Africa, Birds & Birding, Motorcars_Automobiles, Travel Africa, Wildlife, Game Reserves

Makgadikgadi Pans, Khumaga Gate

The Tamalakhane River runs south-west out of Maun and when it turns east it’s called the Boteti. After a while it runs southward forming the western boundary of the huge Makgadikgadi-Nxai Pans National Park.

At Kumagha village there’s a gate into the park. When the river has water in it a ferryman carries you across, one vehicle at a time.

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We were guests at Tiaan’s Camp as Tiaan is looking for someone to help him start a new admin system and Janet’s just the person to do that. I got lucky as they decided she needed to visit him to check out the camp and discuss how Janet’s consultancy could run the project for him. Tiaan is a character. He was once a diplomat although you would never guess that in a game of Twenty Questions. Nor in game of One Hundred and Twenty Questions.

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Tiaan has run mobile safaris in Zambia, Botswana and Zululand among many other places. He has been involved in lodges on the Delta panhandle and has now settled in Khumaga in a camp he built himself with comfy chalets, lovely campsites, a crystal-clear swimming pool and a huge central building housing an open dining area, an open raised deck overlooking the Boteti where 22 elephants came to bathe the afternoon we arrived. And a cool bar run on the honour system. You know, gooi and skryf.

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He has a delightful accent, a mischievous laugh, speaks three languages fluently and has an amazing store of tales from brain surgery to government service to building in Botswana and Jakobsbaai on the Cape West Coast, to safaris, interesting guests, religion, Land Rovers (he’s afflicted with six of them), philosophy and fascinating animal stories. Maybe he does have a diplomatic side, but he keeps it well-camouflaged.

He took us on a game drive in one of his Land Rovers and we didn’t even break down, so he could show us his knowledge of and love for his patch, the very southern end of the great Okavango Delta, just before the waters from Angola sink into the Kalahari sand for the very last time at Lake Xau.

Makgadigadi Pans Kumagha Gate

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The next day Janet and I took the old Toyota into the park along the green Boteti river valley. We found plenty of interesting little things to photograph.

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In between all this there were the gin n tonics, whiskies and Tiaan’s home-made absinthe, generously dispensed.

Interesting birds included Double-banded Sandgrouse, Acacia Pied Barbet, Hoopoe, Crimson-breasted Boubou, a young Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Pin-tailed and Shaft-tailed Whydahs, Red-faced Mousebird, Bateleur, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Blue-cheeked, European and Little Bee-eaters, Meyers Parrot, Goliath Heron and a Grey-backed Camerotera who clacked at me fourteen times. Here are some Lee pics from his website:

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Before this leg of the trip we had been to Mogotlhong.

Birds & Birding, Life, Motorcars_Automobiles, Travel, Travel Africa

Redfoot, the 1979 Land Rover

Aitch knew a doctor in PMB who “did up” Land Rovers. That got me thinking . . .

To my amazement my partners Lello, Yoell & Stoute were NOT HUGELY enthusiastic as I twisted their arms to go in as equal shareholders! Even when I told them that, besides the good doctor, it had only one previous owner (omitting to say that had been the old KwaZulu Homeland Police Force).

But eventually they saw the light and agreed, good partners that they are, and we became the proud consortium owners of a handpainted 1979 hole-in-the-floor manual 4X4 long wheelbase Series III station wagon-type 5-door Land Rover. White.
It was fitted with a Ford Essex V6 three litre engine on new birdshit-welded mountings and painted white with an old brush. The wheel rims were painted red with the same brush, from which its name Redfoot. Did I mention handpainted?

Well, we ended up putting three engines into ole Redfoot, and it went up Sani once, to Ladysmith once as 8-seater transport (Prem took it to wedding), Yoell used it once and never again; Soutar used it once or twice.

Andre vd Merwe from PE thought he’d buy it but his wife Sue made him turn back NOW after only a few km’s and said he would buy it “Over Her Deceased Corpse”. A Canadian optometrist used it to get to a clinic where he did a volunteer stint in the Valley of 1000 Hills. He brought it back smoking – he didn’t really get the “stick shift” thing, nor the “clutch” thing. That was one of the new engines.

Spent a total of R25k on it in all and sold it for R5k – with relief! Not a runaway success story was Redfoot, but I think my partners exaggerate when they say I promised them an ‘investment opportunity’!

BUT never forget: When we went up Sani with an Isuzu 4X4 and a Toyota 4X4 and a Nissan 4X4, although they flew up and Redfoot had to pause for breath and a radiator top-up, everyone had their photos taken next to Redfoot!

The three more capable - but less photogenic - bakkies
– here come the more capable but less photogenic bakkies –
Redfoot Sani crop-001
– the posing

~~~oo0oo~~~

Slightly disconcerting: As Redfoot was catching its breath and airing its brakes halfway down, two nuns breezed past us, chatting gaily, in a 2X4 bakkie. Bitches.