Finally we recovered fully from our stomach bug, and got ready to leave Maun for the bush again. We did manage to catch the Portugal - Denmark match on our final night, what a great (if very lucky) result that was!
First we headed to the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, which is a really nice smallish park. We saw tons of zebra and wildebeast, but also a few elephants, hippos and a lot of carrion birds of all sorts. We also drove through the park to Nxai Pans to see Baines Baobabs, which is soliary group of baobab trees in the middle of the pans. These trees are very impressive in general.
Next stop was Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the largest protected area in all of Africa. This turned out to be a couple of very eventful days. When we arrived at the gate after a rough ride in, there was nobody there. There was however, a strange note on the counter left by a family at 04.00 in the morning two days earlier. It basically said "we've left very early, being chased by fire". This was a bit strange, and as we were having our lunch outside the office a very tired looking lady appeared. The message was that the park was on fire, and they estimated that 80-90% of the grasslands were burned. Nonetheless we were still allowed to go in, but were told to stay away from certain campsites.
So we drove in, and after about 20 km's we saw the first signs of the fire. The ground in great parts of the park are tragically totally scorched, but big areas are also untouched. There was very little game around, and aside from quite a few different antelopes we didn't see much on the first day. During the night we did hear lion roars, which did bother Pernille a little due to the lack of fences around the camp sites.
The next day we drove a very long drive around the park, to see more burned areas but also a lot of untouched. On the way we saw a honey badger and a few other minor things. When we finally found a waterhole there was a lioness sleeping next to it, which was a great sight. We therefore decided to find a camp site near the waterhole so we could go back just before sunset, but that wasn't to be.....
After having lunch a bit off the main track, we packed up, got in the car, turned the key... and nothing! The starter didn't turn over at all. This was a slightly worrying situation, as the park is very remote and we'd only seen 4 cars in 24 hours, and all of them on the main tracks. Luckily we still had a lot of water and food, so we were not really in any danger, but still up a certain creek without the required instrument regarding the car.
We decided to try pushing it towards the main track, so we could get someone to tow us if they came by. After fighting very hard to even move our 2 tons+ vehicle in the loose sand, we finally got a bit of momentum on the car, and decided to try push starting it. Pernille jumped in, Christian and I pushed the hardest we ever had, and just imagine the joy when she released the clutch and the car skidded forward! This is probably one of the happiest moments of our trip so far.
After this experience, we decided to head for the gate, so we could get the starter fixed. But as we were leaving the park we suddenly came across 4 lions sleeping in the middle of the road, one big male and three females. This is certainly our best lion sigthing so far! But as we couldn't stop the engine because of the starter problems, and the lions did not seem to want to move. We had to make a slightly pulse raising dash off the sandy road, through the bushes and around the lions. This really wasn't a place you'd want to push your car!
By some strange coincident one of the guys at the gate was actually a mecanic, and he told us that this is quite normal, and that it is "just" due to a lot of dust. He then told us to get a wrench out. Not to loosen or tighten anything, but simply to bang the starter with when it didn't work. This will then make it turn over... I suppose these little tricks are obvious to the bush mecanics, but certainly not to us. Luckily the starter hasn't given us any further problems, but if it does all we need is apparently to have it cleaned, and that is it.
That night our adventures continues, as we set up our very first bush camp about an hour out of the park. Being completely alone really is a great experience, but in Africa you are rarely totally alone due to all the animals. Just as we we're having our dinner we heard a rustling in the bushes, and as we turned about 20 cows were staring at us. Pernille seemed very happy to be out of the lion infested park and just come across cows at this point in time.
The next day we went through the Makgadikgadi salt pans, which is an amazing sight. In some areas it is completely white as far as you can see. We stopped at the Planet Baobab camp, which is a very nice place. We enjoyed the first shower in more than 2 days (and the first hot one in 4 or 5), swam in the pool - and had quite a few drinks in the very nice bar!
The following day we went to Zambia, where we are currently in Livingstone by the Victoria Falls. Crossing in to Zambia is a bit of a hassle, mainly due to "opportunists" trying to cheat you whereever you turn. We managed without paying any of them though, but it really is a test for the less patient of us! On the small ferry across we saw a green mamba (or a green snake the locals said was a mamba, who knows).
From here on we want to go white water rafting, canoeing on the Zambezi and to the Lower Zambezi National Park before my parents arrive for a ten day visit!
We hope you are all doing well, and keep the comments comming!