The drive to Magotlho is of two ways, back the way you came and up the cutline to the north gate or around the delta. Traveling, I rely on others for road advice. I had asked a couple people who’d come east to west along the delta if it was doable for myself. They all said it’s muddy and not the best idea. So I retraced my tracks. Turns out they were off a wee bit but that’s fine. Eh, next time! Khwai has another large bridge crossing which usually has abundant water but it’s the dry season so more of a puddle really below the wooden bridge. Now the next crossing not so much. I ambled along to get to the camp meeting elephant and hippos in abundance and then the river Khwai. Impassible at most places and then one rather deep looking pass with no water marks or tire tracks or signs of anyone using it. Must be another way across. A little searching and a small crossing easily done, after checking it out thoroughly.
The campsite at Magotlho is unique. It’s a plot, so no ablution block no long-drop but it’s first come first serve sort of thing. You find a campsite and claim it. Which is great if you have a camper or a ground tent. You set up and go driving. If your tent happens to be on your car not so great as there is no trace you claimed said spot. I ended up choosing a rather large spot mainly because the elephants had claimed the other free spot. Yeah, the elephants rule the campsite. The large trees are their scratching posts and we are merely in their way. And they are habituated to vehicles and people and have no issues getting really really close even if you’re lets say sitting in a chair reading a book.
I quickly gathered wood before the sunset and inspected the area for prints. This is free range. Meaning we are the free-range meal for all the things with teeth to come and get. There are no fences we are in their domain and thus abide by their rules. Suddenly a large convoy of vehicles goes by, I point that there is a spot next to me but elephants have claimed it. They circle around as I had done and this time “light bulb”. I flag the lead car down and strike a deal. I have a large space you can split between the two plots or take this one I need very little room for my bakkie and tent. This way I have a reserved spot for the next 3 nights the same as them. After inspecting, plotting and scheming with the men we had a deal. What a great group, 7 caravans (families with kids mostly 6-13) and all love it out here. One rule was not to make fun of my fire starting skills which in the end were not needed. We’d be there all night if it were up to me. They had it covered. And within an hour a metropolis of canvas was erected. Spot lights and braais going. And people to converse with rather then talking with the elephants who at this point, I think, thought I had gone mad and started to move away. Had my first braaibroodjie – a staple being added to my repertoire for sure.
I’ll be honest apart from having a spot claimed I was very happy there were more people with me. Between the elephants coming back to camp through out the night shaking the trees, lions roaring all night very very close and a leopard sawing/chuffing through camp (or at least it sounded like it) plus hyenas, having more people was reassuring. The night life is literally on your doorstep. At least I’m up on the roof!
The lion-free status persisted and no leopard to be found despite quite the effort after all that sawing he did the night before. Awesome birding with more southern ground hornbills. Elephants, hippos, lechwe, baboons, vervets a plethora to keep me occupied and driving around aimlessly as I love doing.
Canada Day, another loud and noisy night. This time the hyena got into someones rubbish I think. And as I find later in the trip made away with my left sandal. Still not sure how, smart buggers. First thing was to check the boundary between Chobe and Khwai. Just missed a pride of lions, again. But only a few minutes later happen upon a plethora of vehicles both private and game drives and 4 lions. Two females sunning themselves and 2 males across the river. One quickly disappears with a bloody nose and the other slowly and somewhat carefully gets up and eventually limps on left. Sounds like all that roaring meant there was a turf war going on. Eventually, the ladies brave the water and cross the river to join the male. What a way to start the day. And then with a bang, literally, I have my first driver related Springbok injury. Reversing and diligently avoiding a tree stump. Didn’t see it’s twin and totally nailed it and took out the rear light. How the bulbs stayed intact is miraculous as the casing is shattered. Bugger! A couple cuss words later and I sent myself to a time out watching ellies play on the banks. Sheesh. Could have been worse I guess. Bush accident #1. Tree stump 1 – Me 0.
I run into some of my new friends and we do a quick loop down leopard alley which was devoid of any signs of leopards. But to reach me they had to cross the river. I happened to be next to the deep crossing I bypassed on my way to the camp initially. They assumed I went through and proceeded to do so. It was above the tires deep but they all made it. I quickly corrected them saying I went through the puddle. After the leopard-less alley I went back across my little puddle and they went through the deep crossing again. We reunited and after much ado Nico (thank you) hopped in the car and talked me through it, as we did the crossing together a couple time. Honestly, it was pretty sweet. Although I have the knowledge now, I’m still chicken little for now. That night the lions were outside camp calling like mad, thankfully across the river but right across the river. A few of us (4 adults, 3 teens) piled into one of the bakkies in the dark and managed to see two pair of eyes, hear the roaring and then 2 responses from the right and then gone. But a honey badger made a quick appearance too. Nice way to end the stay at Khwai. The next morning I head to Chobe. The group was going the same way just further up the road and across the border. And there is only one road so I joined the convoy, now 8 cars strong. Oh, and I think Theo had camera traps set up that night too. Hope he got some good hyena footage. Hope to see you all in Joburg, thanks for the drinks Vasti. Hope Caprivi is good to you, maybe I’ll see you in Kasane.