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Our first African adventure
from 26-09-1996 until 14-10-1996

At last it is time. After a few months of preparation the day has arrived that we (Paul and Ellen) are ready for our first great adventure. The sixteen day’s ahead of us will be the first, and afterwards not the last, exciting experience. After reading some books, travel-documentation and looking some television-documentaries about East-Africa it is time to go. We have booked at JAMBO SAFARICLUB. The brochure tells us that it will be an ultimate experience with adventure around every corner, and sometimes being so remote that the nearest town could be some three hundred kilometres away. We have to take it as they write, since this is our first camping-safari in Africa. The one thing we know is that we travel with an international group of twelve people. About the route and the preparing (vaccinations, visa, financial matters…) we did gather enough information.

When we check-in for our flight to Johannesburg it appears that you can prepare everything you want. But when 17 people overbook the plain you are dependent of someone else. “You are number fourteen and fifteen on the reserve-list” they tell us. Is this our journey? Will we be on time for the start of the tour? Fortunately there are enough volunteers to travel via Kenya to Johannesburg

After an eleven hours flight we arrive at the airport from Johannesburg by sunrise. Someone from DRIFTERS, our tour-operator, is picking us up at the airport. After a forty-five minutes drive through Johannesburg we arrive at the DRIFTERS-INN. Here we meet our fellow travellers, spend the night and they tell us that the tour will be take clockwise and vice-versa. This because the great number of participants. This afternoon we spend some time in a shopping centre. They do not recommend a visit to the centre of Johannesburg because there is too much crime. In the evening we go out for a diner at a local restaurant with another Dutch couple. The food is very good and for our standards very cheep. Afterwards we soon go to bed because next morning we have an early start.


28/9 Johannesburg - Nata (Botswana)
This morning we get up at a quarter past five for an early leave to Nata in Botswana.
The first hours we see plenty of slums. We realise that we are in another world. It is a monotone landscape. We pass a few trucks that are crowded with people. Just as you can see on television. At the first stop the realisation at being in Africa is even bigger. Of course I use the stop for a walk to the toilet (we know that during the tour we do not have much luxury). Once in the toilet it seems if I made a step backwards in time and I went in the wrong toilet. Eyes are piercing my back. Just the only urinal that is free shows me what the previous user was eating (carrots). When we leave the main road the landscape is chancing. The first mountains. It is before Vaalwater that we see the first baboons, a donkey that is crossing the road thoughtless and in a very slow tempo, two dead donkeys (one of them is not more than a skeleton) and a goat that is run over by a car. We reach the border of South Africa and Botswana. After the border formalities at the South African side the truck does not start. So we walk to the Botswana border. It does not take much time to repair the truck and for we know it we are on the road again. We have to reach Nata before sunset. So we drive without taking any stops. At sunset we reach Francistown. Still we have a big distance to drive. First we stop to refuel the tank. There are a few minutes to buy some drinks and snacks. When we want to go out off the truck the door does not work. So one of us climbs out the window to try to force the door with a screwdriver. It works. Just when we want to leave for the remaining kilometres somebody sees oil on the ground. The truck is leaking oil. With five tins of oil that problem is also solved (for the time being). We have to push the truck to get started. Reaching Nata before dark seems impossible. After this first day the Africa feeling is already there. At about 19.30 hours we reach Nata. We camp at a campsite named Nata-lodge. Here we meet Haiko. He is our guide for the next fourteen days. Quickly we unload the truck. Then it is time for a good buffet. Here we meet a group on there way back. From the stories they tell us we have much to look out for. After a few drinks it is time to sleep. We sleep in an open tent witch we share with other people and mosquitoes. Because of the mosquitoes and the snoring we do not sleep much.

Victoria Falls

29/9 Nata - Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe)
At about 05.00 hours most of us are awake. Everybody is sitting and staring around waiting for the moment that Haiko tells us what the plan is for today. After a nice shower and a good breakfast Haiko explains what the next two weeks are bringing us. The breakfast is large, compared by our standards (scrambled eggs, mushrooms, bacon, white beans and of course bread).
After the breakfast each couple gets their own tent which is theirs for the whole tour.
Today we drive to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. The expectations are high. I can remember that during the lessons at school when we did talk about Africa I always was daydreaming. Especially when the more then hundred meters deep and seventeen hundred meters wide discovery of Livingstone was the subject. On the way to Zimbabwe we have our first encounter with an Elephant (just along the road). Haiko is telling us “do not worry, this will not be your last one”. After crossing the border with its formalities like filling out some forms and getting your stamps in your passport it is about a three hours drive. Then we will see the “smoke that thunders” or as the locals the Vic. Falls call “Mosi Oa Tunja”.  But for we arrive we see kudu’s, more elephants and our first giraffe.
At 16.30 hours we arrive in Vic. Falls. On a campsite in the centre of  Vic. Falls we put up our tents. At a distance you can hear the Falls and you can see the smoke. We can not wait any longer. We want to see one of the most spectacular natural wonders of the world. Half an hour the moment is there. Late in the afternoon is a perfect time to shoot some picture and make a video. The Zambezi that flows to the brink of a basalt lip before it takes a plunge into the frothy chasm of the gorge below is overwhelming. We can not get enough from the spectacular views and with some of our group we visit most of the viewing points.
Even at the end of the dry season, when the water is less, this sheet of falling water fascinates us all.
On the way back to our campsite we encounter two buffalo’s along the road. When we arrive at our tent Haiko already has prepared a delicious diner.
This day we enjoyed very much and we feel lucky.

30/9 Victoria Falls
This night we sleep well so we get used at our tents. In the early morning we are surprised by an invasion of baboons. The baboons are destructive in serge of food. It is almost frightening. The way to the showers is taken with coition. Today we walk to the Zambia side of the Vic. Falls together with Holger, Thomas, Martina and Elizabeth. Halfway Martin joins us. Martin is a teacher from Australia. He is hiking for about seven month’s trough Africa. He is our guide for today. After we cross the bridge over the Zambezi we arrive at the Zambezi border. So you need you passport and ten US-dollars to see Vic. Falls from the Zambia side. The Zambezi river is at its lowest this time of the year so the channels are dried up and we can walk from the tracks across the bed of the Zambezi as far as Livingstone Island. Looking down from the lip of the Falls gives you a great view with rainbows. With these temperatures the walk (three hours) was hard but worth sweating. On our way back we buy some curios. Getting the price down is a must. However we did not push it to the limit. We decide to take a taxi to the border. From there we drive with a local in the back of his little truck. We were in a hurry because Ellen, Martina and Elisabeth made a reservation for a flight over the Falls, the “Flight of Angels”. At this time of the day (right before sunset) the flight is perfect to take pictures. Meanwhile Thomas and I do some groceries. During a stop at a toilet my pocketknife becomes handy. The lock appears to be broken so I have to screw my way out.
We end the day with a diner in a local restaurant.

1/10 Victoria Falls - Kasane (Botswana)
Today we leave at 10.00 a.m. for a short distance to Kasana in Botswana. Before we leave we already prepared a three days stay in the bush by doing some shopping. After one day Kasane we will camp in the wild. At the Victoria Hotel we try to fax to Holland without luck. Early in the afternoon we arrive nearby Kasane. At the bank of the Zambezi River we put up our tents. A few kilometres after we cross the border we have to leave the truck. We must disinfect the truck and our shoes by walking over a cloth. Meanwhile the truck has to drive through a trench. This to prevent diseases coming over de border into Botswana. Haiko tells us that the next five days will be hard. That’s why we rest in the afternoon on the banks of the Zambezi River. It is a hot day and we use every spot of shade. Of course we do make a short walk along the River. Here we see the first hippos and crocodiles. Afterwards we realise that sometimes we were in a dangerous situation. We did walk between the high grass en the River. These are moments where most of the hippo-attacks do happen.
For our last shopping we leave late in the afternoon for Kasana. Most of the things we buy are drinks (water, beer and lemonades). First we have to change traveller checks and US-dollars at a local bank. It costs us 1,5 hours. But we were lucky, only five peoples were in front of us. The Africa feeling is back again.
After we had our diner we talk about our experiences of this day. All of this under a heaven full of stars. It is impossible to count them.

Chobe NP

2/10 Kasane - Chobe National Park
This morning we leave for an early boat trip on the Zambezi River and its branches. It is a trip from about 2,5 hours. During this trip we see lots of wild under which are elephants, hippos, crocodiles, buffalo’s, fish eagles, monkeys, iguana, different sort of antelopes and so on. After lunch we leave with three hours delay to Chobe National Park. During the delay, caused because our local guide for the next days is disappeared, we use the swimming pool of a hotel/campsite for a fresh start of the next three days. Alas we do not have swimsuits with us at the moment. We should be in the bush! So we have a minimum of duds with us. All of this is not keeping us from taking a dive in the pool and throw each other into the water. A great moment to get close to each other.
During the first hours in Chobe NP we see lots of wild. We see a great number of Elephant, waterbuck, kudu, giraffe, buffalo’s, impala, gnu, red lechwe and a few zebra’s. The climax is a group of sixteen lions just finished eating a buffalo. The vultures sit around in the trees. All of this happens towards sunset so we have to hurry to arrive at the bush-camp before it is getting dark. We have little time left to put up our tents and to set-up an improvised kitchen in the dusk. This will be our first diner we consume in the bush. The enjoyable moment of seeing the lions and vultures should have last much longer, but time was against us. Though we can not complain about an encounter with lions at a distance of ten meters. On the contrary we were very lucky. So after we left the lions we arrived at the place where we will spend the night. We are surprised to see about 25 elephant’s walk along the place where we will put up our tents. Our first night in the bush is very sociable (is it the thrill?). After we hear a Lion calling for contact with his group everybody gets nervous.
A toilet in the bush is nothing more then a hole of twenty-five centimetres in the ground. It is normal to search for a place where you can do your needs without disturbing. But after the roaring Lion the distance is limited until five meters behind the tent. Even there is horrible darkness. The first one who needs the spade and toilet paper is so nervous that she drops everything beside the hole (at that moment we hear a little giggle).
In short, the first night in the bush was good for the right mood.

3/10 Chobe East - Chobe West
After a restless night we leave in the early morning for a long game-drive to Chobe West. We do not see a lot of wild. Then you realise that you can not take it for granted that you see wild (it is not a zoo). Over against that we see several landscapes. One moment you are at an extensive plain or acacia scenery and the other moment you find your self in the middle of a marshland.
After a trip in full heat and loose sand we arrive about 12.30 hours at our next bush-camp. After a three hours rest we go for another game-drive. This time we see more wild among plenty of birds (hamerkop, saddlebilled stork, bee-eater, lilacbreasted roller, different species of hornbills and many more), giraffes, elephants, jackal and many antelopes (kudu, reedbuck, bushbuck, impala, steenbok waterbuck, tsessebe, gnu, etc…). Back at the bush-camp we exchange our experiences during a diner that is excellent prepared.
While everybody is busy with writing down his or her experiences a hyena is walking round our campsite. The smell has made the hyena curious. We never thought we would stay calm under these circumstances. The hyena does approach at less then ten meters. Because of the hyenas we have to clear away al our stuff before we go to sleep. A hyena devours everything what is on his way. It will not be the first time a cistern or shoes disappear this way.


4/10 Chobe West - Savuti/Moremi North
Just like yesterday we get up at 05.00 hours. This day we have long hard road to Moremi Wildlife Reserve to cover. On the way there is not much wild to see. But just before we arrive at the place where we will spend the night we see four lions. The lions idle in a spot of shade. When we arrive at the place where we will sleep we quickly put up our tents. From out de campsite we have a beautiful view over a small river witch attracts lots of wild. Often elephants come near our campsite to quench there first. At about 16.00 hours we leave the campsite for a game-drive. Again lions are on the menu. Also we see lots of wild that in the meanwhile we know by name. This sounds as if we do not pay any attention to these animals anymore, but that is not true. We enjoy every encounter with wild. We know we do not have any references but we feel very lucky to see all of this fantastic Africa.
During our diner we hear the sounds of lions, hyenas and elephants. The elephants some times are at a distance of less then fifteen meters from our camp. We thought we did put our tent at an excellent spot. Afterwards it seems not to be the case. Whole the night the elephants are restless. Imaginary I see elephants rub their bot at the tree witch we choose to put our tents under. Also regularly there are hyenas in our camp to perceive. All of these are enough ingredients for a night that I feel uneasy. Ellen does not hear or see anything and is sleeping like never before.


5/10 Moremi North - Moremi South
Like the past days today it is an early rise (05.00 a.m.). I am lucky. Because I hardly did sleep I do not have to wake up. After a substantial breakfast we get ready for the next game-drive. Bye the day putting up and breaking down the campsite goes quicker. So it dos not take more then half an hour that we are on the road. For the first time we see three cheetahs. A cheetah is the fastest mammal, with a top speed of about hundred and ten kilometres per hour. The cheetahs are on the top of a little hill tracking the plain. The cheetah is the only of the great cats witch claws are not retractable. During the game-drive we see different landscapes and lots of wild (particularly zebra’s).
After a nap in the early afternoon (witch is necessary in this heat) we go for another game-drive. Beside the regular seen wild for the first time we see sable antelopes. These antelopes can weight two hundred kilograms and are in Botswana seldom seen because they are very shy. So the encounter with a group of fifteen of these beautiful antelopes is rare. The group of sable antelopes is guided by a big male with horns that are very imposing and witch he can defend himself and the group with. A little later we are lucky again when we spot a group of lions. The male Lion is about twelve years old and is impressive to see. He is getting more impressive when he is walking towards the truck and he passes about one meter in front of the truck.
It is striking that in this area are a great number of dead trees. A little lake is full of these dead trees. This lugubrious scene is caused by a flood that appears once in a (two) hundred years. Also we see the side-striped jackal again. Totally unexpected we are spectator of a bat-eared fox. This seldom seen thirty centimetres insect eater can reach an age of ten years and his ears are the main organs of sense. Because of its ears I compare the bat-eared fox with a bat with legs and without wings.
As the day draws to a close we return to our campsite for our diner. Next day will be a day that we buy our provisions for the days to come in Okavango Delta.

6/10 Moremi South - Maun
Again it is about 05.00 a.m. that after a good night’s sleep we break down our campsite. We are just on the way or a cheetah that seems to be stalking is crossing our path. Instead of the cheetahs yesterday this one is close by the car. For a minute the cheetah spots a waterbuck at the side of e little marsh. After the cheetah realises that the waterbuck is not approachable she goes for a drink and a tumble on the ground. During the rest of the trip that counts 165 kilometres we see a leopard just vanish into the bush. This is a rare sitting because Haiko did see a leopard twelve times in the past four months. The rest of the trip drives us over long sandy roads. As the whole tour happens it is enjoyable to hear Haiko curse towards Ryan (our co-guide) when he is fucking the gearbox of the truck. After the first days we now join Haiko by saying, “don’t fuck my gearbox”.
The last thirty kilometres we drive over a main road. So we can evolve a high speed. With all the cattle that are walking beside the road we can not overcome a run over with a goat.
The moment we arrive in Maun we put up our tent quickly so we can take a fresh dip in the pool. After spending three days in the bush with no opportunity to wash our self this is a moment that is very welcome. After an excellent diner prepared by Thomas we play volleyball. Afterwards this intermezzo we take some nice cold beers. For the first time during this tour a few of us (including me) have problems with their intestine these night. Ellen does not have any problems and did have a good night. Because there is some luxury now I feel lucky (under the circumstances) to have the intestine problems now and not at the moment we were in the bush or on the road.

Okavango Delta

7/10 Maun - Okavango Delta
Today we can have one’s sleep out (06.30 am). This morning we prepare a three days stay in Okavango Delta. Part of this preparation is shopping for food and drinks. In view of the fact that a hollow trunk of a tree (mokoro) does not give much space it is difficult to value how much you can take with you.
At 11.00 a.m. we leave direction Okavango Delta. Mine intestine is ok again. I hope it will stay this way. Because I do not see y self with my bot over the side o the mokoro. After we have load the mokoro at about 14.00 p.m. we go our way into the Delta. The man who is pushing our mokoro is Oxon.
The Okavango Delta is formed where the great River Okavango (which rises inn Angola) flows into the desert and does not flow out again. The river sub-divides into thousands of narrow channels or lagoons between small islands until eventually all the water evaporates or is absorbed into the soil.
On the way we float along an Elephant that is standing exactly at the place where we would like to go out of the boats. Oxon is clapping his hands to let the Elephant move backwards so we can take a rest. There is little time to swim. Of course the name Bilharzia passes by but Haiko convinces us that in running water like this there is no risk to get infected. After a restful second part of the trip we arrive at 16.00 p.m. at the place where we will put up our tents for our first night in the Delta. The first signs of sunburn by some of us are already there.
Normally we would camp further into the Delta this first day. But when de day draws to a close dusk is not far away and hippos and crocodiles are getting active. That is why the local guides do not want to go further. Tomorrow we will go to Chief’s Island.

8/10 Okavango Delta
Today it is Ellen her birthday. During the breakfast everyone congratulates her. There is not much time to celebrate. We have to get ready for a foot-safari of about four hours. During the foot-safari we see an Elephant, a kudu, a giraffe and footmarks of a Lion and a leopard. Because some of our group produce too much noise we can not complain but a bit disappointed we are. After two and half-hours walking we rest at a dead body of a buffalo. In spite of that, the moment of rest is very pleasant. Especially for Ellen because after thirty minutes already she has blisters on her feet.
At roughly 13.00 p.m. we break down our campsite and we load the mokoro again to leave for Chief’s Island. After about two hours of floating we are at our destination. We put up our tents and we go for a fresh dip into the water. At about 20.00 p.m. there is a banquet that Haiko and Ryan did make to honour Ellen’s birthday (pumpkin soup, sausages, cutlets with a delicious salad and as a finisher we have a good punch. It is a birthday she will never forget.

9/10 Okavango Delta
It appears to be true that this night a Lion has been heart nearby the campsite. Though we did not hear the Lion. Today we have the whole day to rest or sleep. Only for the evening there is a trip trough the cannel’s of the Okavango Delta on the program. We spend the day with reading some books, swimming and explore the area. Esteemed the sound of past night we do not walk to far from the campsite. You never know and after all we are in the bush. Late in the afternoon we make the trip with the mokoro as planed. Beside the birds we also encounter hippos. After a fantastic sunset we go back direction campsite. Yet everybody is ready for some excitement.

10/10 Okavango Delta - Maun
This morning we sleep until 06.00 a.m. It promises to be a hot day. Today we have to cover the distance to our truck in one day. Except of the birds there is not much wild to see. You can not have luck al the time. It is hot and we become very drowsy. At noon we eat our lunch sitting in the water. Hundreds of little fishes are swimming around us to fight or every crumb of bread. After we have loaded the truck we depart direction Maun.
Just like a few days ago in Maun we take a nice shower and we go for a swim in the pool. This evening we eat in a local restaurant. For the first time during the tour the food does not taste well. Even the dog has no appetite in this food.

Makgadikgadi Salt Pans

11/10 Maun - Makgadikgadi Pans
This morning there is not much to do. The biggest part of the morning we use for doing our groceries. Afterwards we break down our tents and leave for Makgadikgadi Pans. Reason that we are not in too much hurry is that it is too hot to arrive at the Makgadikgadi Pans before the day draws to a close. Just when we arrive we have bad luck with the truck.
On the Makgadikgadi Pans you may not put down your tents so we have to sleep under the stars that are there with millions.
It is difficult to describe the atmosphere that enfolds this vast expanse of nothingness or to describe the subtle hues at sunset that changes the landscape into a wonderland of surrealistic beauty. The Makgadikgadi Pans consist of two main pans, namely Ntwetwe and Sua Pan, both of which are surrounded by a myriad of smaller pans. One can only visit the pans if they are completely dry, that normally is from May to September. So we are in luck.
Elizabeth and Thomas prepare the diner. The spatzler and crepes are taste very well.
It is a beautiful sunset and afterwards de heaven is indeed full of stars and you can see the Milky Way (galaxy) very clear. In spite of sleeping under this magnificent heaven of stars we catch sleep quickly.

12/10 Makgadikgadi Pans - Nata
We hardly are awake and we see an enormous spider nearby our sleeping backs. We feel lucky that we did not see the spider just before we went to sleep. I know for sure that otherwise we would not sleep for a second. After we have load the truck and pushed it to get started we leave. Martina and Ellen are too late to help because they still feel not comfortable with the spider nearby.
After a long drive we arrive at Nata-lodge. I do not feel very well (fever and heavy headache). I am glad that there is a possibility to rent a lodge. Here I spend the rest of the day. The others go at about 16.00 p.m. to a nearby park. Here is one of the smaller Pans. In contrast with the other this one is not dry. Here it can be full with flamingos. However this period of the year there is not one flamingo to see. When the group is back at Nata-lodge I still lay in bed with fever and I am very sweaty. Haiko comes to have a look. He recommends a regularly check of the temperature. The thought of malaria crosses our minds. Gladly the temperature goes down at the end of the evening so I can join the group a view minutes at our last evening in Botswana.

13/10 Nata Lodge - Johannesburg
At 05.15 a.m. Haiko is coming to wake us. We spend the night in the lodge. The whole tour we did not sleep under a mosquito net. This night we did and guess, we have dozens of mosquito-bites. Just after breakfast we leave for our returning back to Johannesburg. After a while a flat tire surprises us. The chauffeur that is driving us to Johannesburg is panicking, while Haiko is in his element (there is some work to do). Luckily there is not too much damage.
At the Botswana/South African border we have to say farewell to Haiko. Form Ryan we already did say farewell at Nata-lodge. Haiko is getting back to Victoria Falls. The rest of the way we have to do it with this driver in witch we have little trust. This last trip is the most dangerous one from the whole tour. We feel sleepy but we don not dare to take a nape. After some palpitation of the heart we arrive at 18.00 p.m. (and without accidents) in Johannesburg. After we unload the truck we take a nice bath and together with Elizabeth, Martina, Betina and Rainer we go for a diner in a nearby restaurant.

14/10 Johannesburg - Amsterdam
At 05.15 we wake up to make a start with our preparations for our return journey. This morning before the breakfast we decide the try to fly back today (the rest of our group is also flying back today). The feeling is strange of staying behind without the others. Luckily there is enough place in the plane so tomorrow we are back in Holland. The last hours we have in Johannesburg we spend in a shopping centre nearby. At 16.15 p.m. we leave from DRIFTERS-INN to the airport. Here Holger and Thomas are hearing that their plane will leave the next morning. So now is the time to say goodbye. Together with Elizabeth and Martina we fly to Amsterdam. After a good flight the plane is arriving in Amsterdam at 05.25 a.m. and together we take a last cup of coffee. Saying goodbye is difficult so it is a fast goodbye. In about three months we see each other again in other circumstances. We will meet them in Gerlos (Austria) when we have our ski holiday.

The end
Our first experiences with Africa are unforgettable. The need to see more is crossing our minds. We could not know that one year later we would do the Johannesburg to Nairobi tour.

                                                       copyright: Paul Janssen