Botswana Cycle Tour - Day 18 to 22
Once again, after running out of excuses to linger any longer at Mabalaza Island Lodge we loaded our bikes onto the boat for the ride back to another 3km sandy push up to the main road. On crossing the Kwando River (heading west) you enter the Bwabwata National Park, home for the next 3 nights. Our target for the day a mindless 30 odd km. Two German bikers (named Osca und Zilvia) heading in the opposite direction, stopped to fire the usual questions at us: 'Vhere are you going, und vhy?', followed by, 'vould you like zome vwater?'
By mid afternoon and by pure luck we discovered a big pan with good water and many elephants in attendance - a little over half a km off the road. Being very heavily utilized by ele, roan, bushpig, buffalo and other game, there were big paths approaching the pan from all points of the compass. It took some scratching to find a secure area, wooded enough and a safe distance from the pan and the many ele paths.
Eventually we settled amongst 2 or 3 large trees, that formed a decent island in the traffic. Just after sunset we struck up a conversation, and became good mates with two of these trees. To the point of rekindling our passion for tree climbing - a sport that has been dead for about 30 years now ... This had nothing to do with the breeding herd of eles that approached us to within 10 or 12 meters, and stood watching us with those wise old eyes, before skirting us at a little over spitting distance ... That night around the fire, our torch lights swung around, a bit like two lighthouses as more and more eles passed this side and that!
Day 19 Being such an awesome spot we dragged the morning through a few cups of coffee and a short game walk, while even more elephant came down to drink. Eventually spilling out onto the tar road at about 12pm for a 48km day. We set up camp in some big Miombo woodland about 4km north of the road, in an area frequented by some rather large solitary bull elephants, but little else. There is no water this time of the year, on this 200km stretch between Kwando and Okavango Rivers. The ele traffic that does exist, seems to move on a north - south axis along corridors, between Angola to the north and Okavango to the south.
Day 20 Today we decided to take pedaling a little more seriously, and pushed a further 85km of dead straight Caprivi tarmac. We stopped at Omega III, one of the two 'settlements' on the strip, for an interesting chat to Vasco Pieter Muyambango the proprietor of the shop 'Control 4now 4eva' ... naturally, he sells cooking oil, warm cokes, matches and other important items.
We pedalled until an hour before sunset, then turned south on a new dirt track into the bush, to discover 3 field rangers (game scouts) saundering up the track, armed with their limb lobbing axes. Two Boesman and one Owambo ... the one Boesman was too old to remember his age and down to about 1 tooth, while the other two were let's say, more current. After a protracted negotiation on where we could sleep, we made a date for coffee and rusks in the morning at our fire.
Day 21 Just after sunrise the two, axe armed Boesman rangers, arrived at our fire for coffee ... the Owambo ranger opted for a lie in!? Interesting guys, the old ballie has many stories under his belt ... his wrinkles crease with a quick sense of humour. We hit the last 60km to the Okavango River with a semi decent tail wind, stopping only to repair the blow out I had in my rear tyre ... (Continental Town & Country semi slicks, look way better than they perform ... one of Johan's gave up the ghost after just 400 odd km). Johan, being very eager to get rid of the 'extra heavy duty' spare tyre he had dragged around for the last 10 days, was forced to carry it another 20 clicks when we discovered that the over weight piece of Chinese rubber was too big for any of our wheels - despite it's size indicating otherwise! Duct tape and a piece of old tube, gave the blown out tyre another 20kms of good service, until out of the bush on the left appeared a container bike shop?! ... here we did some buying and selling, and rode off with a 'new-used' nobbly purring on the tar.
Finally reached the Okavango River at Divundu for a healthy plate of deep fried chicken & chips, chased by the obligatory cold coke. The last 4km of the day was a push through thick sand to Ngepi Camp on the Okavango River - a funky little place with a great signage all over, and some good toilet humour. If the Popa Falls area is ever on your route, it would be wrong not to stay here!
Day 22 is a feet up day, with a few cold beers and some vacant staring ... Tomorrow we re enter Botswana for the last 2 cycle days to Seronga.