Back through Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans

We left the CKGR with Cheryl and I once again deciding to take the long route through the park from Motopi in the NW and out the Matswere gate on the NE side by Rakops instead of the much shorter route in the park and along the tar road around to the north. We did this under the auspices of being able to bring the remaining meat from South to North but Morris and Gill not being able to bring meet from North to South due to the presence of a vet fence. These vet fences are throughout Botswana and Namibia and are in place to inhibit the spread of foot and mouth disease which crops up from time to time in the north but not in the south. Morris and Gill went via the north (Tsau gate) and through Maun where the filled up on diesel and other provisions before we met up again at Tiaans camp just to the east of the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park.

Cheryl and I had driven through this smaller park on our way to the CKGR because our original route to the west was flooded and not passable so we already had a good idea of where we wanted to explore. We had a bit of a relaxed morning then took the ferry across the river and into the park. We had a leisurely drive up the river until we found a nice shady spot with a great view where we had seen some elephants come down to drink when we last came through.

After sitting for a few minutes our spot did not disappoint as a trio of elephants came down the hill 30 meters or so from us to drink and play in the water. It was really special to see them swimming, rolling in the mud, spraying dust on themselves to protect their skin from the mud and generally having a jolly good time. As they got out on the far bank of the river another male elephant came down from that side and they clearly greeted each other by lifting their trunks and lightly touching them together. After doing this with the first two elephants, that new elephant then galloped (do elephants gallop?) to the third and smallest one in the group and was clearly playing with him. We later read in Morris and Gill’s guide book that old bull elephants often have good relationships with groups of younger males and acts almost as a mentor while they provide him with additional strength for protection. We think this is what we were witnessing. Amazing to see.

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Elephants drinking

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Swimming with a natural snorkel

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Nothing beats a mud bath on a hot afternoon after a refreshing dip

Shortly after this another group of 4 elephant came down to the river the same way the first group had. We thought we were in for another show at a reasonable distance but a large bull had another idea in mind for us. (You’ve got to read the other post titled “Elephant Encounters” to read about this heart-pounding moment as well as our drive through a massive herd of >150 elephants.)

After our encounter Cheryl and I continued along the river while Morris and Gill went back to get their trailer. We had plans to meet in Nxai Pan for the evening but on the road out of Makgadikgadi we noticed that the sand was getting extremely deep so we did a u-turn to find Morris and Gill and make sure they could get through. They have a lower clearance then us, especially with their trailer, so it seemed like a good idea to make sure they’d make it. After finding them we left in convoy and sure enough, right before the place Cheryl and I decided to turn around the Fortuner started slowing down in the thick sand and got stuck. Weighed down by a trailer the spare wheel decided to dig itself in. How rude.

Unfortunately we hadn’t thought through our rescue mission entirely and we were behind them on a single track road so pulling them out wasn’t immediately possible. Down on our knees and digging in the sand we tried in vain for multiple attempts to get them out. Morris and Gill got in on the digging fun too but still no success. We were able to get the vehicle forward a few meters though, just enough space for me to put Fiona in low-gear and drive up and around on a sand dune to get in front of them. Being well prepared, I whipped out my snatch-strap (only 50% sure that was the right one to use) and proceeded to hook it up to both vehicles with great bravado. A quick acceleration and a big jolt when the strap got taught and they came right out of there. Thank goodness for second-hand recovery kit I purchased before heading out on the trip.


Digging out of the sand

After that we had no incidents on our way through to Nxai Pan National Park. Nxai Pan is essentially the same park as the Makgradikgadi Pans National Park, just across the main road, so you don’t need to pay for entry again. Well, not in monetary terms. Your payment is a lovely 30km drive along corrugated sand roads that make using a jack hammer sound like it might be a pleasurable experience. We only got into the park quite late (thanks in part to our earlier fun in the sand) so all we had time to do was set up camp and light the braai before the sun went down.

Despite the aggressive road, the most remarkable part about Nxai Pan was that it was rather unremarkable really. Their waterhole was unfortunately not full of water so we even opted to sleep in rather than embark on a game drive in the morning.

Before leaving the park, we decided to check out Baines Baobabs, an island of baobab trees famous because the view was painted by some guy named Baine over 150 years ago and they still look the same today except one lost a branch at some point along the way. A mere 18km detour (each way) and we were there. We snapped off a couple of pictures and moved along. It was on this drive that we developed the potentially soon-to-be patented “Hendrickson Model for Travel Decision Making” which will be discussed in another post. Stay tuned.

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The famous Baines Baobabs

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Baines Baobabs – Been there, done that, took the selfie

A night in Maun allowed us to stock up on provisions and I uploaded a few blog posts. We were off to Moremi the following day.

One thought on “Back through Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans

  1. Thanks for the rescue Cheryl and Josh – you are going to miss seeing our trailer in your rear view mirror! Simply love the photos, some are like paintings……


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