Sun 13th, Mon 14th & Tue 15th Nov – Camping at Savuti Chobe National Park
Kasungula Border – Savuti: 167km
Game driving around Savuti: 75km
Total km driven since leaving Nairobi: 8,926km
WE BREAK THE CAR!
So, you’re driving around in the bush and on your map, you suddenly notice a small track up a hill that’s going to provide one of the few vantage points in an otherwise flat area. On closer inspection, you see some writing in red that reads ‘steep hill’, ‘rocky road’ and ‘4×4 only’. What do you do?
Of course, we decided that was going to be the perfect place for morning coffee and a spot of breakfast, so we headed straight over. ‘Bouldery’ would probably have been a better description because ‘rocky’ and ‘steep’ made it sound easy. We definitely needed a 4×4 but everything went swimmingly well and we were marvelling at how robust our safari vehicle was. The view from the top was awesome and a welcome change from Botswana’s monotonous flat landscape. My coffee tasted even better than normal as I relaxed in my roof seat and took it all in.
On the way down, as we were going over the last steep, rocky bit of road, we heard a rather loud clanging noise suddenly start to emanate from under the car. We clattered our way the final few metres to the flat, sandy soil at the base of the hill and looked for the source of the noise. It didn’t take long for us to see that the main leaf spring on the left-hand side was completely broken and had fallen out of alignment, with the sound being the metal springs knocking against the body and chassis.
We were 15km from camp, with absolutely no cell signal and hadn’t seen a car for well over an hour. We reasoned we had little option other than to limp back to camp, which we actually managed to do with little hassle, though it took us quite a long time. Our campsite and the nearby ranger post were both mechanic-less but we were told that a nearby lodge had a workshop and would be our best bet in the immediate area. So tentatively we made our way to Belmond Savuti where we met Timothy, the mechanic.
Timothy surveyed the mess we’d made of our suspension and we discussed the options available to us. There were no spare spring sets for our Hilux anywhere in Savuti so we’d either have to go back 120km to Kasane or go on 150km to Maun, both journeys would need to be done slowly and carefully and would completely mess up our travel plans and campsite bookings.
Or we could let Timothy have a go at welding the spring back together and see how long that would last. It seemed we didn’t really have any great options available, so we decided to give that a go. It turned out Timothy’s garage at the back of camp was pretty well kitted out and it didn’t take him long to dismantle everything and I was soon left holding 2 pieces of spring that should have been one.
He did what looked to be a good job but I wasn’t convinced that it would be able to survive the pressures and strains that the rough roads would put on it. I sent a couple of images back to a 4×4 aficionado and off-road expert friend back in Nairobi for his take and he gave the whole job a lifespan of less than a day. Despite all this, we figured we wouldn’t be worse off so we went ahead and were driving out from the lodge 4 hours later.
We’ve since done 6 hours of game driving through Savuti, which ended up being pretty productive… several lion sightings, a nice pair of male cheetahs out searching for breakfast and a nice mix of plains game. The Savuti channel is an old riverbed that has been cut off from its source of water by tectonic activity but still floods annually. Although, at this time of year when the rains have just started, it was still dry and fun to drive along. Sand ridges and a few low hills make the landscape interesting and give points of reference for navigation and one of these hills had some San Bushman art, which we clambered up to, giving the highly poisonous twig snake we encountered on the way up a wide berth.
Kian also found out that the staff and rangers all got together for a game of football every evening and threw himself into that with great gusto. The pitch was pure sand, which made running around and controlling the ball quite difficult, but he still had a blast and finished each of our 3 days there covered from head to toe in dirt and with a grin from ear to ear.
Our time in Savuti has now drawn to a close and the welded spring is still holding. We’ll be leaving Chobe National Park having 5 days of safari in 2 different parts of the Okavango Delta ahead of us before we get to Maun… Keep your fingers crossed and wish us luck… We’ll update you in the next blog.