Category Archives: Botswana 2010

Botswana 2010 : Rooiputs Part 3

We changed campsites three times at Rooiputs as we couldn’t get bookings at one particular site for the whole duration of our stay.  In fact very often the campsites were purported to be fully booked and we ended up being the only campers there.  Travel agents apparently make block bookings and then fail to come with clients.  This is unfortunate as people are turned away when in fact there are sites standing empty.

The birdlife around the campsite was always interesting.  Rob managed to track down the Barn Owl that we had found in the A-frame.  It had taken up residence in a nearby tree, obviously not planning to come back until we had left.

Barn Owl
Another lovely bird to photograph is the little Pygmy falcon that is so prevalent in the Park.

Pygmy falcon

We had a very productive game drive on our last afternoon of the holiday.  We took a drive a short way past the Kij Kij waterhole and Rob spotted an African wild cat (Felis lybica)  in a tree.   (How he  saw it amongst all those branches is still a mystery!)  These wild cats, that closely resemble domestic tabby cats, are mostly nocturnal, which made our daytime sighting all the more gratifying.

African wild cat

On the same drive we came across a pair of Tawny Eagles in a tree, which we photographed.  We later found out that they had caught a snake, that can be seen pinned under the foot of one of the eagles.  Amazing what one could miss with the naked eye!

Tawny eagles with a snake

Another bonus was a Honey Badger, known in Afrikaans as a ratel (Mellivora capensis).  The Honey Badger, which gives off a foul smell like a polecat when threatened, is tough and aggressive, so has few enemies.  They mainly hunt at night, but are often seen in the early morning or evening.  Their gait is rolling and they keep their noses close to the ground as they hunt for food – bees, honey, fruit, scorpions and reptiles.

Honey badger

We saw literally dozens of leopard tortoises in the Park.  This tiny one was battling to climb to safety from the road.

Tiny tortoise

Everyone knows that awful feeling when a wonderful holiday has come to an end.  The sadness at knowing that we’d be leaving behind wonderful friends, amazing birds and animals and the freedom of the great outdoors.  Our special evenings around the campfire chatting about the day’s sightings would be sorely missed, as would the jovial sundowner times at our various ‘lone tree pubs’ out in the bush.  But we had so much to be grateful for and we always had next year to look forward to – wherever the next adventure would be.

Sunset through the A-frame

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is truly one of Africa’s great game reserves.  If you have the right vehicle and don’t mind bad roads, then it really deserves to be on your list of ‘must do’s’.

Botswana 2010 : Rooiputs Part 1 | Botswana 2010 : Rooiputs Part 2 |
Botswana 2010 : Rooiputs Part 3 | Trips

Botswana 2010 : Rooiputs Part 2

When we drove into the Rooiputs camping area the first thing we saw was a small tent tucked away in a thicket of trees and bushes.  It belonged to the engineer working on the new road – a site he had occupied for more than a year.  Apparently he chose this unconventional habitat in preference to proper digs at Twee Rivieren/Two Rivers and because of this he was very knowledgeable about the comings and goings of the lions in the Rooiputs area.  He told us that Rooiputs was the best place in the Park to see lions and warned us that they came through the campsite at least three times a week.   He spoke of a pride of thirteen lions in the vicinity.

We didn’t have to wait long before the deep roar of a lion really close by broke the silence of the night. The next morning Jon was up at first light and noticed lion paw prints in the road within a meter or so from where we were both camped.

Lion tracks in the campsite

We wondered at what stage of the night it had passed by – was it while we were asleep or when we were enjoying a braai outside the A-frame?  Had we been sized up for dinner and found wanting? (Note:  We always had a car parked near where we were sitting for quick refuge in case of a visit by lions)

Lion bait  Jane & Rob Lion bait  Hillary & Jon

Morning ablutions forgotten we dived into Jon’s car and headed down the short track to the Rooiputs waterhole.  Lions can be quite difficult to spot as they blend into the bushveld scenery and at first we didn’t see anything.  Luckily campers from a nearby site pointed out the lone lioness on a dune quite near the waterhole.

Lone lioness

Our delight at seeing her magnified when we heard a loud roar and she jumped up and made her way to greet a magnificent male lion accompanied by three other lionesses.  She was obviously expecting them and they had a joyful reunion.

Happy reunion

Group reunion

We couldn’t believe our luck when one of the females later left the group and made her way a short distance along the road in front of us to greet yet another male lion.

Old male - Mfaas

Now there were six of them.  We later learned that the Park rangers kept tabs on these males and they were named Moertoe and Mfaas – Moertoe being the younger male who now headed the pride.  Old Mfaas, although respected, kept his distance from the pride when they were cooling off in the heat of the day.

Young male - Moertoe

The lions spent the rest of the day lying under trees, moving only to follow the shade as the sun rose in the sky.  The jackals gave them a wide berth as they came cautiously down to drink.  One lone springbok made off at great speed when one of the lionesses stood up and did a small charge, but she obviously wasn’t too keen on hunting as she quickly flopped down to the ground again.

Young male - Moertoe

What a magnificent lion sighting.  Any other animal activity on offer that day would pale into insignificance after such a display.

Botswana 2010 : Rooiputs Part 1 | Botswana 2010 : Rooiputs Part 2 |
Botswana 2010 : Rooiputs Part 3 | Trips

Botswana 2010 : Rooiputs Part 1

Our six night stay at Rooiputs turned out to be the highlight of our Botswana 2010 trip.  This idyllic spot is less than 30 kms from the Twee Rivieren border post and sits on a hill just above the Nossob River.  One has to take a detour to this camp but the road is no challenge and it doesn’t take long to reach the six well-appointed campsites.  The sign maker either had a sense of humour or didn’t know how to spell!

Crazy spelling

Within hours of settling in we had dramas unfolding before us that had us grabbing our cameras to catch the action.  We were sitting in the wooden A-frame having some tea when Hillary noticed an animal movement behind us.  It was a mother polecat carrying her baby to a new hiding place.  Rob and I positioned ourselves next to the hole, cameras in hand, and had rather a long wait until she briefly popped her head out to see what was happening.  After doing that once or twice she decided to remain in hiding until she could get away under cover of darkness.

Polecat

Back in the A-frame we heard a scratching noise above us and were excited to discover a big barn owl in the broken rafters.   Birds are always a priority for us so Hillary filled a pan with water and attracted some of the many sociable weavers in the area,

Sociable weavers

but she hastily had to move it away from their van area when she realized who else was partial to a drink.  Check out the trail that the puffadder left in the dirt leading to the pan.

Puffadder visits our camp
Puffadder trail

That evening we took a drive along the road to the Kij  Kij waterhole and saw our second lion of the trip – a very emaciated cub that didn’t look like it would survive very long.

Emaciated lion cub

Back at the campsite later we were having a braai when we saw a Cape fox sniffing at the hole where the polecat and her baby were hiding.

Cape fox smells polecats!

Hillary was most upset and wanted to intervene to stop the baby polecat being eaten.  The mother, who had been very wary of us in the afternoon, suddenly decided that we could help her protect her baby and , acting as a decoy for the fox, she ran right into the A-frame where we were standing.  Soon we had fox and polecat running around us totally oblivious of our presence.  Funnily enough the Cape fox wasn’t interested in eating the mother polecat – his main aim was to get the baby.

Mother polecat in the open

This went on for quite a while until the polecat decided it would be safer to deposit her baby in a burrow right next to our braai fire, which she duly did when the fox was distracted.  We never knew the outcome of the polecat saga, whether the baby was moved safely during the night or eaten, but the Cape fox came back to our campsite night after night.  These were both truly magnificent animals and all the more pleasing to see because they are not so common.

A short stay in the bush makes one very aware of the food chain and how every animal is in danger of being eaten.  One soon understands why the animals are so nervous, or  alternatively, relaxed around other beasts that don’t pose a threat to them.

Our stay at Rooiputs had certainly started on a very positive note – we looked forward to what the next few days had in store for us.

Botswana 2010 : Rooiputs Part 1 | Botswana 2010 : Rooiputs Part 2 |
Botswana 2010 : Rooiputs Part 3 | Trips

Botswana 2010 : Nossob to Twee Rivieren

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.

Steenbok

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.

Whistling-rat

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.

Baby springbok

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.

Necking giraffes

Necking giraffes

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.

Cheetah

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.

Botswana 2010 : Nossob

Having spent seven nights on the wild Botswana side of the Kgalagadi, it was time for us to head to Nossob to restock with provisions and fuel for the next leg of our trip, which was the Mabuasehube area.  We were very excited about the Mabua leg as Jon and Hillary had, on their last visit, watched in amazement as a pride of lions trashed their belongings in their campsite.  (They say the young lions were probably just being playful, but such a close encounter was an enormous adrenalin rush for them – we hoped to have a similar experience.)

Nossob is a big camp on the South African side of the Nossob River.  It’s a relatively short drive from Polentswa (58kms) and the road follows the dry river bed the whole way there.  Apart from the amazing birdlife en route we came across our first lion sighting at the Cubitje Quap watering hole – a lone young lioness, who looked a bit battle-scarred but who was obviously hot and hungry and hoping to catch one of the wildebeest taking a drink.

Lioness on the road to Nossob

When she plonked herself down in the shade beneath Jon’s car door, we had to wait until she made a half-hearted attempt at stalking the wildebeest before we moved on.

In the shade of Jon's car

We much prefer the Botswana campsites without any facilities, but I have to admit that it was a treat to have two good long hot showers and to be able to wash our clothes.  The campsite was practically full (mainly with pensioners) and we were able to glean some information from others who had just arrived from Mabuasehube.  To our dismay, we learnt that there were no lions to be seen there as a sickness had wiped them all out.  We were heartened to hear that grass seeds didn’t pose a problem on the road.

Although we hadn’t been overly keen to stay at the busy Nossob campsite, it proved to be very enjoyable after all.  We took advantage of the small swimming pool to cool off from the relentless March heat.  Even the resident squirrels were hot.  They would sprawl out on the ground and then use their front paws to scrape cool sand over their backs.   Their burrows were quite a menace – I almost broke my neck when I  stepped into one in the dark.

Ground squirrel cools off

We found the animal hide overlooking the Nossob watering hole to be amazing.  Rob practically took up residence in there and managed to add some wonderful pictures to his bird and animal photo collection.  He will blog about the falcons that had us enthralled with their skill at catching other birds.  Incidentally, SAN Parks have a web cam trained on the watering hole at Nossob and this can be seen on-line at any time (if it is working).

Wildebeest at Nossob

Although it is fenced off and security is tight, there are many birds and animals in the Nossob campsite itself.  We photographed both these owls in the same tree.

African Scops Owl

Southern White-faced Scops Owl

The shop at Nossob is expensive but perfect for stocking up with provisions.  One can even buy fresh home baked bread rolls (at an exorbitant price) and there is fuel for the vehicles.

Botswana 2010: Union’s End

I find that one of the special joys of travel is to visit places that I heard about or read about as a relative youngster. I got a great kick, while visiting the UK, to walk down Harley Street and Fleet Street; seeing Buckingham Palace, and specially finding that “Banbury Cross” actually exists. I find that I am seldom disappointed, as the attraction is just in being there rather than in the expectation of finding something outstanding.
And so it was very easy to make the decision to take the 60-odd kilometre drive from Polentswa to visit the point located at 24o 45’ 55.3” South, 19 o 59’ 58.7” East, the point known as Union’s End, the extreme north-westerly point of South Africa.
The drive from Polentswa in the early morning was an absolute treat, with a brief sighting of a leopard no more than ten metres from the car. We watched a group of four bat-eared foxes as they hunted happily in an open field and were treated to the sight of five magnificent lilac-breasted rollers on a single dried tree stump. Then there were the wildebeest, gemsbok and springbok in large herds. And a lone meerkat that played sentry on a tree stump near his home.
Union’s End. Even the name is an anachronism; South Africa ceased to be a “Union” and became a “Republic” on 31 May 1961. But the name has been retained for this, the northernmost point of South Africa; the point where South Africa meets two of its neighbours, Namibia and Botswana, at the same spot. This is also the spot where the Nossob River (or river bed, really – it is dry for the greater part of its existence) crosses from Namibia into the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and wanders its waterless way for 200 kilometres through the park, officially dividing South Africa from Botswana. It gives its name to the Nossob Camp and later, shortly after its confluence with the Auob River (also dry), it contributes to the names of another two camps, Twee Rivieren in South Africa and Two Rivers in Botswana.
But back to Union’s End.
The point where the three countries meet is marked by a small information board, a pole bearing the longitude and latitude of the spot and nothing else. Namibia is fenced off from Botswana and South Africa, but, as the spot lies in the transfrontier park, there is no fence between Botswana and South Africa at this point. The centre of the Nossob, which is the boundary between the two countries, is marked at intervals by cement bollards with “RSA” and “RB” etched on the appropriate sides.
The South African section of the transfrontier park was previously known as the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park and was established way back in 1931. According to the information boards, the earliest activity at Union’s End took place in the mid 1930s. Imagine what the area must have been like those 75-odd years ago! Imagine how difficult it must have been to reach, and yet there was already a problem with poachers. There was a plan to establish a border patrol post here in 1934 in order to control poaching, but insufficient funds were forthcoming and the post never materialized.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park was established in 2000 when the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in RSA was merged with the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana.

Botswana 2010 : Polentswa

The road from Kaa Gate to Polentswa takes one through the most magnificent savannah and woodland scenery.  With no time pressures and no problems with grass seeds we were able to enjoy the animals that came into view every now and then.  As we neared the dry Nossob riverbed we started to see raptors of every description.  The Kgalagadi is famous for its raptors and one is always assured of good close up sightings of the magnificent snake eagles, tawny eagles and the many falcons and goshawks.

Raptor flying overhead

The many snakes and rats in the area keep these birds well fed.  We came across our first snake shortly after crossing the Nossob river.

Snake on the road to Polentswa

Once on the South African side of the park, we immediately felt a bit restricted as we could no longer get out of our cars to take photos.  When spending time in Botswana, where campsites are unfenced, one tends to forget that there are rules and regulations about getting out of ones vehicle.  It takes the deep resounding roar of a lion close by at night to make one realize that these rules are absolutely essential and one should be very careful.  The sound of a lion roaring outside one’s tent sends shivers up one’s spine.  It truly is one of the classic sounds of the African bushveld.

The Polentswa campsite is on the Botswana side of the park, so once again we had to cross over the Nossob riverbed to get there.  It was a typical Botswana camp with a wooden A-frame construction to give one a measure of shade.  Our site overlooked a pan and we were not far from the Polentswa watering hole.  This proved a wonderful spot for our evening sundowners where we were rewarded by the many animals and birds that came to take their last drink of the day.

Black-backed jackal

On our first evening six black-backed jackals converged from various directions, followed by a herd of hartebeest that gave us a wonderful horn-butting display.

Hartebeest head-butting

The next day the watering hole proved very rewarding as no less than fourteen secretary birds came to drink.  It is always enthralling to see these beautifl big birds in the wild.   To have fourteen of them at once was almost mind-boggling.  Unfortunately they were a bit scattered and we weren’t able to photograph them all together.  Nevertheless it was an unforgettable treat seeing so many.

Secretary birds at watering hole

There was also a resident tawny eagle at the Polentswa watering hole which we  saw on each of our sundowner visits.

Tawny eagle

Visitors to Polentswa will notice an unmarked grave a few hundred metres from the campsites.  We wondered who had been buried here – was it a favourite animal in the Park or perhaps an unlucky visitor who didn’t abide by the rules of staying in their vehicle?    We were later enlightened by Don, a Parks Board officer, who gave us an information leaflet about the grave.

According to the book called “Kalahari Gemsbok National Park” by Gus Mills and Clem Haagner, the grave was that of one Hans Schwabe, a diamond prospector who was passing through the Park on his way to Namibia (then South West Africa)  in 1958.  He enquired whether there were diamonds in the area and didn’t believe it when he was told that there weren’t any.  Schwabe abandoned his car and went in search of diamonds on foot.  He left a note in his car saying that there was no water for the car (which was untrue as the radiator was found to be full) and did some illegal prospecting along the way.  Game rangers later found his unsteady tracks and saw vultures overhead.  It wasn’t long before they came across what was left of his remains.  As it was impossible to remove his body, they buried it where they found it and placed a little wooden cross on his grave.

Botswana 2010 : Matseleng Pan to Kaa Gate

We left Matseleng Pan after two nights and were hopeful that the work put into clearing grass seeds from the radiators had sorted out our overheating problems.  The short drive back to Ngwatle was uneventful, as was the 27 km drive to the turnoff to the Kaa Gate road, which showed that we had 78 kms to cover.  The road was very sandy and had some grass growing down the centre of the two tracks, which once again proved problematical.

Turn off to Kaa Gate

Within minutes of turning onto the track the cars started overheating and we had a repeat of our stopping and grass scraping sessions that we’d experienced on the way to Matseleng Pan.  However, by now many seeds had broken off and were completely clogging the radiators.  The situation looked hopeless and we wondered if we would have to abort the trip because of radiator problems.

Overheating problems

The 79 km drive took us over six hours again and we were all extremely hot and weary by the time we stopped about five kilometers from the Kaa Gate in the late afternoon.  The road was proving difficult to drive along and with the vehicles running at less than optimum performance levels Jon was finding it exceedingly tricky to tow the Oryx van through the soft sand.  Just two kilometers from the Kaa Gate he was unable to negotiate a sandy hill and it looked like an alternative route had to be taken if we wanted to get to Kaa Gate.  Jon looked at the bushy area alongside the road, which was also sandy but hard in parts and decided to unhitch the van and test drive his car over the new route.  It seemed fine, so he towed the van into the bush.

This proved to be a disastrous decision, as halfway along the new route the van got bogged down completely in the sand and he almost jackknifed the vehicles when trying to reverse out of the situation.  With Rob’s help he tried in vain to dig and winch the van out of the sand, but his small winch just wasn’t up to the job.

Winch attempt to remove van

Rob and I decided to drive to Kaa Gate to see if the Parks Board staff had a tractor to tow him out with.  On arrival we met a very helpful gentleman called Mmoniemang Lere who fortunately was able to come to Jon’s rescue.  Within minutes he had the van chained to the tractor and towed it into Kaa.  (Jon and Hillary had an “oh sh*t!” moment when they opened their van after the tractor tow…)

The van after being towed by tractor

Unfortunately for us, Rob had pulled off the road to watch the tractor rescue and in turn got completely stuck when he tried to drive off again.  Mr Lere had to come back a second time and rescue our vehicle.   With great difficulty, our Toyota was towed out backwards (very undignified),  but at least we were able to get on our way again and  make it safely into Kaa Gate.  In hindsight, the situation was quite laughable because the last two kilometers to Kaa had taken us about one and a half hours!

At Kaa Gate three fortunate things happened.  Firstly we were told we could camp at their emergency campsite at the gate, which had a shower and a long drop toilet.  After our long hot day of travel to be able to have a cold shower was a gift!  Secondly they had a powerful high pressure hose which was perfect for removing the grass seeds from the radiators – that was the best news of all.  And lastly, on checking the underneath of our vehicle for grass, Rob noticed that the petrol tank cover had cracked badly and he was able to have this mended by Mr Monametsi Chinyepi, the Parks Board mechanic.  We have nothing but high praise for the wonderful, friendly staff at Kaa Gate.  They are an asset to the Park.

Car repairs at Kaa Gate

By the time we left Kaa Gate for our booked campsite at Sizatswe, our vehicles were in tip top condition and we were assured that the road to Polentswa (the next leg of our journey)  was well-used and would not present problems with grass seeds.  This proved absolutely right and our holiday immediately started looking brighter than it had started out.

Campsite at Sizatswe

Sizatswe campsite is quite remote, beautifully kept and situated above a lovely pan.  Unfortunately there wasn’t much game to be seen in the area and we disappointingly only logged two gemsbok and a lone springbok whilst there.  The night sky was magnificent though and we went to bed at night serenaded by a pair of owls.

Botswana 2010 : Kang to Matseleng Pan

I guess you could say that our holiday’s fate was sealed in the planning stages of our 2010 Botswana trip when I courageously gave Hillary the brief to take us to the most remote campsites she could find.  (Hillary has a flair for working out exciting itineraries!) This bravado was born on our trip to the Central Kalahari in 2009 where we had stayed in marvelous campsites unfettered by fences and open to all the wildlife that the area had to offer, lions and all.  Anyone who has ever camped in the wild like this knows that it has no equal in the African bush.  There is something so special about sitting around a campfire, under a canopy of stars and knowing that there are no other campers anywhere close and it’s just you and the bushveld.

With consummate skill Hillary found routes that, unbeknown to her, would give us adventures we hadn’t counted on and would leave us with memory banks so full of credit we would remember the holiday fondly for years to come. After spending our first night at the Kalahari Rest Game Farm just outside Kang, we departed on the first leg of our journey to Matseleng Pan via the little village of Hukuntsi.  We didn’t realize it at the time, but this road was the first of many that would challenge the skills of the drivers and the mettle of our trusty Toyotas.  The tarred road was so bad that we averaged about 40 kph and looked like slalom skiers as we zig zagged our way around the giant potholes.

Hukuntsi was our last opportunity to refuel the vehicles and once done, we followed a friendly local who showed us the road to Matseleng Pan.  There were three ways we could have gone to the Pan – one via Monong, the other via Zutshwa, both of which were regularly used gravel roads.  The third option was a direct route between the two that consisted of a very sandy track.

Deflating tyres for the sand

We voted for the middle one, the road less traveled, wanting to take the shortest and most challenging route.  At the outset the road looked sandy but pretty innocuous.

Grassy track

However, this soon changed as the sand gave way to grass tracks and then the road was hardly discernable through the tall grass.

Rob ponders the road ahead

Rob and Jon had placed seed nets over the front fenders to protect the radiators, but with grass seeds flying over the bonnets of our cars we soon felt like we were driving combine harvesters.  It didn’t take long for our air conditioner to stop working and both engines to heat up.  An inspection revealed that the radiator grills were totally clogged up with seeds.

Jon & Rob tackling the grass seeds

After using sticks and brushes to clear them and waiting for a few minutes for the cars to cool down, we resumed our journey, keeping anxious eyes on our gauges for overheating.  We progressed slowly but fought a losing battle against the seeds. There wasn’t much shade along the way, and with the sun burning down on us the heat was relentless.  The journey proved very slow as we literally stopped every couple of kilometers to clear out seeds and let the cars cool down.

The 80 kilometer drive to Ngwatle, took us six and a half hours.  I don’t think we took in much of the scenery, because of the overheating problem, but the road itself would have been quite drivable if it hadn’t been for the grass seeds.  At Ngwatle we saw a number of Abdim Storks, which we had particularly wanted to photograph on this trip, so that turned out to be a moment of excitement for me and Rob.  Camp fees had to be paid to the local community and after settling with the lady in charge and fending off hordes of children asking for sweets, we proceeded on the last leg of our journey to Matseleng Pan.  In her book on Botswana, Veronica Roodt describes this area as “the most spectacular Acacia savannah veld that Botswana has to offer” and she was not wrong about that.

Abdim Storks - Matseleng Pan

Unfortunately the only campsite was taken so we had to look around for somewhere suitable to park ourselves off.  We ended up making camp on a lovely area overlooking the pan.

Campsite at Matseleng Pan

With views of hartebeest, herds of springbok, ostriches and birds aplenty, it felt like the Kalahari Ritz!  On an early evening game drive we found a single tree next to the Pan, which was quickly dubbed “Lone Tree Pub” and was the forerunner of many evening sundowners at similar pubs on our trip!

Jane, Jon & Hillary at Lone Tree Pub

The birdlife was quite prolific in the area and when we filled a frying pan with water we were visited by the most amazing collection of red-headed finches and shaft-tailed whydahs.

Red-headed finches & Shaft-tailed whydahs

Altogether a magnificent spot to spend a couple of nights, enjoy the solitude and spend time alone with the local fauna.