• Trip Report Kaokoveld - 26 April-6 May 2012

    Windhoek, Onjuva, Epupa, Windhoek.

    The above was either Plan B or C, which developed on the fly. We were taking two friends on a camping trip to the Kaokoveld and as their car was a 17 year old RAV4 loaded up with a hired roof tent, fridge, jerry cans etc we didn’t know how far we would get, so the plan was flexible. In the event, their car was a star and it went everywhere that the Defender Tdi went! In order not to compromise ground clearance we didn’t soften the RAV’s tyres and it only got stuck once and that was in soft sand in the Huab and while in 2x4. Once in 4x4 it drove on with no problem.
    The trip started badly and then got worse. The morning we started, Liz went down with a “tummy bug”, day two, the Defender’s aircon packed up, Day 3 the lower dash shook loose (having been disturbed while trying to fix the aircon) and day four while en route from Puros to the Marble Mine, the Defender’s battery warning light came on. Hence the consecutive Plans A, B and C. In the event, everything came good and we had a great trip. There are always highlights and interesting things to see and experience on these trips and this time, amongst the many others, we enjoyed seeing the trumpet thorn and Bushman’s poison trees in flower.

    Day 1. Windhoek to Granietkop via Usakos and Uis. (+/- 460km). The Landy was loaded up with tent, bedding, boxes of supplies, freezer full of meat, 160ltrs of diesel, 40ltrs of water, etc etc, and we were ready to go, except that Liz was still “throwing up”. We, therefore, started later than intended and met our friends at Granietkop camp about 16:30. The camp is on the scenic D2612 about 30km before Twyfelfontein. It is built into the side of a picturesque koppie, is kept clean and has excellent facilities, but not a lot of shade. That night, Liz refused my braai – I can’t think why!

    Day 2. Granietkop to Khowarib. (+/- 250km). Liz was starting to feel better and the rest of us were hoping that she had kept the “bug” to herself! Rather than take the direct route to Khowarib we followed the track past Twyfelfontein airstrip, then into the Aba-Huab river for a few kms, then crossed the beautiful open plains to the Huab which, in turn, took us to the C39/C43 for Palmwag, and lunch and fuel. That morning our aircon had given up and with windows open, the Landy was rapidly filling with dust – not so much having to grit our teeth, as having grit in our teeth! The mechanic at Palmwag tried to fix it, but it was a case of low gas pressure in the system. The road over the mountains from the Huab to Khowarib is spectacular and there is always plenty of game to be seen, particularly after Palmwag. Having lost time at Palmwag, we arrived late at Khowarib Community Camp and Josephine was already walking back to the village but, eficient girl that she is, she had kept Site 1 free for us. That night Liz still rejected my cooking and I was beginning to get a complex about it!

    Day 3. Khowarib to Puros. (+/- 150km). The RAV had passed its test in the Huab and now it was going to take on the D3707. It is only about 115km from Sesfontein to Puros, but you should allow about 4 hours as you have to contend with everything from mountains to rivers to rocks and corrugations. We stopped under a leadwood tree in the Gumatum river for a picnic lunch and to secure (unsuccessfully) the lower dash of the Defender. The RAV was still performing well and we arrived at Puros in good order. We had booked Site 3, but had been “bumped” off it by our good (ex?) friend Garth Owen-Smith who was part of a group doing a coast to coast relay marathon (Rocky Point to the Mozambique coast). The first group were walking the 85km from the Hoarosib mouth to Puros, the next group, including Garth, cycling from Puros to Opowo, and so on and on. We therefore took Site 5, which has a huge shade tree, but not much protection if the wind picks up the sand – which it did. I put up our windbreak and, as if by magic, the wind stopped. The last time that we had that site, Liz had found a puff adder under the chair she was sitting on – it was dark at the time! We fixed the Defender lower dash, Liz had some of the braai so was obviously feeling better and, as the moon was getting bigger night by night, so the glorious stars were starting to fade..

    Day 4. Puros to Marble Mine Camp at Onjuva, via Sanitatas. (+/- 160km). The corrugations on the Puros/Orupembe road are so horrific and the RAV had done so well, we took the rough track beside the Hoarosib to the crossing point opposite “The mountain that cannot be climbed with a spear”, at which point, the battery light on the Defender dash lit up! Everything pointed to the alternator. Oh sh.t! To go back, or to go on? Opowo was the nearest town and it was Sunday. Once started, the Tdi doesn’t need much battery so we carried on over the nek to the Khumib, Sanitatas and the Marble Mine. Once in camp we investigated further and, using the Multimeter, found that the alternator was still producing just enough voltage to maintain the car and freezer batteries, but not enough amps to turn off the warning light. Phew! Marble Camp has plenty of shade and is on the river bank, the river being a thoroughfare used by the local Himba. The camp is kept clean and tidy by Capacity, it has good facilities and a visit to the nearby abandoned marble mine is worth doing. We had intended to stop there for two nights and then return to Puros for another two nights, before heading back to Windhoek. Those rest days would have given us time to explore the local areas but, with the dodgy alternator, it had to be Plan B and Opowo. As Liz was now eating and drinking well, the local “tame” genet, which was hoping for some meaty scraps, went hungry.

    Day 5. Marble Camp to Opowo via Kaoko Otavi. (+/- 230km). The Defender started on first kick, the meat in the freezer was still frozen and we picked up the D3707 at Sanitatas and headed over the mountains towards Opowo. It is magnificent scenery as you go through the mountains and there are some tricky loose scrambles out of deep ravines. The RAV dealt with everything that was thrown at it. Once out of the mountains the road crosses the upper Hoarosib a couple of times and, before Kaoko Otavi, it traverses an extensive flat area of white clay, which gets badly chewed up in the rains. It was a slow journey to Opowo, we arrived about 16:30 and as the next day was a Public Holiday we went straight to the workshop behind the filling station and asked them to look at the alternator. It was soon apparent that the guy was more likely to make matters worse than better, so we elected to stay with what we had. We camped at the Opowo Country Hotel, where, compared to the Community Camps, we thought the sites poor but, beggars, as they say, can’t be choosers. Double gins and tonics with lots of ice at the Hotel bar softened the blow.

    Days 6, 7 and 8. Opowo to Epupa. (+/- 180km). It used to be an adventure getting to Epupa, but the road is now so good, it could almost be tar. Even the wide sand river at Okongwati has a concrete road crossing. The wilderness gets less wild every year. We stayed at Epupa Falls Camp, formerly the Community Camp. It is now owned by Koos Vervey, late of Syncro in the Marienfluss, and he is doing a great job of developing this camp. There is a thatched bar with a raised deck overlooking the falls and three nice bungalows are also being built. Our pitch was on the river bank, just above the falls and it was so good that we opted to stay for three nights of R & R (Plan C). The river was quite high, so the falls were especially good and you can drive/walk up to a viewpoint from where you look down on the amazing extent of the falls. There is also a small path traversing the side of the mountain and leading to a beach about 1km below the falls. The views from this path are superb, but do NOT think of swimming at the beach. The crocs are really hungry! There are Guides who will take you to Himba villages and we can recommend a keen young Himba called Owen (he was wearing a blue boiler suit when we saw him this time). We have known him since he was a child, he speaks good English and will give you “in depth” answers to your questions and will also interpret for you.

    Day 9. Epupa to Khowarib. (+/- 350km). We were sorry to leave Epupa, but time was running out for our friends who, unlike us, are not retired. The roads from Epupa to Khowarib and beyond are now so good that it was an easy drive. The only slow section being at the road works on the ultra steep Joubert Pass, about 20km from Sesfontein. Josphine was at the camp to welcome us back to Site 1, and we gave her a lift to her wattle and daub house in the village. The moon was nearly full, the fire was lit, the frogs in the river below our cliff were croaking and all was well in our world.

    Day 10. Khowarib to Granietkop. (+/- 250km). Although there was some spoor on the road, we saw no elephants but, as we approached Palmwag, where we again stopped for lunch and fuel, there were springbok, giraffe, zebra and oryx near, or on, the road. I also stopped to photograph some of the weird bottle trees. After Palmwag, it was over the mountains and down to the Huab, where we retraced our previous steps to the Aba-Huab, Twyfelfontein and Granietkop camp. It was our last night, the moon was nearly full and we couldn’t believe that the time had flown by so fast. The next morning there must have been a hatch of flies and we were happy to get back in the cars to avoid them. Every silver lining, as they say, has a cloud!

    Day 11. Back home in Windhoek we created our very own sand dune by shaking the accumulated dust out of our belongings and brushing out the inside of the Landy. The next day, Diesel Electric fixed the aircon and replaced the faulty alternator, which had destroyed its internal rectifier, and the car wash by Joe’s Beer House did a good job of cleaning the car, inside and out. We had no punctures, the RAV4 amazed us, we saw plenty of game, but no elephants, the weather was perfect, the camps were mainly excellent, Liz kept her ”bug” to herself and the freezer kept working.
    The western part of Damaraland and the Kaokoveld have had no significant rain this year so the Himba have mostly left their villages and taken their cattle into the mountains to look for water and grazing. Along the Khumib and up to Onjuva there were empty huts and barely any cattle to be seen. It was only when we got close to Epupa that we started to see cattle, goats and people in any numbers.

    We carried some emergency firewood with us, but bought really good braai wood at all the camps except at Opowo, where we didn’t need any. Also, although we took ample water with us, we drank the local water everywhere, and even when it had little bits of debris floating in it we suffered no ill effects.

    Finally, a word of warning. If you picnic under a shade tree in a sandy area and that tree has been used for shade by buck or cattle, watch out for small brown ticks that come up out of the sand. They vary in size from about 1.5 to 3.5mm in diameter and you don’t feel them on your feet or legs. They inject an anti-coagulant and can give you a nasty infection. The “bite” has a dark centre and develops a red halo about 1cm across. It lasts for several days. We have met them before, but this time it was when we stopped in the Hoarosib while on the way to Opowo. You don’t always find them, but be aware.

    Travel well and safely.

    This article was originally published in forum thread: Trip Report Kaokoveld - 26 April-6 May 2012 started by Chris Card View original post