Eight years ago, they wanted to camp at the Guma La­goon in Botswana; but due to un­fore­seen cir­cum­stances, they had to miss it. Re­cently, Mike and Let­tie Hen­ery of Fochville de­cided to try again.

Go! Camp & Drive - - Contents -

When they vis­ited Botswana for the first time in 2010, the Guma La­goon was high on the Hen­erys’ camp­site list. They never made it, though – be­cause their son, Wayne, con­tracted malaria in the Tsodilo Hills and was taken to the Delta hos­pi­tal in Maun for treat­ment. So the Hen­erys had to can­cel their book­ing at Guma. How­ever, when they de­cided to head to Namibia and Botswana with their friends Hannes and Mary-Ann van den Berg from Carl­tonville last De­cem­ber, the Guma La­goon made the list again. And this time, they wouldn’t let any­thing get in their way. Let­tie ex­plains…

And so we sat...

We turn off at Et­sha 13 from the A35, and fol­low the dirt road to the vil­lage. There are no clear di­rec­tions to Guma, and Mike and I start to ar­gue about the re­li­a­bil­ity of the GPS. In the end, we de­cide to fol­low the GPS’s di­rec­tions... and scan the road­side for any mark­ers or signs that will point the way to Guma. Look­ing ev­ery­where ex­cept the road, we don’t see the huge patch of soft sand in front of us. The next mo­ment, the sand en­gulfs all six of our tyres: the four on our 2015 Isuzu KB300 and the other two be­long­ing to the heavy Jur­gens Sa­fari Xcell off-road caravan we’re tow­ing. Be­cause we weren’t ex­pect­ing a sandy road yet, we hadn’t let our tyres down, and also hadn’t put the Isuzu in four­wheel drive mode. And so we’re stuck, with the sun’s heat beat­ing down from above, and the sand be­low so hot, we can’t stand still. Thank­fully, Hannes and Mary-Ann

We can’t stop look­ing at the birdlife, and take an in­cred­i­ble boat trip that brings us closer to na­ture.

come up be­hind us in their Volk­swa­gen Amarok, tow­ing a Sprite No­mad. They see we’re in trou­ble and stop at once. It takes about an hour’s hard work for Hannes and some of the lo­cals to get us out of there. I had never re­ally con­sid­ered hot sand to be such an ob­sta­cle, but it re­ally made it tough. From here on, we vow, we won’t get stuck again. Even worse, I had called the peo­ple at Guma to ask if we would get through the sand with our car­a­vans, and they re­as­sured me that it would be pos­si­ble. In ad­di­tion, they promised they’d send a res­cue ve­hi­cle should we get stuck. I must ad­mit that the sand is far worse than any of us ex­pected, and you have to keep a cool head. The jeep tracks branch off as if it’s the Oka­vango Delta in front of us, and you hardly have time to de­cide which one looks like the best op­tion. If the Isuzu’s nose is in one direc­tion and we have mo­men­tum, that’s the one we take. We don’t want to risk los­ing mo­men­tum, es­pe­cially as we’re tow­ing a caravan in deep sand. The tracks veer in be­tween dry tree trunks, and I just shut my eyes as I hear how the Isuzu and the caravan get scratched time and time again. Hannes tells us later how Mary-Ann bit down on a cloth to sti­fle her screams as their ve­hi­cle

got scratched. The cloth is full of holes when even­tu­ally – af­ter what feels like an eter­nity of pray­ing – we turn off at the Guma La­goon.

Trop­i­cal is­land…

My nau­sea (thanks to the ten­sion) is soon for­got­ten, and we marvel at the par­adise un­fold­ing be­fore us. At the re­cep­tion desk, Mike and Hannes feel re­ally good about them­selves when the re­cep­tion­ist tells us it’s a rar­ity for some­one to get through that thick sand with a caravan. We can hardly wait to see our stand, and are for­tu­nate enough to get the only spot on the shore of the delta. The view from our camp­site is ab­so­lutely un­be­liev­able. It’s mag­nif­i­cent, to say the least. It feels as though we’re on a pri­vate trop­i­cal is­land. We see a croc­o­dile float­ing on the wa­ter of the delta, and are cau­tioned by the staff to look out for the hippo that loves ex­plor­ing the area – in­clud­ing our stand! We can’t stop look­ing at the birdlife, and take an in­cred­i­ble boat trip that brings us closer to na­ture than we’ve ever been be­fore.

The re­turn jour­ney

Time flies; and we re­alise we should have booked a longer stay. It’s time for the re­turn jour­ney, and we’re ner­vous about the sandy roads ahead. We hook up the car­a­vans and dis­cuss the best plan of ac­tion to es­cape un­scathed and get our­selves out of here without fur­ther in­jury. But with all the many tracks and the al­most im­pos­si­ble task of plan­ning ex­actly where you want to drive, very soon we find our­selves on an even worse jeep track than the one we ar­rived on. The bakkies and car­a­vans shake hec­ti­cally as we strug­gle through the deep sand, but Mike and Hannes push through. We can’t af­ford to lose mo­men­tum here, be­cause then we’ll un­doubt­edly get stuck some­where in the mid­dle of nowhere. At one stage, as we weave through the trees and sand, the screen of our caravan’s rear cam­era goes dark. The only log­i­cal ex­pla­na­tion is that the cou­pling plug be­tween the caravan and the Isuzu has come loose some­how, but stop­ping to view the dam­age is com­pletely out of the question. It will have to wait un­til we’re back on solid ground. Un­ex­pect­edly, the road im­proves, and we en­ter the vil­lage. But we reach it from a dif­fer­ent direc­tion to when we drove to Guma. Then it hits me: the night­mare road is over! Let’s just say, we were ex­u­ber­antly re­lieved. It was an ex­pe­ri­ence that was un­be­liev­able and scary at the same time, and some­thing we will al­ways re­mem­ber. Would we go again? Un­doubt­edly, but without the car­a­vans. Our bakkies and car­a­vans still have the scratches from our Guma ex­pe­ri­ence. As Hannes would say, what fab­u­lous fun!

WATER­SIDE. Guma La­goon is a real camp­ing par­adise. The camp­site abounds with birdlife, but you also have to keep an eye out for the res­i­dent croc­o­diles and hip­pos that lurk nearby. Make sure you de­flate your 4x4’s tyres as you near Guma La­goon – and per­haps re­con­sider bring­ing the caravan, be­cause it won’t be easy get­ting it here.

Mike and Let­tie win a Camp Cover Bundu-bag worth R500. This mul­ti­fuc­tional bag is de­signed to be used as an emer­gency med­i­cal sup­plies bag or sim­ply a suit­case. Check out Camp Cover’s full range of pro­tec­tive cov­ers on their web­site. cam­p­

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