Monday, 27 June 2011

Camping in Khama

This weekend turned out to be a little bit different than we had originally planned! We were hoping to be able to get to the Tuli Game Reserve by the Limpopo River, camp nearby in a place called Molema, and go on a night safari! But we couldn’t find an automatic car to rent or borrow ANYWHERE (at one point Chloe, Fais, Lyndsay and I were sitting around a table calling car for sale ads in a local advertiser to see if anyone would be willing to rent to us for the weekend!)   so at the last minute we had to scrap that plan and come up with a new one!

Fais and I were left planning on Friday morning. Thomas was sick and Chloe and Lyndsay would be arriving at the bus rank at 12. We decided to try calling the Khama Rhino Sanctuary (about 200km south-west of Francistown) to book a campsite and a game drive. We had no luck with the campsite as they said they were completely booked but we decided to book a game drive anyways, and test our public transportation savvy to the max trying to get there and back in one day. Turns out that we didn’t need to worry about it, since after the girls arrived and we were having lunch Booking Master Chloe wrangled us a campsite! Even though she was turned down at first, her repetition of “Five people, one tent” and her reassurance that all we wanted to do was put our tent somewhere within the fenced in property managed to get us campsite A2!

After spending Friday night in Francistown (Chloe joined me at the Othusitses and Lyndsay was next door with Fais and the Tsabos) we left for the bus rank early on Saturday morning. Our original plan was to catch a bus from Francistown to Serowe, then from Serowe to Orapa and get off and hike the last little bit to the Sanctuary. What we actually did was get on a bus to Gabarone, get off at Palapye, catch a bus to Serowe, catch a short ride in the back of a truck from a guy who actually worked at the Sanctuary, then get on a bus heading to Orapa and get off basically right in front of the Sanctuary gates. All in all a pretty easy travel day, although we did have a good amount of stuff to carry with all our packs, sleeping backs and the tent.

A Zazu-bird (Hornbill) in flight 

After doing a South African safari coordinator a favour and switching campsites, we set up our tent and started collecting firewood. Everything was so, so dry! We collected a lot but it turned out not to be even close to enough, and we had to ask our South African safari friend for  some bags of logs that he had bought earlier at check-in. He was really nice about it and didn’t charge us for them, and later in the evening he proved to be even more awesome than we had thought!

At 4 it was time for our game drive. Check out to learn more about what the Sanctuary is and what it does! The drive was great, and we saw a bunch of animals that we hadn’t seen yet. Rhinos were at the top of the new list. They were really funky looking creatures. So unbelievably big, it was hard to believe that they could get up to speeds of 40km/h! Their skin really did look like plates of armour, and the combination of that with their horns made them look like some kind of dinosaurs. Being so close to them was really cool, and they are beautiful animals, but they are definitely not very photogenic! Aside from the rhinos we also saw zebras, wildebeest, springbok, and a jackal for the first time. We are crossing off animals from our Lion King animal checklist like it is nobody’s business! The only disappointing thing was that we didn’t see a black rhino, only whites, so couldn’t really check rhino off our Big Five list. And it was sooooo cold. As in, shivering in our sweaters and jackets cold.

Dinosaur look-a-like White Rhinos. A mother with her 7 month old calf.
Real Springboks- even cooler than the South African Rugby Team

Zebra in the fading light

Getting back to camp we changed, Fais made the fire and we tried to warm up as quickly as possible. Dinner was sausages roasted on sticks, beer, and banana boats for dessert. At least, that was the plan. As we were finishing up our second round of sausages or South African safari friend came over and said, “Hi guys. This dinner looks a little lacking. We have a lot of dinner left over, lamb stew and salad, would you mind having some?” He then proceeded to give us bowls of lamb stew with carrots, parsnips, asparagus, zucchini, and potato over rice, with a Greek salad complete with feta cheese and black AND green olives on the side!!!! By far the best meal, with the most veggies and the least salt that I have had since coming here. Absolutely amazing. We followed that up with our improvised banana boats; a banana in its skin, sliced along the middle, with nutella and marshmallows in the gap, baked in the fire! Omnomnom. The people camping beside us must have been pretty confused/entertained by the sounds of pure ecstasy coming from our fire as we exclaimed every time we bit into a new vegetable; or in my case, every time I had a bite of cucumber.           

The girls eating sausages before our gourmet meal
We followed up the most satisfying meal in the world with some stargazing. I have never in my life seen the stars as beautiful as I did on Saturday night. There was zero light pollution so everything was so clear. And they came down so low on the horizon they formed a dome around us. You could literally turn 360 degrees looking straight ahead and always be looking at stars. We saw shooting stars (Fais was this winner with 3 or 4), and we could see Milky Way stretching across the sky. I wish that I knew the constellations down here; and I have accepted the challenge of learning about them so that I’ll be prepared for our next stargazing experience. Unfortunately I didn’t see any stars go out, but I’m still crossing my fingers and waiting for that ;)

The four of us fit easily into our tent, but it was very, very cold. I am sooooo glad that I decided to buy a sleeping bag in Francistown before I left. It’ll be perfect for the rest of our trips and will be a great summer bag for Canada. I would have frozen without it, like poor Lyndsay who just had a blanket!  I think for the next trip I might get a sleeping mat, just to add that extra insulation layer. Whoever thinks that African winter is a joke, I can assure you it’s not!!! Other things I learned after our first Bots camping adventure: Faisal snores like some kind of wild animal. Snorting and huffing and sniffing. At one point I thought there was a warthog right outside our tent. I apparently have the power to warm someone up with my deep sleep breathing. Faisal said that my breath on the back of his neck warmed him up so much he needed to take off his soft-shell top layer. Lyndsay can curl up into a tiny ball when she is sleeping and freezing cold. And Chloe runs so cold that even when she is literally centimetres from the fire she still isn’t warm enough.

All in all a great weekend, even though we all missed Thomas! We’ve already started planning our next weekend: camping on Kudu Island in the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans! I wonder if this time everything will actually go according to plan...  

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