Makgadikgadi Pans - Botswana

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Hellhound, Sep 26, 2006.

  1. Hellhound

    Hellhound Rider

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2005
    Oddometer:
    15
    Location:
    Boerewors Curtain
    It has been a couple of months since our 4Corners tour, and just over a year from our previous trip to Botswana, and already we were itching for a trip again. This time we decided to visit the Makgadikgadi pans in Botswana. The pans are remnants of an ancient super lake, and are covered with salt in the dry season. In the wet season it fills up with water, attracting a myriad of wildlife.
    Our trip started in Pretoria, where the pre-trip preparation included pulling the TT600 out of the dust, adding some tank bags and reconditioning the rear shock, apart from all the usual prep stuff.
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    Eugene putting the final touches to the ancient beast. The TT was last used in our December trip to Mozambique, where it already threatened to turn into a very expensive oil pump.
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    We were all packed and ready to go around 2pm on Wednesday. Only three of us could make it in the end, and we were not expecting to see many other bikes on the road since the GS migration was heading south to Moolmanshoek this year.
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    The planned route was to take as many gravel roads to Laphelale as possible, but unfortunately some had to be replace with tar to make up for lost time. The route was also on gravel roads that we have not traveled before, making the change of scenery a welcome sight.
    Since the TT's sidestand did not make the effort to start the trip with us , it was replaced with a more modern Black Label Beer bottle.
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    A very nice dirt road winded through the hills and alongside the Mokolo river before we reached Malalatau for a very welcome cold beer.
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    Thursday morning was greeted with a big babalas :bash, and as a result all the morning pictures were a little blurry.
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    It was only after a bit of riding that things started to be normal again. Our route for the day was to get over the border at Stockpoort, and then head to Kalamare before turning north to Serowe.
    The Limpopo river still had water, unlike our livers.
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    We headed from Stockpoort to Mahalapye, using the old dirt road that ran not far from the tar road. From Mahalapye it was a big dirt road West to Kalamare, where we had a cold one to get rid of the dust and the buzzing in the head.
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    From Kalamare it became very interesting. According to some maps, there is a track that leads to Serowe. This was true, and it is a very nice jeep track, twisting its way through the bushes, occasionally changing into a cattle track. Unfortunately there we too many splits in the track, leaving us to guess which one to take. In the end we were forced to take anyone that looked like it will take us in the correct direction. Although they were very nice, with the occasional rocks, and thick sand, most of them ended up in someone's yard (or kraal) and we had to retrace our tracks.
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    Unfortunately, we ran out of tracks when we reached the tar road south west of Serowe. In Serowe we bought some provisions for the night, and headed north the village of Tshimoyapula, where we had a couple of cold ones, and naturally ordered a couple for take away.
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    We looked for a nice secluded spot away from the road, where we camped for the night.
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    The next morning was greeted with a beautiful day. We had to cover the fire with sand because the wind was a gusty through the night, and it makes for a very nice boot warmer.
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    Our objective for the day was to reach the pans by dusk. We started of again with small twisty jeep tracks, and the sand was getting thick. The bushes grow right next to the track, which meant that the bark busters had to work overtime. Wildlife was getting more abundant, and the villages more scattered.
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    Gary having a bit of fun on a fire break that crossed the track.
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    It was getting very hot, and the sand made for a lot of sweating and close calls. But this is all part of the fun.
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    We reached the tar read at Tlalamabele, south of Sowa pan. We once again stocked up on beer, food and water for the night, at Mokobela, and then headed straight to Kukonje Island, which lies on the eastern border of Sowa pan. The road changed from sandy to a hard white surfaced track which was a pleasure to ride.
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    We stopped on Kukonje Island for a cold one and some lunch. The pan stretched out as far as the eye could see, shimmering in the hot afternoon heat.
    Unfortunately someone set the place on fire a couple of weeks before, making the dust and aridness even worse.
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    Gary found a skeleton of what we think is a Garycoptylis, an ancient animal that lived around the lake :lol3 . Don't think it stood much chance of survival with those stocky legs anyway.
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    One of the locals on the island, sorry, the only local on the island, is from the village Mosu on the southern tip of Sowa pan. He told us about palm trees and water springs to be found in his home village. We decided to head straight across the pan, making a beeline for this haven. Unfortunately the mind conjured up images that reality could not match. Fortunately we were able to exchange our warm, shaken up beer, for cold ones before we headed north east on the pan to look for a camping spot. It is an amazing feeling when three bikes zip over the pan, free to go anywhere.
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    We had to gather what wood we could get from a grass island, before we could settle for a very quiet and desolate night on the pan. Only wild life we could see and hear was concentrated on these grass islands, but during the night we did hear a hyena.
    Firewood transport African style. There were some wood on the pan, but it gave off a foul chemical smell when burnt.
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    Gary enjoying a cold one next to the fire, watching a magnificent sunset.
    This is all that life should be about.
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    Eugene conjuring up a lovely meal as per the usual.
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    Saturday morning, or was it Sunday. Days were starting to appear without names. A beautiful morning, with the sun rising over the pan.
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    Gary, the late riser, had to be threatened again with the extra petrol before any effort was made to get up.
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    After breakfast, we headed across the pan to Kubu Island. We had to stick to the edge of the pan or grass islands because the pan is still wet in some places under the dry crust.
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    This is a very desolate place, you do not want to get lost here without water. When Spike catches you here, there will be nowhere to hide.
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    We stopped briefly at Kubu island. A lovely place for camping, and a very beautiful view of the pan.
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    We then took a track that lead from Kubu Island north-west across Ntwetwe pan to Gweta. Man, was this one of the most wonderful rides ever - trance like, with a bit of thick sand in the end to round it off.
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    A flat grass savanna stretches between the two pans. Unfortunately not a lot of wildlife could be seen.
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    From Gweta we stopped for a couple of very deserving cold ones and Planet Baobab. A very nice place as described by Krazy-eyes.
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    I can see that it would be very easy to stay here for a couple of days, but time was running out for us and we had to eventually leave, taking yet another beautiful track, from Gweta, south across Ntwetwe pan to Mopipi.
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    And like always, this is where the trouble starts. Eugene has a torrid time with the TT because the steering keeps on locking and had to be whacked a couple of times to free it up. This is not what you want on a twisty sandy or rocky track, lined with thorn bushes. It was also getting late, and we could not get money in Mopipi because the lines were down. Thus, we were forced to top up with petrol with the last Pula's we had, leaving nothing for a couple of cold ones. It was going to be a very early night.
    Once again we headed into the bushes to camp for the night.
    Next day we got up very early, we had to make the border at Stockpoort at four, and there were a lot of miles to cover.
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    We were not even 5 k's from camp, when Gary got a puncture. Fortunately it was fixed very quickly.
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    All the tracks turned into thick red Kalahari sand, making for some interesting riding, but we were getting used to it. As can see, everyone lost their left mirror somewhere. Days of hitting it against bushes and trees did not do it any good.
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    We came out on the tar road near Letlhakane, where we had to strip the headset bearings on the TT. After removing pieces of metal shards, it was packed with grease and ready to go. By that time we could see that we had to start pushing on tar to make the border in time, and dirt tracks was becoming a luxury. On the way to Serowe the KTM started developing a serious oil leak on the sprocket shaft. Fortunately we had a spare o-ring and it was fixed within minutes. Eventually we opted for the Martin's Drift border control, before heading for Laphelale.
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    Covering 600km, mostly on tar, with a vibrating single that has an ironing board for a seat, does not do the backside any good. We were paste when we got to Malalatau, but friends were kind enough to meet us there with food and drink. The last day back to Pretoria was done mostly on gravel. But these big gravel highways have lost their attractiveness after spending days on small twisty tracks. Gary came short on his Dakar after hitting a steenbok, leaving the bike full of battle scars, and him with a limp.
    The route
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    All in all it was a very nice trip. Botswana still offers some serious adventure riding, with most of the tracks not mapped. Exploring it may take some time, but it will be worth all the effort.
    (Some video clips)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IofYzft3pYo
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBCzn3ZUq2w
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Ey-B7E8Ao4
    #1
  2. cbxtc6

    cbxtc6 On my Way...

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2004
    Oddometer:
    870
    Location:
    Tomahawk Bluff, IL
    :thumb
    Excellent!!!
    #2
  3. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2002
    Oddometer:
    67,826
    Wow!! What an outstanding ride, report and pics! Thanks for posting :thumb
    #3
  4. Neo

    Neo Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2002
    Oddometer:
    447
    Location:
    Oudenbosch ,Netherlands
    I have read it 2 times and smelled the adventure in it!

    And that sidestand is so Africa!

    Thanks for posting.:clap
    #4
  5. WIBO

    WIBO Will it buff out?

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2002
    Oddometer:
    4,172
    Location:
    Dpt 64 French Pyrénées
    A picture certainly tells a 1000 words...........excellent!!
    :D
    #5
  6. Stephen

    Stephen Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2002
    Oddometer:
    3,453
    Location:
    Austin, Texas, USA
    Great ride.
    Great report.
    Great video.
    :thumb :thumb :thumb

    Thank you.
    #6
  7. Uzay

    Uzay Adventure Dreamer

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Oddometer:
    6,765
    Location:
    Istanbul, Turkey
    Great report, i will read once more:clap
    #7
  8. EMrider

    EMrider Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2005
    Oddometer:
    320
    Location:
    Pasadena, CA
    Wow, very cool riding area and report. Thanks!
    #8
  9. Groomez

    Groomez Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2006
    Oddometer:
    528
    Location:
    Greenville, SC
    What an amazing ride!:eek1
    #9
  10. PackMule

    PackMule love what you do

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2005
    Oddometer:
    19,493
    Location:
    New Hampshah
    Incredible! :clap Thanks for taking us along. :nod :beer
    #10
  11. duitswes

    duitswes NAM Biker in CA

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2006
    Oddometer:
    301
    Location:
    Bay Area
    Nice seeing a TT600 again. I thought they all died out.

    Has Botswana still got these "Cocktail Bars" having a total stock of maybe 25 drinks total:ear Used to have about 10 years ago. You meet the nicest people in the Kalahari. You are making me homesick dude -- my dad used to rent some land for cattle in the Kalahari (Namibian part).
    #11
  12. Uzay

    Uzay Adventure Dreamer

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Oddometer:
    6,765
    Location:
    Istanbul, Turkey
    guys,please make a bike comparison for us
    #12
  13. Stumby

    Stumby 2 wheels needed

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2003
    Oddometer:
    675
    Location:
    Richmond
    Great report!

    What's a steenbok?

    :clap
    #13
  14. duitswes

    duitswes NAM Biker in CA

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2006
    Oddometer:
    301
    Location:
    Bay Area
    Small antelope. Size of a big dog.
    #14
  15. Eaglebeak

    Eaglebeak All roads rider, West Oz.

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2005
    Oddometer:
    3,210
    Location:
    Perth.
    Bloody brilliant ! :thumb

    Hard riding, adventure riding. :clap
    #15
  16. scottr

    scottr Banned

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2006
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    1,768
    Location:
    Pedernales R., Tx Hill Country (Ihadthisavatar1st)
    You guys are definately on the cutting edge. :thumb

    :clap :clap :clap :clap :clap

    :lurk
    #16
  17. Cagiva900gc

    Cagiva900gc Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2005
    Oddometer:
    26
    Location:
    Tha biggest Cagiva fan in Canada, Toronto
    Hi Marcel

    I know it is late, but nice report and great ride. Those pans are awesome, never knew it was that vast.

    That TT deserves a medal, still going strong.

    Wish I could come and ride with you again, maybe some day.

    Have an extra cold one for me.
    #17