Mittwoch, 27. Februar 2008

Windhoek to Windhoek...

The weather in Windhoek did not want to clear up and it was quite a wet stay. Carine and Jonathan arrived with their flight from Europe to join us for 2 weeks in Namibia. We already decided to leave Windhoek the very same day. Unfortunately their luggage did not arrive with the same flight and we had to stay another night in Windhoek and get their luggage the next day.

Luckily this time the luggage arrived and we left Windhoek via C26. Once we were past the Kupferberg Pass the sky went dark and we found ourselves in the middle of a thunder and hailstorm. We could not see anything in front of our car but it seemed as if the storm did not want to pass by and so we drove with 5kmh until we reached the end of the storm. We went on until we found a place to pitch our tents just before the Gamsberg Pass. We stayed at the Weissenfels Guestfarm (N$ 100 per person). The farm is quite nice and there are some horses and a lot of minerals on the farm, but way overpriced!

The next morning the weather cleared up and we were greeted by a nice sunrise. After the breakfast we headed on over the Gamsberg Pass. We saw a group of kudus just before the pass. It is quite impressive to see how easily they can jump over the farm fences even though they are quite big animals. After a quick stop on top of the pass we were once again on our way and within a few kilometres we came past the first of totally three herds of mountain zebras. We did not expect to see any animals on that part of the trip and were quite happy to be so lucky. By that time there was also not a single cloud around and temperatures once again started to soar.

In Solitaire we went to refill our tanks and tried the famous apple pie. We were not too impressed and I am sure there are lot of people out there who can bake a better pie than this. Neverthless we enjoyed the pie since we are living from camp food for quite a while already.

Just past Solitaire we went to see the petrified dunes and took the opportunity for a site inspection at the Namib Desert Lodge (Since one day we have to go back to join the rat race it is always good to do some research while on holidays I guess). The Lodge is a nice place for tour groups and the petrified dunes give it a nice backdrop. After this we were on our way to Sesriem. I always thought this is a little village but I had to discover that it is only a petrol station and the office of Namibian Wildlife Resorts. My mind finally arrived in Namibia. We intended to stay at the Sesriem Campsite for the next two nights and wanted to get our booking. The price for 4 people was around N$ 1200 per night and the campsites are absolutely nothing to write home about. Therefore we decided to stay at the Desert Camp (N$ 400 pp) which is 100 dollars more per person but definitely much nicer.

The next morning we were off to the Sossusvlei. I think it is quite strange that once you enter the park you hit a perfect maintained tar road in the middle of nowhere. The scenery gets nicer all the way to the vlei and the dunes become higher and higher as well. Once we arrived in the Sossusvlei we made us lunch. The ladies decided to relax a bit in the shade while Jonathan and I went for a hike to the Dead Vlei. The short walk to the Dead Vlei paid off and we really enjoyed the surreal looking pan with all the burnt trees and the huge dunes around.

Late in the afternoon we were back at the camp and had some time to freshen up before we went to the Sossuvlei Lodge for dinner. The buffet which they serve is huge and you get a nice variety of game, lamb, pork and beef. A real treat! After the luxurious dinner we had a short night before us since we had to get up before 5 am to go for a balloon ride (thanks to Eric who invited us for this).

The early start was definitely worth it and we enjoyed the desert from a totally new perspective. The pilot and his apprentice definitely knew what they where doing and besides flying high above the ground they where also up for some dune shaving (flying the balloon along the edge of the dunes). Besides the usual suspects (Oryx and Springbok) we also saw a big African Wildcat running through the dunes. After about an hour we landed in a Valley called Discovery where we were greeted by nice champagne breakfast.

The ride back to Sesriem was on an open game drive vehicle. Very windy but also quite refreshing and the colours of the landscape where just great. So far this was definitely one of the more beautiful places on our trip. After checking out of the camp we went back to Solitaire and through the Namib Naukluft Park to Walvis Bay. For my taste the landscape at this part of the Namib is a bit too barren so we just drove through without much stopping. In Walvis Bay we went to a place called Lagoon Chalets and Caravan Park (N$ 175 for 4 PAX). It was very windy and the sand went into everything, no matter how good you sealed something. The campsite is not special at all, but close to the beach.

From Walvis Bay we decided to only take a short journey up to Swakop this day. We checked out the flamingos restocked meat and veggies since it was Saturday and we were planning to take the backroads for the next days. In Swakop we went for lunch at the Lighthouse Pub and Restaurant. A bit touristy but the fish and chicken is quite nice. The rest of the day was just relaxing at the campground, the Alte Brücke Resort (N$ 200 per campsite with 2 PAX and N$ 55 for every additional person). The campsite has nice grass which keeps away all the sand and you also get your own abolution block together with the campsite.

The plan for the next few days was to go via Messum Crater towards Damaraland. While driving through the Messum Riverbed we came along some Jackals and Springboks and of course a lot of huge Welwitschias.

I expected a rough ride but the trails have been in a very good shape and we made our way to Uis in one day. The night was spent in the Brandberg Restcamp (N$ 50 per person). The restcamp has a huge swimming pool and a very friendly owner. In the morning we have been approached by a lot of locals which tried to sell us some minerals and they managed to convice Jonathan to buy a tiny piece of stone for 10 Dollars. We had to fill up our cars before heading into Damaraland and again everyone was trying to sell us something at the petrol station but this time we just made it without buying anything. We drove halfway aroung the Brandberg on some tracks which where indicated on T4A. Damaraland is absolutely stunning and we liked just cruising along. We wanted to cross the Ugab River to make our way in direction Twyfelfontein but already from a distance one could see that there is a lot of water flowing in the river. We decided to give it a try but after walking 2 meters into the river I sank into knee deep mud. This made us travelling a bit further up until we reached a spot which looked good for a save crossing. There was only 20 cm deep water and a sandbank almost on the other side of the river. Lynn wanted to give it the first try and went through without any problems onto the sandbank.

From there it was only about 5 metres to reach the riverbank but in the middle of this small stretch the back wheel started to spin and digged itself into the river. Jonathan came to the rescue and recovered us back onto the sandbank. By the time Jonathan was on the sandbank there were already about 15 locals He dediced to cross the last stretch a bit further up the sandbank but did not even make past the sandbank without getting stuck. So this time we helped him coming back out again. After this we decided to turn over and go back to the side from which we came and drive up to the bridge. From there we took the main road all the way to the Aba Huab Campsite. This campsite is really pretty and lies directly on the banks of the (dry) Aba Huab River. This night we heard the hyenas calling.

Since we sold the rock engravings, organ pipes and burnt mountain to our overseas tourists quite often while working in Cape Town it was a must to go and visit those sights. The rock engravings are really pretty and you are accompanied by a local guide who can tell you quite a bit about the history and meaning of the place. The organ pipes and burnt mountain have been quite a disappointment though and I hope that not too many of our clients are too angry about our appraisal of those sights.

Later that morning we headed further up north until we reached Palmwag. We were greeted by some very friendly locals at the vet fence and thought that they are the officials there. After we told them about us and our family they suddenly gave us some nuts with animals and all the names of our family members on each one of it. It turned out that those guys just wanted to do some business and where no officials at all. This took us by surprise and I ended up buying five of those bloody nuts for 120 Nam Dollars. I must say I felt quite a bit ripped off but soon discovered that I still made a bargain. Jonathan bought 2 of those nuts for 100 Nam Dollars and also entered a soccer bet for a local game which might be taking place by the end of the month. So he spent another 150 Nam Dollars for a bet of which he will never know the outcome. We wanted to spend the night at the campsite of the Palmwag Logde and paid the 90 Dollars per person. A bit later there was a thunderstorm coming up and the ladies decieded that we are going to sleep in one of the bungalows. They made a deal with the GM of the lodge which Jonathan and I still don’t understand but apparently it was another Palmwag bargain.

Next morning we got up early for a drive through the concession but after some thinking we decided to just drive along the main road. This paid out and we encountered lots of giraffes, oryx and sprinboks. The giraffes looked completely wrong in this landscape which only consists of some small bushes and millions of red granite rocks. Since we are in the rainy seasons the elephants have wandered off and were not to be seen around Palmwag. We originally wanted to go up to Kaokoland after dropping of Carine and Jonathan in Windhoek but at breakfast we talked to some of the lodge management and they advised us not to go up there until after Easter. Apparently in the last two weeks there were 3 cars being washed away by the rivers.

This afternoon we drove towards Etosha NP and booked us onto the campsite of the Etosha Safari Camp 9 kilometres outside Etosha. With 50 Nam Dollars per person per night this is a really good alternative to the NWR restcamps inside the park. We went for a drive inside the park this evening but did not see too much besides the usual boks and jackals. The highlight of the next day was a sighting of 3 lions just next to one of the pick nick spots. Unfortunately the lions wandered off as soon as they saw us coming.

From Etosha Safari Camp we went through the park and stopped at Halali for the night. While we were pitching camp there was a staff member coming to us and told us something about alk or so. No one understood what he wanted until he grabbed Jonathan by the arm and took him to a nearby tree. This time Jonathan did not get ripped off. The good fellow just wanted to show us a scoops owl which was hiding in a tree close by.

In the eving we have been visited by a honey badger which was strolling through the restcamp in search of some food.

The next morning was a bit of a disappointment and we saw hardly any animals. Just before we reached Namutoni our luck was about to change. Carine spotted three lion cubs hiding in the bush close the the road. After we had a closer look it turned out to be three Cheethas lying there. We spent some time looking at them hiding in the thick bush until the first one decided to get up and wander along.

Soon after the two others also came out of their hide and crossed the road. This gave us the good spirit back and we were again full of motivation for the rest of the day. There have been some good rains around Namutoni and the whole pan which is supposed to be completely dry was a huge lake. This looked absolutely stunning and around the water there were lots of animals to be seen. Late in the afternoon we decided to do the loop at Fisher Pan which was a huge lake as well. We came along three elephant bulls which where fighting with each other in the middle of the water and a bit later we watched a heard of elephants playing in the mud at the edge of the pan. Just before we came back to Namutoni we spotted a Rhino with his calves. In the end a very rewarding day.

The night was spent just outside the park (we forgot the name…). It is quite a luxurious campsite and once again much cheaper than staying inside the park.

The next two days where more or less spent by driving down to Windhoek to drop of Carine and Jonathan. We visited the wood market at Okahanja on the way. Lynn and I told all the guys that we were the tour guides and don’t buy anything which turned out to be a good tactic. Jonathan and Carine however had to visit each and every shop of the market before we could leave.

Once we arrived in Windhoek it started to rain again. Looks like we are not to lucky with the weather here. In addition to the rain the look of one of our cruiser’s door broke and did not want to open anymore. So after dropping Carine and Jonathan at the rental car company we went to town to see if someone can fix that door. We’ve been to two Toyota dealers but they both were not to helpful so we went to a looksmith in the hope that he could help us. But once again we were not succsesfull. So we decided to wait with that and first replace our battery which also gave us some problems. This was a smooth process without any hassles but when we wanted to pay for the battery we realized that somewhere along the way we have been robbed of Lynn’s handbag which has all the money and credit cards etc. in it. We had some US Dollars which Carine exchanged for a later stage of our journey and decided to pay with them.

It looks as if there is no way to get that bloody debit card here in Windhoek and we most likely have to go down to Upington or Springbok to get a new one at one of the ABSA branches there. Since we intended to go up to Caprivi from here it is a bit of a hassle but we’ll see.

In the meantime we sorted everything out! After one week stuck in Windhoek we will finally get our bankcard tomorrow (04.03.08) and can continue our journey. Thanks to Anita and her family as well as Landi for all your help! As usual, we'll keep you posted.


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