09 July 2011 (Pretoria – Otjoworongo)
It’s been a week since we left Pretoria and have gradually defrosted as we made our way north. After a short and sweet visit to close friends in JHB and then Wesselsbron we followed the pot-holed Freestate roads to Vryburg where we spent a cold night with a Basset I called Malady.
The next day we discovered that South-Africa has a large area in the north west where almost no tarred roads can be found…the vegetation seemed like a lost piece of Botswana trapped within the borders of SA. Long dusty roads led us to McCarty’s Rest border where we spent the coldest night of our lives at a very tidy little campsite…when we woke up the side panels of the tent had a layer of ice on the inside! I want to make a point of reminding every campsite owner that in my opinion the most important thing a good campsite can have is a hot shower…not slightly-warm-to-the-touch or good-for-warm-swimming-weather water, but piping-hot, unable-to-come-close-to-the-tap-hot….if you know what I mean. Needless to say, that morning’s shower is something I am still trying to forget…
We eventually crossed the border into Botswana and found the deep sand track to Mabuasehube in the Kgaladi Transfrontier Park much faster than initially anticipated. The park fees was much cheaper than usual for a Botswana park and we were lucky to find a camping spot as the most sites were occupied due to the July South African school holidays. Although we would have preferred a campsite overlooking one of the many pans located in the park, we had a site overlooking a run down ablution block with no running water. Using the toilet actually ended up being more of a problem than just squatting behind a bush as we had to fill the toilet with water from a tank in front of the ablution block before flushing. With icy Kalahari weather and little incentive we opted not to wash at all and get into the tent before freezing. What followed was another cold night and a morning without coffee as the water in tanks of the Cruiser was frozen.
The plan was to meet Marius’s parents in Windhoek, Namibia on 7 July and we therefore had to get as close to the Namibian border as possible in a day.
We left Mabuasehube at 7h30 that morning and found ourselves inflating and deflating the tyres as we drove around on a number of tar roads followed by gravel roads followed by more tar and gravel roads to try and find the route that would get us the closest to the border in the shortest time period. In a somewhat failed attempt at this we ended up at a community campsite located in the middle of a Botswana village at 20h30 that night. The villagers were having what seemed like their usual midweek party and we slipped into the run down camp with a lonely horse as company. Tired and slightly miserable, we crept into the tent wondering what to expect of the soon to be very drunk locals.
As we hadn’t washed since Mabuasehube I was overjoyed to hear that they found us a lovely campsite with an amazing view of the hills near Windhoek where I took the best shower of my life! We met a couple there (Jiro & Chrissy) that landed from Austria that morning. They were planning a 17-day trip through Namibia. We couldn’t help but imagine travelling to Africa for the first time. They told us about an encounter they had with baboons earlier that day and how they couldn’t believe these creatures were just running wild across the road. We would normally be chasing them away….funny how quick we take things for granted!!
One of the best parts of this trip was about to begin…travelling to Otjoworongo to visit my sister and her family! They moved there in Desember 2010 and I had only seen her once since then.
We went to watch the two eldest sons play junior rugby…..Springboks in the making (or Namibian boks…what do you call them?) Seeing my family has made me miss my parents a lot….I wish they could have made the trip with us. I will be sad to leave here tomorrow but the excitement of visiting the Schlucht and Marienfluss made it a bit more bearable.
14 July 2011 (Otjoworongo – Epupa Falls)
We made our way from Otjoworongo to Kamanjab via one of the main tar roads in Namibia. Our next destination was a 4×4 trial known as the Schlucht canyon trial. History tells of German soldiers patrolling this area on horse. They were not allowed to take off their uniform as proper soldiers and therefore had to suffer the terrible heat through the entire canyon. Once the poor soldiers reached the northern end of the canyon, they were allowed to take off their jackets for a brief period and as a result of this the Hotnot back riders aptly named the place Baadjie. For the English readers…this can be translated to jacket.
The Schluct 4×4 trial is basically one of the many dry riverbeds filled with lots and lots of sand and dust (aka poepstof). Books tell us that this canyon is a route that the Etosha elephants use to get to the rivers Hoanib and Hoarusib. Whether this is true or not, we saw no elephants but were however treated to beautiful scenery of carved out riverbends and an elephant track or two.
The highlight of the trial was a great campsite next to a part of the river which still had some water left from the rainy season. That night we made a huge fire under a giant thorn tree after taking a lovely hot shower constructed by Marius.
The next day we travelled towards Puros, a small town located in the middle of nowhere…the phrase ‘poer in jou moe…’ comes to mind. On our way there we saw that a hot spring was located close to the road and decided to go have a look. To our disgust we had in fact stayed there on a previous trip through Namibia. (I guess this is where you know you have visited a country one too many times…or maybe not enough??!!) Anyway, off we went to Puros.
We drove over endless amounts of sandy riverbeds and rocky hills and finally decided to call it a night 13 km before Puros. The riverbed bushcamp provided some well deserved shade from the heat. That night we decided that it may be worthwhile to cut out the Marienfluss as we had been in the area previously and wanted to spend more time in countries which weren’t as easily reachable as Namibia. We decided to travel straight from Puros to Opuwo using the quickest route we could…turns out the Hoarusib river 4×4 trial was not that at all…
The Hoarusib is a seasonal river which results in flash floods from time to time. It is therefore advised never to camp in the riverbeds during the rainy season. Fortunately it is winter now in Namibia and there were no fear of being caught in a flood. All along the road the GPS warned us of aggressive dessert elephants roaming this area, and our eyes were therefore peeled to see one of these giants. And what do you know, just as we turned another corner, we saw some elephant gently grazing on trees on the riverbank! I’m not sure if it was the large elephant tracks we saw in the Schlucht canyon or just an assumption based on national geographic TV shows but we expected them to be much larger than other elephants. Based on these elephants we can say that a dessert elephant is just as large as the elephant you may have seen at the local circus.
To the delight of the two male members of the group (less so for the females) the Hoarusib river trial was filled with sloggy sand (blerrie dryfsand as jy my vra), ideal for getting stuck. And so we did….twice (almost 3 times). Me and Marius drove in front and we like to believe that this was the reason we got stuck…Oom Nick has a slightly different theory. Nevertheless, he enjoyed every moment of winching out the 4500EFI petrol with his diesel!!!
And when we weren’t stuck in the sloggy sand, we climbed our way over scores of riverbed rocks…this road was definitely not going to take us a day!
We made camp about halfway through the trial at a lovely spot on the sand and soon some locals appeared from nowhere. They tried to communicate and so did we and after a stare down of about 30min they left with two matchboxes and some small change we gave them to take a photo.
The next day’s 30 km was much worst than the first and within 20min from departure time we got stuck for the second time. As Marius told me, during that last 30km of the 67km trial we never got over 3rd gear in low-range. For all the mechanically challenged individual like me…that translates to “very very bad road”. The day was long and we finally camped in the riverbed just up the road from a small village.
Yesterday we drove to the beautiful Epupa falls. Tan Lil and I couldn’t wait to have infinite amounts of water to be able to wash some clothes (and ourselves!!!). Driving in the Koakoveld desert for a few days made theKuneneriver look like the ocean…
Cheerio until next time….
18 July 2011 (Epupa falls to Ruacana falls)
Epupa falls ..a must see if you are visiting Namibia. The best views accompanied by some of the best ablution facilities! We spent the night and most of the next day at the Epupa falls campsite. Make sure you get a campsite right at the riverside as these give you the feeling of being on some tropical island hidden somewhere in the desert.
We spent time making friends with a Monitor lizard by the waterside and washing clothes.
We drove the trial from East to west on a previous visit, but this time we would be going uphill from west to east. Similar to claims by many long distance runners that the downhill Comrades is worst than the uphill we found the trial much less intense than the first time.
The scenery was as impressive as the first time but alas I could again find none of the supposed crocodiles….a lot of miggies though to Tan Lils disappointment!
The rocky up and downhills of the road was eased by the white sandy beaches next to the river where we camped. Washing in a bucket next to a giant river (with supposed crocodiles) has never been so exhilarating…!
Some locals from the Himba tribe took it upon themselves to join us at most of our coffee and lunch breaks.. (and the stare down method lost its charm. They would watch in amazement until you would give them something and the topless girls was most happy to pose for a photo..at a price off coarse. At each village the children would run to the road and demand something resembling the sound of sweeties…I guess the western influence has already disrupted this delicate culture.
The 93km trial finally led us to Ruacana falls where we just about crossed into Angola. The falls was even more spectacular than the Epupa falls.
A 529 step descend to the bottom of the falls was more than worthwhile as we had a front row seat of this great watershow. The climb back up was a completely different matter.
We drove to Ruacana and camped at the only lodge in town (or village). Tomorrow we will take the long road to the Zambia/Namibia border at Katima Malilo, probably stopping over in Rundu…
23 July 2011
So getting to Rundu on a sandy gravel road was slightly optimistic. The road was in the process of being tarred and so we drove on the side along with all the construction trucks. It was a dusty, bumpy road that we wished would end. Alas it didn’t and at 17h00 that night we were wondering where we could sleep as there were NO accommodation between Oshikati, the rest of the places starting with Os and Rundu. We asked two of the road construction guys, Schalk and Seun, if it would be safe to just pull off the road somewhere, and they were nice enough to offer us a place to sleep in their camp. Tan Lil and I were even lucky enough to go for a shower courtesy of Schalk’s lovely daughter Leandre.
The next day we drove on the dusty road for another hundred or so kilometre until we finally reached Rundu. Oom Nick tells us that back in the days of the war, you had to be escourted through this town! Now it is a busy little town with a Spar, Shoprite, a Mr.Price and even a Wimpy where we stopped for lunch. That night we camped close to Popa Rapids at Nunda lodge which had nice campsite with great ablution facilities. The lady there told us that N$20 was a complete ripp-off to view the Popa rapids especially since we just saw the Epupa and Ruacana falls. She directed us to a community camp across the river where we could view the rapids where we saw that is was no more than a slight increase in the flow of the river.
On our third night on the caprivi strip trying to get to the Zambian border, we went to the Bwabwata national park. This is a small park with a very big claim of having the highest concentration of elephants this small area. And they weren’t lying! At sunset that night we tried to drive to a waterhole known as the horseshoe, but to our disappointment herds of elephants were everywhere, blocking all access to get there. At around dinner time some of the elephants had wondered into the camping area and it sounded as if they was literally destroying all the trees in the park. We crept into the tents and fell asleep to the sound of as a few drunkies singing the famous De La Rey song and the elephant demolishing the campsite.
After around 4500km the cruiser also had a story or two to tell. Arriving at Ruacana there was a clicking sound coming from the steering box. On investigation we found that the airhooter’s airpump was hanging by its electric wires on the steering rack. The entire bracket holding this little pump sheered off. I guess something had to give from the corregated Namibian roads. At the Nambwe campsite in Bwabwata park we also got our first puncher. (Not bad for a tire that has over 30 000km of unpaved and 10 000km of full off-road driving – BF Goodridge M/T). With the help of Oom Nick,we managed to get the tire fixed before it deflated! The next morning Marius had a nasty experience with the one the product of his hard-earned labour in Oil and gas, but I will let him tell the story…..
I almost managed to get myself into the Darwin awards listing by attempting to refuel our Coleman petrol burner. After living in Angola for three and a half years, having to refuel generators almost twice weekly, I considered myself one of the siphoning kings of this world. As most of you will know, when siphoning petrol and not getting fuel immediately after the first suction, it is normal practice to lift the pipe and clear it of any possible fuel. This morning the fuel tank was almost empty creating a very low head of pressure for filling the Coleman canister. After the first suck nothing happened and I got frustrated. In my infinite wisdom I assumed there was no fuel in the pipe.and gave it a proper suck. The result was petrol coming out of my nose, momentary blindness, ears and trout burning like eating an entire habanero and losing my ability to breathe for a few seconds. This hyper intelligent move resulted in my body generating litres of fluid coming out of all orfaces above waistline. Thirty minutes after the ordeal the petrol high kicked in leaving me floating on cloud for about two hours. No surprise two days later I’m still tasting petrol everytime I sneeze or cough, can’t smell a thing and have only about 50% of my hearing in the left ear. After visiting the pharmacy in Katima Malilo, I got some medicine for a possible pending chemical pneumonia??? I guess I have now earned the right to be called a petrolhead.