As we are here in Botswana we wanted to have a look at the Okavango Delta. After considering different options we decided to drive out to the eastern part of the delta and the Moremi Game Reserve, that is a part of the national park system in Botswana. Since it is a national park you need a permit, and in all the national parks in Botswana a day permit costs the same: 120 Botswana Pula per person and 50 Pula for the vehicle, so total cost for us for one day is 290 Pula, about 36 USD. We also wanted to camp in the park at Third Bridge campsite, and we made a reservation for a campsite that cost 476 Pula, 60 USD, per night for the two of us. Quite expensive, in other words.
From Maun where we bought the permits it is about two hours drive to get to the South Gate of the park. We wanted to make the most out of our time in the park and drove up towards the park and bush camped a few km from the gate. Compared to Addo and Etosha National Park that we had visited earlier, the Moremi is not fenced off. Coming closer to the gate we saw more and more animals like springboks and giraffes. A two-track took off from the main road and that was where we found a place to bush camp. We cooked dinner as the sun was setting and we were ready to pop the rooftop tent when we heard a loud lion’s roar. We thought we could also hear them between the roars, so they could not be too far away. This was our first “encounter” with a lion while camping (we didn’t see it though..) and I did not feel too confident about sleeping in a tent with big cats around. I convinced Espen that we could sleep inside our car, meaning in the driver and passengers seats. We had talked about the option before on the trip, that if we ever got to a place we did not feel safe we could sleep inside, but so far we had never done it. To pass some time from sunset to sunrise we had a movie night. We place the computer in between the two front seats and hook it up to the car stereo for the proper sound. It was not our most comfortable night’s sleep on the trip, but on the bright side we were at the entrance gate at 06.15. A sign said the park opened at 06.00, but after using the toilets and waiting around without seeing any rangers we entered the park at 06.35 without anyone checking our permits.
Not far from the gate we saw the first animals and a large group of elephants. After watching them for a while we continued on to the first water hole and ate our breakfast. The drive continued along more waterholes and then we saw a male and a female lion laying in front of us on a small road that took off from ours.
They did not really care about us so we stopped the car and watched them for t least an hour. They moved a bit away from the road and lay down behind some trees.
Are you able to see them? You can still see both of them in this photo. If it was not for seeing them on the road for a while we would have driven right past them and not seen any lions in Moremi at all.
At lunch we stopped at the Third Bridge campsite and as we were eating, elephants were eating their lunch around us.
Third Bridge campsite is an open campsite, no fences around it, and the animals could move freely into camp if they wanted to. The rangers told us to not leave any food or things that smelled of food outside as there were problems with baboons and hyenas coming by looking for food. After lunch we took a drive out on the Mboma loop and as far out on this loop and about as far into the delta you can get in Moremi, we lost our four wheel drive. We came around a curve with quite a lot of sand and since we did not have that much speed we dug in. We removed some sand in front of the tires, and as we tried to drive on we realized that the four wheel drive would not engage. But we were able to get out of the sand. Now it was 45 min to sunset and out in the bush with animals with perfect camouflage it was not the time and place to try to figure out what was wrong. So we just had to keep some speed in the sandy sections and around the curves, and count on the 37s to get us through. Around one curve we saw one elephant coming towards us and he did not seem too happy to see us on his road. We ended up backing as he was just continuing to approach us, and as we moved further away from him he finally walked off the road and into the bush. Some minutes after sunset we were back at Third Bridge campsite and that was not one minute to early as we had to set up camp and get some dinner.
Elephants eat between 140-270 kilos of food a day and the average sleep time is about two plus hours. So while we were in our tent sleeping we could hear the elephants eating outside our tent.
In the morning we saw that they had been 1 ½ meter from our front bumper that night. Beside their footsteps in the sand that looks like someone walking around in giant moonboots (the kind that was in fashion some years ago) they had also left some other evidence, poop. Driving past elephant poop on the road I always wondered the weight of one elephant poop and now was the right opportunity to lift one. I estimated that one weighted about 5 kg.
After servicing the front axle (changed all seals and bearings) on the Patrol about a month ago at Nissan in Knysna, South Africa, because the left side of the axle had been leaking, the right side of the axle had now started leaking oil. Leaving the garage the mechanic that did the service told Espen that it might leak a little bit of oil after changing the seals, so the first week or two we did not really think about it when a few drops of oil came out. But then it started to leak more. A lot more. We wrote Nissan an email before leaving for Moremi to ask them about it. We thought it was kind of suspicious that the four wheel drive did not engage. Since we were far into Moremi Espen did not feel like opening the hub to see if he could figure out what was wrong with our four wheel drive in case something was broken and he could not put it together again. A trailer to tow us out would have cost 8000 Pula, 1000 USD, we later learned from someone that had to be towed out. Espen topped up the diff with oil, using the chef’s suggestion, a well known trick from the kitchen. We filled oil into a Ziploc bag and cut of one corner of the bag. Espen squeezed 7 dl of oil into the diff.
After consulting the rangers regarding the conditions on the roads we took another road out than the one we came in. One of the rangers would also drive out the same road a couple of hours after us and that is always good to know. With Espen in the driver’s seat we counted on our big tires would help us out through the sand in two wheel drive.
The plan had been to continue from Moremi north to Chobe, but not with only two wheel drive. After getting through the sand in Moremi we headed south back to Maun. Back in the campground and with the town with garages within reach, Espen had a look at the hubs and saw that the right one was full of oil from the leaking axel and the other one had no grease in it at all. But the problem was that the mechanic after servicing the Patrol had used too much of the gasket sealant when he put the hubs back in place. Pieces of this was getting into the hub and when we tried to connect the four wheel drive this pieces got in between and it could not lock. With our four wheel drive now fixed and working we wanted to give Chobe and northern Botswana another go. New seals for the axel was ordered from Norway (we have friends coming to visit in a few days’ time) as it is difficult (read: time consuming) to gets parts for the Patrol here in Southern Africa. And we also hope that Nissan in South Africa will take a look and hopefully fix what they didn’t get right in the first place….