Have any of you ever had one of those friends who just spurs you on to go wherever and think it will be loads of fun, without you actually thinking that you could die doing these things? Well I have one of those friends… actually thought he was a bit of a weirdo the first year that I worked with him… then my car broke down – well - I actually spun it off the road whilst trying to go to a cave at 9pm – but that’s another story. Anyway – so I spent the next 3 months catching a lift to work with him in his folk’s monstrous truck which took over most of the lanes, and now he’s one of my best mates and ended up being MC at my wedding. Oh… his name is Will by the way.
Anyway, he phoned me up one weekend … or was it a week day… can’t remember – but the point of the matter was that he was working in Botswana and I was supposed to be there the next week – so he suggested that I come on over earlier as he had the company twin cab and we could go for a spin and check out the Makgadikgadi desert. No problem I said – (by the way – he is also the one who convinced me to do white water rafting with him – which actually was fun – but I do have the video footage showing that the waves were bigger than the boat at one stage and I actually disappeared - from view that is – whilst standing up in the boat – BUT – I’m still kicking which is good) – so where was I – oh yes – so armed with his watch compass – in those days we didn’t own a gps or sat nav (we are talking a good 13 years ago) - just his little watch compass, which I might add was not very accurate – no extra water, fuel, ropes, toilet paper or any of the basics one would expect the host to organize. I leapt in the vehicle, with Simba (another of our work mates who thinks we are all mad) and off we headed – with his little tourist guide book.
A tour guide book… well in all honesty it turned out to be fairly accurate to say the least instructed us to head so many miles west towards Orapa (which is the diamond mine there) – turn north before you drive into the diamond mine and are shot, and keep going until you see a house with brown paintwork – then turn right. Anyway – so one hundred and forty so kilometers later, low and behold, there was a house in the bush with a brown pelmet – so right we turned. And much to our surprise we successfully arrived at a place called ‘Kubu Island’ which strangely enough has ruins there with the same patterns as those used in the stone works at Great Zim – about 800 km west of that – but I am digressing. So having reached our first destination we had to do what adventurers would do. With a bandana tied around his head and no shirt, we follow our fearless leader and climbed the Baobab tree there – but only after climbing the granite outcrops and taking a few photos. I must add that Simba and I climbed the tree – can’t remember Will doing that. And for those who have never seen a Baobab tree, it basically looks like God planted the tree upside down with its roots in the air – so really cool to climb – but really difficult to get down. Anyway – these ones were strong, considering they took Simba’s weight (I’m a lot lighter than both of them) and mine – we then decided that pink flamingos would be interesting to see and that would mean heading to the town of Sao Pan – which as per our map and Will’s compass, was north east. So as in Africa – if the road doesn’t look like it exists or it’s not really going the direction you want – then bush bash.
Or in our case – just head somewhere in ‘that’ direction and you’ll get there, considering there was a freeway cutting right across Bots in the middle and you’re surely going to come across it sometime if you get a bit lost.
Not so – and why was this – well, with me now driving (we had had enough of Will’s by then) we tore a path slightly off what could be made out as a road somewhere NE. So, three minutes into the new direction and with mud starting to fly off our wheels, God smiled on us and I managed to do a U turn and head back to Kubu Island – so if any of you are ever writing a guide book in the future on Bots– DON’T DRIVE SLIGHTLY OFF THE MAKE SHIFT ROADS, would definitely be a good thing to add when talking about the salt pans.
So to cut a story short – we headed north – then somehow ended up going south – then north again – encountered dirt roads you wouldn’t even expect to encounter in a Zambian suburb (tarmac doesn’t really exist in the suburbs where we live), cracked the windscreen with my head (Will’s driving again) and finally came out of the bush in a small town called ‘Gweta’ near 6pm – with the gas tank needle resting on E.
With my friends refusing to drive on faith and an empty tank, they found the diesel attendant in the nearest bar and we headed back to Francis Town.
So what advice can I give when deciding to go on an adventure where you could sink your vehicle – get lost or die of thirst – here are a few pointers.
1) If you can go with more than one vehicle that’s a big plus – always nice to know there is someone to pull you out of a sticky situation.
2) Take extra fuel, water, toilet paper and a GPS would be nice
3) Don’t always think that a smooth flat surface is solid all the way – try and stick to the routes used before – even if you can’t really make them out.
4) And the big one – take some sun cream. I have the photos of when we were out there in the scorching heat and Will was trying to catch a sun tan, but don’t know how burnt Will actually got during our escapades – though he did have a large white strip across his forehead for a few days.
Thanks for the memories Will – I’m sure Ang is quite pleased I looked after you there.