Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200702 1 South Africa Namibia



THURSDAY 1 FEBRUARY 2007 – We all get up at 6am and are packed up and ready to leave at ¼ to 7 wanting to make headway before it gets too hot.  The N7 is quite undulating taking us beyond the green irrigated area into barren terrain and areas with amazing rocks.  We breakfast at Bitterfonein, the only place in the world where they quarry Bitterfontein green granite, stands to reason as there can’t be two places called Bitterfontein that have it!  Pass into NORTHERN CAPE with our next stop at Springbok.  The synagogue is now a local museum but of interest to Stan & Judy as they are Jewish.  After a final shop we have a lunch break and chat to a Nomad overland driver who is going our way and very helpful.  The border crossing is the Orange River and we turn left on the South African side and manage 3km of bumpy gravel road to get to a primitive riverside camping spot, as in a bush toilet and nothing else.  It’s quite pleasant and private so we make the most of it to relax and have a quiet evening.



FRIDAY 2 FEBRUARY – All up at 6am for another early start.  The border crossing is quick and easy. R140 (£11) vehicle permit, and after crossing the bridge over the Orange River we emerge in NAMIBIA.  The national languages are English and German with Africaans widely spoken in the south and each trip having their own tongue.  Contrary to information we find fuel is dearer than South Africa at R6.19 (48p) litre.  Their Namibian dollar is linked directly to the rand and you can use the South African currency here but not vice versa.  Continuing along the main Cape Town to Windhoek road we encounter an overturned lorry with crowds gathered round the contents.  There is little traffic and even less when we turn off onto the dirt road towards Fish River Canyon.    It has a good surface and we maintain our usual cruising (or plodding) speed of 70-80 kph.  During the 70km journey there are only 2 vehicles that come towards us.  The terrain changes from barren wasteland to the canyon area with impressive rock formations.  The resort of Ai Ais is an oasis in the bottom of the canyon.  Park admission has recently gone up from N$20 to N$80 (£6.40) per person for foreigners.  We are heading for the other park campsite and are asked to deliver a letter.  Other than the general view of the place and a hot pool (not so welcome when the air is 40C) there is little to detain us.  We back track then turn off in towards Hobas area.  It’s a nice journey with views across to the canyon.  Arrive at the site early afternoon and we are the only people there.  It’s dusty but the stands are shady and each has a braai, fire pit and benches.  After a quick curry for lunch we all cool down in the small coolish swimming pool.  Spend the afternoon in our own naturist resort.  After playing yahtzee in the evening we all hop in the pool before rewarding ourselves with hot chocolate and brandy.


N$50 (£4) stand + N$30 (£2.40) pp


SATURDAY 3 FEBRUARY – Up at 6am for another early start before it gets too hot.  Raleigh International has put recycling bins around the campsite with 3 different categories.  The refuse collectors arrive to empty the ones where food is thrown, the baboons are so clever they don’t even look in the other containers.  Drive out along the bumpy dusty road to the main viewpoint, at Hells Bend, for breakfast.  The canyon is claimed to be the second largest in the world to the Grand Canyon but in truth is the second largest in Africa and although impressive it is not really dramatic.  During our journey we see a number of types of antelope, ostrich, ground squirrel and black backed jackal.  Traverse below the Naute Dam across a causeway then on to Keetmanshoop the first town in Namibia.  It’s 12.00am and with all the shops due to close in 30 minutes everywhere is very busy.  In quick succession we fill the fuel, buy groceries, a SIM card (N$50 inc $10 credit), bottled gas and then get locked out before we can buy a camping chair.  Stan is also an avid sports fan and we are lucky to find that Bird Mansion Hotel has Internet, a TV showing football, a bar and good parking so we are all kept occupied for the afternoon.  On the northern edge of town we turn off to Quiver Tree Forest sited on a farm.  The owners are cashing in and charge N$100 (£8) per person for camping including a visit to the sites.  The “Giants Playground” is also on their property and signs guide us through a massive area of rocks with little shade.  Even late afternoon it is scorching hot and the chameleons sat on the rocks take ages to move but when they do we can see their spectacular colours change.  Again we are the only people on site and have our own ablution block.  So far all the toilets in Namibia have been clean and equipped with toilet paper.  The problem for us is that the cold water is too hot to put your hands but handy for brewing a cup of tea.  We are at the edge of the Quiver Tree (a kind of huge aloe) forest and from out site we get a good view of the trees at sunset and then another spectacle as the full moon rises behind the trees.  For the first time ever I get to use our mosquito net as we sleep with all the windows wide open. 


N$100 pppn (£8)


SUNDAY 4 FEBRUARY – We’re getting a bit weary with early starts so have a lie in until 7am.  When I look outside I see that Stan & Judy have already de camped and gone for a walk in the forest.  Set off at 8am and join the main Cape Town to Windhoek highway and get a shock at the amount of traffic.  We see at least half a dozen vehicles each hour.  The first petrol station has no fuel so along with everyone else we have to hope that we can make it to the next one, stations are few and far between and even with jerry cans you can still end up running out.  We make Mariental with 10km of fuel to spare.  After an hours stop for lunch we turn off, still on tarred road, to Maltahohe.  Stan takes a turn at driving whilst Steve and I rest on the bed au natural.  In Maltahohe the campsite is closed but there’s one a couple of km away at Daweb Farm.  Judy chats to the owner in German and we are soon ensconced on a site.  Again we are the only visitors so create our own nudist spot.  Steve and Judy check with the owner about the condition of the dirt roads for our onward journey.  They return with the bad news that only last month they were in terrible condition and barely passable with a 4wd.  We must retrace our steps and take a huge detour on the main road to Windhoek then Swakopmund.  Unfortunately this means we cannot get to Sossusvlei by road so will now consider a flight over the area.  This was always a possibility and better to learn of the bad road condition now rather than further in.  It’s an amazingly starry night and we sit out gazing.


R60 (£4.80) pp


MONDAY 5 FEBRUARY – We are woken by Stan’s voice calling out “bloody hell fire”.  No great drama, just Judy removing the tent around him whilst he is still trying to sleep!  Retrace our steps to Mariental where Stan takes over for the drive north.  A simple sign tells us we have crossed north into the Tropic of Capricorn.  Rehoboth is the first town and on the outskirts is Lake Oanob resort, N$10 (80p) pp entry.  Accommodation varies from basic camping sites up 3 bedroom luxury houses.  The more expensive campsites are directly on the lakeside and have an artificial shade shelter but are not easily accessible in a motorhome and lack privacy.  We find one of the cheapest sites with natural shade, a lawn, braai, and tap and lake views.  After lunch we do a bit of exploration and find a nice restaurant, places to get into the lake for a swim and a nature reserve.  There are many birds around the campsite and in the evening we also get a visit from a frog that Steve enjoys feeding with bugs.  We have got a good set up here so will stay for a couple of nights to catch up with washing and sleep!  Round the day off by sitting out playing rummy kub. 


N$150 (£12) site up to 6 people.


TUESDAY 6 FEBRUARY – Rather than being on the road at 8am we are just getting up and have a leisurely breakfast before taking a walk.  One of the 2 bedroom houses is up for sale at $750,000 (£60,000) and we take a look but don’t like the open mezzanine floor layout so won’t be buying!  Pass the day doing some washing and odd jobs on the van.  We visit the restaurant for an evening meal.  Having looked at the menu this morning Steve has confirmed that everything is available, however when we come to order this is not the case.  All the items that Steve & I wanted are not available but Judy & Stan get their first or second choices.  It’s a lovely setting looking down on the lake and a great place to watch the sunset.



WEDNESDAY 7 FEBRUARY – Continuing up the B1 towards Windhoek we notice a distinct change in the vegetation with the land becoming very green.  Just south of the capital we visit Heroes Acre.  Built in 2002 (at a cost of US$10m) they seem to be putting off visitors by trying to recoup the cost charging N$15 (£1.20) pp + N$10 (80p) vehicle.  There’s a restaurant at the bottom of the monument and you don’t have to pay if that is the only place you are going to so morning coffee is the order of the day for us.  We get waved through the roadblock and proceed towards Windhoek where we are given very bad instructions to get to the local airport.  Eventually a white man has us following him in his car and it turns out the airport was the next turning from where we asked directions.  Check out the scenic flights, fully booked for the next 2 days, then head into the city where we park easily at the Fruit & Veg barn.  Split up from Judy & Stan to do our own walk about.  The highlighted buildings are unimpressive and it’s very hot walking the city streets.  We feel the most interesting parts are Christuskirche and Alte Feste museum.  When they get back we learn the Stan nearly got himself arrested for taking photographs of a Chinese flag outside the State House!  By the time we have shopped it is about 4pm.  There’s a bit of a fiasco at the petrol station.  We point to the “lead replacement pump”, say LRP and the full word quite clearly.  Still they manage to start putting unleaded in.  Next they change to the proper fuel but ignore Steve’s instruction to stop at the first cut out click, as we know our tank spills after that.  The guys are just laughing about it all but Steve is very cross and gets the supervisor.  They soon stop laughing when they are told they will have to pay for the fuel that was spilt and the unleaded.  Unfortunately almost everything you do in Africa is turned into a challenge and as Wilber Smith often quotes ends up with AWA (Africa Wins Again) but not this time!  The next town north is Okahandja where the badly signed rest camp is surprisingly good.  A couple from the Kings Highway missionary foundation are running it temporarily and upgrading facilities.  They are also trying to control the number of villagers who use the on site rooms for child prostitution.  A swimming pool and TV provide ample entertainment and cause Steve & Stan a late night.


N$ 40 (£3.20) pppn


THURSDAY 8 FEBRUARY – One of the downsides of phone reception is that it’s not always good news that comes through.  Judy’s Uncle Arthur died last night but other than phoning her Mum and relatives there is little she can do.  They are Jewish so the burial with be tomorrow.  Turn off onto the Trans-Kalahari highway and soon notice a change to dessert type conditions.  Just outside Usakos we stop at a Farm Stall shopping area where the biltong is excellent.  They also have a nice campsite with swimming pool at a very reasonable N$20 (£1.60) pp + N$20 (£1.60) site.  Swakopmund is a coastal resort and emerges like a mirage out of the flat dessert in an area surrounded by dunes.  The streets are wide and the number of shops seems inconsistent with the size of the town.  No doubt they get a huge number of visitors during the holidays.  It’s a strange town with wide boulevards, very unusual architecture and lots of holiday accommodation along the sea front.  At the airport we book a scenic flight for this afternoon then drive around for accommodation, finally opting for the Sea Gull’s Cry caravan park at the beach.  We just have time to put the tent up before our 4pm lift to the airport.  Scenic flights have done us a deal at N$1450 (£115) pp for 4 (which is their usual rate for 5 people) instead of N$1850.  We are introduced to our pilot Francois, who is flying this route for the first time, and fellow pilot Harvey who normally does this journey.  We squeeze into the Cessna 310 with Stan & Judy in the back (lucky they are small people) and Steve and I in the middle seats.  The Sossusvlei Scenic flight is obviously very popular and many small planes taxi out to the runway along a dirt track.  Only the terminal area and runway are bitumen and even then are potholed.  We are soon up and away flying over the dessert before following the dry Kuiseb Riverbed.  We fly quite low with the walls of the gorge above the plane, rocky on one side and sandy on the other.  Pull out just before the canyon, which is considerably deeper and narrower.  The wind-sculpted sand dunes of Sossusvlei are reputedly the highest sand dunes in the world up to 350m high.  In the centre of the area are large clay pans, which occasionally hold water, with names such as “Hidden Vlei” and “Dead Vlei”, named for the number of dead trees on it’s surface.  It’s really spectacular and mind boggling in the sheer area covered.  Nearer the coast the dunes turn from their oxidised red to white.  Traces of small 100 year old diamond camps can be seen and one wonders just how difficult they would be to access and how they got water.  On the coast we fly over a couple of shipwrecks, “Eduard Bohlen” 1909 and “Shaunee” 1985, hence this area being called the Skeleton Coast.  Over Sandwich Harbour we see seals and flamingos before reaching the Salt Works of Walvis Bay with its port.  Angelina Jolie recently had a baby at Swakopmund Hospital.  Along with Brad Pitt she stayed at Long Beach, (between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay) afterwards and we get a good view of the luxury coastal resort.   Swakopmund can be seen to be growing rapidly with new villages springing up on the northern outskirts.  We land (3 times!) after a superb 2-½ hour trip.  It’s getting dark when we get back, also cool and windy, so just time for a meal then bed. 


N$90 (£7.20) site + N$30 (£2.40) pp


FRIDAY 9 FEBRUARY – There’s dew on the grass and the tent and the sky is cloudy when we wake up.  Steve & I walk into Swakopmund for a look around.  Most of the modern buildings are in Disney/toy town style but there are plenty of old ones with lots of character.  Castle style seems to predominate.  The pier is split into two sections, pedestrians or fishermen, and gives us a good view along the coast.  arHalHhWe arrive back at lunchtime but Stan & Judy stay out until late afternoon.  Together we go to the Tiger bar on the beach, in an area where the waves converge from two different directions and the sunsets are superb.  Judy & Stan attempt to teach us bridge in the evening but we conclude that considering the minimal number of occasions we will be able to play and the length of time it would take us to learn it won’t be worth it.  It’s another cold evening and there’s a damp mist in the air but our fellow campers feel it worth braving the tent.



SATURDAY 10 FEBRUARY – After de camping we drive a short way down the road towards Walvis Bay to look at the grounded ship and to take photographs of the van on the road between the beach and the dunes.  We also drive a short way north along the “salt road” to get a feel for it and find it much like a normal bitumen road.  Retrace our steps and return to the farm stall for more of their excellent biltong.  Turn off the main road and head up to Omaruru to settle onto the rest camp.  Steve soon finds the bar with TV lounge and becomes good-naturedly bait for the locals who insist on forcing Jaeger Master and Schnapps upon him.  Our site has its own table and kitchen sink and you are given a key to your own individual bathroom.  In the evening we find that our bathroom light does not work.  They say they will send someone out to buy a new bulb, can’t get one so try swapping one from another room.  It’s the connection that’s faulty so they then give us the key to en-suite accommodation for us to use the bathroom.  It’s all very nice but the toilet won’t flush!  Begin teaching Stan & Judy canasta in the evening.


N$60 (£4.80) pppn bargained down to N$50 (£4)


SUNDAY 11 FEBRUARY – Make a leisurely start and notice lots of wildlife along the quiet C33 heading north, baboons and warthogs amongst other things.  On the outskirts of Outjo we check in to Ombinda Country Lodge, sounds good but we are at the back in the simple camping area but for the first time in ages we are camped on real grass.  The Nomad truck that we first met in Springbok is here for a lunch stop and having just come from Etosha we gather info.  Once the Nomads have left we are all alone and revel in peace and quiet to enjoy the facilities including a swimming pool by the bar area.  Find an automatic washing machine and invest N$5 (40p) to wash the bedding.  Sit out playing canasta in the evening.


N$45 (3.60) pppn


MONDAY 12 FEBRUARY – This is such a nice spot that we soon came to a unanimous decision to have an extra day.  Stan & Judy make the short walk into town whilst we potter around.  I’d like to say that since Roy did the second adjustment on the starter system (over 2,000km ago) we have had no problems at all from Millie but as this always tempts fate I won’t do that!   Two German motorhomes arrive in the evening.  Sit out playing Yahtzee.



TUESDAY 13 FEBRUARY – Call in to the OK supermarket in town but prices are high and the fresh fruit and veg are far from fresh.  Our destination is Etosha National Park and we enter at the Anderson Gate.  Immediately we begin seeing herds of Springbok and Zebra and the large Kori Bustard birds.  Arrive at Okaukuejo Camp where we check in for the park and campsite.  Park fees for foreigners are N$80 (£6.40) per person and N10 (80p) per car for 24-hours.  The campsite is on dirt but we manage to secure a spot with some welcome shade from the intense heat of the day.  There’s a natural waterhole here, floodlit at night, and it’s quite a spectacle with a mini grandstand and other seating arranged around a perimeter fence and wall.  It’s rather like being at a theatre looking onto the stage, cue the antelope, enter the zebra etc.  The swimming pool area is pleasant with 3 pools and we spend the early part of the afternoon there.  The two downsides of the camp are that there is a tremendous amount of building work going on with rubble and dust everywhere and the ablution blocks have all seen much better days.  As the afternoon progresses the site fills up with lots of overland truck groups.  We pack up a picnic with wine and make our way to the waterhole at 6pm and must arrive at the end of the matinee performance as 2 elephants are just leaving to be followed by the zebra.  There is a short pause before a wildebeest and then springbok appear on stage.  Another spectator tells us they were at Namutoni last night but could not go down to the waterhole as a lion had got into the campsite and they were instructed to stay in their tents!  She also tells us a man was taken at this spot, by a lion, when he fell asleep on the bench, easy to believe as the fence leans towards the wall and would act like a ladder, African logic? The antelope slowly disappear after a large herd of 20 elephants arrive and spread themselves around the pool.  A mouse scurries around between the grandstand seats distracting us from the show.  It’s getting towards dark but the floodlights have not come on so we struggle to see the black rhino as they enter stage right.  The elephants do not have that problem and soon chase them back in between performing for us, wallowing in the water then coming very close to the fence eating grass.  We see giraffe necks silhouetted against the sunset but they seem reluctant to come closer whilst the elephants remain.  The bulk of the herd leave but one lone bull lingers to chase off the rhino.  After being reported as faulty they eventually get the lights working and the performance continues.  The bull elephant finally leaves and the giraffe seem happy to share the waterhole with the black rhino and black backed jackals.  Watching the giraffe do the splits to get a drink is amazing.  It’s a most fantastic surreal experience and alone worth the park admission fee.  Retire at 9.30pm.


N$100 (£8) per site plus N$50 (£4) per person.


WEDNESDAY 14 FEBRUARY – I have a very restless night.  Along with animal noises and bins being knocked over there is a cacophony of snoring from the many campers in roof top tents nearby.  I wake everyone at 6am but we are disappointed to find nothing at the waterhole so settle for an early breakfast before leaving at 7am.  The dirt road is good and we soon see zebra, giraffe and springbok.  A traffic jam ahead alerts us to a lion sighting.  One lioness is crossing the road and two others are waiting to do so giving us a prime viewing.  After about 20km the road surface deteriorates to corrugated dusty gravel making progress even slower than when we are wildlife spotting.  The main pan is devoid of water but worth seeing as a contrast to other areas that are quite green.  By the time we arrive at Halali, 70km away, at 10.30am we have also seen huge herds of springbok, gemsbok, red hartebeest, wildebeest, a sparrow hawk and secretary bird.  This camp is even more bleak and dusty than Okaukuejo but at least it is a little quieter with building work further advanced and better ablutions.  We are interested in booking for the evening buffet at the restaurant but the waiter initially says it may be only a la carte if there aren’t enough guests.  When I say we are not interested in that he goes away and comes back to say there will definitely be a buffet but we have been in Africa long enough not to be confident enough to book it.  Instead I cook up a spaghetti bolognaise for lunch. The waterhole is quite a distance from the camp and viewing if from a natural rocky hill but there is nothing there early afternoon.  Four overland trucks call in for a lunch stop and the swimming pool area is busy.  The large pool is spoilt a bit by all the slime on the walls below water level but it’s hot enough to entice us all in.  Our evening visit to the waterhole is brief due to inactivity.  One lone black rhino keeps taking the stage and a black backed jackal must only have a walk though part as it doesn’t even stop.



THURSDAY 15 FEBRUARY – We’re ready to leave just after the gates open at 10 to 7.  Initially we see nothing but a breakfast stop at Goas waterhole rewards us with a few giraffe.  I’m not feeling too well so lie on the bed for the next hour or so whilst the others scrape by on a few bird sightings.  Once I get up and take to the front seat we see a huge lizard with its head popping out of a termite mound.  Across the plains are lots of antelope and wildebeest.  Steve excels himself and spots a lion coming from our left.  Nearby are springbok and a lone wildebeest with the rest of its herd on our right.  The lioness shows no interest in the springbok but the wildebeest charges towards the lion preparing to sacrifice itself for the rest of the herd.  The lion turns and makes to chase it away and this process is repeated twice more with the wildebeest making loud huffing noises.  Once the lioness has crossed the road the rest of the wildebeest gather in formation with the largest at the front.  The lioness must not be hungry as she plods along oblivious to their attention.  The day’s sightings also include rhino, giraffe, zebra, ostrich, vultures, marabou crane, springbok, gemsbok, hartebeest, warthog, secretary bird, dik dik, kudu, and klipspringer, most of the birds being at the Klein Namutoni waterhole.  Arrive at the rest camp, another building site, relieved to find a shady grassy camping area.  Judy makes dinner and I spend time at the swimming pool until the workers return after lunch and begin digging around us.  Our evening visit to the waterhole is initially non productive.  We think that the roar and two creatures running across in the distance are lions and Steve believes there is a leopard at the far end of the waterhole shielded by the reeds but nothing definite.  Back at the camp we spot a black jackal patrol behind Stan & Judy’s tent but at least it has given them a wide berth.



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