While in Livingstone (whilst carefully avoiding Evil Two Face the Manic Monkey, see previous blog post), Jac decided to make Bread. Apparently its a special camping recipe for a flat bread that she obtained from a German couple we met in Malawi, who incidentally gave her a sachet of yeast specially for the purpose. What could possibly go wrong?
The mix looked amazing and was left to “rise” apparently…….
And the ‘after’ photo proves how promising this was looking, and the smell was amazing, my mouth was salvating wildly at the thought of getting stuck into Jac’s first attempt at home made camp bread.
The next day we drove into Livingstone, and bought a loaf of bread!!!!
We left Zambia the same way we entered and had a much smoother border crossing (though definitely not a smoother drive along that bloody broken road), spent a night in Katima Mulilo, and then headed back to one of our favourite campsites in Namibia, Mobola Lodge, right on the banks of the Zambezi river.
The camp even has an early warning system and deterrent against Crocodiles, ‘Aegon’ the largest German Shepard that I have ever seen, just sits at the waters edge waiting for one of these huge reptiles to surface and then goes completely bonkers!
The Caprivi Strip is a beautiful and quite diverse region of Namibia, and we really love the feeling of “true Africa” you get from it, but the long long tarmac road is mind numbingly boring, dead straight for hundreds of kilometres, the heat was 40c+, we have no air conditioning, and there is the constant threat of Antelope, Elephants, or even cattle, deciding to take on Colonel K in a one to one battle. You inevitably end up going a little crazy………
We ended up back at the campsite at Tsumeb, and parked up under the most impressive tree, simply stunning.
We stayed here for a few days, using the washing machines as they actually use hot water (its very rare to find a washing machine in Africa, and almost impossible to find one that actually uses hot water, so we normally wash by hand).We made good use of these facilities washing all of our dirty clothes, towels and complete bedding. We also got our gas bottle filled up, and re-stocked with food. We were all set for Etosha National Park………
We entered the Park using the eastern Namutoni Gate, and started slowly game driving around the eastern fringes of the park.
Wow, how different it was compared to last time we were here with our friends from England in late January 2016 (the wet season), its now so hot and dry, and the dust was everywhere. The other difference was the shocking condition of the gravel tracks in the Park, the corrugations were horrendous, and everyone was moaning about them. This was going to take its toll on any vehicle……..
We were parked up at one particular waterhole, watching the game jockeying for position to get a life saving drink, and admiring a huge Martial Eagle sat on his viewing position nearby, when he took off and hit its prey in the rocks next to the truck. We never did see what it caught in its talons, but I guess a rodent, small snake or a lizard, but we ended up sitting there for quite a while watching all this happening.
Anyway time was moving on and it was time to start heading to Halali camp, where we were booked in for the night. Colonel K had other ideas and although the dash and gauges were lighting up when the ignition was turned on, that was as far as we were going, not even a click from the starter motor, nothing!!! Bugger, now we have a problem….. Oh and guess what? no phone signal….. and our sat phone was tightly locked away in the back of the truck……… After about 10 minutes of fiddling about trying to start the truck (but still from within the cab, this isn’t a great place to be outside your vehicle), and deciding we need to fetch the satellite phone from the back, a very friendly Belgian tour owner/operator appeared with a Landcruiser full of guests, and insisted that we stay in the cab and he will use his sat phone to ring Namutoni Gate, to get a ranger and mechanic out to us. After the phone conversation, he shouted across to us that they were indeed sending people out to assist us, but he would again ring them in about 10 minutes to make sure that someone had indeed left and were on their way- this is Africa after all !
The second call confirmed that “hopefully”, “maybe” a ranger was on his way, and we worked out that they should be with us in a maximum of 30 minutes. We thanked the Belgian guy and his guests for waiting around and for him using his sat phone, and agreed that if we indeed made it to Halali camp that night I would buy them all a beer! One and a half hours later, still no mechanic or ranger appeared, then as if by magic the 5.9L Cummins engine turned over and fired into life……. Weird but a huge relief.
So, lessons learnt, when in a National Park keep the sat phone up front, keep a few essential tools in the cab, and never ever rely on NWR staff…….
We got to Halali and explained that we might need an extra night to sort out an issue with our vehicle. Without bothering to look at her computer and giving us proper attitude, the answer (as always) was “fully booked!”, “can you check please?”, the answer of course was (without checking) “fully booked!”
Within 5 minutes, Jac had logged onto the NWR website and booked a second night at Halali…………. Unbelievable really, but everyone has the same experience as we do.
Anyway hopefully we sorted the starting issue, just by tightening a few loose connections in various places, behind the dash, starter motor etc. Nothing was obviously very loose but lots of places the nuts took a turn with a spanner. It hasn’t been a issue since, but Im sure it was caused by the very badly deteriorated road conditions in Etosha, the truck is literally being shaken to bits, and we aren’t the only one. We have met others that have suffered punctures and mechanical problems. Apparently the Government hasn’t got the money to run a ‘grader’ in the park…… The problem now is that they have gone so far that they actually need new gravel applied in many places.
Anyway we spent two nights actually in the park, then 3 more nights at Etosha Safari Lodge (campsite of course) where we drove in each morning at sunrise. Of course we saw lots of amazing animals as you can see below.
And of course there are the predators, and at this time of year with the concentrations of game around the water holes, these guys do not go hungry. We were especially lucky to see and follow a beautiful Leopard in the early morning light, as he made his way from a waterhole trying to find somewhere to flop down and spend the day in the shade somewhere.
Its always a rare treat to see one of these largely nocturnal cats in daylight, but its especially rewarding when you are self driving. Of course there were other predators, including a huge number of Black Backed Jackals, who were always busy scavenging for eggs, or left overs, or basically anything edible, but it wasn’t unusual to see lots of quite large groups of jackals here at the moment. We also saw Spotted Hyena, Bat Eared Fox, and Lion.
But the Lions here in Etosha seem to be learning to use manmade things to improve their comfort and hunting habits, including this huge male Lion that was using a culvert under the gravel track for not only shade from the fierce mid day heat, but also as a hide out to ambush an unsuspecting Springbok or Impala. “Hawkeye Jac” spotted this one using her binoculars, while scanning around the nearby waterhole.
At another early morning (manmade) waterhole, we were sat there for at least 10 minutes, trying to work out why the game were so reluctant to approach the water for a drink, it was obvious that they weren’t happy, maybe we had just missed a pride of Lions or a Leopard and their smell was still lingering and making the Kudu wary.
Then Jac again spotted a small pride of Lions using the solar panels that are used to pump water from the borehole as a sunshade.
We stayed and watched these cats for over an hour, with the youngster playing with what looked like a lizard or something that he had caught (still alive). The amazing thing was the amount of vehicles that pulled into the waterhole area, saw there was not much happening and then just drove out. One Hilux pulled in with two american guys with huge cameras and lenses on board, after a quick scan around, out came their breakfast, and with their yogurts in hand I leaned out of my window and whispered across to them, “Lions”, and indicated the direction, the reaction and expletives that came from the car was comical. But it just goes to show you have to take your time and look around, the other important thing for me is that we don’t have air-con in our truck and so we always have our windows open, whether driving or sat game viewing. About 90% of vehicles in Etosha, have their air-con set at max, and only drop their windows when they need their massive lenses to photograph something (if they have seen it). The other thing that air-con does is make you drive so fast, as you are cocooned in your ice cold vehicle that you miss so much between various waterholes (honestly I’m not jealous of any air-conditioning in the searing heat of Africa lol).
Staying just outside the Anderson Gate, proved a much better option for us, camping was almost half the price as being at one of the NWR camps inside the park. The only down side was not having one of the fantastic flood lit waterholes that all the camps have inside the park, but we were parked on grass instead of the concrete dust bowls of Halali. Also as its privately run (part of the Gondwana Group) you didn’t feel like you needed a shower AFTER you had just had a shower! It was only about 10km back to the park gates, so we were in the park by about 7.00am each day.
But as usual some of the highlights of our time here weren’t about the big animals and this time we sat and watched (at quite a distance away) a Secretary Bird on her nest and re-gurging her meal and feeding her two chicks.
Other birds we saw were the huge Lappet-Faced Vulture, and lots of Tawny Eagles, Goshawks etc.
Also as we were pottering about in the Park in the mighty Daf, a snake appeared across the track in front of us, I pulled up and asked Jac to snap a couple of photos of it before is disappeared off into the bush (it was moving fast!). After a few shots with a slightly trembling hand, Jac announced “whoa it turned and is threatening me”, she got the shot just before it disappeared out of sight.
Eventually our time in Etosha was up, and we made our way towards Damaraland via the small dusty town of Kamanjab. We have stopped here a few times now and have always stayed at Kamanjab Rest Camp just outside town. But we had been told by a few people about another Lodge/Camp in the centre of town and decided to try this place. Oppi-Koppi is yet another great camp here in Northern Namibia, and as long term travellers driving a non-African registered vehicle we can camp for free!!
As we drove into the camp, we passed a couple that were looking at us intently, I waved and they waved back but pointed at the truck and carried on watching us. I did wonder why they were taking such an interest in either us or Colonel K, but just put it down to German tourists (at least 80% of tourists here in Namibia are Geman) that hadn’t seen a European truck in these parts. I was wrong on many accounts, as within ten minutes of parking up John and his wife Oddrun came and said hello. First of all they are Norwegian, and they were also here in a European truck, a really nice 4×4 Scania (ex-Norwegian Army). But the crazy thing was (and the reason that they were looking at us as we drove in) was that they have been following and reading our blog for the past two years, and were surprised to actually meet us.
We spent a fantastic evening with John and Oddrun, exchanging stories, and hearing about their amazing up-bringing and early years living in Africa. This trip for them is almost a home coming, we wish them a safe and fun journey up through East Africa.
The first morning of being at Oppi-Koppi, I got up nice and early to take advantage of the cool morning air to check over the truck after the punishing corrugated roads of Etosha. After removing all our storage boxes from behind Jac’s seat, and securing everything else before tilting the cab (you don’t want any flying items falling through the windscreen), I started pumping up the cab and got it just over half way, when all of a sudden the pump handle suddenly lost all resistance, looking underneath the front of the truck, showed the culprit, the hydraulic hoses on both rams had gone, releasing all the hydraulic fluid all over the ground….. Bugger.
After a quick look to see if it was something I could sort out (no chance!!!), I drove the short distance to the one garage in town. The two hoses that were leaking were completely knackered and needed replacing and it looked like one of the others was also leaking very slightly. So the choice was have the hoses removed and sent away to Outjo (about 200km away) for new hoses to be made, or drive to Swakopmund or Windhoek where new ones could be made there. I wasn’t keen on driving on more badly corrugated roads, and not being able to access the engine if we again had a problem. So the guys removed all four hoses connecting the rams and someone drove them to Outjo that day. That was on Friday so it looks like we are stranded until early next week, but I spoke to the garage owner on Saturday and he confirmed that he had just collected the hoses and they would fit them first thing Monday morning.
Whilst I was at the garage, the owners wife was showing me some of her amazing metal art work that she had made, when one of the mechanics spotted a snake up on the roof of the workshop, it was funny how they all reacted to the unwelcome visitor (the snake not me), with only the female owner remaining calm and clambering up on a pile of bricks armed only with a plastic rake!!! Everyone else had very quickly disappeared. She seemed to think it was a Boomslang, a very poisonous snake, and seemed a little upset that she didn’t catch it, and that it had probably gone through into her adjoining house!!! Its a very different way of life out here…….
Anyway we are stranded for a few more days here at Oppi-Koppi, but there are worse places to be stranded, its got a very very reasonable bar (we watched the SA v Australia Rugby last night), a decent menu for food, and even a very small pool, and of course the camping is free……. So as not to impose on the owners generous offer of free camping too much (we really aren’t free loaders you know) we have taken to at least spending a reasonable amount of money in the bar……. well its only fair eh.
Thanks for reading