Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Francistown, Botswana, to Johannesburg (Kempton Park), South Africa

The truck was due back at the rental depot by 5:00 p.m. today.  Since we were behind schedule due to yesterday's mechanical difficulty, we got up at 4:45 a.m., BEFORE SUNRISE, and by 6:30 a.m. we'd had coffee, filled up with gas, aired up the constantly leaking left front tire, and were on our way.

There were a couple of vet control checkpoints this morning, as usual, but they waved us on through.  We drove south like mad, barely stopping until we reached Sherwood, the last town before the border.  However, don't think we were driving like maniacs, because the truck topped out at about 120 kilometers (75 miles) per hour, and that's after you had it floored for several minutes and were going at least slightly downhill.

Our view most of the day.  This photo taken in Botswana.

At 9:30 we stopped at the filling station in Sherwood, where we topped off with gas and had a burger and fries at a fast-food restaurant called Barcelos connected to the gas station, using up the rest of our pula.

By this point I was a border paperwork pro.  The procedure to cross from Botswana to South Africa at Martin's Drift/Groblersbrug is as follows:

- On the Botswana side, park at the main building, which looks like an elementary school.

- Go inside to the customs window.  The driver signs a book and gets a gate pass.

- Go next to the immigration window.  They'll give you a form to fill out.  Fill out the form, return to the window, and they'll stamp both your passport and the gate pass.

- Get back in your vehicle and proceed to the gate, where they will collect your gate pass and let you through.

- On the South Africa side, park your vehicle and walk up to the main building in the middle of the parking lot.

- Go first to the immigration window, where they'll stamp your passport and give you a gate pass.

- Next go to the customs window, where they'll stamp the gate pass.

- Return to your vehicle and proceed to the gate, where they will collect your gate pass, hopefully not notice your missing taillight, and let you through.

Yeah, we were worried about crossing back into South Africa with our missing taillight.  If we were going to get hassled about it anywhere, this was gonna be it.  We hoped since the truck was registered in South Africa, they'd let us in anyway.  Our worries were for nothing.  Thankfully, no one noticed.  What a relief!  At 10:30 we were back in South Africa and driving like mad again.

Platinum-mine company town, South Africa

South of Baltimore, I was driving when we got flagged down to stop at a random driver's license checkpoint.  The cordial officer was intrigued that we were American and named for us all the places in the US that he knew:  Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, Oregon, and the Pentagon.  Wait a sec.  Oregon?  Go figure.  I was afraid the jig was up on the taillight this time, but we got away with it again.  When the officer was finished chatting and told us we could go, I was slightly panicked that I was going to stall just as soon as I'd pulled up enough for him to be standing right next to our back bumper.  But I got started successfully and didn't look back.

Mokopane, South Africa

Just before Mokopane (Potgietersrus), I turned the driving back over to Tom, because this is where he'd played dodge'em pedestrian when we crossed through before.  Past Mokopane the N11 intersects the N1 toll road.  The tolls between there and Kempton Park, where we were headed, are 8.50, 22, 27, and 5.80 rand.  We didn't have enough rand to make it all the way, so after the first two tolls, we stopped at an ATM in Mookgophong (Naboomspruit) to get more cash.  Don't you just love these South African town names?

Approaching Pretoria, South Africa

The truck was to be returned to the rental depot with a full tank of gas, so we stopped at a filling station and emptied our jerry cans into the tank, then pulled around to a pump and topped off.  At 4:15 p.m. we reached Kea Campers, with 45 minutes to spare.  Perfect!  

Unlike the slow-motion process when we picked up the truck, turning it back in was quite rushed.  Tom hooked the second battery back up while I unloaded and attempted to check every nook and cranny where we might have stashed stuff over the last week and a half.  Tom wanted time to tell the guy all the things wrong with the camper but ended up just hitting the highlights and turning over a two-page punch list we'd prepared earlier.  The man said we should get an email regarding the fee for the taillight in a couple of days, after the panelbeaters get a crack at it.  As of four weeks later, they still haven't charged us, and we're waiting in suspense.

The rental dude gave us a lift to Emerald Guest House, where we started our trip.  In the evening we watched a show on the National Geographic Channel about North America's Deadly Dozen Creatures, complete with overly dramatic National Geographic Channel narration.  I'm sure Africans watch this show and think, "Gosh, how scary; I'm never going to North America!"  We had an unspectacular dinner in the restaurant, and I fell dead asleep by 8:30 p.m.

708 kilometers Francistown to Kempton Park.  3,160 kilometers total driving (1,964 miles).

Continue to October 24

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