The first two weeks: elephants, 2 border crossings, more elephants, sensational views, confused people, getting settled in & more….
Wednesday morning, 14 September 2016, our adventure has finally begun! After a last breakfast at our favourite coffee shop together with Linde’s run-buddy Sharine, we drove off, away from home and towards adventure!
Our trip started at Blyde River Canyon, one of the most beautiful areas of South Africa, situated along the Panorama Route. The road towards the canyon lead us through endless orange orchards, with the smell of orange blossom invading our car.
It is interesting to see how much attention you get when you drive a car registered in another country. Our Land Rover defender (we call him ToeToe, with his nick-name being Bokkie) has a Dutch numberplate, so it is pretty easy to guess that we are tourists. When we stopped at a patrol station to get some diesel, a truck driver walked up to the car and just stared at Krijn… “where is your numberplate from”? he asked. Krijn told him we are driving to The Netherlands. He just stared with no expression on his face. “How far is that?”, “about 25.000 km”, another long moment of silence, he then walked off, shaking his head, without saying a word. 5 minutes later he came back. “Why are you doing this”? “Because of the adventure, we want to get to know other cultures, and meet new people, like we meet you now” Krijn said. Another head shake. “How long is the flight”? “11 hours”:… “You guys are crazy” was his response. “Good luck”, and he walked off. We experience situations like this on a daily basis now. We think it is quite funny, and hopefully it stays like that! 😉
The Blyde River canyon (a smaller version of the Grand Canyon), is 25km in length, and on average 750 meters deep, displaying the most amazing views. We camped on the edge of the gorge, just around the corner of one of the famous panoramas: the Three Rondavels. A rondavel is a traditional South African mud house, round of shape. A part of the rock formation looks like three of these huts, hence the name. The next morning we did a long hike called the Leopard Trail, enjoying the rising sun and the stunning views and nature.
On our way back to the top of the gorge we saw 2 clip dassies in the scrub next to us. A dassie is like a big Guinea Pig, and looks pretty cute, but the truth is that when they attack you it actually is pretty damn scary! … A high sqeeking noise, cracking branches and the dassie came flying at Linde. Lin had to jump to avoid being bitten and run over!
One day in our trip, we tried to get used to the idea of not seeing any of our friends for a long time. This did not last long as on the second day of our trip we had a surprise visit of Sanne & Orne who were still camping in the area after our wedding. How amazing to see them!
Via Polokwane we drive up north towards the Botswana border. We cross many villages that are fully self-sustainable, with many small businesses suppling everything the villagers need. The surroundings are beautiful, and we enjoy a good lunch on a rock at the side of the road underneath a Sheppard’s tree. It is the end of the school day, and we see a pick-up truck filled with school kids standing in the back driving on the high way. Only in Africa.
We cross the border in a record time of 10 minutes. This could have been even quicker, if Krijn had parked the car at the right spot at the Botswana border control. The grumpy lady told Krijn off for not parking in the correct parking bay, and he needed to move the car 10 meters. We were the only people at the border…
Our first stop in Botswana was the Limpopo-Lipade Game reserve, which is run by our old school mate Wilmie and her husband. We stayed at their place for 2 nights and enjoyed their wonderful life in the bush; early morning run through the game reserve, yoga at the hippo pool, Wildebeast poitjiekos stew, we saw a big group of wild dogs ripping apart a Wildebeast (no, there is no connection to the stew we had, but it was pretty weird eating the same animal only hours later), howling jackals at night and sitting around the fire. A great two days.
Via the Khama Rhino Sanctuary we drive further up north. At the sanctuary we camp for one night, under a beautiful clear sky filled with stars. Krijn photographs the milky way with the silhouette of the great trees in the reserve (Krijn van der Giessen Photography). The rhinos didn’t visit us, but we see many large groups of antelopes when we drive around the park the next morning.
From Khama we drive towards Kubu Island, a bizarre formation of rocks overgrown by Baobab trees in the middle of one of the largest salt lakes in the world. We deflate our tires to drive for about two hours through the deep sand and the salt crust of the lake. Our campsite is sensational: with nobody else around we walk around the island enjoying the unbelievable sunset with an endless view over the saltlake. The baobabs create the most amazing backdrops for photos. A great moment for Krijn to take some great pics for his website of the business he is starting: more to follow about this project soon!
The next morning we leave the salt lake on the other side of the island, after a run during sunrise, and are treated to 6 hours of deep sand and the worst of the worst gravel roads with big stones and potholes. Besides that it was about 38 degrees without airco, which made the trip to our next campsite very challenging. But we survived! We drove through local villages, and received many smiles of the beautiful people.
Elephants Sands was an oases in this rough African land. A campsite built around a waterhole on the edge of Chobe National park, ensures large groups of elephants visiting the campsite to have some refreshing water. The elephants literally walk over the campsite and past our car, which made this another great experience. The first we did after our long drive was enjoying the pool, whilst watching the elephants enjoying their bath. Superb! Thanks Marjet & Niek for the tip.
From here it was a short drive to the main gate of Chobe national Park, where we set up camp along the Chobe river, which further downstream becomes the Zambezi river. The next morning we leave at 5.45am to explore the National Park. Whilst driving through the town, we see a group of elephants walking through the streets, followed by a hurd of buffalos. It took a few moments for us to realise what was happening (it was very early after all), but it really happened straight in front of our eyes. Elephants walking through the streets of a city! That’s insane’! In Chobe it is possible, since there are no fences around the park, which means that humans share their life with the wild animals. Here animals are not locked up by gates and fences, but farmers put a fence around their land to protect their crops. The world upside down, but in our eyes the way it should be.
Chobe National Park: the Lonely Planets described it as follows: “Chobe National Park is one of the great wildlife destinations of Africa. Famed for its enormous population of massive elephants, Chobe encompasses nearly 11.000 square km. Chobe riverfront supports the largest wildlife concentration in the park”. This last fact we experienced first-hand, by spotting hundreds, maybe thousands of elephants, buffalo, 4 groups of lions, a leopard, hundreds of giraffes and endless groups of antelopes on the beautiful plains of the park.
We helped a few cars that got stuck in the sand to get unstuck, without having any troubles ourselves. We were very proud of this, and at night we drunk some Gin Tonics to celebrate this! The rest of the afternoon we spent on board of a boat, and sailed through the swamps of the Chobe. We enjoyed the hippos, crocs, bathing elephants and beautiful birds whilst seeing the sun go down… the end of another day and our second country.
The next day we drove to Zambia, the country where we are writing this blog now. We love every second of the trip so far, and can’t wait for the next adventures to unfold. More about our first days in Zambia in our next blog. We are off to bed now, and will try to fight the malaria mosquitos surrounding us. It is a plague here in Zambia at the moment, so we are on guard!