Friday, 29 June 2012

Our Journey through Limpopo Province, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe June 2012. The Tuli Block, The Makgadikadi Pans and Gweta.

11th June 2012 -13th June 2012.
Mashatu gave us the option of a morning game drive, then Brunch with a check out at 11.00. But knowing that we had over 450 Miles to cover today we opted to have breakfast at 08.30 and check out at 09.00. Mashatu were fantastic and prepared just the two of us the full Brunch that would be served at 11.00.  Kaiser then drove us back to the Airstrip to collect our car and gave us full instructions to find our way to the town of Bobonong. 
Limpopo Valley Airfield

Air Botswana Office at LVA.
This first 39 Km was dirt and sand roads and we soon hit a ‘Veterinary Check Point’, I do not know the purpose of these stops but think it must be to do with preventing the spread of animal diseases. We had to get out of the car and walk on a cloth impregnated with chemicals, then drive the car through a dip of chemicals.

Once clean we were allowed to proceed driving towards the towns of Sefophe and Selebi Phinkwe. This was on a very good tar road, that looked new and I think it has been built to help with the building of a new Dikgatlhong Dam that is under construction on the Lower Shashe River. Just down-stream of the Shashe/ Tati confluence and approximately 55 kilometres north-east of Selebi Phikwe by the Botswana’s Department of Water Affairs. Even though the roads were good, it took us a long time to get from Mashatu to Serule. Once on the A1 we made good time to Francistown arriving at around 14.00. Unfortunately, the signposting for the road to Nata in Francistown is very poor! And we ended up heading to Bulawayo and loosing precious time! Once rectified and on the correct A3 it was 17.00 when we got to Nata. Now the dilemma do we carry on and risk driving at night, the sun was setting very fast, or stay in Nata? We decided to stay in Nata and choose the Northgate Lodge in Nata.
The check in at the Northgate Lodge was fast and efficient and we were shown to a double room. The room was large, and very clean with a comfortable King size bed, a full bathroom with bath, the room also had a TV, fridge and a small outside sitting area. I think the use of the term ‘Lodge’ is a bit misleading as it is more of a Motel / Truck stop place, but the grounds are pleasant with a swimming pool, bar area and a restaurant. The photos on their web site are an accurate reflection of the Motel.

We had a power cut soon after arriving but fortunately the kitchen is gas powered so still got to have the very good value 3 course meal from the menu. The owners were really nice and chatty, and gave us a map of the area with directions as to how to find birds and hippos in the river if we wanted. The main A3 road is next to the Motel and woke us up early, so we got off, going in the direction of Gweta.
Again the road from Nata to Gweta was tar, straight and virtually empty, and after a one hour’s drive we saw the giant Aardvark that denotes the Hotel called ‘Planet Baobab’ that is just outside Gweta. We went on a few more Km into Gweta village and booked into The Gweta Lodge. Our reason for stopping in this area was a desire to visit The Makgadikadi Pans. 

 Our reason for stopping in this area was a desire to visit The Makgadikadi Pans. As far as value for money goes Gweta Lodge should be your first choice. Accommodation is limited on The Pans and other camps such as Jacks Camp are very exclusive and very expensive, you can get the same experience at Gweta Lodge for a fraction of the cost.
Gweta lodge is located in the small village of Gweta and was a delightfull place. It has a variety of accommodation options from twin rooms located in round buildings to family rooms. We had a large room with twin beds and a bathroom. There were small outside sitting areas dotted around the grounds as well as a large bar and sitting area, swimming pool, boma, BBQ area, TV lounge and dining area. The room we had was very clean and had Mosquito nets over the beds. The lodge also offers many activities, such as Quad biking & horse riding to the Makgadikadi Pans, sleeping out on the pans. Despite the fact that it was early, we were given a family room, a delicious breakfast and a guide who would take us out onto the pans in our own vehicle.

The Makgadikgadi Salt Pans are all that remains of a prehistoric super lake, that were fed by great rivers from the North. The inland lake was said to be the biggest in Africa. When the lake last held water is uncertain, what is known is that the water levels fluctuated; this can be seen by the varying ancient shoreline at places like Kubu Island, now a rugged outcrop of granite with fossil beaches and shells on its ‘beach’. The Pans cover a large; over 12000km2 area, and are flat and almost featureless. I wanted to see the Pans, but to also visit Chapman’s Baobab. With our guide we drove on a sand road South of Gweta through Mopani bush that was dotted with small cattle Kraals. We drove out onto the vast white pans heading to Kubu Island, but turned back onto land to find the famous Baobab. 

Chapman’s Baobab, also called ‘The Seven Sisters’ was magnificent and it is said that it was used by explorers such as Livingstone to navigate their way across the pans. We were also told that the inside of the tree had been used as a post office. There are many names carved on the tree, but despite all the folk law attached to it I thought just the presence of such a large tree was just exceptional and I am glad we took a day out to relax and see The Pans.  
Chapman's Baobab, Gweta, Botswana.

We look like ants on the tree.
We had a comfortable and relaxing evening at Gweta Lodge and enjoyed a few drinks in the bar and a filling supper from a set menu.
The next day we were up early and left Gweta at 07.00 as we had to get to Kasane and the Chobe River for 12.30.

Room at Gweta Lodge.