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AFRICA

8000 kms through Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa on a jeep with rooftop tents
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BOTSWANA TRIP REPORT AND PHOTOS

Here below some of the most fascinating photos from Botswana. Together with the photogallery, you will find a funny and interesting trip report full of info and anecdotes describing the whole travel itinerary. If you haven't read them yet, check out all travel info and precise itinerary here: www.wildtrips.net/africa-botswana-travel-itinerary.htm. The first part of this travel itinerary, in Namibia, is described here: www.wildtrips.net/africa.htm.

Victoria Falls
Rainbow at the Victoria Falls - Some of the biggest and most spectacular falls in the world, shared by Zimbabwe and Zambia, close to the border with Botswana.

BOTSWANA TRIP REPORT AND TRAVEL ITINERARY

((It continues from the Namibia trip report here).
When we crossed the border between Botswana and Zimbabwe, we wasted some time due to a long queue. We almost had a fight with a group of motorcyclists for our place in the line.
The customs officer asked us for about 150 US dollars (for the dictator Mugabe’s pockets, unfortunately). We didn’t have any dollars. Luckily, someone in the group of motorcyclists with whom we had quarreled changed our Euros and we could on with our travel itinerary. We entered Zimbabwe and we headed to the Victoria Falls. We met a guy on a mountain-bike who was cycling from Durban, South Africa, to Cairo, Egypt. We were surprised and amazed, but he explained: "I've already done this itinerary by car, but it was too easy." He looked very confident and he probably had some mental disorder. We don’t know what happened to him, but I think you can find him in one of the best insane asylums of Tanzania.
The Victoria Falls were something wonderful. The entrance from the Zimbabwe side costed about twenty euros per person, and it was all worth it. There were warthogs and tourists walking on the edge of the precipice, just in front of the most impressive waterfalls of the world (except Iguazu, probably).
Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls - a highlight for a safari in Botswana... even if they are in Zimbabwe :)
Then we crossed the bridge to Zambia, and we admired the falls from a different point of view (and another country was under our belt). In the evening we slept in a campsite in Victoria Falls Town, a very touristy place. We had dinner at a good restaurant, Mama Africa, where we had meat while watching some typical dance shows. A bit of holiday in the middle of our adventurous journey.
The next day we left Zimbabwe and we went back to Botswana, where we visited the Chobe National Park. At the entrance in Kasane we were lucky enough to be able to book a place in a park campground – we were happy, because from the information we had gathered from Italy it seemed highly recommended, but difficult, to sleep in the reserve. Our trip was going so well that we were surprised.
The wonderful Chobe NP filled us with joy. There were herds of elephants and giraffes, hippos, billions of gazelles, strange birds, everything.
Infinite Gazellas
Gazellas at Chobe National Park
We drove randomly along deserted gravel and sand roads. It was less crowded than Etosha and we smelled freedom everywhere. It was a real adventure in the wildest nature.
Talking about adventures, we had two punctures while in the park. For the second tyre we had no spare wheels (well, we had it but it was stuck and unusable). It was late afternoon and we wanted to head towards the campsite, so we had the brilliant idea of driving at full speed while the flat tire slowly deflated, in order to arrive at the campsite before it was too late. It was a mad dash on a wide sandy track surrounded by the jungle. We drove at 80-90 kph when the sand was harder; when it became softer and deeper, the jeep slowed down and sometimes completely stopped, stuck in the sand. In this case we had to steer to get out of the sand, inflate the flat tyre (if necessary) by using the air compressor, and resume our race. Driving was a lot of fun: we had to control the 4x4 in its continuous drifts and to jump along the track from one side to the other, looking for the hardest strips of sand. We didn’t meet anyone. Apart from hyppos.
Hyppos Take It Easy
Hyppos take it easy - But exploring the Chobe National Park, in the north of Botswana, is a true adventure
The campsite (arguably the best of our travel itinerary) was actually just an area of the jungle, near the river, where camping was legal. We saw monkeys and elephants, we could hear hippos and we didn’t exclude the presence of lions and other carnivores. After much travel, though, we didn’t worry now. We met two nice South Africans who helped us repair the holes in the wheels of the jeep.
In the evening, as always, we had a ready soup cooked over the bonfire, grilled meat and red wine (we're not sure if it was legal to bring meat inside the park, but at the time it seemed a good idea, regardless of the various carnivores who frequented those areas).
Chobe Park Camping
Chobe Park Camping - Arguably one of the most amazing campings in the world. It's in the middle of the jungle and it's run by monkeys and elephants. Also, it was one of the best BBQs ever.
After a cigar and the last sips of a South African fortified wine we were quite tipsy. It was night and I wandered into the "campsite" to take photos of the moon and the stars, while my friend, from its tent, said: "Watch out for the lions," and I murmured in response "I'm drunk, I have nothing to fear". It sounds a little bit crazy, but we knew what we did. Actually, we were only drunk of strong sensations. The extraordinary atmosphere in the starry jungle, with the constant chatter of hippos in the background, was as thrilling and magic as anything.

The next day we continued to explore the Chobe Park through the craziest road of the universe. There were half a meter high bumps, very close to each other, so Melissa continuously jumped up and down. Inside the jeep we felt like dices rolled on the table. We broke Melissa’s bullbar while fruit juice and tomato sauce exploded in the fridge, thus creating one disgusting blend together with the other food.
The landscape was still great, we were still happy, the trip was still awesome.
Giraffes and elephants
Giraffes and elephants - easy to spot in the Chobe National Park, especially along the Chobe river
We arrived in Maun, where some decent roads reappeared. We were in terrible hygienic conditions, but extraordinarily happy.
To continue our travel itinerary, we had to drive South, crossing Botswana towards Johannesburg. Along the way we visited the Makgadikpadi Pans, huge and fascinating salt flats. Then we crossed a number of Botswana towns along the main road. They were all very quiet places, with few fast-foods where we had lunch under the amused waitresses’ eyes. I don’t know why they laughed when they saw us: perhaps because there were few white men, and no-one as dirty and fascinating as us. We camped in the bush, close to some ostriches.
At the border between Botswana and South Africa, the Customs officers controlled our 4x4 to make sure that we didn’t import any meat. During the search they found a few sausages, that they sequestered. As a souvenir from Botswana we were carrying a zebra skull that was slightly sticking out from under a seat, so we seriously feared that we would be fined or imprisoned. However, when the officers opened the fridge they were so disgusted that they let us go. (Bringing home a zebra skull, which we had found along a gravel road, is one of the 25 things to avoid doing that we did: please don’t take us as an example in this case!).
When we arrived in South Africa, of course our GPS navigator was without maps, but by following the road-signs and the sun (a quick note: in the southern hemisphere the sun at noon indicates the North, not the South) we arrived in Johannesburg. We stopped at a car wash where for 8 euros five employees cleaned and rinsed every part of the jeep, in order to make it presentable. We weren't ready to such tidyness and precision, after a 15-day travel itinerary that we felt more like a journey of several months. After one hour of work we were happy, but they wanted to continue, with extreme diligence. With difficulty, we managed to stop them. I don’t know if we looked rich, with that dirty and scratched Melissa, but one of the workers asked me if I had a job for him in Italy. I was sorry to tell him that I had no idea how to help him. By the way, if the economic crisis continues Italians will be moving soon to South Africa, instead of the opposite.
Amazingly, we didn’t get lost while crossing Johannesburg and at 4:15 PM we arrived at the headquarters of the 4x4 rental company. We were 15 minutes late after an 8000 km itinerary and 15 days of travel.
We lodged in the guesthouse of the rental company, for free. In the evening we had dinner at the pizzeria where we had eaten on our first day in South Africa. We felt like three years had gone by. In the elegant guesthouse, we had our last cigars and wine, we were relaxed and exhilarated as never before.
We slept deeply and the next morning we were taken to the airport. A Qatar Airways flight got us back to Italy.
When we got home we met friends and relatives who were happy to see us alive (most of them, at least), but for months we hugely missed Mama Africa and the crazily strong sensations she generously offered, in absolute freedom.
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