Wouter and Elmari's Y2K Land-Rover tour, leg 2

2000-06-13 to 2000-06-16

Messina - Pontdrift - Selebe Pikwe - Chobe - Kazangula - Sesheke - Sioma (Maziba Bay)

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We headed away from Messina, going west to Pontdrift, with the idea of getting into Botswana as quickly as possible. Reached Pontdrift at 14:10, and found that the border post was closed, because the bridge across the river had been washed away. They told us that the best place to cross was Platjan, so off we went, reaching Platjan at 15:35.

It took us quite a while to get into Botswana, with a multitude of forms having to be completed.

From Platjan we headed via Bobonong and Sefophe to Selebe Pikwe. The road from Bobonong to Pikwe is a secondary tarred road, and we had easy going, reaching Pikwe at 19:40. We filled up at the Engen, and asked the attendants there about a place to camp. They offered, insisted even, that we stay right there, in the parking bays next to the garage, and use their toilets. We seized the opportunity, since it gave us a chance to have pizza at the place next door.

Of course with all the traffic in town we were up early, leaving Pikwe at 06:00.

Got to Francistown at 09:00, having stopped for coffee along the way. Rene pulled a Ford with fuel problems into town.

I decided to fill the two side tanks for the first time. Each side took 72 liters, at P1.91 per liter.

Rene tried to phone Pim (Pim had a cellular phone of some type) but they were not available.

The road from Francistown to Kazangula is long... very long. Towns are small, and far apart... I got very tired, and slept in the back a bit while Elmari drove. When I took over the driving again at 13:00 I noticed that some fuel was boiling out of the side tanks, a lesson not to fill tanks to the top early in the day, if you're not going to start using them immediately.

When I rebuilt the Chev engine I knew that the starter motor was not the best. I hoped that it would last for the trip, but now I had reason to believe otherwise... sounded as if the solenoid was not making proper contact.

Got to the Chobe River Lodge at 17:30, and found the problem with the starter motor... the top mounting ear of broke off, and the motor was hanging by one bolt. I fixed it with a large flatwasher, of course burning myself in the process (a trade-off between letting the engine cool down and having to finish before sunset). Disconnected the battery without unplugging the GPS first and lost all my waypoints. Blargh.

Thursday, 2000-06-15 : I had hoped to get away early, but as usual we only got away at 11:00.

[WPT 001 -17.794080 25.262327 15-JUN-00 09:57 GMT 11:57 SAST Kazangula Ferry, Botswana side]

Got to the ferry at 12:00. Loading procedure is, one Land-Rover, one 18 wheeler, another Land-Rover. As you can see from the pic on the right, things get pretty tight...

Rene boarding the ferry Outboard motor Spikkels on the ferry

[WPT 002 -17.790004 25.266479 15-JUN-00 11:04 GMT 13:04 SAST Kazangula Ferry, Zambia Side]

On the Zambia side, the customs procedure did not take overly long. We were out of customs by 13:00. Bought the required 3rd party insurance (very important, this was required at every road block, of which there were many) for R148. Rene and Joke had to pay US$ 50 for a visa, which we did not require.

Sesheke road The road from Kazangula to Sesheke was bad. I mean bad. Rene lost his rear window when two jerry cans bounced off the roof, swung around on the cable that was supposed to be holding them, and knocked the rear window on to the dashboard. We went back to find them, he was not impressed. At this stage I was pushing things, trying to get to the Sesheke ferry before 18:00, so that we could still make Sioma, where Manfred and Gisela were waiting. Rene would have been far happier to take it easy.

We did the 120km from Kazangula to Sesheke in 5 hours, reaching Sesheke just after 18:00. Fortunately the ferry was still operating, taking some large trucks across.

With hindsight, we should have gone to Katima Mulilo on the Botswana side, and crossed into Zambia there. It would have been a lot easier on us and the vehicles...

The road from Sesheke to Sioma is just a wide sand track, an incredible improvement on the Kazanagula-Sesheke road. But don't think that this means that things are starting to get better, oh no...

Somewhere on the 140km road between Sesheke and Sioma, the alternator light goes on. I check the fanbelt, hmmm, a bit loose, because the alternator bottom bracket is broken, and the alternator is pressing against the exhaust manifold. Obviously the electronics is fried. I ask Elmari to unplug the fridge, and we drive on. Eventually, of course, things get so bad that I can't run the engine and the lights at the same time. Fortunately there was quite a bright moon... we get to Maziba (Maziba Bay Lodge, at Sioma) in the middle of the night, meet the people (Manfred and Gisela are there), and the engine dies. Rene pulls me out of the way, as far as we can get in the thick sand, and we end up next to the septic tank.

[WPT 003 -16.675036 23.626796 15-JUN-00 21:05 GMT 23:05 SAST Maziba Bay]

I grab a beer and take stock. One of the cardboard boxes of red wine has a hole in, everything that was packed higher than the floor is now on the floor, and the 5L can of oil is missing from the roofrack, as is the braai triangle -- I think those two were stolen at Sesheke, but hey, with that road anything's possible, it could have donnered off along the way.

Fixing the alternator So, the next morning I started the engine using an jumper lead from the fridge battery, and quickly drove up to the workshop. Removed the front wing, looked things over. Cannibalised an alternator from a Land Cruiser, but we had to wait for the main generator to come online before we could weld a new bracket up, so we went on a boat trip to the falls. Recommended. The boat trip, not repairing an alternator in the bush.

They have a small elephant at Maziba, which they raised by hand. You won't believe how quietly an elephant can sneak up on you, or how strong they are. Jerry, the main mechanic, handyman and just about everything else, didn't warn me that Lulu was behind me, so I got quite a fright when she poked me in the neck with a wet trunk. A little bit later she reached for the Hilux' mirror and broke it clean off, snap. Don't mess with elephants, not even small ones.

dugout ferry Sioma Falls More Sioma Falls

The falls are a few kilometers up the river from Maziba Bay, so we grabbed beer and jumped on the rubber duck.

The water level was apparently fairly low, so we had to walk the last km or two, after which we were ferried across a part of the river to get to the lookout over the falls.

When we got back to the boat, well, erm, the boat wasn't there. Oh my. Our guide spotted it, on the other side of the river, and started walking in that direction, although we didn't think it would be a good idea for him to swim across, what with the crocodiles and stuff... Just then one of the guys from the camp arrived in another rubber duck, they got worried and came looking for us.

Camp, second night at Maziba Bay When we got back to the camp, Pim and Thandie were there! Big reunion party, braai, great fun. And, Jerry had fixed the alternator in the mean time. Things were starting to look up. :-)

Turns out that Pim and Thandie had had more problems getting their Land-Rover out of customs than anyone had anticipated. They ended up driving through the night and getting to the Botswana border at 7 o'clock, where they managed to sleep for an hour until the border post opened at eight. From there they made it as far as Nata before hitting the sack, the next day they drove to Kazangula, where they didn't get the message that we tried to get to them (Don't take the Sesheke road! DON'T! :-) with the result that Pim broke the top shock mount on the right hand side and he had to fix that along the way. Pim drives a 90" coiler Camel Trophy look-alike, BTW.

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