We had 700 kms to do today. The first thing that was evident is how much better the roads are in South Africa to either Botswana or Namibia. The quality of the roads and the general maintenance are in a different league. In order to maintain that though it means people working on the roads all the time and so today was slightly frustrating because of the amount of road works on the way back including numerous stop and go’s.
We left at 8am and arrived home at 4pm with only two main stops to refuel and to buy biltong (at our favorite store in Trawal). The other 2 ‘minor’ stops were made because Michael’s toilet needs didn’t coincide with the other two stops (or he was drinking more than the rest of us). It was a pretty uneventful 700 kms. We are glad to be home (including a nice home cooked meal tonight) but also sad to be home (as we have to be back to reality and work tomorrow). It is incredible how disconnected we have been over the last 2.5 weeks. News updates have been seldom and even getting sports scores have been sporadic. It was like living in another world entirely.
We also really enjoyed the company of the other families. You would have thought that after 2.5 weeks everyone would be tired of each other but it really wasn’t like that at all (or at least we think so!). We will miss the dinner table conversations of the group of 14. One of the families stayed an extra night at Oewerbos and texted this morning to say they were having withdrawal symptoms. It was strange only having 3 cars driving together and not the 4.
As I usually do, here are my random thoughts to summarize the trip:
With hindsight things we would do differently next time
- Spend more time in Moremi and ideally sleep overnight there for at least 2-3 nights
- Skip Maun altogether (lowlight for many people)
- Spend at least another night at Elephant Sands (that’s the pic) and go into the Makagagadi Pans
- Drive straight from the Caprivi to Etosha and spend a few nights there and then back to SA
- Take all our meat for the whole trip from SA with us (with a decent freezer)
- Take replacement valves for the tyres (quickest way to let down the tyre is to take out the valve but if you lose it then you’re really in trouble)
- Take a full set of cutlery and crockery and proper glasses and mugs
Thoughts on Botswana:
- Lovely friendly people, no hint of crime, no hint of corruption. A pleasure to travel through the country.
- Poor roads generally with potholes appearing out of nowhere sometimes. Drive carefully and definitely don’t drive at night. The further north you go the worse the roads.
- Very poorly stocked shops even in the main towns (including Maun). Don’t expect to find much fresh produce (and as I said rather take your meat with you from SA). I wonder how the locals survive.
- Animals everywhere you look. In the ‘town’ areas goats, cattle and donkeys all over the place and regularly on the roads or crossing the roads. Drive carefully. In the outlying areas, warthog, kudu, elephant, steenbok etc on the road side. Drive carefully. I was staggered by seeing elephant on the side of the national road while driving 120 km/h (and not in a national park).
- It seems to be poor country and yet it is the wealthiest country in Africa (per capita). I suspect the money is in a few people’s hands only or in the main towns like Gaborone or Francistown (which we didn’t visit).
- Beautiful country and amazing to see game and the bird life was incredible.
- They worry a lot about ‘foot and mouth’ disease and I wonder whether it really is a big problem and whether their checkpoints make any real difference.
Thoughts on Zimbabwe:
- Vic Falls is beautiful but you get a sense that it is an outlier of a town in Zimbabwe (given most of its revenue must come from tourism).
- You also get a sense that corruption is the way of life. My sense is police checkpoints would be hard to get through without a local guide.
Thoughts on Namibia:
- Infrastructure is much better than Botswana (even in the Caprivi) and just seems better run and better organized (much closer to SA).
- Besides the shops in the Caprivi (which were absolutely horrendous, I really do wonder how the locals survive there), the shops are much better stocked and run and much closer to what we have in SA (even in the remote areas).
- As we have noted before, there is a strong German influence and that almost seems to be getting stronger and not weaker.
The highlights of the trip remain the Chobe River cruise (pic on left) and lunch at the Vic Falls Hotel. Final bird tally of 159 (though we have a few photos we are hoping a friend can identify for us which might add in a few more!) including 17 lifers (now up to 413).
Until next time … P, H, S, M & C