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Botswana by Land Rover

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October 2000, Roy F. Halvorsen: This trip was an easy one to prepare for we did not have to ship our Series III across the Atlantic or do any of the paperwork with owning a car in a foreign land. We had an outfitter in England called Safari Drive to do all the dirty work of setting up guides, making reservation at camps and taking care of air arrangements.

We arrived at Joburg as Johannesburg is known and took the next flight out to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Our guide Patrick Preston and his wife Heather from Maun Botswana met us and bedded us down in comfort at the Sprayview Hotel. You cannot accomplish a trip like this on your own for you can never see or know what to expect. Patrick and Heather were a real plus for us and I do hope that he will still take people under his wing in the future. He just sold his outfitter business and is entering the wholesale wine business on a full time basis.

We took a taxi down to the Falls and you cannot believe the majesty of the Zambesi River and a drop of a few hundred feet. The booze cruise on the Zambesi was a place to meet all the other travelers. We made friends with Clarence and Kujaki of Zambia who we will hear more about in latter letters. That evening we all went to dinner at the one hundred year old Victoria Falls Hotel. If you looked around you may have seen Ernest Hemingway or Cecile Rhodes having a drink at the bar. We dined on Crock, Boar, and beef-steak with two kinds of wine. Not bad for a small bush town.

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The next day we picked up our two Land Rovers from Safari Drive. Kurt and his wife Karen and I in one and Patrick and Heather in the other. Across the boarder to Botswana by tarmac and into the one horse town of Kasane. We shopped at the supermarket about the size of my living room and fueled up on diesel and beer for the next seven days of camping.

Out of town we left the tarmac and for the next few hundred miles we drove on sand trails through the Dry Savannas of Botswana. The driving has no equal to anywhere else on earth. The sand required moving from high gear to low and back to differential lock on a continues basis. The dried out mud holes in the center of the road were sometimes two to three feet deep for someone like me you could not ask for better condition and real fun driving. Sometimes you come around a bend and just in fronts of you are elephants just grazing. We entered the Chobe Reserve and over the ridge before us spread the Chobe River. It was like the Garden of Eden. Out over the horizon you saw hundreds of elephants; the river had hippos, crocks, wart hogs, giraffes, and baboons in one sweeping view. Without question this was nature at its best. We continued within the Reserve till we arrived at the Reserve Camp site.

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The camping was really very nice; the tents were on top of the Land Rovers, which gave you some security away from the lions and hyenas at night. Heather arranged all the cooking while we went out on game drives looking for lions and other little furry creatures. Upon our return she had the table set with candles and the wine chilled just right. Dinner that evening was slightly interrupted when an elephant wandered passed our camp but he was a good hundred yards away so it seemed to be no real problem. The days were spent driving from one Reserve to the other looking at the game and in the evening telling stories of life in the bush. A tourist eaten here and a person crushed there makes some very interesting stories before bed time. We had a little experience of our own while watching two lions about ten feet away for we got a flat tire. Thank God for four wheel drive which got us out and about a quarter of a mile away to change the tire really fast. All told we had three flats with excellent tires. The thorns are so tough that the eat up tires in no time at all.

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Each night had its special moments with the sun setting and the sounds of the animals. Each morning we saw the footprints of our nightly visitors and I for one was very glad to be sleeping high up on top of the Land Rover. The days were hot up in the 90-degree range but the evenings were so cool you had to use heavy blankets to keep warm. Do not believe that a fire will keep the lions away. If it is cold at night the like to sleep next to the fire to keep warm. The one about the elephant graveyard is also a story for we found several carcasses along the trails. We spent so much time looking at foot prints and animal dung that I now consider myself an expert in dung of the different creatures and the marking habits of each.

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We spent four additional days at what are called Camps. Do not let anyone fool you the Camps are like five star hotels with all the ameneties that you can think of plus a few extras. The difference was there are no cell phones, or TV just excellent conversation. The other unique features are the staff walks you at night from the main house to your luxury tent watching for lions and other creatures. That does add a few extra heartbeats to the stay. One mid morning I was reading on the veranda of my tent and heard heavy breathing. A little while later the guide found fresh footprints of a leopard next to my area. They say the animals seldom attack people in the camp area which was a great comfort to me! Karen received a bite by a scorpion and had a very uncomfortable time for a while. They will not kill you but the bite hurts like hell for some time. The guide Derrick told us that a group of Land Rover folks were coming from England in December, which is the rainy season. That sounds like you could really have some fun playing in the mud.
- Roy F. Halvorsen [11/'00]

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