Posted by: Anna | January 28, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Namibia

When we returned from our adventure in the Okavango Delta, our plan was to check into a room at the Bridge for one night, then get up early the next morning and head off to Namibia. We had done the main activities we came to Botswana to do, and we were ready to head on. But then we ran into Tom Mendes de Costa. We had met Tom previously in Zambia on the booze cruise and talked for about ten minutes. We had been emailing back and forth to arrange to travel together, but it hadn’t worked out yet. Tom (British) is an orthopedic surgeon, and his girlfriend Eva (Swedish) is a general surgeon. They had met working in South Africa, where a young surgeon can get a lot of experience actually doing surgery (much more than in Europe or America).

Tom was just walking out of the shower as we were walking to our room, and he had an idea to pitch to us – rent a 4×4 and drive it to the Kalahari. Tom and Eva had figured out the pricing for renting a 4×4 fully equipped with all the gear you would ever need to camp. The Kalahari is another national park in Zambia, known for being remote and accessible only by 4×4. When I hear Kalahari, I imagine rolling sand dunes and desert. Turns out, that’s not what the Kalahari National Park is – but it was cool nonetheless.

Tommy and I conferred over Tom and Eva’s idea for about a minute before deciding, what the hell….sounds cool. We could postpone going to Namibia for a few days – it would still be there. We hadn’t seriously considered the Kalahari as a destination because the cost of renting the 4×4 on our own was prohibitive, but together, we agreed we could just swing it. We also didn’t know how to drive a 4×4, and might not have been confident enough to set off into the true bush. The Kalahari is the BUSH, for real. The campsites are so remote that each one is separate from the others – you cannot see other campers. You are surrounded by the roars of lions and sounds of other animals as you sleep. It is not fenced (Kruger was fenced). There are no gas stations, stores, restaurants, or anything at all within the park, or even nearby. You have to be completely self-sufficient to go to the Kalahari. Completely self-sufficient camping in a 4×4 is a long way to go for someone like me who went camping for the first time EVER in August (less than six months ago!). But part of this trip is expanding our horizons, trying new experiences, yada yada yada.

We spent the evening talking with another couple who had just returned from the Kalahari in the bar at the Bridge, hearing their favorite spots and tips. We also got to know Tom and Eva a little better, and we were reassured that we had made a good decision – they were smart and fun.

Early the next morning, we set out to pick up our 4×4 just down the road, from a guy named Dave. He showed us our car – a tan Land Cruiser. I have never been in a Land Cruiser before, but it is a beast of a car, big, with a big diesel engine. The Land Cruiser comes equipped – fully equipped. Two tents, bed rolls, sleeping bags, pillows, and towels for your comfort. Along with every possible cooking implement you could need while camping, and some I would never use – potato masher? Giant stew pot? It has dishes, glasses, wine glasses, and cutlery. Two tables – one for “kitchen” and one for eating, complete with an elephant print tablecloth. A dishwashing bin, dish towels, and pot holders. Four comfy camp chairs. A propane cooker, extra jerry cans for fuel, and a giant container for water. A fridge! Also a spade, a high jack, and an axe. I didn’t think much about why we would need those at the time.

I loved exploring the car and finding how equipped we were to head off into the wilderness on our own. Eva and I went to the grocery store and the liquor store while the boys finished loading the car and doing the paperwork. When they came to pick us up from the store, they were disappointed that we did not have any beef. Dave, the rental guy, had shown them the special beef hiding spot so you could smuggle beef past the veterinary fence (no beef can cross this fence within Botswana because of something with hoof and mouth). No worries – the 4×4 has a specially designed spot for beef smuggling. We unfortunately did not get to use it.

Before we set off, Dave showed us how to drive the car. Tom had driven a 4×4 before, but the rest of us were novices. We filled up the jerry cans on the roof with fuel, and we were off, with Tom driving to start. Less than 24 hours after even considering the idea of going to the Kalahari, we were entering the park gates for what would be a very memorable adventure with some great people.

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  1. It’s always a new adventure with the two of you! I’d like to think I’m that adventuresome but alas, I’m not! But a friend and I are planning a 2 weeks trip to italy in April! Tame compared to your trip but we are not on a tour-making our own tour! Played bridge last night-terrible cards but I ate two of Babb’s brownies-one for each of you and they said to say “hello.” I eagerly await your next post. Be safe!


    • Thanks! I miss those brownies…Wishing you lots of fun and a little adventure in Italy. What part are you going to?

  2. Anna, we camped when younger, and I am disappointed that you do not count it now that you have camped in the African bush.

    A couple of times I gave up going to important Texas-OU games for father-daughter Indian Princess camping trips at Possum Kingdom Lake, the YMCA wilderness in West Texas. I think we heard a coyote, chased a raccoon and smelled a skunk! Like seeing lions and elephants in Africa, right?

    • I know we “camped”, but I remember it being inside a hut / shelter type thing with cots / beds inside…not exactly the same. But I’m sorry that I didn’t give you credit where credit was due.

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