Photos are coming… We are struggling to find adequate internet service that is capable of uploading, posts, with pictures in them. So we have decided to still upload posts without the pix, and will go back and add photos when we can
We have an early morning today, so we can reach the canyon before the sun starts to heat up too much. It is about a 10km trip to the main view point of the canyon. Fish River Canyon is the second largest in the world next to the Grand Canyon in the USA. It is very impressive, the colours spectacular. We stand around soaking up the sights and contemplate how long the canyon took to be created… originally it had glaciers! There are a few different view points, dotted along the rim and we drive along so we can get a different prospective. Some of the spots you need to walk to. On our last stop we checked with a guide parked next to us- it was a 500m walk, but be careful not to touch the cactus as they were poison… just another confirmation for David that every plant in Africa is deadly!
Its 10.40 and already 36 degrees, we get back to the campsite and make a beeline for the pool. We meet an Aussie and his Thai wife who have lived in London for the last 20 years. They are on a gap year, travelling the world, before relocating back to Australia. Before long a tour bus pulls in and the pool is inundated – you couldn’t get a foot in! A storm came thru with cold rain and wind – this was a surprise to everyone – it really cooled things down.
We had dinner at the restaurant – while there we met a South African couple who we discussed wages, house loans, schooling etc. They advised that most people carry guns – even when shopping. They live in a gated community – has 2 fences, security guards and cctv on all streets!
Brendan and I have a shot of Jägermeister- yuck – has a spicy liquorice taste… as the bar closes- more shots for David and Brendan.
We are happy to head off to bed, so the South African couple invite Brendan to party on into the night for New Year’s Eve.
Happy New Year, 2019!
Continuing our way south, today. On the way we kept an eye out for the wild horses, but alas- no luck in spotting them.
There wasn’t much on the way, until just out of Seehein, where the terrain changes- it is now lush and green, and grape vines cris-cross the valley. There is a large dam and we cross a reed lined water causeway. The green doesn’t last long though and soon we are back to desolate, dry, rocky landscape.
We spot a few lonesome ostrich and oryx wandering along in the hot sun.
We reached Hobas campsite and have our pick of sites, we end us choosing number 11, it is quite large and will have spots in a shaded area all day long, due to the large trees. While eating lunch, we see a few baboons venture in to the next campsite and head toward the bins to see what other campers have left, they are very noisy and quite big- I wouldn’t want to have to confront one.
It is really hot this afternoon so we decide to settle in by the pool and have a few drinks while cooling off in the water. The pool has about 1m of grass around the edge – the rest is dirt and dust- it looks out of place. while relaxing on the recliners in the shade after a refreshing dip, David notices a large whirly whirly- its dust spout reaches 100 meters into the air like a rainbow, it moves quickly towards us, but luckily dissipates before it gets too near.
Somehow, we have mis-calculated with the meals and haven’t bought enough meat, tonight will be the last time I cook for a while- oh what a shame!
The campsite is full tonight, but is quiet.
Due to the expected wind, today, we abandoned plans to go to the ghost town, Kolmanskop. Couldn’t bear another sand blown day! We thought about going to see if we could find the wild horses of Aus, at sunrise, but decided to have a much needed sleep-in instead.
So after a slow start, to the day, I decided to catch up on some laundry. Unfortunately, we set up the clothesline next to the wooden windbreak, which was very dirty from the dust. So I had to redo half the laundry again!
After lunch we went up to the bar, which is 2 km from the campsite, to use the wifi, and have some refreshments.
This turned out to be quite entertaining, as our Namibian bar tender, Eve, has never flown before, or had much concept of the distances to be !traveled from Aus to Namibia. Eve thought there would be sign posts to help the pilots fly from country to country. It’s amazing how some of the things, and concepts, that we take for granted, are so alien to them even now.
Four and half hours of entertaining conversation, 7 stein glasses of Hanus Beer, 2 Rum & cokes, a coke and a Fanta. All for the grand total of $26. A good afternoon.
We then, decided, to try and find the wild horses. There is supposed to be a herd of, between 80 & 200, wild horses, that have been in the Aus area for a hundred years or so. Eve had mentioned that they can usually be seen, at sunset, near a waterhole at Garub, as it’s the only permanent water they can access in the region. We drove the 20 km’s or so, and cooked our dinner on a rise above the waterhole. We waited until nearly an hour after sunset, but unfortunately, they didn’t show. We had a lovely sunset, though!
The wind played havoc all night and was still howling this morning. There is sand everywhere.
The oryx (who apparently is the only animal to have 4 colours) said a final goodbye, by crossing in front of the car on the way out – (David is sure all the animals in Africa have secret suicide tendencies- they keep going in front of the car instead of away from it, this one even ran 100m, so, it could run in front of us!)
Looks like we aren’t getting away from the sand and wind – there are road signs everywhere with warning. Oh joy!
We are in the middle of a sand storm – the sky looks like a dark haze, but is in fact sand. You can see the sand being blown across the road surface.
Finally, out of the sand and into the rocky mountain and yellowish grassy, spinifex type, plains.
We take a detour to Duwisib castle. The castle was built in 1909 for a German nobleman and has been restored with much of the original furnishings. This was an interesting stop, but probably wouldn’t do it again, as it was more a family home than a castle.
We reach the small town of Aus- finally some decent tarred road – gee we have missed you! Back up to 120kph. Well actually that’s not true, as David has been doing that on a lot of the dirt roads as well!
Decide on another detour- going into Luderitz, we need to find a bank to do a currency exchange- we only have 180 rand- approx. $18.00 and nowhere is taking card at the moment or the lines are down.
Luderitz is an old town founded in 1883 and has a natural harbour for boats. The wind has picked up again and sand is blowing everywhere, at one point it felt like we were at Perrisher, but instead of huge snow banks built up along the road side it was banks of sand. There are local workers trying to push it back off the road surface.
Woo hoo we have some money – only after going to 3 different banks in town! Lunch is at the “Cosy Corner Coffee Café”, which promised free wifi, but as usual it wasn’t working! Burgers all round. Much to Brendan’s disgust, we grab a few things from the local Sparr & Topps stores. We’re not sure where he thinks all the junk food comes from, but he complains whenever we have to do more shopping. We don’t have a lot of room in the fridge/freezer or storage for other things, so we are continuously topping up, when we reach a large enough town.
About 10km, on the way out of town, is the famous Kolmanskop- an abandoned ghost town (used to be a diamond mine town) the buildings had been abandoned when the mining became unproductive , over the years the sand has started to reclaim them, filling some rooms. Unfortunately the wind is still bowing and we decide not to go in – would wreck the camera’s and be very unpleasant for us, we stop on the side of the road and snap a few pics.
We arrive at the reception for the campsite and have a drink at the bar, Natalie, the bar attendant, advises that the winds should ease tonight. There is a small amount of internet here, so David and Brendan catch up with what is happening in the world.
The reception is about 2km of dirt tracks from our campsite. There are only 10 sites ours is number 7. All of the sites have a windbreak and are nestled around large camelthorn trees. David is not too happy – they are not very private and are close to each other. We have gotten used to private campsites, and when there are other campers within 50m-100m from us, it feels cramped!
After dinner, which took forever, due to the wind, we packed up for an early night- really so we could escape the dreaded breeze! Unfortunately, the South Africans in the adjacent camp site, have decided to play their music, and laugh, loudly around their fire. We’ve gotten used to secluded, and quiet, campsites so this is irritates David, immensely
Ballooning this morning, which means an exceptionally early morning start. Up at 3.30am to pack the car- the only problem with having your home on your back! We travel for around 70km, which wouldnt be so bad if it wasnt for, the abysmal headlights on the Ford Ranger, the extremely corrugated roads & the very real danger of running into an oryx! We meet our pick up/ escort, and then, follow him for another 25km to the “Le Mirage Resort” – wish we stayed hear- looks like an old castle in the middle of the desert. After signing the indemnity forms, we are loaded into their transfer vehicle and driven to the launch site. You can see the balloons being filled in the distance. This is a first, for all of us – how cool. There are 3 balloons in total today, each one has 16 passengers. Once the balloons are filled, we can load, 4 people per each compartment. There are, two, foot holes for you to use to leverage yourself in, as the basket would stand about chest height. They fill the balloons with more extremely hot air- would be nice in winter, and we start to slowly ascend into the clouds. We rise to around 850m above ground level with our lives in the hands of our 2 Belgian pilots – Denis and Lenny. We are gently floating towards the Sesriem canyon, in the Namib-Naukluft National Park – we were only there yesterday. The view of the sunrise over the vast lands is spectacular, and one I don’t think I will ever forget. All too soon we are landing – it was very precise, coming down just metres above the canyon opening and settling on the road just a few metres past the lip. No drama’s or excitement, though we had been warned that if the wind picked up when we were landing, it could become a “very exciting” landing . The balloon is deflated quickly and the staff pack it all away in no time. We are driven, a little further along, the edge of the canyon, where a champagne breakfast is laid out on beautiful white and silver linen table cloths. There is a variety of food to choose from. Both Brendan and I try the smoked zebra, at first David refuses, but as Brendan goes back for seconds he relents and tries a small mouthful… We are given “Ballooning Survival” certificates and asked to donate to a school project if possible, which we do. There are also recycled balloon material shopping bags for sale – I purchase one, as well.
Once back at the campsite we all take a long nap – it is hot but the wind is blowing so this cools us down a bit. The wind gets stronger…
Andrew our ranger/ manager comes by at 5pm to take us for a guided drive thru the park. Apparently, we had been booked in for a 4×4 self-drive permit- we didn’t know anything about this and have nothing in our paperwork. We decided to change to a guided tour so David doesn’t have to drive anymore & we don’t have to pack up again. We had to pay the difference in US dollars as no credit card facilities and we are just about out of local currency. David sits in the front – a smart move as it is exceptionally windy in the back. We only see oryx and a few different species of birds. Towards the back of the park Andrew points out the fairy circles- they still do not know how or why they are formed. The water supply is one of the best in the area – they had to dig 93m down, to get it.
Finally, some sand boarding. We have to climb more dunes! Andrew laughs at the competitiveness between Brendan and David, they both mark lines in the sand for their longest ride… I agree, after much encouragement from David, to do one ride – you have to sit crossed legged on the board and pull back. Wooosh, off I go, and of course go the furthest – gold medal to me! Sandboarding champion of the World, Namibia, Namin-Rand Game Reserve!
We had to have dinner in the bathroom enclosure again, and even then, had gritty bits in it.
The wind picks up even more – early night for us.
David wants sunrise photos – so we are up at 4.30am – yes I know – an ungodly hour of the morning! We travel out to the largest dune, Dune 45 – it takes a lot longer and was a much further drive than expected, and we only just got their in time to climb the dune, for sunrise. David decides to stay at the bottom to get shots of the dune’s face. Brendan and I decide to try and climb it with the other 50 people or so. I got to about 1/10 of the way before having to stop, this is really steep and soft sand is taking it out of me. Slow but steadily we make our way up. I didn’t get to the top for sunrise, but had a great view. We decided to keep going anyway – this was made trickier as people were now coming back down – there isn’t a lot of room along the ridge-line,so you have to sort of get up close and personal with strangers as you try and pass by on the edge of the sand dune. You think you are at the top, but it still keeps going! Eventually we make it – thank you Lord! Now that we have accomplished this we decide to go all out and walk out to the peak – was a bit easier & I was on cloud nine that I had made it without a coronary. Brendan put his hand print & initials in the side of the dune – where you couldn’t go any further – though this would be blown away, by the wind, in a few minutes. We make our way, slowly, back down. The people who couldn’t camp inside the park were now starting to come in. We had about a ¼ left to go when we heard David calling us- he wanted us to run down the side of the dune, Brendan went first then me – only slowly – the sand came up to your knees – made it!
Back at the car we emptied all the sand, from our shoes and socks, out – this formed our own, small, sand dunes!
We now continue a further 10km to Sossusvlei then travel the last 4km through 4×4 only sand tracks to Dead Vlei- a dead lake – we have to walk 2km thru more bloody sand dunes to get there. Once there we take photos with the other hundred people who are already there. David is not too happy, as he can’t get a great photo without someone in it.
Ok, had enough of sand – we head back to the campsite for showers and a late breakfast.
On the way to our next campsite we pass signs for ostrich and zebra – we don’t see them where the signs indicate but do eventually see them as well as oryx and springbok.
Namibrand Nature Reserve is one of the largest private nature reserves in Africa covering an area of approx. 202,000 hectares of the Namib desert. It is also considered a dark sky area and is home to the Tok-Tokkie beetles.
There is a mix up with our accommodation, the notes advise to go to the “Hide Out” which we do- and stay for a couple of hours before the ranger comes and checks – we are at “Venus campsite” – there is no mention of this at all on our paperwork. We pack up and go to the correct campsite, which was not bad, until the wind came up!.
After breakfast we pack up and say good bye to this seaside town, we make our way further south. The temperature is only 15- yuck. It quickly warms up to 40deg as soon as we get away from the sea fog.
The terrain changes again and we travel thru more mountain areas that take us enroute to the Namid-Naukluft area.– we have to go thru 2 passes – Kuiseb pass and Guab pass – they twist and turn like a serpent, with steep drop offs looking down into the large, rocky canyons – very picturesque.
We stop at a little town on our way called solitaire for lunch and take a few pictures of the old cars & cactus. On our travels today, we pass thru the Tropic of Capricorn – the sign is crappy so we don’t take a photo.
We book into our campsite – number 1 – hardly any shade!
We drive out to Sesriem canyon, where David and Brendan walk down to the floor – I only have thongs on so I give it a miss. I took a few photos of the boys at the bottom but then high tailed it back to the car- my feet were burning- it is so hot.
We have drinks in the bar after going back to the campsite. All sites are full for the night- the benefit of staying here is you have access to the dunes for 1 hour before and after sunrise/ sunset. We didn’t have any power at camp, so they had to call out a guy to look at it- turns out 5 camps were out- once they arrive it doesn’t take long to get it back on. We have Chinese neighbours in number 2 campsite and they serenade us with recorder playing for a good 2 hours… oh my ears are bleeding! We head out to Elim dune for sunset. Walking up the dune is hard work, I have to take my thongs off and go barefoot, it nearly killed me & I didn’t even get to the top! The sunset is very colourful and we take a few photos – as usual.
Hot showers tonight- need to wash off all the sand!
It was a peaceful sleep, with the sounds of the oceans waves crashing to shore crooning us. At breakfast David noticed a guy at he next table wearing a xxxx shirt, they were Aussies from Brisbane, they were flying out today.
It is damp (and cold – only 20 deg so far) due to the sea fog blanketing the area, it takes a few hours before the sun eventually burns it off, this occurs daily – is similar in San Francisco
We were picked up by Desert extreme 4×4 quad bike excursions staff and taken to their office to sign waivers etc. Our guides name was Max, he was a uni student & this was his part time job over the school break. We put on hair nets and full-face visor helmets, then were led to our quad bikes. Mine was number 30 and looked like a beast. We have to travel in single file, I had to follow Max, followed by Brendan & David had to bring up the rear. After a quick lesson on where brake / accelerator were located we were on our way into the mighty dunes. Luckily we wore long pants and a jumper – it was cold! Though I only had on my cardigan and it kept opening up, even after I would tuck it in… It wasn’t long before I was lost, all you could see all around was large sand dunes. No way I would have made it out of there alive if I got separated. Up and down and around on the peaks we road, I reached speeds of 55km/hour, though Brendan and David went a bit quicker – they left a bit of a gap so they could push it. There was a big drop you had to go down, I thought Max was going to take photos so I stopped at the top causing Brendan to stop behind me, on the steep slope, and got bogged – woops. David had to get off, and go and push hime up that last few meters. We stopped on the top of a large peak and had a few photos – all you can see is sand dune after sand dune, it is quite daunting. The 2 hours went by really quick and soon we were back at their facility and driven back to the Stiltz.
We showered and then decided to travel to Walvis Bay- this area has one of the largest concentrations of greater & leaser flamingos in the southern African area. We pass huge tankers off shore and large circular oyster farms floating about 250m off the shoreline. New oceanside estates are being built, but their back fences are already half covered in by the sand- that will be an on going job to keep the sand levels down. As you get closer to the town the roads become lined with huge cycads on both sides. We make our way down to the lagoon area and firstly see the greater flamingos – these are whiter in colour. Further down the road we pull into another section where there are hundreds of lesser flamingo – the more pink coloured ones. We take plenty of pictures & watch them for a while before David gets bored and we have to go.
Once, back at Swakomund, we walk around the streets for a while, but most things are closing due to it being xmas eve. We find a pizzeria open and have a late lunch before heading back to the Stiltz, we decide on staying in for the night.
What a hot night- was so stuffy, it started off quite nice, then as we went to bed the clouds came in & trapped the heat! Then, this morning, it has become windy, cold & starts to sprinkle as we pack up – jumpers are bought out again.
The landscape changes again, from the rocky boulder mountains & outcrops to a sandy desert. We travel through the desert till we reach the seaside town to Swakomund. Just outside of town there was an old German Fort, set in an oasis amongst the sand dunes, which looked like something out of the old French Foreign Legion films
We see the Atlantic Ocean- something none of us had seen before. This place reminds David of Surfers & me, a bit like Bali though in other areas, the architecture has a heavy German influence. We cannot book into our lodge yet, we are too early, so we find a nice little café and have some lunch, the earliest lunch we have had in weeks, before we do a bit of shopping for the coming nights we will be camping.
The Stiltz lodge is 9 separated units on stiltz with a common raised walkway joining them, we overlook a small lagoon and the ocean ,there is also a viewing platform where you can sit and admire the view, we saw 1 flamingo. We have a 2-bedroom unit, which is nicely decorated and spacious- internet, albeit slow- David is happy. We arrange and book a quad bike tour, over the sand dunes, for tomorrow. We then go for a long walk, firstly up to the jetty, where the waves are crashing in against the pylons of the jetty – this juts out about 100m over the cold angry looking ocean. Then continue further along the promenade where we came across a local craft market, people were selling their wares (there was even a Himba lady, bare breasted and all) – I ended up buying some stone leopards- can’t by the wooden figures due to customs. The street sellers all know about Australia’s strict quarantine regs, from the Border Force TV show, and usually stop trying to sell you wooden, plant & animal products as soon as we mention where we come from! We continued on our way, and on the way back David was looking at another family of tourist thinking I know you – they had the same look on their faces- we had run into them at Khwai – they were from Switzerland, we ended up talking to them for ages – they were at Spitzkoppe last night as well – stayed at camp 11 – we looked at that one! They are also travelling to Sesriem on Xmas day – same as us. What a small world.
We said bye and made our way down to the Tiger Reef bar and grill for a beer & dinner – we were a bit early for sunset (7.45), the location was right on the water and was extremely popular.