The last post on lorry way down was done by James and Nicky once they returned to the UK. I’m not going to go over that whole 11 days again, but there were a few things that were either “forgotten” about by James or were big highlights for me and Jac, that perhaps weren’t emphasised by James in his post, so I’m going to address that here, and tell you what we’ve been doing for the last few weeks.
A couple of days before the arrival of “the dentists”, we drove to the campsite that we were to spend their first night with them at (they were to have a lovely chalet room). This is in a beautiful National Reserve about 20km outside of the Capital city of Windhoek, and there are a few set out walking routes into the hills surrounding the camp, so the day before we were due to meet them, we set out early to beat the heat of the day to do a medium level walk (it took us nearly 4 hours). The paths obviously don’t get walked very often, especially as you get further from the camp. The bushes were covered in huge caterpillars that were munching on the new green growth brought about by the rains. There were thousands of them everywhere, each one about 50mm long and consuming a massive amount of food.
About two hours into this walk, on a very narrow steep stoney section, we heard a brief noise from a scrub next to us, we both stopped to see what it was, then out of the back of the bush, shot a huge Black Mamba snake (luckily heading away from us). It was lightening fast, then abrubtly stopped, lifted his head and about 3 feet of his body, turned, looked straight at us, and thankfully decided that again he would head away from us. This all happened very very quickly, but we both got a good long look at this amazing animal (this is our first ever Black Mamba in the wild). Below is the only photo I got of the snake, its a bit shaky and he was very fast!
We are always very cautious about the possibility of being near snakes and scorpions, especially when out walking, and this incident did nothing to dull our careful behaviour. We decided not to tell James and Nicky about our encounter, but to encourage them to be careful.
James and Nicky were extremely lucky with their animal encounters, especially at the Palmwag Conservancy, and Etosha NP, it was after all the height of the “wet season”, and with that comes the new growth of the vegetation, in both grass and scrub it becomes much harder to spot wildlife especially the smaller animals such as Lion, Hyena, and the smaller Antelope. But boy were we all lucky? oh yes, and a particular high light for me was seeing the Spotted Hyena (five of them together devouring a carcass) at Palmwag.
Also at Palmwag we were treated to the most stunning sunrise (typical rainy season sunrise I think).
By the time we got to Etosha, the worse of this spell of rains seemed to have passed, though the skies were still stormy, and the tracks flooded in places.
Now as I write this, we have been away over 350 days, and have had some great and funny moments all this trip, but one incident in Etosha had me and Jac’s laughing so much that my kidneys hurt for days afterwards! We were following James and Nicky in there big burly Nissan Navara 4×4 along a very small side track that looped out into the bush for about 30km (a sort of optional diversion), and this was very slow going, as James for some reason seemed reluctant to drive through the flooded centre part of the track (you really couldn’t see how deep they were, and some WERE deep) This was not an issue in the truck as our wading depth is……….. well very deep! Anyway at one of the biggest floods, James drove right up round the rim of the puddle, and so left a nice big opening for me to stuff the Daf up the inside line and splash the Nissan in the process. That flood WAS deep and with our sudden added speed we drove a huge wall of filthy dirty water right over the Nissan, oh my god how me and Jac laughed! Then reality kicked in as Jac suggested that Nicky might have had the passenger window open!!!! Luckily James likes his air-conditioning and all windows were shut. This incident ended up with us taking the Nissan into Tsumeb a few days later to get it professionally cleaned.
Strangely it was the Elephants that were lacking in numbers in Etosha (compared to previous visits to the park), but we did see some, which was great for J & N.
There were some epic sunsets too, further enhanced by the rainy season.
And of course, there was the birdlife, perhaps something that interests me and Jac, more than it does James and Nicky, but stunning as always.
Several times I had to remind James to be a bit more cautious with where he was treading or what he was touching, he was getting very blasé about being bare foot or in light shoes (dentist’s eh?) especially when he had is drone out, all his fear and cautiousness seemed to just disappear into thin air.
They were also lucky to have the extremely close encounter with the Rhino in Etosha (thankfully he was chilled, and not bothered by our presence), but it did highlight the fact that you can see something at anytime in Etosha, you need to be looking all the time.
The second to last night we stayed at Tsumeb, with James and Nicky opting to camp instead of a lodge (which they had already paid for), and early evening me and Jac decided to go for a shower while James and Nicky put up their roof tent (the sky was looking a little dark and threatening), by the time we had finished our showers it was raining in biblical proportions! All the paths were flooded, the massive swimming pool (by African standards) was overflowing, the wind was threatening roofs, it was relentless! Thinking about poor James and Nicky stuck out in that awful weather, trying to hold on to that tent which by now must surely be torn to tatters, we decided to do the English gallant thing and head to the bar under the fully covered way! After 2 or 3 beers, in walked a pair of drowned rats, fully covered in bright yellow poncho’s! I don’t think the locals had ever seen anything like it. Anyway we had a great night from then on with far too much to drink.
We had a fantastic 11 days with James and Nicky, and indeed it was with a heavy heart that we had to say goodbye to them at Windhoek Airport.
Before I go any further, I’d like to point out that we have booked flights to return to the UK, but luckily for the fair people of Britain we have also booked flights to return to Namibia. So we are having about two and half weeks back in Blighty! It will be great to catch up with all our family and friends, and especially my big sister who’s a bit poorly at the moment.
So we decided to head for Swakopmund on the Namibian coast to do some bits on the truck. We chose Swakopmund because it has plenty of decent workshops/garages, lots of coffee shops and restaurants, and the climate is better for working in (and chilling). So over the last couple of weeks we’ve had the truck serviced, had a small hole in the silencer welded up (strangely worn through by the clamp, not rotted), we’ve also fitted 16metres of 50mm yellow high visibility tape to the sides of Colonel K, in anticipation of countries to come in East Africa, such as Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
We have also finally got rid of the carpet tiles, and fitted some new PVC click-in flooring (by god such a small area, and yet so much cutting), this is much better and so much more practical with the sands of Africa getting trodden into the truck every day.
Nothing here gets wasted, and within 10 minutes of the carpet tiles hitting the bin, they had been washed cleaned and laid out to dry. We have also taken off the door into the toilet and junked that too, it was a pain in the neck, and as its only ever me and Jac using the truck, we thought we could do without it.
We have also decided to shorten the truck by two feet!
Although we have used the mountain bikes quite a bit here in Swakopmund, we know that during the next phase of our travels these will become a liability and at best can be expected to get wrecked on the rear rack (even covered with a tarpaulin). So we are going to bring them home with us on the flights (SAA actually allow each person on top of the usual 23kg suitcase, a piece of sporting goods up to 23kg also), so we thought lets just cut the rear rack off and just use the rear hoist and rack as the spare wheel carrier. This will also save us a large amount (over £500) when we come to ship the Colonel back to the UK. The Roll-on Roll-off vessels charge per cubic meterage so cutting 600mm off the length reduces our charges by nearly 5.5m3, at over £90 per m3 (once surcharges are added on), so a big saving.
So we bought a nice Hitachi angle grinder, a few spare cutting wheels, and big file, took a deep breath and started cutting.
Please note the usual African safety equipment being used, flip flops, and cheap sunglasses! After Jac took this photo, she insisted that I dress more sensibly while using this cutting equipment, so I put on my Weird Fish baseball cap!
Please note the extensive use of work bench to support the metal work. But at last it was done.
The weight of all that box section steel was mega, with the plate on the top, the cycles, and holders, I guess we have removed well over 100kg from the rear of the truck (don’t forget this was hanging way out beyond the rear axle), only time will tell if we notice this while driving. But we have had many comments from police along the way about the cycle rack being dangerous, with sharp edges, at least (in the words of Forrest Gump) “thats one less thing to worry about”. Again very quickly, all the metal work was taken away by the staff for reuse.
Speaking about movies, we were taken out for the day by a great South African bloke called Charl (its french apparently), in his short wheel based Mitsubishi Pajero (Shogun in the UK), he was like a tour guide that specialised in property viewing. During that day we drove around all the swish new housing developments in both Walvis Bay, and Swakopmund, there really are some huge houses going up in this area. Anyway Charl wanted to take us round the back of Dune 7 (the seventh biggest dune in the world) and to the bottom of Dune 2 (the second biggest ……. you get the idea), it turns out the latest Mad Max movie (with Tom Hardy as Max) has large sections filmed between these dunes. As some of you know I’m a massive fan of the Mad Max films and it was great to be in the same place that George Miller shot some of his footage.
Anyway after extracting the Mitsubishi from the sand, we had a lark about on the side of the massive Dune 2.
Charl then took us to Walvis Bay “waterfront” for a fantastic lunch, consisting of copious amount of seafood for not very much money, £30.00 for all three of us including, beers, wine (for the lady), and coffee’s, it was extremely good.
This (not so) little fella was just wandering up and down the front of the restaurant, and really wasn’t bothered by humans at all.
We first met Charl a few months ago at our previous stop at Swakopmund, and I think he was pleased to see a face that he recognised. He camps at Tiger Reef campsite when not working in Iraq or Kuwait (he services and maintains diving equipment), and he is waiting for a call to go back out there to resume the cutting up of a bombed oil tanker that is obstructing one of the oil pumping stations. It was really interesting listening to the mind boggling figures that he is used to in his line of work.
Its not until you stay at a place for a while that you really start to get to meet people, and Swakopmund is no different. We met a lovely couple that are native white born Namibians that moved from Windhoek to Swakopmund about 10 years ago and brought with them a fantastic Austin Seven car.
Apparently this car has only ever been in Namibia, being shipped when new in 1933 to the then British run enclave of Walvis Bay. It has spent its whole life here in this harsh environment, and in its early days was supposed to have taken missionaries to the far north of the country, and remember there were NO roads then. He also has a Wileys Jeep and an old 1930’s Dodge Convertible.
So we will have been in Swakopmund for quite a while before we fly back to Blighty, and we like it here, but we are looking forward to seeing everyone back home, before continuing on with our little trip for another year (thanks to the ADAC in Germany for issuing us a new Carnet de passage, and no thanks to the RAC in the UK).
We will certainly miss the beautiful Flamingo’s and Pelican’s that we see every single day at Tiger Reef
Thanks for reading