3rd & 4th August – The Long Way Home
After packing up our tent for the last time we set off for the long road to Lobatse close to the border with SA. It takes a bit more than half an hour to reach the park gate, and sadly we see no animals. The gate is totally deserted. That means our papers were never checked to confirm we paid the park permits and campsites. If they don’t even bother to check their revenue I wonder what is being done to actually protect the area … not a nice thought. We sign our name on the book anyway and exit the park. We head North and then take the second cutline on the right hand side. The cutline is sandy but not too deep and is in good condition. It takes about 3.5 hours to cross it. There are a lot of steenboks to be seen and also cows.
At the end of the cutline a strip of black appears like a mirage … tar! We haven’t seen tar in 2 weeks. Due to the corrugated roads in the Kgalagadi by now we hear rattles in our sleep and feel like we are shaking all the time. So the vision of the black smooth tar is one tiny consolation. We reinflate our tires and continue the journey enjoying the feeling of smooth and silent driving. The road to Lobatse is very good. On some parts you could drive at 120km/h but we do not do that all the time as the Land Cruiser guzzles fuel like crazy and at that speed the revs go up to 3000rpm. One has to consider the roof top tent adds considerable drag. We need to refuel, but we are without pulas, the local Botswana currency. So our first task is to find an ATM. As usual easier said than done to find anything that works for our stupid Finnish credit cards which always give us endless trouble in Africa. We stop at Jwaneng the home of Debswana the Diamond mining company. It is said there is the largest open pit diamond mine in the world and indeed we are extremely impressed with what appears like the Australian Uluru in the distance – the mine. It is also obvious the town is relatively well off – young people driving around in good cars and wearing trendy clothes, mobile phones everywhere and cleanliness everywhere too. We refuel and stop for a meal at Nando’s – we haven’t had enough peri peri chicken yet! It is nice to have a ready made meal without the need to do the washing up and packing afterwards. And oh flushing toilets! While I do love roughing it while camping I always enjoy the little luxuries upon return to civilisation – though I would give them up in a heartbeat for just some more hours in the bush.
Once again we have to hit the road, which is more of the same until we get close to Kanye where the landscape changes to more hilly terrain. We arrive in Lobatse at around 5pm and we are booked into the Phuduhudu Lodge. This is a hunting lodge but it was the only accommodation that was recommended in the area. It is located in the middle of a working farm. When we arrive it is totally deserted. We panic a little and decide to call the owner who just tells us to go to chalet #1. We are very impressed with the quality of the accommodation – much more cosy and luxurious than what we were expecting at the cheap pricepoint. The decor is very tasteful and the beds are very comfy – just what we need!
But before we can contemplate relaxing we have to go through the dreaded task of packing up. It is really a daunting task with all the stuff we have lying about in the car. Neatness is not our strong point … An hour later all is nicely packed up and the extra food is organized for our traditional donation time.
A lovely hot shower is in order then some snacks and some time reviewing photos and video from the trip.
A luxury … sleeping till 8am! A wonderful couple is doing the care taking for the lodge. They are the perfect candidates for our traditional donation of all leftover foods. We buy a lot of extras when we start off just so that what we then don’t use is donated to needy families. The couple cannot believe their luck. At first they do not understand at all that the huge pile of food, drinks, sweets, bags, soaps etc is for them. When they finally realise it is all for them their faces light up in pure joy and the woman is almost in tears. That is always one of the best moments of our self-drive trips to Africa. We also give them some toys for their children.
At around 9 we set off for the border. We are a little apprehensive considering that our previous big border post experience was not that enjoyable. But I have to say this was really easy – even though we did not have any single paper or toll paid to be in Botswana with the car (as we entered via Twee Rivieren). We were done in about half an hour with no hassle whatsoever. Except for one police who asks for R10 for a coffee. We don’t want any trouble since we have to fly out today so we oblige, he is the last guy standing between us and the gate!
The drive from Lobatse to Johannesburg takes us about 5 hours with a few stops in supermarkets to stock up on Nando’s sauces to take home as we don’t have any here in Finland. I can’t find what I want so we have to make several stops. We make the mistake of planning to drive via Hartbeespoort for pancakes. We have no idea what a circus it is on Sundays! So we get stuck for quite a while in the traffic there, especially waiting to cross the dam. Due to all the time wasting we don’t even get to have the pancakes!
Finally we arrive in Johannesburg and the last thing we have to do is drop off the car at Bushlore. A guy is there to meet us. He does all the necessary checks, and we are forced to explain why the tablecloth was being returned as spaghetti shreds. The look on his face was priceless! Then some security guy arrives insisting the alarm had been tripped and asking us whether we tried to break in. Since it was a Sunday the office is closed. The guy collecting the car then drives us to the airport. We have our last KFC, check in and stroll around the shops, and then we start our long journey home. Ironically warmer weather awaits us in Finland – probably the first time ever anyone said that after coming back from a holiday in Africa!
So that was it, if you have read this far you have virtually travelled with us for 3328.4km! I hope you have enjoyed this trip report. I love to hear from you so please drop a comment or an email with your thoughts or questions.