Trip report - Mabua/Khutse, March 2009





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    Default Trip report - Mabua/Khutse, March 2009

    Car went like a dream.

    Trip Report

    Mabuasuhebe and Khutse, March 2009


    Single vehicle
    Land Cruiser FJ62
    3F Petrol, 4L
    Electronic ignition
    Short roof rack: 4 x fuel Jerry cans (80L), 1 x Spare wheel
    Standard spare wheel
    Dual battery, NL battery management
    Engel 40L
    BFG A/T 31”
    140mm Shackles
    “Plastic man” home drawer system
    3 x 20L water inboard

    Aboard
    Driver: Moi !!
    My son Jonathan
    Friend: Warren (who runs B&B in Winklespruit call Sea Spray. BOOK THERE on your next business trip / stop over!!
    Contact : Warren
    Local Fax : 086-6727153
    INT Fax : +27-86-6727153
    Cell : 083-4433086
    http://www.placesforafrica.com/seaspray/

    Warren (L) and Jonathan


    Route:
    A. Johannesburg, Vryburg, Voorspoed, McCarthy’s Rust border post, Tsabong, Mabua gate
    B. Mabua gate, Kikosha cutline, Sekoma, Jwaneng, Lethlakeng, Khutse gate
    C. Khutse gate, Lethlakeng, Molipolole, Ramotswa border post (closed due to flooding), Gabarone border post, Zeerust, Koster, Johannesburg

    Distance & Fuel data:
    FJ62 status: Heavily loaded, 3 passengers, and loaded RR weighing a total of around 160kg.

    Km L Km/L Oil used L
    TOTALS 2,919 527.85 5.53 1.7
    RAND 3,631.61

    1. To Voorspoed, tar 607 89.16 6.81
    2. Voorspoed to Tsabong good dirt 223 35.25 6.33
    3. Tsabong to Jwaneng, sand & batteries 684 160.30 4.27
    4. Jwaneng to Lethlakeng, sand & batteries 534 98.30 5.43
    5. Lethlakeng to Jhb, tar 871 154.84 5.63 (* late refuel, extended distance.)


    After months of planning took a day to pack the car.



    Departed for Vryburg on 7 March where we filled up the main tank and Jerries and moved off to Kudu Camp, – a wonderful overnight venue, highly recommended. Hosts Ted and Winnie welcomed us and directed us to the well appointed tented camp which boasts everything that opens and shuts. On suite bathrooms in the tents and a fully equipped thatch lapa and plunge pool. Kudu camp is highly recommended, either as a stop-over or hunting destination.





    Next morning departed for McCarthy’s Rust border post. This journey, via Voorspoed, rattled our jaws with the most horrific corrugations for most of the morning. We learned how difficult it is to accurately estimate time required for distance travelled when off the beaten track. We were very soon running considerably later than expected. The “good” gravel road gave way to a somewhat narrow shale track and at last we started sensing the border post was near. Going through one of the villages we simply had to get this shot of the Government Offices, which we thought was hilarious!



    Poor signage resulted in some tense moments (no GPS) leading to the modern, very quite border post.

    McCarthy’s is a very quiet yet modern border post. Staff were very helpful and friendly and we were through in a few minutes. We’ve found if you display a relaxed, friendly, unswerving attitude, greet the staff properly, you’ll sail through with no hassles. Strange too to see this oasis of a border post in the middle of nowhere.

    In Tsabong we refueled at Caltex and spotted at least 2 other garages (Engen & Total) fully operational. Took on the road to Mabuasuhebe which was good/reasonable gravel for the first 80km, and which then became a wide deep sand highway. Being prepared for this following all our research, we stopped immediately, deflated to 1.5 bar, and continued with the next 40km – mostly 3rd gear, all the way to the gate.




    Mabuasehube – 9 days
    Again very friendly staff checked us in very quickly. They don’t seem to have anything to cross check one’s booking, or indicate “we’ve been expecting you” – simply note your booking credentials, check amount paid, and in you go. They suggested we get firewood from the bush across the road before going into the reserve. We elected instead to come back to the gate next day for firewood.

    Mabua, #KTMAB01
    We were very excited as we departed the gate for Mabua #KTMAB01. All the months of planning and we’re almost there.

    Passed Mabua #3 and then #2 as we circled around the huge pan, gently up the rise to Mabua #1 and WOW what an awesome commanding view of the pan.





    On setting up camp we were a bit disappointed that we had no shower or long drop (missed that detail on the booking) but no trouble really to shoot down to #2 for a shower – also to chat and exchange info with the residents there. – Actually this was really funny – we’d seen a white Land Rover arrive at #2 during the afternoon. Through the glasses we thought it strange that they hadn’t alighted from the vehicle. A while later still no activity. When we went down there to shower we walked over to the Land Rover (hired) and this young German couple leaped out – it was their first visit to Africa and to a reserve such as Mabua. They were too dead scared to get out of the vehicle !!! I think they’d been parked there for over 2 hours sitting in the car. They were very relieved to see us and we all laughed together! Rather be scared than silly I say.

    Our stay at Mabua #01 was a memorable 4 days. The camp is set quite well back from the edge of the ledge, but we spent hours on the edge sat in our camping chairs watching the raptors and buck activity on the pan.



    Although we neither saw nor heard lion there was a lot of Lappetfaced Vulture activity each day. These initially started out on day 1 as Ground Hornbills, as identified by Warren!! (they spend quite a lot of time on the ground). Of course this set the scene for the rest of the trip, to the extent that his new African name is now ‘Ground Hornbill’ !

    Quite a number of Gemsbok and Springbok on the pan, and in the evenings a pair of blackbacked Jackal would trot happily through the camp, ignoring us completely.

    In the planning I had made sure that we’d be at Mabua #01 during full moon – what an exhilarating experience, seeing the pan illuminated by the moon.





    For four days we relaxed, felt the stress pouring away, as we soaked up the majesty and tranquility of Mabua.

    And we ate like kings… the Engel 40 was packed with frozen and pre-cooked meals and we lacked for nothing, cooking up a storm every evening. At the time we didn’t realise how demanding the Engel would be in terms of battery.


    Mpayathutlwa Pan, KTMPA02
    From here, having struck camp, we moved on to Mpayathutlwa Pan.



    We were all excited about this move as we’d read the reports of lion that had taken over the camp last November. What an awesome campsite. With quite a reasonable view of the lower half of the pan we followed the activities of a large herd of Springbok – numbering about 400. Also quite a number of Gemsbok, raptors and jackal. Surely we’d have lion activity here?



    And we weren’t disappointed – the roaring started at about 9.30PM near our edge of the pan, and went on intermittently for a few hours. What an indescribable sound, with the whole environment vibrating! Next day we chatted to the Pendukka Safari group on their game drive. Lion activity on the other side of the pan they said. With the road being quite far from the pan we only had a very brief glimpse of one lion. Turns out there’d been a kill and a few vultures were in attendance – but we could see very little.

    That night, having retired with clear skies overhead, we were amazed to hear rain. It rained steadily for about 2 hours. And in the morning we picked up the spoor of 3 lion who’d walked right through the camp during the night. “That must’ve been just after I went for a pee..!” said Warren, surprised.



    The bush here was looking lush and beautiful, as in other parts. Green shoots on the pan bringing the springbok in.



    With fresh bread it was time to implement the bush oven I’d devised over the previous few days.







    This worked very well indeed. I’d anticipated that placing the baking tray directly onto the coals would likely burn the bread. So I placed a few stones in the bottom of the oven. Not enough it seemed as it still burned a little.



    But by cutting in a step fashion we were still able to really enjoy fresh baked bread!









    The next and last night was very quiet with no activity at all.

    At this camp we also had to nip ‘next door’ to #01 to shower. This was quite funny as one afternoon we arrived to shower, to find that it was occupied. We waited patiently – turned out the lady in the shower had run up there naked from the camp, and was calling hubby to please bring her some clothes !!! She’d heard us chatting and wasn’t about to trot back naked!! The effects of the bush.

    Topped up with 60L of fuel from the jerry cans.



    This plus the remaining 20L was to get us all the way to Jwaneng. We’d been finding it a real problem to keep the second battery charged, as the regulator it appears only puts out 13.8 volts. Solar charging has now moved up to next on my priority list. The battery was to edge right down to 10% towards the end of the trop - but hung in there !! Most charging was done at idle in camp as I was reluctant to burn too much fuel driving. This proved to be a reasonable policy as our fuel stretched exactly as planned to Jwaneng.

    Next stop Lesholoage pan, KTLES02.
    Being a bit further north, and having experienced the largish herds at Mpayathutlwa, we had our misgivings about game viewing here.



    And we were right. Other than the very tame ground squirrels we saw very little else.



    The pan was pretty much deserted. Yet our stay there still enjoyable. And at last we had our own shower. Bird life here was quite exquisite though and we added quite a few more to our list.
    After 2 nights at Lesholoage we struck camp early in anticipation of a full and long day’s journey, with interesting roads and navigation to Khutse Reserve. We were not disappointed.


    Mabua to Khutse: Our route was Mabua cutline to Kikotsha > Sekoma > Jwaneng> Lethlakeng > Khutse. Estimated 550 km to Moreswe Pan.

    Turned left out of the Mabua gate on the ‘deep sand’ road, 15km to the cutline, turned right onto a good firm track, straight as an arrow. Stopped for 10 minutes to inflate to 2.0 bar and off we went. Although straight for 100km this road requires close concentration.





    Ocassional squirrel holes can be problematic, as are the two aardvak holes we encountered – really huge – and you don’t want to put a wheel into one of those! Approaching Kikotsha the road becomes twisty and a number of farm gates must be negotiated. This section seems surprisingly long, and very slow, possibly due to the good time we were able to make on the cutline. Just as we were getting concerned as to whether we were lost, we saw the Kikotsha aerial.

    Kikotsha fell into my category of ‘quite a big little town’ – though what sustains the locals there I have no idea. But very large water tanks were evident and it’s a fairly large community. Driving straight through the village we encountered the main road to Sekoma.



    And what a pleasure. Although we all enjoy off-roading it’s a pleasure to drive the occasional good tar road. This one is brand spanking new and has only just been opened. Still no lines and lots of loose gravel on the verges. Again we stopped to inflate to 2.6 bar. And we sailed ahead at 120km/h to Sekoma, dodging the still-everpresent donkeys and goats.

    We were hoping to refuel in Sekoma, anticipating that the new Petro Botswana station would be operational – which it was –



    but diesel only! No problem though, we had enough to get to Jwaneng with the tank almost on empty and 10L still in hand.

    Jwaneng is a large and busy mining town, with all amenities. Having filled up at the BP garage and stuffed our faces with Chicken Licken burgers (we hadn’t had breakfast) we spent a further 2 hours stocking up with groceries and booze – quite a mission. So by the time we left at about 3PM we became really concerned that we may not reach Khutse gate before closing (best of all we didn’t know the closing time - it’s not on any of the documentation).
    *So, note to self, check all gate closing times beforehand, they change throughout the year as well.
    Contemplation of bush-camping for the night began to settle in.

    On leaving Jwaneng the petrol attendant gave us excellent directions to get onto the gravel road to Lethlakeng. As we turned onto this road we were immediately faced with our first obstacle – an enormous puddle, lake actually, of standing water from the rains – with no detour on either side. I should’ve stopped the car and thought this through – but didn’t, preferring to take the adrenalin rush, and maintain momentum. So I slowed a little, realising it looked very deep indeed. I rejected the thought of going up on the left or right shoulder due to the weight on the roof and unknown angles, and decided to blast straight through the middle. We charged in, dirty brown water swept over the bonnet and sprayed out high on both sides. I felt the lower rail of the bull bar dig hard into the opposite wall with a low thud. We all lurched forward, the car hesitated, and started clawing its way out as I gunned gently in 2nd. A heart-stopping (not good in my case) sensation as it ground out and up the bank – and we were out!! Phew.

    In retrospect I realised I could possibly have drowned the car. I should’ve stopped and assessed. Then I would’ve gone gently to the right side of the lake, keeping the air intake, which sits high inside the right hand fender, on high ground over the right shoulder of the dam, letting the left side take the depth, and cruised through gently. We live and learn – I count myself lucky - I know what to do next time. It was very exciting though. We had a few more of these on this road, none as bad as the first – (but much much more after Khutse).

    This road followed the mine fence for about 30 or 40 Ks (not sure) then gave way to a really good, hard, wide, fast gravel road which took us all the way to Lethlakeng. A quick pit stop, checking that the Total garage had fuel for our return (which they did, petrol and diesel), and we were on our way again. Seems we may just make it in time.

    Lethlakeng to Khutse is a really good hard gravel road. It narrows a little in places and has a fair bit of local traffic so one has to be on the ball. A lot of donkeys, more than most roads we’d been on, and for the first time, a lot of cattle too. So we made good time. The only deepish sand is one or two Kms just before the gate at which we arrived at 5.30PM (it transpires the gate is open 'til 7PM at that time of year).



    Khutse – 4 days, Moreswe Pan, KHMOR02
    Of course we now still had 70km to do from the gate to Moreswe camp – it was almost dark. The very friendly Caroline checked us in at the gate and immediately suggested we camp at Khutse 01, just 13km away – which we did.

    Not a lot at all in that area so we moved early the next morning to Moreswe. It’s quite a long drive in sandy tracks, 2nd and 3rd gear most of the way. We took the ‘high road’, up past Molose pan. On looking at the campsites there we saw where someone had been really badly stuck in deep sand. Reminding us how quickly something like that can happen and to be ready with the ‘moermentum’ all the time.

    Out of the blue was came upon the Tropic of Capricorn sign. And made the mandatory stop for photos, wondering what the total number of stops there must add up to over the years!




    All roads and tracks in the reserves are quite low relative to car height. So any initial height advantage offered by a 4x4 is lost as ones’ head is only just above grass height. So at this time of year with the high grass, low tracks, we saw little on the drives between camps. Khutse seemed very quiet.

    Moreswe Pan, KHMOR02
    And that it was. Moreswe pan had two resident Gemsbok – who insisted on parking off in the middle of the pan, in the searing heat, for the whole day. And there were one or two springbok. We neither saw nor heard lion or jackal. Nor did we see any raptor activity. Khutse was too quiet.

    So much so that we decided to leave a day early.
    The evening before our departure we watched fascinated as a huge storm circled us for a few hours. This had been building the entire agternoon, with a great deal of wind. To the south it was particularly heavy, and it was clearly raining hard there. We were to see the effects of this storm throughout the next day.

    The drive back to the gate on the ‘low road’ was tedious and uneventful.

    Khutse to Motswiri Lodge (RSA)
    Khutse > Lethlakeng > Thamaga > Molepolole > Ramotswa border post > Nietverdiend > Motswiri – Krinkhout camp

    A so-called ‘quick run’. Not a chance, took far longer than expected. Mostly due to narrow (tar) roads, slow traffic in the dorps, and donkeys.

    Ok the fun started as soon as we left Khutse as we retraced our route to Lethlakeng.
    We might as well have been on a completely different road to the one we came in on. This had changed in every way. The hard, fast gravel road we came in on had now become a road riddled with huge sections of standing water from the storm the previous night. These were not puddles, but significant dams.



    With many one could detour left or right. The majority however required relative caution and good line selection to go straight through. What fun we had!



    As we neared Lethlakeng we were going at a good lick and saw a(nother) donkey lying in the middle of the road. I slowed just a little to pass him on the right, knowing how slow they are. This one however, turned out to be a fris baby. He jumped up suddenly and charged off to his right – i.e. straight for my left fender, which at the time was doing about 80km/h. Look just how close he was…



    We all went “Aaaaaaaaargh!” as we braced for impact. Warren went “Oooh F********k”. I performed a little Swedish roll, twitched the wheel right then left (aikonna lo swerve), and miraculously we missed him.

    Never underestimate a donkey.

    More fun after Lethlakeng, on the road to Molepolole. I’d heard about this road from Greg Godrich, said it scared him sh!*less. I didn’t understand. Now I do.
    It’s a tar road, which for us by now was a real treat. Only thing is its wide enough for one car. However it’s a two way road. Hee hee. So the first few oncoming Cruisers (many up there) and buses, had my knuckles white and my passengers screaming. We soon settled a little and learned how to play Chicken. My passengers decided to rather look at the bush, the cattle and the donkeys sweeping past on the left. And to “sleep”. So they simply left me to brave wave after wave of attacking oncoming vehicles. Fortunately I won and we arrived at Molepolole (love that name) unscathed.

    From here the roads improved progressively as we wended our way through this beautiful countryside, through villages and sweeping hills. Evidence of this really large storm still very much in evidence. All rivers we crossed were extremely high and in many cases streaks of stones and rubble still lay across the roads, having been swept across with the force of the storm water.

    At no point did we see any signage indicating “Border post”. Warren however, being a Debben boy, was adept at asking passers by (all called “Bro” oddly enough) directions whilst we were on the move. At last we arrived at the Romatswa border post. Just a few more Ks now and we could relax at Krinkhout camp where we’d pre-arranged a braai and champagne.

    However. A BMW X-something had drowned in the river there, right in the middle (you have to drive across a low-level bridge to cross the border). I quickly assessed that I wouldn’t even attempt the crossing in the FJ62, even if the BMW wasn’t there. The water level was very high. (what is it abour BMW drivers?).

    So, U-turn, off to Gaberone (which I had specifically wanted to avoid). Fortunately it was only 50 odd Ks away – and hectically busy on this Friday afternoon. All the stress we’d washed away over the past 2 weeks washed right back in the first 2 minutes.

    Bro gave Warren directions at every intersection and soon enough we were through the border and idling up to Krinkhout Camp, Motswiri Lodge as darkness fell (quick trip – remember).

    Krinkhout Camp (bugger Mnet – the magic is at Krinkhout!)
    What an awesome camp. But first – we were a day early, but couldn’t call Krinkhout to tell them so, until we’d crossed the border. And now we were running really late – it was 5.30PM and getting dark following our diversion via Gaberone. When we did get through to Marlene du Plessis on the phone we were relieved to hear that the camp was in fact available. And that the manager, Ruan, would prepare the camp. Thanks Marlene, thanks Ruan, I know we we really upset your day!!

    Only 6km off the R47 the pace and tranquility of Krinkhout Camp has to be experienced to be understood.







    It is set a few kilometers away from Motswiri Lodge game farm, of which it is a part, deep within a bush forest. A well appointed thatch lapa has bathroom/shower, well equipped kitchen, scullery, and dining area. And of course a huge outside fireplace with loads of huge logs on hand. Absolute magic. Hot water from the donkey driven shower was such a treat.

    Ruan, the manager, went out of his way to make sure we had everything we needed. He did a fantastic braai for us too. Well done and thanks Ruan.

    Make a point of stopping in at Krinkhout if you can it is a very special place. And thank you to Dana and Marlene du Plessis (LCCSA), part owners of Motswiri, for directing us there.

    http://www.motswirilodge.co.za/


    On leaving Krinkhout next day, we arrived in Zeerust to top up and sit down to a long awaited Wimpy breakfast. And who do we bump into?... none other that Roland Bergh and Hennie Kotze and party – en route to an area above Mabua. What a small world. They had just had breakfast and were ready to roll – pity it would’ve been great to chat longer.

    I am a Herman Charles Bosman fan and couldn’t resist going via Groot Marico – such a nostalgic village. All the stories ran through my head, the leopard sniffing his legs as he ‘watched the cattle’, the Engelsman, the prison stories – I’d like to go back there for a weekend.

    And so it was with heavy hearts that we re-entered the Jo’burg atmosphere, treasuring our thoughts of this wonderful two week trip just accomplished and enjoyed – the first of its kind and length in my trusty FJ62, who performed like a dream. And the first of many more.



    Now, Namibia. !
    Last edited by JohnT; 2009/04/03 at 01:09 PM.
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  3. #2
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    Post updated with full report.
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    John.

    Good report, looks like you enjoyed it.

    Uys
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    Unless it is a screw driver.

    Then it it a chisel.

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    Nice report John.

    I like that narrow road on the other side of Molepolole. Keeps you awake.... ALL the time.
    Kobus

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    Great trip report John - took me right back to Mabua. Those lion you heard roaring at Mpaya Pan were a pride of 12, 6 adults and 6 small cubs. Stayed outside our campsite (#1) for 2 days and then disappeared. We later had a lioness drinking in our shower ( no naked ladies though! ) - came from the direction of #2 and looked like she must have had cubs hidden somewhere.
    Those German tourists at Mab #2 weren't too far off the mark. On a game drive around the pan we surprised a leopard coming out of the shower there and it casually walked to the clump of bush about 5 metres away where it lay down. Obviously used to drinking there when the campers were out.

    Rob.


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    Thanks Rob, nice sightings there! Such a pity we weren't able meet up.
    BTW on leaving Lethlakeng down The Narrow Road towards Moloplole I did the unforgivable... had gone about 5ks when Jonathan said "Aren't you still in four wheel drive?". And I was. Having been off road for 2 weeks I didn't even dream of disengaging.!
    So nearly had some Serious wind up there.
    THANKS Jonathan !
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    Nice report John. You and Rob let the cat out of the bag. I've had lions in the camp on two occasions at Mpaya #2. Best night time action of all the pans.
    FJ Cruiser
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    Yes its a brilliant camp Hoffie. Will go straight back there next time.
    I believe Mabua is a far better reserve than Khutse too.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnT View Post
    I believe Mabua is a far better reserve than Khutse too.
    I haven't been to Khutse, but that's the idea I get from various trip reports. Guess it can sit at the bottom of the list for a while
    FJ Cruiser
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    Thank you for sharing !!
    Very nice report.

    Somehow doing that in the FJ62 Cruiser makes it just that little more special, and without a hick up too.
    Jacques Greyling
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    Yes you're right Jacques.
    The '62 makes such a trip possibly more than half the fun - she's a BEAUT !
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    Quick Q is Mabua reachable in a 2X4 P.S very nice trip report.

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    Navara, no, via Tsabong the last 40 ks to the Mabua gate is really deep sand, see pic 'deflating'.
    Coming in from the cutline, the first 15 ks of the cutline is also very sandy, as is the last 15.
    From the Nossob side I can't comment, but AFAIK its also very sandy.

    Also, as conditions change from day to day - I certainly wouldn't chance it.
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  15. #14
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    Great report. Overall, was this a good vehicle for your trip? I'm coming to Africa for the first time to drive and don't really know what's the best vehicle, driving from Cape Town to Durban and up to Kilimanjaro but have lots of options on routes. Camping safe as a couple?

    Ok and I'm a novice and an American....what's a pan

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    Bit of a leap for a novice - RSA to Kilimanjaro!? perhaps just stick to the cape town - durban part

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    Quote Originally Posted by mantagirl View Post
    Ok and I'm a novice and an American....what's a pan
    Dry lakes are an ephemeral lakebed, generally extending to the shore, or a remnant of an endorheic lake. Such flats consist of fine-grained sediments infused with alkali salts. Dry lakes may be known as alkali flats, sabkhas, playas or mud flats. If the surface is primarily salt then they are called salt pans, pans, hardpan, salt lakes or salt flats.

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  18. #17
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    e.g. Great Salt Lake... Utah


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    Flip, ek gaan pak sommer nou my kar!
    Simpel vraag - hoekom kan ek nie die foto's sien nie?

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    Quote Originally Posted by mantagirl View Post
    Great report. Overall, was this a good vehicle for your trip? I'm coming to Africa for the first time to drive and don't really know what's the best vehicle, driving from Cape Town to Durban and up to Kilimanjaro but have lots of options on routes. Camping safe as a couple?

    Ok and I'm a novice and an American....what's a pan
    Welcome Mantagirl. The vehicle is perfect for such a trip. The Cruiser is well known as the 'Ship of the dessert'.
    Africa is huge. Plan carefully.

    I recommend you post a new thread on the forum requesting advice on every aspect of your trip: route, timing, time of year and so on. Members will be very forthcoming with loads of advice.
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    Hmmm, me thinks I'm going there soon soon
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