Donnerstag, 20. März 2008

On the road again

Finally after one week stuck in Windhoek (where it rained most of the time) we could hit the road again! In Windhoek we both suffered from a little flu and were worried that it might be malaria. Before we went into the bush again we wanted to make sure what goes on and bought a malaria self test kit at a pharmacy. Luckily it turned out to be just a flu.

With fresh spirits we headed for the Waterberg Plateau Park and were once again shocked about the rates of Namibia Wildlife Resorts and decided to keep our boycott upright. Just 8km down the road we settled for the night at the Wildnerness Waterberg Campsite. (120.00 per person per night). It was still quite expensive, but they offer some fair priced activities and the camp sites are really nice and neat. More over you do not have to pay the park entrance fees even though you can hike the top of the plateau. The resort offers game drives and guided walks, but there are also some hiking trails where one can go by himself. We spend two nights there. On the morning of the second day Matt enjoyed a guided scenic walk (N$ 75.00 pp). The local guide had a great knowledge about the local flora, fauna and history and it was a pretty good outing. On the plateau is a lot of wildlife, but they only saw leopard and buffalo tracks.

Our original plan was to go north towards the Caprivi Strip, but due to the heavy rains we though its better to wait a while before crossing back into Botswana again. Instead we headed towards the Kaokoland! We were aware that it will be wet and we might not get through, but we both really wanted to explore it at least a little.

Our second battery starts to give us trouble again. It somehow does not charge properly – so no more cool drinks. We changed the battery already in Windhoek, as we were told that the one we just bough in Cape Town for a bloody fortune was faulty. Well that wasn’t the case… We went to see two mechanics in Kamanjab but they both told us a different story – one said that the alternator is broken, the other said that something on the wiring between the two batteries is wrong and therefore the second battery only charges very slowly. We decided to leave it as it is and sort it out later. We spend the night at the Porcupine Camp (N$ 45 pp & N$ 15 per car) located just outside Kamanjab on the road towards Palmwag. The sites are quite nice with an outside shower and toilet. In the evening just next to the reception they feed the porcupine so you have very good chances to see them. We don’t really like to see people feeding wild animals but the owner gave us a reasonable explanation why they are feeding them. During our time at the campsite we came across two not so welcoming guests: a young zebra cobra and a scorpion.

Our plan was to spend the next night at Fort Sesfontein, as we sold this property to our guests from time to time. Once we arrived there, we had to discover that they closed down their campsite. So at least we thought that we will be able to fill up on petrol but their petrol pump was broken and a new one has just been ordered. So we headed straight to Opuwo. The town itself isn’t a very nice place, but it’s good to stock up food and petrol for the next couple days. The owner of the campsite on which we stayed told us that they just had some guests the day before which did not get up to the Epupa Falls which was a bit of a smash in our hope to get there ourselves.

Since it did not rain during the night we decided to leave for the Falls. It was 180 km, but already after the first 10 km, we found a car stock in a deep mud pool. We could easily cross it with the cruiser and helped the other guys out. That wasn’t really a wise decision, as we could smell our clutch for the next 60 km! There must have been quite a lot of rain during the last couple days as it was very wet and the road was very badly damaged in some places. After several not so hectic river crossing we reached Okangwati. Here the river is very wide and quite strong. The last part is tarred but the first 50m are deep sand in the riverbed itself. We found some car tracks, so there must have been at least someone else who crossed the river this day, but we were a bit anxious as we were driving alone but still keen enough to give it a try. There is quite a big village and we were sure that for some (not so) cool drinks they will get us out in case that we should get stuck. We walked the river several times and finally Matt brought us safely trough! It was quite fun but I did not look forward to it to cross it again on our way back…80km further up we finally reached the Epupa Falls. On the campsites were two other cars, one full with guys from Israel and one with a German couple. They arrived a day earlier and were even more worried about the river than we were. The falls were stunning and huge, the scenery around it is just beautiful.

There are quite a few hiking trails along the river and since it flows so strong we were told that the crocodiles are all further up the river. Good to know since you camp right on the river’s edge. The Kunene River was quite high and some of the tented rooms were even flooded, luckily the campsite not. I forgot the name of the campsite (Ongungupa or something), but it’s the second one the one without a fence. It was quite nice (76.00 pp), but you should prebook during high season to get a campsite at the waterfront (sites 1-5). The others are in the back from where you can’t really see the river. As it looked like it was going to rain, we decided the next day to head towards Ruacana. We were told not to take the road along the river during the raining season, so we drove all the way back and wanted to go via Swartbooisdrift to Ruacana or as far as we could make it. The Israelis and Germans were leaving too this day. On our way towards Okangwati we could see that it did rain a lot during the night, some of the small rivers had a lot more water than the day before and the road was even worse. We arrived at Okangwati around lunch time and were shocked how deep and strong the river was today! It was twice as deep as the day before and very strong. The good thing was, we could see that it was slowly sinking. A local guy was also inspecting the river and told us that he will try to cross the river further up. We followed him but as soon as we came to the crossing point we could see that the river up here was even stronger. We walked through but it was all loose sand underneath, so we all decided to go back to Okangwati hoping that the river was still loosing its tense. By the time we arrived, the Israelis gave it a try and were stuck deep in the middle of a sand bank. (It was quite fun, because we told them before not to drive over this very same sand bank but they tried it anyway and got stuck). There was no way that another car could help them getting out. They drove themselves in deep shit. We told them that they should jack the car out, but one of the Israelis thought he knew better. He drove the rental car Hilux of the German couple into the river and tried to recover his Cruiser with an old rope. It did not work. The local guy had a winch, but that didn’t help either. After 2 hours of convincing him to use his jack, he finally agreed. As the whole village was there to help, we decided to continue our journey to Ruacana. The river lost a lot of his power during the recovery time, so we could easily drive through. Just after the turn towards Swartbooisdrift, we found another car stucked in a small riverbed. The road out of the river was very steep. We decided to help the Himbas to get their car out. It was a very old Toyota Hilux not even 4x4 loaded with hundreds of kilos of maiz, beer as well as a huge generator. After empting the whole load of the car it was recovered in no time. It was quite a spectacle! By the time we walked back to our car the Himbas started to scream, so we looked back and just saw a flesh flood coming down the river. Luckily their car was out! For us it meant that we had to head back to Opuwo and take the main road to Ruacana.

n our way to Opuwo, we came across the Israelis again. They made it finally through the river! But just before Opuwo, in the same mud hole where we recovered a car yesterday were two vehicles stuck. Everyone helped pushing them out, once they were on their way, we drove through.

In Opuwo we filled our tank. Our petrol consumption to Epupa was about 20l/100km! We continued along the main road to Ruacana and arrived there just after 19h00. We stayed at a place called Eha Lodge (N$ 45.00 pp) which has a big camp site and is about 16km from the Ruacana Falls. As we arrived so late and had a very adventurous day we gave ourselves a treat and had dinner at the restaurant. (N$ 100.00 pp for a 3-course set menu and the drinks are cheap! 7 Nam Dollars for a Savanna) In the morning it started to rain, so we slept in. Around lunch time we visited the Ruacana Falls, but I must say that I prefer the Epupa Falls. The Ruacana Falls are massive (at least during rainy season) but the whole landscape around Epupa is so much nicer. At Ruacana are only limited walkways so you can’t really enjoy spending a lot of time there. Since the Falls are located between Angola and Namibia, you have to cross the Namibian border but not go through to the Angolan border post.

The next morning was a rainy one again and we had to pack up our camp in the rain. Due to all the water we could not take the road in the north directly to Rundu but had to go down the B1 in direction Tsumeb. On the way we saw that we are not the ones that were hit worst with the rain but whole parts of Oshakati and Ondangwa were under water.

The whole scenery around the B1 looked a bit like the Okavango Delta in full flood. At least the cattle seemed to enjoy it and the locals make the best out of it and are busy fishing along the “flood plains”. This day we set our camp a a place just north of Etosha NP. On T4A it was indicated as Ohashana Resort and Campsite but it turned out to be some sort of training centre of the Namibian Ministry of Acriculture. Neverthless there are campsites available and one can use the showers and toilets on place. The best thing about it is that it only costs N$ 30 pp and it’s only about 15 kilometres from the northern gate of Etosha.

Our next stop was in Rundu. We both thought that Rundu is as small as every other town, but we were wrong. Its quite big and their busy building a fairly big shopping mall. We restocked and enjoyed a sunny afternoon at the Ngadu Safari Lodge (N$ 50.00 pp) camp site. Unfortunately soon some Overland truck came and the peace and quiet was gone. The next morning the whole place looked like a real big mess, so we decided to pack our things and drive on. We headed for Bagani where we spend the night at a nice community camp site N/Goabaca Campsite (N$ 60.00 pp) just opposite the Popa Falls. It was quite nice, especially because every campsite had its own sundowner deck, where there was enough space to pitch the tent in a safe distance from the river. Before we got there however we checked in at the Ngepi Camp (N$ 75.00 pp), which had great toilets and was very nice, but Lynn didn’t felt safe as the river was only 2 meters away from where we were supposed to pitch our tent. We could hear and see the hippos all the time so we decided to travel on. Again the weather was not very nice, since we left Windhoek pretty much every day it was raining. Early in the morning we continued towards Kongola. Unfortunately we did not spot any elephants in the Caprivi Strip but came across many chameleons. Kongola was out of petrol, which sucked especially because the next day the petrol will rise by 31 cents per little… Shit happens. We stayed at Namushasha Lodge (N$ 55.00 pp) the campsite is nothing really special, but the lodge is very nice. They all have a beautiful deck facing the river. If you are not on a budget like we are, it is definitely worth to try. Short after pitching the tent it started to rain again. We decided to use the lodge facilities to stay dry and spend the whole afternoon there, as it never stopped raining. Apparently it hadn’t rained as much as this year in 50 years! We even got ourselves a treat and ate in the restaurant, which was quite expensive, but yummie.

After another wet night we packed our stuff and turned left Namibia. We really enjoyed the 5 weeks that we spent there. We took the Ngoma borderpost and the crossing went without any problems. The Botswanan border official gave us another 30 days in Botswana so we have enough time to explore Chobe, Moremi and maybe Nxai/Magadigadi Pans (dependingon the water). On the transit road from the border to Kasane we came along our first Sable Antelope and were quite impressed with the huge horns it had. We hoped to escape the rain by going to Kasane. It looked really good but unfortunately it started to rain in the late afternoon as well. They had nice weather for over 2 weeks, but as soon as we arrived it started to rain. We stay at the campsite of the Chobe Safari Lodge (Pula 55.00 pp) which is conveniently located. They have 24 hours security to make sure everything is safe. Lynn felt really good, especially as we saw the fences around the camp and even in the water to keep the crocs and hippos away. The next morning we woke up and were told, that a hippo broke the fence and was running around the campsite. It was only 6 meter from our tent! We did hear a hippo calling during the night but were relieved because we knew that there was a fence. The guys fixed the fence the next morning and everything went back to normal, we stay here for another couple nights and hope that the hippo won’t return…

We spend a day at the Chobe Nationalpark. Luckily we picked the right day and there was sunshine all day long! We got up early, at least we thought so, but as we headed towards the gate, we saw that they opened it already at 5h30, so we were an hour late. This wasn’t such a bad thing as we would have stayed in queue anyway to get in because of all the game drive vehicles. The first two hours we saw them everywhere, but luckily they disappeared after the morning and only returned short before 4 o’clock. Already on our way to the park we saw an african civet, which was very nice as we haven’t seen any before. In the first hour we came across two lionesses and lots of impalas. But no elephants at all, which we thought was quite strange for Chobe. The rest of the morning was quiet.

Around lunchtime the animals returned from the thick bush and high grasses and we saw elephants, hippos, crocs, kudus, sable antelopes, kudus, giraffes, baboons, buffalos and lots of birds. The road was quite wet but that made the thick sand a lot more compact and easier to drive. The next morning we had a huge troop of vervet monkeys and warthogs visiting the campsite and it was sunny again! It almost seems that the rain is over…

On the road again

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