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Published: December 25th 2017
Geo: -22.5648, 17.0931
As it is difficult to write a blog while camping and impossible to post for at least 14 days I shall try to make a few notes in the van so please excuse note form and any errors. It is not easy to type as we receive our 'African Massage' in the van travelling on sand and gravel roads.
The evening before we met up with our companions for the trip Jim and I went to the nearest restaurant for a meal. We were surprised to find game such as Warthog, Impala and Springbok on the menu. We were not sure if it was a good thing to indulge as it seemed somehow to conflict with the purpose of our trip. We tried it anyway. Jim had a slow cooked warthog and I took the springbok. Both were delicious. The next day we consulted our guides who said game is farmed so that eased our consciences a little.
Day 1 Cape Town
Met group, Sarah from Switzerland, Linda & Leen from Belgium,
Ulf from Germany, Alexander from Russia (who only speaks a few words of English and German) and the 2 Guides Pumi & Marius
As we were only going around the Cape
Peninsular on the first day I didn't expect a lot of excitement but in fact we saw a huge amount. The big red Sunway bus drove us around the Peninsular including Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. We saw eland, dolphin, seals, white right whales, ostriches, terns, cormorants and penguins.
Day 2 Cederberg
Everyone was up on time to start our journey only to find that Alexander was very drunk. It was difficult to judge exactly how inebriated he was as communication was impossible. Pumi was a little at a loss to know how to deal with him but eventually everyone was settled in the bus.
It was a long drive to Cedarberg with beautiful mountainous scenery, through what is called Fyne boss terrain which means the landscape is covered with low shrubs of many varieties, some of them flowering with pink, purple, white, yellow and blue flowers. In the late afternoon we went for a walk to nearby falls. It took 1 1/2 hours to get there, most of the time uphill with rocks forming staircases, except some of the 'steps' were 2 or 3 times the height of normal stairs. It was really tough, made more so as the
guides had not done the walk before so did not know exactly how high we had to climb.
After an hour and a quarter my calves started to cramp with each step up. I almost gave up, not realising that I was already 9/10ths of the way there. Luckily I carried on slowly and made it to the waterfall at the top. The descent was easier but still challenging. That night both my inner thigh muscles went into spasm when I bent to crawl into the tent. It was agony and not a pretty sight! Thankfully it eased after 15 minutes or so. Surprisingly I suffered less the next day than most people but the pain from my thighs lasted a while. Was the waterfall worth it? I think not as we have seen similar before but the hillsides were very pretty, as if a huge rockery had been left untended for a few years. It was hard to believe that it is all natural.
The group is settling down but Alexander poses a problem. He speaks only a few words of English and only a very little German. He drinks constantly starting with beer for breakfast and eats very little
but smokes at every opportunity. That together with a lack of hygiene and the failure to change his T-shirt means we can smell him from a distance and getting any closer is unpleasant. Despite all that he shares his alcohol, joins in the tasks and is as pleasant as he can be without verbal communication.
Day 3 FelixUnite campsite
We travelled north to the South African border and crossed into Namibia quite easily, stopping at a lovely campsite not far from the border. Felix Unite is excellent, clean, well laid out with bar, pool, restaurant and washing machine. Saw Ostriches and Eland on route. The next morning the rest of the group went canoeing but we just walked around looking for birds. Saw bright red and black Cape Red Bishops, Red eyed Bulbuls, herons etc. then had a long drive to Fish Canyon. Saw Kudu and Oryx from the road.
Went up to the edge of Fish Canyon for a walk and to see the sunset. Chatted to some Australians while waiting for the sun to go down and had beer and nuts. Later Pumi cooked an excellent chicken stir fry followed by a chocolate feast as we had all bought different
bars to share.
However the evening took a downward turn when 4 of the group, lead by Marius, became really drunk and noisy and that continued into the early hours despite having to get up at 5.30. We have concluded Marius is, to be polite, completely unprofessional. Not only did he tell a horrible anti-Semitic joke (amongst other unacceptable ones), but gave no thought to Pumi's need for sleep as he drove a long way today and has a drive of over 550 kilometres tomorrow.
Day 4 Gariep
Surprisingly everyone was up on time. Eventually Marius apologised for his behaviour the previous evening. We had an even longer journey but it was eased by the knowledge that we will stay 2 nights in our next camp. Dinner was excellent - chicken cooked on top of beer cans so the beer flavours and moistens the meat.Everyone went to bed early. Saw an Oryx and Springbock in the camp after dark as well as the most wonderful sky, so many stars it seemed impossible to find space to fit another one
Day 5 & 6 Sossuvlei
Up at 4.45 am to go and see the dunes of Sossevlei. Amazing scenery, climbed Dune 45 and a cooked
breakfast was waiting for us when we descended back to our bus. It was delicious. Then we took a short ride in a 4.4 vehicle to Deadvlei, where water has dried out in the past leaving clay pans and dead trees amidst the dunes. We have seen dunes before so I was not expecting too much but these dunes are on a totally different scale to anything I have seen previously. They are absolutely stunning! The rest of the group climbed 'Big Daddy', the highest dune but we declined. Afterwards they all said it was easier than Dune 45.
Alexander is proving a challenge but also great fun for the group. After much effort Linda and Sarah managed to get him to change clothes (see photo) but still not sure that he has showered. He set off for the dune walk without water so Pumi sent him to get some. It was only when Alexander took a drink at the top of the dune that he realised he had picked up a bottle of vinegar in the shop by mistake.
Later he went missing when we were leaving for our next walk and eventually had to be extracted from the bar.
Pumi has had to have quiet 'words' with him about leaving empty beer cans at scenic points, smoking in his room, and touching Sarah inappropriately. Once told he always apologises and does not repeat his offence. However during dinner this evening he was trying to explain something using lots of animated gestures. His hands were getting closer and closer to Sarah and there was a communal holding of breath at one moment as his finger stopped poised a half inch short of her breast. Then as he moved back it was possible to hear the relief around the table together with the expulsion of breath as we all relaxed. Often he bursts into impromptu song and dance to words such as 'Namibia, fantastic, beautiful' repeated over and over to what sounds like a Russian anthem.
Late afternoon we went for a walk in Sesriem Canyon.
Day 7 & 8 Swakopmund
After an early start we stopped at 9am at Moose McGregors for excellent Apple crumble, and then we carried on through the desert. A strange time to eat it but in the desert you take what you can when you can. It is fascinating how many different kinds of desert there are, various
kinds of mountains, dunes, perfectly flat and featureless arid terrain, gravel plains and combinations of all these.
The camping has been very enjoyable with good food produced by the guides and excellent tents. The big red bus is well equipped with everything we need, but it is good to have a real bed for the next 2 nights.
On the second day in Swakopmund we took an optional 'Living Desert' tour with Chris to explore the secrets of the Dunes. It was a revelation, so many creatures live under the sand, lizards, geckos, snakes, spiders and many more. His explanation about the unique environment created by the juxtaposition of the cold Benguela Current and the hot desert climate was very clear. Each day a fog bank stretching some 200 miles along the coast is created. Although the area does not receive rain the fog bank deposits droplets that enable life to survive on the coastal strip, but as Chris describes it, small droplets support small creatures in the dunes.
Swakopmund is a surprise. At times it feels as if we are in Bavaria because of the style of buildings and the cold climate. The restaurants are excellent but as much as we enjoyed
it we were happy to move on to somewhere warmer.
Day 9 & 10. Spitzkop
On our journey we stopped at a Himba village. The people paint themselves with an ochre mix to protect themselves from the sun and they wear animal parts as decoration (see headress in photos). They danced for (and with) us which was a great demonstration of how they use dance to go into trances. Traditionally they did this to alter their state of being ( a form of hypnosis) and sometimes the healer (or witch doctor) would wear the skin of a particular animal which he had an affinity with in order for the spirit of the animal to enter him. The people also hunted sometimes concealed under an animal skin and walking on all fours to approach their prey.
Last night was our first basic campsite, very remote under the Spitzkop rocks, silent at night with so many stars that I did not want to go to sleep. I lay in my bed looking up at them through the mosquito netting then fell asleep with my glasses on. A Spotted Eagle Owl had watched us the whole evening from the rock above our tents.
Earlier in the
afternoon a young man from the local tribe came to take us for a walk to some bush man paintings and to explain his traditional culture, coming of age ceremonies and marriage practices. Then he said it is easier now, we just call the girl on our mobiles and ask her out!
Later we walked to the Natural Bridge, lovely scenery at sunset, and then spotted an Elephant Shrew in a bush.
Day 11 Brandberg
Again a remote campsite but this one had showers driven by donkey geyser, a boiler fuelled by wood brought around by donkeys. Desert elephants inhabit the area and have trampled tents twice in the last week. Luckily we had no problems.
We were taken walking by a guide to the the 'White Lady' paintings. In fact the White Lady was the chief local healer, painted white as he would have been covered in animal fat and then coated in dust. These paintings were clearer than the Brandberg ones.
In the camp were goats, cattle, Blacksmith Lapwings and the 'go away bird', the Grey Lori.
Day 12 &13 Etosha
En route we stopped at roadside stalls of the Herero people who are originally from the Himba tribe but who developed separately after the
arrival of Europeans and especially the Germans whom they fought during the Herero wars. The women wear strange outfits reminiscent of the Victorian period but with large hats representing the horns of cattle which are their most prized possessions, closely followed by their sewing machines with which they produce clothes, small dolls in Herero dress and other souvenirs.
We camped in Etosha at Okaukuejo which has a waterhole lit at night for game viewing (3 minutes from tent) and during the day we drove around other water holes. The animals were abundant as it is towards the end of the dry season with little water available apart from the waterholes so everything has to visit to drink. We have seen the familiar ungulates, Steenbok, Springbok, Kudu, Wildebeest, Zebras etc as well as Lions, Elephants, Giraffe and 3 Cheetahs. The game viewing has been excellent here.
The days in Etosha were very hot, in the 40s and the dust unbelievable We went out for game drives and didn't think to close the 'doors' over the mosquito net covered windows. When we returned the interior of the tent was covered in dust including pillows, sleeping bags and bedrolls. Everything had to be taken out
and shaken. I decided to wash the silk sleeping bag liners and they were dry in 30 minutes.There is even dust inside our water bottles depite keeping them closed all the time.
Ulf has been desperately seeking a scorpion the whole trip and when Alexander folded his tent this morning there were 2 underneath, a highly venomous variety. Ulf was ecstatic!
We have now reached the capital of Namibia, Windhoek, from where I hope to post the blog. This first trip ends the day after tomorrow. It has been great, a good if eccentric group, lots of game animals and birds and excellent food throughout. .
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