An African adventure


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Africa
September 4th 2013
Published: September 4th 2013
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Stunning red sand dunes
And thus with somewhat heavy
hearts we arose in Mata Mata knowing that it was time to move on from Kgaalgadi
and in the process our encounters with some of Africa’s bountiful
wildlife.There is a Namibian border post at Mata Mata which now ranks
officially as the least busy on the planet.Some rather eager immigration people
bounced out of their chairs to process us into Namibia and on enquiry stated
that between 5-10 cars pass though there each day.Boredom at it’s most extreme!

Our routing from there was
more or less due west with Mariental as our destination about 250km’s away.This
was also our first introduction to Namibia’s wonderful gravel road system of
which they boast about 37000km in total.No doubt this is a legacy of the German
occupation followed by SA’s stint as a “caretaker” authority(anyone remember Dirk
Mudge and the Turnhalle?)and it lead to many campfire discussions and a central
question;”What would Africa look like had many countries not been
colonized?”This is one of those “walking on egg shells”,politically incorrect
questions to which there are a myriad of answers but our consensus was that
just perhaps most of these African countries were much better off under their
colonial
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Deadvlei
masters than they are currently.Anyway thanks to the road building
colonisers,our journey to Mariental was very pleasant on the best gravel roads
I have ever encountered.

Mariental was essentially a
two night stop to restock and enjoy a little touch of comfort in a really great
B&B by name of Bastion situated on a working farm.This fairly small town is
located on the B4 which is the main tarred road running south to north through
the country and B&B’s are abundant and flourishing.The local SPAR did brisk
trade per the shopping skills of the two girls whilst Bruce and I concentrated
on cleaning seriously dusty vehicles and tinkering in the AGRA co-operative
which supports the many sheep and cattle farmers in the region.Great shop to
buy those very popular genuine “veldskoens” which Namibia is famous for and
which we are now both the proud owners of.

So suitably stocked,watered
and refreshed we headed off on a further westerly course for Sesriem where some
of Namibia’s iconic landmarks are to be seen.The countryside is not unlike what
one sees in the driest parts of the Karoo except that it just seems to get
drier over each small rise in
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Susan exhibiting her photographic skills
the road.Noticeable on this stretch of road are
the significant number of grey nomads in 4x4’s of all manner and type.A large
number of these tourists are European and in special purpose vehicles hired in
Windhoek or Johannesburg.Toursim is flourishing In Namibia.There are no short
routes to anywhere in this country and 350km’s further on we arrived in a small
place by name of Sesriem which has just enough of the things tour groups need
to sustain them i.e. fuel,a small shop and a range of accommodation
options.Ours was a really smart campsite with A frame,hot shower,kitchenette
and flush toilet.Luxury after roughing it in Kgalagadi.One of the things we
noted on this Namibian trip is that wood gets progressively more expensive the
further away one gets from towns and top price paid for a relatively small bag
was R38.00.But it is a very important commodity as a night under the stars of
an African sky is incomplete without a roaring fire.

Up early the next morning,we
wound our way through stunning desert terrain heading for Sossusvlei.It is
difficult to describe the early morning sun slowly lighting up red sand dunes
with deep,dark shadows brooding on the non-sunny side.The colour
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Alive and flourishing!
contrasts are
superb.The road has been tarred in recent years due to the popularity of this
unique salt and clay pan which is a drainage basin without outflows for the
Tsauschab River which never flows.In the summer of 2013 exactly 7mm of rain fell
in this region and the average is 27mm which rarely happens.A stiff climb along
the ridge of the sand dune behind the vlei provided a wonderful view of the
surrounding dune systems.

Opposite this vlei is the
legendary Deadvlei which literally translated means dead marsh.It is regarded
as a photographer’s paradise and Sue duly sprang into action.It has a bright
white surface resulting from dried salts going back to when rain fell and the
Tsauschab River actually ran.This would also have nurtured the growth of camel
thorn trees which died a long time ago and now provide stark dead images
against the white surface and surrounding red sand dunes which are probably
some of the highest in the World.Undoubtedly both vleis are worth seeing and we
were struck by the number of foreign tourists there.

Back in Sesriem we took the
opportunity of visiting the Sesriem Gorge which is a deep ravine formed aeons
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In the depths of the Sesriem canyon

ago by raging storm driven rivers from surrounding mountains.It is easy to get
down to the floor of this canyon and it shows layers of sediment and sand stone
formed as the waters carved their way through the countryside.The name Sesriem
originates from the use of six ropes/riempies which were needed once upon a
time to drop a bucket into the gorge to collect water.A second enjoyable
evening in the campsite doing some serious stargazing brought on talk of the
next destination.

About 100km’s north of Sesriem
is a truly magnificent mountainous area by name of Naukluft.The road winds it’s
way along spectacular flat plains flanked by huge rocky mountains which look as
though they exploded angrily out of the bosom of the earth.Bruce,the tour
organizer without equal,had found a campsite run by Namibia Wildlife located in
the heart of one of the mountain ranges.On arrival in the campsite we were
stunned by the magnificent rocky mountains surrounding us and a small running
stream below camp.This was the first running water seen in almost two weeks of
travel.Good ablutions made this a very pleasant two night stop.The bird count
was nudging towards 70 at this point with the Fairy
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Great roads and wonderful scenery
Flycatcher being spotted as
a first timer for all of us.We also saw good herds of the Hartman Mountain
Zebra which is smaller than the common Birchell’s Zebra and has beautiful
markings all the way down to it’s hooves.What was fascinating was the constant
arrival and departure into this camp of organized tour groups no doubt looking
for the “Africa experience”.One small group of three young French girls had a
champagne party of note on what they told us was their last night in
Namibia.Bruce and I nearly had to go and take matters in hand but being sworn
at in French was not appealing and we backed off.At this stage the puncture
count was Bruce=1(which we repaired using the standard puncture repair kit).

All good things end and it was
time to then wend our way in a southerly direction covering some 420km’s headed
for Aus.Once again a superb gravel road and some great scenery with huge flat
plains dotted with small groups of blue and dark grey mountains which are
mostly 100% rock formations.This would be a geologist’s delight.On route we
passed through a small hamlet called Helmeringshausen where the obligatory
refueling took place.In conversation with a
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Naukluft campsite.A gem!
local white Afrikaans farmer he
informed us that there are 29 inhabitants and in the recent summer they did not
receive a drop of rain.Also noticed here was a slow puncture on my vehicle so
the puncture count was changing.Aus is a tiny town at the junction of the road
south to the Namibian/SA border and the road west to Luderitz.

Our accommodation in Aus was a
rustic 20 sleeper log cabin located in the mountains and a useful two night
base before the next move.On arrival it was time to attend to the puncture
problem which had escalated to Tim=2.Both repaired very efficiently at the
local garage by a guy who claims he spends most of his day doing so for the
many tourists criss-crossing the country.The eternal question is what tyre
pressure is ideal for gravel roads?According to the guy who owned the garage
and who has had one puncture in 20 years on the Namibian roads he believes tyre
pressure should be 1.6-1.8 psi.

The log cabin was called
Geister Schulte which means Ghost Valley and on the road there is an old shot
out car which was used by two diamond thieves in their
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Haunted cabin at Aus
attempt to outrun the
police in the 1950’s.The cops caught up with them and in the ensuing gun fight
they were both shot dead.Local custom has it that they haunt the valley in
their never ending search for the diamonds which have never been found.

Luderitz is about 100km’s from
Aus and it made sense to go and check it out.On the way there is a sighting
area alongside a water hole specially built for the Garub Wild horses which
frequent the area.Well we were in luck.There they were,almost 100 of them.Interesting
story about these horses which were abandoned by their German Army owners in
the latter stages of the First World War.They adapted to the harsh conditions
and survive to this day.Given the sparse vegetation and almost non- existent
rainfall we were mystified as to what they survive on.Beautiful animals which
have become fairly tame.

Luderitz is a bustling port
town which caters largely for the local fishing industry.The wind was howling
with sand swirling and adding to a generally bleak desert landscape.A drive to the
port area proved to be a shrewd bird spotting strategy and the number of
sightings quickly jumped to 90 due to
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The Garub wild horses
sighting African Shelduck,Oyster Catchers
and a Three-Banded Plover amongst others.Earlier in the day on top of one of
the mountains at the Cabin we had spotted two Klipspringer which brought the
mammal tally to 26.

The sands of time were now
running low in terms of our time in Namibia.The only conclusion one can reach
is that it is a must visit country for it’s dramatically different topography
and scenery which one is unlikely to experience anywhere else.If the Americans
did stage manage Armstrong’s landing on the moon according to the conspiracy
theorists,then large chunks of Namibia would have been an ideal background as
it has a moonlike appearance to it.

The next heading is south to
Senderling’s Drift where we will cross into the Richtersveld on a pont for a
three night stay in wild and very rustic countryside at a campsite called
Potjiespram.











































Curiosity running high.Can’t
wait!

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7th September 2013

Dreamy
Hi Tim, we are quite jealous as we read your beautifully written blog. One gets a good sense of the scenery and ambience as you have travelled. I hope you have tried the Luderitz oysters........famously good. And have you tried any other interesting foody bits, or tried their schnapps!!! We look forward to seeing Sue's photos. Enjoy Potjiespram and the monkeys?!?! Travel safe.
11th September 2013

Journey over.Hope you enjoyed the blogs.
10th September 2013

Good to see you blogging again
This is a part of the world we hope to see before long
10th September 2013

Excellent.If I can assist in any way with tips etc., please contact me. tim.elliott@iafrica.com

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