Snapshot of our 3K run: Kgalagadi, Khutse and central Kalahari





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  1. #1
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    Default Snapshot of our 3K run: Kgalagadi, Khutse and central Kalahari

    Against all expected odds, we managed to get campsites in these parks on arrival in March this year.
    My husband, Jens, had this idea in his head that he wanted to “cross“ the Kalahari. I doubt it’s something you would want to do on a normal vacation, but as we are crossing the country and the continent anyway, why not?!
    It didn’t seem like such a strange escapade either: at the border, we met a lovely Swiss/Philippine couple who wanted to do the exact same thing! In the end we spent the whole of our Botswana trip together.

    But back to the beginning: we spent the night on the Namibia-Botswana border at Sitvas campsite with its resident meerkat pet and hoped the rain would be gone by the morning.

    Sure enough, after some morning drizzle, Botswana welcomed us with sunshine and blue skies: we arrived at the Mata Mata border post and told our long story about crossing eastern Africa back to Europe, and therefore found it nigh on impossible to make bookings ahead of time. The friendly officer told us the SA side was definitely full, but she would put a call in to the Botswana side. If we didn’t get a booking, she wouldn’t let us in.
    A tense 15 minutes went by as she tried to get through to her counterpart’s office and then we waited again until they found out if there was space: there was! We should report to Two Rivers on the Botswana side ... forms were completed, money changed hands and off we set.

    WOW!
    From Mata Mata to Two Rivers the road was easy going, firm with a coating of sand; with an innovative grader ahead of us.
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    The route took us ca. 6 hours, with plenty of stops along the way to enjoy the variety of animals and landscapes. We were really surprised to see so much. A black-maned Kalahari lion, after just about 15 minutes into the park, soon afterwards a group of 5 cheetahs, lolling around in the shade with very full bellies and later another group of 3; 6 giraffes and the usual plentiful springbok, ostriches, kori bustards, glossy starlings etc.

    We arrived at the Two Rivers office VERY shortly before immigration closed at 4pm, with only about 15 minutes to spare. But we had the most friendly parks officer who helped us plan some more of the route, as well as find out about the next bookings. The good news was that we could stay in the park, the bad news was we had to do it more quickly than we would have liked. No problem: we view it all as part of the trip and are delighted to experience anything that comes our way.
    At our allocated gate campsite (it must only be used for emergency latecomers like ourselves, as it was deserted and the ablutions had no water; compared to the SA side, which was almost sinking under the weight of visitors), the other couple who had arrived late came and introduced themselves. Christoph and Sonia had similar plans, no bookings, and would prefer to be 2 vehicles, just like us! We had to take cover in the car when a storm really started with strong winds and a short shower of heavy rain. The ensuing clear skies left us with a spectacular, starry sky.
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    Next morning Jens and I were up early (Christoph & Sonia had a second night at Two Rivers): we had to get to Mabuasehube Gate that day! That meant 4 hours to Nossob, along the very easy and enjoyable road. As the sun was starting to tinge the sky orange, we were enjoying a little group of meerkats, then a yellow grassy section loaded with springboks and oryx.
    We had plenty of diesel for the tour and didn’t bother filling up at the station, but were very happy to nip to the loos since the Two Rivers camp had been waterless this morning.
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    We found the 6-hour drive along the Bosobogolo/Matopi route a bit of a slog: no animals to speak of (as warned by the parks officer the day before), grass high enough to prevent long distance views and a windy, bumpy track, not really thick sand as we had imagined. At one of the Matopi camps the pit toilet obvioulsy hasn’t been used in a while as I couldn’t even cut through a path to get to it!
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    We arrived rather weary at the gate Mabuasehube at about 5pm or a bit later, after a 10 hour+ day. I was lucky enough to have a hot shower and there was enough water left for our dishes: sorry to the others who arrived later and there wasn’t a drop left, not even cold, nor for the toilets.
    This was the night we heard roaring lions, close by, for the first time in our lives. I still get goosepimples thinking about it now. Such a tremendous sound in the otherwise dead of the night, waking you up from your dreams!

    Next day we’d been allocated Khiding Pan No. 3 and we spent the day exploring the whole area of pans. We loved the camps at Mpayathutlwa and Lesholoago. Khiding was also fine for us, but the views seemed better at these other 2 and the pans were just such wonderful greens, reds and yellows to gaze over. In the evening, despite a fire and some lights, Jens went off to pee and almost jumped out of his skin as, without his torch on, he almost hit a hyena! I am sure he was a lot more scared than the hyena, who, along with his 2 chums just carried on to the next campsite to be hollered at very loudly by the lady staying there. The youngest in their party very nicely drove over to us to check we were ok and not worried etc, as he knew we were first-timers.
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    Unfortunately, we had to leave the park the next day: time and money being big considerations for us, and landed at the Kalahari Rest Camp & Lodge near Kang. The route was pretty sandy and lots of tyre tracks to follow (or fall out of) on the way to Hukuntsi, where we had originally thought of staying. Happily, our half-baked plan worked out and Christoph and Sonia arrived a couple of hours later from Kaa Gate.

    Next morning we were out and about early, stocking up on provisions (great butcher here!) and filling up on fuel, and spending quite a long time in the Parks office, where the great team there helped us a lot. We explained that we wanted to go via Khutse to the Central Kalahari and asked if they could help with bookings. When they suggested we sort it at the gate, we went into great detail about how we would change our whole plan if we couldn’t get anything in Khutse first. After several phone calls and choosing the routing with someone on the phone, they made it all happen! The 3K trip could continue!
    We had to go all the way to Lethlakeng for Christoph to fill one of his tanks again: he can only carry a lot less then us: we have 90 L plus 180 L on board. We bush camp about 30km before the Khutse gate that night.
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    In Khutse we were allocated Molose Camp, I believe no. 2 or 3, not the one closest to the pan and waterhole, anyway. In our blog on Botswana, hopefully to be published in the next week, we’ll tell you all about the lion encounters in detail and there’ll be photos of the giraffes that drank and drank and drank, right in front of us. We were just enthralled to have the lion couple walk to within just 5 meters of Christoph’s car and we watched the lioness almost stand, then sit back down again 4 times, before finally the little family of Mum, Dad and child springbok finally caught wind of the lioness and her big man and sped off at a rate of knots.
    Everywhere here around the park, the roads were really easy to navigate, hardly even any corrugation.
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    Then began the next long slog of the 3K run: first to Bape and next day to Xade. The trip out of Khutse to Bape was better than expected. We took a scenic route across a couple of pans, past the little village, along some sandy, but easily navigable routes, accompanied by HOT sunny weather. After a relaxed start and the game-viewing speed in Khutse, we arrived at the Bape camp after ca. 7.5 hours. Here you really feel quite alone and the grasses are pinks, greens and yellows and sway gently around the shoulders of a kudu lady on our arrival.
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    Next morning at the first left turn the “fun” began. Over dunes, across a plateau with mopane, then into thick, thick bush. We began to think the small log lying over the junction turn-off had been a warning not to go down there, but later, according to the ranger, we had indeed gone the right way. This section took a full 11 hours as we moved fallen down trees off the track, hacked our way through bushes, or held them back until both cars were through. We groaned, inwardly or loudly, every time the screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeech of branches scraped and scratched along the car. This is not a route to do if you value your paintwork!
    We got out of the car to clear the way at least 70 times that day. In 4 years of travelling in our Landcruiser, “Bruce”, this was the most painful track we have experienced!
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    From the point where the track joins up with another at Xaka Junction on T4A, it was a very wide track, like one for a huge truck, half as wide again as our Landcruisers. And deep sand: this last section will have guzzled the fuel more than elsewhere and you had to concentrate to keep going at the right speed with the setting sun dazzling our view.
    Arriving at Xade, which looked like it would be a really nice camp, the 2 men said they weren’t going down the track with the huge camel thorns threatening to puncture every tyre and finally we ended up camping at the gate, arriving just 5 minutes before the ranger closed the office. He told us there hadn’t been a vehicle coming that way for the last 2 months and he had no idea it was in such a bad state. Whether that’s true or not, or whether that is the norm for this track, I guess we’ll never know. But the mood on arrival was far from the best. Roaring lions appeased us from 4am and we were soooo happy we’d taken on this adventure.

    After that, everything was plain sailing and we spent some gorgeous days through Pipers Pan and on to Deception, where we stayed for a couple of nights, around Sunday and Leopard Pans before we had to exit, drive to Maun and collapse, a happy heap, to rest, recover and review for a few days.
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    Wonderful! It is just such a privilege for us to see, smell and hear the animals, birds and nature first-hand. More details and less track info to follow soon-ish on our Botswana post at www.wanderwheels.wordpress.com
    Helen & Jens
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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Snapshot of our 3K run: Kgalagadi, Khutse and central Kalahari

    Thank you for the report we did almost the same trip in February and really enjoyed lt!
    Also met de 5 cheetahs at mata mata nice story from this pack it seems that it is a mother with four cubs two of them addaopted from another cheeta which was killed by a lioness.
    Molose was amazingly beautiful in February and we had so many lion encounters I even have a caracal on picture.....first time off all my years of safari.
    Also first time in mata mata a cheeta kill in front of us and all on picture and video.....love Africa December Kenya tanzania booked and preparing a selfdrive moremi chose one month July 2018.

    Again thanks for your report you sure know how to Wright your experiences.

    Regards johan

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Snapshot of our 3K run: Kgalagadi, Khutse and central Kalahari

    Thanks Johan! Great additional info about the animals and their stories!
    Enjoy your next trip. Helen

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Snapshot of our 3K run: Kgalagadi, Khutse and central Kalahari

    Thanks Helen for the write up.
    So we learned it is possible to do an ad-hoc trip without prior bookings albeit being sometimes forced to do long slugs and missing out some marvels.
    Great to hear that the park staff was also helpful in the planning and booking, well done.
    Kalahari Safari
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  7. #5
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    Default Re: Snapshot of our 3K run: Kgalagadi, Khutse and central Kalahari

    We are considering this very trip so I am a bit concerned about the road between Khutse and the Central Kalahari. Thanks for the report.

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