Friday, 21st September   DAY 2

Friday, 21st September   DAY 2

We leave Dave’s home in the dark at 5.30am and head westward to Lephalale (Ellisras). The cold front that we left behind in KZN has followed us and it is cloudy and cool. Through the attractive mountains of the Waterberg, we pass Vaalwater before reaching the town of Lephalale. Here we draw some cash and then press on for the Botswanan border.

Dudley spent a number of years working in Botswana so knows all the shortcuts. We therefore give the impossibly busy Groblersdal/Martins Drift crossing a miss and rather chose the smaller and quieter Stockpoort/Parr’s Halt. What a pleasure. The buildings including the toilets are spotlessly clean and the officials are friendly and polite. The customs office on the Botswanan side has been burgled last night and they are in no position to even fill in forms let alone charge us the required entry fee. So, this was an inspired choice by Dudley.

The downside is that there is gravel for the next 40Kms but the road is smooth and quick and in no time we are at Mahalapye where we refuel and have breakfast. Dudley has a 120lt reserve tank fitted which will take us in and out of Zimbabwe without having to refuel.

Now begins the long haul to Francistown. When we last travelled through Botswana we experienced problems at police roadblocks but we hope for better this time.

No such luck. Approaching Francistown a policeman waves us down and approaches the vehicle spitting venom and spoiling for a fight. He demands that the back window be opened and triumphantly finds that I (sitting on the back seat) have not got my seatbelt on. Gleefully he demands 300 Pula. But he has not reckoned with Dudley’s supremely agile tongue. In no time Dudley has convinced our worthy that it is not right to harass “old men” and me in particular who is “unable to walk any more”. Miraculously this thoroughly unpleasant man turns from truculence to a smiling friend and after handshakes with Dudley waves us on our way – without a fine. Really Dudley, you have certainly got some extraordinary talents.

We strike out westward from Francistown towards Nata. The road is fast beginning to break up which is to be expected given the high volume of juggernaut lorries heading to and from Zambia along this route. At Nata we refuel and then head due north for 40 odd Km before turning off left to Elephant Sands which is only 1Km from the main road. This place is made up of a few chalets, tents and campsites with no perimeter fence. There are little or no trees and the sandy complex surrounds a waterhole.

In no time we have our tents erected just as the sun begins to set. There is no electricity or internet here so my blog must wait. After our excursions we decide that, rather than shower, we would have a swim in the small swimming pool.

But before we can leave, a large ellie bull strolls past our camp and then walks through everyone down to the waterhole. Really this is so true of the informality of Botswana.

From the swimming pool we view the ellie and then enjoy some beers wafted by the pungent ellie smell drifting across to us. Our euphoria is a little spoilt by the sight of an Indian Myna strutting along the shoreline. Oh dear, how can one ever think of leaving Africa.

In the soft golden light of the setting sun, the view is spectacularly beautiful as a gentle warm breeze touches us. Fortified with St Louis beer, the world is certainly a happy place.

Arriving back after a delicious buffet supper on the stoep, we are just in time to watch an enormous bull ellie glide by in the moonlight within meters of us. He pauses to sniff Chris’s little tent before melting off into the bush. Ten minutes later and Chris would have had some anxious moments. A Pearl-spotted Owl serenades us to sleep.