A Quick Drive
We awoke after our first night in Chobe National Park feeling much more comfortable. We did a quick look around the campsite to check for elephants, hippos, lion and other large animals before making our way to the ablution block (washrooms). Devon made coffees while I got ready for the day. We checked the maps and decided to make breakfast once we arrived at the next campsite, Savuti, also run by SKL Camps.
The “roads” were more like a suggestion than actual roads. Deep sand that got softer and softer as the sun heated it up. The softer it became, the more difficult the driving. Devon was a superstar and did extremely well with using the 4×4 to its maximum abilities.
And then we got stuck…
Then a bushfire started in the distance…
And the wind started blowing the fire in our direction…
And no amount of digging and maneuvering allowed us to continue…
Bushfire and a Satellite Phone
Surprisingly calm, Devon started shovelling while I grabbed the rubber tire tracks out of the back of the truck. We took the jack and lifted each tire to put the rubber mats under. The fire crept closer and we tried to cover our mouths with our shirts and continue with our recovery efforts. Ash blew in our faces and we secured the mats and attempted to flee. Still stuck.
The fire creeps closer and Devon starts shovelling sand onto it as it nears the road. I bring our water jugs to the other side of the road in case the fire ignites the truck. We grab our electronics and passports all while scanning for lions and hyenas in the vicinity. In the back of mind, I hope the smoke and flames will keep all predators away for awhile.
We find the satellite phone and call the campsite we left this morning. We tell them what road we’re on but they won’t send anyone unless we provide the GPS coordinates so we scramble to try to secure those. It’s over 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and the heat from the smoke and fire chokes us. We give the GPS coordinates and Devon goes back to trying to jack up the car and I go back to shovelling sand on the fire.
The arm of the jack sprang up and hit Devon in the face causing a gash over his lip that won’t stop bleeding. I grab the first aid kit I packed, clean the cut and put a butterfly style bandaid on it to keep it closed up until we can deal with it more later.
We keep shovelling which luckily pushed the bigger flames back enough that the truck didn’t catch fire. Eventually we see this massive green military truck down the road and 3 men from the Botswana military exit to help us. They thought we were crazy, 2 Canadians in flip flops in the middle of an African bushfire! To get us out of the sand they ignored our rubber mats and grabbed as many sticks as they could find to wedge under each tire. The sand was so hot that trying to dig us out only made it worse, but now we know! When we finally got out, we thanked them and tried to give them money which they refused. We were able to give them some Cokes and water though!
They told us that they primarily guard animals and watch for poachers which is a massive problem in this area and occasionally rescue overlanders like ourselves! We learned that the reason the elephants here are so aggressive is because they are used to being hunted, whereas the elephants we’d seen elsewhere didn’t have as much bad experience with humans so were less aggressive towards people. So sad but I’m so thankful for the work they do!
We started up again only to be stuck again five minutes later. We honked our horn and luckily they weren’t too far ahead of us yet so they had to get us out once again! This time they strapped our truck to their massive vehicle and pulled us to an area that was more manageable.
One Last Stop
At this point its after 4 in the afternoon and we left at 8am with no breakfast because we thought it was going to be a quick drive. Starving, we near our next campsite and get stuck behind a watering hole with a ton of elephants. We turn off the truck and wait it out. Once they leave, it will be smooth sailing, we’re literally 2 minutes away from our next campsite. What could go wrong?
Well…Remember those aggressive elephants? The truly amazing thing about elephants is that you cannot hear them coming. Elephants feet are so large that any sound gets muffled under them.
I look to my left and suddenly a very large bull elephant is fast approaching our truck. He looks at us and swings his massive trunk from side to side and walks around to the front of our truck. My stomach drops, my heart rate accelerates and I’m sure we’re done for. He takes a step towards us, trunk swinging. Devon is ready to start the truck at any moment and FINALLY the elephant decides we’re not worth the fight and backs off. Like sitting ducks, we were immobilized by fear. Diesel engines sound a lot like growling and elephants can take that as aggression so we didn’t want to start the truck unless we absolutely had to.
We made it to our campsite and Devon made a beautiful dinner. An employee came around to sell us wood and advise us that lions roam through our campsite all night, most nights. We lit a fire and felt motivated to hop into the tent a little early! Haha.