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.