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
We left Capetown, and headed east to the famous wine area of Stellenbosch, this is surprisingly close to the city, taking no more than a couple of hours. After a drive around the very affluent town, we carried on to find a winery to do a bit of tasting. We are lucky enough to have a friend that works in the wine trade (Kate, who met us in Morocco with Richard and Jocie, about seven months ago), who had kindly emailed us a few winery’s that might be worth looking at. Then strangely enough, Jac decided that this was worth doing some planning for (the first time this trip), and hey presto we ended up at the far end of a tiny road, at Jordan Wine Estate. We obviously arrived in Colonel K, feeling very under dressed (this is a posh gig), and went to find out how all this tasting works.
We were told that we could choose between tasting three, or six different wines, we decided to make a day of it and go for the six! The lovely Helen was very good with us wine heathens, and seemed extremely knowledgeable about not only the wines but also the farm itself.
The place is so relaxing, and the setting at the end of the Kloof (valley) is quite breath taking, along with the area outside used for the wine tasting, there is also a restaurant, and the less formal ‘Bakery’, where we had lunch after we had finished the six wines.
This is good quality wine produced here, in fairly low quantities (though enough to supply British Airways Business Class), and the cost of tasting six of their wines was less than £2.50 per person, and this was deducted from the cost of any bottles that were purchased. We ended up buying 8 bottles, for approx £42.00. The lunch from the Bakery was some of the best food we have eaten all trip, and was less than £15 for the two of us including drinks (more wine for Jac). This was an immensely enjoyable day at Jordan’s, and it is a place we would recommend going to if you are around the Stellenbosch area. But as always, it was time to leave and extract Colonel K from under the huge weeping willow tree that we tried to hide it under.
We drove to a camp near Stellenbosch and found a quiet spot deep into a conifer forest, and settled down for the evening.
Sometimes wildlife just comes to you, and can do the strangest things. In this instant we were watching a very busy tree squirrel, scuttling about, both on the ground and then in a tree, when all of a sudden a Goshawk landed on the branch next to it.
Then quickly the squirrel jumped away from the Goshawk, and landed off in the next tree. About a minute later the bird flew into the same tree as the squirrel, a branch below. What happened next really surprised us, the cute little squirrel, jumped down onto the same branch and leapt at the Goshawk! That was one mean squirrel, that sent the Goshawk off packing.
From Stellenbosch, we drove south down to Betty’s Bay, on the way passing a couple of surfing spots. Here sharks are a constant threat to surfers, and high up on the cliffs they operate a series of flag signals, operated by a lookout who’s job it is to watch the clear waters for any sign of large sharks that may come in close.
The day we were there the black flag with the white shark was being shown, this indicated that spotting conditions were poor, this seemed a bit of a cop-out, considering it was clear blue skies and the ocean seemed clear, perhaps its just to cover the spotters butt. The sign also shows that the last time that a large shark was spotted was 03-01-16, just two days before! There were dozens of surfers in the water below us.
There was also another reminder of the dangers of surfing here.
Once at Betty’s Bay, we were treated to our first sight of wild African Penguins. We were hoping to see maybe 5 or 6 birds here, but there were hundreds and hundreds of them. They were in the middle of their 3 week fasting period, and during this period they shed their plumage, and can look very scruffy.
This haven for wildlife is ironically on the site of an old Whaling Station, and some of the buildings are still here, including this watch tower that was used to notify the people on land of a whaler ship that was arriving (not as a lookout for whales). It is now resident to penguins and a huge number of Cape Cormorants.
From Betty’s Bay, we followed the coast until we got to Cape Overberg (or more commonly known as the Whale Coast, not the whale spotting season at the moment), and at Gansbaai, we turned inland to the delightful town of Stanford. This is a really unspoilt little town, with lots of buildings dating from Victorian times to the 1930’s.
We stopped here for lunch, and parked the Daf outside which caused a bit of a stir, with lots of people asking us questions about our trip so far and the truck itself. As we were sitting there eating lunch, we noticed that there was a bush fire some distance away, and quite a lot of emergency vehicles were heading that way.
About 5km out of town we were stopped at a police road block due to the bush fire ahead of us. We were behind about 3 cars, and waited about five minutes before the police deemed it safe for us to carry on.
We were at the bottom of a long drag uphill, and without any form of run up the Daf was only ever going to climb this one slowly! The few cars in front of us shot off at a fast rate, and the 6 or so cars that had pulled up behind us as we waited, very soon overtook us and disappeared over the crest of the hill. As we got closer to the top of the hill two things became apparent, firstly it was obvious that the police had once again closed the road behind us, and secondly, us and the fire were converging at the top of the hill.
It was very windy and we could see the bush fire spreading towards us at an alarming rate. Should we stop, or carry on towards the fire? We decided to close all the windows and carry on. We hit the top of the hill at exactly the same time as the fire reached the road!
The heat inside the cab through the glass was unbelievable and it was a very scary situation to find ourselves in. I’m sure that the police would not have let us through the road block had they known how slow our trusty Leyland Daf was. But all three of us came out of the little drama unscathed (again).
This is the other side of the road, as you can see it had already blown some fire across the road as we got there. Photos courtesy of Jac, in the passenger seat.
After the drama of the bush fire, we turned off the tarmac and drove across the farmland of Cape Overberg, this 80km or so, has got so many birds of prey, inc buzzards, kites, and goshawks, at times they were sat on virtually every other fence posts.
We also spotted this flock of Blue Crane’s in the wheat field.
Next we visited Cape L’Agulhas, this is the most Southerly Point on the African Continent (not Cape of Good Hope), and is also the meeting point of the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean. Its a lovely spot and with virtually no tourists (very different to Cape Hope), a very pleasant place to spend a night.
We managed to get the truck within 150 metres of the most Southern Point.
Then had to walk the rest of the way!
We had read in the guide book that there is a protected fishing village called Waehuisrans, (or the English name of Arniston), it is a bit of a long detour to get to it, but it is a lovely place, with locals still living in the traditional stone cottages.
And of course there is a stunning beach here.
Jac had spotted a place at the top of the Overberg Peninsular, called De Hoop Nature Reserve, that offered accommodation and camping, so we headed there next. As we went over the top of the pass, we were shown what to expect, lots of sand dunes, lakes, and veld areas.
This really is a hidden gem, and instead of just overnighting here as we planned we stayed for four nights. There are lots of wildlife here (though sadly no big game or predators), with many species of Antelope, Baboons, Zebra, and lots of birdlife, including Ibis, and the very rare and endangered African Oyster Catcher.
They have set out some mountain bike routes too, so obviously we took advantage of these and one day did a 25km round trip to the dunes and the coast, this was fantastic experience cycling through the veld, constantly on the look out of the numerous snakes here, and traversing the rocky sections.
But the jewel here is definitely the coast at De Hoop, the numerous rock pools are full of fish, and there is colourful coral growing in most of them, you have everything from huge sand dunes to rocky cliffs.
On the way back to the lodge we came across a place where I guess something had attacked a porcupine, there were dozens of the super sharp quills across our path.
We visited the beach once more while at De Hoop, this time driving down in the truck, and walking quite a long way along the coast, and spending more time exploring the beautiful crystal clear rock pools.
Surprisingly we also came across this big bees nest clinging on the rocks above the beach, the flowers here are plentiful but tiny, and the bees must surely have to work hard here.
From Cape Overberg, we will head up to Windhoek, Namibia, crossing the Great Karoo before hitting the border, meeting our friends James and Nicky at the end of January. We are going to travel through Northern Namibia with them for 11 days, before leaving them and heading over to Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique etc. We are really looking forward to seeing them in Windhoek, and hope they enjoy Southern Africa as much as we do.
Thanks for reading our blog.
After leaving Rondeberg, we drove into Clanwilliam and had an English breakfast in Nancy’s Tea Rooms, then restocked at the Spar, and found the local Agri-Mart store. This is a cross between a DIY shop and farmers store, here we bought a few bits for the truck, and refilled our 5kg South African gas bottle. Then set off for our pre-booked camping spot that would see us through the crazy time of Christmas and New Year, at Jamaka in the Cederberg Mountains. The drive to the organic citrus farm took us high up over a very steep pass, and then back down into the beautiful valley below, this was the sign just over the top of the pass. The 1km walk down was very steep, the 10km drive was steep enough!
Jamaka is a big camp site (maybe 200 sites), but they are stretched all along the river, under trees, and not in the regimental way that some camp sites are run. We spent 11 days at Jamaka and had a really good time, and we met some great people here, with invites not only to their camps for drinks, but also invites to spend New Years Eve with people at their homes in Capetown. We were especially made welcome by Carlos, his wife and family and the bikers that they were camping with over Christmas (we had a great Boxing Day night with these guys).
While we were staying at Jamaka, the Cape area was experiencing a bit of a heat wave, with temperatures exceeding 40c some days and the only time to go for a walk really was early in the morning before the sun became too hot, and we did have some great walks through the mango, lemon and lime orchards, along the river and up into the hills (though not as far as we would have liked due to the heat).
The photo below was taken from the rocks above the river, and you can see the tree line that hugs the river and it is under these trees that the various camp spots are located, it stretches for approx 3km from end to end.
With the intense heat the only way to cool down was to take a plunge and a swim in the ice cold mountain river, and it really did cool you down, especially if you went for an early morning dip after a sweaty walk.
This was our favourite spot, it was about 2 metres deep, and about 30m long so swimming in here was perfectly feasible, there were also a couple of large boulders that were just under the surface in the margins, that you could sit on but still be in the water, and watch the fish re-emerge to swim up and down below you.
Whilst here we did a few jobs on the truck, including stripping out the shower, fixing a minor leak behind it and re-sealing it up with silicone. We have suffered a few minor leaks, and I’m convinced they are caused by a combination of the extreme heat of the Namibian desert and the very rough corrugated gravel tracks. Once these are fixed (usually no more than tightening up of a Jubilee Clip) they don’t seem to give any more trouble.
Colonel K was decked out in all his Christmas finest, which the local kids seem to find very amusing.
And for Christmas, I made Jac a walking/anti-snake stick (it makes her feel better while walking, though I’m not sure what she will do with the stick if a Cape Cobra rears up in front of her). Its amazing what you can do with a machete and a sharp knife.
Whilst we were camped at Jamaka, we learn’t that there are an abundance of Leopards living in the mountains (these are very shy animals, and you would be very lucky to spot one during the day), and because of these all the farm livestock has to be brought inside a kraal at night, or these will be taken by the big cats. Obviously we didn’t see any Leopard, but we did see some very large insects in our camp space, including the following (the first one was about 150mm long from one end to the other, and check out that huge spike on the tail of it).
Then there was this 100mm long armour plated thing that decided that it quite liked Jacs chair.
And of course a nice big millipede that set up residence with us.
And as with this whole area of South Africa, there are Tortoises everywhere.
We had a very quiet New Years Eve, seeing in 2016 outside in our hammocks (we have two now), drinking wine and fizz, and watching the brilliantly clear sky with all stars and the moon. A quiet one, but one we will never forget (and no major hangover the next day).
After New Year, we left Jamaka early in the morning (taking the short cut up the steep banks, and out through the orchards), and very slowly climbed up over the Nieuwoudt’s Pass and back towards the tarmac N7. From part of the way up the pass we took this photo which shows the river and the trees of the campsite below, the building on the right is the farm house.
On the way we realised that even the cows use the same method as us to cool down.
We had a tip off from one of the campers to stop at the top of the very long slow drag up the Piekenierskloof Pass on the N7, (this is a very hilly place), and stop for breakfast at a restaurant here to rest the truck, and have great food and coffee. This was a fantastic place to sit out on the veranda, take in the views and have a hearty breakfast. Then just as we were finishing our food Daniel (who told us about the place) and his wife and three son’s arrived, as most people we have met here in SA, they were very friendly towards us and gave us their phone number should we need any help. such as a lift anywhere in Capetown. Check out the Rooibos Latte (yes a Latte made with Rooibos tea).
We decided that the best way to see Capetown was to stay in the campsite at Melkbosstrand (about 25km North of the city centre) and then get the new bus service into the city. Melkbosstrand is very much a holiday type small town, right on the beach, and is just south of South Africa’s only Nuclear Power Station (clearly visible along the beach to the North).
To the South along the beach (towards Capetown) you can see Table Mountain dominating the sky line.
Although there was a bus stop right outside the campsite, when Jac looked online, it soon became apparent that to get to say the V&A Waterfront in Capetown, we would need to change buses two or three times, so this wasn’t practical, and we had already been told that parking Colonel K in the city was going to be an issue, so we looked at hiring a car. After a quick call to Avis, we agreed on a deal that was a no-brainer, the cost per day was just over £11.00, and they would deliver and pick up the car to and from the camp site for £18.00. So next morning a brand new Hyundai Accent was delivered right on time at 9.30 paperwork was done and Jac was a named driver! Result.
Those of you that know us, will also know that we are not city folk! We would normally be quite happy to bypass a city rather than spend time there, Capetown is different. It is set in the most spectacular setting, with the sky line dominated by Table Mountain, and it is a very clean and modern city (so unlike any other city we have seen in Africa). It also feels very safe to walk around, though we were told to be careful by many local people that we met.
The Victoria and Albert Waterfront is a mass of shopping malls (mostly expensive western shops), traditional arts and crafts shops (again quite expensive) and lots of bars and cafes. It also takes in the marina, and port areas, including the dry dock (which amazingly is still used to work on ships).
The quality of the food, wine and beers here is very good, like this rare seared Tuna, mmmmm.
But sometimes you just can’t make up your mind about what beer to drink, so maybe a bit of each sir?
Africa is hard on your clothes! Its probably a combination of over use (small wardrobe), over washing (lots of dust and dirt) and copious amounts of sweat, that just seems to destroy all your clothes, so we took the opportunity to replenish our wardrobes with more shorts and tops, and footwear (what more do you need?).
We watched this huge and very tatty Chinese fishing vessel enter the harbour (requiring all the bridges to be raised), the smell was horrendous, and it had two tugs to push and pull it into position. The next time we visited there a couple of days later, the ship was in the dry dock and having work done on it.
Our visit to Capetown coincided with the England cricket team taking on South Africa in the Second Test match, and it was full of cricket fans (also known as The Barmy Army) in the bars and restaurants. They were all very quiet and well behaved, and so unlike English football fans abroad.
Using the hire car, the next day we drove to Houtbaai, for lunch next to the marina, this was a fantastic place overlooking the angling boats returning with their catches of Yellowfin Tuna, and seemingly very happy clients.
The marina here was full of seals, and they came right under us as we sat on the veranda, having our lunch.
It was here that for the first time both Jac and I had and enjoyed Sushi, it was amazingly good, very moist, and obviously fresh fish was used.
The plan was to get the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain, but we should have done it on the first day, as every day that we were there, it was either too cloudy (at the peak) or it was too windy and the cable car was closed. So alas we missed this treat, but the drive around the Houtbaai and Llandudno areas just South of Capetown shows some stunning views.
On the way back to the campsite we decided to visit a huge shopping Mall called Canal Walk in Century City, that we had passed the previous evening. Now I know that Bluewater shopping centre in Kent is big, but this place is VAST! It is so bright and glitzy, and would put to shame anything that Vegas could throw at you. We had dinner here in a very nice Italian place.
The next day (again using the rental car, and Jac driving) we drove to Cape Point or the Cape of Good Hope, via Fish Hoek, and Simonstown. These Southern Suburbs (as they are known), offer some great historical buildings, and small towns.
Then we got to Cape Point, it was quite busy here and you park quite a long way from the Lighthouse and the point itself, and it is a fair walk up (you can get a funicular railway up, but obviously we walked it).
Contrary to common belief, the Cape of Good Hope is not the most southerly place in Africa, nor is it where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian Ocean, both of these two happen at Cape L’Agulhas, which is way over to the East on Cape Overburg (we will go there too), but it is the place that the tourists flock too for their photos (like us).
On the was back to the campsite we drove up the West side of the peninsula via Scarborough, Kommetjie, and Chapmans Peak. Again this offered some amazing scenery, and as you get closer to Capetown, some very nice coastal properties. This really is the place for the rich and famous in South Africa. By the way we were told by more than a few locals that Capetown has the highest concentration of female models on the planet. I have not seen anything that would give you cause to argue this fact!!
We had our little Hyundai for four days and put over 500km on the clock (well Jac did, I had a rest from driving for a few days), we probably saved the £11.00 per day by not doing the 500km in Colonel K, but whilst it was a great way of getting around for a few days, we were glad to hand it back and carry on in our trusty Daf truck.
Next up the wine region of Stellenbosch.
The Three of us would like wish all our family and friends, and all those who have been following The Lorrywaydown for the last nine months, and especially the people that we have met on our travels and are still keeping in touch with us a Happy New Year.
We hope that 2016 is as much fun for everyone as 2015 has been for us.
Vince, Jac’s and Colonel K
We left the holiday town of Lamberts Bay in the Western Cape of South Africa, and hugged the coast further southwards towards Capetown until we got the the fishing town of Paternoster. In many ways this place reminded us of our Kentish town of Whitstable, there are lots of new houses alongside more traditional dwellings, its still very much a fishing town for the locals, and there are quite a few trendy bars, coffee shops, and tacky shops (so a Southern Hemisphere Whitstable). We drove Colonel K through the fairly narrow streets and travelled a further 7km down a gravel track to a fantastic campsite in the Columbine Nature Reserve. This took us up past the lighthouse and then down into the fantastically named Tieties Baai (or bay to us English speakers). This campsite is in the most stunning setting, with a combination of sandy beaches, and huge smooth granite boulders making up this dramatic coastline, where the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean constantly pound this area that juts out into the sea.
Ever since we got to the southern half of Namibia, we have been told that for 3-4 weeks over christmas and new year the campsites in both these countries will be packed and most probably fully booked. Since then we have started to see just that! When we were at the huge, 300 pitch campsite in Lamberts Bay, we were told that despite the fact that they were less than a quarter full when we were there, the next week they were fully pre booked, all 300 pitches! So it was no surprise that when we turned up at Tieties Baai, we were told they were fully booked over xmas and new year but could give us a place for two nights, but we would have to give it up when the other people arrived. When we got to our designated pitch we were gobsmacked with what we saw. Some families had booked and taken 3 or 4 pitches together and even had portaloo’s delivered so they didn’t have to use the common ablution blocks. These were almost small villages set up to receive the rest of their families once schools and work had finished for the festive period. We saw generators (theres no mains hook up power here) powering upright fridge freezers, even proper domestic electric cookers, there were caravans with an awning linked to another awning, linked to another awning, linked to another ………. And of course all of this fully enclosed with a wind break.
Now I know you must be thinking that we hated this place, but it was only about quarter full and strangely we loved it here, (apart from the disgusting toilets and showers that were never cleaned) the walks along the coast here are fantastic and you could stop, sit and watch the sea for ages.
We also met some fantastic friendly people here, including one couple (they actually went to work in their estate agency business in nearby Britannia Bay during the day) who’s young daughter was desperate to see inside the back of Colonel K (we get this quite a lot), once she had been and looked, she was telling me about her first fishing trip, and her proud Dad was boasting that she caught no less than 3 on her first outing. Not that remarkable I hear you say, and then I realised this wasn’t using a normal rod and line, oh no! This was spear gun fishing, using no more than a mask, snorkel, fins, and a huge and deadly spear gun. Our guess was that she was about twelve or thirteen years old, and she was so proud of her fishing with her dad. Mollycoddling parents need not apply in South Africa.
Our two nights at Tieties Baai went very quickly and we soon had to head off to pastures new, but on the way out of the campsite we noticed another smaller bay which was not marked out into pitches, so we asked at the gate what that was for, the answer was for non pre booked guests that could just turn up and camp! Why had they not told us about that before I don’t know. Anyway we were packed up and heading to the nearby town of Vredenburg, for some retail therapy in the new modern Shopping Mall. This was the first proper Mall since Accra, Ghana, and it was very nice to spend a bit of time perusing the shops, especially the 2 or 3 camping and outdoor stores here. Jac topped up her wardrobe with new shorts, tops and shoes, and I got an errr, errr ,a Baboon repelling device…..
This simple catapult will save me dragging my arm out of its socket next time we are plagued with the dreaded baboon’s, and I’m sure it won’t be long before its called into action, it has a truly fearsome 175+ yard range, and believe it or not was the least powerful of those in the store.
Whilst there, we stopped in a coffee shop and had drinks and a huge slice of cake, done a bit of food shopping, etc and before we knew it it was into the afternoon, so we decided to take our chances and head back to Tieties Baai for the night (hoping we could squeeze into the non-bookable area before the main site). On the way back along the tarmac road to Paternoster, I had to swerve to avoid this little fella that was very very slowly crossing the road.
Once he (or she) had been safely deposited into the dry grassy verge, and faced away from the road, we went onto the entrance gate for the Nature Reserve and campsite. The woman at the desk was surprised to see us back and explained that we couldn’t have our old site again, we explained that we just wanted to go to the non bookable area, which she couldn’t seem to comprehend. Anyway she said we could park anywhere we wanted as long as it wasn’t in a set out pitch. There were a couple of camps already set up here (one looking like a self contained village), but we managed to squeeze in-between a few rocks and were as close to the sea as we could risk it. It was a perfect place, our view was straight out to the sea, and no-one was overlooking us. We ended up staying for a further 4 nights, there was even an ablution block that was much cleaner and tidier than on the main campsite.
One day we decided (in the heat of the day) to walk into Paternoster, this is a round trip of about 15km, we had a lovely lunch out the front of one of the hotels, watching the illegal selling of Crayfish to anyone that stops to the weird hand movement of the dodgy looking sellers along the main street. We were told by a local that only in Paternoster do the authorities turn a blind eye to this trade, and its almost become a tourist attraction in its own right. What it does for the local Crayfish population I don’t know. Whilst in Paternoster Jac topped up her wardrobe again, and I got errr, errr, nothing! It was a tough walk back with full bellies, an almost empty water bottle and the early afternoon scorching sun. As usual the sunsets were stunning off this west coast.
The sea here is quite cold, and pretty rough, and its not a pleasurable experience to enter the water, but one pastime that seems popular here is donning a wetsuit, mask and snorkel and stuffing your hand into gaps in the rocks and pulling out Crayfish (this is legal, but you can’t sell them). We watched these guys first in the rock pools that had filled at high tide, and then in the massive surf, they were taking a huge battering, getting tangled in the flowing kelp and then smacked about by the breaking waves on the rocks. All for a couple of small Crayfish.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Tieties Bay, and at only 140 Rand a night for the two of us and Colonel K (less than £7.00) it was a real bargain, though I think that if we arrived a week later our experience would have been very different. The birdlife here was again very varied, and along with the usual falcons, kestrels and other birds of prey, there were the constant lines of thousands of Cape Cormorants that were flying in both directions up and down the coast (though mostly towards the north).
Due to the crazy holiday period we have decided (for the first time on this 9 month trip so far), to prebook a couple of campsites that will take us through to the new year. The first of these is in a Vineyard, yup a week in a Vineyard! But this is a Vineyard with a campsite, a large mountain lake (called a dam here) with large dams at either end, a smaller fishing pond (also called a dam here), oh and its fully booked!
For the first few days we were camped next to a great South African couple, Dries, and his wife Almarie who asked us if we would like to join them on their last night here, on a trip to a fish restaurant on the coast. Of course we accepted their kind offer and piled into their brand new Mazda BT50 Backie (pick up), en-route we stopped so that Dries could show me the Rooibos shrub that they make tea from. We couldn’t believe that this tasty tea comes from such a tiny insignificant plant.
It was about an hours drive on the tarmac, and then we turned down the bumpy gravel track until we arrived at Muisbosskerm. The whole restaurant is enclosed with old dried and thorny bushes stuffed together so tight in the traditional way of enclosing your family and stock of animals this is the traditional “Boma”. Muisbosskerm means literally Mouse Bush Enclosure, there are no walls here, just Mouse Bush.
As you can see the restaurant is RIGHT on the beach, and it is a stunning location.
The fish is prepared there, and we watched as Angel Fish, Snook, and Yellow Tail were filleted and made ready for the evening buffet to come.
And wow what a buffet, there were so many types of fish (most we had never tasted before) along with many other traditional South African foods, including sweet potato’s cooked with honey, and some strange air dried and salted fish. We had a great night with some fantastic company, and the cost of all this food? about £12.00 each.
Our Vineyard camp is on the outskirts of the Cederberg Mountains (just north of Capetown), and the owner has given us permission to use the vineyards to cycle round on our mountain bikes, this was a shock to both of us the first time we went off in the early morning (its still very hot even then), as the sand tracks that surround the rows of vines really take some getting used to, either you lose traction as the rear wheel just spins or the front wheel just wants to wash out on you. We can see now why they have special mountain bikes here with huge ballon type tyres to ride on top of the sand.
We also took an early morning walk on the hiking trail around the hill overlooking the lake, this takes about one and half hours and climbs at the rear of the hill to the top, where there are some lovely views in all directions.
You could clearly see the incredible irrigation system that the farmers have installed into the hill sides for the growing of their grapes, the cost of this must be massive and it goes to show how valuable the grapes are here.
Before setting off on the walk (a very under used path) we were warned by the manager of the campsite to keep our eyes open for snakes, as there are an abundance of Puff Adder’s and Cobra’s in the rocks at this time of year (its summer here at the moment), needless to say we were very heavy with our footfall, and constantly checking out the pathway ahead of ourselves. No snakes were seen though. Dries and Almarie had previously said that they have a snake to deal with on their small holding near Pretoria about once a week, some harmless but also Puff Adder’s and Cobra’s, though their Fox Terriers and even their German Short Haired Pointer have been known to catch these slippery and dangerous fellas.
We are nearly at the end of our extended trip to the vineyard, and although we have caught up on a few jobs on Colonel K, most of the time has been spent chilling in the shade and of course reading lots of books.
Next we move further into the Cederberg Mountains, where we will spend Christmas and New Year on an Organic Orange Farm. After new year we plan to travel down to Capetown and then along the “Garden Route” towards Port Elizabeth for a couple of weeks, at this point our plans have changed! We have heard that a couple of our friends are travelling to Southern Africa, and we have agreed to meet them in Windhoek, Namibia, at the end of January and then travel with them for 11 days. We are very excited to see them, and we hope they will enjoy Namibia as much as we do.
We would like to wish everyone that has been following Lorrywaydown a very Happy Christmas and a fantastic New Year x
V & J x
After leaving Quiver Tree Forest we headed further south towards Fish River Canyon. On the way we stopped for a couple of nights at the well known Canon Roadhouse, this is a strange place, absolutely crammed with old automobile bits and pieces (both inside and outside), verging on the slightly tacky, but strangely in the arid area that it is set, it just works.
While we were there, we were sat out the front having a quick beer from the bar (there were no other customers, either staying in the lodge or on the campsite), when I noticed a motorbike parked just out of eyesight in the shade of a tree, so I went to have a look. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I realised that it was the same Honda 125 (with a UK plate) that we had previously seen outside the Burkina Faso embassy in Bamako, Mali. Just then Jordan appeared round the corner, he was just as amazed to see us as we were to see him!
After sharing a couple of beers from the bar, we invited Jordan back to the campsite for some dinner, and after a huge curry made by Jac, he set off to find a suitable place to put up his tent (he will not pay for a campsite, and they wouldn’t let him stay without paying even on our huge camp area). He has really had some amazing adventures, including doing the infamous Kinshasa to Lubumbashi route through the DRC, all on his trusty little thirty year old 125. Virtually every night he has slept in his tiny tent by the side of the road. It was great to catch up with him again and share tales, and after offering him anything he wanted from our food supplies (he refused to accept anything), he set off leaving a trail of dust in the early evening dusk.
Next morning we set off for Fish River Canyon, and just after turning off the main gravel road into the smaller access track to the Canyon there was Jordan again, so we stopped, and after a quick chat about the canyon (he was just leaving), he asked if we could spare some sugar, so Jac got in the back of Colonel K and appeared with half a small bag of sugar and a number on bags of dehydrated meals that we brought with us, and left a very grateful Jordan repacking his tiny bags on his bike.
We have been lucky enough to see the Grand Canyon in USA, which is officially the largest in the world, with Fish River Canyon being the second largest. There were virtually no visitors at the canyon view areas, and you can actually drive both left and right around the rim of the canyon for a few kilometres each way, with absolutely no restrictions or barriers to stop you getting to the edge (this is Africa after all), all adding up to a very pleasurable experience.
The views are breathtaking, and amazingly we even spotted a small herd of Zebra deep in the canyon. There were Eagles wheeling around in the hot air, and it was completely silent.
After spending a few hours at Fish River Canyon, we headed for the Hot Springs at Ai-Ais, where they have a campsite at the NWR run “resort”. We had met a few people that said it was quite a nice place, so planned to spend a couple of nights there. It turned out to be a disappointment,rather overpriced campsite, which is so often the case with NWR run places. It was very dirty, there was an outdoor pool (that we did venture into), but the bottom was covered in dirt and sand, and there was even green algae on the sides, and despite there being large numbers of staff about, the toilets and showers were in a poor state. We only stayed one night and moved on. Incidentally, the famous hot spring was closed off to bathers as the water temperature was too hot! It was extremely hot and sticky down there, even the dirty pool was warmer than a bath!
So next morning we set off towards the border with South Africa, planning to spend one night on the Orange River (this separates the two countries), This couple of hundred kilometres really does show up the countryside changing from arid desert to greener areas along the Orange River. But first we had to climb up out of the canyon floor (Ai-Ais is right in the base of Fish River), so after ensuring that we had a nice warm engine, we slowly (as usual) climbed, and climbed up to the main dirt track that was going to lead us to Aussenkehr.
We even saw a herd of the much rarer Hartmanns Mountain Zebra, these are distinguished by their lighter frame, unstripped under parts and the stripping going to the bottom of their legs.
Then as we started to drive along the river, everything changed, there were huge areas of green irrigated land, and there were large areas of vineyards.
This is still a very sandy area, so heaven knows how much water is being extracted out of the river to produce these grapes, but whole new villages mostly of reed and corrugated steel construction have sprung up to support these ventures.
We arrived at Amanzi River Camp, planning to just overnight here, but ended up staying for four nights, we loved it here. Each camp area is huge, and there is some nice natural shade from the trees. Its a family run campsite that specialises in 4 or 5 day canoe trips up the Orange River, they also hire out two man canoes on a very low day rate (80p a day after the first day). They are extremely relaxed with how and when you use the canoes, the only restrictions are the weirs above and below the campsite.
In places the cliffs rise almost vertically out from the river on the South African side, and the bird life in the nooks and crannies along the river is fantastic, with Falcons, Vultures, Eagles whirling and hunting high above the river, and then this Hadeda Ibis that was extremely noisy as we approached her cave just above the water line, then we realised that she was protecting her young in the nest behind.
There were also many types of Kingfishers as well including the quite common Pied Kingfisher, but for the first time on this trip we managed to get some photos of a Giant Kingfisher, this is the worlds largest Kingfisher, and it has a wingspan of almost half a metre, and a huge dagger like bill that gives it an almost pre-historic look to it.
There was also several African Darter’s, which when in the water only have their slender neck above the water and then gracefully slide under to fish again, this gives the impression of a snake in the water and is quite unnerving to see (especially when you are swimming near one).
We had the canoe for three days, and had a great time, paddling, swimming and fishing in the Orange River.
And yes I did catch fish! Safely released back into the Orange River.
Whilst at Amanzi, we met a really nice retired South African guy who arrived in a classic old Mercedes Benz 911 four wheel drive truck, he kindly gave us lots of tips for South Africa. The truck was home built by him and weighed in at a staggering 11 tonnes! And we thought Colonel K was a bit portly at 9.5 tonnes. Check out the Water Buffalo skull and horns on the front of the roof rack.
Then it was off to the border crossing at Noordoewer, this was to be our first land border crossing since we left Burkina Faso and entered Ghana. What a difference, we were through both borders in less than 45 minutes, and the customs officials from both countries actually knew how to fill in the Carnet de Passage! A very pleasant experience and it makes you wonder why North and West African borders have to be so difficult and time consuming.
After the all clear from the border officials we headed for the small town of Springbok, where we went into town to stock up on food and drink at the Spar, and bought a South African sim card for our trusty iPhone. We then found a campsite on the outskirts of town and stayed for one night.
From Springbok we headed west towards the coast, this first part of road is tarmac and takes you up over two high passes, the Sandhoogte Pass and then the Spektakel Pass, and make no mistake this area of the country (as is much of the rest of it) is very, very hilly.
After the Passes, the road turns into a gravel track until it reaches the tiny coastal town of Kleinsee, this track in places is very rough and not very well maintained. But Kleinsee is in the West Coast Diamond Area, so once there if you are travelling south you have a fairly good tarmac road to travel on, then at the southern end it becomes gravel again. As is the case with most mining enterprises at the moment, they are having a hard time, and we were told by one local that the Diamond mines in this area had recently been closed down, then sold by De Beers, and the new owner is in the process of re-opening the mines. This is very good news for the local population as apart from fishing, there is nothing else in this area for work. As you enter the Diamond Area you go through a barrier with a serious looking gate house, these were completely un-manned and we just slowly drove through waiting for someone to shout at us to stop but nothing, it was the same as we left in the south at Kolingraas, only this time there were a couple of guys in a huge high watch tower, but again we weren’t stopped. Im sure once all the mining is up and running again security will be stepped up again.
That night we stayed at the Municipal campsite in Hondeklip Bay, and in true African style you have to find the appropriate council building in the little town (nicely hidden away down a back “road”) to pay for the camping. They are also supposed to give you a key for the ablution block, which they didn’t, and we didn’t realise until we had driven back to the campsite and set everything up. Jac was not happy and said she wasn’t going back to queue up again in the council building, so we used our own toilet and shower. Hondeklip Bay is a very traditional small fishing town with a small harbour, and because it is so far north and a long way from the nearest main road, tourism doesn’t seem to have made a huge impact here yet. Its quite a rough and ready town and with just a couple of bars next to the harbour, it has got a decent amount of “character” to it. Tarmac has not reached the town but its no worse for it.
There is still a large ship wreck near the mouth of the bay, which was covered by a flock of Cape Cormorants.
Next stop was Lamberts Bay, and this was a full days drive, mostly on gravel and sandy tracks, but again the beautiful scenery of the west coast keeps you going, and of course you do still see some wildlife including a flock of Karoo Kohaan.
Eventually we ended up back on the N7 tarmac road and the change was instant, we were suddenly in the wine producing vineyards, stretching as far as the eye could see, right up to the edge of the Cederburg Mountains. Mmmmmm we are liking South Africa!
Lambert’s Bay is a big holiday town, and the campsite in the town was huge, so we only spent a couple of nights there, but it does have a stunning white sandy beach that stretches for miles along the coast, it also feels a very safe place to walk around.
But with the campsite having space for over 300 pitches and all of them right on top of each other (and it is fully booked for the 3 to 4 weeks over christmas and new year) we decided not to stay for long, and move further South, and closer to Capetown.
Thanks for reading
After leaving Luderitz (but not before boosting the Namibian economy by filling up Colonel K’s diesel tank), we stopped at an old abandoned diamond mining complex. Kolmanskop is a very eerie place, and also quite atmospheric. Diamonds were first discovered here in 1908, when a local guy literally just picked up a large uncut diamond from the dried up riverbed and gave it to his German boss. In less than a year the German Colonists had declared a huge swath of land a “Sperrgebiet”, or a “forbidden zone”, that stretched for 100km from the coast inland, and for many hundreds of kilometres from the Orange River in the south to the Kuiseb River further north and taking in most of the vast sand dunes (this is now only south of Luderitz). It was abandoned about 50 years ago, and slowly but surely it is being swallowed up by the vast sea of sand.
At one point the management of the mine had all the local “staff” literally on their hands and knees in huge lines, picking up vast quantities of diamonds out of the gravel of the riverbed, stuffing their pockets full of diamonds!
In the six years between it being discovered and the Great War starting in Europe in 1914, more than 5 million carats of diamonds were found at Kolmanskop, and the money that was pumped into this new ‘town’ is plain to see, obviously after the Germans surrendered the colony to South African forces in 1915, the mines in South West Africa fell to South African control until independence for Namibia. Strangely most diamonds that come from south western Namibia nowadays come from the sea bed off of Luderitz, as they have over thousands of years been washed out of rivers further south and then dragged northwards by the cold Benguela current, three quarter of a million carats of diamonds are produced each year currently in this way.
There is only one road in and out of Luderitz, and so on the way back we thought we would stop at the wild horses water hole again and have a spot of lunch there, when we were last there we watched approx 60 horses, gemsbok, and ostriches, this time there was nothing! With wildlife, you just never know what your going to see, or not.
We decided to stop over in Aus again, only this time on a different campsite, the Klein Aus Vista. Wow what a fantastic place, lots of marked walking and mountain bike trails up into the surrounding mountains. Instead of just using it as an overnight stop, we stayed for 4 days, and all for £5.00 per night, this is how rest camps should be done.
The walking here is fantastic (though you do need to carry a serious amount of water with you).
The trails here can be quite tough going in the heat but the views and the wildlife on route are just beautiful. En route we saw, Gemsbok, Steinbok, Ostrich, wild Horses, and many lizards, birds etc. On one particular walk (approx 4.5 hours), we came across this fantastic bullet riddled car, with an amazing story that was explained on a nearby plaque.
Its a (fantastically named) “Hudson Terraplane” (why can’t Toyota build a car called a “Terraplane”?), and in 1934 two guys after having stolen some diamonds from the “Sperrgebiet”, were chased by police down this tiny sand track, where they were killed in a bloody shoot out. Allegedly the diamonds were never recovered (yeah right!), and the valley where the car is left to rot is now known as Geisterschlucht or “Ghost Valley”. Apparently the two thieves can still be seen on moonlight nights searching for the diamonds!
As with most places in Namibia (and virtually all our Africa trip) we were on our own 90% of the time, but at Klein Aus Vista, you are never truly alone, the wildlife comes to you.
And once again, in the tree above us we has a Social Weaver bird’s nest, and again these kept us occupied for hours, going about their work.
There was even a beautiful Pygmy Falcon that had set up home in with the Weaver Birds, food for that little fella was not an issue (this bird was so fast, a photo proved impossible for my little Lumix camera, oh and I got bored trying).
Even the 45 minute walk to the lodge/reception via the mountain path was worth doing (I think all other campers that were at Aus drove there, what a waste), and on one particular walk there we came across a very rare Albino Gemsbok.
It was with two other normal Gemsbok, and appears to be quite young, we did wonder how well it will fair in the extreme daytime heat of the Aus area. While we were in Aus this time we experienced a massive drop in night time temperatures, for two of the four nights that we stayed there the temperatures fell from low 40c’s to about 9c, we really felt that and had to get our thin duvet out again (we didn’t even use it in the Coastal town of Luderitz), but a couple of days later normal service resumed and it didn’t drop below 20c at night. During this dramatic drop in temperature we even heard of a windscreen cracking on a vehicle because of the rapid change at night.
Our next stop was the Quiver Tree Forest, near the town of Keetmanshoop. Believe it or not Keetmanshoop is named after a German guy that never actually visited the Town, but when it was a small settlement, a Mr Keetman donated some money to build a Mission Church there, the rest as they say is history……
We stayed at QuiverTree Forest Restcamp, and it is right in the Quivertree Forest, which while rather small, is really stunning in the early morning and evening light.
The trees are protected from the unforgiving heat of the sun by a strange golden colour covering over the trees bark.
I’m not sure what the definition of a forest is back in England, but Quivertree Forest contains 248 trees, inc young growth specimens, so it is quite small, but it really is quite impressive how these trees survive amongst the boulders. They get their name because the early bushmen used the trees to make the quivers for their arrows (not because the trees are scared of the ghost stories, and shake uncontrollably), as the branches and trunks are hollow apart from a fibrous heart that can be simply scooped out.
The restcamp at Gariganus Farm, is owned by Coenie Nolte, and he is a very friendly and enthusiastic host, it is a working farm (god knows how anyone can farm in these conditions), and he has lots of pets, including 12 dogs, numerous horses and ponies, a warthog (who’s life ambition seems to be to steal every guests bag, and eat its contents), oh and four cheetahs. Yes he has raised two males and two females from cubs, in the farm house. These really are Coenie’s babies and his pride and joy. It really was a pleasant surprise when we got to the rest camp and he told us that if we wanted to see them, to be there at 5pm.
So back to the farm house a bit later and much to our shock, Coenie opened the 40 acre enclosure door that contained the two females and ushered us in, with him carrying a huge slab of raw meat.
Then with the older female seemingly happy to be chomping away of her neck of beef, Coenie invited Jac to quietly approach her from the side and slowly stroke the head and neck of the Cheetah. A very nervous Jac took up the offer, and after removing her sunglasses (apparently they don’t like the flash of the reflection from the glasses near them), moved closer, with Coenie ever present.
Apparently cheetahs hate eating dirty or dusty meat, so they take their food and rest it either on a log or rock to protect it from the ever present sand. As we were talking and taking photos, the second younger female came up behind us, this was quite nerve racking especially as Coenie explained that the younger one was much more unpredictable and so not to approach it.
Whilst the Cheetah population in Namibia is quite healthy at the moment, it is extremely rare to see them in the wild, as they are very reclusive, and there is not the long savanna grass areas like there is in places like Tanzania, and Kenya. These cats can never be released into the wild (they were raised in captivity by humans and do not know how to hunt), but they do live in huge open areas, and are obviously in first class condition.
Next we were taken into the enclosure of the two 4 year old male brothers, and the difference up close was was immediately apparent, they were much bigger (even though they were younger), and much more flighty and aggressive with both Coenie and each other, we definitely won’t be touching these fellas.
That night was a fantastic full moon, and the sky as usual was so clear.
But the next morning, I climbed up on the roof of Colonel K to clean the solar panels (again!) when I spotted one of the male Cheetahs laying under one of the trees on the top of the hill, looking even more stunning in its huge 40 acre enclosure.
Also that morning we drove the short distance to the “giants playground”. This basically consists of lots (and I mean lots) of Basalt rocks that have been left by thousands of years of erosion balancing in some very strange angles. And it goes on for as far as the eye can see.
Its a strange place, but because you are on your own (no other visitors, and certainly no staff), and can walk where ever you want, for as long as you want (so long as you can find your way back again, and of course its seriously hot!) it was an enjoyable few hours.
Then it was back to the Quivertree Forest, and another stunning evening sky.
We are slowly edging our way South towards the border with South Africa, where we plan to spend christmas and new year. Did I just say “plan”? Plans are there to be changed!
Thanks for reading
Before we were allowed to leave Sesriem we had to pay for two days permit for the National Park. This was a surprise to us as the campsite is situated just inside the gates (no more than 100 metres inside), and as the campsite fees were 3 or 4 times more than any other campsites that we paid to stay in, we assumed that this was all inclusive (its impossible to use the campsite without entering the park), especially as both are run by the Government body called Namibia Wildlife Resorts. But no we had to pay. The total cost for 2 nights camping and permits was $1,060.00! Wow, a crazy amount, but in reality it still only works out £12.62 per person per night. A lot for Namibia, but still cheap for us Europeans (especially as we got our 2nd night a bit cheaper as we bought it off our new Dutch friends that had pre-booked and paid for it).
After leaving behind the very busy Sesriem, we headed South on the gravel track that runs through the private game reserve of Namib Rand, but before we got there we wanted to check out a strange hotel that we stayed in on our last visit to Namibia, and see if it still seemed weird seeing a Moroccan style castle/riad in the middle of the Namib Desert, and yes it was still very weird.
The Namib Rand Reserve is huge, and the D826 gravel track only runs through about 50km of the eastern side of it, but it really is stunning, quite hilly, and very high up following the plateau of the Nubibberge Mountains, with the huge sand dunes to the west. We stopped so many times along here to take photos, and take in the views, and of course there were very few people about.
As with most inhospitable places in Namibia you can still spot wildlife, here it is extremely hot, there is no water, food is scarce, and yet there is still life here. In the photo below is a huge Gemsbok/Oryx that is standing in the heat haze.
I think the desert environment polarises opinions, you either love it and find it beautiful or you hate it. Luckily for us we absolutely love it.
And so it seems do others.
Our plan for that night was to head for Duwisib Castle and spend the night at the campsite there, but we stopped at a place called Betta, which is literally just a farm on the junction of two tracks, where as in England the farmer has diversified. He now has a 24 hour fuel station, a shop, a cafe and a campsite. We decided to stop for a coffee and a toasted sandwich, and Jac decided to have a nose about. The campsite was very nice, and so we decided to stop there for the night. The cost for the use of this campsite, including electric hookup (we didn’t use it) and nice clean hot showers was £3.81 each. Its a really nice place (if a little wind swept when we were there) and the views from up on each camp area own viewing platform was incredible especially at sunset. It is right on top of a plateau, at about 5,000 feet, and you are surrounded for 360 degrees by mountain peaks.
Next morning we topped up with diesel at the pump there (slightly more expensive than usual at 52p per litre), and set off along the track to Duwisib Castle which was about 20km away. Namibia does throw up many surprises, and seeing a castellated walled castle in the middle of the desert is certainly a strange thing.
It was built by Hansheinrich von Wolf, who served a couple of years in the German army in German South West Africa (as Namibia was known as then) between 1904 and 1906, as a captain of a regiment of “Schutztruppe”. Then is 1906 he was allowed to resign his commission and return to Germany, where he met and married an extremely wealthy American woman. They decided to build a new home in the Maltahohe area and using tradesmen mostly brought over from Europe they completed Duwisib Castle in 1909. All building materials apart from the stone was brought over from Europe, and transported the 300 odd kilometres from the port at Luderitz. They lived here until the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, when Hansheinrich was killed during the battle of the Somme. Jayta (his American wife) never returned to the castle and all its contents remained there until eventually everything was sold to a Swedish family in the 1920’s. Of course after the First World War, South West Africa was taken away from German hands, and was then administered from South Africa. The amazing thing is that this castle was completed within two years.
The “castle” is more like a large fortified house, but it was worth the small detour to see it. I’m not sure how many tourists it gets but there were very few comments in the visitors book, and almost all of them were written in German, I would guess not more than half a dozen visitors a day. Of course as its run by the government owned NWR, there were a large number of staff including the guy that was dragging his broom backwards and forwards across the sand out the front of the building to smooth it down! And obviously all the staff have accommodation on site as its miles from the nearest town. The cost to enter the castle was about £3.80 per person.
So we retraced our route back to Betta, and then took the other track towards the Tiras Mountains, where the plan was to spend a few days at the very remote campsite there to chill out. This is why we don’t make plans as they always have to change in Africa.
This area of the Namib is very remote, its not unusual, not to see anyone else for a few hours, and it is punishing for vehicles. We were about 50km from the turn off for our campsite when we hit some very deep sand, it came up very suddenly without any warning, meaning that we hadn’t had chance to select low range or deflate the tyres on the truck. So we thought that we would just plough on and hope that it is only a short stretch and we would soon be back on gravel, and if we got stuck we would then reduce pressures etc. After about 3km it just got deeper and deeper, but we were still moving forward. Then in the distance we could see another vehicle that we assumed was coming towards us, but as we got closer we realised that it was facing in the same direction as us and the driver and passenger were out of their car. They were stuck and there was no way through for us, so we very gently slowed down to a gentle stop (to prevent a build up of sand in front of the wheels).
It was a Kia SUV, driven by a German couple, who had completely burnt out the clutch on the car, and it was constantly slipping, so would not drive the wheels. A ‘grader’ appeared in the front of them (a machine that is used for levelling gravel roads), and he offered to tow them out of the sand which was about 1km further on, but had no tow rope. So using our 5m tree strap (used for winching from) and shackles, the grader towed them out and we arranged to meet them once we got out of the sand. So we quickly took out the tyre valves and reduced the pressures by about 60%, selected low range in the transfer box and hoped that Colonel K pulled himself and us out. Slowly but surely we got out without the need to use your our shiny new sand ladders (much to Jac’s relief, it would have been really hard work in that heat).
We found Gerd, and Gerda (yes they really do have almost the same name) about 5km further up the track on firmer gravel but obviously still no drive from their engine, but worse still without any mobile signal to phone for help. There was no way that we could leave them there, so we said we would tow them to the nearest ’town’ which we were pretty sure would have a phone signal, that town was the small desert settlement of Aus. This was where they had spent the previous night . I generally leave the map reading to Jac, so I had it in my head that Aus was about 50km away so it shouldn’t take too long to tow the Kia there. But once we had attached the strap to the rear tow point of the Daf, I jumped in and entered the hotel name into the Garmin sat nav, and I realised it was 150km away, this was going to be a very long slow few hours.
It was also almost all uphill, with Aus standing at over 5,500 feet, at a steady 40kmph, it took us over 3.5 hours of towing on everything from gravel, more sand (not as deep thankfully) and everything in between. It was pretty tough for our 150hp cummins engine, not only hauling our 9.5 tonne, but also 2 tonnes of South Korean metal, but to the Daf’s credit it managed it without a cough or a hiccup. I’m not sure what doing all those kilometres in low range has done for our fuel consumption but the gauge was dropping a little quicker than normal.
Gerd and Gerda, insisted very kindly that they would buy us a beer and dinner that evening at the Barnhof Hotel, so after dragging the Kia round the back into the very tight car park, we drove to the campsite next door and then walked back to the Hotel.
We had a lovely evening getting to know this very well travelled couple, who were obviously very grateful to be rescued by Colonel K. They arranged for another car to be delivered to the hotel the next morning and so continue their trip around Namibia.
Next morning we had to decide whether to drive back the 130km to the campsite that we were going to, or rethink our ‘plans’, so we went for a walk around Aus to think about what to do. Aus is tiny desert town but does have a few buildings from the German colonial period, including the train station that is now the hotel.
We walked into the hotel to find Gerd and Gerda to say goodbye and to make sure that they were sorted out with a new car. They were round the back having just received a Toyota Corolla to get them back to the capital of Windhoek so they can pick up a new 4×4 for the rest of their trip. The Kia was also being taken away.
So after a quick goodbye and a promise to keep in touch, we went to the garage that also owns the campsite, and the shop, and the cafe etc to stock up on cold drinks.
We decided to go to the coastal town of Luderitz which was about 130km west of Aus, but as there is a port there (and huge amounts of diamonds) they have tarmac’d it. Along this road is a small turn off to Garub Pan, a very dry desolate place (especially in November) that has a small man-made water hole there. This has been set up as a viewing place where you can watch what is possibly the worlds only wild desert dwelling horses. There are around 200-300 of these animals that obviously originate from domestic riding horses (mostly from the South African Army), and against all the odds they are thriving. Its amazing that they share this waterhole with Gemsbok, and Ostriches and as far as the eyes can see there is nothing for them to eat of any consequence.
When we were there we counted approx 60 horses at the water hole, mostly just dozing in the midday heat. It was fascinating to watch the very unnatural interaction between the normally bullying Gemsbok with the horses, which seemed to refuse to be intimidated by those huge dangerous antlers of the Gemsbok.
Everyone that we spoke to about Luderitz suggested that it was a town that wasn’t worth the effort to drive too, and for sure its no Swakopmund. The harbour itself is very industrial, with a big terminal for the zinc mines in this part of Namibia, but we were pleasantly surprised. We chose a campsite on nearby Shark Island, that you reach via a causeway (that you hardly notice), and the views across the large natural bay are stunning, and within an hour or so of arriving we had seen Dolphins and Seals and numerous types of sea birds, such as Gannets, Cormorants, and Oyster Catchers.
And in honour of that classic Two Ronnies comedy sketch I found two “fork handles” washed up on the shore! (Possibly only the brits of a certain age reading this will understand the above comment)
We both really enjoyed our couple of days in Luderitz, but as usual it was time to move on.
Thanks so much for taking the trouble to read this.
While in Swakopmund, Colonel K our trusty Leyland Daf overland truck, was treated to a full service in a very fine modern garage/workshop, where engine oil and filter was changed, plus oil in the gearbox, transfer box, front and rear diffs, and topping up of the front tracta joints, using 15 litres of engine oil and 20 litres of gear oil. There was also a few minor jobs to do, but the total labour charged for the job was 6 hours, so with that amount of time spent plus the fact that they only use genuine Castrol oils, we were expecting a large bill. However, when we came to settle up at the end of the day, the total bill was $5,700NAD or just over £270.00, and they cleaned it inside and out. If anyone reading this is travelling through Namibia and wants a good reliable garage you could do a lot worse than Midvaal Diesel & Turbo, Einstein Street, Swakopmund.
Overall we have spent quite a bit of time during our two stints in Swakopmund, and whilst we were glad to be heading out of the town and into more rural areas we would miss the birds such as the Flamingos and Pelicans that are so numerous around the Tiger Reef area of the town.
We left Swakopmund on the tarred road down through Walvis Bay, and back onto the good old gravel roads, through the northern section of the Namib Naukluft National Park, heading for the tiny quiet area know as Solitaire. The route down there is very arid, but stunning in its own way, and on this trip it was the first time we had seen the quiver trees, with their amazing golden coloured trunks.
Just after climbing up over the Kuiseb, and Gaub mountain passes, we crossed over the Tropic of Capricorn. It seems such a long time ago that we crossed the Tropic of Cancer in the Western Sahara, but just because of that sign all of those memories came flooding back.
Solitaire is not a village as such, as there are no houses there, but there is a small hotel, a tiny fuel station (though they had no diesel when we were there), a bakery/coffee shop and a small general store selling essential items like cold beers and ice creams. There is also a campsite at the back of the hotel which is where we stayed. What started in 1948 as a farm, is now a very strange tourist spot, with most “tour buses” stopping for coffee and apple pie. We sat in the open air coffee shop and watched these tourists almost run off of their vehicles, pushing into the queue, shouting out their order of apple pie and coffee to take away, paying then rushing back to the air conditioned bus/truck! In this place the simple things make us laugh, and trust me this was highly amusing to watch.
That evening after cooking and eating our usual one pot meal, cooked in our cast iron Denby casserole dish given to us by my sister Heather (is this the most travelled Denby dish on Earth?), we were washing up at the campsite sinks when we got chatting to a Dutch couple, Jogchum and Marjan, and once again we were reminded about how small our world is. It turns out that Jogchum is brother to Annalise who owns Ko-Sa in Ghana, where we spent nearly a month waiting for the Glovis Cougar ship. So we met brother and sister thousands of miles apart on the same foreign continent, incredible.
The front of the garage area of Solitaire is littered with old vehicles (though I’m sure when we were here about 8 or 9 years ago there were a lot less), and they do make an interesting sight here, old Chevys and an old Morris Eight amongst others.
After spending a nice relaxing morning in the coffee shop with the ‘Cloggies’, we decided to go the long and what on the map looked the most scenic route to our next destination at Sesriem. So we headed up into the Nauklufberge Mountains and ended up at over 5,000 feet and in some absolutely stunning scenery.
We stopped on the tiny track up there for about an hour and had a bite of lunch, and of course there was no one about, complete silence, apart from the odd Gemsbok and Springbok and quite a large number of Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk’s (we had to look them up in our trusty birding book). It is amazing that so many tourists visit Solitaire and Sesriem, but virtually no-one seems to see this place on top of Mountains above them.
When we got to Sesriem we were in for a bit of a shock, it was so busy. Sesriem is the gateway to the very popular destination at Sossusvlei, this is the place that most desert photos that you see from Namibia are taken. The (tarred) road that now runs the 60km from Sesriem to Sossusvlei follows the route of the now dry Tsauchab River, and it really is a parting of the sea of sand that forms this area of the Namib Desert. Either side of the road are huge apricot coloured sand dunes, with gracefully flowing ridge lines, some of which you can climb and then at the end is the flat white pan where the river (if it ever flows) ends, as it never reaches the Ocean.
It is a beautiful place, but it does attract lots of tourists, especially early in the morning (the gates open at 5.15am), and in the evening to see the light on the dunes. As most people only stop here for one night, it is probably just as enjoyable to be there during the day and miss the hordes of tourists rushing up and down the road, though it gets seriously hot in the midday sun.
We spent our first evening at Sesriem with our new Dutch friends, sharing tales over a few drinks and they decided that they were going back to Windhoek the next day as they had a damaged wheel on their rental Toyota Hilux, and so were now without a spare wheel. So we agreed to buy their pre-booked campsite at Sesriem (which was much nicer than the spot that we had been given, as they were full when we arrived). So next morning we moved Colonel K round the corner and into our new spot for the next 24 hours. We had to share the camp ground with a huge Social Weaver Bird nest (yes that is the name of the bird).
Watching these busy birds flying in and out of their huge nest was great, and kept us occupied for hours, there were dozens of them seemingly taking it in turns to do various jobs from acting as look out, to bringing new grass to weave into the nest or bring twigs to lay on the top of the nest.
Then Jogchum and Marjan appeared again!
I thought ‘oh bugger, we misunderstood and perhaps they were not leaving today’, but no they just wanted to say goodbye properly and had been down to Sossusvlei .
As usual meeting interesting people is a large and important part of our travels, and we hope to stay in touch with as many as we can, during and after this little adventure of ours.
Next we will head further South in the Namib Desert and plan to chill in a quiet spot for a few days.
After a quick over night stop in Opuwo, we set off nice and early to make the most of the (slightly) cooler morning air, and headed North on the gravel road that takes you to Epupo Falls. This is a long and fairly slow drive of about 200km, and crosses approx 50-80 dried river beds, and the entry and exit angles to many of these are quite steep, so have to be tackled with a certain degree of caution. On more that a few occasions the rear suspension on Colonel K bottomed out when we hit the bottom of the depression a little too quickly.
This area of Kaokoland really is beautiful, and the scenery is changing all the time, truly a very wild place.
There is one small village on the way called Okangwati, and amazingly this boasts a bar, mini mart and a ‘fuel stop’, though you only buy fuel here if your desperate, as its sold in old plastic 1 litre water bottles (a la West Africa).
Apart from this tiny village, there is virtually nothing else on this road, apart from the odd Himba traditional family settlements, in their usual construction of stick, and straw houses. So it was with some surprise when we got to Epupa Falls to find 3 or 4 campsites, a fair size Himba village, a couple of lodges and even a police station!
As you enter the village (at the bottom of a steep hill) the Falls are immediately on your left and so we decided to try the small campsite at the start of the village. Wow, this really was a very very special spot, and as we were the only people there we had the choice of where we wanted to camp, and we ended up right at the top of the falls, the constant rush of water, and spray in the air only made the experience more intense. We have been lucky enough to camp in some amazing places on this trip, but this one may possibly be the most stunning yet!
The Kunene River here is lined with palm trees to both banks, and makes a fantastic backdrop, but once again the river is infested with crocodiles, and so swimming is again out of the question.
We met a local Himba guide, and arranged for him to take us upstream early one morning, again to miss the worst of the daytime heat (it was far in excess of 40c in the shade again, and unlike at Ruacana, there was very little breeze here). We were out with “John”, (we can’t remember his strange Himba name, but he said to call him John) for 3.5 hours, and we had a fascinating time with him, learning not only about the natural Flora and Fauna, but also more about the Himba way of life and how it has changed in the last 20-30 years. He spoke about how Himba males are allowed to have more than one wife (as long as they are also Himba), and that women are not allowed to wash their bodies once they reach puberty (hands and face only)!
During our walk, we sensed (and heard) that we were being followed, eventually this little fella decided to show himself.
There were also some great birding to be done, if thats your thing.
Including everyones favourites, the Rosy Cheeked Lovebirds.
There were also some more dangerous animals about the riverbank too.
The banks were quite overgrown in places, and in many areas we were very cautiously treading on a deep covering of dead palm leaves, a perfect spot for a snake to be chilling! John was telling us that there are very many venomous snakes in these parts, including Black Mamba, large Python, Puff Adders, and a couple of species of rather nasty Spitting Cobras. We tried to step EXACTLY where John had stepped!
There was a gravel track a little way away from the river, and I noticed a couple of Police pick-ups driving along them, I asked john if they were policing the border (the river is the border with Angola), he explained that they were in the process of upgrading the direct route to Ruacana, when the machine that was “scraping” the gravel road surface uncovered two land mines. This really high lights the dangers around this border region, and when I asked if they were SouthAfrican or Russian/Cuban land mines, I think the answer was that it could be either sides! It was a messed up place a few years ago.
But now thankfully it is peaceful, and the finding of land mines is getting less frequent.
On the way back to the truck (as the heat was rapidly starting to build up again), we came across these two women fishing with a couple of cane rods with some sort of line fixed directly to the tips, these people are not fishing for fun, this is to put food on the table.
We asked “John” why so many of the trees have stones wedged into the branches, he explained that it was a custom for Himba’s to place a stone in a bush for luck for a journey to do something on that particular day, wether it be luck for hunting, fishing, fetching water or what ever.
We stayed at Epupa for 3 nights and really enjoyed ourselves here. They are even building a new medical centre for the Himba Community at Epupa, though personally I thought that the existing one looked just fine.
We said goodbye to the dogs at the camp (two Jack Russells, and a six week old Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy with razor sharp teeth), and headed back down the gravel track towards Opuwo. In the few days that we were at Epupa, we had barely seen a cloud, and certainly not seen any rain, but as we got about 50km south, we noticed that quite a few of the dried river beds were starting to show signs that water had recently flowed down them (leaves washed down across the track, and much deeper sand in places), then all of a sudden the next 10 or 12 river beds had washed away the gravel track totally, and the drop into and out of these were much much steeper than when we arrived 4 days ago, if you hit these too hard you were likely to at least to puncture a tyre and more than likely damage the vehicle. This really did high light for us the dangers involved in driving in Northern Kaokoland, and how the terrain can change and bite you when you least expect it.
We got stopped at the Vet Fence where you have to hand over any uncooked meat that you may be carrying, and get all the soles of your shoes, and your tyres disinfected. At the check point we were approached by a very stern looking Policewoman who immediately asked me for my driving licence. She looked and the licence, then looked at me, then back at the photo on the licence “there is a problem” she said, “this is not you” pointing to the photo on the International Driving Permit! Then with a huge smile she pointed at me, and said that “you are cute, and the person on the IDP is not cute”. I think Africa is good for me!
We had another overnight stop in Opuwo, and in the morning filled the truck with diesel, and topped back up with food, oh and of course Jac bought some jewellery from the Himba women.
We planned to leave Opuwo and head down the gravel track to the town of Sesfontain, the only trouble was (with no prior warning for the 30km to the sign) the gravel road was closed as they were blasting rock in the Pass near Sesfontain. So we had to head back towards Opuwo, as to chance it for the next 80-100km wasn’t worth it, we would have to go around! Arrrrr, a wasted couple of hours, and fuel.
So we went the much longer and more boring route via Kamanjab, but once we left our overnight stop at Kamanjab it was far from boring! We hit a cow! yup a fully grown huge African Cow, but to put it more accurately, he hit us. he had already crossed the track with about 30 of his best mates, when just as we were level with him, he turned and charged straight into the side of Colonel K. We were doing about 50kmph, so it was no going to end well for either party, he hit the fuel tank, and bounced off to head butt our locker containing our two 6kg bottles of propane gas. The fuel tank was largely unscathed, but the gas locker was bent out of shape quite badly, and couldn’t be opened. The cow needed an Ibuprofen or ten! We decided to temporary secure the locker with a couple of spare straps and try to get it sorted when we got back to Swakopmund.
Next up was the dreaded Grootberg Pass, this is a very long and very steep hill up (and down) a mountain range just east of Palmwag.
If it was tarmac, as most mountain passes are it wouldn’t be an issue, but we ended up selecting the low range gearbox, and even then got down to 2nd gear, it was a very slow climb! we just prayed that out trusty Michelin XZL tires managed to maintain grip on the very loose gravel surface. Jac took this photo of our Garmin sat nav, with still 100 metres to go, and yes the actual speed was 16kmph (I think we were down to 10kmph at one point near the summit).
But Colonel K made it up, coughing and spluttering but made it, in the mid day heat.
The track behind the sign in the photo below leads to Grootberg Lodge, and clients have to leave their vehicles at the bottom and a Landcruiser comes down and takes them up this monster steep track to the Lodge beyond. We watched this happen, and it is very very steep. We stopped and rested the Daf for about 30 minutes before heading down the other side, again very slowly, trying not to over heat the brakes or brake suddenly on the loose surface.
Even in this wild and inhospitable place there are surprises round the corners if you look for them, including this young Giraffe with its family.
And this twister, coming our way.
We were now back into Damaraland, which both of us think is our favourite area of Namibia so far (and on a previous visit).
We spent the night camped at the entrance to the Skeleton Coast NP, in a transit type camp, that offered only a place to stop for the night, as you have to be in and out of the park the same day, unless you have a specific place to stop for the night (there is only camping in Torra Bay campsite in Dec and Jan). So we registered for a permit the next morning to transit the Park and left as the early morning mist was rising over the desolate landscape.
And yet again there are animals in this place, it looks like there’s no food here, but they are eating something, below is a Gemsbok, and a Black Backed Jackal, as you can see there’s not a blade of grass.
Along the coastal stretches we came across this old oil rig, that had long been abandoned, and the beach here has dozens of ship wrecks.
We had to stop for a coffee of course, and it was a little windy out there so our Moroccan gas bottle had to be tucked up tight to the truck to stop it blowing out.
On the way down the Skeleton Coast we kept “leap frogging” a Honda CRV car, that kept stopping, and then past us as we stopped, the young couple seemed quite amused at this, then a couple of days later we bumped into them again, this time able to speak to them on a campsite. Marcus and Jeanette (a young German couple) were a fantastic testament to travelling on the cheap, they did have a very small ground tent for emergencies, but 9 times out of 10, they just pull up, or use a campsite if they want to use the facilities, and then roll the front seats back and sleep in the rental car, not a roof tent in sight. They are well travelled, having done similar trips to Australia, and Central America. They were also very friendly and were keen to see inside Colonel K. If they are reading this, keep travelling guys and enjoy the rest of your trip.
That night we ended up in a campsite behind a bar called Fishermans Inn, which is just north of Henties Bay, and ended up having a few beers in there in the late afternoon, its quite a rough and ready type of place, but that was nothing compared to the clientele in there! It was an education, lets leave it at that. We also ate in the bar that night but there was only the two of us and the very friendly barman so the atmosphere wasn’t great.
Anyway we now find ourselves back in the touristy town of Swakopmund, have done a few maintenance jobs on the Colonel, including straightening the gas locker (perfectly back into shape and closing and locking again now), and we have booked it into a workshop here to have a full service. Its an amazingly well equipped place, with all sorts of equipment for testing flows of diesel pumps etc, I’d be quite happy to eat my curry off of the floor in there. And the hourly rate is £22.00 per hour! In the UK you could easily add £100 to that rate. So fingers crossed they do a decent job. The Daf deserves a little bit of TLC after all its been through.