Makgadikgadi Pan

River crossing to Makgadikgadi Pan

The transfer to Khumaga – to the entrance of Makgadikgadi Pan – proved to be smooth. In Rakops, a small town near the Central Kalahari, we were lucky enough to get diesel. That saved us about 120 km of detour. A few hours later we stood on the banks of the Boteti and marveled at the ferry. The ferry lay abandoned and lonely on the riverbank. The entrance to the park is on the other side of the river, and we quickly realized that the ferry had stopped operating due to low water. Guido got out to check out the situation. He walked along the riverbank to see if there was a good crossing somewhere. Then he spotted two teenagers in the shade of a tree and decided to ask them.

Watercrossing ahead

The following dialogue ensued:
Guido: Hi – how are you?
Teenies: Fine and you?
Guido: I’m also fine. Do you know a place where it is shallow enough to cross the river?
Teenies: Yes, drive through where you are.
(we were standing in front of the ferry and there was a ‘real’ river)
Guido: Are you kidding?
Teenies: No. You don’t get stuck. You can make it without problems.
Guido (after a minute of thinking): Ok, but where is the best path to cross?
Teenies: follow us, we will show you the way.

They stripped down to their shorts and got ready. Guido returned to the car, got behind the steering wheel and started the engine.

Sonja: Did you find a place without water?
Guido: No.
Sonja: Oh no, how do we get across now?
Guido: We drive through the river.
Sonja: Excuse me? Where?
Guido: Here, next to the ferry.
Sonja: You’re kidding me!
Guido: No, I’m not.

The guys were ready, and when Guido asked again briefly how deep the water was, one of them pointed to his thigh. Guido trusted them – here was no other way.

Are we lost before we reach Makgadikgadi Pan?

We followed them in 4Hi and drove directly into the Boteti. Sonja held on tight and was very tense – she did not believe in a good end and saw us already sinking. When the boys were up to their bellybuttons in water and the river was only a few centimeters away from washing over our hood, Sonja turned pale and slight panic spread across her face. Guido was concentrated and had no time to respond to this and left the quiet “sh**” that he constantly heard next to him uncommented. Then the water level decreased again, and we safely approached the other side of the river.

Once there, our two guides got a good tip, the guys headed back, and we were happy and able to check in at the gate. Apparently not many people were going through the river. When the lady at the office asked us where we were coming from, we answered Khumaga. When we replied to her “but the ferry doesn’t even go”, “No, that’s why we went through the river”, we looked into two big eyes that looked at us incredulously. The river crossing went absolutely smoothly and without a hint of any trouble. The interior was completely dry and there were no water ingresses.

We meet a wedding couple from 2017 in Makgadikgadi Pan

We stayed at the nearby Khumaga Camp for two nights and explored this part of Makgadikgadi Pan. The vegetation here consisted initially of scrub land and a riverbed where you could drive along sandy tracks to observe the river.
A bride and groom where Guido photographed their wedding back in 2017 were on a mobile safari with their family at the same time, and we were anxious to meet them somehow 🙂

During a game drive on the second day it happened. While driving towards their camp, we met them as they were on their way to explore our region. What a surprise and a great experience!
We exchanged ideas and were to meet again….

A grim face and a rapid fire weapon

The sightings on these days were very meager. The most exciting experience was driving on a main road(!) where suddenly a no entry sign appeared. This was at a junction to a small path. We thought about it for a moment and came to the conclusion that the sign must be twisted and the ‘no entry’ refers to the path. We continued driving and some hundred meters later we looked into a rapid fire gun and stood in front of a camouflaged camp with a huge stop sign.

In front of us were members of a anti-poaching unit who looked like they were about to go to war. One was nice and smiling, the other (the one with the gun) was very grumpy and angry. We could avoid being arrested and backed up the way we came (turning around was not allowed). Conclusion: The sign was exceptionally correct and the way passable for us would have been the small path.

Elephants, Kingfisher and the bridal couple

The few bull elephants we encountered were very impressive. Unfortunately, we met them always in the deep thicket and once in very harsh light at the river. We renounced both times on photos and limited ourselves to the enjoyment of the encounter. The hunting kingfisher was a wonderful pastime. After the shaking flight he plunges down bolt upright. He was not disturbed by our presence. The calling of the fish eagle is always an experience. Guido is in love with these majestic birds. Heading to the other part of Makgadikgadi Pan we met Guido’s bride and groom again. They were just on their way to leave the park and drive to Central Kalahari. Our meeting was accompanied by a small group of lions in the tall grass.

Landscape, landscape, landscape,…

Once we reached the eastern part of the park, the vegetation changed very significantly. The Bushveld was replaced by an incredible expanse of grassy Savannah. We had no encounters for the next two days apart from a few Oryx antelopes. The very first time the dramatic cloud formations known for this time of the year appeared, and so we relaxed in the camp and enjoyed the view that was offered to us.

Detour to Maun for new Tyres and a service at Toyota

On the day of departure we left the park very early in the morning and drove to Maun to buy new front tires. The profile was worn down to 3 mm and that was too little for us for the slope conditions. Everything went quite smoothly and since our fan belt started to squeak, we still visited Toyota Maun and met a sensational mechanic. In the end we had two new tires, a new V-belt, a new seal on the rear differential and the clong, described in Namibia when interlocking, was gone – the young man was a bright spot 🙂

Our car also has an air suspension, which can be inflated between 1 and 5 bar(!) depending on the load weight. A small metal plate underneath these airbags was slightly tilted and caused the noise. He freed the plate with a crowbar and a hammer and all was well. The service at Toyota in Maun was killer and the invoice was surprisingly low. Definitely our heroes, although Toyota in Francistown was also quite excellent. Servicing the car is simply important considering the stress. We check the car regularly, change the oil every 5-7,000 km and if necessary, parts will be replaced and Bilbo (yes, the Cruiser has a name) runs like a charm 🙂

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