The road to the Central Kalahari

We really enjoyed our time in Zimbabwe where we really felt like we were on our own in the wild. We bid goodbye as we drove out of Hwange. I really wanted a photo with the entrance sign since I forgot to take one on the way in. As we got to the gate I remembered that I hadn’t forgot. The sign was blank. Nicely painted. But blank. So we took a picture overlooking the bush and called it good. Onto Botswana.

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The entrance to Hwange National Park.

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Saying goodbye to Zimbabwe.

The boarder was a breeze and we drove south through Nata and onto Gweta where we stayed at Planet Baobab just north of the Makgadikgadi pans. The first thing we noticed after filling up with diesel was how well the shops were stocked. Even the little shop at the gas station had more food then the markets in Zim. And it was half the cost.

We next noticed just how many tourists were around. Every other car seemed to be a kitted out camping vehicle with the logo of a rental company boldly emblazoned on the hood and both sides. We realized just how off the beaten path we were in Zim. Not so in Botswana, at least on the main roads. Though there are elephants on the main roads. Lots of them. They even put up elephant crossing signs to let you know. We were going 120kph when elephants decided to cross in front of us. Luckily we saw them in plenty of time.

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We were warned about elephant crossing despite the 120kph speed limit

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The signs weren’t joking

After a big shop and a stop for fast food in Nata (needed after 18 days in the bush) we continued onto Planet Baobab. Just like in Zim we had to push on the breaks. A “drive slow” sign was posted on the side of the road, followed by “be careful.” Not sure what that means. Around a corner (on a main tar road with a 120kph speed limit) the road disappeared. In front of us was just mud and water. Now it makes sense why we hadn’t seen any other cars coming the other way in a while.

After looking at it for a while we noticed a tow truck sitting nearby so I went up and chatted to the driver. “It’s too deep and muddy, you could get stuck” he said. “I’ll put you on the flatbed and drive you across though…”. (For a hefty fee, he implied. We later learned somebody paid an extremely high price for this service)

I got back in the Hilux and said to Cheryl “They said they could tow us across. But if they can drive across then we can too. We’ve got a snorkel and 4-wheel drive.” Let’s do this.

Just before taking off a big truck rumbled down the road. They were going to do it too. We let them go first.

“Their tires are so big, is it OK for us?” Cheryl asked.

“No problem” I calmly responded. I had no clue.

We took off in 4-low through the mud but quickly hit solid road. Well, solid below tire-deep water. We didn’t even need our snorkel. This was easy. Though we were happy to have the truck in front of us as the water went on and on. If you went off the road that would have been bad. Then it would get real. Staying on the solid ground was fine for us. This time. It took some time but soon enough we were out the other side and waving goodbye to the truck that guided us.

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Is it safe to cross?

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Following behind the truck.

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We were “well warned” thanks to the signs…

Planet Baobab is a lovely backpackers with campsites and chalets tucked amongst, you guessed it, baobabs. The individual camp sites have a thatched shaded area and electricity to charge our electronics. After another hot shower we were feeling great. It was there that the internet let me down and I couldn’t upload the blog posts I had been hoping to but we cut our losses, found the only “butcher” in town and drove on. We were meeting Morris and Gill (Cheryl’s parents) that night in Rakops, an hour outside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

As per our mantra, we decided to go the long way and turned off the tarred road to drive through the Makgadikgadi Pans national park. A lazy winding river brought us passed plenty of game and out the other side. A simple ferry crossing later (this water was just too deep) and we were back on tar driving 120kph towards our reunion.

We arrived at Rakops River Lodge to hugs, kisses and beers and we spent the night chatting through all of our stories.

Into CKGR tomorrow!

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