To say that the roads in the Kgalagadi are bad is an understatement. They are atrocious. If one is not bouncing over bone-shaking corrugations, then its heavy sand that makes the going tough. We had left Nossob at first light and headed across the dry riverbed into Botswana for the Mabuasehube leg of our trip. Driving through thick sand is best tackled early in the day as the sand is harder and more compact after a cold night. As the day heats up the sand becomes softer and more difficult to drive through.
The scenery along the way in the early morning was magnificent. There were lots of paw prints along the track and one occasionally had glimpses of shy buck and other animals as they moved away into the cover of the bush. In spite of the sand and corrugations we were in good spirits, looking forward to this long-awaited part of our holiday.
We stopped a couple of times along the route as the corrugations were making my ears sore from the vibrating. About forty kilometers along the way we suddenly smelt smoke in our car. This caused instant alarm. Had a fire started under the vehicle – a distinct possibility if grass had caught somewhere in the undercarriage and ignited. Rob and I both jumped out and inspected the scene. No fire, luckily, but I heard a number of swear words when Rob saw oil pouring out of the right front wheel area. When Jon drew up and inspected the damage he pronounced that our problem was a broken shock-absorber. Not good news when we still had about 110 kms to go on a road that probably wouldn’t improve.
By now Jon and Hillary were also very concerned about their Oryx van. It was taking a pounding from the corrugations and after a brief chat we decided to head back to Nossob with a view to getting our car repaired. Easier said than done. Turning around on this road was a nightmare, not only because of the soft sand, but the whole area alongside the road was undermined by rat burrows. Eventually we found a suitable place and managed to get both vehicles facing in the right direction. No mean feat with a caravan.
Our next problem presented itself very quickly. Rob and I were ahead and came to a rather steep sandy hill with a turn at the top. We managed to get about three quarters of the way up before we bogged down in the thick sand. Fortunately we were able to reverse out and make our way backwards down the hill to try a second time. Jon told Rob to go up at speed and keep the momentum going as he went around the corner at the top. Strike two was met with the same result as our first attempt. We got stuck in the same spot. Once again Rob was able to reverse down. The situation was concerning as we weren’t towing a van and we were busy churning up the road for Jon.
Rob let the tyres down even further and I elected to stay out of the car as he made his third attempt at crossing the dune. Hillary had walked to the top of the dune to watch proceedings – obviously wondering how Jon was going to fare with the caravan if Rob did make it over. With the engine roaring Rob sailed over on his third attempt. My heart was in my mouth when Jon, knowing he had only one chance, took to the hill at great speed. With the van swaying dangerously as he neared the top, he made it over – to great cheers from both Hillary and me. If he’d got stuck on that hill it would have been a disaster.
At Nossob we decided that we would spend two nights at Twee Rivieren whilst Rob and Jon took our car to Upington for repairs. The corrugated drive to Twee Rivieren further pounded both our vehicles but we were treated to magnificent red dune scenery along the way. As we came over the hill and saw the Auob River bed filled with animals, our depressed spirits lifted somewhat. A pair of giraffes gave us a magnificent ‘necking’ display.
This part of the Park, although much busier, abounds with wildlife and we would have an opportunity to explore the area once the car was repaired. We saw this collared cheetah sitting under a tree.
Rob and Jon had all four shock absorbers replaced in Upington whilst Hillary made alternative arrangements with the Botswana Parks Board for the balance of our trip. Our new destination would be Rooiputs where we would spend the next six nights.