Thursday, 27 December 2007

Moremi Game Reserve - The start

Sign for 3rd Bridge in Moremi
How the dream started…. Dru’s perspective

The love of experiencing and exploring the bush and wilds came to me as a child from my parents. The love for Africa and its wilds was first inspired by the national geographic magazine. The images of captured by the photographers of the magazine inspired another passion in me for photography. The dreams of capturing and experiencing the true African wilds remained a distant reality until an e-mail from Kosala in 2004 with the news of a vacancy in Botswana.

The dreams of the African wilds began to take names when I borrowed documentary from Uncle Johnny in Melbourne in 1992. Jewel of the Kalahari was in the mighty Okavango River spilling and disappearing in to the Kalahari Desert in the form of the Okavango Delta (the swamps). The swamps became Number 1 on my wish list followed by the Ngorongoro crater, Masai Mara, Serengeti and Kruger.

On arrival in Gabs it soon became apparent that to self drive and camp in the jewel of the Kalahari takes a mighty effort and involves serious complications and risks. The roads are maintained by nature and the camp sites are open and unprotected and offer little safety except for the basic toilet facilities which are not reliable at best. Judging by others’ experience, advice and warnings heading in to wild territory unprepared and unaware and most of all in one vehicle is fraught with serious danger.

The search for the roof tent began with Eric who heard I was looking for one at the bar if the cricket club in Gabs. Although his tent was free (thank you Eric) it was old and heavy and putting it up in the back yard in daylight was a mission let alone in the dark in the middle of the wilds.  Arthur who lived out of Mokolodi had one for sale but it was uninteresting and unconvincing. If not for Cheryl’s words of advice that I should not buy the first thing I saw I would have bought it. Actually told Arthur I would take it but called later to say I changed my mind – sorry Arthur. Settled for Eezi-awn in Pretoria on Rob’s advice – “it’s a roof tent, don’t mess about - go to the experts”.

Series 3 canvas blend tent on an Eezi-awn roof rack next stop was Peter at 4x4 mega world at Broadhusrt in Gabs. 6 jerry cans, 2 gas bottles, axe, spade, high lift jack along with 2 sand mats, a 4 man ground tent and 2 bags of dry firewood (which would prove important with the wet bush firewood) all on the roof but there was no way to get up there!! The shape of the 1998 3.5 V6 Pajero back door makes fitting a ladder safely to the roof an awfully difficult task. Stole the idea of the lizard ladder from a 4x4 shop in Pretoria (at ZAR 800 it was simply too expensive) and sought the skills of Indi’s metlo who turned out a home made contraption for BWP 175.

The mechanical soundness of the Pajero which was my car in Oz and shipped to Bots as I knew the car was vital to the success of this mission and the advice, experience and knowledge of Aruna after years of dealing with bush vehicles in Maun was to be a vital link in the chain that tied together the dreams of a wild African adventure and experiencing the jewel of the Kalahari in its raw form. The checks started from September with taking apart the alternator and servicing the radiator. (Many thanks to Soodh for getting me the belts all the way from Melbourne!). Aruna’s advice of spraying ‘spark’ on all electrical connections and coils was to be a key factor in us negotiating the seriously high levels of water in the swamps.
Bookings were made in September and the parks board offices’ insistence on moving between 2 different camp sites at 3rd bridge proved to be strange upon arrival at 3rd bridge, where we only found spaces under beautiful old trees on the edge of the river with no indication of numbers for camp sites.

To carry all our stuff, ammo boxes it was going to be. The ‘Spares’ box had all belts, 2 snatch straps, tyre repair kits, hoses tubes and clamps, fuses and bulbs, sprays and oils and other things recommended by Aruna. ‘Odds and Ends’ had emergency food, gas lamp, spot light, torch and chargeable tube light lantern. Others making in to this box included spare torch batteries, variety of tapes, collection of rope, insect repellent, rain coats and garbage bags. ‘First aid and Tools’ had just that along with fishing line and hooks, spare jets, mantles and rubber seals for the gas appliances, hammer, small axe, air pump, funnel and cable ties. The ‘Kitchen’, the one we used the most, had a pot, kettle, fry pan, gas cook top, tongs, crockery and cutlery, oil & washing liquid.

With 3 eski’s (borrowed from Rob, Indi and our own) 2x20 litre water cans, 5 litres of still water and engine oil, 2 chairs, stretcher, table, picnic basket, box of dry rations, 1 spare car battery, 2nd spare wheel, braai grid, 2 x cases of beer, 1.5 cases of ladies drinks, Jack and lime, after dinner liqueurs, 2 x Canon EOS 350 D camera’s, 2 x binoculars, Sasol birds of Southern Africa, a book on mammals of Southern Africa, the “air guitar” and a book for Cheryl to record our trip, we headed for the Moremi Game Reserve…

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