Deserts, Canyons and Cheetahs - Namibia

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Africa » Namibia » Fish River Canyon
December 1st 2009
Published: January 18th 2010
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Day 19 - Rundu

Up at 5am this morning for the long drive to Namibia. Uneventful drive and border crossing at Mohembo (country #43). We continued on to Rundu, our base for the night. It’s always a surprise when crossing borders how much the scenery and environment changes, particularly African borders which largely derive from random imperial edicts. Namibia is hot, hot, hot though (well into the 30s) and really dry, a welcome change after the past week.

After stopping for money and supplies in Rundu, we went to the Sarasungu campsite just outside town, located on the Okavanga River, which is the border with Angola. Exhausted from the long, hot journey I had a few beers to cool down, a shower and an unusually disappointing meal (small piece of overcooked chicken, and boiled potato - I skipped the cauliflower cheese) and headed to bed.

Day 20 - Etosha National Park

We packed up and headed towards Etosha National Park for the final game viewing of the trip. It was another scorching hot day. First we headed south west to Grootfontein, where we stopped after lunch to stock up on supplies. The supermarket had a great bakery so I got a nice muffin to supplement the usual salad lunch. Then it was north west to the entrance of Etosha National Park and into the Namatoni campsite inside the park.

Namatoni is built around an old German fort used in battles against the native tribes during colonisation. The fort is excellently preserved and now houses a restaurant, bar and shops. The campsite is built around this and also includes a watering hole for watching the animals in the park coming to drink. When we arrived at the campsite we were due to go on an afternoon game drive but I was so exhausted from the drive and the heat that I had to skip it. The call of a cold shower and colder beer was too strong, especially when I discovered they had Hansa Pilsener on tap.

After watching sunset from the fort ramparts and having an excellent fish dinner, I went to the watering hole to see the animals drinking under the spotlight. There were plenty of zebras and impalas and also a huge rhino who made the zebras very twitchy while he drank.

Day 21 - Etosha National Park
Early rise today for a day long game drive through Etosha. The game drive was on the truck though which meant we couldn’t go off the main roads and with the intense heat the odds were we wouldn’t be seeing anything spectacular. And, like Kruger and Chobe, it was a little disappointing. We did however see some giraffes bending down to drink, came across hundreds of springboks either side of the road and saw two small lions hiding underneath a bush, my first wild lion sighting of the trip, though not a brilliant one.

We stopped at Halali Rest Camp for lunch, again unbearably hot, but did see some kudu at the watering hole there. The afternoon game drive was fairly uneventful and we arrived at the Etosha Safari Lodge just south of the park at around 4. Another nice campsite with a bar/restaurant that contained some very cool posters and images of the Namibian struggle for independence. The bar also again had Hansa on tap and the promise of Champions League football on satellite TV. I managed to see the first 10 minutes of the Liverpool game before some of the locals switched the channels to the Barca-Inter game. The evening wasn’t to end well however with a very premature exit from the competition.

Day 22 - Cheetah Park

Today we continued to head south, stopping first at Outjo for internet and shopping before heading onwards to Cheetah Park. This is a property deep in the country where rescued cheetahs are kept and bred. After setting up camp and cooling down with a beer, we headed to the main house and got to play and pose with three of the domesticated cheetahs. This was a lot of fun, though a little chaotic with 30 people there at the same time. I did manage to get a couple of cool photos before a huge hailstorm started (much needed to cool the place down).

Later on we headed into the main park on the back of trucks where about 10 of the semi-wild cheetahs followed us around and were fed pieces of carcass (beef and donkey). It was very cool to see them jump and fight for the pieces, though everyone was fed in the end. We then went to see some cubs and their mother behind a fence and watched them feed as well. Headed back to the bar for some more beers and pool (just about managed to beat Nina 2-1) before a pork chop and roasted spuds dinner.

Day 23 - Spitzkoppe

We left the Cheetah Park at about 8 and headed south towards Spitzkoppe. The route was very scenic, with golden scrub interspersed with green shrubs and little trees and brown, grey mountains in the distance. We were finally getting away from the endless flat landscape. Eventually just after lunch, the distinctive peaks of Spitzkoppe came into view. We’re bushcamping right between the peaks in spectacular surroundings.

We went on a quick walk around the area with a local Damara guide called Lazarus who showed us some of the local plants, the rock paintings and demonstrated the clicking of his local language. Unfortunately there’s no bar (or showers) here and I’m desperately thirsty from the heat, with only some warm water and wine to drink. I’m dreaming of a nice bar in Swakopmund tomorrow night and a cold beer.

The sunset tonight over the desert was stunning, more than worth bushcamping for. Great dinner tonight too of kudu and boerwoers. Sleeping was a challenge though with some noisy Germans/Afrikaners next to us, a very hot night and sudden strong winds during the night that threatened to lift the tents across the desert.

Days 24, 25 and 26 - Swakopmund

see separate entry

Day 27 - Sesriem

Time to leave Swakopmund and the cool sea air behind. We headed south and within an hour the mist and cloud had cleared and we were back in the intense heat of the Namib desert. We soon passed the Tropic of Capricorn, stopping for the obligatory photos. Before arriving at camp we stopped at a quirky place called Solitaire, a little desert enclave with a filling station, shop, lodge and an amazing bakery that sold a gorgeous apple pie. There was a board there showing monthly rainfall in Solitaire for the past 2 years - it rarely exceeded a few millimetres.

We were camping tonight in Sesriem, the gateway for exploring Sossusvlei. It was almost impossible to walk across the campsite, even in flip-flops, such was the heat of the sand. After lunch we drove 60km to the sand dunes of Sossusvlei. First up was a two hour walk with a great Bushman guide called Franz, who explained the ecosystem of the region, its plant and animal life and the culture of the Bushmen. We climbed a dune who gave us a vantage over Deadvlei - this area has been cut off from water from the Nakuluft mountains by surrounded sand dunes and contains the remnant trunks of trees that die up to 900 years ago. It was an amazing site to explore.

We then drove back 15km to the famous Dune 45 and proceeded to ascend along its ridge to the top where we viewed the sunset. It should have been a beautiful, peaceful experience but unsurprisingly with this group, it wasn’t. Running down the steep face of the dune afterwards was a lot of fun though. We got back to the campsite after dark for a desperately needed drink, springbok dinner and a shower to get rid of the sand which covered me.

Day 28 - Fish River Canyon

Leaving Sesriem, we headed south towards the South African border. Our destination today was the Fish River Canyon, supposedly the second biggest in the world after the Grand Canyon. We stopped first at Canyon Roadhouse, a lovely new campsite about 25km from the canyon. We then took the truck to the canyon’s edge and spent a couple of hours wandering along the canyon and watching the sunset. While it’s undoubtedly an impressive sight, it lacks the majesty of the Grand Canyon or Barranca del Cobre, perhaps because the colours of it under the sun were just brown/grey. It was also another example of the rather chaotic planning on this trip, with no real set trek along the canyon or enjoyable gathering at sunset.

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