Botswana!

We had a bit of a detour to get into Botswana. Firstly, we left Zambia and dodged another fine from the police for another bit of paperwork we were “required” to have got at the border. We claimed ignorance and after some pleading we were sent on our way. We entered the Caprvi Strip in Northern Namibia and journeyed down to the border crossing with Botswana. Here we ran into some fellow Irish folks, Kate Meehan and her brother and sister JP and Lucy. JP and Lucy had come out to visit their sister Kate who is an expat in Botswana. Kate was showing them around Botswana, Zambia and Namibia for a few weeks. Kate very kindly offered us a spot for the night and a chance for a shower. We must have looked (or smelt) like we needed one and Kate took pity on us. She led us to her lovely house which is situated right on the Okavango Delta. Once we had cleaned ourselves up, we set about gathering firewood for a braai. Kate and Jack produced some fine salad and roast potatoes while JP and JC char grilled some steaks over the fire. We ate dinner around the fire and traded stories of travel. Kate told us of times when she was travelling and people had taken her. She was simply forwarding the hospitality she had received. We were really touched by the kindness and generosity that Kate and her family had shown to us. We have been left with a lot of traveller debt that we will need to repay to other travellers in the future. The next day we said our goodbyes and got on the road again. We headed down to Maun and then up to Moremi National Park. We travelled up on the gravel road and found a clearing to camp for the night just outside the Park. There were signs of many wild animals, elephant, deer and of course, lions. We lit a massive fire and used our lamps to scan the field for glowing green eyes. No creatures found us that night and we went on and into the Park. We saw a massive herd of elephants, lots of mothers shepherding their young, while the bull elephants cleared the path ahead. The savannah held plenty of zebra, wildebeest and water buffalo. We luckily saw a number of predators including cheetah, spotted hyena and wild dogs. We had headed up to Mboma boat station to get a ride on a dugout canoe. We reached the road to the boat house and were surprised to find it was covered with a stream of water. The pool was about 12 feet across with sand on both sides. The water was murky and still. We followed all our river crossing drills correctly, letting Doris cool, wading and crossing the river first and of course checking for crocodiles. We waded across and although the bottom was silt we figured we could make it across. Of we went and immediately got Doris stuck. How stuck she was weren’t quite sure. The first hour we spent jacking up the wheels and putting sand over the silt. Then we realised that the back axel was stuck on a sandbar, we began digging. We failed at pushing her out. We then found that she was stuck on a sandbar at the front axle also. All this was happening while water was perilously close to entering the air intake and killing our engine. We had phoned the ranger station at the front gate which was 60km away, they hung up on us. We phoned the National Park reservation office in Maun, 90km away. They said good luck. We prayed another vehicle would come along and tow us out. We had managed to get ourselves into one of the most difficult self rescue situations possible. We were in a river, the water was nearly over the engine. Each wheel was buried in silt. Both axels were stuck on a sandbar that ran front to back under Doris. No vehicle had come along the road in two and a half hours and there weren’t any trees close enough to winch off. That and I’m pretty sure I just saw a croc’s tail in those reeds. We needed to get out of here. An hour of digging at sandbars, jacking wheels, unloading heavy items and croc watch (not as good as Bay Watch) and we thought we were ready to give reversing another go. She moved an inch, and this is with Red, Jack and Chris pushing with all their might. An inch is an inch. We got her one more. Another try and we gained another. One final big push and she was free. After some celebrations we picked up our kit and got ourselves out of there. Phew!  We got out of the National Park just before closing time and the sun set. Knackered we ate dinner and turned in. An African adventure we’ll do our best not to repeat.

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