|The track to Kubu Island|
The Makgadikgadi Pans are situated roughly halfway between Maun and Nata and is a tempting diversion between the two towns...
|Makgadikgadi Pans 2005|
Friends dropped us off on the highway heading North near Pretoria. Our route to Botswana was flexible and purely depended on the lifts we were offered. Eventually an elderly couple, towing a caravan, picked us up... we were on our way North!
|Hitchhiking in 1994|
Arriving at the Grobersbrug / Martin's Drift border, we cleared immigration and walked across to the Botswana immigration and customs office. With barely a glance, our passports were stamped and we were officially in Botswana. Our backpacks felt lighter as our mood increased with the excitement.
|Google Streetview: Groblersbrug|
|Google Street View - The road to Nata|
Slowly the truck drivers faded back to their cabins and ended their days with loud prayers which seemed to echo between the walls of the truck trailers. Our plan was to sleep under the truck but once our driver realized that this was our plan, he nervously explained that scorpions and snakes would be attracted to us. Better to climb on top of the truck and sleep there. Climbing up, we were away from the venomous creatures that lurked in the night, but fear of rolling off a 4m truck kept us glued to our sleeping mats. Sleep did not come easy as the winter weather chilled our bones. Around 5am, the diesel truck engines started rumbling and black diesel fumes filled the air. It was time to get rolling again as the night driver curfew drew to an end...
Nata, a small town on the edge of the Makgadikgadi pans, was still 600km away - 10+ hours of driving.
We had reached our first destination: Nata Lodge. The campsite was frantic. Large 4x4s filled, with families, were scattered around the site. Our spirits soured as we imagined these 4x4s giving us a lift to our next destination: Maun.
Our view in the morning was a barren campsite. The South African 4x4s had all left as the school holidays were ending! Not one vehicle remained in the campsite. The campsite was silent and our plans of reaching Maun evaporated. Time to re-plan...
Unfortunately in November 2008, the Nata Lodge (as I knew it) burnt down and had to be totally rebuilt. Alan Calenborne posted a few photographs on the Overland.co.za forum:
|Photo by Alan Calenborne: Nata Lodge fire damage 2008|
Onto the pans...The Botswana Department of wildlife and National parks describe the pans as follows:
Makgadikgadi, the name of which implies a vast open lifeless land, is not without its folklore. There are stories of people setting out from Gweta to explore the land that lay between them and the Boteti River to seek a favourable environment in which to settle. They entered these great thirstlands at the driest time of year, drawn by what they perceived as large lakes of sparkling water on the horizon. Suffering badly from thirst, the lakes kept drawing them hurriedly on in their attempts to reach the life-giving water that always remained just ahead of them. Gradually, one by one, they fell and died. This is a sobering thought, but quite understandable when personally witnessing these mirages.My hitchhiking trip had wonderful memories but the lack of independent travel was frustrating. I vowed to return to Botswana, the pans and Maun with my own vehicle!
|1999: On route to Kubu Island|
The Makgadikgadi and Nxai pans are visually stunning. I have experience the pans bone dry and flooded with a foot of water as far as the horizon.
Lurking inches below the dry crust is a mud pan that loves catching the unsuspecting 4wd vehicle. Plenty of stories are archived on the internet detailing hours of digging to recover a stuck vehicle. It happened to me and took 24 hours to recover...
Recently it happened to Laws & Hookey, the team from "Where the fook are (laws&)hooke?". It took them 72 hours to recover!
|Photo by: Laws & Hookey - The Bogging|
Explore the pans but be sure to follow the tracks in front and don't be tempted to deviate. You could be there a long time!