Botswana Part I – Khama Rhino Sanctuary

Note: For the next few blogs, there won’t be any photos, as my laptop screen met with an unidentified flying object. Unidentified as in I couldn’t find the stone again to throw it back at Hugo.

We were in Punda Maria in the Kruger National Park and the monkeys and baboons were a real nuisance, stealing food from tents when people weren’t looking, and the only way to get rid of them was to shoot at them with a kettie (catapult). Hugo still claims he was aiming at a monkey …

Khama Rhino Sanctuary

With the rhinos all but disappeared from Botswana, the residents of Serowe banded together in the early 1990s to establish the 4 300-hectare Khama Rhino Sanctuary. Today the sanctuary protects 40 white and four black rhinos; the sanctuary was not originally set up for black rhinos, but when one wandered across the border from Zimbabwe, it was the start of a beautiful relationship. Some rhinos have been released into the wild, especially in the Okavango Delta, joining imports from Botswana’s regional neighbours. The sanctuary is also home to wildebeest, impala, ostriches, brown hyenas, leopards and over 230 bird species.

¬̶ Source: Lonely Planet, Botswana and Namibia

Windhoek was our next stop; we had to do shopping and repairs. Plus we were tired of driving. Based on recommendations by TripAdvisor and other people, we decided to sleep at Arebbusch Travel Lodge. What a mistake! There was nothing wrong with the place as such – we had our own bathroom and kitchen and a roof over the tent and trailer – but the noise! The place is on the corner of two busy roads and right next to Eros Airport. We couldn’t sleep at all!

If you’re not into listening to cars speeding and screeching to a halt, the bustling night life of a city and planes landing and taking off all through the night, don’t stay here. I guess it might be better in a chalet, but when you’re camping, there is only the thin tent canvas between you and the noise.
We had our washing done at a place nearby (where I also almost got rid of Sophia’s bike by misjudging the height of a boom) and exchanged a faulty spotlight at Outdoor Warehouse – we have to commend them on great customer service.

Then we ran out of money. Really. Fortunately, Lady Luck was on our side when we checked in at Zelda Guest Farm on the border between Namibia and Botswana and didn’t have to pay a deposit. It was the end of March, and according to the arrangement with Hugo’s previous employers his separation package would only be paid on the last working day of March. We had to bide our time on the farm, as we couldn’t even fill Petronella up, which is for obvious reasons kind of essential.

It was not the best place where we’ve stayed so far. Although the rooms and bathrooms were clean, it was decorated in that horrible seventies style with everything crocheted in terrifically clashing colours. The furniture, carpets and curtains (which fell off the rails on top of Sophia when she tried to open it) were of the cheaper (read: cheapest) variety. BUT. The hospitality of the people couldn’t be faulted. We had all our breakfasts, lunches and dinners there for three days in a row and it was delicious every time. They served venison at most meals and all of us enjoyed it. Schnitzels, steaks, meatballs, shepherd’s pie: all venison ̶ impala, springbok, eland, oryx, kudu. Delicious!

We got a bit bored with the farm and the unrelenting rain. It was raining on and off since we had left Halali in Etosha. The farm has a few animals in enclosures. I did not like this at all, and especially the leopard looked nothing like leopards in the wild. She is more or less 15 years old and has always been in an enclosure – due to a lack of exercise and hunting, she was smaller and had less muscle tone than her sisters in their normal habitat. It was sad to watch her; we only went once.

At long last Hugo’s money was deposited, and on 30 March we could finally leave for Botswana. We drove 517 km to Maun, where we spent the night at Maun Lodge. From Maun, we went to Khama Rhino Sanctuary. The plan was that some family and friends would join us: Hugo’s parents, his sister Janine, her husband Johann and children Jenna and Armand, my brother Pieter and his wife-to-be Natasha, her two cute kiddos Kaylee and Ethan, and one of my best friends from school, Karen and her husband Martin, with their three gorgeous children, Neil, Jean and Amelie.

And then ̶ drum roll ̶ I turned forty on Wednesday, 1 April. For my birthday, we went to Serowe to buy groceries and make an appointment for a service for Petronella at the Toyota garage. That’s it. Nothing special about turning FORTY. Just another day … But on Friday, when our family and friends arrived, the celebrations started and lasted 10 days and 10 nights. Almost like a wedding or a funeral in some of the local cultures.

My brother and his entourage arrived on Thursday, and finally the children had friends to play with! They’ve been counting the days since we left South Africa! The rest of the gang would arrive on Friday.

So on Friday, we waited with bated breath. And waited. As it was Easter weekend, we knew the border would be busy and we let them know beforehand to try and be there very early. They all arrived late in the afternoon; Hugo’s family was stuck on the border for six and a half hours (!!) after getting there just after seven in the morning, having slept in Ellisras the previous night. Karen and family left Pretoria early on Friday morning and crossed the border somewhere else with no wait at all. Anyhow, finally we were all together.

That Friday (3 April) marked Hugo’s parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary ̶ a lifetime! Janine brought all kinds of goodies and sparkling wine, and we could celebrate in style. It takes a special kind of determination to reach this milestone. Well done for hanging on and on and on …

Saturday was my turn to be spoilt with a BarOne chocolate cake and cupcakes – Janine brought homemade cupcakes and the children could decorate them. For supper, we made malva pudding in a cast iron pot on the fire and Johann – the family’s MasterChef – hung lamb ribs from a tree to roast them slowly on the fire. We were all sceptical about this scheme, but, surprisingly, it worked out deliciously.

Although Khama is beautiful, there isn’t much to do apart from short game drives. So out of sheer boredom the men constructed a swing for the children between two massive trees. They threw one rope over a high branch and tied it to one end of a hammock. The other end of the hammock was tied to Johann’s Landrover’s winch, which was also thrown over a high branch. Then they put a child up in the hammock, sewing it up. The children had adrenaline rushes for two days.

Gustav and Sophia had so much fun with their older cousins and were sad to see them go on Easter Monday. We would also miss our fireside entertainment: Jenna’s beautiful singing with her guitar and Armand’s silly (toilet) jokes. I also have to give credit to Jenna for doing most of the photo editing for the Etosha post – you are very talented and should keep going at it, young lady!
I’m sure that one day, when we look back on this year’s travels, the weekend with our family will always be one of our favourite times.  I would also like to thank everyone who went out of their way to join us for my birthday, it is much appreciated.  Not to mention all my pressies!

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