Namibia, ten unforgettable days

June 30, 2011

Day 1 – June 6th
On Friday morning just before the sunshowed its face over the Hottentot’sMountains, we flew north out of Cape TownInternational Airport on a comfortable 2 hourAir Namibia flight to Windhoek, capital ofNamibia. Upon landing, we headed straightfor the Avis Counter to collect our VWmicrobus that we’d booked from Cape Town.However, there was some delay and the Avis employee suggested we have some coffee while they sort out the problem.You can imagine our frustration, after all, Namibia was previously South West Africa, a German protectorate and we hadhoped that there would be some of the world-renowned efficiency lagging from the old days. Nevertheless, we had justordered our coffee when our Avis lady reappeared with the paper work and said, “Sorry I don’t have a vehicle for you”.Just when we were about to object and ask for the manager she piped up “so we have upgraded you to the new VW TDIdiesel”. Well, for the same rate we weren’t complaining, so after transferring our luggage, we set off on our safari instyle.Steve, our professional photographer was driving and his wife Deborah our video producer, was navigating. There wasmuch discussion, as there invariably is with this combination, and much turning around of the map, kindly supplied byNamibian Tourism. Eventually, we arrived at the Camping and Car Hire Company who were patiently waiting for us withevery conceivable item that we could possibly need for our ten-day expedition.A warm welcome awaited us; Heidi of Camping Car Hirewas more than helpful. They very kindly agreed to rent us allthe camping gear without a vehicle. Normally they rent out4x4 vehicles fully equipped for your journey.After some tips about where to eat and what to see, wewere off! What was supposed to be a quick stop at thesupermarket for supplies turned into a major shoppingexpedition and we finally headed in a north-easterlydirection out of Windhoek. There were many detours as a result of road works, but our route to The Waterberg was wellsign-posted and our first impression of the roads in Namibia was that they are maintained to an excellent standard.All gravel roads are graded regularly so in the luxury of the new VW TDI, it was like driving on tar.Our first stop was at a roadhouse in Okahandja, for lunch. It wasinteresting to associate with the indigenous people and taste thelocal fare, the little restaurant attached to the Petrol Filling stationwasn’t “The Ritz”, but it was clean and the food did what it wasmeant to, satisfy our hunger – after all we hadn’t eaten sincebreakfast on the aeroplane.Caption to pic:Still far from our destination, I tried calling The Waterberg PlateauRest Camp on my cell phone as we now realized we would bearriving a lot later than originally planned. What a mission thisproved to be; my mobile wouldn’t connect and the local call boxesonly take phone cards. However, I eventually managed to buy acard and we were relieved to hear that The Waterberg Plateau restCamp accepts check-ins up to 9pm.The road from Okahandja to The Waterberg was under construction, so the going was slow and rough with constantdetours. Along the way we spotted warthogs and their babies running across the highway alerting onlookers of theirpresence with their upright tails resembling aerials – which we decided has been adopted by the 4 x 4 club for the exactsame purpose. Secretary Birds that are common in the region were spotted running at tremendous speeds along theroadside. Only two hours (as the crow flies) from our native Cape Town and the many new varieties of bird speciesenthralled an avid bird watcherAs we approached The Waterberg Plateau the sun was about to set, the light in Namibia is so beautiful at this time ofday that we just had to stop and take in the view. Twenty minutes later we had reached our destination. We set-up camp surrounded by the most awesome Camel Thorn trees, cracked open an ice-cold beer sat back in ouropen air lounge and took in the beauty of the region. It was really spectacular; The Waterberg Plateau rose behind usto the North East and in front of us – stretching as far as the eye could see – an endless plain of thorn veld – the hallmarkof Africa.As the sun set leaving ever lengthening shadows, the firewood crackling under our delicious braaied food we sat gazingat the star filled sky thankful that we had decided to visit Namibia.

Day 2 – June 7th
Breakfast in the bush was wonderful, the smell of coffee and the anticipation of what the day held, was exhilarating. Wedecided we would brave the cliffs of The Waterberg Plateau, which rise a good 1000 metres above the camp.Around midmorning three of us headed up the mountain. Within an hour or so we found ourselves in the lush forestedslopes of the reserve beneath the cliffs that rise vertically to the Plateau. We scrambled over huge boulders andfollowed a dried up riverbed that took us through a crag and up to the summit. The view from the top was breathtaking360 degrees of Namibia – a huge and vacant land. We reluctantly returned to Camp. That evening around the campfirewe shared our many new experiences of the interesting wildlife and recorded the birds we had seen for the first time.

Day 3 – June 8th
After striking camp we headed further north to Tsumeb where we stopped at the Mijnen (Mining Hotel) for lunch, and boywhat a lunch! They gave us enough to feed an army. After lunch we dragged ourselves into the bus and headed on toEtosha entering the park via the Von Lindequist Gate. It was only about 10 kms to the Camp, but it took us over an hourbecause we just had to stop every time we saw something move. We saw quite a variety of game right from the gate.What a surprise Fort Namutoni was. Standing in stark contrast to the African bush this imposing structure was first builtin 1902 and later restored by a German Lieutenant, Adolph Fischer; who was to become the first warden of Etosha.There was a huge waterhole right next to our camp where you can sit all night if you like. It was like an animal bazaar,they just kept coming to drink Elephant, Giraffe, Zebra, Wildebeest, Gemsbok, and so on and eventually the sandmancame too and one by onewe reluctantly wanderedoff to our tents. Later thatnight we were woken bythe roar of a lion, which,although it is said can beheard up to 7 miles away,sounded very closeindeed! And then thevarious responses of allthe night creatures reallymade us realize we werein Africa.

Day 4 – June 9th
This was the day we were going to explore, so over breakfast we had the maps out and discussed our route. Wedecided to head up the eastern side of the pan to Two Palm, Fischers Pan, Aroe & Tsumcor. So armed with camerasand Bins (Binoculars), we set off, by midday we had become seasoned game watchers and a herd of zebra hardlyturned our heads.We took some really good photographs and by lunchtime we drove back to Camp Namutoni where we enjoyed a coupleof beers and had some sandwiches around the pool. By now we had orientated ourselves with the layout of the campand the habits of the animals who were accustomed to drink in the cool of the evening we headed down to the waterholewhere we spent several hours just watching the comings and goings of the game.

Day 5 – June 10th
Breaking Camp was becoming a cinch, we had worked out exactly where everything went and how best to pack themicrobus. So on our fifth day we took it quite easy. Our first stop was at the Chudop Waterhole, there were literallyhundreds of zebra and various kinds of antelope coming down to drink. We must have stayed there for at least an hour,the game would all be relaxed and drinking, the zebra lined up like soldiers and then suddenly they would go wild withfright, who knows, maybe the scent of a lion or cheetah. Moments like these are exciting and are captured forever onfilm by the patient photographer.Then on to Goas, another natural Waterhole and what a treat that was. Dozens of elephant with their young, all youcould hear was the clicking of cameras and the occasional trumpeting of a member of the herd. From there we made alunch stop at Halali. It was beautiful with groves of Mopani trees. It was also the only part of the Park where we sawhills. The full buffet lunch was fairly expensive so we settled for the salad and bread, which did the job and suited thepocket. That afternoon we visited Charitsaub, Salvadora and Sueda. Then as the evening began to draw in we pushedon to Okaukuejo our final camp in Etosha. What a welcome site, the Tower as seen in the picture, being the mainfeature, gave it a sort of German Fort appearance. This camp was quite full as there were a number of overland trucksfilled with back-packers overnighting as well. So it took time to find a site and get settled. After we had pitched camp Iwent exploring, and discovered a perfect spot under some large Camel thorn trees, away from the hustle and bustle ofthe bigger parties and closer to the waterhole, so we moved our camp and that was probably the best site we had in allEtosha.

Day 6 – June 11th
Our second day in Okaukuejo was precious; everybody knew it was to be our last so we had to make it count. We setout for the Western border of the pan; this was really barren, with mirages reflecting the heat on the horizon. Wetravelled as far as SprokiesWoud (Ghost Tree Forest) took some spectacular photographs of these strange trees andthen headed back to Okondeka and Wolfnes; these too were deserted. We came across a carcass of a zebra, whoknows – was it the lack of water or was he just not fast enough for the Lions. We sat there for what seemed hours, thevastness of the Pan was just incredible. That evening we spent back at the waterhole at Okaukuejo Camp drinking inthe beauty of sunset and animals. There was a certain amount of sadness that our visit to Etosha was over so soon andpossibly some uncertainty about what lay ahead, was it going to be an anticlimax after all the excitement on the pan.

Day 7 – June 12th
After a quick breakfast we made our last visit to the waterhole, someone had seen a herd of elephant approach and wejust had to get some more photographs. Jean, Deborah’s assistant was passionate about elephants and so this wasreally a highlight. Just as we were about to leave a white rhino made an appearance so it was close to 09h00 when wefinally hit the road to Khorixas about 250km away. En route we stopped at Outjo for lunch, which, by the way, wasnothing to write home about and then on to Khorixas. Thank heavens we had a good map or else we would havemissed the Finger Klip & Ugab Terrace. It lies 80kms from Outjo, but is very badly signposted. However, determined tofind the turn off we were rewarded for our diligence and it was well worth the trip. We spent quite some time there andaround sunset we captured some wonderful images of the awe-inspiring landscape. It is the best time of day forphotography and a pleasant change from Etosha where we had to be in the camp before sunset each evening. On ourreturn to the main road to Khorixas we came across the most beautiful scene, a family of Damara people on theirDonkey Cart, we stopped and exchanged greetings, but as it was getting dark we didn’t linger and travelled throughKhorixas to the municipal campsite where we spent the night.

Day 8 – June 13th
It was going to be another wonderful day. Our first stop was at the Petrified Forest, a large area where ancient petrifiedconifers are exposed by erosion through the eons of time. The local Damara offer a guided tour and it was veryinteresting, especially the information about the Welwitschia Mirabilis, the oldest plants known to man.Another 15 kms down the road we took a right turn onto a secondary road, the D2612 and headed for the “Organ Pipes”and “Burnt Mountain” (not to be confused with “The Brandberg”). The colours of the landscape and the fascinating rockformations make it a worthwhile detour to take in the beauty of these desolate regions. Then on to Twyfelfontien rockengravings. We arrived there at midday, and despite the intense heat we enjoyed a guided tour with a young Damaragirl up into the mountains. As you can see from the photograph, it’s just amazing that these ancient forms of art haveremained intact. It is apparently regarded as the richest collection of rock engravings in Africa. We decided to spoilourselves and so stopped for lunch at the Twyfelfontien Country Lodge and what a treat, if camping were not your style,this would be the luxurious alternative. Our onward journey was just too beautiful and we spent so much time recordingthe vistas that we only passed through Sorris Sorris just before dark. Then we joined the C35 about 15kms before Uis.At this stage we were exhausted and missed our turnoff to the Whitelady campsite at the foot of “The Brandberg” andended up in Uis. A friendly German shopkeeper gave us directions, so after getting a few supplies we headed back10kms and then turned onto the D2359 where we found the board marking the entrance to the “Ugab River WhiteladyCamp Site”.The road immediately became a jeep track and we were now really tired. We were starting to despair, when there in thedark was a lantern and a friendly voice welcomed us. “Just follow me” he said as he ran ahead into the wide dried upriverbed with its beautiful Acacia trees. While pitching our tents, which we had become so good at, we could do it in thedark; our host showed the ladies in our group the ablutions. This was what I always imagined being on safari in Africa tobe. The toilet and shower were open air just enclosed with a reed wall. Soon a roaring fire was going and the girls hadput out the camp chairs and handed out cold beers – just what the doctor ordered! After dinner, and by then close tomidnight, we took a walk across the dry river bed toward The Brandberg, and there was a bright, full moon to light ourway.

Day 9 – June 14th
We slept well that night and Steve & I rose just before dawn to take some photographs of The Brandberg. We climbed ahill and set up the cameras for the exact moment – and what a sight as the sun crept over the horizon and burst onto thebrilliant orange of The Brandburg mountain that stands isolated and imposing in the flat landscape. Sadly we had toleave this magnificent region. After a delicious breakfast we packed up and hit the road for what was going to prove tobe the longest day of our trip. We crossed the desert from Uis to Henties Bay, about 116 kms, and then travelled southdown the west coast of Africa on the salt highway to Swakkopmund. Within the space of two hours the temperature haddropped from 36 to 16 degrees, but it was still to get colder! After taking in some of the sights, we continued on towardWindhoek and the Daan Viljoen Campsite where we were going to spend our final night in Namibia. If you look at themap, you will notice that there are three routes from Swakkopmund to Windhoek. We took the C28 and although it maynot be the shortest route, it is certainly the most scenic and exciting. The road travels through the northern Naukluft Parkand it’s not unusual to see zebra and kudu crossing in front of you. The most exciting part was traversing the BosuaPass a 1:15 gradient and no caravans or trailers are allowed for obvious reasons. This is the view from the top.:The rest of our journey seemed endless and it must have been after 20h30 when we finally arrived at the Daan ViljoenGame Park.

Day 10-  June 15th
Wow! That was probably the coldest night in Namibia, what a relief when the sun finally rose and the thermometerclimbed above zero. After breakfast and ablutions we took a circular drive through the park. As they have no predatorswe were able to walk to the waterholes and what a surprisingly beautiful place it is situated so close to the city. The birdlife was stunning and we were entertained by a group of woodpeckers just above our heads while we identified severaldifferent animal tracks in the sand. A little before midday we checked out of the camp and enjoyed lunch at therestaurant before making the short trip into Windhoek and a pleasant reunion with Camping Car Hire staff where wereturned the equipment, and thanked them for helping to make our trip so memorable.We drove to the Airport in silence after a fantastic 10 days safari in Namibia.We will definitely return.