BOSMAN’S BUSH TELEGRAPH – 17 APRIL 2000
Well all I can say is that the honeymoon is over! No more wine and roses. Africa has chosen to show us her most difficult and grueling nature of late - thankfully I can report that we survived relatively unscathed. As you will recall from our last update we were poised to spend three nights in the Chobe Reserve and were winging about the astronomical cost of the park entrance and camp fees. Well - nothing could have prepared us for the disorganization and nightmarish conditions that we found when we actually arrived at the park. We were well aware that the area had experienced a substantial amount of rain - so much so that the Moremi Reserve had had to be closed. One would have thought that the park authorities would have approached the Chobe roads with the same scrutiny as they had those in Moremi and closed many of the roads that were clearly impassable! Or at the very least you would have thought that they would have warned intrepid (or not so intrepid) travelers about the difficult conditions. However the parks officials clearly did not see these endeavours as a priority. Finishing a game of cards in the park offices was obviously much more important. As a result, we set off for our three nights in the park blithely unaware of what awaited us. Luckily, the absolutely spectacular beauty of the park and the huge number of elephants that we saw made up for the fact that the park is a rather shoddily run operation.
Our first night was spent at the Ihaha campsite which is right on the Chobe river. The old Serondela campsite has been closed and has been overrun by baboons and the only public campsite along the river is now at Ihaha. The drive to Ihaha from the gate is relatively short (only about 30 kilometres) and in this time we saw three separate breeding herds of elephants, all with several baby elephants. We could not believe our luck and were convinced that Chobe was going to be an excellent experience. This view was reinforced that evening when we experienced one of the most beautiful sunsets ever from our secluded campsite.
Things started going from bad to worse from then onwards. Our second night was spent at the Savuti camp which is in the southwestern part of the park. The roads between Savuti and Ihaha hardly resembled tracks and looked more like something out of the Camel Trophy. The terrain ranged between thick sand, potholes, dongas and my personal favourite, swamps and marshes. In some cases the track seemed to pass directly through the center of what were marked on our map as pans. Often the road had waterlillies growing on it or ducks splashing around and in one instance even had elephants taking a bath - always an encouraging feature of motoring! We thanked our lucky stars that we had installed a snorkel onto our Land Rover because we had to do some serious wading. I spent the days in mild (and not so mild) hysteria watching water splashing over our bonnet and come flooding in through the car doors. The only other car we saw for the two days (bar those who had made it successfully to the campsite) was an Avis rental 4x4 that had taken water into its engine when it had got stuck in some deep mud. The occupants of that car were not as lucky as us having to do the 50 or so kilometers back to camp on foot.
It took between 8 and 9 hours for us to cover the 160 kilometers between Savuti and Ihaha on our third day in the park and we barely made it to Ihaha before the gate closed. To make matters worse we were charged by an enormous elephant bull (well he certainly looked enormous although this might have been due to the very short distance between him and us) just outside the camp as we were racing to make it to the gate before it closed. I must say that I feel intimately acquainted with the elephants of Chobe having had to hop out of the car more than once to inspect an obstacle in the road or to clear grass from the Landi's radiator grid often in plain sight of herds of them.
Some of the Chobe Ellies
On our return
to Kasane I insisted that we book into the Chobe River Lodge for some hard
core R&R before we headed for Zim. My
nerves were shot! Recuperation involved
drinking copious amounts of gin and tonic, having a bath and a decent meal
and watching South Africa clobber Aussie at cricket on Sunday. Thankfully the lodge had satellite TV – although
someone managed to switch off the decoder as the last runs were scored so
we did not see the end! We had not
anything about the whole Hansie Cronje saga bar the few snippets that we had received in various emails and were horrified to find out what had happened. The whole debacle must be absolutely huge in the South African press and seems all quite unbelievable.
The Lone Ranger (Nev) has spent the last two days trying to rally the troops and drum up some excitement for the rest of the trip. The trusty sidekick, Tonto (Me), spent the two days at the Chobe River Lodge contemplating mutiny after the horror of the three days in Chobe and was ready to go scurrying back to Mom in Pretoria and to beg for her job back at SHG. Poor Silver (Landi) was limping along with all sorts of injuries caused by the horrendous Chobe roads, a bent steering track rod, busted central locking and alarm system (wading through chest high water can really be a bitch) and dent on the right hand back door to name but a few.
Nev doing some bush repairs Some of the water we traveled through
However, despite the fact that I am having some serious doubts about whether I am cut out for this trip (and we haven't even crossed the equator yet), I have decided not to throw in the towel just yet. Nev managed to do some bush repairs on Silver which involved heating the offending tack rod over an open fire and hammering it straight and we now find ourselves back on the road again and in Vic Falls. Vic Falls would seem to be completely removed from the rest of the Zimbabwean turmoil and quite unaffected by it. If fact one local tour operator commented jokingly that Vic Falls is almost like a separate country (their currency being the Zambezi Dollar!) The only risk seems to be being swamped by the large number of cannabis dealers and curio salesmen. We are going to be in Vic Falls for a couple of days and may try out some of the many "extreme" sports for which the area has become well known. Might even have a go at bungy jumping although if I couldn't handle Chobe I can't imagine how I will cope with hanging from a bridge suspended by nothing more than an overgrown elastic band.
Will keep you all posted on the developments!
lots of love
oh and by the way we are finally on the web - in a manner of speaking - our site can be found at www.sa4x4.co.za/journal.htm (I think!). It can be accessed through the SA4x4 site which is at www.sa4x4.co.za - I think that the link is called "online overland journal". At the moment the site just contains our emails but we are working on posting some photos soon.