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Travel: Chobe Safari

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‘A safari in the traditional style… an unhurried journey.’ This is how Jannie Rykaart described the trip he had planned for us.

Words & pictures by Richard van Ryneveld

I met Jannie of Protea 4×4 Adventures last year when I joined him on an adventure to Namibia to tackle Van Zyl’s Pass. It was a helluva lekker trip, but fast and furious – 1200km across the breadth of Botswana in one day, the whole trip some 5200km in total.

But this time, our journey would be unhurried, leisurely, laid back’ ‘We have learnt over the years to balance our trips with little touches of luxury added to the true experience of camping with the grunt of hippos close to your camp,’ said Jannie.

‘Campers want time to relax with a drink watching an elephant outlined by a a sunset… over Chobe, for example’. In fact, Botswana was exactly where we were heading.

There were only six people going on the trip: myself, organizers Jannie and his wife Ansu, clients Jandré and his wife Henriette van Ellewee (who we would meet us at the Wildeby Biltong Deli just outside Modimolle), and Gerrie van der Westhuizen of Fiat Midrand.

Gerrie had arranged brand new Fiat 2.4 Fullback 4×4 double cabs, with which we towed a Conqueror Comfort trailer.

Sharing a car and a camper with a stranger can be a lotto. But I struck the jackpot with Gerrie, alternatively known as Jerry-Lee Lewis, or just Jerry. Funny, full of life, with a really big heart: a good oke. I enjoyed his company immensely.

‘Do you like music?’ asked Gerrie the second we pulled out on our journey, plugging his flash drive into the Fiat Fullback’s USB slot.

He had one of the best music collections I’ve heard in years. And it wasn’t long before the two of us started up a game of Noot vir Noot with the other vehciles, via walkie talkies. These two-way radios are a big plus on a Protea 4×4 Adventure. The Kenwoods in each car push up the safety, especially on the roads in Botswana where cattle, sheep and donkeys reign supreme.

We had to keep our eyes peeled for kudu, warthogs and impala as we meandered the 450 kilometres up to the Martin’ Drift Border Control Post, on what Rudyard Kipling described as ‘the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever trees…’ We were in Botswana.

Kwa Nokeng Lodge

I loved the campsite Jannie had chosen for our first night. The Kwa Nokeng Lodge overlooks the famous old Limpopo River. It was an easy day, so we were still full of energy as Gerrie and I set up our Conqueror for the cool evening ahead. I hadn’t forgotten the procedure from my trip up to Van Zyl’s Pass. The tough-as-teak Conquerors are easy to set up; it literally takes five minutes.

Gerrie, being a true gentleman, suggested, ‘Oom beter bo slaap.’

‘Not so much of the Oom stuff,’ I said, but tossed my bedding up into the huge loft apartment with the king size double bed before he could change his mind.

Youngsters like Gerrie had to be tough and sleep in the tent area below! On that first night, I got some idea of why Jannie’s ‘rustige’ tours are so popular: A delicious buffet supper awaited us on the wooden deck overlooking the river.

After the supper under a full moon, we sat around the large glowing central fireplace in the in the thatched lapa area. We were starting to get to know our fellow travelers on the adventure.

The next morning, breakfast was also served on the wooden deck under that same huge jackalberry tree. I was certainly enjoying the unhurried pace and the luxury.

Jannie is a really organised fellow… I’m not. He had provided a full itinerary of the whole trip, but I decided to let each day unfold without looking at it. This led me to experience one of the best trips I have done in years. No mad rushing around, packing up for hours and hours of driving.

We had time for a leisurely breakfast with plenty of banter doing the rounds. We left around 09h00 and filled up with fuel at the Kwa-Nokeng service station, from where it was a leisurely drive of some 550 kilometers up to our next camp, north of the small town of Nata. Our route was up the A1, before entering the town of Palaype.

From Palapye we headed past a lot of small settlements, through Topisi and Serule, before crossing over the Shashe River into Francistown.

After crossing the Tati River in Francistown we turned left on the A3 on our way to our next camp, Elephant Sands, some 50 kilometres from Nata.

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