A few years ago I did a 14 day trip through Botswana and Zambia. Was an amazing trip, had really cool people and saw amazing things. Sadly all trips comes to an end.
On our last day, we normally left from Palapye to Johannesburg. Was a long days drive and I needed some rest. About 120km from Johannesburg I got a call from the office…. One of the vans broke down in Elephant Sands,more than 900km away from Joburg and the want me to go fix it.
Good samaritan that I am I obviously said yes,but there was a few issues to think about. My passport just got its last stamp today as its completely full, I was really, really tired after doing 4 back to back 14 day trips and its the last day with amazing clients.
I called the home affairs office where I applied for my passport and the gentleman had a chuckle and said: “Your passport literally came in 2 minutes ago.” So there then, that’s sorted!!
I stopped just outside of Pretoria at a fuel station with a bridge restaurant that literally sits above the highway, pretty cool place for a last lunch stop. Normally id be sitting down with my group having a meal, but this time i decided to have a nap, I still have a very long drive left for the day.
After their lunch and my nap we head through to the hotel, I drop the clients off and take my van through to the office. Getting there i thought I’m going to have a cup of coffee and then leave, but none of that, my car is already idling and parts packed into the back, so took my bag got in and left. Made a quick stop at home affairs to pick up my passport and here we go!!!
Heading into the evening i get a bit uncomfortable cause I hate driving at night, but Coenie is waiting at the border to exchange vehicles so I have to be there. He needs to be at a wedding tomorrow. As 7pm hits its pitch dark, and there’s loads of animals on the road. At least the cars has some really big spotlights so that helps. I’m 40km from the border, going passed a car that drives really slow. As i get next to him, BAMM!!!!! He hits a kudu. I got a MASSIVE fright!! Stopped next to him, driver wasn’t hurt, his car was badly damaged and the kudu obviously didn’t make it. Ill never forget his word: “Well at least i have good meat for a few weeks” 🤣🤣🤣
Well things to do and places to be, I’m off and now driving even slower than I did before. Get to the border and the Coenie’s waiting for me. I run to immigration to get my passport stamped, somehow its the same guy that stamped me out(my lassport was full remember) and he just laughs:” No no no my friend, your passport is full i cant let you go through!!”
So i just smile and hand him my brand spanking new passport. He could not believe it, but stamped it and wished me a safe journey.
In Palapye, I called it the day. It was a 1000km drive and crossing the same border twice in one day. I parked the car, had a big steak and a ice cold beer followed by a swim. Its October, known as suicide month in Botswana,9pm and its still 32°. After my nice swim i go take a cold shower and hit the bed,tomorrow is another long day.
Got up 4am,had a cup of coffee and took on the last stretch. At least the road was brand new so that made life easier. The only annoying part about this day is that I really want to get to Nata but there’s about 9million speed traps on the road today, so i need to drive 5km under the speed limit the whole day. Botswana is very strict on all their laws!!! That is what makes it such and amazing country!!
None the less, I passed Nata and almost at Elephant Sands. About 10km out i see something walking across the road and I know that walk…. but can it be?? In this terrible heat…. it was 12pm and well over 40°C already!!! As i come closer is see YES!!!!!!ITS TRUE!!!!!
Slowly walking across the road and not bothered about me a single bit, is this massive leopard male, found a big mopani bush next to the road and decided to have a rest in the shade…. my first leopard in Botswana, after doing tours here for 5years now. He was so chilled and let me sit there with him for a good 20minutes taking photos. But sadly i had to go I had a bus to fix.
Drove down the THICK sand road and made it to Elephant sands. At last!! Luckily the whole front end of the bus was stripped already, so made my life a bit easier. I put in the new radiator and the new fan. Put all the parts back together and fill up the radiator with water. But im taking a break first cause its blistering hot. The guy thats helping me is a local, laughing at me because im sweating like someone that just ran a marathon.
Elephant Sands is a lodge that’s built around a man made watering hole, so throughout the day there’s lots and lots of elephants coming to drink water here. Temperatures turned around at 47°C today so they had to drink loads of water. Adult elephant bulls drink up to about 300l of water per day.
Speaking of which, Edward(the local guy helping me)had the brilliant idea of getting us a iced cold coke. Man that was good.
After a nice swim and 2 more of that cold cokes we had to get back to work, I also made the mistake by eating a massive steak and egg for lunch…. The chef here butchers his own meat and he is really really good at it!!!!
So back to work, check the water and oil levels, double check of everything is tightened( i have 4 screws left and no single clue where to put them). After double checking everything twice I start the van. Its got a water leak somewhere🙄🙄🙄🙄 So we switch it off and looked for the leak. Seems like one of the clamps on the radiator is damaged and needs to be replaced. I walk over to reception to hear where oom Ben is( he is the owner of the lodge) Amazing guy and always willing to help. “He is at the bar” o was told.
“Oom Ben, how are you today? I need a clamp for the Mercs radiator hose, Can you help me?”
“Yes of course I can, but is 17h20,we don’t work after 5 and you know that, what can i get you to drink?”
After 5minutes of arguing he gave me his workshops keys, got the clamp, fitted it and there you go!!! Van is running, no leaks, temperature stays at a good place after driving around a bit. Now to put the last few covers back then im done. Man its hot!!!!!
I went through rest of the vehicle and checked all bolts and nuts. As i finished with the last wheel nut oom Ben came to me and gave me an iced cold beer. “Here you go boet, been a really hot day and you deserve this”, he said. I took the beer and sat in the sand in the shade of the van leaning against the wheel.
Now the whole day the elephants was going crazy around the watering hole pushing each other around and making loads of noise, but this noise was different….. Still sitting against the vans tyre drinking my beer having an eye on the ellies at the watering hole, all of a sudden there’s chaos. I just hear noises and rumbles and trumpeting. Hapoor( one of the BIG ellie bulls thats always causing trouble) probably came in. But no, it wasn’t hapoor.
Sitting 4metres away from me, in the shade im sitting in,is 5wild dogs. Across from us there’s a big truck, in its shade there’s another 11 of them. At the waterhole there’s 2 cornering a elephant calve chasing it,thats what all of the fuss is about. Wild dogs is Africa’s most successful hunters and that’s a fact. They are not stupid enough to go for elephants, not even a tiny calve.
They only chased the poor calve cause they know all the adults will follow and clear the waterhole so they can have a swim and a bit of water to drink after this hot day, clever. After the dust settles and the noise is gone, the 2 boys return and the rest of the dogs goes down to the watering hole, had a nice little swim in the mud and loads of water to drink. Im still sitting next to the van in the shade… Barman brought me another beer🤣🤣🤣
But hey look….4 of the dogs are coming straight towards me….i stood up, and just stood there, held my ground and made myself as big as possible, while my stomach is rumbling and im about to dirty my pants…. All good, they just came back to enjoy that shade they were laying in a few moments ago. I didn’t feel to comfortable about it though. Locked the van, took a shower and went to the restaurant for a nice buffet dinner and a few cold ones.
Elephant sands is an amazing place, I actually lived there for a bit and worked there. But to sleep at night is not that easy, the ellies make noise the whole night, the air is full of dust and elephant fart. There’s loads of mosquitoes around. But after a few years you get used to it.
I wake up early morning to hit the road to get back home, no rush really just want to rest. Standing at the kitchen i hear a massive load of noise, a terrified scream from what seams to be a lady in distress and more noise. The dogs are still around.
As i walk to the reception it looks like a murder scene….there’s blood EVERYWHERE!!!! the dogs chased a kudu cow, over the wall into the bar, passed the kitchen and killed it INSIDE RECEPTION. The shouting in distress was a tourist paying her bill that ended up in-between all this, she managed to jump over the counter and hide with the staff. The dogs don’t sound much time on a carcass especially if there’s 19 of them. After a while dogs was full and sleeping in the shade. Murder scene was being cleaned and all turned back to normal.
What seemed as a boring long driving job, turned out to be an amazing experience Afterall. That what i love about Botswana so much….there’s always a surprise waiting to happen somewhere, you just need to embrace what you doing and keep your head up.
The last few years Botswana has been very dry, this year the Okavango Delta might have the biggest flood since 2007. Magic always happens in some way and we are very lucky to be working here!!!