Leopards, mud, and donkey tracks – A road trip through Namibia.

on Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Introductions are always good, so I’m Wendy, and along with my very tolerant husband Jeff, are undertaking a road trip through northern and central Namibia in the rainy season. We love travelling and especially travel in Africa, so when the opportunity to travel to Namibia arose he didn’t really have a lot of choice!

December to March sees rainfall in Namibia, for the rest of the year the country is dry, so when the South African holidaymakers return after the Christmas break the country is very quiet. Roads which are never busy even during the peak season are empty, and the National Parks are blissfully full of flowers and wild animals with their young.

Days 1 and 2.

DISTANCE: Tar road 41.7km, gravel road 18.5km
WEATHER: Hot sunshine during the day, rain in the evening.

Initially I didn’t envisage starting the blog until Day 3, the day when the road trip was due to start in earnest, but how wrong I was! We collected our camping equipped 4x4, stocked up on supplies of food and fuel and headed out on the B1, one of the two major tar roads in Namibia. Our ‘truck’ a Toyota Hi-Lux is equipped with a roof tent, double fuel tanks with a range of 1600km, and three spare tyres, just in case. There are two things we picked up on quite quickly, the first was the ‘four way stop’. Just like in South Africa, some junctions are crossroads where all vehicles are supposed to stop. Whoever arrives first has the right of way, quite tricky to master, especially if you’re a polite foreigner. The second was the police roadblocks. However, a truck with a tent on the roof is a bit of a giveaway. It was a bit like being the Queen; you wave your British passport, or even the mention of Wayne Rooney and they simply bow and let you through! The road was excellent, as we thought very little traffic and well signposted, and just before we got too comfortable we turned off for our first experience of Namibia’s famous gravel roads. We headed for Dusternbrook Guest Farm, our base for the first two nights, we crossed our first river which wasn’t too bad. Unfortunately, there was no way we were getting through the second one, so we took an alternative route. Travelling through the back roads which were tracks really, we got our first sightings of Warthog, Eland, and Oryx, how exciting!

After arriving at the farm and picking one of their riverside sites, we put up our tent for the first time and set about organising a place for everything. Each of the riverside sites has its own braai, or barbeque pit. We collected some wood and after a hot shower started to cook our T-bone steaks, and then…the heavens opened. Luckily the steaks were cooked and the salad was already prepared, so we enjoyed out first meal in the front seats of the truck!

Next morning after a terrific nights sleep, the birds were singing and the flowers were in full bloom. Dusterbrook is a guest farm which also has a leopard and five cheetah which live in large enclosures, as well as three hippo that live at the dam. We arranged to take a game drive with Jan, one of the rangers to see the big cats. We were the only two on the game drive and we really didn’t believe that we could get so close to a leopard, it was truly amazing. The cheetahs too were incredible, and we were able to take some excellent pictures. Our evening meal tonight was at the farm with Johann the owner and some the other guests who were staying in the cabins. We were glad to escape the rain showers, and after a wonderful day we were off to bed early before tomorrow’s long drive north.

Namibia Roadtrip Day 3 & 4

on Monday, February 14, 2011
Day 3.

DISTANCE: Tar road 560.8km, gravel road 18.5km – 7 hours 45 minutes.
WEATHER: Hot sunshine during the day, rain in the evening.

We woke up just as the sun was rising this morning. A quick breakfast, shower, and then it was time to hit the B1 again for a long drive North up to the Etosha National Park. Just like our first day we saw hardly any traffic and the road was very straight, so easy in fact that even I managed to drive without incident! We stopped off for lunch at one of the picnic spots. Jeff is known for always wanting a ‘proper’ lunch, and as we also had a fridge onboard out came everything, we even cooked up an excellent cup of tea.

We arrived at our next campsite in the park, Namutoni, at 4pm just before….the rain! This time it was not just rain, thunder, and lightening accompanied by terrific winds. The wind was so strong that after only being up for half an hour we decided to collapse the tent in case it broke, and so another night of eating our evening meal in the front of the truck.

Day 4.

DISTANCE: Gravel/Dirt road 87.5km
WEATHER: Overcast/Hot sunshine during the day, rain during the night.

The overland trucks and some of the other campsite occupants left early this morning, around 5am. We on the other hand did not. We left the site after breakfast at around 7.30 and within ten minutes came across a heard of Zebra with their young, Impala, Oryx, and Kudu. The park was virtually deserted as most of the other vehicles were long gone, we continued and came across four lions, 2 male, 2 female in the long grass. We sat and watched them as they watched us and then moved on to one of the smaller side roads towards a watering hole known as Chudob. During the dry season the watering holes are where the best sightings are found, but of course now there had been plenty of rain so we as we weren’t expecting to almost run into a Leopard!

Leopards are illusive animals and are rarely seen on the ground in the daytime, let alone by the side of the road stalking an Impala. How exited were we? This was the most incredible experience. We sat and watched as both animals looked at each other, but the Impala knew that the terrain wasn’t right for the Leopard, so continued to graze. How many times can I include INCREDIBLE in a day! After half an hour the Leopard gave up and walked straight in front of the truck and then off into the bush… incredible. We were pretty much on a high, and it didn’t matter now whether we saw another animal or not. We had just witnessed an extremely rare sighting, and were full of it!

After all that excitement there was a great need for a toilet stop, and after what we had just seen, there was no way I was getting out of the truck! After all, leopards can be extremely dangerous animals. The park has designated toilets, so after locating the nearest one on the map we were off. However, dirt roads and rain make…mud and the route to the toilet was impassable for us. We stopped and turned round only to see a confident young Belgian in a Land Rover put his foot down and swerve his way through deep mud almost up to the drivers door whilst looking particularly cool with his wavy blonde hair, tan and dark sunglasses. “Not in a rental truck” I warned Jeff as his eyes lit up, eagerly wanting to follow the intrepid young driver’s path. “We’ll find another stop”.
We never did find another stop, just lots more mud, so we made our way to the next rest camp Halali, just in time for lunch.

One lesson we learned very quickly today having lunch and then putting the tent up is something you only do once. The combination of hot sun on metal ladders on top of the tent roof rack, make a very painful combination! So we cooled our burnt hands in the camp swimming pool and bought a very expensive ice cream and water from the camp shop before heading off to the water hole, which was deserted, but we didn’t mind. Tonight, we ate outside for the first time, and content we went to bed before being rudely awakened by a polecat who knocked over our bin in search of scraps.

Namibia Roadtrip Day 5 & 6

on Sunday, February 13, 2011
Day 5.

DISTANCE: Gravel/Dirt road 132km
WEATHER: Rain/Sun/Thunder & lightening.

Lots of rain in the night again, but still our fellow travellers were up at the crack of dawn on early morning game drives. We did five hours of driving today between the watering holes and saw Hyena and mainly the grazers such as Impala and Kudu with their young. It was also a day for sighting birds, although I’m not really very good with all the names of the 600 plus species you can see in Namibia. Etosha Pan was also on our list today; this was a totally different experience, the long salt road travels right out into the pan, no trees, no animals, just us, it was quite an experience.

With all the rain the roads were getting quite badly cut up in places, one of the large overland Scania trucks with a group travelling from Cape Town to Cairo was stuck as it avoided a large expanse of water and took the muddy alternative at the side. All the excited students were peering out of their windows whilst the driver and the group leader were looking rather worried at the back wheels, both buried very deep in mud. We drove straight through the water causing quite a tidal wave, nothing we could do, we didn’t dare stop or we could have been in the same boat! Another point which I quickly established was that although Jeff thought it was really fun to drive through every bit of mud and water he could find and get the truck really dirty and looking extremely cool, it was not quite so cool getting in and out of the truck as no matter how much you tried not to, the back of your legs rubbed the door mouldings as you got out, which by now, were caked heavily in thick, wet mud, leaving a slimy mud line across the back of your legs…. lovely!

Back to Halali, this time we picked a different pitch to try and avoid the polecat, needless to say it didn’t work. After our meal we thought we’d give the waterhole one last try. On our way there it started raining and by the time we got there, it was torrential. We ran all the way back to the campsite in the dark as there had been a power cut. We went straight to bed, it was too dark for me to notice that although the fly screen had been zipped up the outer windows were still open. Oh dear.

Day 6.

DISTANCE: Gravel/Dirt road 98km
WEATHER: Overcast/Sun/Rain.

Today started early, 1.30 am to be precise. That’s when we decided to abandon ship and sleep in the truck! The rain was just too much for the tent, water was dripping in everywhere, especially as I hadn’t closed the windows properly. We were very damp, so plan B into action, dive into the truck and with seats fully reclined we were pretty comfortable as we finished the night in relative dryness. By now, I was thinking, thank heavens I chose the 4 door cab, where you can recline the front seats. The camp was pretty flooded in parts at daybreak, so we decided to do a short game drive and then arrive early at our next site within the park, Okaukuejo. They had a large washing line so the sleeping bags dried out in no time, and the mattress also cooked in the hot sunshine. Bliss, dry again…until the rains came, this time earlier than expected. Luckily, I had remembered to zip up the windows of the tent this time. Unfortunately Jeff hadn’t remembered to close the tailgate of the truck so our food got rather wet! The rain continued into the late afternoon when all the overland trucks started pulling in. We did feel sorry for the occupants as they were forced to put up their tents in the pouring rain whilst we were sitting comfortably in our truck drinking tea. Best decision of the day was to eat out at the camp restaurant rather than the car. Jeff, being somewhat technical, established that although there were electrical points in the shower blocks they weren’t working so he decided to rig up the gas stove in the shower block so we could dry our hair over it, just so we didn’t look like something the cat dragged in. Today we finished the fuel in our first tank, so we had completed around 800km.

Namibia Roadtrip Day 7

on Saturday, February 12, 2011
Day 7.

DISTANCE: Tar roads 246.2km, gravel roads 86.8km - 333Km
WEATHER: Overcast/Hot and sunny/Wind

We left Etosha National Park this morning after a wonderful few days of game drives and mud. We started our journey south with a stop at Outjo, a small town for more supplies. The town was a mix of locals and people on their way to and from the park, and it was obvious that this was the place to stock up on food and fuel. We visited the local supermarket and were soon surrounded by the ‘skanky students’ from the truck that we had seen stuck in the mud a few days ago. Their truck has also pulled in for provisions. Wherever there are tourists there are people selling all those wonderful souvenirs you could really do without. Here at Outjo it was key rings made from chestnuts, and a bargain at only 100 Namibia dollars for two, a special discounted price which equates to around £10 or $15. After politely advising them that in Kenya the same sort of thing would only cost 20 Namibian dollars each, we were subsequently the proud owners of two key rings, at a slightly reduced price with our names engraved on them!
We called in at the garage to fill up with fuel and tried to pay with South African Rand notes which were declined as there had been a lot of forgeries recently, so we had to make a trip to the bank to get the notes changed before we could go anywhere! Time for coffee, and as the sign indicated we had arrived at the best coffee shop in town we called in at the Dinner Farm House owned and run by Ansta Gabathuler, a Namibian who promised the best Cappuccino in town, her carrot cake was exceptional too. We whiled away the time talking to Ansta and her Swiss husband Urs for far too long, and promised to keep in touch before hitting the tar road again. Not for long…suddenly the C39 tar road very abruptly became gravel...ouch. There definitely hadn’t been any rain here; the road was very dusty. Today’s campsite was Abu-Huab, run by the local community of Damara people. This was a lovely site, basic but clean and thankfully only us, and two Belgian couples were resident as the toilets were bush style with no doors! We awarded Abu Huab the award of best toilet and shower as the shower was integrated into the tree, it was also the first night where we were able to sit outside all night without rain and enjoy the sunset. We even danced under the stars, how romantic! Abu–Huab also won the award of the hottest hot water, on arrival and again the following morning one of the staff stoked up the wood burning hot water tank to make sure there was plenty of hot water for us – excellent.

Namibia Roadtrip Day 8

on Friday, February 11, 2011
Day 8.

DISTANCE: Gravel road 106.3km
WEATHER: Overcast/Hot and sunny

We headed south again this morning on the C35, and a very bad stretch of gravel road. So bad in fact that after the rear view mirror fell off three times because of the vibration, we decided to put it on the back seat and take some of the smaller ‘D’ roads rather than be shaken to death. Damaraland is very different to the experience that we had in Etosha, the desert is barren and littered with huge boulders which is great to start with, but then becomes rather ‘samey’. On checking out the map there was a great shortcut through a village called Sorris Sorrris, so as the road wasn’t very interesting we decided to try and get to our next stop early and take a swim in the pool. Hmmm, everything started out ok, we followed the signs and even waved to some of the locals at a junction who were standing in the back of a pick up truck…..and then the road suddenly became rather narrow. There was a house, so we were still on the right track; track then became a more apt description. It did seem a bit odd that this ‘D’ road was more of a donkey track than a short cut. A scene from the John Cleese film Clockwise suddenly came into my head as we thought…just round the next corner, and, I’m sure I can see the main road just across there. We then came to a dry sand riverbed. Oh dear, Jeff gets out and surveys. It’s far too hot to get stuck in sand out here, and it’s also pretty obvious that no one else is going to come along! I look at the map, and yes there is a dry riverbed, so I’ve got a ‘rough idea of where we might be. Jeff comes back. “Its definitely a road, I can see a sign the other side, I think if I put it into four wheel drive and follow the tracks we’ll be ok”. Off we go, I’ve got my eyes closed and start praying, Jeff has his foot hard to the floor, and although we slow down we do make it to the other side and as for the sign…..well, that was so old it had gone rusty! Plan B. Either we go back, which means turning round; very difficult in deep sand, or we keep going for half an hour and see what happens. We decide to keep going, and all of a sudden the adrenaline starts to flow. On and on we travel, there are no distinguishing marks and just when we were about to give up hope it appeared that the track had been used recently….by a donkey and cart. We keep going, at least there is hope that someone may find us, then we see a painted tyre - a marker on the side of the road, we start to get just a little excited, then another tyre marker, and then we hit the road we should have been on all along the D2319.

In hindsight, we think that the road we should have taken was where we had met the truck full of locals, but hey we made it! The best sight we ever saw was the Brandenburg White lady Lodge and Campsite; we arrived and had a beer!

Namibia Roadtrip Day 9

on Thursday, February 10, 2011
Day 9.

DISTANCE: Gravel road 372km
WEATHER: Overcast/Hot and sunny.

We decided after all the excitement of yesterday to stick to the main roads, so we had a very boring 2 hour drive down a very straight gravel road, all the way to the coast. Our first sop was Henties Bay, and as the English breakfast was only 40 Namibian Dollars we just had to have one. After a good hearty breakfast, we headed north again on the C34 the salt road up to the Cape Cross Seal Colony. I was very excited about this, at this time of year there are around 10,000 eared seals on land as the pups had just been born.

Now I haven’t mentioned it before because being ill on holiday is boring, but, since we arrived either one or both of us have had the most amazing colds with a very stupid cough, but, we found Cape Cross to be the ultimate cold and flu remedy. Even with no sense of smell the stench that hit us as we opened the doors was an instant cure, we almost saw breakfast again too. But, after a few moments to compose ourselves and put Tiger Balm under our noses it wasn’t so bad. We spend a good hour taking some amazing photo’s, it was also sad to see the ground littered with the bodies of pups, mothers, and skulls of seals that hadn’t made it, an incredible experience none the less.

Back along the salt road to Swakopmund with just one detour, equally as dicey. The Skeleton Coast is known for its ship wrecks, and as we were driving along we spotted one. Jeff being Jeff wanted to get a closer look and as the 4X4 in front of us had just left the road and taken off towards the sea through soft sand, Jeff thought he would follow! “Wow, that would be a good picture, can we stop?” I said, “Not now” came the reply from Jeff, and we kept sliding along. I knew then that things were getting a little hairy in the deep sand. The car in front stopped in what looked like a safe place, but what were we going to do? We were following and he was now blocking the way. Nothing for it but to try and make another route. Foot hard down and away we went. We also stopped in a suitable spot. The car turned out to be occupied by 4 South Africans who also wanted to take a picture of the wreck, so we all agreed to wait just in case the other got stuck on their way back to the road. Thankfully we didn’t!

We then completed our journey to the rather strange town of Swakopmund, the only real holiday resort in the country and the Alte Bruke campsite, which wins the award for being the most civilised and homely site of the trip so far with its excellent individual shower/toilet/ braai facility.

Namibia Roadtrip Day 10

on Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Day 10.

WEATHER: Hot and sunny.

Today was totally different. At 9.30 we were picked up by Beth and taken to the dunes for Sand boarding. Now we’re both old enough to know better, but it sounded like fun, and the pictures of the kids on the website made it look easy, a bit like tobogganing. We opted for the lying down boarding as the standing up was a bit too much like snowboarding. The niggles in the back of my mind started when we stopped to pick up a group of ‘skanky students’ who looked like they hadn’t seen a shower in weeks and were extremely excited about the ‘Swedish’ girls they had met the night before! We arrive at the dunes, but these weren’t the small gentle slopes I had expected, they were mountains!!!

We were kitted out with crash helmets, elbow pads, and gloves and were given instruction on how to use our boards. The boards were in fact a sheet of hardboard, and once at the top of the ‘mountain’ we would lie down on our stomachs, pull the front of the board upwards; to avoid getting a mouthful of sand, push our elbows out, and then be pushed off the edge at breakneck speed. Don’t let go, open your mouth, oh, and tap your toes in the sand to slow down and straighten out. Even the skanky students went pale; there was no going down gracefully like on a sledge, it was headfirst or nothing at all. The gradient was over 85%, literally a sheer drop. It was like the intrepid slalom run at Kitsbuhel – not that I’ve ever done it! Its quite amazing what fear can do, and words you never knew you had in you vocabulary suddenly flow. Unfortunately, you’ve forgotten the rule about not opening your mouth, but at least the fear of sliding headfirst down a sandune at around 50 - 70km/h stops you from letting go of the front of the board! The toe tapping business didn’t seem to work either; I just dug both heels firmly in, hoping my speed would be a bit more moderate than the other adrenalin junkies, all eager to reach top speed with no skill. At least it was soon over. Now there is another thing they forget say. Once you’ve gone down you need to walk back up again. Now in the heat and fine sand it’s not as easy as it looks. Its no wonder the activity takes 3 hours. Over 70% of that is walking up dunes. There are 6 different courses all together the ‘nursery’ slopes are the first two and then you move on to the big ones, there is also the tandem where you go down in pairs just like on a toboggan. The only problem with the tandem is that two people have to get on the same board. Now when you’re 12 or very thin and supple sitting with your knees around your ears whilst our partner cuddles up behind you is easy, but when you are a little older and eaten one too many English Breakfasts its not as easy as all that. The good thing was we weren’t the only ones who despite a lot of effort really didn’t manage to get into the right position, so we sat it out. The penultimate run was called ‘Dizzy’ which was the longest, fastest and scariest run, and of course the skanky students suddenly went very quiet. However, there is always one who wants to go first and then they were all ‘up for it’. The cameraman was also holding a speed gun to clock the fastest run. Now call me a chicken but 74kph on a piece of hardboard headfirst isn’t my idea of fun, and there were a few others who also agreed, so we just watched. At last the final run, and to me this looked like an almost vertical drop, but there was no other way of getting back for a beer, so close your eyes and this time keep your arms in as there’s a bit of a ledge in the middle which will make you bounce. Jeff, worried about his bad back asked if it would hurt. “Of course not, if you keep you arms in” came the reply. As I stood at the bottom of the slope I noticed something odd, he appeared not to be wearing his crash helmet, just before push-off but it must be ok because he’s taking to a staff member… then he’s off! Oops, too late to go back for the helmet now, and why has he got his arms out?

He lands with a thump at the bottom and doesn’t move for a quite a while. I feared the worst. Then, a faint murmur came: “I forgot my helmet”. Then he looks at his arm which has the biggest sand graze you’ve even seen. I could see pain for weeks to come. Ouch!

Namibia Roadtrip Day 11

on Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Day 11.

DISTANCE: Tar road 48.5km, Gravel road 317.6km – Total 366.1 in 8 Hours
WEATHER: Fog/Rain/Sun/Cloud/Cool

Swakopmund is known for its early morning sea mist and the drive down to Walvis Bay was horrible, fog, rain and more traffic than we’d seen in a long time. All changed 60km inland, the fog disappeared and the sun was out again, so was the gravel road. Today we were heading for the Nakluft Mountains and our first stop was to be the outpost of Solitare, one of the only places to get fuel in this area and also the home of ‘Moose’ and his famous apple pie. As we pulled into Solitare we noticed the main C19 was closed due to flooding and there were lots of people standing round scratching their heads, talking floods. We decided to put in more fuel than we thought we needed as it looked like there may be some detours on the cards. We asked at the petrol station and they told us that it had rained heavily last night and so many of the roads were closed, but it shouldn’t be long before they subside. Thankfully, we weren’t heading off on the C19, but we decided to stop for apple pie anyway. Moose was just as described, a larger than life, (in body as well as mind) eccentric bloke, who was very outspoken, but just happened to be a very good cook. We enjoyed his apple pie, and then we head off again with just a little apprehension as to what we may come across. The road we were taking, the D854, had three notorious river crossings which flooded during the rainy season.

We hit the first river crossing. We had been told on no account cross rivers, so we sat looked at each other and then decided to ‘test the water’. It was just below knee height and there were a couple of very large boulders which we stood on their ends so we could at least see a clear way through. Jeff then measured the water level again on his leg and then checked to see where it might come up to on the exhaust pipe. “50/50 it’s very close.” We decided to play it safe and try another route so turned back. On our way back we met a minibus towing a trailer; we flagged them down and told them about the deep river ahead. The driver, a white Namibian, said he’d phoned ahead and the lodge owner had told him it was passable and as it was a long way round he was going to try. We wished him luck, continued…, and then turned round. What if he got stuck? Or, if he got through, perhaps so could we. We got to the river and he was nowhere to be seen, so we went for it! Out the other side we were very pleased and continued on our way, within a few minutes we reached the brow of the hill and there was the mini bus with occupants standing in mud looking at the river, oh dear! The Namibian told us the river wasn’t the problem, it was the mud in the road before you got to the river, it had made a sort of impassable barrier. He then came up with a good idea, as we had a 4x4 we could try going through first! I politely advised him that the excess on our hire car was something preventing us from trying that, he then asked if we had a spade, which we did. He dug two ruts, told everyone to stand back and put his foot down….lots of wheel spin, engine flat out in first gear, mud flying in all directions. The trailer behind this mini bus full of luggage was bouncing all over the place, as he forced his way through, but he did make it…. just. Lots of cheering and clapping from his passengers who then had to negotiate the river on foot. Needless to say our 4x4 went through very gracefully and we made it to our next camp in time for yet another celebratory beer.

Namibia Roadtrip Day 12 & 13

on Monday, February 7, 2011
Day 12.

WEATHER: Hot sunshine/Cloud.

Tsauchab River Camp gets our vote as the best campsite so far of the trip. There are lots of private pitches along the riverbed each with its own private facilities, a member of staff lights the hot water boiler every morning and night, and even comes around in the evening to light the area with candles as there’s no electricity; it’s simply beautiful. The owner Johann also has some lovely walking trails over his land up into the hills, so this morning we took the Eagle Viewpoint route and enjoyed the view until lunchtime. We must have been quiet as a herd of kudu were behind us grazing and it wasn’t until we turned to go that we noticed them; too quick for the camera but a great experience nevertheless. We returned to the camp and admired some of Joann’s very original iron art sculptures, and as the rain clouds were beginning to accumulate decided to have a cooked lunch just in case. We lazed away the afternoon doing our washing and reading and soon Ibrahim came down to light our candles and the fire. The only thing praying on my mind this evening is the rain; please hold out at least until the morning I thought, as we still have the worst river crossing to complete.

Day 13.

DISTANCE: Gravel road 70.3km, tar road 130km
WEATHER: Hot sunshine/Breezy.

Up early this morning and thankfully there was no rain during the night. Today we head for Sosssusvlei and some of the highest sand dunes in the world. The third river turned out to have subsided after a day without rain, so we crossed it easily. The dunes are only an hour’s drive away and so we decided to make our way straight for the park as only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. By 10am it was already baking hot and the climb up Dune 45 was about as much as we could stand. Most people arrive here at sunrise but now the place was deserted and it was extremely peaceful. We continued to Deadvlei and onto the most famous part Sossusvlei where we had lunch under a huge camel thorn tree. There was no one about until….four men arrived in an English registered Land Rover. Remember those mad dogs and Englishmen?…they decided to climb the dune in the baking heat. Now, we had tried walking through the sand and the heat on our feet was unbearable, so walking up a huge dune must have been madness, but I’m sure they were either trying to prove something, or maybe on a very tight schedule! One of the great things about coming to the dunes in a 4x4 is that you can drive in on your own; visitors in 2 wheel drive cars have to do the last 5km in a 4x4 shuttle. This morning was Jeff’s favourite drive, it takes a quite lot of skill to drive through deep sand, and it’s a good job the rear view mirror was still on the back seat otherwise I think it might have smashed, with all the bumping about. We decided to head back towards our campsite inside the park and maybe visit the Sesriem Canyon, which is supposed to be beautiful after a rain storm, so off we went in search of our site. We checked in and asked about the canyon, yes it was open, but we were advised to take care because the Spitting Cobra’s (which, as the name suggests have incredible spitting capabilities full of venom) had come out after the rain, and we were told to be careful where we walked. After a very short discussion, we decided that the canyon could wait!

Namibia Roadtrip Day 14

on Sunday, February 6, 2011
Day 14.

DISTANCE: Gravel Road 244km
WEATHER: Sunshine/Thunder/Lightening/Torrential rain.

Today’s drive was beautiful. The mountains were green; there were lots of flowers and not a soul around. It wasn’t until we arrived at our next stop that Jeff told me that these mountain roads had been in such bad condition he had been, at times, very worried that they may have simply slipped away underneath us. Not particularly reassuring given there were no barriers between us and the sheer drop to the canyon below. The rain had certainly caused a lot of damage, some of the sides had subsided, and there were boulders everywhere. This was the final long journey of our trip and at the half waypoint the guidebook had mentioned Connie’s restaurant as a good place to stop for coffee and home baked cookies, so when we saw Connie’s sign to turn off, we did just that.

Connie was very pleased to see us. In fact we were the first customers she had had all year. We sat and talked with her and she made us coffee, unfortunately she hadn’t bothered to make cookies as no one had called in such a long time. Connie opens everyday from 8am until 5pm and sits with her cat on the veranda waiting; she loves people and keeps thanking us for stopping. We told her all about our trip and when we said we were going back home the day after tomorrow she offered to take anything we had that we didn’t want. In fact we had lots of milk left over, a pasta sauce mix and a tin of beans which she took from us with the question “can I eat it cold?”. She has a generator you see, and having to turn it on costs money, so keeping costs down was a priority to her. It was time to move on; we paid for the coffee - probably the most expensive coffee of the whole trip but we didn’t mind the surcharge knowing we were probably the only travellers she had seen for a whole month. We waved goodbye to Connie promising to write to her when we got back home.

On route to our last campsite at Lake Oanab we talked over the wonderful time that we’d had, the lovely people we had met, the excellent and diverse landscape and the excellent campsites…..Kiss of death! We arrived at Lake Oanob and were offered the choice of two sites; both looked like they had been abandoned for years. In fact, there was no choice as the trees were so overgrown we could never have got our truck to the second one. We decided to pay for an upgrade to a site overlooking the lake with its own sink, a much better move. We put the tent up for the last time and then realised that although there was a sink the water didn’t work. We also established that the only toilet on the site didn’t flush either, and there was no electricity or hot water. Jeff makes his way to reception and reports the problems to a receptionist that simply agrees, but doesn’t really understand what he was saying. After a switch to very basic English, he gets a response “someone will be down to fix it”. So we have a beer overlooking the lake and feed that cat which has just arrived and won’t leave us alone because it is starving. During late afternoon the clouds start to gather and there’s no doubt its going to rain, so we have a quick shower – a cold shower at that.

Determined not for our last night to be spoilt, we trotted off for the ‘a la carte’ restaurant/bar. Ironically, when we get to the restaurant, there is a conference party in studying ‘project management’ (obviously nothing to do with management on the campsite) and there is a big buzz in the restaurant as they all enjoy drinks with their evening meal. There are no tables free at the moment but it’s early so we don’t mind. Then the storm sets in; thunder lightening, rain and terrific wind, there is no way these people are moving from there seats! We then get slightly worried as I can see the kitchen from my position at the bar. One woman, I presume the chef, seems to be cutting huge amounts of cheese into slices which is funny as nothing on the menu has cheese in it, and the assistant seems to spend most of her time on her mobile phone. The menu arrives and ‘a la carte’ seems a little bit of an exaggeration. There was a choice of steak or game with chips, or chicken with Monkey Gland Sauce. We both opted for the game. Finally, someone decided to make a run for it and so a table became free, and within a few minutes our food was in front of us. Now, for anyone with false teeth this would have been the end of their holiday. Either this meat had been dead for a long time, or it was in fact a mobile phone disguised with same form of gravy. Another odd combination to the game with gravy was the chips, swimming in vinegar and the token salad swimming in some kind of dressing! Perhaps they had opted for a ‘soggy’ theme. We managed to get through the meal without choking, and as the rain wasn’t going to subside we decided to make a run for it. Next problem, the staff had turned the lights off on the way back to the campsite. Can you imagine, a strange place, no defined path back to the campsite, torrential rain, pitch black and no outside lights turned on? Luckily, we had taken a head torch with us, which was little help in the torrential rain. But then the cat, who could hear us coming, started meowing loudly so we were guided back to our truck.

Namibia Roadtrip Day 15

on Saturday, February 5, 2011
Day 15.

DISTANCE: Tar Road 86.6km
WEATHER: Sunshine/Rain.

After a very long night and the initiation of the emergency tent toilet plan (no details given here as patents pending!) and my blood boiling, I decided to put on a stern face and complain; something I’m not very good at, but as there were no lights last night - not even in the toilets, I felt justified. Just before I set out I notice a man hanging about around the toilet, so I decide to watch him. After a few seconds the lights come on and he appears. “You didn’t have any electricity last night, it was turned off” Obvious statement of the day!!! “I know, its not good enough” I say. He disappears and I mention to Jeff where I saw him coming from. Jeff being the very technical person he is pops round the back of the toilet and locates the electricity switches, and the switch in the fuse board for the hot water - which is still turned off by the way!

Now I am cross, the man who turned on the electricity was the same man who was sat in the bar all night with a walkie-talkie, he didn’t even check to see if our electric was working! Practicing my piece, I arrive and ask to speak to the manager, who of course is not in, but the receptionist already knows we didn’t have electricity, a flushing toilet, or hot water yesterday as they had to turn the electricity off because of the rain. I advised her that when we arrived it had not been raining and about the dangers of walking around in the dark. Then I told her if it hadn’t been for the cat calling, we might not have found our way back to the truck. She replied: “what a lovely story”. I wasn’t sure whether she was patronising me, pleased with herself that the cat had been so heroic, or being just plain irritating. She also advised me they called out an electrician to ‘fix’ the hot water. Well, I knew it was turned off, from what Jeff had told me. I could see, the conversation was going nowhere, so with no manager to talk to, I wandered back. This campsite looked very up market, with its big entrance gates, customer service area, swanky conference style facilities, but actually offered very little to us, as travellers.

We spent our last afternoon sitting by the pool and after checking that there was a different chef on to the night before, we chose a snack platter for lunch, which was more palatable than the night before thankfully. Then, after a bitter lemon, we made our final drive back to Windhoek to hand the car over.

On our tour of Namibia in the rainy season we had a great adventure we covered 2606.1 km's. We saw diverse countryside, amazing wildlife, and stayed in some lovely places, anything we would do differently? Well, maybe a bush camper would be a better option in the rain, but the tent was fun, and it did look pretty cool!