We left the Kubu Island and the Makgadikgdi pans having abandoned our planned route. We were travelling with two other families who knew someone who happened to be heading to their holiday home in the Makgadikgadi National Park that night. So, instead of heading to Maun as planned, we were persuaded to join them there.
The whole journey started badly. There were immediate concerns in our camp about last minute changes. Maun was supposed to be a halfway point between Kubu Island and our next destination, the Okavango panhandle. Now, we were leaving the majority of the driving for the second day. The bad feelings were then compounded when, instead of the first short journey we had been promised, the drive to the holiday home turned into an all day affair. It was here we learnt a valuable lesson about communication. Instead of looking at a map and seeing exactly where we were camping, we headed straight into the Makgadikgadi National Park. This resulted in an extra 2 hours of driving and an extra R1000 of cost in both park fees (even though we were just transiting!) and a hugely overpriced ferry (180 pula for a 1 minute journey – half of which you drive in the water yourself!) to then get out of the park. Frustratingly, all of this could have been avoided by simply taking the quick (and free) tar road around the park directly there.
When we arrived there, any hopes we had had of home comforts were quickly dashed. I am not sure where this ‘holiday home’ notion had come from. The place we were camping was nothing more than a field covered in thorns and goats. We did manage to find an outdoor toilet and mom showed her camping prowess by working out how to get hot water into a little shower so at least we had moved up from the ablution situation in Kubu Island.
The wonderful thing about life is that just when you have given up on a situation, something amazing happens. The land where we were camping overlooked a river that bordered the reserve. Trying to make the most of our day, we got out our chairs and poured a glass of wine. We had only been there a few minutes when someone spotted an elephant walking down towards the water. This was soon followed by about 5 other elephants, including two babies. They ambled down to the river and stopped directly in front of us. What followed was a simply marvelous display of playful elephants in action. They all started in the water, drinking and splashing themselves for a good 30 minutes. When they tired of that they moved to the dirt where they used their trunks to shower themselves in sand. It was like we were watching a live, well-edited, wildlife video – the best thing of all was that the entire show was just for us. The family stayed there for an hour or so – basking in the setting sun and reminding us of how glorious it is to just relax and settle into an African way of life.