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The road back home…

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And so everything comes to an end. I apologise for the discrepancy in time between this blog and the previous blog about Drotsky’s Cabins (the latter which I wrote about with great enjoyment and love while still on vacation). We are now back home and I promise to answer all the blog comments and questions within this coming week. The tour has ended and now belongs to the past. I know I am not the only one who is still reliving the holiday in my mind.

I will be visiting all these places in my mind’s eye for the following weeks, bewildered that they are in the past. My soul and body are rebelling against the pressures to come in the corporate world. My subconscious is pulling me back to the times when I felt safe and peaceful in the African wilderness – with my undivided attention for my wife and kids. The bursts of laughter around the campfire, the freedom to chat, to mock and to tease and sometimes even engage in serious debates – everything we did together reinforced the love we have between us.

With regret in my heart I look back on a time in my life – not even that long ago (Journey for the senses, Caravan and Outdoor Life, February 2012) – when I lived my life without joining hands with my family.

Preconceived ideas and a hectic business world was the wall that had to be broken down in order for me to once again see the world around me. I shared our experience with everyone on this blog. From the dedicated readers of Caravan and Outdoor Life, to the campers and the rough ‘bos manne’ with their off-road trailers and tents in the Kunene River sand who delightfully clambered over the Van Zyl’s Pass. I have the utmost respect for you guys who open Africa up for us.

The blog was also for those who might not be able to afford a holiday this year or whose leave allocation was kaput. I hope our adventures were dream inspiring. The past August / September we invited you along on our personal journey – you might not know me and you might not agree with the way in which I choose to see Africa, but I will make no apologies for my methods. With every passing kilometre I became a better person. And, even though the right way of camping is dependant on the person, I still don’t think we should stare at the things that divide us, because what unites us is infinitely greater.

The ‘Oom’ at Kalizo Lodge (Sprite Scout caravan, whose roof is tied down with ropes) told me that ‘volgende jaar gaan ek vir hom (his caravan) ook groter tyres opsit, hy loop net te laag’. We camped together at Kalizo and the ‘Oom’ was there to catch tiger fish and we were there to take photographs, to write and to play alongside our children. In the evenings both of our campsites were lit up with fires, smelling of braaivleis, and we were enjoying God’s beautiful creation. We left Drotsky’s Cabins early in the morning. Elana was once again our navigator over the sand road and, without a scrape, we left the campsite with sorrow in our hearts. It is my sincerest hope that the new owners of Drotsky’s will preserve the atmosphere that attracts so many South Africans to it each year. Jan and Ileen, enjoy your stunning new home in the Seychelles!

The tar road (A35) until the T-junction to Maun (A3) is pothole mania that has to be approached with caution. I am convinced that some of the potholes are so deep that the local children can play hide and seek in them! Be warned.

The wind was brutal – shaking the car and caravan back and forth and influencing the fuel consumption alarmingly. The conversation in the car was quiet that day; even Kyla and Dirko’s self-invented games that had the tendency to annoy me all the way were dead still. And then the question of the holiday came: ‘Mommy, why do they treat the animals in such a cruel manner? Didn’t God put us on earth to take care of his creations?’

Kyla was referring to an incident the previous day. Two young boys were hitting the donkeys in front of their cart with such force that the blood was dripping down their legs – in full view of my daughter. I don’t believe she will ever forget the cruelty and heartlessness she saw that day. Elana tried to console her, but it was as if the magnificent animal life, birdlife and natural scenery we had experienced until that day had been lost inside her. She suddenly grew up. She no longer looked past the neglect, the poverty, the despair and the ‘pets’ who share the living space of the communities next to the road. The realisation of Africa’s pain and hurt was visible in her face. Africa’s role in the tourist’s mind is to entertain with huge elephant herds, rhinos, lions and the wildlife.

The feeling we got when entering one of the many lodges we visited is that the American, German or Chinese tourist (and perhaps also us as South Africans) only see what they want to see. Through nature conservation and many celebrities giving a helping hand, the nature reserves receive priority and are protected… but the local communities who live around these reserves should never be forgotten.

We planned to use Maun as our base from which to visit Moremi Reserve. Island Safari Lodge was the campsite we chose while still in Pretoria, but we quickly decided to move our stay to Audi Camp. It was at least an improvement on the first lodge, even though the dusty lodge was portrayed with greater sophistication on the internet. However, the facilities were reasonably clean and the staff was friendly and helpful. Excited, we woke up early the next morning, put the kids half-asleep in the car and got started on the 78 km trip to the southern gate of Moremi. The tar road doesn’t last long after Maun and the sand road to the gate took longer than anticipated. The day permit to the park is R524. I reduced the tyre pressure on the Merc to 1,5 bar – any less and it would run on the rims! Our planned route was completely unrealistic. We underestimated the size and extent of this gorgeous reserve. It was obvious that the vast Moremi Nature Reserve could not be thoroughly explored without staying inside its borders.

The small piece we were able to discover in the South of the park was exceptionally beautiful – I would love to spend some time there, but possibly with different camping gear (that would require a complete mindset change for me!).

And then we decided to head back home. Our bodies were tired after traveling for a month. The next day we hooked-up the Fendt and stuck the Merc’s nose in the direction of Woodlands near Francistown. This stopover has twice been our preferred rest place and it has never disappointed us. Woodlands is perhaps one of the most famous overnight stops on the route to or from South Africa. It has beautiful lawns and facilities and the staff is friendly and considerate. It will always be a part of any of my road trips into Africa.

After a quick visit to ‘Die Oog’ we reached home. It was a huge relief to be safe and we were so grateful for this exceptional adventure.

It was truly an amazing journey.

 

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