We left Springbokpan Guest Lodge at around 8:30am this morning and drove the 6kms to the McCarthy’s Rest Border post. The SA side was pretty painless – quick stamp of the passport and a cursory look by a policeman to check we weren’t smuggling in anything and we were on our way. The Botswana side was a little more tedious involving filling in arrival forms, passports stamped, pay road tax and then back in the car. Customs check where we discovered it was illegal to bring in citrus into the country and we couldn’t even throw it away in their bins. If you want to throw it away you have to take it back to South Africa to do that. We asked whether we could eat the naartjies and they said yes. All four of our cars had citrus so we quickly scoffed them and threw away the peels. They were very pleasant and even took the peels off us to throw away themselves. The fact that one of our convoy had far more alcohol in their car than their allowance got somehow overlooked in the naartjie eating. It would be unfair of me to mention who that was except to say their name rhymes with boils.
The road on the Botswana side was tarred and we headed into our first town in Botswana – Tshabong. The plan was to get SIM cards for everyone’s phones, fill up the cars and buy anything else needed. Filling up in Tshabong took pretty long as we stopped at the Caltex which only had one diesel pump. Getting SIM cards took even longer as the person initially told us she didn’t have nano SIMS (which is what everyone needed) but it turned out that in fact she did. Getting registered, data loaded etc seemed to take another age but we finally got on the road again. While doing these things we were ‘entertained’ by a local with a boom box and microphone singing karaoke outside the supermarket.
We had about 400 kms to travel to get to Kang – our overnight stop on the way to the Okavango Delta area. You have to take the Trans Kalagadi Highway from Tshabong to Kang. It is a tarred road which is mostly good but at certain times it was really badly potholed. At one point the lead car managed to lose (what looked to me driving behind them) about 25% of their tyre into the pothole and doing that at 100 km/h isn’t something you would like to do too often. A quick stop to check the tyres and finding all to be in order we were on our way again.
There are very small villages everything 20 km or so and every time you approach one the speed limit reduces from 120 km/h down to 80 km/h and then 60 km/h. Unfortunately they often don’t post the increase in speed limit again and so you have to guess or work it out from the speed signs on the other side of the road. I can also see why you don’t drive at night in Botswana. There are donkey’s, cattle and goats wandering all over the place. At one point we almost had to stop completely because a donkey was just standing in the middle of the road and at another time a goat crossed between two of our convoy. When you have that happen while you’re driving at 120 km/h it isn’t really fun.
At one point I overtook a trunk that was belching out fumes and dust and just as I did a warning light popped on saying ‘Fuel Filter Maintenance Needed’. Not really what you want when you are 1700 kms into a 6500 km trip (and the car was serviced just before we left). After searching the manual and also googling it seems it isn’t crucial to do right away but as we are heading to a reasonable size town tomorrow with a Toyota dealership I will see if we can get it fixed while we are there. The car’s performance didn’t seem to suffer at all and in fact our fuel economy improved. The manual says it sometimes occurs when poor quality diesel is used and given some of the garages we have used I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the reason.
As we had consumed quite a lot of time in Tshabong, we decided to have lunch on the road and we found a picnic spot and just ate what we had available in the cars. We arrived in Kang at just after 4pm and after filling up the cars we checked in at the Kang Ultra Stop. That process took quite some time as the lady behind the counter only gave us 1 room. We pointed out the reservation was for 5 rooms and a family room and that seemed to surprise her and she wanted to see the confirmation and the payment (all of which we fortunately had). She eventually gave us the family room. Now we just had to persuade her we needed 4 other rooms still. After some cajoling we got another 2 rooms out of her and then after one final push we got the final 2 rooms. When ‘security’ took us to the rooms, they were not even finished being made up yet. It was 5pm … I wonder what they did between 8am (no doubt when the last people left) and 5pm?!
The place is nothing fancy but it is an overnight stop and we really didn’t expect a lot. They did have WiFi in the restaurant though I don’t think it was built to sustain 12 people trying simultaneously to connect and download emails! It also wasn’t really big enough to handle the 14 of us for dinner and so we stayed in the bar and had our dinner in there instead. The service was very pleasant and the food was fine and the company was excellent as usual.
Until tomorrow …
P, M (because he hugged me today for the first time in about 10 years), H, S (because he came back to our car today) and C