Bridges over the river Khwai

We leave the Dombo Hippo Pools and blink Belinda North East on a road towards Khwai and the Mababe Gate, the Southern entrance to Chobe National Park. There’s a family of warthogs digging in the dirt off the side of the road. Poppa is eyeing us up. Danger check. Nope, don’t care. More dirt digging.

We stick around until they trot off.

We come out of the woods to an open clearing. The road cuts through. We’re close to Khwai now.

There is a herd of wildebeests coming across the grassland towards the road so we slow down and give them the right-of-way.



Round the corner there is an older couple stopped on the side of the road. We pull up and Mark rolls down the window, “You spot something over here?” “No. No, we’re just not sure where we are.” English accents. “Been in here five minutes and we’re already lost.”

Mark and Peter hop out to look at the map and help them out. Could always route them to the Hippo Pools. They tell us the gate is literally just around the corner. They also spotted a pack of African wild dogs by the airstrip. We wish them well and keep trucking.


It looks like we could take a ‘shorter route’ straight to Mababe but that road looks even worse than the one we’re on. Definitely shorter distance than the river road though. We decide that the road through Khwai will probably end up being faster on account of it being more well travelled. As a bonus, if we go this way we’ll also get to say we took the bridge over the River Khwai.

Another log bridge. “Yep, guess we should have expected that.” “It would be crazy if we crossed and came out into 1940’s Burma.”

Khwai is much smaller than we’d anticipated. A few buildings, some thatched roof huts, a soccer goal, and a tuck shop.

Mark and I are looking at the gas gauge and thinking the same thing. “Doesn’t look like we’ll find any diesel in this place.” “Not a chance.” “We filled up in Maun the day before last so we should be good for… maybe 6 or 7 more hours?” “We can probably make it through the park. I hope Kasane isn’t our next chance to fill up though. Cuz, we’ll be lucky to make it that far.” “Straight shot maybe, but we’ll be driving along the river, exploring the place…” “Not much we can do but hope to find some along the way.” That’s true. “It’ll work out.”

I go investigate the tuck shop to see if our diesel estimate is correct. It is. Not much in the way of alluring road snacks here either. I thank the fella and get back in the truck.

We watch a boy and his dog grab a can of something from the shop for lunch and walk back to his hut. “Not much going on here in Khwai.” “Nah. Growing up here would have been a vastly different experience.”

We spot another big Southern Ground Hornbill on the way out of town.

We get up a little further just outside of town and it looks like there are two more bridges over the river Khwai. One wood and one metal. “Well there’s a plot twist.” No Brits looking to sabotage either one so we pick the wood one. “Hmmmm nope think this is the wrong way to the gate.” We spin back around. “Ha! There’s a one way sign if you go this way.” “Classic. You can only find out it’s a one way bridge by going the wrong way and turning around.”

Alright across the metal bridge this time. “How many bridges over the river Khwai we gonna do today?” “Think that’s the last of em. Four.”

We pull up to basically the exact same style of gate as what was at the Moremi Game Reserve. Peter’s optimistic about getting a camp, “Maybe we’ll get lucky like with Xakanaxa.” “Hope so. This is probably the most popular spot we’ve been to yet.”

The Mababe Gate Lady in the office is all business. As soon as we enter the room, “What is your destination?” “Ahh we don’t really have one.” “Well… where are you staying?” “We actually don’t have a place to stay.” “Soooo… what’s your plan?” “Our plan is to come here and ask you what we should do.” This doesn’t phase her at all. She actually cracks a smile because we’re no frills idiots right now. “Ok, I can check if there’s camping available.” “Awesome, thanks so much!”

Some flipped books and a couple phone calls later and it’s done. “Nothing.” “Nothing?” “Nothing. People usually book these spots a year in advance. There were no cancellations.” “We don’t really… plan.. stuff.” She gets out a map, “There’s camping outside the park.” She draws a finger along the road back to Mababe and Khwai. “Well… if we backtrack we don’t know if we’ll have enough gas to come back here and get through the park.” “Ok, so…” She draws another route up the map, “You can go through the park and out the North gate. Here at Ngoma.” “And how long will that take?” “Probably over five hours.” “Haha shit. Doesn’t the park close in like.. four hours?” “Yes. You will have to hurry. Cut off an hour.” “Always turns into a race. Do they have diesel there?” She shakes her head, “They’ve been having problems with diesel there.” “Ok great. If we’re lucky, we’ll barely make it to Kasane.”

We have a brief chat but there’s really no option. We go forward with no place to stay and hope the diesel holds out until we find more. We turn back to the Gate Lady, “Ok we’d better get going then.” “Sign in here. And at the other gate sign out.” She points to the entrance fee sign. We can’t scrape enough pula together. “American dollars ok?” “Yes, of course.” Jamie pulls out some notes and hands them to me. “Dude… why do you keep them all wet and crumply?” I hand the nasty bills begrudgingly to the girl, “Sorry about that, thanks for all your help.” “Good luck to you boys.”

We all climb back in the car and get situated. Mark puts it in drive, through the gate and onto an absolute shit sand road heading North. “Alright. The Chobe 500 is on!”


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