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Author Topic: School Reunion - Okavango Edition  (Read 4187 times)

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Offline Xpat

School Reunion - Okavango Edition
« on: December 27, 2017, 10:10:48 pm »

This is a quick photo report - or rather just an excuse to post photos as I like to have trips documented somewhere before I lose the photos - on a trip around Okavango Delta (very roughly speaking) that I have done with 2 of my mates from school we all attended 21 years ago back in Europe. The whole trip consisted of two parts:

1. 10 day loop with my mates from and to Maun, including Makgadikgadi - Kubu Island, Elephant Sands, Hunters road up to Pandamatenga, Vic Falls, crossing the 19th parallel cutline from Pandamatenga to Khwai river, and safari drive through Moremi around Xakanaxa.

2. Once the rest flew back home, I circumnavigated around Okavango delta via ĎTransit roadí (i.e. overgrown double track) connecting Khwai village in the east and Seronga on the west north of the delta. On the way back to Maun I explored some remote tracks along the western border with Namibia between Tsodilo Hills and Dube.

Here is the route of the first part - will post map for the second part later once I will get to it:

Here is the photo of the participants - inconveniently both of my mates are named Milan so Iíll use first letter of their surname to differentiate between them. From Left to right: Milan V, Milan P, myself (choking on fat cake) and David - son of Milan P:

Vehicle-wise, I was riding KTM 690, Milan P KTM 500 and Milan V with David were chasing the bikes in Hilux.

The rendezvous point was Maun. I have slabbed it up there from Joburg in Hilux with bikes loaded at the back, the other three slabbed it from Prague on Jumbo jet or some such to Joburg and then took Botswana Air flying coach up to Maun.

A-team on the way up to Maun- that would be KTMs, Hilux and myself:

B-team after de-bussing their wheels in Maun:

We stayed first night in Audi Camp, getting ourselves (mostly by adhering to strict hydration regime at the bar) and vehicles ready for set-off next day.

I will try to keep my yapping to minimum and post mostly photos with some captions here and there as I need to finish it quickly - letís see how that goes....
« Last Edit: December 29, 2017, 01:04:03 pm by Xpat »

Offline Xpat

Re: School Reunion - Okavango Edition
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2017, 10:49:06 pm »
Day 1 - Maun to Makgadikgadi Adventure Camp

The objective of the day was Kubu island on Makgadikgadi pans. First we had to negotiate 200 km of A3 tar to Gweta - I would have preferred cutline alternative, but the timeline was too tight to get into deep end straight away. On the first veterinary checkpoint about 80 km into the drive we got ambushed by local lovelies - bikers are clearly rock-stars in Botswana (strange that this never happens to me when I ride on my own, hmmm):

We had another, more bizzare encounter there with a lady in bakkie who also stopped by. She came with her sister, kid and doghouse at the back all the way from Kasane and was on the way to Maun (1200km  round trip) to see a veterinarian with her sick dog - an admirable sacrifice for a dog in a country where I think they have a bit more - dare I say - pragmatic relationship with animals. Unfortunatelly, she lost the dog (boerboel judging by the picture she showed me) somewhere along the way and gave me her phone number to call her back should we bump into him. We didn't, which I was grateful for as I figured the only way we are going to find it if it lays mangled on the side of the road - this left an opening for better outcome.

Crossing Nxai pan NP on the way we encountere a giraffe and a bull elephant, but it clearly didn't like the sound of 500 with standard pipe on. He seemed fine with  690 with Wings pipe which passed first:

We made it to Gweta at about lunchtime and I was chuffed to find out that the Shell garage is in operation again - it has been inoperational for few years, making life for bikers who cross Makgadikgadi difficult as the next petrol (or at least garage) are either 100 km in Nata or 200 km in Maun. On the other hand the weather seemed to be turning against us. There were threatening clouds on all sides with lightnings hitting all over the show. We stopped in local shebeen and waited for almost 3 hours hoping the storm would pass. But they were coming one after another and we had to make decision to either risk it on the plains or stay the night in Gweta immediately getting behind the plan. We decided to push on, which proved to be good decision. While the storms were raging all over the show, somehow we managed to get to the Makgadikgadi adventure camp about 100 km away dry and un-electrocuted. I was a bit worried how Milan P is going to handle the tough sand that one has to negotiate outside Gweta, before reaching the pans (he has total of about 30 day on motorcycle in his life under the belt), but - probably because of the rains, the sand was surprisingly easy and we made quick and smooth progress. Due to delay in Gweta we didn't make it all the way to Kubu island, another 17 km away, but we would visit that next day so no biggie.

In the camp we settled into their stationary tents and after dinner spent rest of the evening finishing their beer stock - we eventually had to resort to the whisky we brought with.

The couple in charge of the camp. They followed the traditional gender based division of labour - the gentleman was responsible for manly tasks, specifically providing firewood, while the lady was responsible for everything else.

The storm eventually did catch us up, but by that stage we were soundly asleep in the tents.
« Last Edit: December 27, 2017, 11:53:20 pm by Xpat »

Offline Xpat

Re: School Reunion - Okavango Edition
« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2017, 11:37:26 pm »
Day 2 - Makgadikgadi to Elephant Sands

Original plan for day 2 was to make it all the way up to Kasane - and via Hunter's road none the less. By now it was clear that my planning was as usually way too optimistic. We still had to visit Kubu island which originaly I planned to sleep on and with all the picture taking, film making (including multiple drone launches) and storm dodging, it was clear it is not going to happen. I wasn't too fazed as there was an appealing alternative much closer - Elephant Sands campsite, which I have passed many times, and never actually visited suspecting that it is just a tourist trap. Which, as it turned out it is, but pretty cool one and surprisingly well priced.

After breakfast of some oatmeal or other, we packed up and headed down to Kubu island. The pans around the island were wet and there were few close calls on the slippery mud, but we made it eventually to the island without accident. The usual shenanigans ensued:

Life according to drone (I have to admit that I didn't fall in love with organized formation riding, group waving and such - though of course I will gladly use the footage to boast about the trip  >:D):

With all the photos taken we got goint heading north to Nata about 120 km away. On the way we passed few small kraals and talked to some of their inhabitants, as well as bumped into some wildlife:

We made it back to A3 in the early afternoon just as the afternoon storms that were the norm on this trip hit. We had another 20-30 km on tar to do, but caught up by stron downpour and lightnings half way through so turned off the road, threw everything that was waterproof out of cabin into the bin at the back and dived into the car to wait it out. Once the lightning stopped and rain eased up, we jumped back on the bikes and gunned it to Nata, where we refuelled and considered our options. The storms were still raging all around, and my inner gastrotourist started to tempt me to call it a day and hole up in one of the lodges in Nata. But the other three had none of it. So we jumped back on the bikes and gunned it another 70 km or so through downpour to the Elephant Sands. I expected it to be devoid of elephants as it was rain season so I thought they will not need to stick around the waterhole. I was wrong. Already on the way up there we bumped into 10 or so elephants along the road, and once we drove the 2 - 3 km from the tar to the lodge there were plenty more milling around.

We booked into one of their big stationary 4 person tent (1200 pula per tent - not bad, considering just camping on your own anywhere around Khwai river without toilet or shower costs more), and then joined the rest of the tourist on the terase outside the lodge overlooking the waterhole and herds of elephants parading there mere few meters away. I have to admit, it was very impressive and I will make an effort to stop there again next time I'm around:

There were quite a few bikers around - most of them, unlike us, roughing it in their own tents:

We were very glad that the original plan didn't work out.
« Last Edit: December 27, 2017, 11:58:21 pm by Xpat »

Offline Xpat

Re: School Reunion - Okavango Edition
« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2017, 12:54:24 am »
Day 3 - Elephant Sands to Kasane

Objective for next day was to get to Kasane about 250 km to the north. Obviously we were not keen on tar and the plan was to ride Hunter's Road along the Zimbabwe border more or less all the way up. The only thing was that Clinton from Kwa Nokeng Adventures who knows Botswana as his own backyard has warned me few years back strongly against riding Hunter's road south of Pandamatenga (where it basically runs on Bots side through Hwange NP), due to lots of poaching activity and potential shoot-outs. I went to check with the guys at Elephant Sands reception about the current situation, and they told me that Hunter's road has been closed by Bots government.

On my own, this would be no brainer - I would just go and wing it, but I had responsibility for the other three, so I called a council meeting. I explained the situation and potential risks - and they all unequivocally said they want to go. So Hunter's road it was then.

Sunrise over Elephant Sands:

In the morning big herds of elephants were gone, but there were still strugglers/loners wandering about unfazed by the morning activities in the campsite:

After breakfast in the lodge we packed up and hit the road. We rode about 10 km on tar until we came to the turnoff onto Hunter's road, where we lowered the tyre pressures and hit the double track. The track was smaller than I expected, and clearly wasn't used much. After few km we passed occupied military camp, and then few km further we came upon military cistern truck filling up on water. We stopped and had chat with the two soldiers there - they were friendly and didn't indicate in any way that we shouldn't be there. They just enquired if we have seen any animals.

So after few pleasantries we continued towards Zim border on what looked as basically abandoned double track with trees slowly growing over on both sides. At some places we had to remove fallen trees (or rather pushed over by elephants) from the track for the car to pass. But overall it was very quiet and nice riding - mostly thanks to the sand being compacted by the recent rains.

We eventually came to a cutline heading straight to Zim border (until then we were running in parallel with border few km away) and took it as I could see that Hunter's road from there on runs along the border.

The ride along the border was basically a ride through Hwange NP. We saw a lot of signs of animals, but the only interesting one we bumped into was this giraffe:

We made it to within 20 km of Pandamatenga, where we hit long patches of dried up cotton mud. Which is basically like riding on very uneven, almost spiked up concrete - very unpleasant. After few km I decided to call it off - the machines were getting hammered and we still had at least 120 km of this to go (so far we did about 130 km off tar). It was doable - the same way as very bad corrugated or potholed road is doable, but it was no fun and the machines were getting killed. So I turned the caravan around and we backed about 2 kms where I there was cutline connecting from the tar about 15 km to the west. We decided to get back to tar and slab the remainder of the way to Kasane - we had our offroad fill that day anyway. That cultine - running at the southern boundary of that big farming area south of Pandamatenga (I believe the farming is there exactly because of the cotton mud) and most of it was also dried out cotton mud, so the going was slow and painful. But we made it eventually to the road, turned onto it and - with short stop in Pandamatenga for a drink (they didn't have petrol) we made it to Kasane in the early afternoon. We settled in the campsite of Chobe Safari Lodge, and the guys booked themselves for the organized trip to Victoria Falls next day. I wasn't keen to go through the hassle of going through the border with our vehicles for a day trip, so we rather chose much more convenient organized trip option. The only bummer was that they will not be back for the afternoon Chobe river cruise which I highly recommended based on my prior visit, but they will have to do without it.

Offline JustBendIt

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Re: School Reunion - Okavango Edition
« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2017, 03:59:12 am »
another great RR and stunning pics from you Xpat :thumleft:

please keep it coming thick and fast

« Last Edit: December 28, 2017, 03:59:48 am by JustBendIt »
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Offline Xpat

Re: School Reunion - Okavango Edition
« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2017, 09:24:06 pm »
Day 4 - Kasane / Victoria Falls

For me this was a day off, while the rest went to Zimbabwe to see the Vic Falls. I have spent morning sorting out some admin, like going to buy another petrol jerry can as the petrol situation in Pandamatenga looked dodgy on the way up and getting gas bottle filled up at Builders Warehouse (or whatever it is called in Bots - just to find out later in the sticks that the idiot has somehow broken the valve and so we were releagated to some cold bully beef that night). The rest of the day I just lazed about the Chobe Safari Lodge doing what I like the most - nothing.

The rest of the group returned at about 5 pm - they had a good trip even though there was very little water in Vic Falls. The youngster even managed his first bungee jump off the bridge between Zim and Zam. Over dinner I lobbied for skipping breakfast next morning and starting really early - like 6ish. The plan for next day was to get as close as possible to Khwai village in the Okavango delta over cutlines along the Chobe boundary. I haven't ridden yet the main part - 19th parallel cutline, but knew from other cutlines I have done that it can get pretty tricky, so I wanted an early start.

The rest of the gang weren't biting - they prefered to travel in style, sleeping to their full and starting the day with proper English breakfast (which was scheduled to start at the lodge only at 7am). So - worried that we may not get very far - I decided to skip the first part of the cultine following Eastern Chobe boundary between Kasane and Pandamatenga. Instead we will just slab the 120 km or so down to Pandamatenge, refill (if they will have petrol) and then hit the 19th parallel cutline heading west from there. With that settle we had few beers and retreated into our tents. I was at piece with the decision as I have done the cutline were are cuting out already - it was the only place where I have so far encountered lions on the bike about 5 years ago. Here is a shameless plug of the video from that ride that I have already posted here somewhere:

Here are some pictures from the day:

« Last Edit: December 28, 2017, 09:27:03 pm by Xpat »

Offline Xpat

Re: School Reunion - Okavango Edition
« Reply #6 on: December 28, 2017, 09:29:13 pm »
another great RR and stunning pics from you Xpat :thumleft:

please keep it coming thick and fast


Cheers for that JustBendIt  :thumleft:

I have to finish this thing by tomorrow as I'm leaving for another trip over weekend.

Offline 0012

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Re: School Reunion - Okavango Edition
« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2017, 04:50:32 am »
Fantastic RR and beautiful pics as always Xpat.

Lovely to see the bush looking so green!

Now this is how a school reunion should be done!   :lol8:   :thumleft:   :thumleft:   :thumleft:
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Offline Xpat

Re: School Reunion - Okavango Edition
« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2017, 12:43:27 pm »
Day 5 - Kasane to Savuti Marsh

Next day after breakfast we set-off at about half 9. We stopped at Kazungula to fill up all the vehicles and jerry cans and then slabbed it 120 km on tar down to Pandamatenga. We stopped at the Engen to fill-up - this time they had petrol, but the pumps were not working. WTF. Before Engen the petrol station there was owned I think by Kwa Nokeng guys (who now own another garage there, but that serves only trucks and sells minimum 200 litres of diesel I guess to the trucks going up Africa) and I never had problem getting petrol there. Now with big corporation with disinterested employees taking over, it is basically useless.

I would have prefered to fill up anyway just to be sure, but we came prepared with enough spare fuel, so no biggie.

We pushed on another 20 or so km south on tar until we came to the southern end of the big fenced off farming area (I'm guessing leveraging the cottom mud in that area to grow stuff), where we turned west onto a double track following the farm fence on the outside. The very sandy track kept us on our tiptoes as on the left there were trees and bushes overhanging and on the right the track run right next to the fence that we didn't fancy crashing into at speed. After about 15 km along the fence we came to the end of the farm and fence and came upon a cutline running south/north along the western boundary of the farm.

I have been here before and knew that turning north would take us back to Kasane along the Chobe eastern boundary (the one shown in the video in the prior post). So we turned south to connect to 19th parallel cutline, but to my surprise the cutline ended in about 500 meters being completely overgrown by bush. I was completely perplexed as I would have sworn I have ridden through that cutline 5 years back (which I did when I checked my old GPS tracks later), but for some reason they left the bush to close it off.

I told the others to wait there and turned back and went investigated up the cutline to see if my memory just failed me - but no it was really heading up to north west and I started recognizing some particularly memorable swamps straight away. But I have noticed a small winding double track disappearing into the bush in the general western direction, so I called the rest of the group and out of alternatives we decided to try that one.

As I said, it was winding tight double track and leading the caravan I was on my tipy toes as there was a good chance we may run into an elephant or stuff. The tracked veered south and north in places, but in general kept going west towards the cutline I could see on my GPS about 10 - 15 km away. We came upon a waterhole with pump and signs of animals everywhere, but we didn't see any.

Eventually to my relief the track did spit us out on the correct cutline. It was wide open, well maintained and we were able to open up. The cutline took us for the next 160 or so km first through some forest reserve and then west along the southern boundary of Chobe NP. The cutline continued to be in a good shape (unlike another cutline running in parallel about 40 km to the south which I have ridden some time ago) and we were making good progress moving 70 - 100 kmh most of the time. We have seen few elephants and giraffes - no photos, youngster may have fallen a sleep for a bit - but unfortunately no lions this time.

About a half way through there was a sudden drama, when I rode over a branch and the bike started making horrible rattling sound. I stopped assuming that the branch got stuck in the front wheel, but upon closer inspection we found that I have lost the screw holding the the bottom subframe bolt on 690 in, the bold wiggled itself out and the chain got stuck on it ripping through the plastic chain guard. Nice.

Here are crappy images of the problem:

Luckily the chain didnít break. I had a blonde moment, and without thinking I loosened the rear wheel, took out the back stops and pushed the wheel as much the the front as possible trying to get the chain off the bolt, but no luck. The rest of them let me first to learn valuable lesson and then Milan V pushed on the seat compressing the shock and the chain came off the bolt. An experience African hand, my ass.

We then scavenged subframe screw I have lost from a footpeg, assembled everything back together, drenching the screw in Loctite, and were off again.

Few dozen km later we were about to run into Savuti marsh and stopped at a place where small double track veered of into bush heading south west to Mababe about 50 km away. I knew from a people I talked who have done 19th parallel in 4x4s, that Savuti marsh cotton mud when wet can be the end of the road and may force us back. They have also done it in in December - i.e. in rain season, had a jolly good 160 km drive all the way to the marsh, and then spent 2 days cutting trees and stuff crossing the next 40 km to Mababe.

From my research I knew where they went wrong - they drove all the way to the end of the cutline, which dead ends slap bang in the middle of the marsh about 2 km from the Mababe gate to Chobe NP. They could actually see the communication tower at the gate, but couldnít get there through the mud and so had to backtrack to the dryer section and cut their way through the bush. They didnít know that there is an alternative - the double track we just came upon that bypassed the marsh through the bush all the way down to Mababe village about 50 km away.

I went to check the track out, while the rest of the gang stayed at the turnoff and amused themselves by taking pictures and going for a walkabout around nearby waterhole. They were definitely much more confident in wildlife dense bush than I am, that is sure.

The track was clearly very rarely used, but fine. By the look of things so was the cutline so I went to investigate that one for next 5 km and it looked that despite rains we may be fine. So I came back and suggested to push on the cutline in a bid to make it to Khwai village about 70 km away still that day, which would give us an early start for the safari into Moremi next day.

But again, I was outvoted - the rest of the gang was keen on at least one night camping out in the bush and for some reason found this particular section of cutline appealing. I have explained, that we are going to camp next to Khwai river anyway nursed into sleep by lion calls and hyenas squeaking, but they didnít budge, so we just moved about 100 meters further on from the waterhole, found the place with the least density of elephant paths and set-up a camp.

I do not have mane pictures from this day, so will have to pad it up with these from the camp:

Two most esential things for african bush camping - alcohol and pepper spray:

We sat around the fire long into the night finishing bottle of Tullamore Dew, and discussing shit ranging from non-duality to economics of pizza business. No wonder the youngster retreated to the tent early, I wouldnít be able to listen to that kind of rubbish sober.

Offline armpump

Re: School Reunion - Okavango Edition
« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2017, 01:42:59 pm »
Awesome reading and seeing pictures !

Offline Xpat

Re: School Reunion - Okavango Edition
« Reply #10 on: December 29, 2017, 05:44:12 pm »
I'm going to comment this one out to next page before next instalment as there are too many pictures on this page and it takes ages to load on slower connection.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2017, 05:46:14 pm by Xpat »

Offline Xpat

Re: School Reunion - Okavango Edition
« Reply #11 on: December 29, 2017, 05:44:43 pm »
getting to next page

Offline Xpat

Re: School Reunion - Okavango Edition
« Reply #12 on: December 29, 2017, 05:44:58 pm »
getting to next page

Offline Xpat

Re: School Reunion - Okavango Edition
« Reply #13 on: December 29, 2017, 05:45:13 pm »
getting to next page

Offline Xpat

Re: School Reunion - Okavango Edition
« Reply #14 on: December 29, 2017, 05:45:39 pm »
getting to next page

Offline Xpat

Re: School Reunion - Okavango Edition
« Reply #15 on: December 29, 2017, 05:46:24 pm »
getting to next page

Offline Xpat

Re: School Reunion - Okavango Edition
« Reply #16 on: December 29, 2017, 05:46:40 pm »
getting to next page

Offline Xpat

Re: School Reunion - Okavango Edition
« Reply #17 on: December 29, 2017, 05:46:53 pm »
getting to next page

Offline Xpat

Re: School Reunion - Okavango Edition
« Reply #18 on: December 29, 2017, 05:47:07 pm »
getting to next page

Offline Xpat

Re: School Reunion - Okavango Edition
« Reply #19 on: December 29, 2017, 05:47:22 pm »
getting to next page