3 rules about going to the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans

Rules

  1. Don’t go in the rainy season
  2. If you do go stay on the road
  3. If you get stuck don’t phone me I’m busy that day.

Enjoying the rewards of a braai on Sunday afternoon with a friend, she got a call from people she knew that wanted to go to Lekhubu Island from Letlhakane.

They didn’t make it – they tried to go around a puddle in the road through the grass and they got buried down to their under belly.

We went with 2 4×4’s to do the rescue and managed to get 1 of them stuck as well.

We left Letlhakane at 15h30 and finally got home after getting the 2 vehicles out at 20h00.

About 200m away from our incident there was another stuck vehicle. It was a local vehicle that was all locked up and nobody around. They had either walked for help or had planned to leave their vehicle there until the pans dried.

So if you are planning to go to the pans, any time soon, read my rules above.

A comment that has just come through from a rescue company and note the last price:

 feel free to call me. My flat recovery rate is P15 000 per vehicle. P20 000 if you don’t have your own recovery equipment. P40 000 if you left the tracks .” 

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My Ungraceful Dismount

When I was at university we had a saying “gravity doesn’t exist – the earth sucks“. Which ever it is, it works far too well.

If I had been in a gymnastics competition I would have got a perfect -10. My apparatus a step ladder, which decided to fall over whilst I was on it. It feels like I have broken ribs in 2 different places.

4 useless hours at the doctor and x-rays, came up with nothing. Why do doctors always have to prod until you squeal. Our doctor asked where it was hurting, once I told my he pushed around until I screamed with pain – then he said he is sorry. Why couldn’t he just trust me when I told him where I was hurting. When he asked where else it was sore I refused to tell him, until he went back and sat behind his desk.

The injection he gave me for pain at least took away the pain of the injection itself.

As my sister, Bridgette says, “probably a couple of bruised ribs, nothing that a couple of lemonades won’t cure”. Thank goodness the bottle stores are open again.

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In loving memory

In loving memory of my mother, Clare Morrison, who passed away earlier this morning at the age of 88. I guess her body just said enough is enough and she went peacefully.

She was a very special person, she was brought up in Johannesburg and went to Jeppe Girls High School where she was Head Girl. She married my father at an early age and through her married life she loved, cared and supported him with all that he was involved with.

If I could have my life over again there is one thing I wouldn’t change as I have been privileged to not only have had such a wonderful, loving and caring mother but to have known and spent many amazing years with a very special person. It has been an honour being called her son.

She loved gardening, nature and wildlife and gave her time volunteering at the Durban Hospice and Addington Hospital.

She leaves behind my two sisters and I, 5 grandchildren and many a friend who will all have fond memories of her and how she influenced all our lives for the better.

Mom may you rest in peace

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Chaos during the night

Last night, at The Plot, was one of those stunning nights. All the regular noises could be heard; the cicada beetles, with their consistent high pitched hum, which occasionally was drowned out by the loud call of the barking gecko. A spotted eagle owl gave the odd hoot and far in the distance we could see lightening and the quietest of rumbles filtered through to us.

This serene ambiance was shattered in a split second by the trumpeting of an elephant that was obviously highly angry with something, or someone. It sounded incredibly close and very nasty.  Our dogs responded by barking aggressively.

By the use of a spotlight I could see it was not our dogs under attack and the trumpeting was coming from outside our property in the direction of our closest neighbour, a subsistence farmer, Re (Mr) Tawana. His dogs were also barking loudly and angrily.

It is not often that I find myself not the target of charging elephants so I did feel slightly relieved. However my fears turned towards Mr Tawana who lives and has crops almost on our fence line. It sounded if the elephant was near him.

With the excellent rains we have been experiencing all the crop fields around us, for the first time since we have had The Plot, were looking very productive. This is great as the farmers depend on these crops for their survival. These excellent crops could all be eaten by an elephant in one night.

When we went to check on Re Tawana in the morning we discovered that it had not just been one elephant but 3. They had moved through his field and it was his dogs that had angered one of them causing it to trumpet.

Apart from walking on his crops, damaging his border line and doing a bit of structural damage to his kraal he was very lucky. He and his wife were not harmed and none of his crops were eaten. His dogs obviously helped to be a deterrent and kept the elephants moving.

This human/elephant conflict will continue to be an issue in Africa and like everything there is always two sides to the problem. Elephants can be very destructive damaging homes, destroying or eating crops and even harming or killing humans. The mere presence of elephants threatens the survival of a community; be it through starvation or being attacked.

The issue is that with the human population increasing the demand for land escalates this decreases areas for elephants and blocks their natural migration routes.

During the rainy season, especially like the one we are experiencing this season, elephants will move from areas they have been in throughout the dry season, as it has an all year water supply and now “overgrazed”, to areas that are more lush and that now have water. Hence saving themselves from starvation.

This was certainly the case with our 3 elephants. Elephants are like a massive food processor, they put in food one side and dung comes out the other. During our inspection of Re Tawana’s land and the surroundings Sue kept on saying “There isn’t even any dung”.

Neither were there any broken trees or any signs of feeding. These 3 elephants were on the move to a place that they had learnt about during their lives that has an amble food supply and now a water source. An elephant utopia. Re Tawana was just in the way.                                                                                

Apart from our concerns for our community and their crops, how awesome is it to have elephants so close.

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Incredible rains, but a dry February

The highest February rainfall I have recorded, here in Letlhakane, in the past 9 years was 198 mm; so far in the first 9 days of this February we have had 260 mm.

However it is our second dry alcohol month of this year owing to a ban on sales owing to the corona virus, so far no alcohol has been sold in Botswana legally this year.

Drinking a lemonade has taken on a whole new meaning to me; making it worse is that I don’t really like it. The thought of having to celebrate my birthday later this month with naartjie cordial doesn’t exactly appeal to me.

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Great sunrise this morning

Botswana is well known for its great sunsets, especially the Kasane/Chobe area. However, this morning we had a sunrise at The Plot that was just magnificent.

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The “wonder fruit”

The fruit of the Snot Apple or African Chewing Gum tree is claimed to cure at least 22 diseases and ailments and also to enhance your love life. We have planted 3 of these indigenous trees on The Plot.

Read more about this tree at: https://ourbots.wordpress.com/the-plot/interesting-trees-at-the-plot/snot-apple-or-african-chewing-gum-tree/ Or come and camp here to enjoy its benefits

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Adapting to Off the Grid Living

“Some people could be given an entire field of roses and only see the thorns in it. Others could be given a single weed and see the wildflower in it”. 

Watching TV about people moving off the grid always looks so glam and the way to go. Well it is. Many a hurdle to overcome, but adapting to the situation and appreciating what you have and not stressing about what would be nice to have, is the whole key to living off the grid.

Living off the Grid Botswana

Living at The Plot is amazing, so much better than living in the hustle and bustle of the vibrant village of Letlhakane. However, we are close enough to pop into town for supplies (about 5km to the nearest store). Even though we are nearby it feels like a million miles away.

Now when we hear a strange noise, it is on our property and can’t be written off as “it was probably the neighbours”. We can now hear the rustle of wind in the trees, bird calls and the barking geckos at night. Every evening the Crested Francolin start calling as they come for water and Jacobin Cuckoo can be heard looking for a mate.

So what are the major challenges living off the grid, well the most important one is water. A borehole is going to happen soon. This will make a massive difference to us, as at the moment we have to truck water in or get it from a very kind friend a kilometer away who has a hole.

Water just trickles into our house at the moment from our storage tank and that is only when the water level in the storage tank is higher than our taps. The great rain we have been having this season is a blessing as it has kept our tank full if not overflowing.

This still doesn’t help with showering, but we do have our campsite which is about 200m away, which does have a water tank on a stand and hence pressure for showering. There is also a donkey boiler there for hot water, but being in the middle of summer there has not yet been a need for warmer water.

Even with a borehole we need to pump the water into the house. Our totally inadequate solar system, won’t at this stage cater for that. Which brings me to the next challenge of living off the grid – that being electricity.

Our present system allows for some time on our computers and lights at night. What more do you need, well refrigeration would be nice. We have our camp fridge, but with our small system and permanently cloudy days we are only running it a few hours a day.

Since moving to The Plot, we have not watched any TV, which has been amazing as we have actually started reading books again. What is actually happening in the rest of the world – we have no clue.

The answer is to get more solar panels and batteries, but this costs money. The situation is the same where ever you live, on the grid or off, the more money you have the more comfortable you can be. At this stage we are just going to increase 1 panel at a time, 1 battery at a time.

One thing that we now appreciate is electricity and how much is wasted when you are living on the grid.  An airline once took out 1 olive out of every 1st Class passengers salad – the result is that it saved a fortune. When every Watt counts, all of a sudden you don’t leave your Wi-Fi modem/rooter on when you are not using it; or leave the DSTV and TV on sleep mode, don’t leave your cell phone/mobile on charge once it has reached 100% battery, etc.

The conservation of power should be every household and business ‘duty; this would ease the pressure on power stations and go a long way in preventing global warming.

We are now preparing for the upcoming dry months. It is hard to believe, when we are so lush now, that in a few months’ time we will be dry and the trees would have lost their leaves.  At the moment we are trimming trees to feed our goats. The trees will recover and come back even stronger next wet season.

OLablabur first crops are in. One is Lablab, which is a type of bean. Young beans can be eaten and leaves are similar to spinach or rape. But this isn’t our purpose of growing it; we are growing it for forage for our goats. We have planted in stages so that we don’t get an overabundance in one go.

We have also planted Napier grass, also known as elephant grass. It is a very important forage due to its high productivity. However it also improves soil fertility, and protects arid land from soil erosion. It is also utilized for firebreaks, windbreaks, in paper pulp production and most recently to produce bio-oil, biogas and charcoal.

 
 

With all the wonderful rain we are getting our gardens are looking wonderful. Having more time on our hands has helped them as well. Our little nursery is growing nicely and we are looking to start a commercial nursery with a friend as well as a possibly a wholesale nursery.

Below are some pictures of our new house, we call “housie” owing to its size, and pictures of gardens at The Plot.

We wish you would come and visit. Come pitch a tent and camp at our campsite just outside Letlhakane.

Housie

The Plot’s Campsite, Letlhakane

 

Cailie’s Cove

Others

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Border Opening Celebration: Free camping

To celebrate the opening of our borders I am happy for anyone to stay on my land, just outside Letlhakane, at my personal campsite, for free.

We are on the road to Lekhubu Island.

This offer is until and including the Easter weekend

For more see:  The Plot

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Record Rains – that I have recorded

Let the rains continue to fall; wash away any tears; bring joy to our hearts and bless this little garden

What has been a hard year for most, ended in a very positive way – well rain wise – except we have a leaking roof.

Since I have been recording the weather here in Letlhakane, Botswana, for the last 8 years this season’s rain has been the best ever to date.

In December we had 202mm of rain – this is 47mm higher than any other December rainfall I have recorded.

We have had the highest rainfall in a 24 hour period, that being 96mm beating that of 81mm in February 2016. However I do recall when we had just moved up here we did have over 100mm overnight, but I have no record of that.

Highest rainfall in a month: 202mm this December, over 197.5mm in February 2018

Our season to date (October to end December) rain is 292mm the next highest for this period is 178mm in 2018. Last season we only had a total season rainfall (October to May) of 295mm.

Sue and I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas and hope 2021 is a far better one for all. I still haven’t signed any terms and conditions for going into 2021 yet 🙂

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