We planned to leave Tsumeb, and to camp overnight just outside the town of Ondangwa in Ovamboland, in the north of Namibia, but to our surprise the road is now tarmac, and we covered the distance much quicker than we thought (we are used to the gravel tracks), so we decided to “crack on” and drive the whole way to Ruacana Falls in one day.
There are a few places to camp up there, but we decided to use the Community run campsite which is situated right on the Kunene River. The river forms the Northern border between Namibia, and Angola, and despite the name, there is very rarely any water cascading over the falls as the water levels are controlled at a dam with a huge hydro-electric plant (this supplies more than half of Namibia’s power). But despite this, it is well worth a trip, as the river is absolutely stunning here. The campsite run by the local Himba people, is in such an amazing position, just as the river splits and forms a huge island. As usual we were the only vehicle here, and as soon as we arrived a few of the Himba children arrived and were intrigued by Colonel K and us. They were really nice kids, and didn’t seem to be after anything, just interested in us (Jac gave them a few salted crackers, which they really disliked and spat out).
Ruacana Falls is just inside the huge area of land known as Kaokoland, which covers the massive wilderness area of north western Namibia, this is home to both the Himba and the Herero people. These ,especially the Himba, have largely been sheltered from western society until fairly recently, and the big change came to them during the Angolan war in the 1980’s, when South African forces were massed in this area. There are still land mines on this side of the border to remind you! The Dam at Ruacana Falls was badly damaged by an air strike in 1988, from a Cuban aircraft (yep thats right a Cuban, as in the Caribbean Island), this really was a messed up part of the world, and it just goes to show how a country in Africa can change quite quickly and sometimes for the better. Namibia, is now a peaceful and prosperous country (of course it still has its problems), and some African countries could learn a lot from this place.
The river here is a dangerous place, and with huge crocodiles swimming up and down its not the place for a quick dip. The current and water levels change very quickly too.
The Himba even provide a special area for fishing from the bank, protection from hippos and crocs.
I didn’t actually try the fishing here, not because I was scared of being eaten by a huge Crocodile (actually I was a bit), but because it was so damn hot up there, it was well over 40c in the shade and not much cooler at night (staying up at about 27-28c even at about 5am). But there was so much going on at the waters edge, I just didn’t have time for fishing! There was a large group of Vervet Monkeys, that were determined to get themselves eaten by the crocs, eating the reeds, and drinking the water.
There were quite a few youngsters in the group, and they spent as much time, playing and rolling around together, they were great fun to watch.
On one walk along the river we watched Kingfishers feeding off of the small fish in the shallows, including this Pied Kingfisher.
As as with almost all of Africa that we have seen, the sunsets at Ruacana are beautiful.
We stayed at the Community site (called Hippo Pools) for three days, and it was so relaxing, but due to the extreme heat (oh and the fact that we only had two months left on our Namibian Visa), we decided to move on, but not until Jac got talking to a local guy that was making items from waste left by us westerners on the site. She came back with this ‘baseball cap’ made from old Orange Fanta cans!
A nice idea, but everytime you wear it you run the risk of cutting your ears off! No such thing as soft or folded edges here. And Jac wanted to give it to a small child as a gift mmmm, you can tell we don’t have kids eh (nephews, and nieces look out when we get back).
Anyway after a few fantastic days with the Himba people at Ruacana Falls, we had to break camp, and head off back up the long steep climb into the Koakoveld.
The road drops down about 1,500ft very quickly to get to Ruacana, and so we had to do this the other way round when leaving Ruacana, and this involves some very steep sections, but because of the Hydro-plant this is section of road is now tarmac, and so it was not an issue with the Daf, but the view from the top looking out over the Kunene River and the hills of Angola was stunning.
Our next destination was Epupa Falls (I’m assured that water does flow over these), again on the Kunene river, but about 150km to the west. There is a track that runs directly along the river via the small settlement of the fantastically named Swartbooisdrift, but with a 9 tonne truck, that is a no-no for us. You definitely need at least another vehicle with you, and we’ve been told that even in a light weight fully sorted, tricked up 4×4, it can take 3-4 days of hard driving. And of course we are entering the “rainy” season here. So our only option was to head South and then West to the small town of Opuwo, where we could refuel, and restock the larder before heading north to the border again.
Opuwo really is a rough and ready town, theres nothing really that endears it to you, everywhere is very busy, the fuel station, the “super market”, and just about everywhere there’s people, mostly Himba. The day we got there the town was completely enveloped with a huge dust storm blowing in from the surrounding hills.
The town has got a true African feel to it, and really reminded us of West Africa, we started to warm to the place, and ended up staying in the campsite of The Country Lodge on the top of the hill overlooking the town one way, and out over the Kaokoveld the other way.
The above photo was taken the next morning, and it was a very windy, dusty night (nothing to do with with our one pot meal……), at about 2am we were outside with our trusty machete, chopping a large branch off of a tree we were parked next to (there was no way we could move over to get away from it), before it destroyed a large segment of Colonel K’s side. I felt very guilty cutting this off, but we had no choice in this instance.
We are looking forward to reaching Epupa Falls, and driving further into Kaokoland.
Thanks for reading, and hi to everyone back home.