After our first night actually in the bush, we awoke refreshed, had a good breakfast, broke up camp and managed to get it all into the Prado.
The route of the day would take us through the Moremi Game Reserve, towards Magotho Camp, our next overnight stop. A route that was to prove both scenic and eventful. Great to see wildlife very nearby, not too disturbed at all by us or the very infrequent other vehicles on the road.
We entered the reserve via the South (Maqwee) Gate, where we registered and paid our fees. The sign at the entrance warns travellers to stay on the road, but even that does not guarantee problem-free driving…
There were many photographic opportunities and too many pictures to share them all here. Note that I have in this blog used pictures taken by all of us, with different equipment, including Samsung and Apple phones and my own little SONY DSC-HX99 camera. I would challenge you to see which pictures were taken with what camera. Just goes to show that the secret of a nice picture lies largely in composition (and maybe a bit of cropping and straightening afterwards) and not so much in the equipment. I accept that something more stable with a longer lens would have been useful for longer-distance pictures, for instance of birds. But I do prefer the portability of my small Sony.
It was just great to drive through this reserve, beautiful views in every direction, sometimes with animals, sometimes just the magnificent African bush. We stopped off at the Third Bridge Campsite to stretch our legs and to use the toilet facilities. Departure was slightly delayed as a couple of elephants were occupying the road we had to use. They were in no hurry and so we also had to be a little patient before we continued on our way eastwards.
We did have some adventures on the road, too! One of our drivers (who shall remain nameless and blameless) learnt from experience that it is important, in deep sand, not to drive with the wheels all the way in the ruts, or the vehicle will come to rest on the elevated centre of the track. And this in spite of all the excellent advice from the back seats: “Keep the engine revving!”, “Keep the speed up!”, “Keep on the edges of the ruts!”, and so on. However, once the vehicle is resting on its belly, 4×4 drive doesn’t really help a lot. It just means that all 4 wheels spin while the car stays where it is.
Now I have driven vehicles in various conditions in quite a few countries, have certainly also got stuck before. But when you need to get out of your vehicle in the middle of an African game reserve like Moremi, then you do so very carefully… So we scanned the surrounding bush for any sign of hungry lions licking their lips and listened for the telltale crashing sounds of elephants browsing on trees. Fortunately, nothing.
We then did all the usual stuff: branches and mats under the wheels, shovelling sand from under the car, and so on. But the Prado was settled in nicely and the wheels were just spinning and sending sand everywhere. Also, all the time while I was lying on the ground with a shovel, I did have this strange feeling between my shoulder blades and was quite prepared to jump back into the vehicle pronto. Nothing untoward happened, however, and we were pulled out of the deep sand by some friendly rangers from local camp, who just happened to pass by with their Toyota pickup truck. Very fortunate for us, since this was not exactly a busy highway!
The Northern Gate to Moremi is also called the Khwai Gate, and to reach it you have to drive over the Khwai River bridge. Unlike its namesake in Southeast Asia, it wasn’t built out of bamboo by prisoners of war, but it’s a rather rustic log construction that might worry first-time travellers. We had however already used a few bridges like this in recent days, even though this was a rather long one.
After exiting from Moremi, we thought that we had almost reached the location for our overnight stop. That, however, is the topic for the next episode…