Once again donkey boiler problems! I only had a luke-warm shower…
We left the eerily beautiful landscape of the Twyfeltfontein area, of Damaraland, and made our way towards Spitzkoppe – a large mountain approx. 1740m high – and is referred to as the Matterhorn of Namibia, due to its shape. It is only a 255km drive but once again on dirt & dusty roads. We stop in the town of Uis for fuel & some groceries- excellent grocery shop for such a small town!
Once at the Spitzkoppe rest camp we check in, we can pick any site, which is not currently in use. After checking them all out, we find site “Swakop A”- this is tucked in between some boulders & is nicely secluded, it will do us the night- no power or water at these sites. (only a drop loo as well- at least it is enclosed)
David and Brendan climb one of the boulders at camp for a great view of the area.
Late afternoon beer (water for me) crackers & cheese – what a life!
After dinner David goes to take a few sunset shots, Brendan & I clean up and then go and find him, he is up on a large boulder & can’t get a good shot, so we move to another boulder. We then decide to hike over to the “arch” to try and get some good shots. We climb up to the top, where Brendan and David continue over to the cut out with the sunset behind- I tried but was in thongs and it was too steep. We were about 15 minutes too late- is a bit too dark to get great shots, but was fun anyhow. I got lost on the way back – my direction skills need sharpening!
Fire tonight…fingers crossed no scorpions are in the area- as they are attracted to the warmth of fires!
David is trying again with his camera, to capture the stars, though it is coming over cloudy….
We had a sleep in this morning…yay. David had a few issues with getting the donkey boiler to start – damm wood wouldn’t keep a light! This is strange because we have found the wood from the Mowani tree to be excellent firewood, that seems to burn forever.
We travelled to Twyfelfontein where we found the world heritage site –was only about 10km from our campsite – this area has a large concentration of petroglyphs. We had to sign in at the carpark, then walk up to reception where we paid our fees and were appointed a guide, the Damaraland people also speak with clicks and pops – there is no way we could pronounce our guides name- so he called himself Brian- much easier on the tongue. We had to have good shoes and a hat to do the walk. Brian guided us around 1 of the 4 tracks in the area, which allowed us to see the ancient engravings/ pictures on the rocks. These petroglyphs have been carbon dated back 6000 years. There are giraffe, which were sacred in the day, elephant, rhino, lion, wildebeest even a flamingo ,seal and penguin and human feet– they were nomadic people. Brian explained some of the drawings/ stories – some pictures were stretching it a bit though. When you stopped and looked around, they were everywhere, though as the rocks have fallen, some of them are eroded and faint. Geologists are still finding more in the area daily.
Back at the carpark we hired a local guide, Arthur, who for $600 Namibian dollars (approx. $AUD60), would take us tracking for the elusive desert elephants. These elephants have longer legs and are taller than the average elephant. It took us over an hour of bumping along, crisscrossing 4×4 sandy tracks- much longer than we had thought, but we eventually found a herd of them! They were in a dry creek bed under some trees- some were having a nap! Yes, they had longer legs, but I didn’t think they were too much larger than some of the others we had seen along our travels so far. After watching them for a while and numerous photos later, David dragged me away…Mr Meanie…
Next stop was the Organ pipes & burnt mountain. The organ pipes are a mass of angular dolomite, vertical, columns of rocks that have formed along a large creek bed in the shape of pipes – burnt mountain was disappointing – basically a few mountains which were black in colour – we decided not to go back for sunset, which was supposed to be impressive!
We then stopped at the Damaraland Living Museum, this was very much like Sovereign Hills in Ballarat, locals have dressed up as the past traditional people would & live the life for the day – our guide Simon- who was a bit of a showman, showed us some of the traditional herbs & plants people used for medicines – & still do today, blacksmith – making tools/ knives etc, ladies making crafts – ie necklaces from ostrich eggs/ porcupine quills, shells etc, fire starting, followed by a traditional song & dance.
We went back to camp for an extremely late lunch. A cool wind started blowing, so a good sleep tonight.
We finished dinner & showers before sunset today – yay no torch needed!
We sat up our chairs on the rock surface at the front of the campsite and watched the sunset- it got a bit chilly, so we had to dig out our jumpers.
once dark, another vehicle came in, they were uncertain of where they were going, stopping and starting, reversing and going again till they worked out the correct entrance to their site, David and Brendan then wanted to play the lion recording we had… this kept them in stiches for ages – small things!
Off again, headed to Mowani Mountains, in Damaraland. First, though, we needed fuel, milk & bread. Luckily, today, the servo has their network up & running and can process credit card payments, so we filled up (approx. 100L @ $AUD 1.50/L). In the “OK Supermarket” we got our milk & bread, and just before we left the shop, David said hello to a young boy, who immediately then begged for money. Sad, really. Then outside another young boy asked for money, but then asked for food, when David told him no. He then gave him a nectarine.
On the road out of Opuwo, approx. 10km towards Sesfontein, the mountain range resembled the old box canyons from cowboy movies. Then, a little further, it looked a little like the Kimberley’s, in NT, with its rocky outcrops.
A little later, some light-coloured giraffes, were beside the road.
We had been told to expect another veterinary checkpoint, but didn’t expect any problems with our meat as we had been told to stock up on our food for the next couple of days. We were wrong! A police officer, and an agriculture inspector, proceeded to remove all our meat, chicken & eggs from the fridge. After explaining that, this was all we had to eat for the next few days, and that we would be away from any food outlets, he replaced the meat back into the fridge, with a promise from us that we would cook all the meat and not throw any raw off-cuts away. Once again the Namibians always seem keen to help out travellers!
By now, we were entering Damaraland, the mountainous landscape seemed to become even more dramatic with every rise, and turn in the road. Just an amazing place! We have been using a Dashcam instead of a GoPro as we can leave it running all day, and just press a button to save a few minutes of video whenever something interesting is seen on the road. We overloaded it today, and had to replace the memory card.
An Ostrich pair, were beside the road, and as we slowed to look, we realised that there were about eight ostrich chicks running as fast as they could to get away from us! So cute!
As we neared tonight’s campsite, the landscape changed to lots of sand and rocky outcrops. Well, it looked like sand. It turned out to be a fine rocky gravel.
We turned into the final road into our campsite, and saw that we’d be camping among the boulders. It looks so nice. We had another outside shower, this one set amongst the boulders – toilet & washbasin, all well set up. The water is heated by a donkey boiler – basically fire lit under a raised drum. We had an undercover (shadecloth and sticks) area for cooking & seating. This was a really nice set up.
David and I went for a walk and climbed up one of the outcrops, was a great view & I didn’t fall.
As the sun slowly set we watched a few baboons make their way across the flat plains in front of our campsite and watched a family of springbok come down from the mountain area to graze on the little grassy patches to the side.
A guide came and lit the donkey for us, we ended up having hot showers by moonlight (no power at this site) …was quite nice!
We sat and watched the sun set- was a nice orange/ pink afterglow.
David was upset – he wanted to do some night shots, of the stars, as there were no other lights in the area. However, the moon was full & thus the shots wouldn’t work…
Today saw us travel to a Himba tribal village for a cultural tour. The trip was about 12km on a rocky dirt road – at the bottom of the valley. Looking from our lodge, the valley below seems green and forestry, but once on the valley floor you see that it is actually very dry, dusty & eroded, the trees/ bushes are scraggly, spikey & sparse – not at all what it seemed from above.
Our guide, Ishmael, explained the greeting – a special handshake & greeting of “morrow morrow, peri vi, peri naue” (Hello, How Are You, I am fine) – to every single person we saw – this was a mouthful.
The women of the tribe are still dressed traditionally, bare breasted, with cow hide coverings & dreadlock style of hair, which is coated in a form of the red ochre, with frizzy black extensions on the end and an “eremba” (a piece of cow/ or goat leather made up like a crown) on top of their head. They have special lower leg coverings which indicate how many children she has, they are also adorned with a variety of necklaces and leather jewellery. The men are dressed in a more western clothing these days, but still carry around staffs & machete like knives – for protection against animals etc.
We ask a variety of questions which were interpreted by our guide and one of the chief’s sons, Hans. (Namibia was a German colony before WW2, and has a lot of German influences) He has only just returned to the village, due to a death in the village. He was 24 and had been into Opuwo, looking for work. He was very helpful and spoke English very well. We took a variety of photos before we are shown to the head man’s / chief of the village hut. The village is designed in a circular fashion, with the chief’s hut first and then the other of the family, the chief can have up to 5 wives and they all have huts near his- he visits them all but usually has a favourite- this causes jealousy between the other wives but no violence is allowed. There is a sacred fire in the middle of the village where they have all of the ceremonies & the headman communicates with their ancestors. There is no electricity in the village & the water has to come from a well. We were shown how they sleep on the floor- which is made from cow dung, water & dirt, with a small firepit which has fresh charcoal for heat. We then watched how one of the women made an ochre butter – this can take up to 1 hour to grind & prepare which they then rub into their skin, 3 times a day, to keep it moist. It also acts as a sunscreen & insect repellent in one! They make the crème/ butter themselves in the rainy season when the cows are milking by putting it into a kaberbash (like a dried gord fruit) hang onto a tree and shake for an hour or so before setting aside. The woman, don’t bathe like us – as in daily with water, as it is forbidden. They use the charcoal & herbs to perfume (steam) themselves & clothing, this acts like deodorant, I found this ritual a bit unusual especially when they started to steam their female parts…
On our way out we said our farewells and thank you’s –” o kee naun” to all the villagers we saw.
Once back at the lodge David & I made the trip back into town to fill the car with fuel for tomorrow… credit card facilities down- try tomorrow, so we then went to see if we could change some money, thankfully this time no problems – if the credit card machine doesn’t work, we can at least pay with cash!
Back at the lodge, a late lunch was called for before a leisurely swim, surprisingly, the pool water is quite cool and then some drinks and sunbaking all afternoon… argh this is the life.
The hamburgers on the lunch menu turned out to be huge, and we all decided to forgo dinner tonight.
Around 9:30pm we had a knock on the door, and David opened the door and was faced with a security guard, armed with a rifle. After a bit of communication difficulties, it turned out that they were concerned that we hadn’t come to dinner and as the kitchen staff were soon leaving, that we would miss out. After a bit more explaining, that we were fine, and that we would come to breakfast at 7am, they bid us good night. Our experiences, with the Namibian people, has been all good, and they are genuinely happy to have you visit their country, and for you to have a positive experience while here!
David & I were up early to see if we could catch any last animals at the hide before sunrise, we only saw brown hyena, a few giraffe who were very cautious about coming in to the waterhole & a sole elephant who was happy to splash around, as well as a few birds.
After breaky and packing up we stopped in at the information center, which told of the camps history with elephant killings, they still have the gantry crane where the lifted the elephants up to slaughter them for the meat and ivory.
We stopped at Okawo waterhole, where we saw hundreds of various vultures & 4 or 5 jackals eating a carcass, there were also a few giraffe & zebra. Along the main road we saw plenty of giraffe grazing alongside the road – some are extremely tall and dark in colour – indicating that they are old – this is so nice to see. Our last waterhole before exiting the park was Renosleveli where we found a large congregation of giraffe and elephant herds & the elusive mountain zebra. You can tell, that they are the Mountain Zebra, by the fact that their stripes don’t extend onto the belly. Brendan was happy – both zebra species ticked off!
We signed out of the park after the most thorough car check we have had (even checked the toiletry bags in case we had meat or eggs)- even at boarder crossings they didn’t check anything like this, they were very friendly though. We soon had to pass through a vet check, where you are to disinfect your shoes & tyres, but as it was the middle of the day & extremely hot the officials we sitting in the shade & just waved us on…
We reached the town of Opuwo which is in the most remote & environmentally hostile area in Namibia, oh joy! We watched as half naked Himba women walked down the street with Herero women, dressed in large 1700’s style clothes with large hats, that resemble cattle horns, as well as people in western clothes- a melting pot of fashion, African style. We followed the signs to our lodge up a steep dirt track to the top of the range, the view of the valley below is very impressive. Once checked in David & I headed back to town to change some money & get a few supplies, unfortunately we reached the bank at 3.15pm & they closed at 3:30pm they said they didn’t have time to change any currency- so come back tomorrow…. great. we grabbed a few supplies from the supermarket and made our way back to the lodge. It was hot so we ordered a few drinks and sat by the infinity pool while catching up on a few emails (finally some internet). After, a nice meal for dinner, a fantastic sleep on an actual bed!
What a crappy night- it was sooo hot- the bed, pillows & canvas was all boiling and the temperature didn’t go down, not a good condition for sleeping – were sweating all night.
We were up at 4.15am to do a safari drive. We boarded our safari vehicle and were soon on the way, the driver had to use a red light to see any animals until sun up. We saw giraffe, hyena and zebra, lesser kestrel and eagle and finally lions 2 male 1 female and cub, they were so close to the vehicle. As we drove further on we saw a cheetah, it was a bit further back so pics were a bit hard. Was a successful drive- at least David got to see a few things without having to drive as well.
We packed up and continued doing our own self drive. We saw lots of wildebeest at Wolfnes waterhole. At Okendeka waterhole, we saw 8 lions resting around the waterhole – they had huge bellies, so they had recently fed! At Charl Marl Dam we spied lions lying under 2 trees just off the side of the road & lots of giraffe and at Ozonjuitjs waterhole we saw another 2 lions as well as plenty of gemsbok, giraffe and zebra. It is a bonanza for lions today!
We stopped for lunch at a rest stop – These are the only areas, outside the campsites, where you can get out of the car. These are fully enclosed with 10 foot electric fencing area.
We reached Olifantsrus campsite – we are the first ones there, so we got to pick our site for the night! There are only 8 camp sites, so nice and quiet. The campsite used to be a picnic area and has only recently been made into a campsite- so it is relatively new and they are still working on it. They have a huge walkway which leads up to a 2 storey hide above a waterhole. There is a huge herd of elephants drinking the water when we arrive, we stayed watching them for hours, they preferred to try and slurp /drink from the water pipe rather than the waterhole itself and was interesting to see (and hear as they are very vocal) when the lesser elephants tried to get a few drops- the big dominant female was not having any of it! There was a bit of pushing and shoving going on. A lone white rhino also comes in for a drink. We had a quick dinner before going back to the hide, is was getting dark so not any good photos – they use red lights to light up the waterhole at night – this doesn’t affect the animals. We see 2 black rhinos who do not like each other & the dominate rhino keeps chasing the smaller one off. There are plenty of zebra, kudu, gemsbok, springbok, jackals taking turns to drink. We see a brown hyena lurking in the background. A few huge herds of elephants slowly arrive and congregate– about 50 in total, this was the largest herd of elephants we have seen, by far! They come in to drink at different times – some standing on the edge of the waterhole playing- the smaller ones play fighting- some of the bigger ones also having a dust bath, we watched as a baby had an issue with the black rhino and the mother kept pulling it back- this was so special to watch. We would have loved to stay up longer, and watch all their antics, but the early morning start was taking its toll, so we went to bed about 10pm.
We left our campsite and signed in, to the Etosha NP, we had to pay for 3 days as you need to be out of the park by 7.30 am and it would take us a few hours! As soon as we have entered we have impala playing games with us on the road. We soon see a white rhino, giraffe & zebra off the side of the road. We turn off to see Etosha look out – all you can see to the horizon is a dry pan- it is an impressive expanse of nothingness. We stop & get out (breaking the rules as you are supposed to stay in the car- but figure we would see something come up on us really easy) and take a few photo’s, it is really hot – 38 degrees at 10.45am. It is so dry.
We see lots of black dots & realise they are ostrich!
There are smaller pans along the way, but they are all dry.
We arrive at camp and the temperature has reached 42 – it is really hot. We are in campsite 23- there is no shade, so we decide to do an afternoon drive as we will have air con. We only see giraffe, springbok & gemsbok – the animals are all too hot, to be out as well.
After dinner we walk over to the lit waterhole with our camera & binoculars ready for action. We see 2 black rhino come in to drink as well as 8 giraffe – they are so awkward when they drink. Jackals are roaming around the waterhole as well.
We try to sleep – is really hot and sticky.
Cows, with bells, kept walking past the campsite, dogs barking and chickens making noises kept us awake during the night.
We left the site – the roads are made with Dolomite, a very white gravel, and are in good condition. We have a vet stop outside of Grootfontine- there is no red meat allowed- we have a few packets so it is confiscated- funny that we were allowed to take it over the border but not here.
The roads are very straight and dusty!
We take a detour to see the Hoba meteorite -the largest found in the world! it is fairly large in size and is metallic – we had photos. Brendan sat on it, taking his feet off the ground… he wasn’t on Earth anymore – but only on a space rock.
We pass through the town of Tsumeb – this is very modern – it has double lanes which are lined with cycad palms- very impressive.
We fuel up here, and the fuel attendant goes round cleaning our car’s windows. He repeatedly scrubbed and wiped, until he was satisfied, he had removed every speck of dirt/ bugs etc from the windows, headlights and wiper blades. He was meticulous. Then raced off before we could give him a tip! We waited for him to come back out, so we could tip him. Probably the only time where we have tipped and not felt uncomfortable about it.
Then we look for the local supermarket (Spar) to stock up before going to Etosha NP. Just as we hoped out of the car, three mid 20’s men walk past, and call out that they hope we are enjoying touring Namibia, and hope we have good travels. Namibian people are so welcoming!
We continue on till we find our campsite (just before the Etosha NP)- it has an impressive entrance.
We sign in and I notice they have cake – oh yeah- I haven’t had cake in forever, so we set up in the heat then go over to the lodge area for drinks and cake – bugger no cake left! Of course, they don’t let me know this until we have our drinks already… There are Dik Dik antelope & mongoose at the waterhole, so we watch them for a while. We go for a swim to cool off before dinner.
This is our best campsite yet – we have our own shower (and yes hot water!) and toilet, washing up area, and a bit of shade.
Up early, 8am pick up for our tour. We met Steve, our guide for the day and make tracks, it will take approximately 25 minutes to get to the village. Brendan and I sit in the back of the safari vehicle with David up front.
While in school I watched a movie called “The Gods Must Be Crazy” – I loved it, an even have a copy of it at home, I still watch it now and then – you have to have a particular sense of humour for this film ( David and Brendan don’t). Anyway, this tour takes us to the bushman people – like in the movie. While we were bumping along thru the narrow tracks Steve tells us that this village, “Mountain Hill” village, is the actual one from the movie & the bushman was from here- Holey Moley – how surreal. We reach the village & bushman come out to greet us – they look and talk exactly the same as in the film! – they do not speak any English – and talk with clicks – the guide has to interpret for us.
After photos we head out for a 3-hour bush walk (was extremely hot in the sun, luckily, we had hats and long sleeves on), where we are shown different foods the tribe would pick to eat. We tried 2 types of sour plums… yep they are really sour…. They also dug up some water root plant (some can hold up to 5kg of water) and bush potatoes. We are shown how they make fire. How they make rope buy shredding the “Mother-in–Law’s Tongue” plant – they made Brendan a bracelet. The rope is also used in snares for small animals – one was demonstrated. Animal skins are used for clothing and to hold arrows in. We are also shown the plants which they make the poison for the arrows – used to hunt animals. Ostrich eggs are used as cups for drinking.
We then load up the vehicle with bushmen and go to the “Nye Nye” pans – these are salt pans and are very dry. It is extremely hot and the wind is even hotter, sitting in the front row of the safari vehicle the wind dries out your eyes.
We stop for lunch at a very large boab tree.
On the way back, the bushman drove for a bit – this was really weird, and out of place.
Back at the village we are shown their bow and arrow skills – we are then shown how to do this. They make up a funny looking animal out of sticks and grass for us to aim for, both David and Brendan have go and miss, then one last time David hits the target- Brendan missed. I tried – no such luck – it was pretty bad…
We said goodbye to our new friends and made our way back to the campsite. It was still hot and windy, we decided to have a few drinks and a swim to cool off.
On the road travelling.
Just outside of Sehitra, we were stopped at a police road block – once he found we were from Australia all he wanted to do was chat – he was very hot & would like to see snow… we had a few patient cars waiting behind us, but hey – he was a policeman… we were then waved on with well wishes for our trip.
We passed a broken-down truck who had used beer bottles as the witch’s hat warning – that was entertaining.
After Sehitra, while travelling along, we came across a lone ostrich getting some shade under a tree by the side of the road, we turned around to get a photo, but he was spooked and took off – we had only seen them in the distance & this one was really close – you don’t realize how big they are until you are only a few meters away from them.
We had some gummy lollies in the car to eat, but when we got them out of the bag they had all melted together into a big globby mess- it had been that hot in the car!
We had a vet check point but as it was hot – the officer just waved us on…
We picked up a young hitch hiker named Cliff, who was a 2nd year uni student from Gabone who was going home to see his family, who are in a town 140 km away Qcanqwa village – only a few km from the border where we were headed. The road was gravel and pot holed.
We had a very easy border crossing – especially on the Namibian side- David even hugged the official & told her she was the best. She was very friendly and even wished us a Happy Xmas.
The elephant crossing signs are on the side of the road again- I love these!
We reach our campsite – there are only 2 left – both not much shade…
We go over to the bar & have a cool drink before a swim to cool off – I give the young barman a kangaroo & Koala – he was interested in Australia & very friendly. It turns out that he is a San tribesperson, that has gone to university. He was very pleased when we mentioned that we are going to visit a San Bushman village tomorrow, to learn some of their culture. Like a few other Namibians, we have spoke to, he wanted to impress upon us how friendly Namibians are, and that they want more people to visit to learn of their country.