By John- a letter to his friends
We headed back to Maun after our Land Rover, a 2010 with only 23,000km on it, broke down. Fortunately it happened while we were just getting ready to leave camp to head to the next campsite +/-100km away. We had been at this site in Moremi Game Reserve deep in the Okavango Delta for two nights and I had not run the car since we’d driven in. Ten in the morning with camp all packed up the girls went to the bathroom while I started the Landy. It started fine and was idling for 10 minutes or so and then died. Upon restart it would idle for a few seconds and die again.
So, we spent two more days in the campsite trying to figure out what to do. We were really lucky that it happened there and not out on the road in the middle of the mud and water crossings. The campsite, Xakanaxa pronounced “cockanaka”, is 170 km from Maun mostly dirt track with 50 km of really crappy mud, sand and about 70 bog holes to cross with water a few feet deep in each.
We were able to get a lift to a game lodge and use their satellite phone to call the vehicle owner who sent a mechanic out to help us the following day. The mechanic could not fix the vehicle in the field, so he towed us all the way back to Maun behind his Toyota Land Cruiser pickup truck. I could not believe he could pull us through all the obstacles we’d crossed while coming in, but he did. Have some video of that but of course intermittent and slow internet won’t allow me to share that with you yet.
I spent yesterday morning at the Land Rover dealer here while the mechanics went through the steps of diagnosing the trouble. It turns out the engine has some big problems: no compression in all but one cylinder. Don’t know what went wrong, and hope I wasn’t the cause of it, but this Landy needs a new engine.
So, faced with getting a replacement vehicle and only four more days of planned camping left we decided to skip the vehicle and just stay at a lodge here for a few days and then fly up to Kasane, Northern Chobe Reserve, and Victoria falls. At any rate, we are safe and lucky that our adventure really wasn’t too much of a mis-adventure.
Kind of sad to see the Landy go, as we had some good fun with it although the camp set up was a real pain. Would have liked to have had my Alaskan Camper. One thing we learned about the camping here in the parks of Botswana is that to see the game you drive around in the morning and evenings. Our problem with the spaceship camper was that it was such a huge process to take it up and down to go driving around that we were stuck in camp once we’d set up. The other issues are that you really don’t want to venture to far from your vehicle with lions around, so day hikes are out and after dark it is highly recommended that you don’t sit around outside and you definitely don’t go out and use the toilet in the middle of the night.
So, camping is not about kicking back around the fire and knocking back a few bright ones. We’d climb into our camper about 8:00 pm and wait for the sun to rise so we could get outside again. My back was really starting to hurt from laying around so much. The other thing that is interesting to me is that most of the designated campsites which you must reserve and camp in (and there are not many,) are not located in a place where you have much of a view from camp. Interesting.
In Moremi, we saw Hippo, Impala, Giraffe, Elephant, various birds and of course my favorite, the Mozambique Spitting Cobra. No crocs though and only Hyena tracks in camp and the roar of far off lions. Oh, and about a km from where we are now staying a hippo attacked and chomped a Mokorro (traditional dugout they pole along) a few days ago resulting in two people drowning. We got to see some hippo charge us while in a bigger boat up in Xakanaxa and I can tell you I would not want to be in a Mokorro. As a matter of fact the boat we were in did not seem big enough, especially as the engine died and our driver was having difficulty getting it started again.