Sometimes all you need to do to have an adventure is just show up.
We spent last night at the Khama Rhino Sanctuary, which is between Gaborone and Francistown, Botswana’s second largest city. We scraped in just as the sanctuary was closing at 7pm, and had a slightly easier 2.5km drive on sandy tracks than the rocky drive to our previous campsite. Thank heavens, it was dark by the time we got there. We’ve crossed the Tropic of Capricorn now, so I guess we’re in the tropics.
Nice campsite, with a couple of ablution blocks for a dozen or so campsites. There were chalets nearby as well. Something that really surprises me is that campground bathrooms here have full-sized baths as well as showers, in separate cubicles. We’ve struck it at 2 out of the 3 campgrounds we’ve stayed at so far … and the third was very rustic, with the outdoor showers heated by donkey boilers.
We didn’t see any rhino at the Rhino Sanctuary – I think they were much further away than the camping area. The sanctuary looks huge on the map of the local area.
That adventure I mentioned above? Well, actually, this one was a combination of just showing up and placing far too much trust in Nigel the GPS. According to our maps, there were 2 ways to get to Francistown – back the way we had come, or drive on some secondary roads to avoid back-tracking. Uh, yeah, seemed like a good idea at the time … Our friends Kelly and Mark spent their honeymoon in Botswana, and they can probably guess exactly how this turned out (or could have), but I’ll tell the story anyway.
The secondary road started off sealed but that ran out after a few hundred metres and it became an okay unsealed road, with the added attractions of occasional small groups of cows and donkeys on and beside the road. We drove through a village where most of the housing was traditional thatch-roofed mud huts with external pole supports. A lot of them had no windows, just a door. After the village, the road got worse, and worse, and worse. Deeply rutted in places, lots of corrugations – things that would be fine to drive on in our own 4-wheel drive, but not in a 2-wheel drive rental car. Finally we got to a section that was so chopped up that there wasn’t anywhere wide enough and level enough to drive on safely.
We realised that we could get ourselves out of trouble by turning around and going back the way we’d come, or risk not being able to get out of trouble further down the track, and possibly not be able to get any help. There had been a couple of vehicles drive past, and a couple of carts being pulled by donkeys, but it was a quiet road, probably because it was so chopped up. Everyone takes the main road.
So we turned around and drove back the way we’d come. I was happy to get a second look at the village with its mud huts, and relieved that we’d made it back to the sealed road without mishap. So … no more shortcuts or unsealed roads for us or our little Corolla.
We are staying in Francistown tonight, in a hotel. Very nice room with air-conditioning and an assortment of toiletries, including a condom. In a country whose population has been decimated by AIDS, that seems very sensible.