress – a very serious problem in the bush. And although Willem is prepared for just about anything to happen with the vehicles in the bush, this one didn’t have a solution without help. Fortunately Willem had a satellite phone and called for two more trucks to set out from Maun with help – one for transport of our group, and one with the replacement axle.
Making the most of the situation on a very pleasant sunny day, the staff set out lunch in the shade of an acacia tree, while Willem figured out the logistics of how we and the trucks would all get back to Maun. After lunch, with a new plan in place, our group of seven plus three staff and Willem all piled into the 5-seater crew truck and headed out for Maun ‘African Taxi Style’. Two others stayed behind to await the new parts and additional help.
It was crowded in the truck, to say the least, but we all gamely piled in. However, by the time we met the replacement passenger truck about 100 kilometers from Maun, our bums were numb, and we were well and truly ready for comfortable seats again. Willem drove as fast as the donkeys and cattle in the road would allow, arriving back in Maun well after dark. We fully appreciate the warning about not driving at night in Botswana. We are told that the animals sleep in the road during the night, and cattle are just too valuable to risk hitting one, not to mention the incredible damage hitting one would cause.
Meanwhile back in the Central Kalahari, the support team that stayed behind completed the “field” replacement of the axle by around 7 pm, in the dark, and drove through the night, arriving home the next morning, somehow avoiding all the animals in the road.
A shower that evening was a welcome bonus to clean off 8 days accumulation of Kalarahi dust. But the hotel could not replace the quiet and clear night sky of the desert camp.
Africa has once again captured our hearts, and we are already planning the next trip.