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Old 11-27-2011, 01:44 PM   #1
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A Quick Lap of Botswana (and a bit of Namibia and Zim)

A Road Trip through Boswana, the Caprivi Strip and a quick visit to Zimbabwe

In some ways this is not really adventure riding, it's just riding an Adventure style bike. I say this because apart from a bit of sandy road here and there we spent most of this tour on tarmac. This is because a fully laden 1200GS plus passenger is a bit of a handful on Botswanan sand (of which there is loads), and as the bike belongs to the ever helpful SAMA Tours in Pretoria I wasn't too keen to try my luck, damage it and ruin my deposit, oops, I mean holiday.

Anyway, Mrs Three Dawg (Mrs3D) and myself arrived in sunny Johannesburg from a freezing Scotland this November. We were met at the airport by Jonathan from SAMA Tours http://www.samatours.co.za/ who then took us to their base in Pretoria. We've rented from these guys before and would recommend them unreservedly.

A poor picture of Jonathan making sure I know that the brake is on the right and the cluch is on the left. Actually, he's explaining all the buttons a new GS has which my 1100 doesn't... ESA? Eh?



Damn, it was good to be back. So much colour, space and brilliant people. And WARM! This was our fourth trip and to get off a plane from wintery Europe with no jet lag (only 2 hours difference from the UK), jump on a bike and ride off into Africa is just marvellous!

We had decided to get out of SA that day and into Botswana because we had some pretty long days in front of us. The obvious border crossing was Martin's Drift which we reckoned we could get to in around 4 1/2 hours, then spend about 3/4 of an hour faffing about with the paperwork before arriving at our first stop, Kwa Nokeng Lodge, just over the border. The run up the N1 and N11 was dead easy, even after a long flight.


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Mrs3D, me and a large motorcycle. Slightly of the time line, just to set the scene you understand...



The border was no problem, apart from the amazingly slick tarmac on the run in on the SA side.



Kwa Nokeng is a couple of kilometers at most from Martin's Drift, not far from a Caltex gas station which also has money changing facilities.



First impressions were good, but I can't say the welcome we received at Kwa Nokeng was up to much, which is unusual in Southern Africa. We got a bit stiffed by having to pay for our food up front (only had Rands as I was too knackered to get some Pula at the gas station) and our 'Luxury Safari Tent' (ho ho) was a bit of a disappointment. I suppose that's because there isn't much else around here, but at least the tent looked out over the "great grey-green greasy Limpopo" river. Dinner was not that good, so we crashed early.



Mrs3D enjoying (?) breakfast by the Limpopo. Kwa Nokeng looks like it would be a good place to camp (the grounds were pretty neat with plenty of shade) but the accommodation we had was too expensive for what they offered. It's OK for a quick overnight stop though.



Up bright and early the following day, we had a long (550km) run up towards the Magkadikadi Pans. I knew that the chances of getting anywhere near the pans was slim, but our main destination for the first part of the trip was Maun (rhymes with town or sounds like ma-oon, depending on who you ask).

Botswana isn't over endowed with twisty roads, but it was great just to be humming along in the heat, something conspicuous by its absence even during the Scottish summer. And there were plenty of animals in the shape of goats, donkeys, cattle and ostriches to keep me on my toes. We actually went from B to A on this map.


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We couldn't really come this way and miss Planet Baobab and the Kalahari Surf Club, could we? There's a giant aardvark next to the road so you know you've arrived...



Planet Baobab is very funky and the welcome was as warm as the temperature, which was hitting the mid forties celsius mid afternoon.



That's properly hot, especially if you live somewhere where the high twenties are considered sweltering. They wheel you through to the bar to register, and coincidentally buy yourself a drink. I suspect Planet Baobab is a profitable little enterprise...

Best not to sit down too hard on these concrete chairs.



The bar with the famous beer bottle chandeliers.



Some of Planet Baobab's baobabs. Massive.


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Old 11-27-2011, 02:05 PM   #2
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Looked like an interesting trip.
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Old 11-28-2011, 06:39 AM   #3
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Mrs3D enjoying a cold one at Planet Baobab.



Yes, Planet Baobab. Funky. Expensive. Next stop Maun, not too far to go today, only a couple of hundred kms.







Lots of long straight roads...



We stopped at the main entrance to the Makgadikgadi Pans, but one look at the road (looked like a builder's yard sand dump), and the advice of this lady meant we pressed on. That's an elephant's skull she's sitting on by the way.



Probably just as well as I was lulled into a false sense of security by the fuel guage on the bike. It suddenly dropped like a stone and knowing fine well that there was nothing between Gweta, where Planet Baobab is, and Maun I rolled off the gas while watching the range drop quicker than the distance to go shown on the roadsigns. What a rookie mistake! And I was low on water. Shouldn't be in charge of a broom.

We rolled into Maun on what the guage said should be fumes, to find that the tank would only take 17.5 litres out of a possible 20. Treachery!



In Maun we stayed at Island Safari Lodge. When you arrive they hand you a near frozen water soaked face cloth. Brilliant idea!

The bar area. It's a really nice place to stay, right on the banks of the Thamalakane River. From here we planned to take a trip into the Okavango Delta, an extraordinary part of the world. There is also a campsite with a swimming pool, and although the road in to the Lodge is sandy, it's OK even for a numpty like me.


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Old 11-28-2011, 07:26 AM   #4
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To get into the delta you need to get to a Mokoro station. Mokoros are traditional canoes which are poled along like a punt. We were taken to a community mokoro station where the polers/guides operate in strict rotation. The fast boat takes you as far as the buffalo fence and from there the mokoros take over.



One of our polers. KENNY! WAKE UP!!!



We passed some people coming back from a night on an island in the delta.



Poling along through the reeds. Very peaceful.



Water lillies. The water is lovely and soft and is drinkable.





We pulled up near one island to have a look at the ellie hiding in the bush. Best not to get too close...



Mokoros pulled up on an island for a lunch break.



Flowers everywhere.



On the way back we passed a family off some place in their mokoro. Grandma was very keen on Mrs3D's sarong.... The river was really busy with boats going up and down all day, with lots of people obviously just out for a day on the river.




Mrs3D catching up on a bit of work with the obligatory ice cold Windhoek lager. Happily for me I can't be trusted to answer emails so I just get to loaf around and drink beer while my wife works :-)




Marvellous day. Great to see a couple of elephants as well. Tomorrow, back on the bike to travel up the Okavango panhandle and into the Caprivi Strip.

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Old 11-28-2011, 08:18 AM   #5
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Great photos, keep 'em coming... !
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Old 11-28-2011, 11:18 AM   #6
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Nice place, Island Safari Lodge. Next stop Nunda River Lodge in the Caprivi.


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Most people live in little settlements like these, although tents are also common. Having slept in both rondavels and tents (which are cooler) I wonder whether those under canvas aren't on to something.



Another veterinary cordon. These checkpoints control the movement of livestock. Some have big dips of disinfectant to drive though for Foot and Mouth disease control. Mostly they just wave you through.



Taken from the bike, so a bit blurry, this guy was on the move at some speed coming from Etsha 6.



Lunch at the Choppies at Shakawe not far from the Mohembo Namibian border crossing (nice quiet one, that). That pastie was delicious. Quite a lively wee place, and the dreadlocked guy who served us was as cool as they come.





After another plough through some soft sand we arrived at the very wonderful Nunda River Lodge: Hippo Central!



Dusty boots. Not often seen in Scotland.



The view from the bath is outstanding. Although we had one of the bungalows, you can camp here as well. The welcome we got and the quality of the accommodation really was excellent. Highly recommended.





425km in 40 degree heat? Gotta be worth a beer hasn't it? Tomorrow, some wildlife.




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Old 11-29-2011, 07:07 AM   #7
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The next day we went for a trip up the Okavango river.

Plenty of hippos in the river. The noise they make sounds like it's coming from the debating chamber of The House of Lords.



In the morning Mrs3D went to have a closer look at some in the river just below our room. Was that wise?



They are just down there...





Evidence in the sand of a hippo visit in the night. Unbelievably we heard them right next to us but were too knackered to get up and photograph them. The verandah was up some steps so we would have been fine. An opportunity of a lifetime missed. DOH!



Crocs



Water Monitor lizard



Kids fishing for Tiger Fish from a mokoro (a real one!)



This young fella got a few. From the description given by our guide Buzzy, it sounds to me like Tiger fish taste like Pike and are full of bones. The local people like 'em though!



The Popa Rapids



A kingfisher



End of the day, time for a shower!



That evening the weather broke and we had a huge thunder storm. Unfortunately I'd left my camera in our room so I only caught the tail end of it. It knocked out the mains electricity though...




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Old 11-29-2011, 08:27 AM   #8
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Three Dawg,

Great story and photography! Looking forward to the next installment.
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Old 11-29-2011, 12:59 PM   #9
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I cheated a bit on the road into Nunda. On the way in Mrs3D got a lift from the recently retired Swiss ambassador to Tanzania and his wife, who we first met at the border, and on the way out one of the managers gave her a lift in the Landie. Which they obviously like- this was pinned to a noticeboard:



Back on the road in the Caprivi Strip. Next stop Mazambala Island Lodge.



When you get to Mazambala, which is on the Kwando river, you have to get down a couple of KMs of sandy road until you reach the campsite.



Apparently C Boorman arrived with a bunch of guys and most of them had trouble. The owners had to ferry them in. Mrs3D had to walk a little bit but I got the GS through at a crawl. More through luck than skill, I can tell you.



You then leave the bike and are ferried to the lodge on a speed boat. It takes about 15 minutes.





Close your mouth and put your hat on, fool.



Mazambala is fairly simple, but comfortable. There's a viewing platform up above the bar in the trees.





Of course we had to get out on the water again. A theme is developing here, I reckon. Our guide this time was Gift, and he showed us round this magical place, The Kwando River.









Note the little one that hasn't yet learnt how to suck water up it's trunk to drink :-)



Plenty more of these fat boys around too.



It started to pour down towards the end of the trip. I'm not smiling here, I'm gritting my teeth as we head flat out for shelter...



Gift, cool under pressure.



Approaching the lodge after the rain stopped (we hid in the hut at the campsite until it passed)



We saw giraffe as well, but too far away to get a good shot- we were on a boat and my camera doesn't have image stabilisation. Waddaya mean, you can tell?

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Old 11-29-2011, 03:04 PM   #10
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Magnificent, 3D.
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Old 11-30-2011, 05:48 AM   #11
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Magnificent, 3D.
Aw shucks, glad you're enjoying it.


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OK, on we go, Mazambala to Botswana tourism central, Kasane. If I had more time I might have turned left here. Next time maybe...



The border crossing at Ngoma was straight forward.



On the Botswana side there was a Foot and Mouth dip. One for the bike...



And one for the boots.



Nice view from the border post. We just managed to clear the place before one of those overland trucks arrived and disgorged a load of bewildered looking travellers. Reckon getting there first saved us a good hour.



To get to Kasane through the Chobe National Park you use the transit route. You have to sign in.



Probably a good thing as there are quite a few wild animals about. No, really. They're hiding in the woods, sorry, bush...



Aha, there you are!





Reckon this was the shot I was hoping for at the beginning of the trip



Ride the World, indeed.



Brilliant. Elephants on the road like we have sheep here!

A fairly short day this to Chobe Safari Lodge.

Ah yes, Chobe Safari Lodge. Bit of a shock to the system this. A large and extremely busy Lodge full of people who had flown in (on a Lockheed C-130 Transport plane judging by the size of some of them) I took an immediate dislike to the place, especially as we had to fend off a dessicated old crone who made a big fuss about us occupying a table which she'd booked for dinner. It was about two in the afternoon...

Mrs3D celebrating the defence of our table.



OK, so it's mid afternoon, what are we going to do? Go out on the Chobe river of course! We booked this at the tour desk in the lodge which was manned (girled?) by the only unpleasant lodge employee in the whole place. She lolled pregnantly on her chair and couldn't have been less interested. This was in stark contrast to the rest of the staff who were lovely. She did, however, mention something about visas for Zimbabwe. Something to which I really should have paid attention...

Three Dawg's Tourist Hell. The girl with the too short denim skirt, French manicure and ridiculous aviator shades spent most of this trip staring disinterestedly into the middle distance, as did her gumbie boyfriend. Mind you, there wasn't much to see:













Dinner on the hoof?



Or would Sir prefer 'beef'?






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Old 12-01-2011, 07:28 AM   #12
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Great stuff, keep going
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Old 12-01-2011, 07:40 AM   #13
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OK, I admit it, Chobe Safari Lodge was growing on me. We had an excellent meal down near the pool with the river beyond, and we were looked after very well. Our room was large and comfortable and the air con icy. I still found watching the bloaters go back for third and fourth helpings a bit repellent though...



Anyway, next day up bright and early for a non biking trip to Uncle Bob's fiefdom and Victoria Falls. They bus you to the border, you do immigration and then hop on another bus on the Zim side to take you to the falls. Got chatting to a nice German couple while we waited in the foyer.

A border. Apparently not the one we went through though, so Mrs3D says.



As a Brit I haven't often needed a proper visa for the countries I've visited thus far, but Uncle Bob doesn't like Brits, and is skint, so he definitely requires us to have one. If I'd been listening to the girl at Chobe rather than being irritated by her manner I'd have known that visas for Zim cost UK citizens $55 US each. So, how many US dollars do you have, Three Dawg, as you stand in front of a busy immigration official? Er, none... Do you have enough Rands? Um, errr, oh bugger. Mrs3D grumbled something about how having her New Zealand passport with her might have saved some money...

So there I was, one minute swaggering around in all my dusty bike gear looking down on the air conditioned grockles, and now I'm scrabbling around inside my money belt for non existent dollars like someone who never left his home town. What a pillock. Two minutes research on the interweb would have avoided all this. AND we had to lend our pen to the immigration official because he didn't seem to have one and then didn't want to give it back.

Happily our new German friends had plenty of greenbacks and bailed us out. Oh you lovely, lovely people. We'd have had to spend the whole day at the border without you. So, grinned our driver once we got safely across the border, do we need an ATM? Uh, yeah...

Bit weird getting US$ from an ATM in Zim, but hey, a whole machine could probably only hold enough Zim $ to buy a can of Coke. We were offered a 50 TRILLION Zim dollar note at one point...

Oh, and the visa for Brits is $55, for Germans it's $30. Screw you, Mugabe.

The rains hadn't started so the falls were not at their mightiest, but they were still impressive.











These guys seemed mighty close to the edge on the Zambian side.



Mrs3D putting on a brave face as she was closer to the edge than she'd have liked...





Never mind aaawww. We walked down to one of the viewing points and saw a guy just getting up from kneeling in front of his girl. Did she say yes? I asked a little flippantly. YES! they both replied. Oh my, tears all round. Well not me, I'm a Gnarly Adventurer you know. It sez so under my avatar. But I did get a piece of grit in my eye...

Baboons in the bins



Baboon with a camera.



We were due to be picked up at the Victoria Falls Hotel, so braving the hawkers (No you can't have my bloody shoes!) we headed up the hill to a little bit of colonial tranquility and a cold one.



Here I am worshipping at Mrs3D's feet. Note the famous bridge in the background.



It all looked blinkin' expensive so we ordered a beer and thought about getting lunch someplace else.



But then the Three Dawg logic took over and the 'we may never be here again' phrase slipped out and we called for the menu. IT'S CHEAP! $22 for a slap up steak meal, not bad given the setting. Mrs3D settled for crocodile salad, and I had a Stanley burger. Yeah, yeah, OK, a bit cheesy (arf) but it was nice...







Warthogs on the lawn. Couple of them seem to be wearing some of Tina Turner's old wigs.



Some reviews have said this place is slightly faded. It's not.







Flame tree.



We stopped briefly in the town on the way back to the border and the bus was quickly surrounded by people selling souvenirs. At least on a bike you can claim no space to carry extra stuff, and in fact I've never been hassled in any way while I've been riding. One up for the bikes eh?

Back at the lodge we bought our saviours Dietmar and Christiane a well deserved drink.



We sat by the pool before dinner and watched a couple of elephants just across the river munching their way through the reeds. Too dark for a pic, but it really was magical.

Back on the bike tomorrow...

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Old 12-01-2011, 01:29 PM   #14
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Oh gloom, we're heading south now, and that means only one thing: The holiday's nearly over.


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Kasane is not far from the Kazungula ferry to Zambia. It only takes one truck at a time (every half hour or so) so the queues are massive for the heavies. It's apparently quite usual to be stuck here for five days...



The road south to Nata is falling apart in places. Happily they are building a new one right next to it. You bang along on the potholes about 10 metres from pristine tarmac.



The desert is reclaiming the road.



We saw two lots of ellies next to the road. This one was on his own and seemed to take a keen interest in our passing.

Ellie by the road, Botswana from Richard Jones on Vimeo.

.


A very strict veterinary cordon. We had to do the shoes we had with us as well as our boots.



Nothing much else to report as we headed south. Our overnight was at Nata Lodge. This is a pretty good stopover between Martin's Drift and Kasane.



This was only about 90 Pula more than the Kwa Nokeng tents...



It absolutely BUCKETED down about an hour after we arrived- we deliberately set off early to avoid the afternoon rain. When it stopped I went out to get gas at Nata, about 6km away and right in front of me a massive bolt of lightning shot down somewhere ahead. Did I speed up a wee bit? Oh yes...

The day after we were at Kwa Nokeng again. This time they came up with a great meal (different cook) which helped a lot, but we had the same tent and everything that was dirty or broken before was still the same. Still, got rid of the last of the Pula on beer and food there.



Gassing up at Mokopane. Looked like it was going to tip down but we only had a few spits.



A poor picture (another!) of Mrs3D enjoying her birthday lunch at a Wimpy on the N1 south of Mokopane. Who says I don't treat her right?



And here we are back at SAMA HQ in Pretoria with Darryl and Jonathan, all packed up, changed
and ready to fly out.



We covered a little under 3500km on this trip and had a blast. We had no problems with the bike (although I still prefer my more muscular feeling 1100 to the refined clockwork mouse whirring of the 12), SAMA were helpful and patient and we even avoided getting wet on the bike. As a biking experience Botswana is perhaps a little lacking if you can't go off road (it's very sandy, too much for my skill level on such a lump) but I'd still always rather be on two wheels, even if the roads aren't very twisty. But there's plenty to see even if you stick to the tarmac and the people are just brilliant.

Oh, and don't travel without a hydration pack, even on tarmac. We drank litres and litres and some days it still wasn't enough.

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Old 12-04-2011, 03:56 AM   #15
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Great ride report ! Thanks for sharing !
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