NAMIBIA: North and West, Trip report, Feb 2011




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    Default NAMIBIA: North and West, Trip report, Feb 2011

    TRIP REPORT: NORTHERN AND WESTERN NAMIBIA. 2011
    PART ONE

    TO SLIGHTLY MISQUOTE PAUL AUGUSTINUS FROM HIS PUBLICATION- DESERT ADVENTURE: IN SEARCH OF WILDERNESS IN NAMIBIA AND BOTSWANA.
    Some wise traveller wrote “ great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    LOGISTICS:
    25 Jan to 18 Feb 2011
    Anne and Stan Weakley alone
    Toyota landcruiser 76 Station wagon 2009 extensively modified
    Diesel:185l tank 2x 20l jerry cans
    Drinking water: 85l tank and 20l in plastic 5l bottles
    Food for 2 weeks, 40l Engel freezer
    Highlift jack, Winch, 2 x Kinetic straps, full recovery kit
    Full set tools
    Spare tyres x 2
    Spares: Fanbelts, Radiator hoses, Oil and diesel filters, Engine oil and brake fluid etc.
    GPS (more later) and the best maps
    Ground-based dome tent

    AIM:
    We had toured most of Southern Namibia and the Kalahari in 2008 and now wanted to explore the Northern and Western regions with an emphasis on the Kunene river, Van Zyl’s pass, Marienfluss, the riverbeds and the Skeleton coast. The Caprivi area will be a separate trip. High on my priorities was to see the desert elephants and to experience flooding rivers in near desert terrain. I was also keen to do some angling on the Skeleton coast if there was enough time

    PLANNING:
    I am a partner in a professional practice and had not been able to use up all my annual leave in a very busy year. I had 3 weeks to use before the end of February. Thus at short notice I had to find the most suitable area to tour in the heat of summer during the rainy season. Thanks to all of you that replied to my post on this forum in Dec 2010. Special thanks to Gert du Preez who promoted the advantages of northern Namibia in the green season and Tony Weaver who by choice prefers to explore during the rainy season. Researching a trip is something I really enjoy and the plethora of information on this forum and also the LCCSA forum, is always invaluable. T4A and good maps are always invaluable tools. I had ordered the late Jan Joubert’s books, 4X4 routes in Kaokoland and 4X4 routes in Namibia, but they only arrived 2 days after we left.

    I was concerned about the heat at that time of the year and the possible problems with rain and flooding rivers. I also realized there would be very few other travellers in these remote areas at this time of the year, with the obvious dangers, but also advantages. Heeding the advice of members of this forum, we had the luxury of not needing bookings at this time of the year, so could mosey along at our own pace, extending our stay at will if we enjoyed a particular area. We also kept an open mind as to exactly what type of lodging or camping we would use. Many of the outlying areas only offer camping and the remoteness and privacy are the attractions. Others offer chalets etc. and as we were covering strenuous routes in extreme conditions we used these chalets as morale-boosting breaks. Good for marital relations! I must admit I am not always a hardcore camper when there is a comfortable chalet available next door. Considerable time and effort is saved by not having to set up and take down a camp. It also enables one to carry out basic housekeeping chores in comfort.


    DIARY:
    TUES + WEDS 25+26/01/2011
    We were fortunate to have these 2 days free to shop and pack for this 3 week trip. It was a pleasure to have the time to prepare thoroughly and leisurely. To be recommended if you can spare the time. Already our plan of no fixed schedule was paying dividends.

    DAY 1:THURS 27/01/2011

    EAST LONDON TO UPINGTON

    995 kilometers./ 11 hours

    Route; E.L., Queenstown (breakfast), Molteno, Middleburg, De Aar, Prieska, Upington. Was able to make it on one tank of fuel. Route generally uninspiring, Gariep river flowing very strongly but no roads affected.

    Stayed at Affinity Guesthouse, 4 Budler street, ph. 054-3312101. This was very nice indeed. Off-street secure parking and electrical point to run vehicle fridge. Cost R550 double room (without breakfast) with aircon which you need in Upington in summer. Wise to book as very often full. Fronts onto the strongly flowing Gariep river. Had a very good steak at a local restaurant.
    Upington is full of foreign motor car test drivers during November to February, they test various new model vehicles for performance tolerance under extreme heat conditions on the salt flats and surrounding roads. Many fancy Porches, V.W’s, and Audies are to be seen, some of which are still prototypes and are covered to conceal details, when parked.

    DAY 2:FRIDAY 28/01/2011

    UPINGTON TO WINDHOEK

    968 kms / 11 hrs 30 mins

    Route:Along N16 to Nakop/Ariamsvlei border post. On S.A. side at Nakop I declared all our dutiable equipment and got customs to stamp a pretyped list with serial nos etc. This prevents any misunderstandings about import duties when returning.
    One needs to remember that the Namibian border post at Ariamsvlei is 15 km away from Nakop. Once again an easy passage through customs and immigration. Need to have your passport (no visa needed for South Africans), a pen to fill in the forms, your vehicle registration papers (or certified copy), letter of permission from the bank or company if vehicle not in your name and R200 to pay for the Cross- border permit. Keep this permit handy as may be asked for it at the very occasional police roadblock.
    Travelled on the B3 to Grunau and joined the B1 to Windhoek. We stopped at roadside stalls to stock up on game biltong. These tarred roads are not very busy and in excellent condition. We were comfortably able to travel at the 120km/hr speed limit. There are radar speed traps even after 17h00 which we don’t see in S.A. Apparently Namibian traffic fines were recently increased to very steep levels.
    There was evidence of some recent rains and the grass was greening up nicely with lots of roadside wild flowers. Namibia has had excellent rains for the last 4 years and this was increasingly evident as we travelled north. The area around Mariental was looking like grassveld. This dull and dry area is rapidly transformed after some rain and in some areas the grass and flowers were quite spectacular.
    We wanted to stay centrally in Windhoek that night as having a few beers and a meal at Joe’s Beerhouse was one of my priorities. Guided by Garmin we ended up at The Roof of Africa Hotel to be informed that they no longer offered camping. We took a room, not great at all, for a very expensive R845 for the two of us.
    Joe’s Beerhouse is a block away and has very secure parking so we could have stayed anywhere (Alte Brucke!!). Well worth the visit, very atmospheric and rustically decorated pub/restaurant with a lively vibe. It reminded me of the old Pig and Whistle student pub in Rondebosch. The food was very good and I enjoyed my Gemsbok steak.

    DAY 3:SATURDAY 29/01/2011

    WINDHOEK TO KUNENE RIVER LODGE

    845km 8hrs 30 mins

    We reached Otjiwarongo via the B1 after about 2hrs 30 mins. Spoke to a local garage owner and he confirmed that the best route to Ruacana was via Outjo, Kamanjab and via the C35 through Otjondekato to Ruacana, passing just to the west of Etosha and east of Opuwo. As I suspected, he advised against the Owamboland route through Ondangwa because of traffic, speed limits through every little village and stray animals on the road. In any case I have seen enough of Owamboland to last me a lifetime.
    As I had read on this forum there is a fantastic bakery in Outjo, well signposted on the right as you drive through to get onto the C40 to Kamanjab. Lovely breads and cakes, we stopped for coffee and some great apple strudel.
    On this route there is about only 85 km of good dirt road approaching Ruacana. We arrived at the Ruacana B.P. Fuel station after 8hrs 30mins and 795km.Here we filled up including 2x20l jerry cans. The cost of diesel appears to be the same throughout Namibia, apparently government controlled. It was going to be almost 1,000km before our next fuel at Sesfontein. The B.P. station also has a typical mini supermarket, quite well stocked. We stocked up with some cold drinks and bought a whole lot of Mopane wood, placed onto the almost empty roofrack.
    At this time of the year it only begins to get dark at 20h00 and as it was only 14h30 we decided to push on to Kunene River Lodge (KRL) instead of staying at either Hippo pools community camp or at the campsite at Eha lodge.
    Many readers will be aghast at the long distances covered in the first three days. We are both always early risers and Anne is a very good driver and shares the driving with me. I like to put the early travelling behind me as quickly as possible allowing more time to be spent travelling leisurely in the targeted area. So we covered 2,800km in 3 days. I now felt that our holiday was about to begin.
    There was little if any evidence of any rain up north yet and perhaps this persuaded me not to have a look at Ruacana falls. You drive right past the turnoff to the falls on the western outskirts of Ruacana on the way to KRL. I later found out that the falls were spectacular, apparently the Angolans had decided to open the floodgates early on the Calueque dam to try and prevent the sudden flooding of a couple of years ago. There had been heavy rains in the catchment area in the Angolan highlands and as we were soon to see, the Kunene was flowing very strongly. Really a foolish decision not to visit the falls!
    I at this stage deflated the tyres to 1,8 front and 2,2 rear, a decision I had no cause to regret as we had no puncture at all despite the testing terrain.
    I now started experiencing problems with my GPS when I tried to enter the route along the Kunene. The GPS kept replying “no recognized roads, unable to calculate”. To my dismay I then noticed that I had failed to bring my Tracks4Africa S.D. card which I usually store in its slot in the GPS. Fortunately I had T4A loaded onto my laptop which I had brought, so I could at least have a look at my route in advance but would have no real time GPS guide when on the route. It did mean that Anne and I had to brush up on our map reading and navigational skills. This was to cause some stressful moments later in the trip.
    The 70km along the Kunene was more testing than I had anticipated and took us about 2hrs 30mins. Apparently the river is even higher than usual for this time of the year and still rising. Altogether there were 5 water crossings and 6 escape routes for bypassing areas where the water was too deep. The water crossings we used were never deeper than just above the knee and the ground under the water was always stony, so little chance of getting stuck. The longest stretch of water crossed was about 70m. The escape routes were stressful. They were steep and rocky up the sides of hills with a nasty camber towards the river at times. It was a case of having a good look at the route, engaging 2nd gear low ratio and then giving enough revs to clear the obstacle safely. At times some of these diversions were almost a kilometer long. Certainly could only be done safely in a tough 4x4 with a decent clearance. Without low range vehicle damage seems likely. According to the locals when the river is at lower levels the route is very much easier.
    Otherwise a really spectacular drive and not to be missed if possible. Lots of Makelani palms and large riverine trees such as Ana trees, Jackalberry, Sycamore figs and Leadwoods. One passes a few small riverside Himba villages, but the Himba in this area are not very traditional. I sensed that those in traditional dress were there only for income from tourist photographs. Lots of children asking for “sweets”. Later much further west we were to see true Himba life. No wild animals seen at all, which although expected, is disappointing.
    On the route we saw an interesting place to stay, known as Kunene Islands campsite about halfway to KRL. The photo hardly does it justice but these are widely spaced A-frame shelters on a high hill on the bank of the Kunene. Certainly worth investigating if only for the view.
    There are some signs to community type camps, but most of these looked decrepit. This is something to watch out for in northern and central Namibia. Many seem to be jumping on the bandwagon with makeshift “Community camps”, rather stick to those with good reviews on this forum.

    KUNENE RIVER LODGE (KRL)
    This was one of the highlights of the trip. We spent 2 nights here and could easily have justified 3. This camp fully deserves its excellent reputation.
    It is owned and run by Hilary and Pete Morgan. Although of British origin they have spent many years in Africa. Pete worked as an employee of Zimbabwe parks many years ago including Hwange. They also lived in Kenya and Botswana. Pete is an excellent source of accurate and thoughtful advice on this area and the rest of Kaokoland. His credibility in the local community is very high and he serves on the local community conservation bodies. He tells me they have been successful in establishing a conservancy around the KRL area. If I remember correctly this includes more than 10km of river frontage. No new Himba settlements may be established and Black Faced Impala have been reintroduced into this area. During the bush war they had been moved to Etosha. Giraffe and Kudu are also being reintroduced, apparently well received and conserved by the local Himba. No plans for any of the big 5. He also relates that some solitary Bull elephants from further south are making increasingly frequent forays into the surrounding areas. He is hoping they will pull some breeding herds with them and slowly establish a permanent presence in the area again. Unfortunately there are no conservation efforts on the Angolan side. In winter the Kunene river is not much of a barrier. He is concerned about possible poaching from that side of the river.
    They have a 25 year renewable lease on the lodge and this is why they are able to invest considerably in camp infrastructure. He has to share a significant portion of the lodge profits with the local communities and is in good standing with the Namiban government. To my question as to the appropriate way to handle photographs of the Himba and specifically payment, he feels that one can avoid disputes and acrimony with these basically naïve people by reserving ones photographs of them for official guided tours of their settlements. The photography “fees” are then included in the cost of the tour. They run such a tour from KRL. He advised me that the route from Swartbooisdrift to Epupa was very likely to be impassable given that the river levels had risen so much since the last group had completed this route some weeks before. Apparently they had a lot of difficulty because of the high water levels even then. He mentioned that the main problem was the muddiness of the river bed, which is not a problem from Ruacana. This group had to pull each other out on a number of occasions. He also advised that I should have no problems in my vehicle over van Zyl’s pass despite being on our own.
    The Morgan’s run a well organised, tidy and friendly camp. Don’t skip this one! This is not one of those ultra-smart lodges and the tone is set by Pete who walks about barefoot. The campsites are right on the banks of the Kunene under mature riverine trees with plenty of water points and electrical points. Each campsite has its own braai stand and most are right on the river. The communal ablutions looked good. There were only two campsites in use during our stay. I was allowed to park my vehicle at one of the nearby empty campsites and plug my vehicle freezer into the mains. These run off a generator which functions from about 7am to 11am and again from 6pm to 10pm. There are more than 10 campsites. Campers have full use of all the facilities including the swimming pool, bar and deck jutting out over the river. This is also where breakfast and dinner are served, all welcome including campers who have pre-arranged for meals. Pete told me that the water directly from the Kunene had been analysed and was completely safe to drink with very low bacterial counts.
    It has taken me some time for me to confess that we checked into a “standard” A-frame bungalow, we could have just as easily have camped. These cost us R520 each per day, with breakfast. These bungalows have a fan working when the power is on and en-suite toilet facilities. Very comfortable, but unpretentious and rustic. There are also deluxe rooms available with aircon, but set further back from the river. I estimate about 5 other couples stayed here during our two days, this proved to be the trend throughout our trip, we were very often the only people at many of our destinations. Apparently the busiest months in northern Namibia are May to September. When pressed Pete felt May was the best month in Koakoland.

    DAY 3:SUNDAY 30/01/2011
    We had no cause to regret spending 2 nights at KRL, which all considered is only really 1 full day. As usual I was up at sparrow’s. This far west it only starts getting light at 6H30 and is light until 20H00. Enjoyed some early morning birding and saw 2 regional specials, Rufus tailed Palm Thrush and Black faced Babbler. The Palm Thrush is very easily seen and its melodious robin-like call is very prominent in the early mornings. The birding in the camp is very good. I recall spotting the following: Meve’s Starling, Pied, Malachite, Giant and Woodland Kingfishers, Green backed Heron, Black Crake, Mourning Dove, Yellow bellied Greenbul, Spectacled Weaver, Palm Swift, Grey Hornbill, Paradise Flycatcher, Red eyed Bulbul, Bearded Woodpecker, etc. Throughout the night I was aware of the calls of a Giant Eagle Owl.
    Breakfast is a choice between a “Farmer’s or Healthy” breakfast. Dinner includes quite an extensive a la carte menu. I enjoyed the great Namibian steaks. Activities include white-water rafting, canoeing (river too high), hiking and birding trips. Pete confessed that his last 4 consecutive birding trips to spot the very rare and localized Cinderella Waxbill had inexplicably failed.
    The day was spent reading, around the pool and doing some housekeeping.
    We opted for a sunset boat cruise at R250 each inclusive of 4 drinks each, of your choice. A definite must. At this time of year it is from 17H45 to 20H00. This is on a barge-like boat with 2 Honda 4 stroke engines seating about 12 people. Pete usually conducts this himself and is an excellent guide with a special interest in birds. We were lucky to have the boat to ourselves. He needed the 2 powerful motors to push up river against the strongly flowing river, followed by a leisurely drift back to camp. When the river is low there are plenty Crocs to be seen but no Hippos here. Birds included Madagascar and Little Bee-eaters, Rosy faced Lovebirds, Martial Eagle, Red Bishops, Purple Roller etc.
    These photos are not works of art, but I hope they serve to illustrate some points.
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  2. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to Stan Weakley For This Useful Post:


  3. #2
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    Very nice report, looking forward to the rest.
    "Meerkat"
    Namboyz (a made up story to scare grown-up children)
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    Tx for sharing, interesting read....indeed

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    Default PART TWO: Trip report Namibia Feb 2011

    DAY 4:MONDAY 31/01/2011

    KRL TO EPUPA CAMP

    162km 3hrs 30mins

    We took the inland route via Swartbooisdrift and the D3701 via Epembe, joining the C43 to Epupa, as advised. In an earlier report on this area, the author mentioned his only regret was that he spent too much time doing “4x4 trails”, instead of sometimes taking the quicker direct routes. This is a worthwhile consideration in planning this particular trip with such long distances and some slow roads to cover. Often the offroad aspects are enjoyed more by the driver than the passengers.
    At Swartbooisdrift we stopped to have a look at the Dorslandtrekkers Memorial and graves. It is good to pause and give thought to the pioneering spirit of these people. The journey was through fairly green Mopani bushveld sparsely populated by small Ovahimba settlements, only occasionally were they in traditional dress in this area. Saw many of their cattle and goats. We were impressed by the visual impact of the Zebra mountains.
    The D3700 is a well maintained dirt road with a speed limit of 100km/hr, though I found 70-80 to be more comfortable. The road undulates through large numbers of dry river beds which could provide a challenge when flowing. There had been some rain as evidenced by some green grass but most of the rain was still to come. A visit later in the season may have provided more verdant scenery but the tradeoff would be more difficulty with the roads and river crossings. The Himba cattle appeared to be in good condition and their bloodlines appeared to be of higher quality than the average indigenous cattle in S.A. The large numbers of goats are of concern because of their indiscriminate eating habits. Goats are still going to be the ruin of Africa. Mixed within the herds of goats were smaller numbers of African sheep which I am told are less destructive to the environment. Do the experts agree?
    A while after turning right on the C43 we passed through the small settlement of Okangwati with its small general stores and liquor shops. Tried to buy some fresh bread at various shops but all sold out by 12H00 already. There is an impressive grove of Makalani palms just out of town. We also saw some Bottle trees and the Impala lilies (Bushman’s Poison) were in flower. The first leafy Baobab was seen about 45km from Epupa, a little difficult for us to recognize at first as we invariably visit these areas during winter. In the village there is a facility advertising tyre repairs and curio stalls at the path to the falls. The good dirt road continues to Epupa itself.
    We first had a look at Omarunga lodge and campsite. The bar, dining area, pool and luxury tents here are impressive in their setting on the Kunene river under Makalani palms. Campers can use the bar and dining facilities (advance booking needed), but these are expensive. Evening meal R125. The luxury tents are R975 pppn including breakfast , camping R100 pppn, no electricity at campsites. Simirlar setting to the adjacent Epupa camp. Epupa camp has the advantage of being about 300m closer to Epupa falls. Their campsites and ablutions seem to be of the same high standard.
    We decided on Epupa camp but they are very comparable, Epupa perhaps more shady. We chose campsite no 2 because of its extensive shade and close proximity to the top of the Epupa falls. The sound of the falls is quite noisy here, but less so, if desired, at the other end of the campsite. The breeze would bring welcome sprinklings of spray onto us, very welcome in the severe heat. There are only campsites here, no lodge, but a very nice bar on a raised deck overlooking the river and the top of the falls. I think there are about 15 to 20 campsites most having water points, braai stands and sinks for washing. No electricity points. The ablutions are fairly new (2009),rustic in design, with flush toilets and showers with hot water (solar), all kept spotlessly clean. On arrival we were the only people but over the next 2 days 3 other groups came and went, not very intrusive because of the size of the camp. Camping costs R80 pppn, a cold beer R15. A member of staff offered to do our laundry at a fee. Ice (R15/bag!) is for sale as is firewood. Guided walks and hikes are available, the “crocodile walk” along the river bank was suspended due to the high level of the Kunene river. The guide admitted that it was not necessary to hire a guide to view the falls as offered.
    I had been confused about Koos Verwey’s camp and the so-called Epupa community camp. These are now one and the same and he has taken over and revamped the camp and even dropped the term community from the signboards. He was in camp but was really not very friendly, barely returning ones greetings.
    After setting up camp in the heat, we noticed people walking about with reflective vests and a police presence at the path to the falls. By now it was getting dark and the camp staff informed us that a Ukranian “hitchhiker” was missing and feared drowned at the bottem of the falls hence the activity. He had apparently hitched from Opuwo and late that afternoon gone on his own to view the falls. When he failed to return the local people, he had latched onto, found his clothes and passport on the banks of the Kunene at the site known as the Beach where people sometimes brave the Crocs for a quick swim when the river is not in flood. In the gathering gloom not much could be done and he was presumed to have drowned. The next day efforts were started to try and search for him or rather his body. Everyone seemed very aware of the adverse implications of the death of a foreign traveller. The area is rather inaccessible. Later that day a local noticed a nude figure waving frantically from the distant Angolan shore. The noise of the falls had drowned out any calls for help. With great difficulty a boat was carried down the narrow path to the bottem of the falls and the boat rowed across the turbulent river at considerable risk, to rescue this hapless Ukranian. I wonder if he has any idea of how lucky he was.
    As a Dr. I thought I had better have a look at him, once the news of his rescue reached me. He was in the capable hands of Joseph, the young Dr. at the clinic across the road from our camp. Dr. Joseph welcomed my presence and asked me to have a look at his patient just for mutual reassurance. There I found the exhausted, sunburnt and shocked Ukranian lying on a matress sleeping. His main concern was that he might come to harm because he had been forced to drink water direct from the river! He was fine with only slight superficial bruising over the one hip. Dr. Joseph had quite correctly ensured that he was rehydrated, bought him mineral water and personally cooked him some food. This poor man looked almost feral to me with a real wild look about him. I have my own views about people who sponge off poor African communities and take advantage of the inherent African hospitality. Quite correctly there were some mutterings from the locals as to his inability to compensate them for their considerable efforts in rescuing him. By the following morning he was gone having cadged a lift.

    DAY 5:TUESDAY 1/02/2011
    We spent a second day at Epupa camp in order to explore the falls in the early morning before it became too hot. The walk is not too strenuous, the only climb of any consequence being back up from the Ukranian’s beach. Definitely no guide required but take water enough to drink with you.
    The falls are in a series of three falls. Really very spectacular with the river in full spate. They are not impressive because of their height, but because of the crescentic spread of the various falls and cataracts over a broad vista. Another feature is the rocky islands with majestic Baobab trees and the banks fringed with Makalani palms, between the cataracts. I doubt that my photos do the falls justice. All this in the context of the extremely arid surrounding countryside.
    Birds seen in the area included, Rufous tailed Palm Thrush (plenty),Palm Swift, Red beaked Firefinch, Mourning dove, Meyer’s Parrot, Rosy faced Lovebirds, Pied Wagtail, Dusky Sunbird, Blue Waxbills etc.
    We were now about to move onto van Zyl’s Pass and I was a little concerned about the vehicle being top heavy. I had read about side slopes on sections of the pass and wanted to avoid trouble as we were travelling on our own. In fact these turned out not to be a factor. I carry a large aluminium trommel on my roofrack in which I convey all my spares, tools and recovery equipment. Some of these are quite heavy and I moved them into the vehicle.
    We thoroughly enjoyed our 2 days at Epupa camp and falls but there is no reason to stay any longer. If you have time to spare, rather spend extra time at KRL and do more of the organized excursions.
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    Default NAMIBIA: North and West, Trip report, Feb 2011

    TRIP REPORT: NORTHERN AND WESTERN NAMIBIA. 2011
    PART THREE


    DAY 6:WEDNESDAY 2/02/2011

    EPUPA TO NEAR VAN ZYL’S PASS AND THEN TO OPUWO

    321km 10 hrs 5mins

    What an abortion of a day. This is where not having T4A loaded on my GPS caught up with me. I still cannot fathom exactly where we were when we turned back to Okangwati. Unfortunately I did not record any GPS waypoints.
    We left Epupa on schedule at 08H55. Passed through Okangwati again. I decided to top up my fuel here. There are fuel signs at various places in Okangwati all leading to a storeroom type building where a Herero entrepreneur sells petrol and diesel from BP metal drums, pumping with a hand pump into large plastic containers. We had heard reports that his volume measurements were overstated so I emptied my 2x 20l jerrycans into my vehicle tank before allowing him to fill them. There were also concerns about the cleanliness of the fuel so we used a funnel with a filter and also filtered through some cloth. I must say there appeared to no debri in the diesel. Diesel was sold here at the inflated price of R11/l compared to the normal price of just over R8, but beggars can’t be choosers. Petrol is also for sale but I am unsure if unleaded is available. As it turned out we did not need the extra 40l but I felt it would give me enough peace of mind to be adventurous in my explorations in the river bed trails awaiting further south. After Ruacana the next fuel was at Sesfontein or Palmwag over 800km further south. With the difficult roads and various alternative routes ahead it was difficult to predict how much diesel I would need. Although the price is a little inflated I would suggest topping up your fuel here for trouble free and uninhibited exploring.
    We headed south out of Okangwati and on the outskirts of town found the track to Etengwa which is very poorly signposted. We relied on directions from locals. We then crossed the water at the hot springs west of the town heading for Etengwa which turned out to be a bush shop and a hut or 2. Otjitanda appeared to be a group of huts only and we now headed for Otjihende and the start of van Zyl’s Pass, or so we hoped. We saw some Black faced Impala on the D3700. The roads progressively deteriorated as we had expected. There were no further signposts after the obscure sign to Etengwa at Okangwati. Early in the journey there are many dry riverbed crossings, fortunately not yet a problem.
    The road at first was a simple single track equivalent to a Savuti/Moremi type track. There were minimal signs of recent tyre tracks, becoming even less as the journey progressed. Later the track becomes very stony and even rocky, requiring low range for some steep ascents and descents and a comfortable speed was now 20km/hr or less. Beyond Otjitande the actual route was difficult to follow because of the absence of recent tracks. Cattle spoor was starting to obscure the track. We then arrived at a clear fork in the road not marked on our T4A map. According to our odometer reading we were about 10km from Otjihende. I had entered the GPS co-ords for Otjihende onto our GPS in the only program available to us, Garmap. This of course did not display any of the tracks but we could use it to check that we were heading in the correct direction for Otjihende and the start of van Zyl’s Pass. We took the fork to the south as this appeared to be the more used track only to find that after about 5km we were heading far too south of Otjihende. We therefor turned back and took the more northerly fork. After about 3km this petered out completely and was completely obscured by animal tracks. We cast about for some time but failed to find any signs of a track. I suspect we were within about 10km of Otjihende when I was finally forced to turn back to Okongwati. It was now already 16H30 and we were exhausted by the very trying situation and the bad roads.
    In Okongwati we finally obtained some good advice from a guide on leave from Epupa Camp. He suggested we overnight in Opuwo and then follow the route from Opuwo to Etengwa onwards which was of much better quality and was used far more often, and so it proved. We arrived in Opuwo 10 hours after leaving Epupa. Fortunately it is still light at 19H00. I filled up with diesel and headed for the Opuwo Country Hotel, apparently the best in town. To Anne’s credit she never complained once during this frustrating day. Perhaps the secret lies in giving your wife the responsibility of navigating while you drive. I think Anne felt a shared responsibility for our navigation debacle.
    Opuwo is a rather ramshackle small town. The most interesting feature is the contrasting sight of traditionally dressed seminude Himbas mingling in the streets of the town with dressed up Herero woman in their very elaborate old German type colonial dresses.
    Opuwo Country Country hotel was very disappointing at the expensive price of R1204 for a standard double room for the night and breakfast. The buildings and décor are fine but the establishment is frankly badly run. Supper at R130 was not good with tough steaks. We bumped into some people who said they were finding the campsite on the estate very good. This large property is set on a hill above Opuwo and the view and security were very good. Camping would have been a better idea under different circumstances but uncomplaining Anne deserved a break.

    DAY 7:THURSDAY 3/02/2011

    OPUWO VIA VAN ZYL’S PASS AND MARIENFLUSS TO OKARAHOMBO CAMP

    227km 8hrs 50mins

    This was a fantastic day in contrast to Wednesday. The route to van Zyl’s pass from the Opuwo side is seemingly much easier than the route via Okangwati, or had we just made a meal of the previous day?
    With no packing up to do we were able to leave the hotel at 07H25 after a good breakfast. The road to Etenga is well signposted and for the first 70km of the road were able to travel comfortably at 80km/hr. This well maintained dirt road narrowed gradually and dips through various river beds including the Hoarisib river, which we were to explore further south later. There was a little water in some of the river beds with some signs that they had come down in flood recently. The trees were all nice and green and the grass was starting to green up. At this stage we passed a single vehicle which we later realized would be the last vehicle we would see for 4 days. We were heading into a very isolated area especially at this time of year. I had taken care to ensure that we were self- sufficient for at least a week with more than 100l of water especially.
    We passed through Etenga again 102km and 1hr 50min later, the road immediately narrowed to a 2-track but still able to average 40km/hr. At “Etenga junction”, 116 km from Opuwo one takes the right-hand fork to reach Otjihende and the community camp at the bottem of van Zyl’s Pass. This camp has regular signposts painted onto rocks at the side of the track. The track was now more sandy but still incomparably better than those of the previous day and I was able to travel at about 30km/hr in 3rd gear. The vegetation was mainly scrubby Mopaniveld and not very interesting.
    At 120km from Opuwo there is another fork in the road but fortunately a handpainted sign on a rock directed us to the left fork and the community camp and start of van Zyl’s pass. At this stage the track was barely recognizable due to recent rains and cattle spoor. Fortunately a single vehicle had passed this way since the rain and we were able to follow its tracks. We saw a very occasional Himba herdsman but were unable to have any meaningful communication with them. Over the last 10km we seemed to be on the same roads of the previous day and we arrived at the community campsite near Otjihende at the start of van Zyl’s, reaching it after 152km and 3hrs 50mins from Opuwo. Even after reaching our destination I was unable to work out where we had gone wrong the previous day. I think that the single tyre track we followed saved our bacon.
    The campsite was nice enough with showers and flush toilets. A camp attendant was present as was a kiosk with a fridge and cold drinks for sale. I saw no recognizable settlement to represent Otjihende but these named settlements in this area are not sign-posted and are difficult to recognize as such. We felt that 11H15 was too early to set up camp and decided to ascend van Zyl’s Pass with a view to staying at the community camp on the top of the pass as suggested by Pete Morgan at KRL.

    VAN ZYL’S PASS:
    This pass is very impressive having been built by hand as a short-cut to the Marienfluss area, saving a considerable distance compared to the route via Otjihaa, Onjuva and Rooidrom (50km vs. 115km). It is also regarded as one of the most spectacular 4x4 challenges in Southern Africa. I think the greatest challenge is its isolation, in the event of any problems.
    The pass is quite technical in parts with some steep ascents and boulder hopping, so that the ascent cannot be taken too fast, second gear low range served me well. In only one area was there any severe drop off from the side of the road and the downslope camber was also not as marked as I had feared. It is the long, very steep, rocky and step-like descents that are tricky. One really needs to concentrate on the correct line to avoid damaging the underside of the vehicle. We did not have to do any road building because of the excellent Old Man Emu suspension fitted. Even heavily loaded the vehicle never scraped its undercarriage once. I had to descend in low range 1st gear, also using the brakes, for some fairly long stretches. A vehicle without low range suffers a very high risk of damaging its brakes. A high clearance vehicle is also imperative. If damage to the vehicle or a puncture occurred in one of these sections I don’t think it is feasible to stop and correct matters. God forbid that one should meet an oncoming vehicle on either the steep ascents or descents. Any person attempting this pass from west to east rather than the recommended east to west needs his head read. He will damage the pass and his vehicle, when he tries to ascend the very steep portions from the wrong direction, at the very dangerous speed he would have to use to climb up the rocky steps. He will also place the lives of anyone driving in the opposite direction in danger with the speed required to negotiate the narrow blind rises and corners.
    The views from the pass are absolutely outstanding. I regret not taking more photographs and not stopping enough to savour the views. Once enthralled in the technicalities of negotiating the pass the drive seems to develop a momentum of its own and before you know it you have reached the end of the pass. Please don’t repeat this mistake if you can help it. There are at least 2 lookout points off the road, these are not signposted so keep a sharp lookout for them as the views are not to be missed. The one towards the end of the top of the pass gives an unparalleled view over the Marienfluss. We managed to miss the community camp at the top of the pass which was a great pity, there were certainly no signposts.
    The 11km of the pass were over all too soon and it was with a sense of anticlimax that we reached the memorial to Jan Joubert at the foot of the pass. We had a good look at the piles of signed stones nearby and noted a Suzuki Jimmy and a V.W. Beetle that had completed the pass, quite an achievement. Unfortunately we had not brought any paint along so could not leave a record of our passage behind. I do not want to overrate this pass to anyone, with a suitable vehicle and some savvy you should have no problems. At the end of the day I did experience a considerable sense of achievement on completing this goal. It attests to the pedigree of the Landcruiser in the ease that it handled this test. The pass was 11km long and I made the mistake of doing it in only 1hr 55mins. I was a little distressed to see the multiple chips out of the tread of my BF Goodridge AT tyres. I cannot help but wonder how much the wear and tear of tyres on this section of the trip costs in financial terms, probably better not to know.
    The community campsite at the bottem of the pass was also not signposted. I recall driving past a possible turnoff. Because of the strict rules about driving off the road in the Marienfluss I was not inclined to explore too much. It was only 14H00 and we decided to drive up the Marienfluss to Okarahombo community camp on the Kunene river, where we arrived at 16H15 (about 2hrs) and 63km after the bottem of the pass. Plenty of time to set up camp.

    MARIENFLUSS:
    Unfortunately there had not been a drop of rain here yet. We had hoped to see the ‘rippling fields of wheat’ version, but no luck as everything except the trees was brown, drab and dry. Nonetheless this valley, flanked by magnificent mountain ranges on either side, is simply unforgettable. The mountains become more rugged and imposing as one travels north. I would estimate its extent as being about 60km long from south to north and up to 20km wide. With the grass being so dry and sparse, animals were scarce with only scattered small herds of Springbok being present and only the very occasional Gemsbok. After the rains I gather large numbers of both are present. Also many of the migrant pastoral Himbas have migrated out of the valley with their cattle in search of better grazing and water. In this area they are still engaged in very traditional customs and dress, almost unique in Africa these days, and add considerably to the impact of this very isolated and unique area. On the other hand we had the advantage of being the only travellers in this area. The small numbers of people in such a vast area is astounding, but not surprising when one considers that Namibia has the second lowest population density after Mongolia. Many of the mysterious fairy circles are visible as one drives along. We took the most easterly route on the way north to the Kunene and this worked out well, as later when travelling south, we took a more westerly route towards the Hartman’s mountains. I had been a little concerned about travelling the same area there and back but this was not an issue as it turned out. The Marienfluss area is unique enough to warrant a thorough exploration. We passed the landmark burnt out Landy which had burnt out after the grass which had collected around its exhaust, ignited. This was not a danger in the dry grassless conditions we encountered.
    The roads here are a great change with smooth, soft, sandy, two track roads, very comfortable to drive on. I suggest you take your time here as it is only about 60km of easy driving. Please do not give the Himbas you encounter here any handouts as they are relatively “unspoilt” compared to some other areas, where they at times are reduced to beggars.

    OKARAHOMBO COMMUNITY CAMP
    We had decided to stay at the Himba run Okarahombo community camp rather than Camp Synchro owned by the same Koos Verwey from Epupa. Last year much of his camp had been destroyed by fire and there had been conflicting reports as to whether it was open or not. In my opinion supporting community camps is good for the long term future of conservation. Certainly we were not disappointed in our carefully chosen community camps on this trip. However some of the other camps we inspected were not in great shape and were not worthy of support.
    This camp is impressively situated right on the banks of the strongly flowing Kunene River under shady riverine trees. Lots of large Ana trees and Makalani palms. Although not as lush as KRL it was a tranquil setting. The impact of the flowing river and greenery must be taken in context with the almost dessert-like landscape of the surrounding northwestern Marienfluss and Hartman’s valley. We were the only people in the camp for the two nights we spent here. There are 5 shady sites in all, widely spread and some suitable for larger groups, which is a little unusual. Some have their own reed-enclosed flush toilets and there are a few solar heated showers in a rustic but pleasant structure. These were a little dusty and unused but did not require much of a cleanup to have them perfect. Each campsite has its own tap water from the river which we drank after the advice given to us at KRL and washing basins with wooden work surfaces. A cement slab is also present for braais.
    When approaching the community camp beware as there are run down, perhaps abandoned camps, on either side of it. The functioning camp has a gate, a fence around it and a hut with a reception sign. It is fairly well sign posted on the way in.

    DAY 8:FRIDAY 4/02/2011
    The first time we saw anyone was the following morning when a westernized Himba woman arrived to collect our camping fees for the two nights we were staying. I think the fees were R60 pppn or somewhere in that vicinity. She said that the resident guide was in Opuwo on vacation for this quiet period. There was no wood for sale so be sure to bring your own. She was very grateful that we were able to give her a box of matches she requested, such is the simple yet isolated life these people lead. This camp was very peaceful and tranquil and we were lucky enough to be the only occupants. Well worth a two night stay.
    I tried fishing with dropshot for Pike with no success. There are no Tigerfish in the Kunene. The birding was good and I did my usual trick of scattering birdseed and crumbs and scraps around the camp site. This always attracts many birds and adds interest to the very hot middle of the day, when all one can do is sit in the shade of the camp and enjoy a cold drink. Our Engel freezer did us proud. Birds seen around the camp included Goliath and Green backed Heron, Gymnogene, Water Thicknee, Blacksmith Plover, Woodland Kingfisher, Madagascan Bee-eater, Mourning Dove, Cape Sparrow, Black-eyed Bulbul, Golden Weaver, Masked Weaver, Spotted and Paradise Flycatcher, Dusky Sunbird, Mountain Chat, Red-faced Mousebird, Rosy-faced Lovebird, Puffback, Lesser grey Shrike, Bokmakierie, Fiscal Shrike, Plum coloured Starling, Grey Lourie and Pale-winged Starling etc.
    We took a drive to Camp Syncro about 2km upriver to have a look. Friendly local staff were happy to let us in to have a look. It is definitely open for camping, I estimate 6-8 sites, also right on the banks of the Kunene and very comparable to the community camp. The sites are a little closer to each other, which might make a difference in peak season. The sites are also a little less shady, some of the large Ana trees have died after the fire they had last year. There are no signs of the chalets which burnt down, they have been demolished without a trace. The camp is still staffed and Koos Verwey’s wooden house is still standing although he seems to be spending most of his time at Epupa now. Understandably Syncro has a slight air of devastation about it, which should improve rapidly with time.
    We also took a drive west along the Kunene until we encountered no entry signs to, I gather, some private camps and concessions. This area has all the charectoristics of the Namib dessert.
    A feature of the camp are the spectacular looming mountains on the deserted Angolan side of the river which I think are named the Baine’s Mountains. That side of the river was devoid of any signs of human or animal life except for a noisy troop of baboons. Apparently Himba do live there. So we had followed the Kunene from Ruacana to as far west as one is allowed to go. This is an impressive African river when in full spate as we saw it. It is about 70 to 100m wide and is a splendid oasis in this dry area. It is a beautiful place to visit, but nowhere along it surpasses KRL.
    Some may want to turn south to Rooidrom after van Zyl’s Pass, I think it would be a great pity to miss the full extent of the Marienfluss and the logical place to stay would be at one of the Kunene camps. I realize that covering the same area there and back may sound boring, but the far western route in the Hartman’s Valley area is very different to the eastern Marienfluss, being more alike to the Namib.
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    Default NAMIBIA: North and West, Trip report, Feb 2011

    TRIP REPORT: NORTHERN AND WESTERN NAMIBIA. 2011
    PART THREE (contd)

    MORE PHOTOS
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  10. #7
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    WOW what a trip!!!


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    Nice informative report. Keep it up. We did a similair trip in dec/jan. Great area.
    Lara

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    Default NAMIBIA: North and West, Trip report, Feb 2011

    TRIP REPORT: NORTHERN AND WESTERN NAMIBIA. 2011
    PART FOUR

    DAY 9:SATURDAY 5/02/2011

    OKARAHOMBO CAMP TO MARBLE CAMP (Near Onjuva)

    98km 3hrs 40mins

    We headed as far west as possible from the camp before taking the last possible road to the south. This area is very dry with some sand dunes in keeping with its proximity to the Skeleton Coast National Park and the Namib. The landscape was much more rugged than that traversed to the east on the way in, but just as impressive. Without T4A on my GPS it was not possible to trace our exact route but I think most of this route was through the Hartman’s Valley, west of the Marienfluss. When we eventually turned east via orange and green drums, to Red Drum, the sign behind us said “No Entry”. I am absolutely sure that we passed no “No Entry” signs on the way down?? I had marked the co-ords for Red Drum on my GPS and we were thus able to avoid getting lost.
    We were seeing a little more game on this day with some Springbok and Gemsbok. There were also more Himba settlements, some occupied. We also spotted quite a few Ludwig’s Bustards. We passed another landmark, a bakkie that had detonated a landmine during the border conflict about 20-30 years ago. It was full of shrapnel holes and evoked some old and buried memories. There must have been some mortalities! I wonder if anyone can fill me in on exactly what happened here?
    We reached Green and then Orange drum before finding Red drum and the first sign to Marble Community camp and the House on the Hill self-catering facility. Anne was driving today as I had not realized we had the difficult Rooidrom Pass ahead of us. The road was now more stony and undulating with lots of small river beds. Our speed was now restricted to about 20-30km/hr.
    As you can surmise from taking 160mins for 98km the Rooidrom pass was quite arduous. It was good practice for Anne, having to engage low range for quite a few steep, rocky ascents and descents. We could see the abandoned Marble Mine from some distance away and took a turn to the east (left) about 1 km before the campsite to visit it. Well worth a passing visit.

    MARBLE COMMUNITY CAMP.
    Looking at my trip record, to travel on to Puros (from Okarahombo) would have been 207 km and 9Hrs 45mins altogether, really too much for 1 day. I suppose if one is pushed for time one can take the D3707 to Puros and save lots of time by avoiding the Khumib and Hoarusib River beds, but that would be senseless.
    This was the best organized of the community camps we visited and is recommended. They do accept bookings and appear to be very full in the busy season. We were again alone in the camp. Cost of camping R60 pppn, wood R20 for a very large bundle. This very pleasant camp consists of 5 large well spaced campsites set under shady Mopani trees on the banks of the dry Noideb river. In reception they do have pictures of an impressive flash flood a year or 2 previously. We took camp no 2 as it had the best shade. There are excellent shared ablutions of rustic design, flush toilets and hot showers (solar), kept spotlessly clean and even with toilet paper. Each campsite has lovely tap water from a borehole, sink, work surface, concrete slab for braai, but no electrical points. However this camp is really in the middle of nowhere, there is not much of a view and not much to do in the area. An exellent overnight stop.
    For those wanting a break from camping, the House On The Hill is situated on a viewpoint just above the camp. They are both administered from the camp reception. We did not visit this self-catering facility but it is a fairly new building in the design of an old farmhouse with a large veranda. I do not know what the charges are but if it is as well looked after as the camp, it certainly is a viable proposition.
    Birds in and around the camp included, Ruppel’s Parrot, Bare checked Babbler, Red billed Francolin, Blue checked Bee-eater, White browed Sparrow Weaver, Cape Glossy Starling, Grey Hornbill, Black eyed Bulbul and Fork tailed Drongo etc. Pearl spotted and Scops Owls called from the river bed at night.
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  14. #10
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    ha ha, wish I had the patience and time to write reports like this about my trips...lol
    Going to have to print this out and read it at home tonight so that I can make proper comments tomorrow ;-)
    "Meerkat"
    Namboyz (a made up story to scare grown-up children)
    Slightly Modded 03' V8 Disco

  15. #11
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    Stan, one again a stunnig report. I really enjoyed your Zimbabwe report. Now this. Keep it coming!!!!
    "If you don't care where you are, you ain't lost"

  16. #12
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    Default NAMIBIA: North and West, Trip report, Feb 2011

    TRIP REPORT: NORTHERN AND WESTERN NAMIBIA. 2011
    PART FIVE

    DAY 10:SUNDAY 6/02/2011

    MARBLE CAMP TO PUROS COMMUNITY CAMP(This camp is also known as Ngatutungwe community camp)

    119km 6hrs 5mins

    We managed to pack up camp and leave early as we planned to follow the river bed routes along the Khumib and Hoarisib. I would encourage all to take this route rather than the D3707, if at all possible. We took our time, the route is really not too demanding and we were easily able to reach Puros in time to set up camp and settle in. In reterospect I would have proceeded at an even more leisurely pace. I can only speak for the conditions we encountered and the time of year we were there. I accept that the route can be drastically altered by recent rains and wash aways. However in the peak season between May and September one would be very unlucky to have any difficulties.
    For us the most difficult part of this section was finding the start of the trail at Orupembe junction, once on the river bed trail we just followed the tracks. I don’t think it is easy to lose your way here. The sand in the Khumib is fairly soft but not a problem, there are occasional slightly rocky sections. We were able to drive at 20-30km/hr in 2nd or 3rd gear. There were no signs that there had been any recent flow and that is probably why there was relatively little game. We did see some groups of Springbok, Ostrich and Gemsbok, I was surprised at how skittish they were, immediately heading for the hills on detecting the vehicle. A proud specimen of a Wahlberg’s Eagle was seen perched in the riverside trees. These green prominent trees, mainly Camelthorns and tall Mopanis, were the main scenic feature. This river bed was probably the least attractive of those we drove down, but this is relative. I must qualify this by pointing out that another time of the year things are probably different. From the lack of fresh tire tracks it was evident that no vehicle had passed this way for a number of days. Altogether the Khumib bed is about 56km and the Hoarisib 25km long on this route.
    The crossover road from the Khumib to the Hoarusib River was reached after 4hrs 15mins and 79km, it is not easy to miss. The crossover takes about 40mins and is 23km long. This road is in reasonable condition and includes a valley between 2 mountain ranges. Although arid, the scenery was striking. Look out for the distant mountain that looks like a sphinx-“Mount Himba Sphinx”. On this section we startled a few small herds of Hartman’s Mountain Zebra. The odd group of Springbok and Gemsbok were present.
    The Hoarisib was clearly more scenic with oases of greenery where the underground river is forced to the surface by the rocky bed. In these areas the water comes to the surface in the form of springs and pools of water, attracting herds of about 20 Springbok and small groups of Gemsbok. This is in vivid contrast to the surrounding arid landscape. We also passed through some sections of progressively more spectacular gorges. The river banks had regular clumps of majestic Camelthorns, Ana trees and Makalani Palms. We were travelling in the heat of the day and saw no Elephant or Giraffe although there was some fairly fresh Elephant dung. There was also evidence that the river had recently flowed with short sections of shallow but slippery clay, but on this section we did not have to drive through any water in contrast to the Hoarisib downstream of Puros. At no stage did we feel that we were in danger of getting bogged down and never had to use low range.

    PUROS COMMUNITY CAMP
    The turnoff to Puros community camp is not sign posted and unless you keep your eyes peeled you will end up in Puros village a few km down river. We arrived at the camp at 13H50, too hot to set up camp and first settled for a refreshing cold shower. On arrival I chatted to a German couple in their VW Syncro, who were travelling north. These were the first travellers and the first vehicle we had seen since Opuwo!! We swapped notes and I hope I managed to persuade him not to pursue his intention to challenge van Zyl’s pass from west to east. They spoke in glowing terms of the Hoanib river and the Amspoort area where they assured us we would see lots of Elephants and other game. They had been marooned for a day or two by deep water in the Hoanib but assured us that the water had already subsided. The landscape was progressively greening up as we proceeded southwards with increasing signs of recent rain.
    We found Puros Community camp very enjoyable and were impressed by the amount of old Elephant dung in and between the camp sites. The camp staff confirmed that Elephant were very scarce in the vicinity at that time of the year and were mostly further south. They are apparently plentiful in the camp after the rains from April to July. They confirmed that the rains were a little late this year, but the peak rainfall was usually in March and April. We were once again the only people in camp although 2 further vehicles arrived the next day. We had the choice of any camp site but requested the most shady and were allocated no 2, very shady and right near the river bed although the view was blocked by the shade trees. We had our own rustic but clean flush toilet and shower. Hot water was available if you started a fire in the donkey, we were happier with cold showers because of the heat. Once again drinkable tap water from a borehole was on site with a braaipit and basin. In standard this community camp is up there with the rest of them. Costs R60 pppn and a generous load of wood was R20. We booked a guide for 7H30 the following morning as they claimed to know where to find the thus far elusive Elephants. Whilst at reception an excited German arrived with one of the guides. Driving in their rented bakkie they had been guided to a pride of 3 Lions at their usual haunt near Puros Canyon about 20km from camp. The staff informed us that Lions at times moved up to the springs upstream of the camp. We liked the camp and the surrounding area seemed interesting, so we decided to spend 2 nights here. It was very hot during the middle of the day but as elsewhere the evenings were tempered by a cooling breeze. This is a dry heat, more acceptable than our humidity at the coast and we were already well acclimatized to it. However any strenuous activity during the day left one dripping in sweat.
    There is a “Lodge” here, self catering and run by the community. I had a look at it later. It consists of a number of solidly built stone chalets on the river bank a little way downstream. Rather camp. A pub is also present, all welcome and although cold drinks are available we did not make use of it. They do not sell ice.

    DAY 11:MONDAY 7/02/2011
    By this stage it was very difficult to keep track of the date or day of the week. This is of course an indication of how relaxed we were, aided and abetted by the fact that we had no schedule to chase. Believe me this is the way to explore.
    We set off on our Elephant seeking drive with our guide. A half day cost R250 for both of us, with a visit to a Himba village being R30 each. In the river bed near the camp he found very fresh tracks of an Elephant heading north and off we set, driving in his tracks. At this earlier hour a lot more game was about and we saw our first groups of dessert Giraffe. There were also larger groups of Springbok and Gemsbok. We also had a good view of a pair of Black backed Jackal. We drove over 30km up the river bed when we noticed that the tracks had vanished. The distance that these dessert Elephant cover in a night is astounding. We turned back and found this solitary bull a km or so downriver. He must have been invisible in the thick Tamarisk bush in the river bed, when we passed. Driving down this wild and dramatic river bed is made more exciting by the prospect of running into these aggressive Elephant around the next bend. Our guide made sure we kept a very safe distance from this bull. They have great respect for their aggression. When the bull began showing irritation at our presence, the guide correctly insisted that we move on.
    The Himba village visit on the way back was a bit of a non event as most of the people were away at a funeral. Nonetheless this show village was interesting with authentic huts and kraals and a demonstration of the preparation and application of the traditional Himba ochre and fat used as a cosmetic to cover their bodies from head to toe. The mixture is actually quite fragrant because of the use of certain gums and resins especially harvested from local trees. As mentioned previously one is free to take photographs to your heart’s content without any demeaning haggling over prices. Any photographs are included in the price of the visit.
    As arranged, at 16h00, we set off in my vehicle with our guide on a drive downstream to where he had found the dessert Lions the previous evening. This cost us a very reasonable R150 again. We could see where they had lain right next to the track in the river bed. This must have been a fantastic sight. We followed their tracks back up the river until they vanished into the thick scrub that abounds. They could have been within 20m of us without being seen. This small pride consists of 3 Lionesses and spends all its time in the Hoarisib bed. They mainly prey on Gemsbok coming down to drink and there were a few old carcasses to bear this out. Maybe next time?
    A highlight was encountering a Springbok ewe, with an early season newly born calf, too unsteady to run away with its mother, so it just flattened itself to the ground next to us in an attempt at concealment. It just lay there shivering helplessly. This immediately exposed the mothering instinct in my wife.
    We asked our guide to take us downriver to show us the best turnoff out of the river bed that we would use the following day to travel to Amspoort and the Hoanib river. ( GPS co-ords S 18 51.915 E 12 52.180. 21.7km from Puros Camp) The Hoarisib river below Puros is much more imposing than the area upstream, more on this below.
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  17. #13
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    Default PHOTOS: 7/02/2011: Trip report Namibia Feb 2011

    Trip report: Northern and western namibia. 2011
    Further photos: 7/02/2011
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  19. #14
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    Default NAMIBIA: North and West, Trip report, Feb 2011

    TRIP REPORT: NORTHERN AND WESTERN NAMIBIA. 2011
    PART SIX:

    DAY 12:TUESDAY 8/02/2011

    PUROS TO KHOWARIB SCHLUCHT (VIA HOARISIB AND HOANIB RIVERS)

    About 330km Estimated time about 8hrs (if not stuck).

    This is the day we got properly stuck!!!!! Utterly and entirely my own fault.
    This day’s route was pretty exciting, down the Hoarisib river via Puros canyon, across the Ganias flats and up the Hoanib river to Sesfontein or Khowarib Schlucht.
    The Hoarisib river bed south of Puros is much more attractive than the part upstream. There is far more surface water, everything is greener, there seemed to be more animals and the visual impact of the canyon-like sides of the river bed was simply breathtaking. The fact that we had done this part of the trip with a guide the day before, made it much more relaxing for me. I realized how one feels a little on the edge driving over unknown terrain. After the initial sandy, dry river bed, we had fairly short shallow water crossings every few hundred meters. The river comes to the surface in this area, but the previous day had shown me that all of the water crossings were shallow and on firm, even rocky surfaces. Because of all the surface water there were once again lots of Springbok and Gemsbok and even quite a few Giraffe. I found it a little strange that there we so few signs of Elephant here, but apparently this is very different later in the season. Once the rains arrive in full force I imagine there could be some difficulties with water in the bed. One would then have to take the apparently boring 100km D3707 to the Sesfontein area. The Puros canyon itself is a visual highlight with the high rocky walls closing in on you in a claustrophobic fashion. We kept a sharp lookout for the Lions in this area, to no avail, but there was lots of fresh Lion spoor. The highlight of this section was seeing a Black Eagle swoop onto some Dassies, just missing them as they scrambled to safety. We sat and watched it for some time as it perched and preened itself on a nearby krans.
    As mentioned above, we had marked the turnoff out of the river bed to Amspoort Gorge, there are apparently a number of choices, some over testing terrain and less direct. This turnoff is very easy to miss. The road across the Ganias Flats is good, although in parts corrugated, we were able to drive at 40-60km/hr. This was a real contrast to the river, miles of nothing, not a blade of grass or tree to be seen, just an occasional bush with pebbly sand and mountain ranges in the distance. Closer to the river there was some of the usual game. There were some fresh Elephant footprints travelling down the road, probably from the night before. It would have been a magnificent site to see one of these giants sailing along this dessert track. This was the longest stretch travelled at 60km/hr since near Opuwo 5 days earlier.
    Amspoort itself is quite scenic and we reached it after about 80km and 3hrs from Puros camp. Here we turned up the Hoanib river bed and this was in a class of its own as far as game was concerned. Soon after the junction we came upon 2 large bull Elephants browsing contentedly in the shade of the riverine Camelthorns. They were very relaxed and pointedly ignored us, although we made a point of driving past them before stopping in case a quick getaway was needed. We watched and photographed them for a while before moving on. There were also plenty of Springbok, Giraffe and Gemsbok resting in the shade. These were also very relaxed and barely moved away when we passed by close to them in the fairly narrow river bed. There were signs that the river had been flowing strongly recently but there was no standing water only occasional stretches of shallow mud. Intermittently we could see the deep holes that Elephant had dug in the sandy river bed. Probably because of the recent flow the sand was firm and easy to drive on. I think this section was one of the highlights of our trip because of both the visual effect of this wild river bed and because of the animals seen. We saw 3 small breeding herds of Elephants, some with calves. Some of these we could stop beyond them and watch from a safe distance. One group with a particularly impressive Matriarch reacted very violently when we suddenly surprised them (and ourselves) when we came around a blind bend in the river, very close to them, in a narrow section of the river bed. We had to rapidly make tracks. I estimate that we saw about 16 Elephant here altogether, including 2 further lone bulls which were as usual, more relaxed. As we proceeded up the Hoanib in the direction of Sesfontein the game became progressively more scarce and the scenery more mundane.
    We now came to a major fork in the track about 15km from Sesfontein where a large tributary the Obias joined the Hoanib and we took the clearer track along the Hoanib to Sesfontein. We were heading for an area, I think called Die Poort, where there was once again a split in the track, both equally used. The one to the left(north west) was up the Ganamub river and to the right (north east) continuing along the Hoanib, which we took as it was the more direct route to Sesfontein. We reached an abandoned camp Elephant’s Song which one of our guide books described as “abandoned due to marauding Lions”, which at the time amused us no end. In front of us we faced another choice. For the first time in the Hoanib some water lay ahead of us, I left the vehicle to have a closer look. The more direct track to the right passed through the 50m long pool of water, but it had a muddy bottem and on the fairly steep exit there was a lot of mud churned up from passing vehicles. I then had a look at the less distinct route to the left which bypassed the water over a grassy, muddy bank. This was the route to take!!!!!
    I took the precaution of engaging low range second gear and took a running start at the track for momentum. I realized we were in trouble when the grassy surface failed to hold the weight of the vehicle and we began ploughing through the mud and soon I had reached the point of no return. We were about 50m into this morass before we lost all traction and sunk into the marsh onto the chassis and diffs. I had failed to walk the obstacle all for the fear of getting some mud into the vehicle. At least there were 2 things I did correctly, I kept the steering and front wheels straight and did not wheel spin the wheels even deeper into the mud. On alighting from the vehicle it was obvious we were deep in the poo! I sank knee deep into the glutinous mud and could hardly walk in it. As we all do in these situations I looked for a tree or winch point. There were none even remotely near enough. We were about 50m into the mud and 60m from the exit point. I realized that even should another vehicle rock up and with my two snatch straps joined, it would be extremely difficult to obtain sufficient traction to extract us. I then turned to the spade, even freeing this from its mounting on the side of the roof rack required a major effort in the sucking slippery knee deep mud. The spade could not function in the cloying mud and I realized I was going to have to dig us out by hand. Those who have been in Namibia at this time of the year will know that I am not exaggerating when I state that the temperature was about 40C at 2 in the afternoon. By now I was drinking water by the liter, thank goodness we had plenty of it.
    I had a surreptitious look for the nearest possible camp site out of the river bed. This lay about 200m away and we would have to lug all our kit through the mud, I felt exhausted at the thought of it. I took a smoke and drink break as I stopped to consider my options. I realized that there was no quick fix here and took down the hi-lift jack and plate. Everybody who has worked with a hi-lift jack will be laughing as they know what lies ahead. The one thing the moving parts of these jacks do not like is mud. The mud causes the jack to repeatedly bind and at this stage I had to ask my “good” wife to join me in the mud. “Good” because I received not so much as even a word of reproach. I needed her to wash off the jamming mechanisms as I raised first the one back wheel and then the other to place rocks under them to raise the chassis off the mud. Even the exhaust had been under the mud. Carrying these rocks through the mud was no joke and Anne twisted her knee quite badly on her third fall in the slippery mud. While she lay on the bank to recover I had time to think things through. The most difficult part of the first rear wheel had been lowering the jack .The mud caused the release catch to keep jamming because of the mud in it and one had to force and hold it in the down position and pump the handle at the same time. The dangers of this were evidenced when first myself and then Anne were struck glancing blows to the head by the suddenly whirring handle when the catch would take. Fortunately I am well schooled in the dangers of this but it was difficult to stay out of the way whilst fiddling with the release mechanism. The lowering of the second rear wheel was even more difficult but with persistence and some brute force we achieved it, not until I had jammed two of my fingers. The pain felt alike to slamming your fingers in a car door. At this stage my dear wife was absolutely exhausted, was feeling dizzy and could scarcely speak. She was suffering from a combination of heat exhaustion and dehydration and I took a further break while she lay in the sparse shade on the river bank. I also found her some glucose sweets to suck and cold water to drink and she soon recovered.
    My next task was to manually clear the tracks and the undercarriage of the vehicle of mud. The spade would not work and it was not long before my already mud-spattered clothes were off and I was wallowing on my belly under the vehicle, shifting mud. This was the only stage where I fervently wished that another vehicle would not turn up. We would have looked absolutely ridiculous and even in my predicament I would have been severely embarrassed. I was completely covered in mud. Just clearing the mud took me more than an hour. We had been stuck for more than 4 hours now, fortunately at this time of year there were still a good 2 hours of daylight left. We had been too busy to be concerned about “marauding lions”. Everything was too muddy to consider handling my camera. This is a pity as a picture tells a thousand stories and photographs would have recorded fantastic memories. We now staggered down to the water to dilute the mud on our clothes and bodies. The vehicle reversed easily out of the mud and in 2nd gear low range we passed through the water and up the muddy slope with a bit of a heart stopping slip and slide at the end. We had an exhausted and relieved giggling bout at ourselves before making for Sesfontein. We decided that some luxury was the tonic we needed. We had heard that Fort Sesfontein was on the skids following the death of the male half of the management team in 2010. This was later confirmed. I had heard good reports about the fairly new Khowarib Lodge and Safaris just over 30km east and south of Sesfontein on the C43 and to hell with the cost. As it turned out they had a low season, half price deal of R892 pppn inclusive of supper and breakfast, during Feb. and March, I am not sure about April. One has to experience the quality accommodation and meals to appreciate that this was a bargain at the price and one of the shrewdest moves of my married life thus far. I shudder to think of setting up camp in the condition we were in.

    KHOWARIB LODGE
    We were too bashful to enter the reception area in our muddy state and managed to call the young lady on duty to the entrance. Once we explained what had happened she knew immediately where we had become bogged down and said that on their elephant game drives they always avoided that area by taking the route on the Ganamub river. She also mentioned that lions had been a problem in that area and it was the male of this pride that was the lion shot in a scandalous trophy hunt late in 2010.
    Dinner was served until 9 so there was time for us to be shown to our luxury tent for a wonderful shower before dinner. I made sure Anne went first. We enjoyed the very tasty quite sophisticated 3 course meal. The starter was a sliced large Namibian wild mushroom known as Onjova in (I think) Owambo. The Damaras know it as Low (? Spelling). These are fried in butter and I will never forget the tender, nutty flavor. These are sold by locals holding them out as you pass along the roads in the central areas like Otjo, Otjiwarongo and Uis, in the early rainy season. Please keep your eyes open for them at this time of the year, they are not to be missed. We later bought a whole lot at Outjo, 4 very large ones for R30, which we managed to store in a cooler box and they were fried on our first night home. Absolutely delicious.
    We were once again the only ones staying at the lodge but were joined for supper by two young German women who were staying at the lodge’s campsite which they assured us was by far the best in the whole area. Beers cost a not unexpected R15 each. Campers seem to have full use of the lodge facilities, but I am sure supper has to be pre-booked.

    DAY 13: WEDNESDAY 9/02/2011
    I awoke the next morning so stiff and sore that I felt as I used to, after playing in my first hard rugby game of the season. I had used muscles that I had last used in the scrum 30 years ago. A relaxing day in a luxury lodge was exactly what we needed.
    This was as good a lodge as one would expect at the normal price but a bargain at the low season price. The neatly furnished luxury tents were under thatch on the permanently flowing Hoanib river, from springs upstream in the Khowarib Schlucht. A large en-suite open air shower, basin and toilet together with a shady balcony overlooking the stream, completed the picture.
    After a shower and a leisurely breakfast we set out to explore the area. Here in the “tame center” we felt more like tourists than explorers, I felt that this area lacked the edge we had enjoyed further north but it has its own attractions, each to their own. We headed for Sesfontein to refuel at the pumps near Fort Sesfontein and belonging to them. Some things to note; their credit card machine was not working (apparently a regular ploy) and their hours were from 8 to 5 only. We had used about 150l since Opuwo and covered over 800km and had not driven sparingly at all. The fort itself is worth a quick look but is looking a little run down. Rather stay at Khowarib Lodge. We bought a 2l plastic bottle of ice which worked well in our cooler box. Sesfontein itself is also not much to look at. Various campsites in the vicinity inspected superficially, looked hot and dusty without much shade. That afternoon we had a good downpour of rain which cooled down this very hot area. This was the first rain we had directly experienced.
    We drove to Ongongo to see the waterfall and hot spring pool, well sign posted and worth a look and a quick swim. Cost us R20 each. Community camp sites reasonable but not great, shade mainly provided by A-frames. We then drove up the scenic Khowarib Schlucht, the community camp site here is more appealing than Ogongo and is on the same Hoanib spring as the lodge. The camp at the lodge is probably the best.
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  21. #15
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    Stan

    Thank you for sharing your report with us. Stunning! It was like doing our July 2010 trip all over!

    We shall definitely return!
    Francois Johnson





    (swambo: Christel)

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  22. #16
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    Thank you for sharing your trip.
    Every report helps with planning our trip - October 2011.
    So looking forward to the trip.

    Toyota Prado 4.0
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  23. #17
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    Default NAMIBIA: North and West, Trip report, Feb 2011

    TRIP REPORT: NORTHERN AND WESTERN NAMIBIA. 2011
    PART SEVEN:


    DAY 14 THURSDAY 10/02/2011

    KHOWARIB LODGE TO ABA HUAB COMMUNITY CAMP

    204km 3hrs 40min

    We were struck by 2 things about Namibia that people may not realize; the excellent condition of most of the C and D roads and how mountainous much of the country is. Saw scattered herds of Springbok along the way. We reached the veterinary gate near Palmwag and no red meat was found in our freezer or cooler boxes, only chicken. This is about 75km from Khowarib. A right turn was then made onto the C43 towards Khorixas, there were some pools of water and slight wash aways and the veld had greened up beautifully. We then turned onto the C39 heading south to Aba Huab. The turnoff to Torra Bay looked inviting and in fact we later returned from the coast using this route. Athough scenic, the general scenery and mountains did not have quite the impact of those further north.

    ABA HUAB CAMP

    We arrived at the camp on the D2612 at 12H10 to find the Aba Huab river flowing fairly strongly and a group of vehicles waiting to for it to subside further, to be fair most of these were soft 4x4s and were driven by overseas tourers. Although about 50m wide the flow was not very strong and up to upper calf in depth. The sandy surface underwater was very firm and we forded it very comfortably. Later some of the soft roaders managed to get stuck much to the delight of the camp staff who then rush off to push them out at the prospect of a good tip. According to these locals the river began flowing at 18H00 the previous evening and after reaching a peak at midnight the flow was rapidly diminishing and they expected it to stop before dark and so it was to be. That evening there was thunder and lightning over the distant mountains and we woke at midnight in our tent, right on the bank of the river, to the sound of the strongly flowing river, which was still in full spate the next morning. This was a lesson in the dangers of flash floods in these dessert river beds. What impressed me the most was the fact that not a drop of rain had fallen in the immediate locality. Amazing flow cycle, 11am fairly strong flow, 6pm no flow, 12 midnight in full spate again, continuing when we left the next morning.
    The community camp fulfilled our expectations after the good recommendations on this forum. The camp itself is on the Twyfelfontein side of the river, so it is easy to visit the Twyfelfontein Bushman engravings, Burnt Mountain and the Petrified Forest. Only 1 other couple stayed here at the same time as us. This area appealed more to me than that around Sesfontein. I think we would have done better (had we not got stuck) to stay at Palmwag, rather than at Khowarib.
    There seem to be more than 10 campsites under shady Camelthorn and Mopani trees. These were not all on the river and there were also rooms in the admin/bar/reception building. One could also stay in some authentic grass Damara huts situated in an unattractive area of the camp. The ablutions were of the same standard previously experienced. Different here was an appealing bar, even serving draft beer. This was fairly busy with passing motorists popping in for a drink. We chose a shady camp site close to this building but were a little distracted by the camp workers who braaied and quietly partied until about 10pm. Rather camp further away.
    After setting up camp we drove to Twyfelfontein in the later afternoon(16H00), to view the Bushman engravings. Our plan of doing the walk in the late afternoon, looking for a cooler outing, failed as it was still as hot as Hades. We were pleased that we had taken cold drinks as the kiosk selling cold drinks is now closed. Rather do this 40min walk early in the morning when it is cooler. The viewings run from 8H00 to 16H30 when the last walk leaves. We hired a guide and this is strongly recommended as is doing the longer Lion Man walk. Costs were R30 each plus R10 for the car(?). The guide was very informative explaining the symbolism, trance states and humanization of some of the animals. It was interesting to see that the engravings did not depict the feet of the animals, instead the spoor of the animal was engraved next to it. This is surmised to be a teaching tool for young hunters. The engravings of human footprints next to most of the rock art is thought to represent the artists “signature”. The pace taken was fairly slow with stops at points of interest for photographs. The moderate climb was only strenuous because of the heat. The Lion Man was the highlight. We drove back via the 3 star Twyfelfontein Lodge and it seems to be good. When we arrived back at camp after 2hrs it was to find the flow in the river had completely dried up and there was not a drop of water to be seen. So if travelling in this area, only to find your way blocked by a flowing river, wait and you will not be held up for as long as you may fear.
    That evening with the thunderclouds building in the distance, I noticed flock after flock of birds in their thousands flying over the camp, circling and converging over the distant plains. These flocks comprised Abdim’s Storks and Yellow billed Kites. I could only surmise that this phenomenon could be due to thousands of termites taking part in their nuptial flight (“flying ants”). These very nourishing termites are irresistable to these birds. I never realized there were so many Kites in the whole of Namibia.

    DAY 15 (AND 16) FRIDAY 11/02/2011

    ABA HUAB TO SWAKOPMUND VIA HENTIES BAY.

    305km 4hrs 40mins

    We came upon all the birds we had seen flying, in an adjacent valley, close to Aba Huab, along the D2612 towards Uis,. The Yellow billed Kites were all roosting in the thorn trees and the Abdim’s storks were gathered in flocks of 50 to 100 on the ground. They were all waiting for something to happen, probably flying termites. I have never seen the likes of this, hundreds upon hundreds of these birds in groups as far as the eye can see. Photographs fail to do this phenomenon justice.
    We took the C39 and then the C35 to Uis and continued on the C35 to Henties Bay. The first part of the route was through lush and green countryside, as befits all the local rain recently. The C35 towards and into the Namib dessert, became progressively more featureless, flat and boring. This is not the Namib of sand dunes and golden sands. This was later made even more apparent, on the way back, when we drove the C39 from Torra Bay to the Springbokwasser gate. Rather take this route on the C39, to the Skeleton Coast if possible.
    We arrived at Henties 260km and about 4hrs later. We went to the Skubbes Bar for fresh Kabeljou, fish and chips. They have a fish gutting and filleting facility, where my eyes feasted on the catches of large numbers of 10 to 15kg Kob, 2 allowed per person at this size. These had all been caught at Paaltjies near Walvis Bay. Henties is a fairly scruffy town famous for its angling. I bought a fishing permit for 1 month (the minimum) for the Namibian coast from the Ministry of Fishing and Marine Resources office. It only cost R14.
    We set off for Swakopmund on the salt road along the coast(C 34). This is a fairly interesting drive with a very different feel compared to our routes thus far. On arrival in Swakop we went directly to the Namibia Wildlife Reservations office on the corner of Sam Nujoma and Bismarck streets, to try to get bookings for the N.W.R. facility at Terrace Bay. Being in the area I felt that I had to try my hand at fishing in this prime angling locality. February and March being prime season we were very lucky to get a booking for 3 nights, giving us 2 nights in Swakop which seemed a good idea at the time. Instead I should rather have spent 1 night at least at Spitskoppe, which we did not get to see. Anne would probably not agree as she enjoyed Swakop. Oh well, anything for “peace in the home”.
    Costs for Terrace Bay, R520 pppn including breakfast and dinner x3 nights. The cost of the Skeleton Coast National Park entrance permit was R120pp and R10 for the vehicle. If you book for 4 nights one is free. We could not really spare the time for an extra night.
    We first tried Brigadoon B+B, which was full, before ending up at The Stiltz, a smart option near the Swakop river mouth, across the road from the Alte Brucke Resort. Secure off street parking was an important requirement. These upmarket contemporary bungalows are on stilts overlooking the reeds of the Swakop river mouth. Very pretty but at a price of R1100 per couple per night, including a top class breakfast. I must say the more reasonably priced Alte Brucke looked nice enough. We spent the next day and a half exploring Swakop. The preserved German colonial buildings are appealing. I enjoyed visiting the crystal display and information at the Kristall Galerie for R20pp. We explored the shopping streets of Swakop which Anne enjoyed, had great coffee and applestrudel and cheesecake at Café Anton and enjoyed very good dinners at The Tug and Kuckies restuarants. We also took a drive to see Langstrand and Walvis Bay. At Walvis we drove to Pelican Point and enjoyed all the aquatic birds and flocks of Flamingos at the lagoon there. We drove past the salt processing plants to have a look at Paaltjies. I had now done more than enough time in civilization and was looking forward to heading into the Skeleton Coast National Park. I had lugged my fishing rod and bulging fishing bag all the way for this. Swakop is worth a visit, but once only, once seen, your time can be better spent exploring the wilder areas.

  24. The Following User Says Thank You to Stan Weakley For This Useful Post:


  25. #18
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    Default NAMIBIA: North and West, Trip report, Feb 2011

    PICS for part 7.
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  26. #19
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    Default

    Hi Stan, you so often mention bird sightings, yet you never post any pics. Why, if I may ask?

    Sorry, just missed one pic in the last posting. Would have loved to see more.
    "If you don't care where you are, you ain't lost"

  27. #20
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    Default NAMIBIA: North and West, Trip report, Feb 2011

    TRIP REPORT: NORTHERN AND WESTERN NAMIBIA. 2011
    PART EIGHT

    DAYS 17 TO 19 SUNDAY 13/02/2011 TO TUES. 15/02/2011

    SWAKOP. TO TERRACE BAY

    370km 6hrs

    This is one of the legendary roads to drive, the Namib dessert on one side the Atlantic Ocean on the other. We first stopped in at Henties to buy some bait, although they do have at Terrace Bay. Up to Henties the salt road has a very smooth tarmac-like surface and 100km/hr is a very comfortable speed. This is fishing country and we were entertained by the evocative names of the isolated fishing spots such as, Walletjies, Trappies, Tolla se Gat, Mile 72, Mile 108, Canopy and Predikant se Gat. My favourite was Baklei Gat.
    We called in at Cape Cross to view the seal colony. Costs, R30pp and R10 for the vehicle. Well worth the stop to view this very large colony, up close and personal, from conveniently constructed boardwalks. Personal because the colony is rather smelly from all the seal poo and dead pups. There were lots of pups present aged 3 to 4 months. There does not seem to be much point in staying at the Cape Cross Lodge which looked very smart.
    Next was the Ugab Gate, the southern entrance to the Skeleton Coast National Park. The Ugab Gate lies 4hrs and 208km from Swakop. The latest they will allow you to pass through is 15H00 and you have to have documentary proof of your booking at Terrace or Torra Bay. The permit to enter the Park is purchased here and costs R65 each. I did see some faxed documents of bookings at Terrace Bay pinned to a notice board, so there does seem to be a way to avoid calling in at a major center to pick up the documentation personally. After the gate the road becomes an ordinary Namibian dirt road in good enough condition to comfortably travel at 80km/hr. At the turnoff to Springbokwasser gate near Torra Bay the road becomes more corrugated and sandy in places. One starts seeing typical Namib dunes for the first time since Swakop.
    Torra Bay campsite is only open in peak season, Dec and Jan. It is very exposed, with no shade, surrounded by blinding white sand. A deserted and desolate Hell Hole. The fishing must be quite something to make up for this. It lies 5hrs 40mins from Swakop. Further on there was some greenery and standing water near the mouth of the Uniab river. Small herds of Springbok and Gemsbok were present and apparently one may be lucky enough to see Elephants here on occasion. On the rare occasion that these rivers open to the sea, the road may be blocked.
    Terrace Bay was reached 6hrs 10mins and 370km from Swakop. This is as far north as one is normally allowed to drive on the Skeleton Coast and really feels like an isolated outpost. Its name, I am sure, derives from the terraced, step-like shoreline made up of pebbles and loose rounded rocks that make walking about on the shoreline quite difficult. Sandy beaches are very scarce. The Skeleton Coast National Park and specially Terrace Bay are definitely worth visiting even if you are not a fisherman. This unique environment of dessert and sea is something very special. As for a 3 week family Xmas holiday, I am not so sure. What totally surprised me was how warm the sea was at this time of the year, between 18 and 20C.
    The bungalows are very nice, 10 in all, set on an area about 300m from the sea with a great view over the Atlantic Ocean, especially as the sun sets over the sea. The bungalows have verandas where you can have sundowners and absorb this scene. Each bungalow has 2 separate double en-suite rooms furnished in a comfortable and functional manner. They are fully serviced. A fridge in the room and a central freezing facility are present.
    A central pub and dining room, serving excellent meals, are a feature .The four course evening meals are really very good, a notch or two above good home-cooked meals but not quite top restaurant standard. The steaks, fish, mussels and prawns were outstanding. There is usually a choice of 3 main courses. The buffet breakfasts would put some hotels to shame.
    As far as the fishing is concerned, there are various spots scattered north and south that one needs a 4x4 to drive to. One parks on the sandy track overlooking the sea and fishes just below the vehicle. We were given the good advice to hire a gillie, mainly used to direct us from spot to spot. We fished hard for both days and had a meager haul of 3 fish (other than Barbel) to show for my troubles. At least this included my first West Coast Steenbras. Our neighbours, 2 guys from Stellenbosch, had been catching fish flat out for 2 weeks, except for the two days we were there, when nobody caught much except Barbels because of suddenly dirty water. Such are the fortunes of a fisherman.
    We had some rain each of the last 2 nights, in the Namib Dessert?
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