African Adventure: Days 5 – 8 (South Africa & Botswana)

24 Oct

Day 5: SA to Botswana

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Day 5 was a long drive day. We left Kruger early as we had to travel 300km+, cross the border and get to Palapye in Botswana. However, before I left Kruger we spotted a heyena (hadn’t seen one yet) and Timan somehow spotted an Adder on the road (they kill more humans in Africa than any other snake). Very glad the Tucan Truck was so big!

IMG_0807 The day was spent playing Cards Against Humanity (with my buddies Donna, Alex and Jack) marvelling at the scenery (which, true, I did for the majority of the trip) as we drove through the Woodbush Forest Reserve area of South Africa. The place actually smelt of gum trees and the roads are lined with bright pink and purple bushes. Sweeping roads, lakes, trees… totally stunning.

We got to the border (didn’t take long to get through at all) – Botswana have changed their entry stamp since I last went, they now have a lovely little sunshine on it. While we waited for the truck to get through the border I hid in the shade as a heatwave had decided to hit Botsawana. While I was there it was 46 degrees. FOURTY-SIX DEGREES. Somehow my ginger skin didn’t burn, mainly because I ran from bar to tree shade and back to the bar.

We headed straight to Palapye, a small town where I realised I’d lost all of my make-up and tried searching for a pharmacy to buy concealer… which of course they didn’t have for very pale skin! So I basically went a week wearing no make-up whatsoever. Y’know what, it was bloody liberating. You know what else is liberating? Showering underneath the stars. We got to the Camp Itemula, set up the tents and the only showers with running water was under a tree, with no roof and no door. I basically just had to stand naked under the stars and hope no one walked it. It rocked.

IMG_0794 I also tried Savannah Dark on Day 5 and I now prefer it to Savannah Dry. It’s officially the drink of the trip… alongside Amarula (that comes later, Day 6!). We met a crazy woman called Maggie who may or may not have been both a prostitute and working in investment or something. God knows, but she was mental and tried hitting on Alex for a lot of the night which was hilarious. We had steak and cheesy potatoes, then spent the evening drinking. I chatted to Timan about the house he’s building (as ya do), then Leah for a bit, and turned in.

Day 6: Nata

We drove to Nata and spent the morning on the road, before rocking up to the next campsite at lunch.  Today was the 46 degree day so after putting up the tent in the shadiest spot I could find, I went to the bar, got wifi and had a cold drink. I chilled out for a bit before we headed to see the second biggest salt pans in the world for sunset.

IMG_0852 The Makgadikgadi Pans were once a superlake. The climate changed and over time the lake dried up, leaving massive salt pans behind. During the wet season the area is full of wildlife – mainly flamingos, hence why I was able to pick up some flamingo feathers as a souvenir.  Most Brits probably know them from the Top Gear special, which is quite depressing.

I got there and the area is huge and completely beautiful, despite there being absolutely nothing there aside from a few stray flamingo feathers and a lot of salt! Being there and watching the sun going down was incredible, especially as I walked along the pans, hearing the salt crack and crunch under my feet. I can’t really describe the sound but it was very therapeutic.

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As the sun continued to go down, Donna and I walked a little way out and got to the squishy salt pans (above). We tried walking across them, but sank as soon as our feet touched the ground, so we settled for taking these photos rather than risking getting a sunset/tree shot! It was one of the highlights of my trip, the place was just beautiful.

In the evening after we’d eaten there was a mini argument amongst the people on the tour… basically the old people (they read the Daily Mail, can’t exactly expect them to be intelligent) accused Tucan and Leah, our tour leader, of ‘pocketing’ the local payment… the local payment that all tour companies take and use for border crossings and to buy things on the road. Donna, Alex and I pointed out how totally wrong the old folks are and headed to bed. I didn’t get too angry because I was having such an amazing trip, whereas in the UK that would have bugged me for ages. Just being in Africa on the road made me happy to the point I was a different person and just looked at things in a different way. I’m trying to keep hold of that mentality now I’m back in London!

Day 7: Chobe / Kasane

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Chobe National Park I’ve actually been to before. Previously I’d only done the river cruise, but this time around I got to actually do a 4×4. We left Nata in the morning and it didn’t take long to get to Chobe. I immediately did the following things when we got to our campsite just outside of the park: pitch my tent just far enough from the riverbank so a hippo couldn’t get me (view from my tent above), booked an early morning game drive so I could go and see the park itself and dipped my feet into the camp’s swimming  pool to cool down while a group of mongeese (above) ran around the campsite.

We went into Kasane for food and drink and were immediately greeted by warthogs casually strolling around the town. We had a couple of ciders (the first of many that day) before we headed back to camp for dinner (pesto chicken and cheesy potatoes, YUM). In the evening I tucked myself away in the bar chatting with my friends but they bailed and went to bed as we had to be up at 4am for a 5am game drive. I stayed out a little longer in the bar to finish my drink when Timan and Leah came to join me… which resulted in me getting to bed at 1am. My own fault, but it was totally worth it as Timan bought me Amarula on ice – the first time I’d ever tried Amarula. I LOVE it. It’s made from a fruit that grows only in South Africa and it’s basically fruity Baileys. Love love love. I then stayed up into the early hours chatting about the Kenya/Ugandan war and how the colonisers decided to split Africa up amongst them. Chatting with Timan made me realise just how little I knew about African history – after all, a lot of African history is indeed British history, so I’ve resolved to educate myself further on it!

Day 8: Chobe National Park
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So, another day another safari. I admit, Chobe was a bit disappointing, but that’s only because we didn’t get to see anything new up close. Some lions were wandering in the distance, we passed a HUGE herd of Water Buffalo, saw a glorious sunrise and a few tropical birds (honestly, African birds are SO colourful, I might make it a fancy dress party theme). I also saw giraffes running which is always hilarious… they’re deceptively fast!

We returned to the campsite for lunch after the few hour game drive and spent the middle of the day killing time until our Chobe River sunset cruise (which we spent a LONG time trying to convince Timan to come on… we thought we had him at one point, but alas, no). Also, during the night, a HUGE storm hit; because I went to bed so late I was actually lucky enough to see the lightning streaking across the sky. However, the thunder was SO loud I woke up every half an hour, meaning that I was knackered on Day 8! Totally worth it though; if you think falling asleep in a storm with the window open is fun, try having the rain pelt down as thunder and lightning strikes which you’re in a tent listening to hippos on the riverbank!

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Anyway, just as we stepped onto the boat for the sunset cruise in Chobe NP, the storm hit again. We were all dressed in summer clothes, on a boat with no walls and the storm went MENTAL. The wind was blowing the rain into us so hard it felt like hail. I managed to get one photo before I feared for my phone and Leah told the driver to take us back to the start to get ponchos. We ZOOMED back to land and were brought warm ponchos… but not before we all took photos of how wet we were and before the older people on the tour gave up and went home.

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BIG mistake on their part. We went out again on the boat and the rain stopped and we saw all kinds of incredible animals. We saw fish eagles calling to each other and hunting. We got RIGHT UP CLOSE to a bloody crocodile… their eyes, eek. We even saw a hippo fight! Hippos bloody terrify me – they’re actually incredibly fast, very territorial and kill more humans in Africa than any other animals. Their jaws are immense and the sound they make is like a dirty old man laughing. After getting terrifyingly close to a lot of hippos, we cruised around to see a lot of elephants drinking and then the sun began to set.

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Oh my days, it was stunning. Every sunset in Africa is stunning, but this was incredible. The water, the animals… it was so red. I’ve probably done my retina damage gazing at it for so long, but whatever. I’m so glad Leah was able to get us ponchos and back out on the boat, it was a brilliant experience! I went back to camp lovin’ life and to find that while I was away my tent has blown across the campsite due to the wind, so everything inside was a total mess. Didn;t care. Was far too happy to care!

We were treated to a meal by Timan that evening – we had chapatti, but DELICIOUS chapatti (apparently he added cinnamon and coconut milk), a beef and vegetable stew and bean mash. Super tasty. Then Donna, Alex, Jack and I wandered back off to the bar where the barman decided to charge me a totally made up price for a drink (bless them, they liked doing this at Chobe) and then he asked me where my husband was. Turns out he meant Timan as we’d been in the bar last night, and when I said I didn’t have a husband the barman asked me to marry him; “C’mon, you would like an African husband”. Have to give him points for trying I suppose.

The next day we were heading off to Livingstone, Zambia where I proceeded to have the best 24 hours of my entire life. But that belongs to the next blog post which I’ll try and do tomorrow!

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