Thursday, October 18, 2007
I got up at 5:00 a.m. to watch
for wildlife. There were birds, squirrels, and lots of
bottom-of-the-food-chain antelope, but again no cats. A
couple of times I saw a lone, skittish antelope and thought sure a lion
was going to come out of the bushes and pounce, but no such luck.
I know the lions were around there somewhere. We could hear their
cries during the night!
Savuti to Ihaha, Chobe National Park
Cute little squirrels,
Before the South African group
left, I gave Marilyn our Website
address so they could check on us later and see if we survived.
Hi, Marilyn! Hi, all!
At the entrance to the Savuti Campsite they have maps of the local
area, but you have to know to ask for one. The South Africans
gave us this info last night, so we picked up a map before heading
out. We left camp and backtracked to Gobatsa Hill (Leopard Rock),
a low, round hill a few kilometers to the south, before
turning around and driving the 30km to the Ghoha Gate exit.
Let's get a present
The track was pretty sandy at
first, but as we neared the exit, part of
the road was actually gravel. We didn't get too excited, though,
because we'd been forewarned that the next 45km after the gate is
horrendous. Appalled from the South Africans' description of the
road, I'd scoured our books and maps and found a detour around the
first 20km or so on a track that was supposed to be slightly less
We exited Chobe via the Ghoha Gate at 10:30, signing out in their book
and showing all the official bits of paper proving we'd already paid on
our way into the park yesterday. Tom asked the guard about the
detour, and she confirmed it was the thing to do, as the main track was
very sandy and churned up by lorries. So just past the gate, we
made a 90-degree turn to the left, drove 7.5km, and made a hard
right. If this was the detour, I'd hate to see the bad
After the hard right, we plowed
and skidded and skated 42 additional
kilometers through the rolling dunes. The detour track meets up
with and crosses the main track more than once. I think we
to stay on the "better" track, the detour, the entire time, but I
couldn't really see what difference it makes. When the "roads"
ran parallel, they were virtually identical. It was the WORST
ROAD OF ALL TIME. I know I said that about the road yesterday
across the Magwikhwe Sand Ridge, but it's so hard to choose.
Yesterday's track was probably slightly worse, but that was only 3km,
while today's horrible road was ever so much longer. Either way,
yuck. At one point we hit a large bump, nose-dived into the sand,
and Tom bashed his head on the ceiling so hard I'm surprised he wasn't
The track was deep, thick, silty
sand. Tom did the driving, and I
did the hanging on for dear life. I just kept thinking, "This is
the road?????" These weren't national park tracks. This was
an actual well-trodden path used by regular citizens (the few with
vehicles) in northern Botswana. This is the road??? You
gotta be kidding me. Tom's 4x4 driving had much improved in our
last three days in the bush. The sand he drove us through
yesterday and today was much deeper than the stuff we got stuck in
for hours and hours on Monday.
The rolling dunes of
In the village of Kachikau, the
road finally turned to gravel, and we
stopped and emptied our two reserve jerry cans of fuel, 40 liters
total, into our gas tank and hoped it would be enough to last two more
days in the bush, until we could fill up again. It bears
repeating: There is no place to get fuel between Maun and
Kasane. When we opened the cans, the contents were under
pressure, and gas spewed all over my legs, and in a few minutes, it
started burning my skin. I had to immediately shed my socks and
take a wet-wipe bath right there on the side of the road - quite a
spectacle for the local children who were just exiting the nearby
Continuing north and east,
there's a good view across the Chobe River
into Namibia. Everything was green and lush here, a stark
the dry sands of Savuti.
40km past Kachikau, I navigated us into
a wrong turn and almost into Namibia. Tom flipped a U-turn, and
we re-entered Chobe National Park at Ngoma Bridge. For once the
guards didn't have us sign in, but they did check that we'd paid our
Chobe entrance fees already. A sign posted inside the guard hut
was full of helpful safety tips. We'd had a few kilometers of tar
road just before the park entrance, but back in Chobe, the road turned
They don't sugar-coat
it, do they?
The far northeast section of
Chobe National Park along the Chobe River
is referred to as the Serondela. This afternoon we slowly made
our way from Ngoma Gate to Ihaha Camping Site, exploring the roads away
from the river as well as the riverfront, looking for cats and other
wildlife in every spot of shade.
Mokoro dugout canoe, Chobe
The riverfront was teeming with
life: great herds of zebra, hippos, African buffalo, breeding
herds of elephants numbering in the hundreds, antelopes, of course, and
scores of warthogs. But still no cats. Where are the
Getting warm in the
African fish eagle
Around 5:00 p.m. we checked in
Ihaha Campsite. Like Savuti, and
unlike Third Bridge and Xakanaxa, Ihaha had a game warden on
site. The camp was fairly deserted, and the warden seemed happy
when we showed up to have someone to talk to. We asked him about
finding some cats, and he advised us, of course with no guarantees, to
drive a few kilometers to the east just before sunset, staying next to
the river, and that the lions might be out looking for dinner.
We quickly found our assigned campsite and threw out some chairs to be
sure no one would jump our claim, but it probably wasn't necessary,
because we had almost the entire campground of Ihaha to
ourselves. Ihaha was our favorite camp of them all, with very
private pitches overlooking the river, a nice fire pit, and a nearby
water standpipe. Be warned, though: Lots of game comes
through the campsites.
Jana claims Ihaha
After claiming our site, we
drove 4km east to a lovely spot on the
river to watch the sunset. A large herd of elephants with several
babies was bathing in the Chobe. As the sun went down, as if on
cue, the entire herd turned and left the river - and headed right for
us! We were both standing beside the truck, and I jumped in the
cab, as if that would protect me if an elephant decided to stomp.
Just before the elephants reached us, they turned a bit to the right
and safely passed by just a few meters from our bumper. It was
the most memorable and awesome event of our trip!
A breeding herd at
They're coming right
Back at Ihaha just after dark,
we decided to walk to the ablution block
for showers instead of driving like we sometimes do, since we were
relatively close. Driving to the ablutions, when it's done, isn't
from laziness; it's to avoid encountering wild animals while on
foot. We had our typical shower by flashlight then started to
walk back to our campsite. Halfway there, we were stopped in our
tracks by the sound of warthogs, a very aggressive animal,
frighteningly close by. We couldn't see them, but I'm sure they
could see us. We slowly made our way past, and the second we got
back, Tom built a fire. This was probably the most dangerous
event of our trip.
For dinner I fried up some bacon on the stove in the camper and served
it with a hunk of bread and a hunk of cheddar. Good eats.
If only we had some home-grown tomatoes! Tom found a piece of
rebar here to substitute for the piece of wire that had been holding
our back stairs together, a much sturdier substitute. We still
had to wire the darn things into place while driving, though, making it
a hassle to get into the back of the camper during the day.
We were sitting around the fire enjoying the sounds of the night, when
all of a sudden we heard some animals fighting and running very close
by. It sounded like they were running straight for our
camp! We jumped into the camper and slammed the door quicker than
you could believe. I don't know what it was, but it sounded like
a couple of dogs fighting. Hyenas maybe? Jackals?
187 sandy kilometers Savuti to Ihaha, with extra game drives.
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