Saturday 18th to Sunday 19th August 2012.
We left the sanctuary and started towards Francistown. The road quickly changed from tar to gravel, that was badly corrugated in parts. Though it was unpleasant, it was hardly a bad road compared to what we have driven in parts of Central Africa. We started to hear a regular metallic clunking sound, which we couldn’t quite locate. We stopped and started, stopped and started, trying to find the source of the noise. Eventually we realised that it was the rear shock absorber on the driver’s side! The metal eye connecting the shock to the car had snapped! We were shocked that our Old Man Emu shock had failed…again! In looking for the source of the clunk the suspension was our last thought. We’d chalked the last failure of the OME shocks up to a freak-occurrence and on the long drive since Burkina Faso we had gradually installed our faith back in OME. Still, here we were with our third broken shock absorber of the trip.
With more corrugations to Francistown than back, we turned around and made our way to Serowe, the nearest sizable town. Here we phoned Kevin, of Nene Overland, and explained what had happened. As before, he was very responsive and helpful. He immediately organised to courier a replacement shock absorber to us. We arranged for it to be sent to our friend’s home in Harare. In the meantime, we needed to find a welder who could temporarily fix the two parts of our shock together. By now it was mid-afternoon and, being Saturday, many places were closed or closing. With the help of several local people, we found a guy with a little stall at the roadside, offering welding services. He was happy to do the job for 60 pula (about £6). He led us to his yard, littered with bits of metal and dominated by a rusty trailer. Here he and Luke jacked up Bluebelle, removed the wheel, and got to work on welding the shock.
With Bluebelle patched up, we drove north and found ourselves a wild camp amongst a cluster of lovely winter tree-skeletons. We cooked up a chilli and enjoyed a couple of Castle lagers under the brilliant stars.
The next morning was lovely at our wild camp; very still with an orange sunrise sprinkled over the winter trees. We brewed drinks and ate breakfast before getting on the road. It was just a few hundred kilometres before we’d reach the Botswana-Zimbabwe border. The tar roads were kind to our roughly repaired suspension. Soon we entered Franceville, where we spent the last of our pula on fuel and food. It is quite a big town and there we found all the soulless accoutrements of affluence; neatly lined car parks, well painted signs, bright advertisements, fluorescent lighting, and packaged goods aplenty. It was the perfect place to stock up however, as we didn’t know what to expect from Zimbabwe. Just 100km or so later, we were at the border and getting our stamps out of Botswana. Again, all the formalities were in the one building. Customs stamped our carnet de passage quickly. There was a fair old queue at the immigration desk, first to get forms and then to hand these in and get stamped. Still, we were all done and driving out within about 20 minutes.
We had such a lovely time in Botswana, with all the wild spaces, fascinating creatures, and some really nice people. We could easily and happily come back again to explore some more.