Getting closer to actual wildlife

The road from Pandamatenga towards Nata is not very exciting, but we did spot an elephant sanctuary along the way. The timing coincided with need for our mid-morning coffee, so we dropped in to Elephant Sands. It’s obviously set up for people who overnight or stay a couple of days in the huts and safari tents, but we were welcome enough to have a coffee and a cooldrink and to watch the elephants from nearby.

Elephants quite nearby, but since there’s a few rows of little concrete pyramids (not visible in this image) between them and us, the biggest risk I faced was the sun on my bald head.

The coffee was great and we did get to see the elephants from close up. Clearly a wild herd, the youngsters were messing about in the muddy water until their matriarch came trotting up, scolded them and off they all went. However, the setting, surrounded by the chalets and safari tents was a little too zoo-like. After a welcome visit to the very tidy restrooms, we headed off towards Nata.

Not very sensitive in the labelling, but very clean inside

We were pretty keen to get there, to get closer to the pans in that area, and our driver may have missed a speed limit sign. This resulted in a chat with a very friendly (yet firm) couple of speed cops and their camera. Since W and I were merely innocent bystanders (or perhaps victims?) we elected to stay in the vehicle while the ladies worked their charms on the male officer. A explained that she had been driving less than 70kph, but given that the speed limit was 60, that was like an admission of guilt. Pleading poverty would not have worked, given the vehicle we were driving, so Marina decided to rather blame the age of the driver, who she claimed was 80. This resulted in some bemused comments from the male officer (not to mention a stunned look on A’s face) though the young female officer didn’t bat an eyelid. Anyway, the discussion resulted in a reduction of the spot fine, based on a promise to never do it again. After payment, and getting the receipt, the male officer told the ladies to “enjoy the pain”. He might be doing a thankless job, but did have a sense of humour.

Friendly roadside discussions and negotiations

It would probably not surprise anyone, but Nata is not a metropolis. It’s basically a roadside shop and filling station. We supported both and headed off towards Sua Pan, to see the flamingoes there. It’s essentially an large, shallow, salty lakebed, also known as a playa in other parts of the world. Birds visible in the far distance, but to get any closer, you need to walk across many metres of sticky, semi-dry mud with an overpowering smell of brine and bird shit. Even then, binoculars come in handy.

Approaching Sua Pan. Those white dots on the water are the flamingoes and other birds. You will have to imagine the temperature and the smell yourself.
The coffee was good, as was the leftover boerewors from last night’s braai.

We did see a few animals, some distant wildebeest and some zebras dragging themselves towards the faraway water. I hope they like it salty. We used the opportunity to have some refreshments ourselves.

We passed through Nata again (it looks even smaller when you pass through from the other direction), and turned west towards Gweta, our final destination for the day.

We’d reserved at Gweta lodge, but it was somehow full for campers (other than in their uninspiring parking lot) so they sent us to the nearby Chaixara Backpackers, where we were warmly welcomed and where we could get a magic camping spot between the baobab trees, ready for another braai and another magic night under the African sky.

No caption required, I think.
African sunset
First steps in preparing for our evening meal

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