We had been wanting to visit Botswana for a number of years, but were not keen to camp and finding accomodation on the internet was extremely difficult. Having never been there before, we decided to book a guided trip with Mpafa Travel for June 2012. This seemed a good option as we would travel in our own vehicle and stay at lodges throughout the trip. All catering would be done by Mpafa Travel.
We left Johannesburg for Nata on Wednesday 6 June to meet up with our guide and the rest of the group at Nata Lodge. Part of the trip on the South African side was through the province of Limpopo. The trip from Johannesburg to Nata is 913 kms and takes about 10 hours. We decided to stay over somewhere along the route. We had lunch at Mokopane (formerly Potgietersrus) and then drove to the Botswana border at Grobler’s Bridge. The border post on the Botswana side is known as Martin’s Drift.
At the border we had to pay 180 Pula to the Botswana authorities for our vehicle. Here we experienced our first ‘rip-off’ with currency exchange. Because we did not have pula we were charged R250 when we should have paid about R198. After that we drew pula from an ATM. This is the best way to avoid extra commission costs.
We decided to stop over at Palapye. We arrived in the late afternoon on 6 June.
There we stayed at the Desert Sands Motel. It was reasonably priced, clean and tidy and recommended by Mpafa Travel. Having driven around on our arrival, we decided that there was not much choice. Believe me, Palapye is not a honeymoon destination. It is mainly a stopover for truckers and people who, like us, are travelling to the tourist areas in the north.
Travelling in Botswana can be frustrating as the speed limit constantly changes. There are lots of small villages on the side of the road and then the limit drops from 120 km to 80 km or 60 km. We were warned that the traffic police hide behind trees and will issue spot fines which must be paid in Pula. Needless to say, we carefully stuck to the speed limits.
Although narrow at times, the roads in Botswana are fairly good. Some roads have collapsing shoulders which are very hazardous. Never be tempted to travel after sunset as there are many donkeys, cattle and other animals straying on the roads.
We stopped at Francistwon to have lunch and buy bottled water and snacks for the trip. Francistown is a delightful and busy town with tree lined streets and plenty modern shops.
The next day we continued on our trip to Nata. On arrival at Nata Lodge things began to look up. The accomodation was stunning. Later that afternoon we met our guide Douwe, chef Vermaak and his assistant Bjorn.
We then set off for Makagadikgadi Pan to have sundowners and socialise with our new friends.
We watched the sunset on the Makgadikgadi Pan. It was dry and deserted. As the sun set we began to feel the cold that is experienced in Botswana at night. Becasue Botswana is a vast, very flat country, it cools down quickly and often reaches temperatures below freezing.