We live in a desert – a term I use loosely as purists’ class this area as Kalahari Savanna with a rainfall of between 200 – 500mm of rain annually. Well let me but it into a different context: take a 200km radius from your house and think of how many rivers run throughout the year and how many run during the rainy season every year. Well we have none and the only waterfall is in our garden. At the moment there is one river flowing and that is after being dry for 24 years. The concept of going in search of a river I am sure seems odd for you, but COME AND VISIT and you will see the area and the excitement of seeing a river flowing through it.
The Boteti River used to flow annually up until 1990 being supplied from overflow waters from the Okavango delta through the Thamalakane River in Maun and emptied into the Makgadigadi Pans bringing it alive with seasonal activity. For the last 24 years it has been a dusty riverbed. Excellent rainfall in the Angolan highlands this year fed Botswana’s Okavango Delta to overflowing, which allowed water to follow decades-old pathways and many of the animals found along the river have never seen flowing water before.
Setting out from Letlhakane you head past the mining town of Orapa on the main road that eventually comes out at Maun. The bush is predominantly Mopane and sickle bush country and rollers, bee eaters are the predominant birds seen along the electricity lines.
A dead horse on the side of the road was covered in Vultures and it gave us the opportunity to see a white-headed vulture, which is classed as vulnerable population.
The road is busy as it is the main route from Maun back to South Africa and there is a constant flow of 4X4 and well kitted out bush vehicles.
The bushveld starts to change as you reach the small village of Mopipi as a number of small salt pans occur around the village. The Mopipi dam was about 1% full, if that, just a few pools from which the cows were drinking.
Heading out from Mopipi towards Rakops the area has much less trees and opens into grasslands which leads to increased number of donkeys, cows, goats and plenty of horses and progress is hence much slower.
Here the mud huts in the little villages are even different being much smaller than we are used to in our area.
As you get closer and closer to Rakops so you start moving into the Kalahari with barren ground and open grasslands. Then out of the nowhere you go over a bridge with a sign Boteti River and there is flowing water. But to get to see the best of the river we needed to head up stream past the town of Rakops
If there is one town that is included in every conversation, when talking about exploring in our greater area, it is the town of Rakops. You go from Rakops to the Central Kalahari National Park, Makgadigadi National Park and on to Maun to the Okavango, so one would assume that this was a big town and marked in the same large font on our map as Letlhakane.
In fact as we left early from home we thought we would buy our picnic supplies in Rakops. One thing we have learnt and this was just a reminder, do not assume anything in Botswana. Get food and fuel where you know you can get it and don’t expect to find it anywhere else.
Heading out from Rakops goes through true Kalahari Desert, miles and miles of harsh sand and grass. We arrived on this stretch at peak hour and we went very slowly. It was drinking time for the cows and it seemed that every cow in the area was making its way from the grazing lands across the road to go a drink in the Boteti River.
Not far from Rakops we headed off the road and made our way through soft sand and beautiful forests of camel thorn and leadwoods. The first track we took, took us right to the river and after a couple of hours of driving through the “desert” we saw the lovely cool water flowing and lined with trees and reeds and we were welcomed by the call of a fish eagle.
The next track we took in towards the river didn’t quite get to it, but we went on foot. Just before the river we came across fresh, fresh elephant tracks. The crack of branches not too far from us indicated their location. Sue was not keen to go in on foot and we both felt that being in a 2×4 with diff lock in the soft sand wasn’t the best situation to be in when coming across a herd of elephants – so we pulled out and went and found a stunning spot to have some lunch.
It was a lovely day and one I hope we can share with you when you come and visit.