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.

Camped at Khama Rhino Sanctuary the next morning
Camped at Khama Rhino Sanctuary the next morning
Getting the Corolla over some of the easier holes in the road
Getting the Corolla over some of the easier holes in the road

The view of the main street of Francistown outside the Hotel
The view of the main street of Francistown outside the Hotel


Dearest Sally,

I’ve walked up and down this shopping mall 3 times and just can’t find a postcard anywhere, so here’s a virtual postcard that I’ll share with everyone else who reads this blog. We’re actually in Gaborone, in Botswana and I still can’t quite believe we’re really here.

We drove across the border yesterday and spent last night, our second night of camping, at Mokolodi Nature Reserve, which is 15km south of Gaborone. Trip Advisor rates it as the #1 tourist activity in Gaborone, and we really loved staying there, although actually driving to the bush campsites was a bit tricky. 3.5km of really rough rocky track, but Mr Adventure managed it beautifully, even in a Corolla. He does love a challenge. I timed the drive back out this morning and it took 30 minutes to do the 3.5kms.

There are 8 campsites, each with their own kitchen sink with running water, toilet, shower with hot water heated by a ‘donkey’ (44 gallon drum turned on its side with space for a fire underneath). As we were driving in, we saw a group of impala and an ostrich – wow, those birds are big! We had the camping area to ourselves until late in the evening when 2 young employees drove up and introduced themselves as our ‘security’ – they stayed a bit further down the track and left early this morning. I think they were there in case of wild animal attack, but we didn’t see anything overnight, although Greg found some large hoof/paw prints this morning and there was some scat on the track, but our knowledge of African animals is pretty limited so we don’t know what we missed. We slept in the tent with the sides rolled up, so it felt like we were sleeping under the stars. It was lovely. I think I sent you a link to the Alexander McCall Smith Traditional camping area, but it was much, much further away and only seemed to have traditional hut-type accommodation, no provision for self-catering. The 3.5kms we drove was far enough, but it would have been good to see the McCall Smith area.

And now we’re in Gaborone. We drove past a mob of baboons a couple of kms from the outskirts of the city. They were just ambling across the road. I’ve been looking for the Tiny White Van, but haven’t found it yet. Maybe Mma Ramotswe is out investigating a case on the Tlokweng Road, or out at Molopolole. We’ve seen a few traditionally-built ladies, and I’ve noticed that many of the female  manequins in clothes shops are closer to a size 14 than all those skinny ones we have at home. Little kids stare at us because we’re the only white-skinned people in this shopping centre. I smile and make funny faces at them, and they smile back.  It’s obviously not touristy here – which is why I can’t find postcards.

We drove past the turn-off to Ramotswa yesterday afternoon. I’d intended to stop and get a photo of the town sign, but we didn’t go through the town, and it’s a bit dangerous stopping by the side of the road here – the locals use the edges of the road as another lane. We drove through a roundabout this morning and I realised that the lane markings are really just a suggestion – the 2 lanes had at least 3 cars abreast, and the one on the far left wanted to make a right turn AND DID … across the other 2 cars.

Heading north soon, to Francistown and eventually to the northern border with Zambia.

Much love, and thanks so much for sharing your love of the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency with me. I’m so glad we’re here.  Jxxx

And to everyone else reading this – if you know and love Alexander McCall Smith’s series, you’ll know what I’ve been talking about. It you haven’t read it yet …please do. It’s beautiful .. and it’s one of the main reasons we’re here.

Our campsite at Mokolodi Nature Reserve
Our campsite at Mokolodi Nature Reserve
The outdoor shower and "Donkey" boiler
The outdoor shower and “Donkey” boiler
Open bush shower
Open bush shower
Getting the fire going for ho water with the donkey boiler
Getting the fire going for hot water with the donkey boiler


A few first impressions, probably pretty disjointed as I’m writing through the haze of jetlag …

We’ve been here for a day now and managed to stay up till 7pm last night by keeping busy most of the day. We stayed at the Mercure Hotel and Conference Centre at Bedfordview in an apartment with cooking facilities, but no cooking utensils. That’s okay, I wasn’t planning on cooking anyway. I just have to give a mention to the shower set-up. It’s so astonishingly poorly thought-out, I shake my head every time I walk into the bathroom. A hand-held shower mounted above the bath, but the hose from the tap to the shower-head is so short that the only way to get water on the upper half of your body is to kneel or sit in the bath.

There’s a large shopping centre right opposite the hotel, so after we checked in we went and found second ( or was it third?) breakfast at a Wimpy. Seems to be a popular chain here – there is also one at the shopping centre on the other side of the road. Food is cheap – using our trusty Big Mac Index, a medium Big Mac Meal is around AUD $5.00. We had dinner last night at a Spur Steak Ranch, which is a US Wild West themed steakhouse. 2 mains and 2 huge beers cost $26.  We wandered around a couple of supermarkets to get a feel for what’s available. We need to buy food and camping gear before we head ‘out bush’. Loads of familiar shops in the shopping centres – Gloria Jeans, Jay Jays Jeans, Typo and like most shopping centres around the world, the majority of it is clothes. So many clothes.

Intersections with traffic lights are a popular place for people to try and make a bit of money – washing windscreens, selling flowers, begging, advertising. Car wash services are set up in shopping centre carparks, fluoro vest-wearing men watch over cars in sections of car parks for a small fee. Lots of mini-buses which seem to be a popular form of transport for people who don’t own cars, although the main form of transport for a lot of people seems to be walking.

Weather here is mild. Jo-burg is at 1600 metres, and so far we’ve had cool mornings and pleasant sunny days. The hills around the city are still green, whereas at home by this time of the year they have been brown for several months. Lots of similar garden flowers and shrubs to the ones we grow at home.

We visited a fresh food market which seems to be a chain, can’t remember its name. Great fruit and vegetables, plus meat, fish, prepared take-home meals and a few shelves of groceries.  I noticed 5kg bags of beetroot for $2.50 sitting beside bags of potatoes and sweet potatoes. The butcher section sold various cuts of ostrich.

I sat next to a South African woman from Capetown who had been to Whyalla to visit her daughter and family. As we were disembarking, she reminded me that we need to be a lot more careful here than at home. I don’t feel unsafe here, but I am more watchful and careful of my belongings … no leaving my bag on the floor beside my seat like I do at home without even thinking about it.

Okay, that’s enough rambling. Time to go and do some modern-day hunter-gathering.

The shower for very very small people
The shower for very very small people
The electrified fence that runs on top of the wall that surrounds the hotel
The electrified fence that runs on top of the wall that surrounds the hotel
Looking over the compound wall


South Africa power plugs

South African earthed 240v power plugs are a wonder to behold, they are huge. We brought adapters for South Africa, but when we travel we often go to a local hardware and buy a couple of local plugs and wire up a couple of items with the local plugs. It makes it easier if you have lots of appliances and only a couple of adapters.

So we bought two South African plugs (at Crazy Plastics near the hotel in Joberg) and wired them in, here is one wired in next to a standard Australian plug:



The Plan

After our very successful camping trip in the USA and Canada in mid-2014, we started thinking about where we might like to go next. We keep thinking about South America, but feel that we might be better off waiting until after Brazil has hosted the 2016 Olympics. Neither of us has visited any part of the African continent, so that seemed as good a reason as any to plan a 6-week camping trip there. Greg read a great article on DIY Africa by Seth Kugel, who writes for the New York Times as The Frugal Traveller which got the cogs turning and so our travel plans got underway.

We got inexpensive return tickets to Johannesburg using as many Air Miles as we could then we paid the balance – the Singapore Airlines office in Adelaide were very helpful in explaining how to do it because information on their website was a bit … thin.

So … we’re sitting at Adelaide Airport, having checked in 40kg of camping gear. We’ll hire a car at Jo’burg Airport, stay in a nice hotel overnight, buy more camping gear and food and head north to Gaborone, the capital of Botswana. Fans of the Alexander McCall Smith No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series of books will know exactly what I mean when I say that I’m going to be keeping an eye out for the Tiny White Van. If I find it, there will be photos, I promise.

What we’re really like to do is drive through Botswana to Zambia to see the Victoria Falls, but we’re not sure if the rental car company will let us do that, or whether we’ll have to switch to Plan B … or even Plan C. We’re also planning on spending time in Kruger National Park, and also want to travel  south through Sth Africa to Capetown and Durban. As always what we think we’ll do and what we end up doing may not be the same things … but come along for the ride and we’ll try and keep you up to date as we go along.

The Sturt Desert Pea in the banner photo is from my mum’s garden. I found the photo of the King Protea online, but we’ll keep an eye out for some to photograph.