Posted by: catamarantwooceans | May 30, 2018

Namibia Land Tour

I have a cousin called Joseph, nicknamed Yossi; he and his wife Esther are not just family – they are also good friends. When Yossi retired a few years ago, he bought a Toyota Land Cruiser equipped for camping in South Africa and started touring that continent.

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Gili and Esther

When they suggested that we join them for a trip in Namibia we quickly agreed. We rented a 4×4 camping equipped Nissan, roof tent included, to be collected in Windhoek airport and flew there via Johannesburg, reaching the place on May 4th.

The rental company, Britz, was not well prepared for the many customers who appeared that day and did not have the right car for us. They gave us a regular, not camping equipped one and promised to deliver a proper vehicle to Hobas, a few hundred kilometers to the south, where we planned to meet Yossi and Esther.

4.5.18 – Friday – On the way to Hobas I called the rental company a few times and it became clear that the replacement car would not arrive that evening, so instead of sleeping in a tent at the campsite we had to take a hotel, which the company promised to reimburse. The Canyon Roadside lodge was nice and comfy; around the place they kept old cars and motorcycles which in the arid climate did not rot. Some were kept inside the dining room, like this old Mercedes ambulance, which they said was in running order.

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5.5.18 – Saturday – The replacement car was brought in the morning. Inspection revealed that it was not up to the standard we ordered; a small fuel tank, missing items – like the cooking gas bottle, an air compressor and an in-operative fridge. The drivers received a list of all our complaints and we demanded to receive a proper car at the first opportunity.

Now it was time to start our trip. The highlight of the day was visiting the Fish River Canyon, a deep one meandering in the desert, reminiscent of the Israeli Negev but on a grander scale. After that we drove to Luderitz, a town I visited before on my two South Atlantic crossings.

6.5.18 – Sunday – In the morning we played tourists, visiting the abandoned diamond mining town of Kolmanskoop and then drove north to a campsite in a remote place called Kanaan for the night. Some places were given biblical names by the Euyropean settlers: Rehoboth, Rosh Pina, gibeon etc. On our way we saw some animals; we drove close to an antelope walking along the side of the road and it started running in the same direction. I found myself accelerating to keep in pace and take its picture; as we reached 60 kph the antelope shifted to overdrive and surged ahead. I slowed down so as not to stress it too much.

another phenomenon was the weaver birds community nests, where each bird had its own home into which they were flying at great speed.

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Most of the roads in Namibia are compacted earth and many times have corrugated surface which make for a juddery ride, not so pleasant. Each moving car raises a cloud of fine dust, which finds its way into every corner of the car. The campsites are an orderly operations, areas for each car are numbered, there are toilets, showers and sometimes electricity. This was our first night in the roof tent, which we found to be very easy to erect and dismantle.

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The climate of Namibia is typical to a desert; hot during the day and cooling quickly as the sun goes down. We had to use three layers of covers and went to bed in our socks.

7.5.18 – Monday – Going on north we visited Schloss Duwisib, a bizarre castle in the middle of the bush, which a German military man built for his American wife at the beginning of the 20th century.

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Driving in the desert we found ourselves using the phrase :”In the middle of nowhere”  many times. You drive for hours with no human presence around and suddenly see a house or two and a herd of cows or goats. Some of the campsites are located in remote farms; in one we saw two young boys, eight and thirteen years old and immediately questions came up. Where do they go to school? do they have friends to play with?

We were surprised by the large number of tourists on camping cars like ours. Sometimes it was difficult to find space in the campsite we desired. Unable to find a place near the famous red dunes of the Namib Desert, we continued to a campsite 30 km north of Sesriem for the night.

8.5.18 – Tuesday – To enter the red dunes area of  you need a permit; then you drive along a good tarred road for 60 km to Sussusvlei, passing some magnificent reddish dunes on the way.

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At the end of the paved road you can go on in sand to the Dead Valley. With almost no experience in off road driving and although I used four wheel drive in low gear I got stuck in the sand. a park ranger came by, took the wheel, brought the car to a good parking spot and instructed me in the art of sand driving:”give it a lot of R.P.M”.

The Dead Valley is a pan left after an ancient lake disappeared, leaving dried trees, hundreds of years old; very impressive.

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After the briefing I got from the ranger the ride back through the sand was stressing but successful. We reached the Seisrem campsite in the early evening and met Salmon, the driver sent by Britz to bring us the new, proper replacement car.

More pictures and a few videos are available here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/yhpmuj41ilq9nbs/AAAyyctwnLObHVuCwXLi-7Ija?dl=0

9.5.18 – Wednesday – We drove a long way to Walvis Bay via a place called Solitaire, where the local grocer put a board with the rain statistics.

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They had a mere 58 mm of rain in 2013, 0.5 mm last February (how did they measure it?). April was relatively good.

Walvis Bay is the second largest city in the country – 85000 people; we found out that the hotel we booked on the web was actually in Swakopmund, 30 km to the north. It was nice to spoil ourselves in a hotel room and go to a good restaurant (Kucki’s).

10.5.18 – Thursday – We drove back to Walvis bay to see the lagoon, where hundreds of birds, flamingos and pelicans found their habitat.

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We wanted to go to Pelican Point and Sandwich Bay but the road conditions were too bad and we did not want to take a chance and get stuck in sand or rising tide so we gave it up. Getting groceries on the way is very limited so we did some shopping at the excellent Spar supermarket for the next few days.

11.5.18 – Friday – Our morning destination was the Cape cross Seal reserve which is located on the Skeleton Coast, where many ships found their end in olden days. The place is amazing in more than one way; you see thousands of seals on shore and in the water, the noise and the stench are overpowering. I asked at the office whether they had an estimate for the number of seals in the area and the answer was a staggering two hundred and fifty thousand!

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We drove on to a magical place called Spitzkoppe, a cluster of mountains rising from the desert flat surface. The view there is really breathtaking.

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More pictures and a few videos are available here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/yhpmuj41ilq9nbs/AAAyyctwnLObHVuCwXLi-7Ija?dl=0

12.5.18 – Saturday – After a few hours in Spitzkoppe we left on the way to Brandberg, an area dominated by a 2573 meters high mountain where there are ancient paintings and rock engravings dating from 2000 –5000 years ago. On the way we passed by several stalls that tribe people put up to lure tourists and make some money selling trinkets they make. It was the first time I saw Himba and Herero tribes women.

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Himba Lady

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Herero Women

At first I thought they dressed the way they did just to attract the tourists, I was to learn later that it was their day to day attire.

The rock art was very interesting.

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The figure above was called “The White Lady” in the past but now it is believed to be a depiction of a male shaman.

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13.5.18 – Sunday – We went to another site of rock art and a dry ravine they call “Organ pipes” due to the shape of the rocks on its bank.

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Next we drove to Aba Huab in the Damara tribe area and spend the night in its campsite.

14.5.18 – Monday – The Damara tribe have what they call a “Live Museum” where they show elements of their traditional life, lighting fire, song and dance, traditional medicine and so on. Although very touristic and a bit artificial it was interesting; we had a lady guide that spoke very good English and had a great sense of humor. This tribe’s language uses the “click” sound which she demonstrated time and again.

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I asked her what she wore at home after work; she smiled and confessed she wore regular clothes.

For the night we drove on to Palmwag, where in addition to a nice lodge they had a good campsite.

15.5.18 – Tuesday – Near Palmwag there is a large conservancy area about which one of the guide books says is suitable only for experienced 4×4 enthusiasts with good navigational  skills. We decided we fit that description, bought a permit and went for a four hours drive in there. The driving conditions, apart from just a few spots, was not too complicated. We saw a few animals and I gained some more experience in off road driving. Eighty kilometers to the north the small settlement of Warmquelle and the Ongongo campsite waited. Reaching Ongongo on a 6 km bad road was difficult but the place was located on a stream with a waterfall a few steps away. I was surprised to see a turtle diving in the waterfall’s pool. Water also meant bugs; we were “attacked” by a swarm of them during dinner time and got rid of them only when we put out the light where we sat and placed lamps some distance away. Being in a sort of gorge it was relatively warm during the night which was a blessing.

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16.5.18 – Wednesday – After short visit to Sesfontein, with its old German fort turned a fancy lodge that seemed to be empty, we continued to Opuwo, the main town in the region. On the way we observed many termite “towers”, sometimes filling a large tract of land.

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Opuwo is a hive of activity, a mélange of modern and tribal dressed people; it is amazing to see Himba women in a modern supermarket or in the line for the ATM next to a miniskirt clad girl.

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If you enlarge the picture you will find the girl on the right is holding a cellphone in her right hand…

Opuwo has one high class lodge – the Opuwo Country hotel; they also have a campsite in which we stayed.

17.5.18 – Thursday – We left Opuwo for Epupa falls on the border with Angola. Since there was a lot of rain at the end of April we expected the possibility of road damages. We learned to respect the following road sign which indicated a steep descent into a river bed where sometimes big potholes were hiding and if not careful they made the car fly up in the air and reconnect with the road with a big bang.

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That part of the country was absolutely not a desert, there were a lot of trees, including Baobabs.

Reaching Epupa revealed an incredible vista of river split into many streams and falls spreading over a large area. (See video number 61 on the pictures link). We entered the Epupa Falls Lodge and were tempted to take a bungalow right on the river bank instead of the planned campsite. We walked to the river where local kids were playing in pools very close to raging water and goats were roaming all over the place.

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It took a while to get used to the noise  of running water; it did not disturb my falling asleep that night at all.

18.5.18 – Friday – Before leaving Epupa we drove beyond the river entrance to the falls area to a place reputed to be a crocodile viewing point; we saw no crocs but did see a lot of monkeys. They were very fearful of us, hid uphill and on trees and I could only take one blurred picture from the distance to be able to identify them as Vervet monkeys.

We drove back to Opuwo in preparation for our next day trip to Etosha park.

19-22.5.18 – Saturday – Tuesday – “Etosha” according to one of the guide books, is translated as “Place of Mirages”.

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This is not an island; it is an area of the huge pan, more than 6000 square kilometers, located on the eastern part of that park. It is probably a lake that dried out millions of years ago, leaving a whitish silvery surface reflected by the sun in a bewildering way.

Driving on the park’s roads you can see many animals of all kinds. There are campsites and lodges in the park, usually near waterholes where one can watch the animals and birds. We spent three full days driving from Galton gate in the west to Namutoni in the east and each day was one of discovery and wonder. The most amazing site was the waterhole of Okaukuejo, where during the night we had a magnificent show of elephants, rhinos, giraffes and other animals and heard lions roaring in the distance.

Here are some pictures of what we saw, you can see many more at the dropbox link: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/yhpmuj41ilq9nbs/AAAyyctwnLObHVuCwXLi-7Ija?dl=0

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23.5.18 – Wednesday – That was the end of our trip; we left the Etosha park to drive 560 kilometers to Windhoek, from where we were to fly home via Johannesburg. It was a fantastic trip; the views, the fauna and people were amazing. Namibia is a big country and attractions are far from each other; that demanded that we drive long distances. We did about 4000 kilometers on roads that were mostly unpaved but somehow got used to it so no complaints. We are already contemplating joining Yossi and Esther again…

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