(Report written originally by Christo Giliomee on LCCSA)
Having hopped in and out the Central Kalahari years ago Iâ€™ve always wanted to do a dedicated Central Kalahari Trip. In terms of overlanding the CKGR remains a challenge â€“ water & fuel needs to be carefully planned.
We estimated a range of approx 1000kms between refuelling points, but ended up at just about 1500kms. Between the 3 vehicles we carried about 700 litres of fuel and 400 litres of water â€“ this was not enough â€“ the wonderful fuel consumption of Beeâ€™s Efi had a major influence on the fuel stats & 6 men doing dishes (at times) and washing â€œboepsâ€ made a serious dent in our water supplies. We topped up with another 160 litres of water (with Beeâ€™s ingenious shower pump) at the Passarge water hole and the 1500kms forced a quick 6 hour trip to Rakops to refuel. At least we could shower at bush quota leisure.
Kubu Island as a via point was compulsory and we were not disappointed.
3 vehicles â€“ 1 x LC 76 (Christo), 1 x LC 79 Efi (Bee) & 1x LR Puma (Marinus) , 6 manne (representing ages from 27 to 72!)& 17 days of bush leisure â€“ can it get better? (maybe with the 3rd vehicle also a LC, but I wonâ€™t trade the company).
Day 1 â€“ Cape Town to Beaufort West
Myself & Bee left Cape Town on the afternoon of 21 April 2011. We needed to get the first part of the journey â€“ Cape Town to Beauford West on the beloved N1 â€“ behind our backs. Marinus (leaving from Potch) would join us at Khama Rhino Sanctuary. We stayed over at The Vale guest farm, some 20km north of Beauford. Excellent facilities & better food!
After the hype & threats of border post being closed in light of a public workforce strike in Botswana, we entered Botswana at Ramatlabane without hassles. Refuelling at Ramatlabana @ Pula 6.75 for diesel (roughly R 3.00 per litre cheaper as SA !!!) was a bargain â€“ I think the most we paid for diesel was at Rakops & Kang (in the region of Pula 7.2) Eish, the SA tax levies â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦.
Some last minute shopping at the Serowe Spar & we headed for the nightâ€™s stop over at Khama Rhino Sanctuary just outside Serowe â€“ a very convenient & beautiful pit stop with great camping facilities & good ablutions. Here we met up with Marinus & the compulsory camp fire catch up discussions were held. Marinus arranged meat from a butchery in Palapye and we were not disappointed â€“ meat is cheap & of good quality – we had our doubts on the origin of the â€œLambâ€ rib.
It must be said that Botswana was wet and we had lots of rain. We were very lucky as we arrived at all our destinations just after rain showers & enjoyed excellent weather â€“ the roads were another storyâ€¦..
We were advised by the gatekeeper at the Vet gate not to use the shorter southern route over the pans (â€œyou cannot drive there, it is too wetâ€), but to follow the longer & much drier â€œtopâ€ route â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦.. so we took the short route (against all good overlanding principles). It was an adrenalin pumping experience â€“ the â€œroadâ€ was very wet & a slip & slide affair and I had serious doubts if we would reach Kubu. I stopped to engage low range & when I pulled away my wheels were spinning & the cruiser was stationary â€“ and this on a â€œdryâ€ section. Mental note here was to keep momentum at all cost, problematic as you cannot stop & explore road conditions.
About 4 kms from Kubu we encountered a group that got stuck. They recovered most of their convoy, but was still winching & groaning to get the last bloke out. This was not good news. â€œAdviceâ€ to stay right of the stuck vehicle almost proved disastrous for me, I lost control and were skidding sideways through the mud. At least I had good momentum & made it through with a mud covered cruiser. Bee & Marinus stuck to the middle of the track (which you are supposed to do no matter how challenging it looks) and made it whilst keeping good momentum.
We did not know how the last 2km to the island would look like. After a brief discussion we decided to drive in front of the stuck convoy group. Bee calculated that we had about 140 metres of recovery rope between us & that should be sufficient if we got stuck. He^He^ ….I was driving in front so it was an easy decision for them. My worst nightmare came true when the â€œtrackâ€ I was following disappeared into water as far as I could see. I did not know if I was driving into a 10 metre hole or whatever else could be underneath the water. Stop to explore was not an option & it was impossible to turn around. I could not see the track and followed the route on my 276 (knew it would someday keep me out of serious trouble). The crossing was about a 1 km in length and it was one of the longest kilometres I ever drove (I REALLY enjoyed the beer afterwards). Managed take some cool pics of the Bee & Marinus.
After 2 glorious days at Kubu we departed for Brakah camp site in the Hainaveld concession. Early signs of rust from the Kubu mud made us stop for a high pressure clean of the vehicles in Lethlakane. This pit stop took most of 2 hours.
Refuelled in Rakops & took the Haina turn off some 20 kms north of Rakops.
Day 7 â€“ Brakhah â€“ Passarge 3 (CKGR)
As luck would have it the reservoir tank was empty and the promise of a hot shower went down the drain. We filled up our water tanks â€“ they have a huge reverse osmosis plant at the lodge â€“ bought some ice & wood, and a brandy for breakfast saw the co-drivers off to a promising day.
We followed the eastern cut line running in a southern direction to Matswere gate. Elephant spoor was unlikely, but it turned out that quite a bit of these big giants hang around the Matswere area. We saw spoor (even at passarge pan), but unfortunately, no sightings
Our route via Leopard pan to the Passarge valley broke the ice as far as lions are concerned. This crowd was lying around an Oryx kill next to the road near Passarge 1.
Returned the next day to fit new LC badge
Iâ€™m a great believer in staying a couple of nights at one camp site & to explore the area from a base. This way you discover the good spots & give you a better understanding of the area. The CKGR is so vast with a different habitat every so often that you need to spend time here.
The lions kept us busy at night with 2 resident males patrolling our camp. Some of us who were not so familiar with close encounters with lions did not sleep well & Iâ€™ll share some moments at our next B&B
Our favourite drive turned at to be Phukwi – Tau pan â€“ itâ€™s beautiful and a big pity that Tau (the best of them all imo) now has a luxury lodge & a deserted camp site.
It was one of our drives to Tau that we decided to change our plan to exit at Matswere & rather drive to Xade & then south on the western cut line. This meant that we had to sleep a night on the cutline, it sounded promising & in line with Beeâ€™s theory that you do not drive a road twice unless absolutely necessary.
People rant & rave about Deception valley, for good reason. Itâ€™s huge, have vast amounts of game, beautiful pans & great sightings.
We enjoyed the remoteness of the Passarge valley â€“ only 3 camp sites about 20 kms apart â€“ heaven. Deception was busy when we arrived. Luckily it was the end of the long weekends and our last 2 nights at Kori was spend with only one other group.
Â We knew this would be a hard dayâ€™s drive and packed most of the stuff the previous evening. A very early rise awarded us with a great sighting â€“ the big pride again, early morning with great light.
I was not overly impressed with Piper pan. There was also an idiot who camped at Piper 1 around 5 May who dumped his garbage in a shallow whole. The hyenas had an obvious good time. We were actually very impressed that jackal & hyena is not a pest at camp sites as Mabua, Polentwsa & the like. The CKGR staff was brilliant and collected garbage on their rounds. The remoteness and idiots like this bloke will make all this good work undone.
We drove past this h&&p on the Piper â€“ Xade section â€“ much has been written on this â€“ click.
After leaving Xade gate we decided to drive until sunset and that will be the spot. It was excellent and our last night in the central Kalahari under a Camel Thorn will be long remembered.
Day 17 â€“ Upington to Cape Town
Nothing to you sayâ€¦.