A Travellerspoint blog

Namibia

Southern Namibia and South Africa's Northern Cape

Route: Hohenstein Mountains – Windhoek – Stampriet – Keetsmanshoop – Luderitz – Klein-Aus-Vista – Grunua – SA - Springbok– Augrabies Falls NP – Kimberley – Upington - Johannesburg

JULY - AUGUST 2016

Our first destination after Swakopmund was the Hohenstein Lodge at the front of the Hohenstein Mountains, part of the Erongo range. On our way we called in at Spitzkoppe, one of our favourite places in Namibia. Spitzkoppe is a group of massive boulder sitting alone in an empty desert landscape and once among them it feels like being in a different world.

Spitzkop

Spitzkop

Spitzkop from afar

Spitzkop from afar

Hohenstein Lodge wasn’t far from Spitzkoppe, so we were able to reach it before nightfall. Another awesome location, with plenty of desert hiking to keep us amused, plus a unique tour to visit miners in the mountain. Some 30 miners scrape a living from mining semi precious stones from the Erongo Mountains, selling them mainly to tourist for a meagre sum. They usually work alone; using hand drills and living in the mountains for much of their lives, a very hard life, one that makes you appreciate our own cushy existence.

Mountain man mining for semi precious stones

Mountain man mining for semi precious stones

Sunset in the mountains

Sunset in the mountains

From Hohenstein we started our journey south, with three one-night stops on route to our next destination, Luderitz. Stops in Windhoek, Stampriet and Keetmanshoop, broke up the 1,250km drive.

Luderitz is located on Namibia’s Atlantic coast, separated from the main settlements by more then 300klms of Namib Desert. Fortunately for us the road to Luderitz is tar all the way. The drive was spectacular with the scenery changing all the time. Luderitz is the centre of Namibia’s diamond mining industry and is surrounded by restricted zones that nobody except mining staff can enter, so no chance of finding the odd stone whilst out for a walk. However, even with the restrictions we found plenty to do during our stay. The first day we visited a ghost town called Kolmanskop – an old mining town abandoned many years ago when the local diamonds ran out. The desert is now slowly reclaiming the buildings, but what remains shows what a modern and sophisticated town it was in its day. The next day we took to the water for a coastal tour to visit the local Penguins, Flamingos, Seals and Dolphins. And the third day we explored the coast from the land, making sure we did not cross into the no-go zone. We also met an interesting young couple, Charles (from Cape Town) and Cath (from Oxford), who were driving from Oxford to Cape Town. They had sold everything, bought a Land Rover Discovery, kitted the car out and headed south. We must have spent an hour or so sharing travel stories with them.

Kolmannskuppe

Kolmannskuppe

Kolmannskuppe desert town

Kolmannskuppe desert town

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Train to nowhere

On our way back through the Namib we stopped off at a little oasis called Klein-Aus-Vista. It was a beautiful spot, sitting in the desert at the foot of some mountains. We had two nights there and did our best to explore the surroundings, with two very enjoyable hikes.

Namib Desert at Aus

Namib Desert at Aus

Hike through the Aus mountains

Hike through the Aus mountains

Desert car

Desert car

Namib

Namib

From Klein-Aus-Vista we headed out of Namibia, with a night stop on route, and into South Africa. Our location was Springbok in the Northern Cape and our aim was to see the desert flowers in bloom. Unfortunately we were to early for their full splendour, spring had arrived late this year, but did see some nice colours. We also got to do some beautiful hiking in the Geogap Nature Reserve.

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Namaqualand Flowers

Meerkates

Meerkates

Next stop was Augrabies Falls National Park, a protected area where the Orange River falls of a plateau and into a gorge. We had two days here, admiring the falls, exploring the plateau and preventing Baboons getting into our cottage. It was late afternoon on day two, it was hot, as a storm was brewing, and we had the front door and side window open for the cooling breeze. Unbeknown to us a troop of Baboons had wondered into the vicinity; that was until a large male appeared at our door. He had one hand inside the door before we were able to frighten him away, our so we thought. We closed the door and partly closed the window, locking them in place. However, a few minutes later he was back again, unlocking the window and half in the open gap. Shouts and aggressive movement got rid of him a second time and a potential dangerous situation was averted. Another new travel experience.

Augrabies Falls

Augrabies Falls

Augrabies Falls National Park

Augrabies Falls National Park

Augrabies Falls Canyon

Augrabies Falls Canyon

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Our last destination in South Africa, before our journey back to the UK, was Kimberley. We stayed on a guest farm 15km from town and enjoyed walking on the estate and a day visit to the Big Hole Diamond Mine. As the name suggests, this is the worlds biggest hand dug hole; done so in search of diamonds. The mine is no longer operational and the hole is full of water, but the tour took us around the old town, and in to a mineshaft.

Big Hole

Big Hole

Big Hole Data

Big Hole Data

Big Spaner

Big Spaner

We then overnighted in Upington and Johannesburg before our flight back to the UK.

Posted by MAd4travel 02:03 Archived in Namibia Comments (1)

Northern Namibia

Route: Windhoek – Waterberg – Etosha – Fiume Bush Camp – Waterberg – Twyfelfontien – Swakopmund

JULY 2016

Our first destination after Windhoek was the Wilderness Lodge. The lodge consisted of 5 Safari Tented Chalets, each with balcony’s looking out at the Waterberg plateau and the valley below, plus a restaurant with equally spectacular views. We had visited the Waterberg before, but this was the most beautiful part. We had two nights here, which meant one full day of hiking in the valley’s eastern section, leaving the western section and the plateau for when we return later in the trip.

The Waterberg Plateau

The Waterberg Plateau

From the Waterberg we headed northwest to the Etosha National Park, one of Africa’s iconic parks. The park is situated on what used to be a massive lake, which is now dry, but still feeds many natural waterholes, which in turn attracts a lot of wildlife. The park covers an area of 22,270 square kilometres, and our aim was to explore three distinct areas. We had been to Etosha before and knew two of our camps well, all be it that they had been tastefully renovated since we last came. Our third camp was new to us and was situated in the previously restricted western side of the park. It was called Dolomite and our chalet was perched on the slopes of a small mountain overlooking a savannah below us, it was spectacular. It was so good we didn’t have to leave our balcony to see the wildlife, it all passed below us, on their way to a nearby waterhole. Another bonus of the balcony view was that we didn’t have drive to find the wildlife, as the roads around the camp were horrendous. Dolomite was also unusual in two respects, firstly it was unfenced so you weren’t allowed out of your chalet or public area after dark unless accompanied by a member of staff – Leopards and Lions can climb rocks, and secondly we parked our car at the foot of the mountain and were transported up to our chalet by golf cart. Five days in Etosha was very rewarding with some wonderful wildlife spotting.

Giraffe drinking

Giraffe drinking

Waterhole action

Waterhole action

Baby Elephant

Baby Elephant

Zebra & Giraffe at waterhole

Zebra & Giraffe at waterhole

Dust storm

Dust storm

Black Backed Jackels

Black Backed Jackels

Elephant herd

Elephant herd

Bull Elephant

Bull Elephant

Rhino crossing

Rhino crossing

Giraffe drinking

Giraffe drinking

Kudo

Kudo

Our next destination was a completely different experience. We travelled east into Bushmanland and to the edge of Namibia’s Kalahari Desert, where we spent two nights as guests of a San Bushman tribe. To reach our bush camp we had to drive a short Kalahari sand road, advised by the camp owner that our two-wheel drive high clearance SUV would negotiate fine, off we went. But with just meters to go, we got stuck, and had to be dug and pushed out. A white farmer who had grown up with the Bushman in the area owned the camp and land. He spoke their language and was very supportive of their way of life and wanted to help the difficult transition they were going through. He did this by introducing tourism; he built the accommodation but left it to the Bushman to run it (Bushman refers to both the men and women). The main reason for going there was to spend a day with the Bushman, to understand their way of life, which we did. And what an experience, the morning was spent in the bush with them learning about the plants and trees, and food and medicines that they provide. The afternoon was about tracking animals, making a bow and learning how to kill an animal with it (not a real one in this instance, a straw one, although neither myself or a fellow guest managed to hit the target anyway). In addition to this we interacted with all the members of the tribe, were told about their way of life and were entertained with tradition singing and dancing. All this was made possible by our Bushman interpreter, Hedrick (his western name), who had learnt English at the local school. An experience we will never forget, and a privilege to be part of, as this way of life may not exist in 10-20 years time. The white farmer who organised this, Johan, wanted to preserve this way of life so it wouldn’t be forgotten. And to do this he needed to create the environment for it and provide an income through tourism for the Bushman to make a living from it. It was all done incredibly well. And of course we got stuck in the sand on the way out as well.

Kalahari Bushman Family

Kalahari Bushman Family

Bushman in search of food

Bushman in search of food

Kalahari sweetshop

Kalahari sweetshop

Fire making Bushman style

Fire making Bushman style

Bushman (Bushwomen) dance

Bushman (Bushwomen) dance

Skipping Dance

Skipping Dance

It was now time to return to the beautiful Waterberg. Three nights on this occasion, time to do some laundry, get the car cleaned and do some more hikes. One of those hikes was to the plateau, a steep climb then a walk around the top. For this hike we were obliged to take a guide, JJ, as the plateau is also a wildlife reserve and Rhino encounters are possible. JJ was very informative, telling us stories of life in the Herero community and how to identify animals by their droppings and prints. In fact, as he realised we were quite knowledgeable, it turned into a bit of a quiz – he would ask us first to identify the animal from its prints or droppings before telling us if we were correct or not. This was a different approach to guiding, but it added to the enjoyment.

From the Waterberg we travelled west, towards the coast, and into Damaraland.
Another arid environment, but with seasonal rivers running through it, a green oasis appeared out of the desert. Our destination was Twyfelfontien, and three nights at the country lodge. The reason we choose this location was for the rock art and the chance to see Desert Elephants. Both of which was achieved, a wonderful afternoon with a small group of Desert Elephants – mother and three teenagers, was followed the next afternoon with a visit to the UNESCO San Rock engravings – some 2500 years old.

Desert Elephant

Desert Elephant

Desert Elephant hiding his tracks

Desert Elephant hiding his tracks

Northern Namib Desert

Northern Namib Desert

San Bushman rock art

San Bushman rock art

Next stop was right on the coast at Namibia’s second city, Swakopmund. We had four nights here in a lovely apartment, catering for ourselves. Really nice chilled out time. The only down side was the temperature, about 15 degrees cooler than the other side of the desert.

Namibian road

Namibian road

Posted by MAd4travel 02:00 Archived in Namibia Comments (1)

Kalahari and the Namib

Route: Johannesburg – Upington – Twee Riverien- Nossob – Grunau – Fish River Canyon – Namib-Naukluft – Oanob – Erindi – Windhoek.

JUNE - JULY 2016



After a couple of weeks back in the Europe, including a quick visit to France and a catch up with friend and family in the UK, we were on our way again. The next phase of our journey started with a flight from Heathrow to Johannesburg, South Africa, on an Airbus A380. A pretty comfortable flight as we each had spare seats to spread out onto. For this part of the journey, our good friend and regular travelling companion, Rob, had joined us.

At Johannesburg, the efficiency of South African officials meant that we sailed through immigration and check in, but had a longer wait than expected for our internal flight, but mustn’t complain. Our next leg was the flight to Upington; this was aboard a 50-seater aircraft and took no more than 90mins.

Upington is a small town on the edge of the Kalahari Desert and would be our starting point for our ventures into the desert. It also had one of our favorite restaurants in South Africa, which unfortunately had closed down, but luckily had been replaced by one equally as good, so all was well.

Our second day in South Africa was one of collecting our wheels, a Toyota Land Cruiser Series 76 4x4, buying provisions for our four-day adventure and heading out into the desert.

We had two bases from which to explore this amazing region Twee Riverien Camp and Nossob Camp, with about 200km of sand roads between them. At each camp we had a chalet and was able to cater for ourselves. For such an arid region the wildlife is plentiful, and we were treated to some incredible views. Probably the highlights were a female Cheetah with four cubs and family of Spotted Hyena, but there was so much more to be amazed by.

Kalahari Cheetah

Kalahari Cheetah

Blue Wildebeest

Blue Wildebeest

Eagle Owl

Eagle Owl

Springbok crossing

Springbok crossing

Springbok close up

Springbok close up

Desert Mouse

Desert Mouse

Oryx

Oryx

Spotted Hyena

Spotted Hyena

Hyena Den

Hyena Den

Blue Wildebeest joust

Blue Wildebeest joust

Kalahari landscape

Kalahari landscape

Hartebeest

Hartebeest

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With our Kalahari adventure over, we returned our Land Cruiser and picked a more moderate set of wheels in the form of a Honda CRV. It was now off to Namibia and our first stop in a tiny settlement called Grunau. Here we stayed on a guest farm and took the opportunity to explore some of the local landscape; scrubland covered in massive boulders.

Namib Desert

Namib Desert

The reason for our stop at Grunua was it gave easy access to the natural wonder that is Fish River Canyon. Fish River Canyon is the world’s second biggest canyon, after the Grand Canyon in USA, where an overnight stop allowed us to explore it fully, from it rim to its floor.

Fish River Canyon upper rim

Fish River Canyon upper rim

Fish River Canyon

Fish River Canyon

In the Fish River Canyon

In the Fish River Canyon

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With most journeys in Namibia requiring you to travel on sand or gravel roads, covering the kilometers takes longer than in other parts of the world. It is for this reason that it required an overnight stop in Mariental before we got to our next destination.

Quiver Tree Forest

Quiver Tree Forest

Quiver Trees

Quiver Trees

Sociable Weaver's nest in a Quiver Tree

Sociable Weaver's nest in a Quiver Tree

That next destination was the Namib Desert and the area of Sossusvlei, with its amazing dunes, the highest in the world. For our two-night stay here we treated ourselves to a bit of luxury and stayed in the Kulala Desert Lodge. The scenery was as spectacular as we remembered it; we were there 10 years ago, and made even better by our luxurious accommodation. However, not all went to plan. Our visit to the dunes was affected by strong winds, almost a complete white out at times, but it was something new to experience and quite fun really. More unfortunate was that our Balloon ride for the following day was cancelled because of those same strong winds.

Dunes of Sossusvlei

Dunes of Sossusvlei

The climb up the dune

The climb up the dune

Sand storm at Sossusvlei

Sand storm at Sossusvlei

Oryx on the dune

Oryx on the dune

Deadvlei

Deadvlei

Sand blasted wood

Sand blasted wood

Dune climb in a sand storm

Dune climb in a sand storm

Home in the Namib Desert

Home in the Namib Desert



But this wasn’t the end of our time in the Namib, for we had a two-night stay at a lovely guest farm sandwiched between the Desert and the Naukluft Mountains. Accommodation was a large two bedroom house with amazing views of the desert one-way and the mountains another. We didn’t even have to drive anywhere; we had mountain walks on our doorstep.

Desert Tree

Desert Tree

Our house at Solitare

Our house at Solitare

SAN_167.jpgThe Namib

The Namib



It was then time to leave the Namib and head north for something different. However, this wasn’t as simple as we had planed. The direct route over the mountains was supposed to take around 3 hours, but a flooded road about 45mins in meant a long detour and journey of 6 hours. Fortunately our overnight stop at Oanob was in beautiful surrounding and helped us relax after the long drive.

The next day we continued north to the Erindi Private Game Reserve. Set in 72,000 ha of reclaimed scrubland, this reserve has been restocked with all the wildlife that originally roamed here, before white settlers messed thing up. We had a beautiful bungalow overlooking a waterhole and spent three days exploring as much of the 72,000 ha we could. The wildlife was amazing and plentiful with many highlights. Those highlights included; a female cheetah with the family provisions (a recently killed Springbok), a pack of African Wild Dogs with 16 puppies (our first ever sighting of Wild Dog), and young Brown Hyena in its den (again another first sighting), to name but a few.

Elephant at waterhole

Elephant at waterhole

Thirst quenching sip

Thirst quenching sip

White Rhino

White Rhino

Cheetah with lunch

Cheetah with lunch

Hippo at waterhole

Hippo at waterhole

Brown Hyena

Brown Hyena

African Wild Dog pups

African Wild Dog pups

African Wild Dog

African Wild Dog

Shaded Lioness

Shaded Lioness

Giraffe

Giraffe

Elephant bum

Elephant bum

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From Erindi we briefly returned south to Windhoek. For Rob’s time with us was almost over, and he would take a flight home to the UK on the following day. With him went our cook, leaving us to fend for ourselves.

Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

Brexit
The outcome of the UK referendum and our exit from Europe reached the remotest part of Southern Africa, we learned of the result whilst in a remote camp deep in the Kalahari Desert. South Africans, Namibians, Americans were all shocked and feared the fallout would effect their own economies. On the other hand the Europeans we met avoided the subject. For us of course, this result was very bad news. The pound fell dramatically against other currencies (which had been predicted) which suddenly made our five year travel plans much more expensive, and Anne’s status as a UK resident much more uncertain.

Mice
It’s amazing how you can develop an interest in spotting mice when you are on one of those game drives when the larger animals and birds appear to be elusive. Mice became our new pet subject on just one of those occasions. We now know that there are over 100 different species in Africa, but we were only able to spot one, the 4 striped. There should have been a single striped mouse in the same area, but it eluded us. There is a very rare mouse living in northern Namibia and south Angola, who know, maybe one day we will organize an expedition to search it out.

Supermarkets
Don’t expect to find a lot of dairy products in Namibia. UHT milk, a few imported cheeses, some butter and a couple of yoghurts and that it. On the other hand, with chicken you can buy everything, including feet, head and intestines. Each bagged individually or in a mixed pack with the cuts we are more used to. When it comes to essentials, such as Maize, Rice, Paste, etc., you can buy big 10kg bags as the norm, with some places stocking 25kg bags. Now they may not have much in the way of dairy, but they do have a lot of chocolate bars to choose from.

Driving in Namibia
Most roads in Namibia are either gravel or sand, so you encounter one or the other where ever you go. What we had to learn by experience though was that when a Namibian tells you that his sand road to camp was passable with a high clearance two-wheel drive car, as was ours, you shouldn’t always believe him. We learned this to our expense as we got stuck twice on his 3km stretch of sand road and required a push from kind people to get us moving again. Fortunately on both occasions it was only for a few meters.

Posted by MAd4travel 01:58 Archived in Namibia Comments (1)

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