Let me tell yer, Africa is big, very big! Looking on the map of the Continent, it doesn’t look far from Cape Overberg (on the coast about 200km east of Capetown), up to Windhoek in central Namibia, but we have just driven over 2,000 kilometres doing just that! We could have done it using a more direct route, but that would have meant us largely retracing our steps that we took when we drove South, about seven weeks earlier, and where’s the fun in that???
First of all we had to decide where to cross the Groot Swartberg Mountains, and the route we took “up and over” was via the absolutely stunning Meiringspoort Pass.
It is a very long and in places steep climb, but the views from the various” pull in’s” along the road were at times quite breathtaking. Then as we approached the summit, Jac spotted a turning into a small settlement (the most unlikely place for anybody to live), and decided we should turn in there and see if we could find anywhere to get a coffee. I scoffed at the suggestion that anyone would have any sort of hospitality business in this scruffy looking little village. How wrong can you be? Next to the tiny store that had about thirty people hanging around outside, there was an old victorian hotel here, and what a gem to find, it was like a real step back in time, and we were made most welcome by the owners, staff and other guests.
Even the toilets were a bit different.
From the summit of the Pass, we foolishly expected to have a long descent back down the other side. No chance……From here all the way through the Little Karoo, and the Great Karoo, we never dropped below 3,000 feet, and apart from when driving though the very British sounding towns, such as Beaufort West, Victoria West and Britstown, there really is an awful lot of nothing here.
But on this trip back north we stayed at a few very memorable campsites, one was an old disused railway station at Calitzdorp.
It has been beautifully renovated by the friendly owner, and has a relaxed feel about it. But the really fun thing that we found here were the railway trolley’s (as in cowboy and indian movies), there were two troley’s that you could ride up and down the tracks on, chasing each other, we laughed so much it hurt!
The other place where again we were met by a lovely friendly owner, was at at a farm at Kleinbegin (near the border), as usual we were the only campers here, and she said that we could use her swimming pool which was at the back of the farm house. Whilst splashing about in the pool and watching a couple of the dogs coming and going, I was gobsmacked to see a baby monkey peer round the door frame then disappear back inside the house! We saw it a couple of times briefly, then it was gone. The next morning while we sitting outside having breakfast, the lady owner was driving around the farm in her pick-up with the huge mastiff in the back and amazingly a baby monkey in the cab with her. We were intrigued and needed to find out a bit more. So we went to the farm house to pay for our camping and have a chat with the owner. She explained that it was actually a baby baboon, that she had rescued it after its mother was shot by locals. She was telling us that it was in the enclosed garden on the other side of the house, and it was frightened of strangers. Then as we were chatting, the baboon appeared outside the door, looked at me, looked at Jac, then looked at his “mum” and completely freaked out!…….. Screaming, jumping up and down, and physically shaking! Then he rushed in and jumped up into her arms and shook with fright!
Eventually after 15 minutes or so, he slowly started to gain confidence with us and ended up playing with the velcro on our shoes, but the amazing thing to see was how tolerant the dogs were of this little rascal, he bites them, pulls them, climbs over them, and they just seem to put up with it (even at 2 months it has a full set of teeth and you can see his long fangs appearing). The baboon will never be able to be released into the wild, but they are hoping to keep him at Kleinbegin and raise him there both in the house and with his own enclosure, but the other alternative is that he is put into a rescue centre near Windhoek with other baboons. I can’t imagine how an adult male baboon could be trusted with people and dogs, they really are fearsome animals.
Coming through the Great Karoo we started to experience a few thunder storms late in the afternoon, these were very localised, and one farm that we stayed at told us that although they hadn’t had any rain, ALL the surrounding farms had received over 100mm of rain overnight (that is a huge amount of water). And indeed lots of places hadn’t had any rainfall at all for over 18 months. But trust me when I tell you we brought them rain! Huge storms of rain, with thunder and lightening, flash floods, the works…….
But thats ok because we are going back to that extremely dry arid landscape of Namibia. WRONG! We have seen swollen rivers, desert turned to lush grass and flowers, and gravel roads turned into deeply rutted mud tracks! The change has been so dramatic.
At the Namibian border we were made to put Colonel K on a weigh bridge, this was a little nerve racking as we hadn’t weighed it since we had it built approx 4 years ago, then it was almost exactly 9 tonne, now we had water on board, a full tank of fuel, and lots of supplies, spares and camping stuff, oh and a driver and passenger. The maximum we can weigh with us on board is 10.6 tonnes, and with a huge sigh of relief, we went 9.52 tonnes. But we had to pay road tax for a goods vehicle, this came to a “staggering” £25.00 for 3 months, plus we have to pay the huge sum of 2p per 100km driven. I think we can afford that, bearing in mind the insurance is in the cost of the fuel (provided by the government) which is approx 50p per litre.
But we are now in Windhoek, the sun is out and its extremely hot (despite the altitude of 1,800 metres), and we are awaiting the arrival of our friends James and Nicky who I think are just about to have their first experience of Africa. I’ve asked them to write about their perceptions of Namibia before they came out, and also what they think of the trip and Namibia as a place to spend a holiday. They have agreed to do this and I will post this as my next post on lorrywaydown.com. A little different for you guys to read, and I hope you find it interesting. They are here in Namibia for 11 days, and we have planned out a nice big route for them to do (approx 1,800 km), going deep into the Namib Desert, then up to the holiday town of Swakopmund, Damaraland, then up to the southern part of Koakoland, then the National Park of Etosha for a few days, then back to Windoek. They have a 4×4 vehicle kitted out with a roof tent, and camping equipment, and are staying partly camping and partly in lodges. Its an awful lot to cram into a week and a half, but we really hope they enjoy it, and we are really looking forward to seeing them.
Whilst at urbancamp.net in central Windhoek, we bumped into the South African guy, Paul, who is travelling in an old Mercedes overland truck, that we met on the Orange River just before we crossed into SA several weeks ago. What a lovely guy, and so many stories to tell. We spent a few evenings sat outside chatting with Paul (who seems to have a thirst for Jac’s Gin), and we really hope to catch up with him again once he has also done a whistle stop tour of Namibia, only with Paul he’s waiting for the imminent arrival of his ex-wife Helen from the UK who will be travelling with him for 2 weeks.
Got to go, the fires alight, the veg is roasting and the pork bangers are sizzling…………
Thanks for reading