Botswana: Elephants, Speeding Tickets, and a Struggle to the Border.

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Africa » Botswana » North-West » Maun
December 7th 2013
Published: October 28th 2014
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The usual group of “helpful” men surrounded us as we pulled up at the Zambian border post. I brushed off the offers of help, and scoffed at the threat that I would not be able to exchange Zambian Kwatcha once in Botswana. There was no reception on my phone to check the exchange rate, and I wasn't about to trust the money-changers' "best rate". The only thing was that they were right, once we got into Botswana I couldn't exchange my Kwatcha anywhere. In the end I rode back to the border from where we were staying, and aware of the irony of the situation started pestering a line of people leaving Botswana by offering a competitive rate for the exchange of Pula to Kwatcha...

Before the realisation that I might be stuck with my Kwatcha, we had hit another hurdle. The Botswana customs officials identified that the Carnet that Jaap had obtained in Sudan was a fake, and took quite a dim view of the situation. But after some frowning, discussions, a trip to a back office, and confiscation of the Carnet, Jaap was sent to buy some kind of temporary importation permit, and we were able to leave.

I wanted to check out some of the wildlife in Chobe National Park, so we camped at one of the Safari lodges in nearby Kasane, and I booked a drive and river trip the next day. That night thunderstorms kicked in, and we watched some of the best lightning I have seen from the deck of the lodge restaurant. I thought I had some great photos, but unfortunately realised too late that I had knocked my focus setting and they were all slightly blurry, ah well.

The rains meant that the dawn drive the next day was not the wildlife extravaganza it had been only a week or so earlier, as the animals were able to spread out away from the river and still have access to water. Also sitting like school kid in the back of a 4x4 with a group of middle-aged Germans was slightly grating considering the usual independence I had on the bike. But I tried to embrace the beige-too-many-pockets atmosphere, and enjoyed a close encounter with a family of elephants and a pack of African Wild Dogs. I'm not exactly sure why, but another highlight was being able to follow a scarab-beetle as he rolled his ball of dung past our Landcruiser during a coffee break.

After lunch was the river cruise, a humorous affair that saw us pull out from the wharf before being hammered with the heaviest rain I have ever experienced. A unique experience, but not a wildlife filled one.

That evening we splashed out $20 on the amazing buffet at the lodge. I think the lodge will still be trying to recover financially from the blow we dealt to their game meat inventory.

The next day we left Kasane for Maun and the Okavango Delta. The 600km ride was primarily very straight roads, and I was able to coax the bike up to 200kph fully laden – 194 195 196 197 198 197 198 197 198 199 198 199 199 199 199 200! Apart from this blast, we weren’t riding very fast as we didn't want to risk hitting wildlife. However, in some high-density wildlife areas the speed limit is reduced to 80kph, and this caught us out on two occasions. The first occasion I stopped as an incensed looking traffic cop was on the road waving me down after Jaap had ignored him. Jaap came back, frowned at me for my law-abiding compliance, paid a reduced fine in cash, and we headed off. The second time we both just rode past the cop hiding in the scrubland, and after an initial flapping of arms the officer threw his hands up in exasperation and wandered back to his car.

At one point I passed a massive bull elephant and gingerly got off to take a pic of the KTM and elephant. Another moment where I was taken by the fact that I was a long way from home - I’d ridden the bike from my front gate in Scotland to where elephants were grazing.

Once in Maun, we found a campsite near the river, and then wandered off to find the source of some loud music in the distance. The pub we found was filled with quite a few well-lubricated locals, who we sat down to chat with. I got a feeling for the pride they have in Botswana, a country where the division between blacks and whites does not seem as marked as other African countries, and corruption and democracy are apparently on a par with countries like Portugal and South Korea.

In hindsight I regret it, but the costs for getting into the Okavango were high, so we decided to give it a miss and cross into Namibia the next day. We had spoken with a couple in a Landrover in Tanzania who had crossed at a remote location to the west of Nokaneng, so decided to try the same road. Not sure if it was my mood, the rain, mud, or deep sand, but the 137kms from Nokaneng to the Dobe border crossing was the hardest of the trip for me. I was seriously considering turning around, but after a while the thought of redoing the track behind me seemed more stressful than tackling the unknown of what was ahead.

After a last gasp of deep rutted sand on a path that I though couldn't possibly be the road to the border, we arrived at a small but tidy border control hut. We were soon stamped out of Botswana and passing through the veterinary fence into Namibia. I had been relieved to reach tarmac in Kenya after the Hell Road, but after the afternoon’s ride I was even more relieved to reach the well groomed gravel of Namibia.

Additional photos below
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30th October 2014

A long way from home
There are times when we travel off the path and have that moment of realization about how far away you are. It is exhilarating. Sorry hell road was so tough on you mentally. Hopefully brighter days are ahead. The storm shots are great.
30th October 2014

5 Stars
30th October 2014
Impressive lightning, less impressive photography


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