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.
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.
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. campcover.co.za