Welcome to this week’s Postcard From – the feature where I chat to some lucky explorer about their recent travels. If you would like to take part please get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org or @em_luxton – I would love to hear from you!
This week’s postcard is from Derrick, a 27 year-old Sydneysider. Although he’s currently back home at the moment, Derrick’s done a lot of travel over the past few years, including a 14-month round the world journey. He runs a fabulous blog at Derrick’s Adventure about all his past travel adventures, and today’s postcard is from a trip Derrick took all the way back in 2010 to southern Africa.
Welcome Derrick! Where is today’s postcard from?
Chobe National Park, in the north of Botswana. I travelled with my brother and cousin in a Ford Everest, a big 4WD modified for offroad driving. This was a wild, bush-bashing drive through a fantastic national park. There are lots of animals to be seen here, and some challenging offroad for the petrolheads out there.
Wow, Botswana! How was the weather there?
We travelled in July, so that’s winter in Botswana. But it was baking hot.
Where did you stay?
We covered the park in a single day. They don’t allow camping inside the park, but we did have a very interesting experience the night before. We arrived late in the afternoon at the park gates, but the staff said it was too late to enter. It was also quite a way back to the nearest town, so they let us camp near the gates. With our tents set up and our food cooking, the guard paid us a visit at sunset, and calmly warned us to clean up our food after dinner because of the resident hyenas. Suddenly quite alarmed, we all buddied up in a single tent for the night. It wasn’t until we heard low roaring in the middle of the night did we feel genuine blood-running-cold fear – we were camped near lions. None of us got a wink of sleep that night, and the guard laughed the next morning, “oh yes, there are lions in this area too!”
Wow, a pretty scary experience! Did you see any animals once you got into the park?
We took about 4 hours to drive through the park. The trail was a winding, snaking dirt path, just two tyre gouges were what we had to follow. Eventually the road widened out and became sandy, and we even crossed a deep river by car. Wildlife was incredibly easy to spot, and we saw ostriches, zebras, kudu and a big elephant hanging out by the roadside!
What was your highlight?
We left the park, and were driving on a short stretch of nice smooth highway to take us to the Zambian border. Suddenly, we noticed the cars ahead pulling over to the side of the road, so we did the same. Ahead of us, a herd of around 20 elephants was crossing the road, just like that, across the middle of the highway! We crept closer for a better view, and realised there were around 100 altogether, on both sides of the road. Some of the larger males had their ears raised in threat, and babies were holding the tails of the mothers as they crossed the road!
You were camping, so I’m guessing it wasn’t 5 star cuisine?
On this particular day, the food was baked beans and canned vegetable soup.
Were there any funny stories or disasters?
We lost one of the most critical pieces of our equipment in the park visitor’s centre – our road map. We would be driving blind for the next few weeks through parts of Africa that Google maps has never explored.
Do you have any tips or advice for anyone planning a similar trip?
To get the most out of an African road trip, and to even enter some of the lesser-known national parks, it is essential to have a powerful, high-clearance 4WD. Ordinary cars just couldn’t do the job.
And finally… can you impress us with any of the local lingo?
Dumela (‘hello’ in Setswana).
NB – all photos are owned by Derrick Theys.