It has been so long since I have had decent wifi or phone reception to be able to post a blog so my apologies.😜
We left Maun having been warned about the terrible state of the road too Nata but we were scooting along at 100 kph and all was good for the first 50 kilometres but then all hell broke loose. The road became so badly pot holed that we were down to first gear dropping down into the pot holes and then climbing back out of them. There was no going around them because they covered the whole road apparently as a result of a very bad flood 12 months ago! Anyway after about another 50 kilometres of that and the road came good again and we were back up to 100 kph to Nata.
From here we turned north and around 50 kilometres on we came to a camp site called Elephant Sands which has a large man made waterhole fed by a bore which attracts all the elephants from miles around. The waterhole has about 10 chalets on one side, the reception, restaurant and bar on the other side and the camp area on one end leaving the other end for the elephants to come and go. They did however use the campground as a thoroughfare to and from the waterhole! It was a great place to stay and we really enjoyed having a couple of G and T’s on the deck of the bar while being amused by the Elephants even after the sun went down. We met a great Aussie bloke by the name of Peter a Firefighter from the Gold Coast who was on an overland bus trip. It had been a while since I had heard an Aussie accent and I had missed the sound of it. We have been hearing many different but mainly European accents with the most common being German.
We left the next morning bound for Kasane where we wanted to spend some time in the Chobe National Park. Before we could do that though I had had a small air leak in the passenger side of our air bag suspension on the Kimberley Karavan which had started to become a faster leak and needed attending to. For all of this trip I have needed to pump the air bag up morning and night even though I had asked for it to be fixed before I left. There is a terrific app called iOverlander which is a map based app with points of interest like camp sites, restaurants, mechanics, different types of shops, gas suppliers etc and I had a look on it for a mechanic in the Kasane area and found a bloke by the name of Ken Webster who had helped out numerous other overlanders with all sorts of problems. So around we went to see Ken who dropped everything and allowed me to help him find the leak where most mechanics won’t let you near their workshops. We started by checking every fitting between the compressor right through to the airbag itself and could not find a leak. So next we took the airbag out and dunked it in a big bucket of water to see if that was leaking but no it seemed ok too. The only thing we could do now was replace the airbag with one of the two spares I was carrying with me. This was not an easy job but after four hours of very hot and dusty work we were ready to pump it up and test it. All seemed good so we booked into a nearby campsite and waited until morning to see if it had maintained pressure and sure enough it had so we can only presume that the airbag had a very minor leak that only leaked under the weight of the van.
That afternoon we got ourselves a day pass to go into the Chobe National Park early the next day to see what we could see. Chobe is renowned for big cat sightings and we were keen to see some! We arrived at the gate at 6am along with about 30 guided game drive vehicles and immediately went down to the river flats where we were told was our best chance of seeing lion. We followed the river along and found very little of anything until I spotted a group of boats all together and on closer inspection I could see three lioness walking along a spit of land between the river and the bush. There are strict rules that you have to stay on the made tracks but two game drive vehicles from the same lodge went 700 metres off track just so that they could drive along beside the lions.
Moments later Pauline spotted four lion cubs skipping along in the tall grass behind their Mum. As the lions left the river flats to gain the safety of the bush the game drive guides lined up along the track to block the lions escape and as the lions tried to go around the front of the line the guides leap frogged ahead to cut them off. It was the most disgusting behaviour I have seen in Africa so far and was absolutely appalled by the guides efforts to contain the lions so that their tourists could get the best photo. Eventually the lions were able to pick a gap between two of the vehicles and made their escape but by now the four cubs were quite distressed.
When we left late that afternoon I stopped at the main gate and reported the two guides who went off road and supplied photos of not only their vehicles but also their faces to the authorities. I can only hope that the punishment will fit the crime but who knows. To top things off in a deep soft patch of sand I lost momentum and the Land Cruiser sunk as I tried to get going again. It was starting to get hot and it took quite a bit of effort using the Max tracks to get out and get going again.
How it works is that the game drive vehicles pick up their tourists at 5.30am and spend three hours in the park before dropping them back to the lodges for breakfast at 9am so the park is not a nice place to be before 9am. We continued on after all these vehicles left and had a very enjoyable time with a handful of other private vehicles seen during the day. We saw another pride of 10 lions as well as a lot of other animals. Chobe unlike every other park we have been to does not seem to limit the number of commercial operators using the park and so yes we have seen the good, the bad and the ugly side of Chobe National Park. However any day you get to see 17 lions has got to be a good day!
The next day we packed up and set off for the border crossing between Botswana and Zimbabwe expecting a difficult day. As we came within two and a half kilometres of the crossing we came upon a line of parked semi trailer trucks that went for that whole distance. This is also the border crossing from Botswana into Zambia and this is done by one ferry that can take one semi trailer at a time so there is an incredibly long wait for them. Private vehicles are allowed to go straight to the front because they can be put on the ferry with a truck. Anyway our crossing was fantastic, Botswana knew what they were doing and we were through in half an hour and then on the Zimbabwe side they were just as efficient and again we were through in half an hour. Again though the authorities didn’t ask us if we had anything to declare nor checked us for anything in either the car or the van. In recent weeks we have been through what is called the Vet Line several times. The Vet Line is in place to stop the spread of Foot and Mouth and also a poultry disease and if you are heading south they take all your red meat, poultry and eggs but heading north they just make you drive through a bath of soda and then walk on a mat soaked in the same solution.
So then it was a one hour drive to Victoria Falls where we stayed at the Victoria Falls Rest Camp which is smack bang in the middle of town so we could walk anywhere. Anywhere that is except to the falls look out and the Lookout Cafe where only last week a German tourist was walking between the falls and the cafe (around one kilometre) when he was attacked by an elephant and very nearly died. We were walking down to the cafe when one off the Curio sellers warned us not to go any further and there in front of us were five elephants. He told us there was a bus that would pick us up and drop us back so we waited! Our walk along the falls was beautiful and it was lovely having the showers of spray come over us as it was again today 39c. There wasn’t as much water coming over the falls as when we were here two years ago but still a fantastic sight to see.
We also did a sunset boat trip on the Zambezi River which we really enjoyed on our last visit to Victoria Falls. It was full of animal sightings and all enjoyed while sipping on pink gin and tonics!
I was also starting to look like someone who had been marooned on an island for a few months so Pauline dragged me into the hairdressers in Victoria Falls for tidy up!
It is a real shame that Zimbabwe is in a bad position at the moment, their currency collapsed, there has been wide spread corruption, the cost of living has sky rocketed, it is difficult to get fuel for cars and the people are really feeling the pinch. We witnessed kilometre long queues trying to get petrol in the service stations because it is in such shortage. Another man told how the rice he was buying for $1.50 a few months ago now cost him $5.00, now that’s inflation. Yet they are the most friendly happy people you could come across and they still live in hope. I was speaking to a 21 year old girl who told me she didn’t hold out much hope for herself or her children but maybe for her grandchildren. We spent three days in Victoria Falls mainly just relaxing and recharging ourselves as I especially was feeling a bit tired and run down from the constant moving on.
From here we will cross the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia on the Victoria Falls Bridge and through Livingstone heading up to Mana Pools where we booked a campsite in the National Park for 3 nights.