July 6 – August 6
INTRODUCTION – This was a long planned visit through the Midlands Hiking Club and led and organised by Keith Ashton. We had the following members in the party starting from Howick: -
§ Keith & Margaret Ashton – Ford Courier 4 x 4 single cab
§ Warwick & Brenda Keating – Nissan Sani 4 x 4 double cab
§ Peter Wedge – riding with Warwick & Brenda
§ Campbell Downie & Lorraine – Toyota Hilux 4 x 4 double cab
§ Irene Morris – riding with Campbell & Lorraine
§ Mike Lewis – was to join the party in Windhoek on 12thJuly
DETAILS OF VISIT – Daily account of places visited, experiences gained - the good, bad & ugly!
DAY 1- THURSDAY, JULY 6TH
The Initial party assembling at Keith & Margaret’s house in Howick from 07h30 and getting away by 08h30. Campbell and party left early with Warwick & Keith in convoy – Warwick towing an offroad trailer. We got just past Mooi River when the first incident happened – shredded tyre on Warwick’s trailer. As we were still close to home Warwick decided to go back to Hilton to pick up two spare tyres. This resulted in a delay of about 1-3/4 hours. Keith & PGW changed the wheel and then on in convoy again to Willem Pretorius Game Reserve – near Winburg, Free State, arriving around 15h00. Huge disappointment at 14h00 to hear that South Africa had been pipped at the post for the 2006 world cup by Germany. Nobody could have done more – but why did one member not vote? Willem Pretorius is somewhat off the beaten track but well worth a visit. There is plenty of game including gemsbok, sable, eland and mountain reedbuck – also rhino and giraffe.
There are also numerous “stone igloos” - for want of a better description. These date back to the 17th century Sotho people. There are 2 camping areas – Aventura and National Parks Board. We chose the latter (although the Aventura site is very well equipped with excellent chalets for an overnight stay, overlooking the Alldam). Campbell and party were at the Parks Board site – clearly relieved to see us and we had made arrangements to meet at Sterkfontein Dam lookout site earlier in the day and when we didn’t arrive he drove on. The campsite is well serviced with very good ablution facilities.
Overnight at Willem Pretorius Game Reserve – very cold around 03h00.
DAY 2 – FRIDAY, JULY 7TH
Breakfast at Willem Pretorius and then on to Kuruman via Noodgezicht. This is an area of extinct volcanic activity (2300m years ago!) and also was quite heavily glaciated. There is a large expanse of basalt with clear evidence of glacial scarring so South Africa has warmed considerably in the interim. The glacial era would have been during the days of the super continent Godwanaland.
Difficult to leave business behind so a big relief to hear that Dell & Lou had finalised matters with Dunlop Tyres satisfactorily. Also very good news from Uth.
To Kuruman and the campsite. Again well serviced and clean. Very cold again at night with heavy frost in the morning. To a degree the cold was abated by Irene’s stock of ginger wine and a nectar of indeterminate origin, but very good. Irene now known as the Shebeen Queen.
DAY 3 – SATURDAY, JULY 8TH
The party (majority) decided to have a cooked breakfast at the local Wimpey and then view the “eye of Kuruman”. This is a phenomenon of note with geo thermal water (approx. 32° C) supplying a small lake with 20m L daily. The lake abounds with bluegill and carp – some very large specimens. The fish clearly enjoy the upwelling of warm water and stay virtually motionless in the current.
On to Augrabies via Keimoes, Upington and Kakamas. Very surprising to see the vast vineyards in this area with evidence of very new plantings. Some of the roads in the area are incredibly long and straight. Campbell claimed a stretch of approx. 53 kms. This is vast panoramic country almost Karoo-like in appearance but well grassed. Arrival at Augrabies (PGW, Warwick & Brenda) around 15h00 with the other members arriving around 16h30-17h00. Keith & Campbell had diverted to Moffat’s Mission outside Kuruman. This marks the pioneering work of Moffatt, who was a missionary and a Scot and friend/mentor? of Livingstone.
Nice braai in the evening at Augrabies – PGW now Fire Control with Brenda appointed Chief Negotiator(!), having managed to get back around R200 from the National Parks Board – we had only used 2 of 4 pre-booked and paid for sites -–with pensioners rates claimed!
First overnight at Augrabies.
DAY 4 – SUNDAY, JULY 9TH
Easy day - with viewing of the Falls – magnificent. Evidence of the recent very heavy floods in the N. Cape with flotsam at least 10-15m above the normal level of the river. Augrabies is a very nice site with full facilities – and a good campsite. A small party comprising Campbell, Lorraine, Irene & PGW to Moon Rock at sunset for incredible views of the surrounding countryside and the canyon. Moon Rock is a sort of mini Ayers Rock with ever changing hues as the sun sets.
Potjie in the evening (PGW concoction) – Lorraine now appointed as Chief Scavenger – good at spotting fire wood left behind on vacated sites! Last night at Augrabies.
DAY 5 – MONDAY, JULY 10TH
Tents packed up early and on the road by 07h15 for the long drive to Mariental (approx. 800 kms). Border crossing at Nakop and then the incredibly straight roads with almost endless vistas of golden grassland broken by low mountain ranges between Karasberg and Grunaii. Quite awe-inspiring. Campbell, Lorraine & Irene went into Keetmanshoop to see a church with a “living pulpit”. This started life in the open air with a tree trunk for the sermons by the Lutheran clerics. The church was then built around the “pulpit”.
Then very flat country to Mariental, with the almost ever present extinct volcano of Brukkaros to our left. This rises about 700m from the plains and you see it for 80 kms or so. This site was used by the Smithsonian Institute of Washington to observe the sun about 50-60 years ago.
To Hardap Dam resort for an overnight stay. Hardap apparently means woman’s breast in Nama (?) – although not too many of the low hills gave this impression. The site is well serviced with probably 60 – 70 chalets and a restaurant perched high over the dam. The dam itself is very big and holds back water from the Fish River. However the area has a desolate feel about it. Quite appealing in a way.
A long day with almost 800 kms of driving.
DAY 6 – TUESDAY, JULY 11TH
On to Windhoek via Rehoboth. This town is the home of the Baster people who retain a sort of limited independence from the main Government of Namibia i.e., they elect their own chief and have certain specific laws which relate to their own community. The Reho Spa – very difficult to find – squirrelled away in the dusty skid row part of town – is very clean and well organised. This is a geo thermal bath with temps around 37-38°C and with a large cold water bath outside. Prices at N$7 are remarkably cheap. PGW also managed to make a call to Lou from here on the cell – good reception but this seems to be limited to the main towns. The main arterial road, the B1, doesn’t have full coverage. On to Windhoek – outskirts looked very clean - and the Daan Viljoen Game Reserve- Warwick picking up an unwarranted speeding fine just outside town. A Golf had overtaken us at high speed just at the register point and we were “caught”. However we were not shown the speed display and the ticket wasn’t signed, so a bit academic.
Daan Viljoen is a very attractive reserve – the camping and chalet sites near the small dam are superbly placed. Nice kind of gemsbok on the way in and plenty of bird life on the dam – grey heron, cormorant, squacco heron and rock kestrel. Brenda saw him take a small vole or similar.
Very cold at night – Warwick & Campbell recorded –3°C but Windhoek is situated at 1650m with Daan Viljoen probably another 150m higher. The restaurant, which looks attractive, has curiously short hours. Dinner is from 18h00 – 19h30! Good views of Windhoek at night from here.
Our first overnight at Daan Viljoen.
DAY 7 – WEDNESDAY, JULY 12TH
Early morning walk and a thaw out by 08h30. Quite a lot of frost early on. Warwick & Brenda into Windhoek for supplies , Lorraine & Campbell deciding to have an easy day.
PGW, Keith & Margaret to the International Airport (Windhoek has 2 – the domestic airport, Eros, is very conveniently placed) about 40 kms out of town, to pick up Mike L. Mike looking well and forward to the Namibian experience. We did some shopping in Windhoek – big new shopping mall with all the usual retailers. Midas, close by, have an extremely comprehensive stock of quality camping gear – a bit expensive but clearly for the international tourist. Lunch at a quite pleasant German restaurant in the mall. Windhoek unfortunately seems to have lost some of it’s German appeal with the advent of a lot of new commercial storey blocks etc., although we didn’t really explore. A very clean well ordered feel about the city however. Back to Daan Viljoen to introduce Mike to the rest of the party, and pleasant braai in the evening. Another very cold night, -3° to -4°C.
Last night at Daan Viljoen.
DAY 8 – THURSDAY, JULY 13TH
Early striking of camp by 08h30 and then on to Etosha. Mike getting a good signal through to Barbara in UK and PGW in contact with Lou – business going fairly smoothly with a lot likely to break during July (we hope!). Through Okahandja, about 70 kms north of Windhoek, and then interesting country till Otjiwarongo – two almost identical peaks referred to as ……………. (in Herero – buttocks! – very appropriate). Brief stop in Otjiwarongo (clean little town) for Mike to pick up some cutlery. Arrival in Etosha – Okakuejo Camp mid-afternoon. Good site, close to the water hole. Braai again and excellent night viewing of about 60 elephant at the hole. This is a bit over the top I think, with floodlights and probably 100 - 150 people viewing but nonetheless a very rewarding experience.
First night at Okakuejo camp – much warmer and first really good nights sleep for PGW.
DAY 9 – FRIDAY JULY 14TH
Early morning drive for all of us. PGW & FML with Warwick & Brenda. Lioness sighted (collared). Plenty of antelope including gemsbok and a lone steenbok – beautiful little animal. Bird life prolific – first sighting (PGW) of Greater Kestrel – also Black Korhaan and several Kori Bustards/Secretary birds. Rest up in the afternoon, with a swim – pool cold but invigorating. Plenty of overseas tourists with several Safari Tour operators – vehicles of all shapes & sizes (also tourists!). We all had a view from the tower (about 35m) with splendid views all round. The whole team decided to eat in the restaurant – very good buffet at N$60 per head – very reasonable. Last night at Okakuejo.
DAY 10 – SATURDAY, JULY 15TH
Drive to Namatoni – approx. 140 kms with a lunch time stop at Halali Camp. This was a game viewing day. Very large herds of red hartebeeste, zebra (both types), springbok and the black faced impala which is only found in Etosha. Nice sighting of a big lion – this one had very dark colouring – apparently typical of the Kalahari type. The Etosha lion population has a very good genetic line and some are used for breeding to introduce new lines into existing populations elsewhere. Many sightings of the Kori Bustard – I personally have only seen them singly and in the Kruger. Here we saw up to 5 birds at a time – including several in rare flight.
To Namatoni and overnight. This is a very arid camp with grassed areas – much to our relief after the stony hard ground of Okakuejo. PGW & FML having a beef potjie (FML keeping up his usual watchful eye for anything too exotic going in to the pot!) – rest of the people having a braai. Full moon and in this type of country you can literally read by it.
DAY 11 – SUNDAY, JULY 16TH
Early morning drive with Warwick, Brenda, PGW, FML & Irene. Some views of the pan are quite awesome – it’s almost like looking out at a huge sandy bay with a low rising beach(which is really what it is). Sighting of African wild cat which was a first for most of us. Keith & Margaret, Campbell & Lorraine doing their own drives, the latter being well rewarded with a sighting of 3 lion. The old German Fort houses guests in very comfortable accommodation. Interesting small museum in the building, worth seeing.
Braai in the evening and last night at Namatoni.
DAY 12 – MONDAY, JULY 17TH
Early start and last communication with Dell & Lou for probably 1 week. On to Ruacana and a nice camp site on the bank of the Cunene. Since the building of the hydro electric power station the Falls, certainly in winter, are very sparse. Nonetheless, the gorge and surrounding scenery is quite magnificent. The border fence between Angola and Namibia is poorly maintained and its easy to step into Angola (which we did). However this is hazardous as clearly there are still old land mines around and you would be foolish in the extreme to try a hike.
The border post dramatically shows the difference in prosperity of the 2 countries. On the Angolan side the buildings are collapsed and decrepit – even the flag is tattered. Namibia looks First World by comparison.
Very nice camp fire in the evening. Again a brilliant full moon. The river almost looks luminescent with a greenish almost ethereal light. Quite mysterious and quiet.
Overnight at Ruacana. The site is run by Christo and Marta (?). They weren’t there but they are adding on and it will eventually be very pleasant.
DAY 13 – TUESDAY, JULY 18TH
Early start for the journey to Epupa Falls. We had decided to try the river road and this is hard going although passable to the Cunene River Lodge. This is a very nice upmarket camp with well-equipped chalets (R250/night per couple including breakfast), restaurant and bar. Also the camping site is very well situated and catered for. It took us 1½ hours to do 37 kms and we were advised to go inland for the remaining journey to Epupa. This is about 150 kms and took us 4 hours but the remaining 100 on the river route would have taken at least 8 hours and with fuel a real problem, we went for the easier option. Brenda identified an Auger Buzzard which was a first (at least for PGW).
Arrival early afternoon at Omarunga site and then a general view of the Falls area. Epupa Falls itself is magnificent and well worth the effort to get there. (Thanks to Tony & Dell for strongly recommending we do this.) Several of us then retired to the bar – Omarunga has a camping site and chalets – for a well-earned Tafel (good Swakopmund beer) and a general chat with some fellow travellers. Three French people from Lyon had done the full river road and it had taken them 9 hours in total for 130 kms, so hard going. Some Kiwi girls passing through also. Very pleasant.
Nice braai and first overnight at Epupa – PGW going for a midnight stroll and getting locked out of the camp.
DAY 14 – WEDNESDAY, JULY 19TH
Early walk up the river – and then Warwick, Keith, Margaret & PGW deciding to climb one of the peaks about 2 kms downstream. This was a heavy haul – loose scree and plenty of rock climbing but the view from the summit was superb with a view of the Cunene probably 20 kms back from the falls. We were not the first – a small cairn was on top of the summit. We “named” this Keating Peak!
Easy afternoon (earned!) – plenty of small striped tree squirrels around – only found in Northern Namibia apparently.
Last night (regrettably) at Epupa. We all felt that another day at least would have benefited us – from both a rest and exploration. There is talk of further damming of the river upstream and if this happens – Epupa Falls will effectively disappear.
DAY 15 – THURSDAY, JULY 20TH
Turning for home with Epupa being the most northerly point of the trip. The roads are not bad but you really cannot expect to do better than an average of 35-40 kms/hour. Arrival in Opuwo – the Himba capital. This is a 1 horse dusty little place but you can get most supplies. A very nice lodge in evidence for those who want to use the town to explore Himba territory.
To Sesfontein (about 320 kms from Epupa) for an overnight stay at Fort Sesfontein. This has a campsite but somewhat run down. We were charged R55/person/night with very limited facilities. The manager (christened Count von Rippenoff by Brenda!) had a somewhat distant air about him – take it or leave it. However the lodge itself was well equipped and nice to have to have a drink in the bar.
The countryside around Sesfontein is surprisingly green and very pleasant with some superb mountain backdrops in the distance. Overnight at Sesfontein.
DAY 16 – FRIDAY, JULY 21ST
From Sesfontein to Khorixas through some quite desolate looking country – stark but beautiful in a curious way.
We “called in” at Twyfelfontein. This is a large massif with probably one of the largest collection of Khoisan rock carvings in Africa. These reputedly date back 6000 years and are very impressive and lifelike. The site is quite well looked after and the guide, a young Damara girl, quite well informed.
Onward to Khorixas with another stop at the Nuewe petrified forest”! This is another site, probably 10 kms or so from the official site. However they have here a superb specimen of a petrified trunk. Apparently the main site has suffered vandalism and theft over the years.
Arrival in Khorixas around 17h00 and overnight at the camp site. Quite well equipped and again a nice bar with a very genial barman – King – a Muhammad Ali look alike!
DAY 17 – SATURDAY, JULY 22ND
Good gravel roads to the coast with a fuel and supply stop at Henties Bay – surprisingly large community I thought - and then to Cape Cross seal colony. This also marks Diego Cao landfall in the 15th century. The seal colony is huge – apparently 80-100,000 or more. This is a spectacular site but with a pretty strong smell of fish oil, seal excreta etc. Not entirely unpleasant but over powering should we say. Weather now cool to chilly with cloud banks over the South Atlantic.
On to Swakopmund which is a complete surprise arriving from the desolation of a desert environment. This is a sophisticated town with a good ambience. A very nice camping site – municipal area – full marks to Lonely Planet – there are grassed sites with very nice individual ablutions per site. We all decided to eat out at Die Kelder. This was recommended by the Municipal site lady. Very good meal in an excellent atmosphere.
First night in Swakopmund.
DAY 18 – SUNDAY, JULY 23RD
Relaxed day in Swakopmund and an opportunity to explore the town on an individual basis. Although chilly and overcast its most pleasant with some fine shops and restaurants. The town has a population of around 25,000 and it’s noticeable (Warwick’s comment) that there’s a lot more English being spoken than a few years ago when German and then Afrikaans was the order of the day. Several seasoned travellers on our site with a German couple having brought down an ex-army 5-ton vehicle – superbly equipped – they were on their way to Kenya, but slowly. About 8 – 12 months they said – lovely! Coffee at Anton’s late morning. This is a “must do” thing. You can almost imagine you’re in a German town. Very good feeling. Nice evening, potjie and braai and second night in Swakopmund.
DAY 19 – MONDAY, JULY 24TH
Drive to Walvis Bay in the morning – about 35 kms away. Walvis Bay is not as attractive a town as Swakopmund but certainly not without charm, particularly at the Lagoon end of town with some very attractive properties. The Lagoon area near the salt works is rich in bird life – flamingos (greater & lesser), Caspian Terns, Stints, Pelicans – a real bird lovers paradise.
The “road” to Sandwich Harbour, which has an even more prolific bird life, was not recommended – 3-4 hours for 55 kms with a strong possibility of either getting lost or stuck so we listened and came back to Swakopmund for a final easy afternoon and then Campbell, Lorraine, Irene & PGW to the Brauhaus for a real German meal – best beer of the trip – Hansa unfiltered. Rest of party braaing at the campsite.
Final overnight at Swakopmund.
DAY 20 – TUESDAY, JULY 25TH
To Sesriem & Sossusvlei through the Namib. The Kuiseb River area is quite magnificent with a surprising number of plants and trees. The Namib itself, oldest desert on earth, has some quite large areas of plains, grassland – albeit sparse. Arrival at Sesriem around 13h30 with a very strong wind in evidence. This made putting up tents very difficult. The drive to Sossusvlei gets increasingly spectacular with the vlei itself holding quite a lot of water. Several of us ascended one of the main dunes for an amazing site of razor sharp dune ridges, colours from silvery grey to purple, which literally change by the minute as the sun sets. This is a photographers paradise.
The “race” back to camp – they shut the gates at sunset or just after and then a rather unpleasant evening and night with the wind increasing in force with gusts probably 80 kms/hour and more. It actually got stronger through the night.
DAY 21 – WEDNESDAY, JULY 26TH
A quick breakfast and then breaking camp in an almost hurricane! Then to the Sessriem Canyon (hence the English equivalent of “6 thongs” to get water) and a quick walk to the water hole. This is a very narrow deep gorge with evidence of sea life in the stratification at around the 20m level below the surface. This is a real lunar landscape.
A brief stop at Duwisib Castle. This is quite incongruous – a German Schloss in the desert. It was built around 1909 and photos show real colonial living. It fell into disrepair but has now been restored and is well worth a visit.
Campbell had a puncture (4th of the trip so far – score card: Warwick x 2, Keith x 1, Campbell x 1) and then to Helmeringhausen (1 x hotel, 1 x store, 1 x garage) for an attempted repair. Unfortunately the tyre was too badly damaged – some indecision as to where to stay the night with an eventual agreement on the tiny settlement of Seeheim – about 40 kms from Keetmanshoop. This turned out to be a real find. A couple from the E. Cape had bought the hotel in a derelict state and have built it up into a rustic, quaint but very comfortable 10 room hotel. We camped overnight and sampled Tafel again in the bar. Merinda – lady of the house – is a taxidermist and they also have a game farm.
DAY 22 – THURSDAY, JULY 27TH
At R20/head for an English breakfast at the Seeheim hotel we had to go for it! Then on to Ai-Ais – a good gravel road with about a 2 hour run. Ai-Ais resort was almost completely devastated in April/May with massive flooding, so the site is now a work camp. However the conservation authorities are working hard to restore it and by year end it should be back to the way it was. However to re-grass the camping area will take time. Campbell had to go into Keetmanshoop for a new tyre – R1400 – so a costly experience.
An opportunity during the afternoon to relax and prepare for the 5-day Canyon hike ahead of us.
DAY 23 – FRIDAY, JULY 28TH
Five hopefuls – Keith, Margaret, Campbell, Lorraine & PGW, piled into 2 of the vehicles for the journey to Hobas – start of the Canyon hike. All a bit apprehensive. We started the descent into the Canyon at 09h30, reaching the bottom at 12h00 – quite slow but parts of the downward climb are quite treacherous. We passed a party from the E. Cape on the way down. Very hot by 13h00 – Campbell measured 36°C so we all lay up for lunch. By 16h15 we felt it was time to camp although we’d probably only covered 7 kms by this time. The camp area was a nice spot by the river with a sandy bank. The river water was OK to drink although slightly saline – makes excellent tea.
First night in the Canyon, in the open – night sky phenomenal.
DAY 24 – SATURDAY, JULY 29TH
PGW 60 today! A bit weird to hear the strains of HBTY coming off the Canyon walls at 06h15. We passed a party of farmers wives a little later – all from the Graaf Reinet area – 12 in all. Another birthday rendition and chocolate bar and a hug from a rather buxom blonde – lovely! Keith reckoned I’d have been ravished if I’d been on my own – Dream On!
Boulder section quite difficult after Quartz Figures landmark. On to Palm Springs – sulphurous geothermal water around 60°C (probably H²S?) with a strong smell. Not the place to camp so on for another 2 kms again by the river. Cabernet with dinner and some Ballantines for birthday treat. Lorraine somehow had conjured up some cake and a candle. Great stuff. We all slept better on this 2nd night in the Canyon.
DAY 25 – SUNDAY, JULY 30TH
Good early start allowing us to put about 11 kms behind us by 11h30 and then the usual 1½-hour lay up during the hot part of the day. Not difficult to understand why the Canyon is closed between October to March, midday temps must exceed 45°C. Wild horses by the river. These may be an offshoot herd from the original German horses of the Schutztruppe in the early 1900’s? Plenty of Zebra droppings – presumably Hartmann’s mountain zebra – but no sightings of the zebra themselves.
Campbell & Lorraine setting a good pace in the afternoon. We camped on the only sandy area in sight but well away from the river. It was now late and Keith & PGW getting water over a large boulder field. Quite precarious in the dark and not to be recommended.
Third night in the Canyon. Shooting stars quite prolific if you watch the night sky for 15-20 minutes or so.
DAY 26 – MONDAY, JULY 31ST
Good early start at 06h45 – Leopard spoor seen by the first short cut (around 4-5 kms). Good distance made during the day – just past the 70 kms mark leaving us around 18 kms for the last day. Supplies now dwindling – but packs getting lighter. On average you need about 15kgs of supplies incl. clothing. We were drinking up to 5-L of water per day so if the river isn’t running, which can be the case, you would have a very difficult time.
Nice camp by the river on a good sandy area with nice rock pools for a good bathe.
Last night in the canyon.
DAY 27 – TUESDAY, AUGUST 1ST
Good early start again and arrival at the last short cut (or so we thought) by 08h30. This was a serious mistake – we took a dry riverbed as the short cut which led us into the mountains heading north (not south). All in all we lost 3 hours by the time we got back to the river again. This meant we now had about 15kms to go to get “home” with the time now 11h30. We took a short lunch and decided to walk through the heat of the day – very hot and tiring. We came across the farmers wives party just disappearing over rocks on the other side of the river to the genuine short cut, which we took. Arrival in camp at Ai-Ais by 16h30 – which surprised us as we had obviously made very good progress (route marching almost).
Nice reception by Brenda, Warwick, Mike & Irene and then a well-earned pint before showering (bliss!) and then Mike’s potjie. Excellent – his first red meat effort, and then a gradual winding down by a nice fire. (We had fires every night in the Canyon – plenty of driftwood around.)
Warwick, Brenda, Mike and Irene had seen quite a lot of the area in the vicinity of the camp during our absence. Warwick climbing the mountain opposite the camp in the very creditable time of 45 minutes.
Never thought we would relish the stretcher beds – good nights sleep.
DAY 28 – WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 2ND
Relaxing day for the Canyon party (at least Lorraine, Campbell & PGW) – the rest off on a drive and general exploration until lunchtime. Most of the afternoon spent cleaning hiking kit and then a good soak in the hot pools. There are a series of jacuzzis and water jets, which pummel you – very therapeutic – almost chiropractic! Keith’s birthday today so we all went to the restaurant for celebratory meal. Choice somewhat limited but quality good. Last campfire and then final night at Ai-Ais. Warwick, Brenda, Irene and Mike had had 7 nights altogether here.
DAY 29 – THURSDAY, AUGUST 3RD
We woke up early to the sound of light rain! In Namibia! It obviously has to sometime. Very early camp strike and on the road by 07h15. Some quite heavy rain clouds just outside Ai-Ais, which gives a different colour and texture to the landscape. The golden grasslands have a prairie look about them with broken cloud. Across the border at Ariamsvlei and on towards Kimberley via Upington.
We stopped briefly at Griquastad with the thought of staying over – however the Caravan Park had been taken over by builders and the only B & B was very basic. We still had time to get to Kimberley and we stayed over at the Big Hole Caravan Park. This has first class ablution facilities and dirt cheap –R20 per tent and R9/person! PGW & Mike eating out at the Savoy Hotel (where else!). Very good value. This was Mike’s last night before flying home the next day. A long day in the saddle for everyone – particularly the drivers! Cold night with frost again.
DAY 30 – FRIDAY, AUGUST 4TH
Leisurely start to the day with the opportunity of a hot bath – first in a month(!) but also necessary to get warm – then an hour or so at the Big Hole and Mine Museum. PGW can now legitimately claim pensioners rates. This is very well displayed and well worth a visit. All back to the Savoy where Mike had managed tea/coffee and cakes, and then au revoir to Mike – he was flying from Kimberley to JNB in the afternoon and overnight to Frankfurt & Manchester. Rest of the party on to Lesotho via Bloemfontein. We got as far as Ficksburg by 16h30 and camped in the Caravan Park. Nice braai with wood salvaged from the site, and overnight. This proved to be the coldest night of the trip. None of us slept. Warwick reported –10°C outside the tent. Lorraine & Campbell had frozen face cloths inside the tent!
DAY 34 – SATURDAY, AUGUST 5TH
Through the border post at Ficksburg and on to Katse Dam, on the new road. This is a magnificent engineering achievement with spectacular views and very steep gradients. Lots of ice and some powdery snow at the top of the first pass at 3040m. On to Mokotlong, with another 3000m pass – roads quite good but somewhat unnerving drops into space on the open side. How do these Basutho children manage to stave off the bitter winter weather wearing only a pair of underrods and a tatty blanket?
We were unable to go over the Katse Dam wall as you need a permit but you get a view of the wall from the river. This is the Orange River – known locally as the Senqu River. Campbell now had a problem with his brakes – loss of pressure – so we took the last 10-15 kms very easy.
To the top of Sani Pass (3240m) and then a short descent to Sani Top Chalet at 2873m. Mine host, Jonathon, was extremely helpful. The hotel was full but he arranged for us to sleep in the dining room – after dinner of course! Dinner at R35 a head was very hearty and a fitting finale to the trip. No tents!
Last night indoors – did we cheat – No!
DAY 32 – SUNDAY, AUGUST 6TH
Breakfast at Sani Top Chalet and then the journey home down the pass. Keith and Margaret deciding to roam around for a while and have lunch at Sani Top. A huge frozen waterfall just below the start – very impressive – it will be there for another 6 weeks at least. Home via Underberg and back in Howick courtesy of Warwick & Brenda by 13h30.
A memorable trip over a long period- although necessary for the distances we had planned to cover. Namibia is a vast country with an amazing array of sights and experiences to offer. The high points I think for all of us were Etosha, Epupa, Swakopmund and the Namib itself – not necessarily in that order. The Fish River Canyon was an awesome experience – true wilderness but not to be undertaken lightly. The journey through Lesotho right at the end of the trip was the cherry on top.
As a group of nine we all got on extremely well together being like minded in terms of travel and wild life enjoyment.
I think that the following acknowledgements are also necessary in terms of input of each individual on the trip: -
§ Keith for his very precise preplanning and efforts in getting the whole act together – without a plan you don’t know where you’re going.
§ Warwick for his overall experience in offroading and general guidance when things not always went to plan – as they often don’t.
§ Campbell for his cheerful disposition and general storytelling around the campfires.
§ Mike for his fire making and braai skills. He also kept our supplies (fresh supplies particularly) on track. One of the grumpy old men! Guess who was t’ other? Also for his effort in joining the party from England. Not easy to come in “cold”. He quickly became a member of the team.
§ Brenda for her excellent knowledge of birds & wildlife generally. Also for being an enthusiastic member of the after dinner choir and her not inconsiderable negotiation skills.
§ Lorraine for her ability to find combustible material at the drop of a hat. Also for her courage in eventually going for the Canyon hike. I suspect at the end she quite enjoyed it.
§ Margaret for her endless supply of biscuits and also keeping Keith on track with the daily loading/unloading of the Ford Courier. This was a mission to the observers!
§ and last, but far from least, Irene for her good humour and enthusiasm for all we saw and did – she also wanted to see more of everything. I believe she could have done a 2nd lap! Also for her supplies of the ginger brew.
Finally, this was a very ambitious plan – well executed and enthusiastically supported by all – here’s to the next one.
Note! The notes, thoughts, opinions are as I saw things. People may not necessarily agree but I have tried to be as objective as possible. Apologies for any events or experiences, which may have been omitted.
ETOSHA greater kestrel
scarlet breasted shrike
EPUPA auger buzzard
SOUTHERN NAMIBIA pygmy falcon
WALVIS BAY avocet
black backed gull
orange breasted rock jumper