Adventurous into the new year

After the wedding, a part of the family decided to stay on for some quality time. We celebrated Christmas together at the grandparents’ house, totaling 16 members. Because of this we agreed that everyone was to give one gift to one person. Thus minimizing the amount of gifts and more importantly the amount of wrapping paper. It also decreased the stress level for each and everyone, and allowed us to have more fun together. We had a wonderful Christmas Eve with Norwegian pork ribs and sour cabbage. Sitting together until late at night.

On the second Christmas Day we all helped getting everything ready for a few days in the bush, packing tents, bedding, drinks, food and a whole lot of other stash into the cars. To be ready to leave the following day. And by lunch time after a hectic morning we were off to Mababe. Where we arrived a few hours later and set up camp at a magnificent spot overlooking the river. Matilda being the youngest at 4 and great gran Doris being the oldest at 82 we had a lovely mix of generations. Of course we had taken an extra mattress for Doris!

To make cooking easier, we had split the gang into smaller groups. Every group having the responsibility of catering for one day and enjoying freedom for the rest of the stay. The kids were included of course and did their parts with enthusiasm. Helping where they could.

Of course we also went on safari drives to see what we would see. The highlights being lions walking on the road in front of us and not minding us at all. And the hippos at the hippo pool close to our camp. Playing around and creating a spectacle. The rainy season brings a lot of greenery to the eye as well as small animals to adore…

…or fear…

After some lovely days in the bush with lots of laughter, fun and relaxation we headed back to town to go on the next adventure. Coming home we found a broken pipe having flooded the whole floor…

Once fixed, we got packing. Next up, a trip along the western side of the Okavango for some boating and fun on the river.

The swamp stop at Sepopa was our destination where we spent the next 4 days. The kids all got a chance at driving the boats, understanding the physics of using a tiller-arm surprisingly quickly.

Because the flood was very low this year, the water was restricted to the main channel. Meaning most of the hippos in the area were in the main channel with us. When the water is high, it lifts the papyrus and creates small lagoons within the papyrus for the hippos to seek refuge, gaining access from underneath the floating plants. On one of our trips with both the boats, when everyone decided to join, we drove over several families of hippos hiding in the water below the boats. The hippos blowing bubbles as we drove past. Grandpa, in the first boat, came across quite a big family of hippos on our way home and decided to slow down to see how many hippos there were, after having warned me in the second boat. I stayed back and watched as hippos popped up here and there before submerging below the surface again. As the first boat slowly made its way past the hippos. My uncle steering the first boat luckily looked back just in time to see the head of a hippo emerging 2 meters behind their boat and taking a leap at their boat. Twisting the accelerator the boat flew away from the hippos head, which would have been in the back of the boat had he not reacted. I then decided to take the speedy version and got our boat flying way before the submarines, speeding past hippo air bubbles dodging emerging hippo heads. Everyone’s adrenaline was pumping as we reached the other boat, exchanging a few comments and happiness for the good ending. Unfortunately no one took pictures or a video of the incident and no one was keen on doing another take. But the incident will not be forgotten I’m sure! Being in the Okavango we didn’t want to miss the chance of catching a tiger fish. A distant cousin of the piranha it is well equipped with razor sharp teeth and a ferocious fish when hooked. And not an easy fish to land. A lot of casting and hours spent on the river finally paid off and we were lucky to catch a few of these beautiful fish. Making sure they were not hurt we released them back into the water after a short picture shoot.

Also this trip came to an end and after 6 weeks of accommodating family from Germany the time for their return home had come. We saw them all off at the airport sad that they were leaving. The house has become quiet and we are getting back into everyday life. Not much longer and the school holidays will come to an end. The second year of our life abroad to commence and looking forward to all that awaits us.

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Break down in the bush

The months fly by, visitors have come and gone, and while we were waiting for the next batch of foreigners to arrive we decided to take a little family trip to the bush on our own. The car was packed and ready to roll when we pulled into the school parking lot to pick up the kids. A little lunch pack for the road in hand we were ready to roll towards Khwai. Cruising and joking around, the landscape was flying by, spotting the odd antelope and Elefant along the way. Just 10 km out of Mababe village in the middle of the bush the car suddenly made a horrible grinding noise!! Shifting the leaver into neutral we let it roll to a halt. Unsure what it could be I tried to engage the gear but the grinding continued and there was no traction. Our car did not move. After examining the car I found the front drive shaft had slipped out of the wheel hub… mentally preparing to overnight by the side of the road and somehow getting towed back to town, I started loosening the bolts of the wheel. Not sure how to fix this the safari seemed over before it had started. Shortly after our stop a safari vehicle came driving along the road. The friendly driver called Andy was a qualified mechanic back in the day and had now started his own safari business. Ironic that Handy Andy suddenly appeared and could help us out. Together we managed to get the drive shaft back into the wheel hub only to find out that the gap for the snap ring had totally worn off…

So I took a bolt off the roof rack and undid the suspension to remove one of the washers, using these parts to secure the axle in place.

Our safari could continue a few hours later. The sun now having set a long time ago, we drove through the dark enjoying a little night safari, spotting 3 hyenas on the road just a few kilometers from the campsite. Setting up the tent in the dark was adventurous and the kids helped, shining the torch, making a fire and getting some food ready. We all crawled into the sleeping bags together once we had gotten some food in our bellies.

Back in town our car was parked over the pit and taken apart. Luckily Maun has a Toyota dealer who could supply all the necessary parts. Though it took a few week before all the parts had arrived. While waiting for the new axle and accessory parts I found a little leak from the stearing rack and got at it.

After 4 weeks of fixing we could finally drive the car off the pit, all lubricated and sealed and ready for new adventures. Doing it myself probably took a bit longer, but at least I know what was done and that it was done proper. I also learned quite a bit along the way. Some struggles here and there and challenges arising because of the lack of special tools made it very satisfying finally finishing the job. And it sure helped having an experienced “fix it yourself” dad by your side.

Sleeping under the open sky

New visitors arrived to spend some time with us. A very good friend and two of his kids took the long journey to experience adventures with us. His youngest, a son, and very good friend of our boys was as excited as our boys as they finally met up again after not having seen each other for nearly a year. His sister at 14 joined, not wanting to miss any of the fun and adventures during the Norwegian autumn holiday. They were met by a wall of heat as they exited the plane. One evening in town is all they got before we headed into the bush and on a camping trip the next day. Our first journey took us North-West to Moremi, a place we had visited just a few months earlier. Having set up camp we enjoyed the evening around the campfire, telling stories and catching up on the year gone by.

We didn’t have to ask the kids twice whether they wanted to get up before sunrise to go an early morning drive. So the next morning before the darkness of the night crept away, we got up and started driving. Of course we had to stop for some coffee and hot chocolate and watch the sun begin it’s journey across the sky.

The water had been prepared the night before and was still hot when we poured it out of our flask. This saved some time in the morning and allowed for some extra minutes of sleep. Cooking water in the bush isn’t done as quickly as at home…

We continued driving the rest of the day seeing the usual game of antelopes, elephants and gazelles. After an hour’s lunch break in the shade and some fun out of the car we started heading back to camp.

Driving along a river bank Nicolas spotted a lioness in the shade on the opposite side! We crossed the riverbed at a dry spot further down to get a closer view. Just as we passed a big waterhole occupied by a group of hippo we spotted a pride of lions scouting the area for a snack.

7 lions in total with three cubs and 4 females. We had just spent a few minutes there when an impala came strolling towards the waterhole. One lioness was quick to evaluate the situation and darted off behind some bushes to get into a better position, 2 of the females followed, getting into strategic ready positions. Unluckily the impala got a bit spooked and managed to get into safety before the lions could launch their attack. It was still a lot of fun witnessing the attempt.

We got back to camp as the sun was setting and enjoyed making dinner while enjoying a cold drink. Later that evening just as the kids were getting ready for bed, Nora heard a noise close to camp and pointed the spotlight in the direction of the source. In her amazement the beam hit a leopard staring back her just 30 m away. The leopard was very relaxed and we all got a good view as it slowly and peacefully walked around our camp. Once we couldn’t see it anymore we heard it calling, a noise best compared to someone sawing a piece of wood.

We left Moremi after 2 fantastic nights and days, feeling lucky with the sightings we had had. Back at home we had one night to get things sorted for the next trip, taking us eastward to Botswana’s salt pans, by the way the largest in the world.

Our plan was to find a spot in the open and sleep under the open sky counting shooting stars before falling asleep. The vast space and flat surface of the pans was a lot of fun, playing some soccer and throwing the frisbee. The kids enjoyed running around after 3 hours of sitting in the car.

As it quickly got dark after sunset the sky revealed its magnificence. Millions of stars covering the dome above our heads. Without the moon and other light pollution shooting stars were easy to see. Unfortunately the wind picked up pace and transformed the peaceful spot into a sand blower. There was no counting shooting stars once we cuddled into our sleeping bags. The sand whipping our faces made it impossible to keep the eyes open.

The wind didn’t tire before we left camp after a quick breakfast, having enjoyed some coffee as the sun showed its glow on the horizon. Before we headed on to the tar road all the kids got a chance to drive our cars on the open and flat pans. They thought that was a lot of fun!

Our drive took us to the next stop, Meno a Kwena lodge. A lodge on the high bank of the Boteti river bordering the Makgadikgadi pans national. With little water everywhere, animals came down to the remaining puddle right in-front of the camp. With the river bank being so high the view was amazing.

It was a huge relief to wash the sand out of our ears and hair, before joining a bushman family on an educational walk. They told us about their way of living, reading tracks, making fire, playing games and they managed to find a scorpion 30cm down in the sand.

The following day we took a safari into the park where we got to see hundreds, if not thousands of zebra grazing in the riverbed and drinking from the remaining waterholes. Staying at the camp being served meals and having a wonderful view from the deck in-front of you tent is quite lovely, for a few days. We still prefer camping on our own. The journey back home meant that our guests had come to the end of their stay. We saw them off at the airport and sent them northwards back home to chilly and wet Norway. Luckily we had talked about the next visit in 2020, this time with the whole family and for more than a week. Looking forward to that!

An experience of a lifetime

Two land cruisers and a trailer packed, we were ready for a 10 day trip with our guests from the north. The 1981 model had just been serviced by myself and my dad, ready for the 1000 km round trip. We left Maun towards the east, to a place called Gweta. A little settlement at the edge of Botswana’s salt pans. We parked our cars at the lodge and only took the necessary bags for a night under the open sky. Our guide then drove us on a dusty road past some huge baobab trees and onto the Ntwetwe pan.

Spending the evening by the campfire telling stories we eventually slipped into the bedrolls, gazing up at the magnificent sky filled with millions of stars. Falling asleep counting shooting stars was a lot more fun than counting sheep. As the horizon was becoming lighter we woke to watch the sun rise from our beds.

After breakfast and some coffee our guide took us back to our cars. On the way back we stopped to see some meerkats warming themselves in the sun. Wonderful little creatures which came pretty close to us as we were sitting around their burrow.

Back at our cars the journey continued eastward for another 100km before heading north. The road heading north was an interesting drive, seeing quite a bit of wild animals along the way, making the 300 km journey seem a lot shorter. Later that afternoon we arrived in a place called Kasane, a village on the Chobe river in the north eastern corner of Botswana, bordering to Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia. It became apparent that Kasane was right on the edge of the Chobe game reserve as we drove through the little town we saw warthogs, elephant, Buffalo and other antelopes walking in between the houses.

Early the next morning, before sunrise we were picked up to be taken to Victoria falls. The border took som time, with a lot of other travelers wanting to enter Zimbabwe and the issuing of the visas proving to be a slow process. Finally whith the visas in all our passports we were all ready for some breakfast, before heading to the falls themselves.

The sight of the mighty Zambezi river thundering over the edge and falling downward was jaw dropping. Getting a cool down from the spray was pretty relieving as the temperature was rising.

From the falls we headed to the local market, where craftsmen and women were selling souvenirs and other products.

A bit of hustling and bartering later we had all acquired some small goods. The traders’ persistence and willingness to swap goods for clothing gave us a little insight into how tough their situation seems. Vic Falls itself most probably not reflecting the true situation in the rest of the country. Talking to locals we learnt that it is a lot tougher in many parts of the country. There is a new currency called “bonds”, which changes its value by the hour and other currencies have become illegal. The prices in the local supermarket were shockingly high! We left Zimbabwe in awe, that the people were so open, friendly and helpful even though the situation sounded so challenging.

Back in Botswana we had a few days in Kasane and decided to take an evening cruise on the Chobe river. Enjoying game viewing in a different style. Being in a boat is a lot less bumpy and not as dusty as on the back of the car. The boat also made it possible to see birds and other animals from a very close distance.

From Kasane we followed the road heading south west, homeward bound. Stopping over in Savuti for a few nights to see what we could see. And with these guests of ours we didn’t have to wait long before the next fantastic sighting revealed itself, a leopard lying in a tree! Having heard lions roaring all night, not far away from our tents we were optimistic to find them when we headed off on our morning drive. It didn’t take long until we spotted them by a nearby waterhole. Later that day, just after sunset, we were lucky to be parked right next to the male when it performed it’s familiar roar. The shear volume and depth it created was felt right to the bone.

Later that night as we were seated around the fire Øyvind, suddenly noticed a male Elefant on its way towards us, leisurely heading straight to where we were sitting. We slowly moved away towards one of the cars, giving it some space. It stood next to our chairs for a few minutes using its trunk to smell around, before slowly moving on, passing our car just a few meters from us. His size felt quite intimidating.

From Savuti we drove on to our last stopover, Mababe. As we pulled into one of our favorite spots it became clear that elephants owned this area. As we were about to unpack our gear an elephant came strolling into camp. Not minding us he started shaking the acacia tree, causing the pods to drop, then proceeding to gracefully picking them up with his trunk and flicking them into his mouth. He was not going to move away, and other elephants were coming close, also showing interest in an evening acacia pod snack. The sun steadily loosing height and dropping towards the horizon we decided to find another spot, with less acacia trees, to set up camp before dark. Luckily for us, this led to us seeing a leopard perched by the side of the road in hunting mode.

It had its eyes on a family of three warthog not far from us. Unfortunately the leopard sneaked off into the nearby bush following its meal, making it impossible for us to follow and witness the result of the hunt.

Safely back in Maun, after having had two flat tyres on the bumpy road home, we could look back at some fantastic experiences. Our guests had spent their first time in Africa. In the course of 2 weeks we saw the big five, travelled over 1000km, visited Zimbabwe, had been on different camping trips, had close encounters with wild animals, experienced a lion roar close by, saw lions at a kill, saw 3 leopards, one trying to hunt, saw some lovely sunsets and enjoyed each other’s company. They were truly lucky to see what they saw in such a short time! We look forward to next time and sharing new adventures.

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First time in Africa, straight into the bush

A week ago one of Nicolas’ school friends and his family arrived in Maun, to experience this part of the world and see where Nicolas is living. We picked them up at the airport in our safari vehicle, giving them the first taste of Botswana air. After only one night in “town” we packed the cars and headed for the wilderness. The newbie’s excitement of seeing cows, goats, donkeys and dogs along the tar road amused us slightly. None of us really remembering that feeling of being in Africa for the first time, we were glad to share that experience with them.

Once at the campsite we set up the tents and let the newbies cook dinner on the fire.

While the kids entertained themselves we adults enjoyed the quietness of the African wilderness, sipping cold beers and listening to the sounds of the bush.

Everyone felt a lot safer during daylight hours. Nervousness creeping in with the darkness of the night, as unfamiliar sounds filled the surroundings. Just as we sat down for dinner the first night lions began to roar their familiar moan not far away. Our visitor’s eyes got pretty big!

Sitting around the fire a bit later a little sound was heard and Øyvind turned to shine his torch at a hyena walking past camp just 10 m behind us, adding some more spice to the wilderness experience. Otherwise the night was calm and everyone woke before sunrise to go on an early morning drive. We had packed snacks and drinks to be out the whole day. After having enjoyed a few cups of warm coffee just after sunrise near a dried up water hole we continued our drive seeing warthogs, antelopes, Elefant, Zebra and other wild animals. Driving through a little forest coming around a bend we spotted two rhinos in an opening! A mother and her young. What a sighting!! The drive continued and not long after the rhinos we spotted a pride of 5 lions at a giraffe kill!

Being out the whole day we stopped for a late breakfast on an open plain with a herd of zebra and wildebeest.

Later that day we hung up the hammocks underneath a sausage tree enjoying a break from driving. Playing in the shade the kids climbed some trees, played a game of soccer and had some delicious bush snacks.

After the second night in the bush we headed back to town, where Nicolas’ friend joined him to school. We are now getting ready for the next trip, taking us to the north east of Botswana and over to Victoria falls in Zimbabwe.

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Weekend adventures

While we have come to the middle of winter, Norway is enjoying the middle of summer. Meaning that school up in the north has a 8 week long holiday and families with kids can take a few weeks holiday to visit us with their kids. First up is Martha’s cousin and family. Their kids are the same age as our two oldest. They get along well having spent numerous holidays together while we were still living in Norway.

July has a few long weekends, one in respect of Botswana’s first president, Sir Seretse Khama. So we used the extra days to go on adventure.

First up was a safari trip to one of our favorite spots on the Mababe river. Camping on the edge of the river with a wonderful view down the banks, from a 4 meter raised sandy little cliff. A fantastic spot for morning coffee and hot chocolate.

Because of the lack of rain animals crowd along the rivers, most noticeable were the elephants, which moved in and around camp day and night. Because Botswana is the country with the highest elephant population in Africa one is bound to encounter them. Luckily all our encounters were peaceful. Nonetheless there were a lot of tired faces exiting the tents on the first morning, having had elephants walk a few meters past our tents and ripping branches off trees right next to us all night. We love camping in the bush and you’d be surprised what one can see by just sitting in camp. We also had a hyena come by every night, saw two crocodiles mating in the river just in front of the camp, hippos bathing in the sun, buffalos drinking by the water and small wild cats hunting on the opposite side of the river.

Being in camp gives the kids time to do different things compared to every day life. For example cooking, making fires and entertaining themselves with out electronics or abundance of toys. Life can be so simple.

Of course we also went on gamedrives and watched some beautiful sunsets.

We didn’t see any of the big cats this time around, but that just means we’ll have to come back another time.

Once back in town the kids went to school for a few days before we headed off along the western side of the Delta. Driving around 300 km took us to Etsha and a camp along the Guma lagoon, at the bottom of the panhandle. Once leaving the tar road the roads were quite sandy and one of the cars got stuck. But reducing the tire pressure by letting out some air was enough to get it out and continue the journey.

This gave us the opportunity to see a different side of the otherwise pretty dry Okavango. Although water is relatively low this year, it was lovely to see this much water and greenery. Of course we had to get out on the boat and cruise the narrow channels of the Okavango lined by papyrus walls. Seeing a few huge crocodiles catching some warmth in the sun, but quickly slipping into the water when we tried to approach for a better look.

Enjoying fishing I had the rods ready to try our luck at catching the African tiger fish or the more tricky bream (bass). Although fortune was not with us this time, it was fun giving it a try.

We now await the next visitors in a week, and are looking forward to new adventures. The next trip will take us into Moremi Game Reserve before we head to the Makgadikgadi pans and then Vic falls passing through Savuti on our way back home.

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Might as well go camping

The new year has brought rain and long lasting power cuts. Amazing how dependent we are on electricity. As there still are a few days of holiday left before school kicks off we decided to go camping. We packed the car and hit the road, making sure the tent and mattresses on the roof were covered with a tarpaulin to prevent it from getting wet, should we meet some rain along the way.

The drive took us along the tar road for 40 minutes before we hit the end and had to make the best of the sand and gravel ahead.

With the rainy season different reptiles are out and about and we had to stop to check out a leopard tortoise along the way, getting a good look. The kids insisted on taking it off the road to prevent it being driven over.

After a short break eating some biltong (dried strips of meat) and getting a quick run, the journey continued. Three 3 hours and some game viewing later we finally arrived at the camp site and set up camp. We found a lovely spot on the edge of the river with quite a view westwards, guaranteeing a view of the sunset.

The kids helped, taking responsibility and getting camp set up before sunset. While mom was making the beds with Matilda (3) the boys collected firewood and made the fire.

After dinner the boys insisted on a night drive looking for animals that hide away during the day light hours. We did see a few small wild cats and a crocodile amongst other antelopes and buffalo.

During the night Matilda had a blister beetle pee on her eyelid creating blisters. And some pain for the days to come, but she was tough and didn’t make much of a fuss.

After breakfast the next day it was time for a game drive. I tied down two camping chairs on the roof rack and put some mattresses there for comfort. The boys were then set for game viewing from the roof top. Along the drive we saw lots of different animals. The water buck with a white ring on its bum, which looks like it just sat on a freshly painted toilet. Elefant taking a bath in a water hole. Impalas and lechwe. Hippos in and out of the water. Tons of different birds, storks, eagles and kites. A definite highlight was a hyena cooling off in a little pond next to the road and a cobra slithering across the road (go visit our Instagram account @family_out_and_about for a short video of the snake and other pictures).

For lunch we stopped at a river crossing and had a quick dip to cool off before eating some snacks. We got back to camp and managed to start dinner just before the wind picked up bringing in a sand storm and was wipping sand in our faces. When dinner was ready the skies opened up and we hurried into the car to enjoy our meal there. The food was quite crunchy with all the sand, but eating in the car while the lightning and thunder presented themselves, made it an experience to remember. The following day we spent lazying around in camp, reading, playing, climbing and gazing out into the bush.

Camping and the wilderness is a lot of fun and very relaxing. We had a fantastic few days on our own, before heading back to civilization. Nothing much can compare to the feeling of having a warm shower and relieving the body of the sweat and dirt it has attracted over the last few days. Now we are looking forward to school starting and getting papers sorted. Still living in the unknown and hoping for the best.