Crew: Jabulani (Ezemvelo), Melanie (Thanda), Kim and Matt (Phinda)
The much awaited day had finally come as we got up to a chilly Johannesburg morning and headed off to the Wanderers club for the start of the Put Foot Rally 2012. We were running a little late for our 6 o’clock start, but Melanie made short work of the early morning traffic, giving Kimberly, our Landy, a thorough warming up! We arrived with time to spare and had to wait in line behind all the other anxious put footers. Each vehicle got an official send off from the organiser, Daryn Hillhouse, and a peppering from the photographers. At 6h45 our moment in the limelight arrived. We hastily pulled off our warm jackets to proudly expose our Cameron Pet Food sponsored shirts to the photographers and off we went!
We battered our way through the early morning traffic but were soon free and on the ‘openish’ road towards Pioneer Gate, the Botswana border post on the N4. The first few hours flew by as we got to know one another a bit better, including interrogating Melanie about the new man in her life! Jabulani exponentially increased our knowledge on the state of Southern Africa’s rhino population and everything relating to it. That’s when we made a unanimous decision that any vaguely tricky rhino question would be passed directly over to him, with promises to learn more…quickly.
Zeerust and breakfast arrived in the form of Wimpy (yum!), then on we went to the border where our trip’s first excitement awaited us. Passport control was going by rather fluidly until we were required to write down our vehicle’s license number. Panic levels soon rose when we discovered that our license number on the vehicle paper did not match the one on the number plate! Massive bombshell! Melanie made some frantic phone calls to try organise that the correct form be faxed, while Jabulani voiced his fears of getting locked up in a foreign country. All the while Kim was adamant that we were making a huge fuss about nothing and that the plates did match the vehicle paper in a rather obscure way. Melanie managed to get Carl, the vehicle owner, on the phone and he allayed our fears by saying that he had travelled throughout Africa with those exact papers and never had any issues. We decided to attribute the whole debacle to a minor neurotic breakdown on Melanie’s behalf and file the experience away under “will be funny later”. We slipped hassle free through the rest of the border and onto the Trans Kalaghadi highway, woohoo!!
Not 2km along the B2 when we encountered our first official wild animal, not the dog outside Rustenberg, but a troop of baboons foraging on the traffic circle. Of rhinos however, there was no sign, they are restricted to a handful of parks up north. Hope still remains for them in Botswana as a population has recently been reintroduced into Moremi Game Reserve.
We drove through the vast Kgalagadi, there was nothing in the form of civilisation apart from a few small towns. We didn’t see another put footer until after endless kilometers on a dead straight road. Plenty put footers had decided to call it a day at Kang and were already getting festive when we arrived. A member of the Pink Panther team even accosted us and tried to persuade us to stay there. However, Ghanzi was calling and we wanted to make the most of the remaining light…light which was fading quickly. It resulted in a spectacular sunset that really emphasized the crazy wild vastness of the Kalahari.
Eventually after a bumpy little dirt track we arrived at our first night’s destination, Thakadu! We pulled into the restaurant/reception which had an amazing African feel, rustic bar, crackling fire and a herd of wildebeest drinking at a floodlit waterhole. A fully carnivorous dinner of chicken livers, gemsbok potjie, warthog curry and kudu shamaaz. This, if you are wondering, is a traditional Setswana dish where beef is cooked to nothing, then stripped off the bone and then finally pounded with mallet until it’s completely unrecognisable. Wow! Super delicious though!
It was then time for our first campsite setup… It went rather well, minus one tent as Melanie opted for sleeping in the car! We then ventured to the ablutions for a well deserved shower, fueled by a donkey boiler, before calling it a very long day and crashing…hard!