Tuesday, September 13, 2011

06 August: South Africa to Orapa to Makgadikgadi Pans

So actually our trip started at 13h30 yesterday afternoon (A) when we actually left the house and started driving ... this involved a stop at Steers for lunch and more driving, almost to the Botswana border. We spent the night at The Trucker's ex-girlf's dad's game farm (yes, it is weird, but they're still business partners). We arrived after dark, but we still had a bit of a game drive before braai-ing (saw some of their giraffe). It was not a late night because we had an early morning border crossing to get to.

This morning we didn't even have breakfast, just packed a few muffins and rusks and whatnot into the front with us and headed off to the Groblersbrug border post (B). We weren't there first and it's a bit confusing with a lot of people all queuing for different things (I did not think it was particularly well sign-posted) but we got thru the SA side quite easily. Then it was over the Limpopo river and into Botswana. All this was pretty quick ... until we got to the queue to pay (I'm not sure what exactly, honestly - assume it's something to do with bringing the car in?). This took (and I'm not kidding here) ages! Two hours, I think?

Eventually we made it thru and were on our way (with a quick petrol stop - it's much cheaper in Bots!). The plan of the day was to head up to Orapa (C) for lunch (because it's where The Trucker spent some of his childhood and he'd never been back) and then on up into the Makgadikgadi Pans for our overnight stop at Kubu Island (D).

Orapa was an iffy step in our journey. You see, it is the ultimate gated community. You need a pass to even get in there (it's built around a Diamond Mine). And we couldn't get much info on how to get this pass beforehand. So we went armed with minimal info from 2 blog posts I'd found that basically implied we could just get it on arrival. But who knew how long that was likely to take? I'll tell you, it wasn't long. And as a stop, I generally wouldn't recommend it (there's really nothing much going on there). But it was pretty cool for The Trucker to check out his old house and reminisce. We had lunch at Wimpy.

After lunch we asked a local about the best way to get to Kubu Island. This was a dumb idea and left us panic-ed because we were told that the road was completely flooded and we'd never get thru and we'd have to go all the way around the Pans and then down from Gweta. We tried asking at the local police station (completely useless). And we tried calling Kubu Island. No answer. Eventually we called Planet Baobab (our following night's destination to see if they could tell us anything or if we could get an extra night accommodation there instead).

Whew, the relief! The told us there were definitely no problems with the roads (they had people who had come that way in the last few days). So off we headed. Seeing the salt pans for the first time is akin to spotting the sea for the first time on a long drive :) Quite surreal and spectacular. And Kubu Island did not disappoint (although there was a little confusion about our booking. Luckily I'd printed everything out and had proof of payments and booking emails with us).

We set up camp (yes, we were tenting tonight!) and took some Savannas up onto the rocky hill to watch the sun set. Quite stunning :) The photos don't do it justice. And the baobabs all around us were awesome. After sunset, we made a fire and set up the skottel and cooked up a delish stir-fry for dinner :) Blissful, I tell you!

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