Stuck in the Mud

Namibia (2015): Part 3 – Camp Kwando to Kasane, a day in Chobe and then home

With slightly less than 300km to travel to get to Kasane there was no rush leaving Camp Kwando and we got away at about 8:30am. First stop was of course Katima Mulilo to find a craft market and a miniature Mokoro. We found the craft market but there were no Mokoros. Pippa was very disappointed so it was a fairly frosty drive for a while after that…no need for the air conditioner!

We reached the Ngoma Border post by midday. The view looking back into Namibia was beautiful. We’d enjoyed our time and drive through that lovely country even though game viewing had been below expectations.

A view of Namibia from Ngoma Border Post

A final look back towards Namibia

It didn’t take long to get through the border and into Botswana. The drive along the A33 to Kasane was very pleasant and we were lucky enough to see a few Elephant, Zebra, Warthog and Duiker along the way.

We arrived at Ngina Camp in the early afternoon and spent the rest of the day setting up our camp and relaxing. The staff there were very willing and friendly and the campsites were nice with plenty of shade. The facilities though were badly maintained. We were warned by folk camping next to us to turn the electrical mains off outside the ablution block before having a shower. We were also warned not to leave valuables in the car over night as there had been break-ins in the past. There was a security guard patrolling at night but we still felt a bit uneasy in our tent.

The next morning we had an early start for a much anticipated drive through Chobe. We entered at Sedudu Gate and went along the river front route into the park. A lovely drive with some stunning views of the river and flood plain.

A view of the Chobe River flood plains

A view of the Chobe River flood plains

We were lucky to see a good variety of animals and birds on our drive. Not lucky enough for Lion or Leopard though. It was a bit late in the morning by the time we got into the park and they were probably already settled under some shady bushes.

A Fish Eagle with a fish recently caught

Fish Eagle with a recent catch

An Egytian Goose walking next to the river

Egyptian Goose next to the river

An African Open-bill

African Open-bill

An Impala drinking

Impala

A Boboon sitting on the branch of a tree

Branch manager?

A Southern Carmine Bee-eater

Southern Carmine Bee-eater

We enjoyed driving on the sandy tracks next to the river with their twists and turns. Birds were plentiful and one always felt that there was an opportunity to come across something exciting.

A Lilac Breasted Roller eating a frog

Lilac Breasted Roller with a bit of French cuisine!

Okay…I surrender!

And finally…down the hatch!

A Forked Tailed Drongo

Fork Tailed Drongo

A Crested Francolin

Crested Francolin

Buffalo with a swarm of insects flying around it

With all those insects buzzing around I’d also look grumpy!

A Lilac breasted Roller appearing to look inquisitive

Inquisitive Lilac Breasted Roller

Enough now…move on!

Blue Waxbill

Blue Waxbill

We’d booked a boat cruise that afternoon so we headed inland at about 11:00am to take the upper road back to Sedudu Gate.  We had a few nice sightings on the way back but, as happens at that time of the day, most of the animals were being sensible and resting or browsing in the shade of the trees and bushes.

A Buffalo sleeping next to a bush

Buffalo having a mid-morning siesta

A Giraffe standing in the open

Hard to find a tree tall enough to get some shade when you’re a Giraffe!

A large herd of Buffalo with a few Zebra in the foreground

Buffalo and Zebra in large numbers

The boat crew collected us at Ngina at about 3:00pm and took us to the launching area close to Chobe Safari Lodge. Getting me from the vehicle down to the boat was interesting! We had to go down a long, steep, uneven dirt embankment. The skipper and his assistant didn’t waste time though. One of them took charge at the back of my chair and the other held the front and down we went. I had visions of ending up in a heap at the bottom but they somehow got me down in one piece. Not without a few anxious moments though. The guy in the front struggled at one stage to keep my chair tipped at the angle needed to stop me from falling forward. It was all worth it…a Chobe sunset cruise is something really special.

We were in a small boat which gave us the opportunity of getting a lot closer to animals and birds than would be the case on the larger vessels. Quite amazing how tolerant they are when approaching them on water.

A Darter catching a small fish

A Darter catching dinner

A Fish Eagle scrtaching itself under it's beak

A Fish Eagle with an itch

A Squacco Heron

Squacco Heron

A Yellow-billed Stork

Yellow-billed Stork

An African Spoonbill

African Spoonbill

A White-fronted Bee Eater

White-fronted Bee Eater looking a bit irritated with the attention!

Three White-fronted Bee Eaters

Three’s a crowd!

A Crocodile basking in the sun

Soaking up the sun

A Brown-hooded Kingfisher

Brown-hooded Kingfisher

A Night Heron

Night Heron

Our skipper obviously had a set route on the river and managed that route in the time we had available to us. He was very good and navigated into some good positions to get decent sightings and photo opportunities. On a couple of occasions though we must have been falling behind his schedule and he’d suddenly open up the throttle, without any warning, to dash to his next viewing point. How I didn’t lose my camera or end up in Neil’s lap behind me I still don’t know! 🙂

A Baboon looking pensive

Contemplating life next to the Chobe River.

A Waterbuck browsing in the grass next to the river

Waterbuck

A Hippo grazing next to the river

Hippo having an early dinner

An African Skimmer

African Skimmer

Two female Lechwe grazing

Female Lechwe

Two male Lechwes grazing

Male Lechwe

A Buffalo sticking out his tongue

I thought only humans pulled a face in photographs?

A Darter spreading it's wings to dry out

A Darter drying out

We were very lucky to come across an Elephant crossing the river as the sun was starting to set. Beautiful light for photography!

An Elephant swimming across the river

Making his way across the river

An Elephant having a mud bath

Having a mud bath after making the crossing

With the sun setting it was time to head back to shore. Amazing how quickly three hours pass when you’re having such fun. Still time for a few more photos on the way though!

A bigger cruise boat going back to shore in the fading light

One of the bigger cruise boats heading back to their jetty

An African Darter in flight

African Darter in flight

2 fisherman on a Mokoro

Sunset cruise in a Mokoro

A scene of the sun setting on the river

Sun setting on the river

Another photo of the sun setting behind a tree

Last one before going ashore

When we got back to shore I still faced the prospect of having to be hauled up the embankment. A bit nerve-racking at the start but the skipper and his assistant seemed to have more control going up and did a good job. I rewarded them well for their fine efforts! 🙂

It had been an excellent day!

The following morning Pippa and I went to Kazungula to have a tyre patched while Neil and Liz went to the airport to collect a turbo pipe which they’d had sent up from Johannesburg. The duct tape had worked well but it wouldn’t last on their journey home. It didn’t take him long to fit it when they got back to our camp.

That afternoon we went on a short drive down to the river between Ngina and Kasane. We were amazed to see so many Elephant down there…must have been about 50 of them and we were barely out of town! The light wasn’t good for photography and Neil was all for going around the herd to get into a better position. I didn’t think it was a good idea. Those Ellies looked a bit skittish to me and I’m afraid I chickened out. We went back to Ngina for our last night before heading home.

Pippa and I set off from Kasane at about 9:00am with Phokoje Bush Lodge outside Selebi-Phikwe as our intended over-night stop. We arrived there at about 5:00pm only to find that they were fully booked. They suggested a couple of places for us to try but warned that the town was fully booked due to the nearby mine closure. After an hour of trying to find somewhere to stay we gave up. Not a room to be had! So we decided to press on to Martin’s Drift border post. Not a nice prospect in the dark.

The 120km drive on the B151 was a nightmare. The road was terrible with potholes, donkeys and long stretches of detours where there was road construction. The dust from oncoming traffic made visibility very limited. We finally arrived at Martin’s Drift at 8:00pm. A very tiring and stressful 2 hour drive!

The border post was quiet and we were through both sides within half an hour. It didn’t take long to find a room at the Big Fig Inn. The rooms were very clean and comfortable. We had cheese and biscuits for dinner before showering and going to bed. We both slept well.

A view of the outside of our chalet at the Big Fig Inn

Our chalet at the Big Fig Inn

The next morning we were up early and on were the road by 7:00am. It was tempting to take the back roads to Rustenburg but after the previous day’s stresses we decided to go via Mokopane and then head south on the N1.

We arrived in Bloemfontein at about 5:00 that evening and booked in at Bains Lodge for the night. The room was basic but comfortable. We had a good dinner and a couple of drinks in their pub before going back to our room to sleep. Unfortunately sleep was hard to achieve. There was loud music coming from a venue close by and then a procession of noisy party goers finding their way back to their rooms. It was well after midnight before all the noise subsided. Not what we needed after a long day on the road!

A view of our car and trailer outside our room at Bains Lodge

Parked outside our room at Bains lodge

Our final day on the road started early and we were on our way by 6:00am. It was very cold and there was thick mist as we neared Colesberg. Fortunately conditions improved quite quickly and we made good time after that, getting back home in Cape Town by about 4:00pm. It was good to get back to home comforts!

One final problem though. I’d left our travel wallet in a locked cupboard at Bains Lodge. The wallet had the keys for our trailer in it and the jockey wheel was locked in the nose cone. Oh dear! I soon found out that it didn’t take much effort to force the lock off the nose cone. One problem solved.

We phoned the hotel and fortunately the wallet was still in the cupboard. A courier collected it the next morning and delivered it to us a day later. Passports and money were all still in it.

Lessons learnt from the trip:

  • Plan routes properly…Pippa is still disappointed that we didn’t get to see Ai Ais and the Fish River Canyon properly;
  • When your wife wants a souvenir stop and get the first one you see. We never did find Pippa’s much wanted Mokoro;
  • Don’t leave valuables in hotel cupboards!

 

Our Namibia 2015 accommodation summary is here.

 

 

 

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