Stuck in the Mud

Moremi (2014): Part 5 – 3rd Bridge back to Tshima Bush Camp and then home

Our trip from 3rd Bridge to Tshima Bush Camp near Maun and then our journey home.

We were up early to pack and get going on the start of our long journey home. I was feeling a lot better. The medication as well as the abundance of water that I drank the previous evening had worked. What a relief!

As always seems to happen though, we all took a bit longer to pack up than we’d have liked and we only got away at about 9:30am. That wasn’t a problem for Pippa and I. We only had a short drive ahead of us for our first over-night stop back at Tshima Bush Camp. John and the rest of the group though had hoped to get away earlier. They’d wanted to get back to Durban with only one over-night stop at the Khama Rhino Sanctuary. An ambitious plan given the distance to Khama and the roads getting there from Moremi.

Our drive back to South Gate seemed a lot easier than when we came in and only took us about 2 hours. We spent a bit of time there saying our final farewells. I spent most of that time trying to convince John of the folly of driving in Botswana after dark. I suggested that it would be far better to stop in Maun for the night rather than trying to reach Khama. He wasn’t convinced. I was relieved to later find out that good sense had prevailed and that they stayed at Audi Camp on the outskirts of Maun that night.

Those of you who have been following our travels must by now be amazed that Pippa and I hadn’t had any problems with the trailer or car. No broken A-frames? No suspension problems? No lost jockey wheels? Hang on a bit…the journey wasn’t over yet!

Everything went well on our way back to Maun until just after the Veterinary checkpoint. The road up until then was quite rough and corrugated. As soon as it improved I started to hear an ominous noise behind us. I looked at Pippa, she looked at me and confirmed my fears. The noise was coming from the trailer. Oh dear!

We pulled off to the side of the road. Pippa got out to investigate and saw that the one wheel was rubbing up against the back of the mudguard. I got out to have a look as well but couldn’t see what had caused the wheel to shift back. The edge of the mudguard had bent inwards from the tyre rubbing against it and had formed a smooth lip. I guess the damage must have been done quite a lot earlier?

At that stage I didn’t know what decision John and the others had made regarding their overnight destination. They had all been inconvenienced on our first trip with the calamity we had then with our trailer. There was no way that I was going to allow our problems to impact on them again on this trip!

I couldn’t see any damage to the tyre so decided to press on to Maun. Fortunately we weren’t travelling in convoy so the others weren’t aware that we had a problem. The noise wasn’t noticeable on the tar road and I assumed that the wheel must have moved forward and away from the mudguard on the smoother road surface. It was only when we hit bumpy stretches that the noise returned.

When we reached Maun we stopped to fill up with diesel and checked the trailer again. There still didn’t appear to be any damage to the tyre. It was a Sunday and we weren’t going to find any engineering works open to help us so we decided to carry on to Tshima and return the next morning to have it fixed.

It was early afternoon when we got back to Tshima Bush Camp. That gave me plenty of time to ponder on what had caused the wheel to shift and to worry about how long it would take to fix and the impact that would have on our journey home. I couldn’t see any apparent reason for the problem and thought that maybe the coupling holding the leaf spring onto the axle had loosened. Very frustrating being so mechanically challenged!

We’d booked to have dinner with our hosts instead of having another braai that night. It was very pleasant and a nice distraction from our trailer problems. We of course did discuss the trailer and they recommended someone in Maun who they thought would be able to fix it. That helped to ease our stress a bit.

We left Tshima early the next morning and got to Maun by 8:00am, but we struggled to find the place that had been recommended. It was in the same area as Letsedi Motors (who fixed our suspension two years earlier) so we went there to ask if they could give us directions. Charles from Letsedi  immediately recognised us and after we’d explained our problem he had a look at the trailer. It took him all of 30 seconds to find the fault. The welding that joined the leaf spring to the frame of the trailer had broken. No problem said Charles and he was immediately on the phone to a friend and then jumped into his car to go and fetch him (plus portable welder). Our trailer was fixed within an hour. Sometimes one gets lucky!

So, after fond farewells to Charles and his crew we were off on our journey home. Our next stop was Kalahari Rest Lodge near Kang. It was only 500km from Maun and within easy reach so no change in route or plans for our trip home were needed.

Our journey to Kalahari Rest went well, with only a massive pothole on the way to get the adrenalin rushing. It stretched right across the road, it was pretty deep and we couldn’t avoid it. Fortunately we were entering a village area so I was already slowing down and managed to stop just as our front wheels went in. If we had hit that at speed there could have been some serious damage to car and trailer!

We arrived at Kalahari Rest later in the afternoon. Our room was much bigger than the one we had when we stayed there in 2012. Very much more accessible in my chair, especially the bathroom. We enjoyed our evening there this time. We had sundowners on the verandah outside the restaurant before having a pleasant meal and then off to bed for an early night.

A view of the route leading to the restaurant and pub at Kalahari Rest Lodge.

Route to the restaurant and pub at Kalahari Rest Lodge

Sitting at a long table on the verandah at Kalahari Rest Lodge

A bit lonely at the long table on the verandah!

We had another early start the next morning with a 700km drive to Molopo Lodge to look forward to. The closing time of the border post at Bokspits is 4:00pm and I was a bit worried about that. We ended up doing it comfortably though.

Even after three consecutive years of taking the same route along that Molopo River road we both still enjoyed the drive and the views.

A horse crossing the road in Botswana as an example of the danger of road travel

One of the dangers of driving in Botswana!

A donkey cart on the road

Peak hour traffic!

Molopo Lodge was disappointing. We felt that it had deteriorated when we were there the previous year. This time the deterioration was even more noticeable. We had the same chalet as on our previous stay. The bathroom was even more grubby this time, with a leaking geyser leaving ugly stains in the bath. Such a pity. The lodge is in a prime position for travellers to and from Botswana and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. I find it hard to understand why they don’t maintain it.

Pippa standing outside our rondavel at Molopo Lodge

Pippa outside our rondavel at Molopo Lodge.

We had an easy drive the next day to Calvinia, where we were once again booked into Die Blou Nartjie – the third year in a row. Very boring I know, but it suits my needs and we’ve always enjoyed our stays there. This year was no different.

A view of the countryside near Calvinia

Not far from Calvinia

And finally onto the home stretch to Cape Town! We were both by this time eager to get back home and were up and off for an early start the next morning. Driving conditions for the first hour after leaving Calvinia were terrible. It was still dark and there was a heavy mist which meant speed was kept to a minimum. It was quite stressful driving under those conditions and I was very relieved when the sun appeared and the mist cleared.

As always, we enjoyed the drive along the N7 through Clanwilliam and the Ceres valley. Such a beautiful part of the Cape with the Cederberg mountains looming in the distance.

A scenic view near Clanwilliam

A scenic view near Clanwilliam

A view of road works near Ceres and the Oliphants River on the left

Road works near Ceres with the Oliphants River on the left

We arrived home early in the afternoon after another successful 5000km round trip.

Our final thoughts on the trip:

Having had to abandon the Moremi part of our first trip in 2012 we were really pleased to have finally made it there this time around. We both thoroughly enjoyed the experience even though we felt that the game viewing wasn’t as eventful as we’d experienced on our previous trips. The early sighting of the Lions was of course fantastic and seeing the Honey Badgers and Wild Dogs were real highlights…Pippa had never seen them live before and was thrilled by their antics.

It was also great to be with John and the rest of the group again – they have a wealth of knowledge and experience between them and were all very good to us. Each time we set off on a trip to the bush we learn something new.

Thankfully the mishap with our trailer turned out to be minor. Maybe one day I’ll even be able to fix something myself! 🙂

Would we go back? Absolutely!

And there we have it…another trip done and dusted. Next up is our 2015 trip to Namibia, through the Caprivi Strip and then on to the Chobe National Park in Botswana.

Updated accommodation summary here.

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