Botswana trip report (Aug 2011)




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  1. #1
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    Default Botswana trip report (Aug 2011)

    Hi guys,

    I am back from Bots. I want to say thank you all for your invaluable advices. It was very useful information and it helped me a lot to enjoy the amazing trip I have had.

    Thank you as well to those guys who helped us when we were stuck in the sand: on the way to 3rd Bridge (family with a green Jeep) and in the Sable loop in Savuti (SA family with Land Cruiser. We met later around Ihaha-Serondela).

    I am now busy writing the report. It will be uploaded in the next days with pictures, of course

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by varademoises View Post
    Hi guys,
    I am back from Bots. I want to say thank you all for your invaluable advices. It was very useful information and it helped me a lot to enjoy the amazing trip I have had.
    Thank you as well to those guys who helped us when we were stuck in the sand: on the way to 3rd Bridge (family with a green Jeep) and in the Sable loop in Savuti (SA family with Land Cruiser. We met later around Ihaha-Serondela).
    I am now busy writing the report. It will be uploaded in the next days with pictures, of course
    Please don't forget the pics , they are more important than the writing ( sorry Stan Weakley )

  3. #3
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    Day 1: JNB – Kwa Nokeng

    We picked up our 4x4 Toyota Hilux Double Cab (Britz) at Kempton Park and drove to the Martin’s Drift border post via Mokopane. We stopped for lunch at the Petrol Station on the N1 located few km after the turn off to the N11 (after the toll gate). Our idea was to take one of the roads that link N1 with the N11 before reaching Polokwane, but there is no access to those roads from the N1 (going north). We reached Polokwane and tried to get N11 via Seshego; we got lost. U-turn to Mokopne via N1 (south) and finally we took N11 to the border post. 3 hours later than expected. We crossed the border easily (less than 15 min) and we paid P110 for the car (we had circulation permit given by Britz). Arrived at Kwa-Nokeng around 9:30pm without any reservation and we had no trouble to be accommodated. We stayed in a chalet for that night. We saw 2 hippos eating around, very close to the cottages.

    Day 2: Kwa-Nokeng – Kubu Island

    We packed our stuff after having a nice breakfast over the desk looking at the Limpopo River and first problems came up with the car: the trunk door does not work. We asked to other camper (Hilux owner) for help and he did it; we need to hit the trunk door while pulling. We drove to Palapye to get some Pula. The way to Palapye from Martins Drift border post is full of cattle and donkeys. Now we knew why driving in Botswana at night is a NO-NO. Once in Palapye we struggled to exchange Euros for Pula in Standard Chartered Bank. We spent almost 2 h there because the office manager asked us for any proof regarding that money was ours. We are not traveling 10.000 km to exchange Euros for Pula for business!!! Anyway, that was the rule and we agreed. Finally we could only exchange 1000 Euros regardless any proof of where that money come from…the less Pula we have, the less money we spend in Botswana. We fueled up and stock up there and went on driving to Serowe in our way to Khama Rhino Sanctuary. We stopped at Serowe to get those supplies we couldn’t find in Palapye.
    It was very late (around 2 pm) and unfortunately, we couldn’t go to KRS so we went directly to Kubu Island via Letlhakane. From this town, we took the off-road way to Kubu Island following the T4A maps. Awesome maps! Getting lost is impossible. 2 roads at 5m each other can be seen on the GPS! The way to Kubu was dust and bit sand but very easy. We reached Kubu Island 1 h before sunset. We went there without reservation and we had no trouble. Many available camp sites. This place is beautiful. That small island covered by baobabs…the sun downing....we sat behind the big baobab at the south entrance to stare one of the most beautiful sunsets ever. Magical.
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  4. #4
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    Day 3: Kubu Island – South Camp (Nxai Pan)

    We woke up early to see the sunrise and it wasn’t disappointing. Awesome view! Brief breakfast and tour around the island to see the other side: fantastic landscape with some weird baobab trees over the Sua Pan.
    We left Kubu Island and drove through the pans to Ntwetwe Pan to see the famous Chapman’s and Green’s baobab trees. Love those big pan areas with nothing around. The pans were very dry so we found just dust. Very easy drive. Chapman’s baobab is huge! Just when we were leaving, a ranger with a group of tourists (coming from one of the private lodges nearby) popped up there. He said to us that Chapman’s baobab is in a private concession (?) and if any DWNP ranger saw us there we’d have to pay a fee. I never heard anything about any private concession there before, and we did not see any sign in this regard…We went on driving north to get Planet Baobab for lunch. We passed Green’s baobab (smaller than Chapman’s) and got the Nata-Maun A3 tar road. The last 10 km before reaching Gweta was very sandy, full of roadmarks. Use T4A at high resolution (5 m error) to stick to the correct path. Once we reached the tar road we headed to Planet Baobab. What a superb place! We enjoyed the time we spent there. Excellent food (try the curries!), friendly staff and a very tempting swimming pool.

    Only 60 km from Planet Baobab to Nxai Gate and we did it easily. From the gate to the south camp is around 40 km of very sandy road (T4A stated gravel road). Some stretches are difficult but we did it even without deflating tires. We had a look at our camp site (n.2) quickly and went off for a mini sunset drive. It was not a rewarding game drive but we enjoyed a spectacular sunset at the main waterhole.
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  5. #5
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    Nice, wait for the rest.
    Elize

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    Day 4: South Camp (Nxai Pan) – Maun

    Again, we woke up early to squeeze our time in the park. We wanted to do a morning game drive, go to Baines baobab and reach Maun to stock up for the next days. The roads were very dry and driving around the park was very easy. Went to Khama Khama Pan and we saw nothing there, bit disappointing. All the game was around the main waterhole, the only one with water.

    We said good bye to Nxai Pan and went to Baines Baobab. The road to Baines Baobab is deep sand from the turn off to the Kudiakam Pan. And we got stuck halfway. It was our fault because we did not deflate tires. Shovel and hi-lift jack out of the trunk and just before doing anything a safari vehicle came from the other side. The 2 guides got off the safari car and put our car ready to be towed. We used the tow rope given by our rental company. Hopefully these guys got us out of the sand just before our rope snapped (very poor quality = Britz quality) so from now on we had no rope in case of getting stuck again. We marked the place to remember it on our way back to drive through the bush instead of the sand. We reached Baines Baobab easily. What a wonderful place. Then back to Nxai gate driving through the bush in that area where we got stuck before. We almost reached the main sandy road when we got stuck again, just 20 meters far! Shovel and hi-lift jack out of the car and started the recovery. No one passed through this time. Our hi-lift jack was not working properly. No problems to lift the car but to bring the car down we had to do it pinion by pinion by kicking the lever every time. I mean: kick the lever, drop a pinion, put the lever in the upper position, kick the lever, drop another pinion, put the lever up and so on…with every single tire. Veeeery slow. Finally, 1.5 hours later we got out of the sand by ourselves. Yeaaaah!!!

    Both recoveries took us a long time and we had to give up the intended route suggested by Kalahari Safari around the Boteti River. We reached Maun with the sun downing, stock up at Spar (great steaks and rumps) and went to Sedia Hotel. Really nice place, very quiet and comfortable. Great food quality. The drivers decided to stay in a chalet because they need to rest well thinking about the next 6 days. The chalets are fantastic and we slept like a log.
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  7. #7
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    Day 5: Maun – 3rd Bridge (Moremi)

    After having an excellent breakfast in Sedia Hotel, we went to Maun (Riley’s) to buy a new tow rope (high quality) and a 15-L jerry can (just in case). We also asked to the Autozone people about our hi-lift jack…and something was wrong: it didn’t work properly. So it was not that we were newbies using it, but the hi-lift jack provided by Britz was nonsense.

    Then we went to the airport for a scenic flight over the Delta with Kavango Air. We had a very nice flight. Okavango area is wonderful and we saw many animals from the plane, mainly elephants. Coffee at Bon Arrive and we were ready to go to Moremi. Out of Maun, there are plenty of woodpiles along the road at a cost of P5-P10, much cheaper than Moremi South Gate. Easy roads to reach South Gate. Check-in and we are in! Rangers informed us about all the closed roads due to flooding (almost all of them between Xakanaxa and North Gate as well as that one from 3rd Bridge to Xakanaxa, although it was a detour after crossing 4th Bridge). They also told us that Xini lagoon was flooded so it was much better not doing that loop. We did it anyway (not in purpose, we were just following T4A) and the lagoon was not as flooded as the rangers told us. We only got wet on our left side of the car, and only in some stretches. It was easy do-able. After leaving Xini lagoon, the road became more sandy…and we got stuck, again. We realized then that our Hilux had not enough ground clearance. We were struggling with both the differential and crankcase. Luckily, less than 5 minutes a green Jeep (thank you!!!) was on his way back and he could tow us with our new tow rope. He got us out of the sand very quickly and we could go on to the 3rd Bridge by deflating tires at 1.4. First Bridge was wet (less than the wheels) and we did it easily. Second Bridge was flooded. There is a detour on the right side although it’s also bit flooded: we were told that it was do-able but we followed the ranger’s instructions and took the dry alternative detour on the left side, few hundred meters before reaching the 2nd Bridge, and we popped in the other side of the bridge. From here to the camping, the road was even more sandy. We enjoyed another amazing sunset before reaching our campsite.
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  8. #8
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    Day 6: 3rd Bridge (Moremi)

    It was a very exciting night because we heard lions roaring, hyenas laughing and hippos making that wheezing sound! However, no one came into the camping that night. At least we could see one hippo grazing around the camp in the morning. Breakfast and hot shower before the morning drive. Very clean ablutions (solar panels for heating water). Went to Mboma loop to reach Mboma boat station for a mokoro trip. Mboma loop was completely dry, so no problem. It was immediately after taking the turn-off that leads to the boat station that we found what it seemed a small puddle, no more than 5 meter long. We decided to go through without checking the depth. Mistake! In the middle of the puddle the water level covered our car’s hood. Hopefully we could go through the pool thanks to L4 gear. Bit scary, anyway. The rest of the way to the boat station (less than 1km) was dry and we popped in there around 9am. We went there without any reservation for the mokoro trip but we had no problem to do a 2-hour trip as soon as we parked. Rates were P225 per mokoro(2 people) per hour. Very relaxing trip through the channels. The pole-man was very friendly and he was talking about the plants and animals that live there. Back to the boat station and we continued driving through the Mboma loop (to the south) after crossing again the “small” puddle. Not very productive loop although at least we saw an elephant mock charge against an open safari vehicle when a herd of elephants were eating their portion of tree bark. We decided to go back to the camp for lunch.

    After lunch we crossed the 3rd bridge. Rangers told us that most of the paths here we flooded and we couldn’t go further than 4th bridge (at least we were not confident to cross it), so we were driving around one of the hippo pools there. In general, roads were fine but there were some stretches with heavy sand. We couldn’t enjoy this area too much and after 2 hours, we decided to go to the other bridges, where people informed about some interesting sightings. We drove until the sunset but we saw nothing special. Very unsuccessful drive. At least we could enjoy with another amazing sunset (the only consolation that we had) before having a good braai.

    N.B: I will try to attached the video of the pudle crossing (at least a link)
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  9. #9
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    Day 7: 3rd Bridge (Moremi) – Savuti

    Our idea was to drive from 3rd Bridge to Xakanaxa to North Gate to Savuti, but the rangers suggested us that the best way to go to Savuti was via South Gate due to floodings around North gate (the road from Xakanaxa to North gate was closed). This meant a big detour so we knew that this would be a long day, and we got up early to be ready asap.

    On our way back to South Gate we did not go through 2nd Bridge (we took the dry detour) and we headed south quite easily but suddenly…we had a puncture!!! A sharp broken tree pinched the front wheel but destroyed the rear wheel. Less than 30 min later we were ready to go. It was funny because while we were changing the tire, the same green Jeep that took us out of the sand 2 days before passed us. We drove again around Xini lagoon should we could see anything interesting before leaving. Few hippos, an eagle with its prey and a water monitor…and thousand of elephants.

    Immediately after leaving south gate, we inflated the tires because the way to Mabebe gate is not sandy, just dirt road. And again, problems with the stuff provided by Britz. This time was the air “compressor”. The compressor was a kind of plug-in close to the engine. Ok, no problem. However, the pipe Britz gave us did not fit properly and the air was lost. So one of us had to push manually the pipe into the compressor while other pulled the pipe to the valve of the wheel. That means that one single person could not have inflated the wheels by himself. Therefore, the stuff Britz gave us was in not-so-good conditions (tow rope, hi-lift jack, compressor pipe, tent tubes broken the second time we set up the tent…so far). This took us more than one hour. From here to Mababe Gate is an easy drive except the last 7 km, with thick sand. So we stopped again to deflate tires at 1.4. We took the sandridge road and it was very sandy, especially around and inside Savuti camp (deep sand). We reached Savuti around 6:30pm (we saw again thousands of elephants), just with the sunset. I do not know what would happen if we got stuck in the sand at that time. Fortunately, nothing happened. We were surprised by the bad road conditions inside the camping: very thick sand around the ablutions block. Some of us paid 50$ per night…The camping is big and it was crowded (some of the sites with more than 20 people). However, it was not noisy. Maybe the worse thing was that there were many mozzys (we were closed to the channel). As soon as we reached our camping site we prepare the braai and enjoyed the dinner with superb rumps and bors.
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  10. #10
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    Nice report so far. Keep it coming!

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    Can't believe these guys have such thin road tyres on their vehicles.

    I met a German couple in CKGR on their 4th trip to Bots. They insisted that the hired vehicle must have proper AT tyres upon booking. They also had problems with tyres before.
    Last edited by Hoffie; 2011/09/12 at 05:31 PM.
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    Day 8: Savuti

    I woke up with the feeling that a big animal was around the car that night. And I was right: we saw elephant footprints just 2 meters from the car. Then, I remembered the stories about a regular elephant that comes into Savuti camp…Anyway, we got up early to do first a sunrise game drive and we left the camp as soon as the rooftents were closed. We went South taking again the sandridge road (marsh road was flooded) and did as many loops as we could around the channel and the hills. We spent around 3 hours and we saw nothing except a family of mongooses. And what is worse, we got stuck in the sand…again!!! This time it was in very deep sand at the sable loop (south part of the loop) and we struggled to use the hi-lift jack because it was sinking and twisting in the sand; even with the flat table we had. At the first attempt to get the car out of the sand, it seemed we were going to do it but only 2 of the wheels were out. The other ones started to spinning and the crankcase and the differential were stuck in the sand again. Just then, luckily, one guy with a light Land Cruiser saw us from the sandridge road and winched us out (Thank you very much!!! We met again later in Ihaha). After this very disappointing morning drive, we went back to the campsite to have brunch and a shower. The ablutions are very well maintained and you always can find hot water.

    We charged our batteries and we were ready to try our luck on the other side of the channel, crossing the bridge. Very sandy area as well so we drove carefully (we had been stuck 4 times so far). We went to every single waterhole in the area and we only saw elephants, so we decided to move again to other side, close to the marshlands and close to the hills (it seems there is a leopard in each hill). Again, nothing but elephants. Went to the bushman art hill to see the paintings (not easy, you have to climb over the rocks) and to have a nice view from this place; at least we enjoyed the landscape. No more game today and back to the camping to braai our dinner.

    While taking all the stuff out of the car for dinner, suddenly a loud noise came from the ablutions area (we were camping at RSV3, just 10 meter away from the ablution block). It was a big elephant bull, just eating around. It was great! We stayed there for a long time, staring that big animal only few meters away. Amazing!!! One hour later, the elephant moved to other place. Unfortunately, it was too dark to take pictures without flash, so we couldn’t get pictures (but we could record some videos )

    We had high hopes of seeing cats in this area…and I must say that it was very disappointing. At least we had a good farewell of the camp with the visit of that elephant.
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  13. #13
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    Nice. Cant wait for the rest.
    Elize

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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hoffie View Post
    Can't believe these guys have such thin road tyres on their vehicles.
    I met a German couple in CKGR on their 4th trip to Bots. They insisted that the hired vehicle must have proper AT tyres upon booking. They also had problems with tyres before.
    We are very disappointing with Britz service. We encourage to the people not to hire with them. We paid rates equivalent to European vehicles and they said we had an African standard vehicle: along with all the problems we had so far, they gave us a Hilux with 78.000 km (being the next compulsory revision at 80.000 km. And we drove more than 3000 km).

    Now I know what rental company I will not address the next time.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
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    Delmas
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    58
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    Default

    Must said. Last year we rent a 4x4 at Caprivi Car Hire in Windhoek - very good and in brilliant condition.
    Elize

    en ry saam met SarelF in
    VW AMAROK MET BLINKGATCAMPER:
    My Platkar:- Peugeot 208

    Kyk gerus by www.blinkgatproducts.com
    Vir enige aluminium produkte,canopy's, campers kontak gerus
    Sarel 0828209413

  16. #16
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    Jan 2011
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    I have only heard good references about Caprivi Car Hire...but we were traveling from Joburg. Namibia is the next country of this region I am going to visit, although I do not know when
    Last edited by varademoises; 2011/09/14 at 05:11 PM.

  17. #17
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    Day 9: Savuti – Ihaha (Chobe River Front)

    We wanted to get the Chobe River Front as soon as possible, so we did not do any other game drive in Savuti that morning. We packed everything after the breakfast and we left Savuti in our way to Goha gate. We asked to the rangers about the road conditions and they told us that they are much better from Savuti to Goha than from Mabebe to Savuti. He recommend us to take the road that goes close to the airstrip because is less sandy. And that was what we did. Very easy drive (even we saw roan and sable antelopes around the airstrip) and we reached Goha gate in less than 30 minutes.

    After Goha gate, rangers suggested us turning left immediately after crossing the gate to take the road that goes north for 7 km. This road is sandy but it seems that this detour is much better that the other road that goes through the red sand dunes (stated as “deep sand” in T4A maps). After 7 km, there is a turn-off to the right that goes to Kachikau. This road is very spacious (looks like a firebreak) and less sandy, so it was an easy drive. We reached Kachikau one hour later and we stopped at the small craft-and-bottle shop at the end of the sandy road to inflate the tires. Tar road from Kachikau to Ngoma Gate, and in very good conditions. Once we were at Ngoma gate, we decided to go through the off-road along the river instead of taking the tar road that links Sedudu gate (Kasane). We asked the rangers about the road conditions: no deep sand except a couple of 60-meter long stretches near Sedudu gate. Great, we were going to spend 2 nights in Ihaha so we should not have problems with the sand then. Again, we deflated the tires and took the road to the river. Here the landscape turned to lush green, lots of water, birds and big herds of zebras, buffaloes, antelopes and elephants. We enjoyed a lot the way to Ihaha campsite. Definitely, feelings here were more positive than Savuti. Went to our campsite (n.8, only 10 m from the river and very close to the ablutions. Vervet and baboons around so keep an eye on your stuff) and stayed there for lunch. Very nice camping sites with nice views over the river.

    Then, went out to the East (to serondela area) for a game drive…we saw nothing special and we returned to the camping to enjoy another sunset with some cool drinks. And it was great! A herd of elephants passed very close to our campsite (see pictures) and then crossed the river right there. Amazing experience! We had a nice dinner again and no monkeys disturbed us (it seemed that the stones we threw before to the trees where they were watching us was enough to keep them away).
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  18. #18
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    Day 10: Ihaha (Chobe River Front)

    Some of us got up a bit tired today (not me!). This was our 5th night in a row sleeping in the tents (we were not used to) and we heard some monkeys screaming around the car tonight so it wasn’t as peaceful night as it seemed after yesterday dinner (monkeys’ revenge?). Anyway, this could be one of our last chances to see cats and we left immediately after closing RTT’s.

    We went to lechwe flats driving along the shore and taking some loops but no cats seen in this morning drive. We stopped at serondela picnic spot for breakfast. Really good place with nice views over the river (here we met again with the SA guy that winched us in the sable loop in Savuti). Then we continued to puku flats, just in front of Chobe Savanna Lodge, but we only saw one hippo and his baby vacuuming – what a way to eat they have! Then we decided to go back to Ihaha but not following the river but the “main” road, exploring some of the opposite roads. Lots of giraffes but nothing special. At least we saw some elephants lying on the ground. Interesting. Never seen that before.

    We had shower (nice ablutions although not as good as Savuti) and we try our luck again after lunch. Went to the other side, to Simwanza Pan. Completely dry. Nothing interesting here so we returned to the river road. At least we could find animals there. And we got there just at that time that elephants cross the river. Very funny to see those baby elephants crossing with the small trunks like a snorkel. Another day slipped away without seeing big cats, but at least we enjoyed again with the last rays of sun…
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  19. #19
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    Feb 2008
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    Default

    Thanks for the report.

    I can't stress too much how important it is to deflate tyres when travelling on sand. Hard tyres will get you stuck, and even if you don't get stuck, the hard tyres will &^%$&-up the tracks making it more difficult for the people who will be using the tracks after you. BTW, 1.4 is still too hard - closer to 1 bar is much better (even less than bar in thick sand).
    2006 Defender KE 300 TDi (aka Hari), previously 2003 TD5 90 (aka Steri) and 1994 TDi HiLine 200 TDi (aka Big Blue).
    Afrispoor Serval off-road caravan (aka ORC).

  20. #20
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    Jan 2011
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    Quote Originally Posted by j-ms View Post
    Thanks for the report.
    I can't stress too much how important it is to deflate tyres when travelling on sand. Hard tyres will get you stuck, and even if you don't get stuck, the hard tyres will &^%$&-up the tracks making it more difficult for the people who will be using the tracks after you. BTW, 1.4 is still too hard - closer to 1 bar is much better (even less than bar in thick sand).
    Hi j-ms,

    Well, after deflating tires at 1.4 bar (following other forumites' suggestion) we got stuck a couple of times but it was due to our low ground clearance (especially the differential steering), not the wheels. We were also little afraid about deflating tires below 1.4 bar...but it's good to know that we can get them closer to 1 bar in thick sand. I'll take it into account the next time.

    Thank you!

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