Sunday, 1 April 2012

Mabuasehube in Botswana

As is our habit, we left home after work on Friday and finally arrived in Upington around midnight, 820 km later.  Our stay at the xxx B&B, located right on the Orange River was pleasant, but we didn't really get to enjoy it as we needed to head out at first light; we had a long drive ahead...

When there is fuel in Tshabong...
Katu is the last (reliable) opportunity to replenish fuel supplies, so we filled up all our tanks and experienced a mild panic attack when the petrol bill came to nearly R2,000!  The road to the Mcarthy's Rest border post is good gravel and border crossing is very quick and efficient.  We got lucky at Tshabong - there was petrol (previously we had limped into Tshabong on our return trip only to find it dry as a bone).  Heading north, we were soon out of the built-up area and for most of the 110km to the Mabua gate the road is very good, but the last 40km are deep sand and the going slows down considerably.

Immediately after checking in we had our first major sighting; the ever-elusive leopard dashed into the bush right next to us.

Lesholoago, one of the smaller pans, is located in the north-east of the reserve, some 20km from the main gate.  We had campsite 1, which has no water or shower.  The second camp is on the other side of the pan and fortunately had water, so we "went out" for our daily ablutions.

We settled into a chilled evening, braaing and enjoying the familiar bush sounds and sights.  It had been a long two day's of driving (1,400 km), so we turned in for an early night.  Sleep came quickly, but didn't last long; a hyena was inspecting our camp rather noisily.  We had packed away anything edible, so there was no need to be concerned, or so we thought... the sound of air escaping from a tire is unmistakable.  I was out of the tent in a flash only to discover the hyena was already busy on the second tire.  Too late; both tires were punctured and we were now fresh out of spare tires, a situation you don't want to be in when you are in the middle of nowhere on the first day of your trip!  One of the damaged tires only had a small gash in the sidewall and the ranger was kind enough to take it to Tshabong for a temporary repair job.

Psycho hyena
The next morning we saw our tormentor snoozing outside his den, not more than hundred meters from our camp.  The group consisted of two juvies, a heavily pregnant female and the psychotic male with the rubber fetish.  He left us alone the next night, but then carried on his antics for the following two nights!  We stacked chairs and jerry cans in front of the wheels but then his focus was directed at the bumpers, trailer, camping table etc.  One positive out of the situation happened while I was patrolling the site some time around midnight; an eagle owl swooped silently past me into a nearby tree.  I was able to walk right up to it and study the finer details of this impressive bird.

There are 6 pans in Mabua that have camping facilities and they are about 10 km apart.  Each pan only has between 2 and 4 campsites, so one can literally go for days without seeing anybody else.  This solitude is a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of city life, unless you are a teenager!  What?  No BBM?

From our northern base we visited nearby Mabuasehube, Khiding, Mpayathutlwa and Monamodi pans.  Game was plentiful and we regularly saw springbok, gemsbok, hartebeest and eland.  One doesn't even have to go for a drive to see the game; it all unfolds right in front of you as the animals come and go to feed on the lush grass of the pans.  Ground squirrels are active throughout the day and can keep you entertained for hours with their antics.  Alas, every paradise has it's snake, and ours was a large puff-adder slithering through the camp.

On the fifth day it was time to move to Bosobogolo, a large pan in the southern part of the reserve, relatively isolated from the other pans.  Neither of the campsites had water, so we had to drive 30 km to the nearest "wet" pan if we wanted a shower.  It was on such a trip that we saw an old lone lioness, shunned from the pride and having to scrounge for food to stay alive - Africa can be very harsh.  Another time we came across a clan of meerkat, who kept us entertained with their interactions; the one guy tried his utmost best to look intimidating...

At Bosobogolo we were on the eastern side of the pan, which made for fantastic sunsets.  We made it a habit of packing drinks and driving onto the edge of the pan, watching the setting sun transform the sky into varying hues of red.  When the usual calm of grazing herbivores changes to alert attention you can be sure danger is near.  The three lions were larger than any I had seen before.  The two females didn't bother with stalking their prey; they just trotted onto the pan and scattered their potential dinner; it was no surprise that these tactics would not yield any results and that night daddy went hungry.

In the heat of the day, when most animals seek shelter from the sweltering sun, it can get a bit tedious in the camp.  Fortunately Bosobogolo camp had lots of shade, so we played Boules to while away the hours until the cool of the late afternoon breathes life into the pans once more.

On the ninth day it was time to leave this peaceful paradise and set out on our long journey home.  We took a different route after Katu, heading south on the R325 via Postmasburg and Griquatown, and then onto Prieska.  It was already late afternoon by then and we still had to make 200 km to Carnarvon, so I started driving a little faster, which is not a great idea on gravel roads.  I saw the giant pothole too late and the rear wheel was not up to that treatment; the rim buckled and the tire blew out.  So now we had to travel 800 km on the hyena damaged spare.  To complete the picture, we arrived in Carnarvon at 20h00, i.e. after the town had gone into shut-down mode, so we went to bed on empty stomachs.  But we made up for it with a comprehensive breakfast at the famous Williston Mall Restaurant; a seriously quirky place, well worth a visit!

Corbelled house near Carnarvon

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