We departed Zambia on September 30th after some great adventures. We gassed up and headed out from Livingstone for a one night pit stop at Nata Lodge in Botswana and a final two night pit-stop at Mopane Bush Lodge located in the Mapesu Private Game Reserve in northern South Africa. The drive from Nata was supposed to take about 7 hours. If only we knew what was in store.
I plotted our course using Google Maps and it showed what I thought was the most reasonable route. We had covered some of the same roads heading up into Botswana so it made sense to do a little back-tracking. Sure, there would be some gravel roads but I prefer this to pot-holed roads. The journey would take about 7 hours and we would re-cross Pont Drift border crossing into South Africa and then it would be a short drive to our Lodge. Our GPS had a different route which would take us through Martin’s Drift border crossing. The route was a little further and a roundabout way to go but the roads would be paved and therefore, and therefore what? I’m not sure. We have had many issues with our Garmin GPS but for some reason we decided to trust it this time. In the back of my mind I knew it was a mistake. We hit Martin’s Drift crossing at 1:00 pm, a 5 hour drive so far. Not seeing any traffic on the way we expected a quick crossing into South Africa. Us and 500 other people, cars and semi-trailers were probably expecting the same thing! An hour later we were off and running. Our GPS showed an arrival time of 5:20 pm. My calculation was 5:00 pm at the latest. We proceeded down some very out-of-the way side roads, mostly good until we the pot-holes. The god damned pot-holes! I thought we were done with this. We followed the R 572 to the R521, turned right then headed east then onto the R522 or 23 or some number then the N1 until finally, our GPS indicated a left turn with only about an hour left to go. Finally! The turn off had a couple of signs. None of them indicated Mopane Bush Lodge. This should have been a warning but we trusted our GPS but shouldn’t have. We drove and drove and finally hit a curve in the road. Our GPS said go straight. There was a road that went straight but it was blocked by a large gate. There was no one in site and there were no signs. That was an ominous sign.
Below is what Google Maps suggested as a route and the one I figured would be best!
Below is what our Garmin GPS suggested.
After we hit the curve in the road, backed up and confirmed we couldn’t proceed as directed we figured we had no choice but to continue on. Our GPS showed us travelling in a large circle. The road became more unfriendly and there was not a soul in sight. We had no choice but continue driving hoping for a miracle. Finally we saw someone up ahead so we asked if he knew Mopane Bush Lodge. He didn’t but fortunately up ahead another vehicle was approaching. We flagged them down, explained our GPS had us going what looked like in circles, we had a laugh, ha ha ha, and they think they had heard of the lodge, they thought near the town of Musina, and yes, there is a tar road only a km or two away. Great, the sun is getting low but at least we’ll be in a semi-civilization area. What we had passed along this road so far were the back sides of game farms and hunting concessions. We hit the main highway, the N1. The N1? That was the road we had originally turned off on our way to “the lodge”. We stopped and pondered our situation as the sun slowly set over the horizon. Let’s try re-entering the damn lodge into the GPS. We did and this time it showed us driving north on the N1 to Musina, about 60 kms away, turn left onto R521, drive another 63 kms and voila, we would be at Mopane. Okay, lets do it. As were driving we passed the road to nowhere which we were originally told to turn left onto. That was about 30 kms before Musina so we had no idea how may extra kms we had done to just get back to our first point of no return. It was dusk and the small bugs started splattering on the windshield making fo a not-so-good driving/viewing experience when all of a sudden we hear a noise, a crash, a thump. Now what. I look in my side view mirror, the only one I have left due to an encounter with a tree at Liuwa Plain NP and I see our table bouncing and crashing onto to the highway. Another “oh no!, Hari Kari” moment. We are so fortunate this didn’t happen on a busy road or highway. I back up, whimpering under my breath so as not to upset my princess navigator, bend the table legs back into place, open the back of the truck and barely get the thing to fit into the back of the truck. Onward we go until we hit the main intersection in Musina. Our GPS tell us to turn left, proceed 63 kms and all of our dreams will come true. We sat at the intersection with our hazard lights blinking. Do we trust our GPS? Nope. We were able to flag down a car and ask if he knew Mopane Bush Lodge. He did! Our GPS was correct so I start driving and then the pot-holes. All we need is a flat tire now. My eyes are not the best driving at night so we took our time, the GPS counting down our arrival time, 55 minutes (damn), 45, 30, 10 and then the sign! Hallelujah! Of course the whole time we were worried the gate would be closed and we would end up camping at the entrance. We turned onto the gravel road and proceeded and in the distance….locked gate! In my mind I’m thinking I can honk the horn, flash the lights, maybe drain some fuel from the tank and make an IED that might get their attention but fortunately, we spot a small glowing light emanating from a post near the gate. An intercom! Mana from heaven, communication to the the other side but will there be anyone on the other side? I push the button, it rings, and rings and rings and then stops. Aren’t they waiting for us? Did they think we changed our plans. Stop crying!, The intercom crackled again and then like Gods voice talking down to Moses a “hello” and the gate slowly opened. 11 hours after departing Nata Camp we had arrived.
Below is our actual route although I couldn’t find the rogue road were told to turn onto so I’m just guessing but it’s close.
Mopane Bush Lodge was a nice spot to pit-stop but in hindsight, well, who the hell knows! We were literally kms away from where we camped at Mapungubwe NP when we were heading north into Botswana
We spent the next day relaxing, they had great wifi so we were able to update the blog. She staff were friendly and attentive and we had a nice bungalow far away from the madding crowd. For the past eight years the lodge has been operating as place to do safaris either in the private reserve or to the nearby World Heritage Site which is Mapungubwe National Park. Previous to this the lodge operated as a hunting lodge so the animals in the reserve are still quite skittish so we opted to just relax and hang around and update the blog as they had very good wifi. One of the guides at the lodge specializes snakes, spiders and scorpions so he he did a little show and tell for us with a scorpion he happened to have on hand. All in all it was a nice stay but a bit expensive for what was offered.