Distance: 253km (Cumulative: 4 120km)
Moving time: 14:18
Average speed: 18km/h
Road surface: 90% Gravel/Sand, 10% Tar
Mbudi Camp - R400 p.p
Amazing surroundings, no facilities at site, but within reach of hot water showers
We manage to leave Sedia at around 09:00 and made a quick stop at the Shell to buy a bread.
From there we headed north to Mababe. As we’ve come accustomed to the gravel road was horrible with potholes in the hard gravel and sudden patches of deep sand and corrugation. Instead of just hearing talk about fixing the road we saw hundreds of heaps of sand that have been trucked in (we also saw trucks actively driving more sand in) so presumably the road should get better soon.
About 3km before Mababe we saw a herd of about 50 elephants. We waited a while watching one group split of and cross the water on the left. There were some little ones who had to almost walk completely underwater with just their trunks sticking out.
In front of us there were a small water crossing with elephants directly to the right of it. We realised if we wanted to wait for all the elephants to pass we might have to wait all day. We thus proceeded slowly and drove in the track in the middle of the road. We entered the shallow water and then suddenly after two meters the water got deeper, and the wheels started spinning. We were stuck, and water started rushing in through the door. The wheels were basically completely under water. The elephants were still right next to us. The ones that were directly next to the road moved a bit back but only 30 to 50m.
So there we were stuck waist deep in stinky muddy water. We keep most of our things on the floor like laptop bags and our documents and passports under the seat. We first put all those things on the seats, but our passports were already wet.
The Hilux was luckily still idling. We then got out through the windows keeping a watchful eye on the elephants. We first tried the sand tracks on the rear wheels and then the front wheels, but the Hilux just kept spinning. To get things under the wheel we had to basically go into the water until just our heads stick out, so needless to say we were all completely soaked. We then tried to lift the Hilux with the airjack to get things in under the wheels. Finding the exhaust under the water was quite a challenge but Jaco found it and somehow the airjack could still be inflated with the underwater exhaust. We tried different positions on the sides and at the back but working with air underwater is quite difficult and the airjack would just pop out when it got too full of air. The body would start to lift, but before the wheels could lift the jack would dangerously turn on its side or something so the we would stop inflating it. The differential was against the mud and even the rock sliders were only 20cm above the mud.
Usually we’re very careful with water crossings, but so many things contributed to the fact that not even for a split second did we think that the water could be any deeper than a few centimeters. It is the main road to Mababe with lots of traffic on it; There are clear tracks going into the water. There were lots of elephants, so we didn’t even think to get out and walk through the water, etcetera. None of this is real excuses and we were just plainly irresponsible in that moment.
After struggling for almost an hour with no hope of getting free a big water truck arrived, coming to pump water. Hugo and Jaco went to talk to them. They weren’t very sympathetic and initially didn’t seem like they had any intention of helping us. Apparently, there is a clear detour about 1.5km back that goes around the water. Even if we made it through the first water there would have been an even bigger crossing.
We convinced them to try and pull us out. We combined our 7.5m rope with a 2m chain they had. The driver of the truck drove with the front to the water with the wheels almost going into the water. Since it was a rear wheel drive truck the back wheels were still on firm ground. We put the sand tracks at the back and on the count of three the truck pulled and Hugo reversed, miraculously we got pulled out without too much hassle. I guess pulling a 3 ton car with a 30 ton truck is child’s play.
On firm ground we opened the doors and water came rushing out. We stood there for almost another hour or more trying to sort out the mess and assess the damage. The GPS and Jacos phone somehow stayed in the footwell under water, so we put it in rice for now.
We gave the two guys with the truck some recovery money, but they said they were actually just hungry so we prepared them some sandwiches for lunch as well.
We kept the Hilux idling the whole time and could drive off without a problem after packing everything back in.
While we were still at the water another vehicle with locals came and the truck guys told them to go back to the detour, so the detour we missed can’t be that obvious. Jaco also found a number plate in the mud, so someone else also got stuck or lost a number plate while going through. And then while driving back a Land Rover with foreigners passed us. We waved to them to stop, but they just drove past. Two days later we came by again and saw two vehicles, one with a Venter trailer on the other side of the first river crossing. They too didn’t know anything about the detour, but since there were no elephants they walked the second crossing and saw that it was too deep and then turned around. They could cross the first crossing on the shallow side where the elephants hand been standing when we were there.
Since the GPS was in a rice bag we switched to Hugo’s phone that has Open Street Maps on it. On Open Street Maps the whole area around the main road was covered with blue lines indicating seasonal flooding and around it there was indeed a sandy two spoor track. In Mababe the Land Rover passed us from behind. So presumably they got to the water and realised we were trying to tell them something and then turned around.
We got to Mbudi Campsite in the Khwai at around 15:00 and then packed out everything again. Even everything in the back even though no water got in there. The campsite is unfenced and next to the water where we immediately heard hippos and saw baboons.
We decided we still wanted to do an evening game drive so we had to pack most things back in again only leaving the table and chairs and some loose things in Jaco’s ground tent that we put up.
Back on the transit road we turned right and then after 6.5km right again towards the Khwai River. We saw lots of elephants again, rooibokke, giraffe and Zebra. At the water a safari driver told us about a leopard sighting and lions that caught a giraffe. The lion killing was however on the cutline some distance away. We drove along the river and then saw the spot where 4 other safari vehicles were standing. There we saw the leopard lying on a rocky outcrop. One of the Land Cruisers had three photographers with massive lenses ‘mounted’ on the railing everytime the leopard would as much as twitch they would rapidly fire 10 shots. The leopard in fact didn’t do anything not even yawn so we left as another safari vehicle approached.
We continued along the Khwai River to the Magotho campsites and then turnedeft back to the transit road as it was starting to get dark. Back at Mdubi we first drove to the ablution block where there are hot solar showers. By the time we got to out campsite (camp 1) it was pitch black.
We setup the roof top tent and Caro made smash with bully beef and tomato relish. We also cracked a St Louis quart to celebrate surviving the day.
After thought: Not that I was doubting it, but today I really knew I married the right woman. When the water started rushing in through the doors Caro immediately sprang into action saving the things off the floor. She never once blamed me for driving into the water. She was then also the first one to get out the window and started to take out the recovery equipment.
The next day we took a left on the transit road and crossed the river over a proper bridge. We checked out the Khwai village and then drove all along the Khwai river to the East. We saw what felt like 100s of elephant and Hippos all along the river. Jaco also added many more bird species to his list of Botswana sightings.
Around lunch we got to where the side river goes into the Khwai. It looked like people did cross the river, but we weren’t feeling up to it so we turned around. We tried to find the main track going through the Khwai, but everywhere there were just more water. Eventually we saw the road sign in the middle of a large wetland, clearly no-one was going on this road this season.
We turned West again keeping on the main track, but then we hit more water. It was already 15:00 so we stopped for lunch close to the water crossing. A safari Land Cruiser then came driving through the water with a trailer. We thus decided to also go through. We made it without a problem, but the water almost came through the doors again as it was coming over the rock sliders. Unfortunately, no-one thought of recording our crossing.
We made it back to the transit road and then drove all the way east to the cutline between Chobe and Khwai. We were on the lookout for lots of vehicle tracks to try and find the Giraffe Carcass from the lion killing. Close to the river we saw lots of tracks going into the Chobe next to a no-entry sign. We thus went in like all the other tracks, about 200m in we saw the giraffe carcass lying in shallow water. There were no predators around anymore, not even vultures. It smelled like it has been lying there for weeks, so we weren’t sure if it really was the carcass from the previous day’s lion kill. It also seemed unlikely that lions would get their paws wet, but then again something could have pulled it to the water and what are the odds of two Giraffe carcasses in the same region?
We quickly moved on as the smell was horrid. We drove along the Khwai again this time heading West until we got to the opposite side of the water crossing where we turned around earlier today.
We got back to Mbudi a bit earlier today and walked to the ablution block for a hot shower. Jaco the made braaipap on the fire which we ate with sweetcorn and baked beans.
While sitting around the fire a Hyena came jogging past within the circle of light around the fire. Luckily it just stopped and looked once and then disappeared again.
Late at night after getting into the tent Caro saw a Hippo outside the water 15m from the Hilux.