Three old toppies go camping.





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  1. #1
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    Default Three old toppies go camping.

    With combined ages of 208 (not counting our Defender 110 tdi), Liz and I are just back in Windhoek, having taken our Australian friend, Jean, on a 17 day camping trip. Jean added her artificial knee, bad back, arthritis and other ailments to Liz’s bad back and dodgy feet, and my – don’t ask! We can, however, still change a wheel between us. So, to all you nervous young bloods, and here I quote Freddie Mercury and Queen, “Get on your bikes and ride!” Tomorrow might be too late.
    We don’t use roof tents (can’t get up and down any more!) and we hired a nice dome tent from Adventure Camping Hire (Cell: 081-129 9135) for Jean. Our 40L freezer was packed with meat and pre-made lunchtime sandwiches for the whole trip, dry food in an old coolbox, everything else in cardboard cartons (they don’t squeak, they don’t rattle, they’re disposable, free and flexible). Light stuff, like bedding goes in a bag on the roof. What wouldn’t fit in the car was “not needed on the voyage” and left behind. Out total mileage was 4,168km, we had no punctures or mechanical dramas, but three of our 5L Drostdy Hof Claret Select boxes sprung leaks – with this eventuality in mind, we had a selection of empty plastic bottles with us, which saved the day.

    This was our route: Windhoek – Tsauchab (3 nights) – Swakopmund – Uis – Khowarib – Puros (2 nights) – Marble Mine (2 nights) – Opowo – Epupa (3 nights) – Etosha (2 nights) – Windhoek.

    Day 1 (21st October): With full tanks (160L), we left Windhoek on the C26 heading for the Tsauchab River Camp, (www.tsauchab.com) where we had booked for three nights, going via the Spreetshoogte Pass. Naturally we stopped at Solitaire to buy apple pie from Moose. At Tsauchab, Johan and Nicky Steyn gave us the Drongo site, which has a splendid bathroom built into a bifurcated fig tree. The “go-away” birds were feasting on figs and you sat beneath one at your peril!

    Day 2: We explored the 4x4 trails on the farm, enjoyed the fantastic Naukluft and Tsaris mountain scenery, and Jean saw her first mountain zebra, springbok and african wild cat.

    Day 3: We went to Sossusvlei via the more scenic D845 and C27, returning on the C19. The vlei was dry, and the nara fruits although well developed were still green. It was hot hot, and even at midday, people were climbing Dune 45 – they must have been nuts! At the vlei, we gave a family some water and oranges as they had come on the shuttle from the car park, finished all their drinks and were panicking about ever being picked up again. At Sesreim we bought a Permit to camp in the desert near Swakopmund.

    Day 4: Headed towards Swakop, stopping to buy more apple pie at Solitaire. Walter must have heard that we were passing, because when we called in at the R Ritz, he had, we were told, gone into the mountains! The road had been pretty good as far as the Ritz, but after that it was horrible. We did see a grader at work so, perhaps, it is all as good as tar by now. Our plan was to camp at Blutkoppe, but the new flush toilets had run out of water and it was all a bit gruesome, so we headed for the new Oasis Camp. Not knowing the full name of the camp, we followed a track into the Moonscape signed to a Safari Camp. When we got there, we realised we were in the wrong place, the camp was deserted, I tripped on a step and grazed my shin (more about that later) so, going through another gate we went into the Swakop river and turned left towards the Oasis. Having passed the Khan river junction, and after about 15km, we found the new Oasis Camp, which was also deserted! It was now getting late, so we kept to the river, coming out by the Swakop farms and took a chalet at Sophia Dale (Cell: 081-413 0504). Decided not to braai, and ate in the restaurant, where we had the most superb game steak with a mountain of Swakop asparagus and a nice bottle of pinotage, all at very reasonable cost. Highly recommended.

    Day 5: After refuelling in Swakopmund, we took the salt road up the coast to Cape Cross, picked up the new graded road through the lichen fields into the Messum and then followed the nice old tracks towards the Brandberg. On the way, we stopped to say “hello” to our friends Buks and Ria, who have a camp on the northern rim of the Messum, where Buchs mines for amethyst. That night we stayed at the Brandberg Rest Camp in Uis, having first stopped to introduce Jean to the stone elephant on the D2342.

    Day 6: Still heading north from Uis we took the newly graded and scenic D2319 past Sorris Sorris. (The last time we had tried this road, it was a two spoor track with no way over the Ugab, except by donkey!). After that, the D2612 past Twyfelfontein. Jean is not good on her pins so we didn’t visit the engravings, but carried on to join the C39. After a few kms, there’s a sign to the Dorro Nawas camp, that road eventually crossing the Aba-Huab. We took that road, and at the crossing, turned right into the river for about 10km. When the mountains open out, there are several tracks to the right, taking you over wide open plains, and which then drop you down into the Huab. It is quite spectacular. In the Huab, we again turned right, following the river to the C39 crossing. As well as a lot of soft sand in the river, there was a nice relaxed herd of twelve elephants feeding under an ana tree. The matriarch kept her eye on us and, not wishing to upset them, we maintained a respectful distance. Lovely. Leaving the river, we crossed the mountains to Palmwag, where we topped up the tanks, and then on to Khowarib Community Camp for the night. As usual, Josephine (Cell for booking: 081-407 9539) had kept the camp spotless and gave us a warm welcome.

    Day 7: Back to my grazed shin. At the time, I just slapped on a plaster to stop it bleeding and waited for it to heal. Big mistake! It became infected and required a lot of attention from my private nurse (Liz) and the contents of our medical bag. Lesson: Always clean open wounds, and keep a decent medical kit in the car.
    Still heading north from Khowarib, we passed through Sesfontein towards Puros on the D3707 (this road gets worse every year), and once over the mountain, turned into the Ganamub river by the Ganamub village water point. We followed the river to the Hoanib, through the poort, and after about 10km left the river at the Obias junction. Although there was plenty of evidence of their presence, we saw no elephants. Heading up the Obias towards the Giribies plain and the D3707, we met Flip Stander (www.desertlion.info) who was monitoring a lion (Rosh) that he had darted the night before, in order to fit a new collar. He also told us that our old friends Garth Owen-Smith and Margie Jacobsohn were just ahead of us with a delegation of Norwegian WWF officials, and that they were also heading for Puros, but via Okongwe – that meant that we wouldn’t be able to have our preferred Camp 3, otherwise known as Garth’s Tree, so Camp 2 it was – this has lots of shade and, being surrounded by thick bush, is well protected from blown sand. (To book ahead, try Robin’s Cell: 081-716 2066). We stopped on the Giribies plain at the phone kiosk koppie and wrote in the visitors book – we put this book there a few years ago after the original was stolen and the kiosk vandalised. From the top of the koppe you get a good view of the fairy circles that dominate the plain.

    Day 8: A full day at Puros to drive down the gorge, where we saw large numbers of Oryx, a pair of klipspringers and a nice group of five elephants feeding in the bush. The gorge was drier than it has been for a long time but the vegetation has really taken off after the preceding wet years.

    Day 9: Leaving Puros behind, we headed towards the Marble Mine, where we had two nights arranged at the stunning Etaambura Lodge (self catering), which is perched on top of the mountain above the Marble Mine Camp at Onjuva. It belongs to KCS (Kunene Conservancy Safaris www.kcs-namibia.com.na and it must be booked in advance). Etaambura translates as “a place where you can see rain”. The Himba herders will climb to the top of a mountain to spot where rain might be falling, so that they can follow it with their cattle – hence the name. There are five, well appointed, private chalets, each with a deck and all with stunning views. The main lodge is communal, with a deck, braai place, kitchen, cutlery, plates, small library etc, as well as helpful staff. The supervisor is a charming, and well travelled, Himba girl, called Kaku.
    The D3707 from Puros to Orupembe is appalling and we avoid it whenever possible, preferring the Hoarusib/Khumib/Sanitatas route. As the Hoarusib was nice and dry, we opted to stay in the river for the first +/- 18km and then joined the track on the right bank for the last +/- 7km to the crossing point. (The first section of that track from Puros is rough going so, if the river is dry the river is the best bet.) Crossing the Hoarusib we took the rocky track past “the mountain that can’t be climbed with a spear” (meaning that you need two free hands to climb it) and over the pass to the Khumib river, where there is a small Himba community. The Himba women had dug a pit well in the riverbed and were watering their cattle as we passed. At the river we turned right, staying on the track to the right of the river, rather than in it, as the river can be hard going in places – also the views are better from the track. The track brings you back onto the D3707 at Sanitatas, where you turn left towards Orupembe. After 10km, there is a right turn and a rusty sign to the Marble Mine & House on the Hill. Follow the signs and the road will take you to the Marble Mine. Shortly before the Marble Mine, Etaambura has a small sign pointing to a 4x4 track that clambers up the mountain. In that area, the Himba collect myrrh from the commiphora wildii trees, and it is sold on to the perfume trade. There are also rare tree euphorbias growing on the mountainsides.

    Day 10: We had a rest day at Etaambura, the girls read their books and I went to find the spring round the back of the mountain, where the Himba water their cattle and goats. There was a family group there, with a goat stew on the fire (the rest of the goat lay nearby), youngsters fooling around, and cattle and goats being watered at the pit well. Under a separate tree, were three cheerful women braiding each other’s hair, using fire ash and a large knife, and with small children climbing all over them. A pretty picture of rural life.

    Day 11: We were now heading for Epupa, but camping that night in Opowo at the Opowo Country Hotel. The D3707 from Orupembe to Opowo, via Kaoko Otavi is a mixed bag. It had been graded since we last drove it in May this year, and the first part through the mountains is spectacular. However, once past the second crossing of the Hoarusib, it becomes a flat white, dusty, clay plain until you reach Kaoko Otavi, after which, the road is good. When it rains, the clay gets badly churned up, and as it dries, it sets like cement and all the deep ruts and pot-holes remain. There is another road going from near Orupembe/Marble Mine to Etanga, and then Opowo, which I believe is much nicer, but we haven’t tried it.
    After some negotiation, the OCH gave us Site 5, which is grassed and level. However, the smell of raw sewage that pervaded the camp from their cesspit/septic tank was quite disgusting.

    Day 12: The road to Epupa is now very good and we were there by lunchtime and glad to be out of Opowo. Before leaving, we topped up the tanks at the busy filling station, fighting off the girls trying to sell anything, and probably everything! Opowo is, undoubtedly, very colourful but, in our opinion, not a place in which to linger.
    If you are heading for Epupa or Kunene River Lodge, and are running out of daylight, but don’t want to stop in Opowo, here is a suggestion. We met a well educated and go-ahead young Himba guy called John, who is building a camp just 40km north of Opowo, on the D3700. It is not finished yet, but he said that he is happy for people to bush camp there. It is 400m off the road, set against the side of a small mountain, and is in a forest of tall mopani trees with a lot of birdlife. It is a perfect setting. He had a drilling machine there to sink some bores for water, the camp layout is basically done and an “office” built, but not equipped – a way to go yet, but . . . The name of the camp is Omungunda and is a few Kms before the large village of that name. There is a sign to it as you leave Opowo and another on the right hand side of the road 40km out of Opowo. Why not give it a try next time you pass that way.

    Day 13: When we arrived at Epupa, we had set up our camp on the bank of the Kunene, overlooking the falls, in Koos Vervey’s Epupa Falls Camp (E: [email protected]. Cell: 081-149 2840). Koos has built a bar with a deck overlooking the falls, and now has three chalets, raised on stilts, also overlooking the falls. Epupa wasn’t busy when we were there and we had a very relaxing couple of days. A strong wind got up in the late afternoons, which brought dead palm fronds and makalani nuts crashing down. The complete top came out of one palm, missing me, and the Landie, by just a couple of metres! Hmmmm.
    You can get to the falls by turning right, out of the camp, and following the path. By acting like a klipspringer you can obtain some good views into the chasm – take care, people have gone over the edge. There is also a “goat path” that takes you for about a km along the side of the river to a small beach – but don’t even think about swimming there! If you’re looking for a sundowner spot, about a couple of hundred metres up the main road, there is a rough track to the right, which takes you up to a viewpoint looking down onto the falls. Some locals have put up signs saying N$20 pp, but I’ve never seen anyone there. Koos said they were not official, and to tell them to f..k off if they asked for money. I can’t comment!

    Day 14: Another relaxing day at Epupa, the girls read their books and I drove out a couple of times to get some charge back in the fridge battery. As you drive out of Epupa on the main road, and shortly before the airstrip there is a track to the right passing by a Himba settlement. A few Kms down this track there is a Himba cemetery with cow horns hung in the trees. It doesn’t appear to be in use any more, but it is interesting to see.
    There is a young Himba guide in Epupa, by the name of Owen, who we can recommend. He dresses smartly in uniform, speaks good English and is also learning Italian. He is quite short, and has one ear like a front row forward’s! I first saw him when he was a child and a pretty girl, who was apparently his aunt, was bathing him by the falls – see photo.

    Day 15: This turned into a long haul. Leaving Epupa, we took the tar from Opowo to Kamanjab, where we had intended to stay at Oppi-Koppi but, when we saw the camp, we decided that it wasn’t for us. We, therefore, pressed on through Outjo, to Gondwana’s Etosha Safari Camp, which is just 9km from the Anderson Gate. It has very nice campsites, a pool and restaurant if required. Not only was it a long haul, but we lost count of the number of roadside warthogs - all three of us had our eyes out on stalks trying to spot them before we hit them!

    Day 16: Into Etosha for a day visit. We only saw one elephant, which was at the Okaukuejo waterhole, but there were all the usual plains animals. Highlights were two prides of lions, a fabulous black rhino bull, and three cheetah snoozing by their impala kill.

    Day 17: Down the tar road and back to Windhoek, stopping in Otjiwarongo for a coffee and to top up with fuel, then, about 35km before Windhoek, we stopped at Okapuka Lodge for a cold one and to watch the blessbok and warthogs on the grass outside the bar area. Unpacking, and real life followed, and Jean is already back in Oz.

    It was a great trip, the route worked perfectly, our Aussie friend, Jean, just loved it, and couldn’t believe that it was possible to traverse the country in the way that we did. Even though we have been to these places before, the scenery, and its variety, always blows us away. Even before we got to Etosha, we had seen, springbok, giraffe, mountain zebra, elephant, oryx, ostrich, klipspringer, steenbok, kudu, tree and ground squirrels, warthogs, baboons, vervet monkeys, african wild cat, dassie, many different birds, and a lot of unusual vegetation, including baobabs and tree euphorbias.

    Next week we are setting off, on our own, for a short seven day safari to somewhere – maybe West Brandberg - before we have to get on that big silver bird that will fly us back to the UK, and the English winter. Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year to all of you.

    Chris
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    Last edited by Chris Card; 2012/11/16 at 09:18 AM.

    Chris & Liz Card (Land Rover Defender Tdi (N104 625W) & 1928 4.5L Bentley in UK) Drive safe - better to arrive late, than dead on time.
    .............leaving only footprints.

  2. #2
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    Chris...when was this...if I had know I def would have been there....
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    Sjoe! Did you hire a Professional Photographer? Stunning pics!
    Pat

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    Bump - Fantastic.
    Cheers

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    awesome!
    red wine and nature are my hobbies

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    Chris, Thanks, but 25 liters of wine Just joking.

    Can you tell me where is the stone elephant please?

    Namibia is the best!!! Good report and nice pictures.
    Elize

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    Fantastic report !!!

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    Good report very interesting, photos are excelent. Land on your island on 24/11.
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    One of the best reports I've read !
    Gives me hope……..

    There is no task too simple for some people to complicate !



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    Great report, your story telling takes us along on your journey, nice.

    As they say, another item to add to the bucket list, and as you say, we need to get on our bikes and ride, before its too late

    The pics are fantastic.

    Ray

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    Chris, thanks very much for sharing. I would like to do a similar trip at some point on the future
    "If you don't care where you are, you ain't lost"

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    Amazing. One day when Im old I would also like to slam a report like this together. Really well done. Amazing pics. Bravo!!
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    Errr who's old.
    Last edited by Mick; 2012/11/15 at 08:21 AM.
    Life starts
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    3 people in their 60's is the time of life when people have the time and money to travel.
    I have two German clients who are well into their 70s and who we met ±13 years ago camping at Vic Falls.
    Every year they come out, hire a 4x4 with rooftop tent, and explore Southern Africa.
    They know it better than I do. (However they do complain that tires have gotten heavier in the last few years.)

    This is PRIME TIME
    Don't waste it.
    Last edited by Mick; 2012/11/15 at 08:21 AM.
    Life starts
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    Good stuff , Chris.
    I hope you will continue your exploration and adventures when you guys eventually get old ?

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    Chris, as always your thread is very informative. Thank you for sharing with us.
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    Mr Card, I take my hat off to you. And thanks for the report - great reading and great photos



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    Super report Chris, nice pics. So glad all enjoyed - always depends a lot on attitude and willingness to adapt.

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    Wow this is awesome! Well done on a nicely written report, you make me want to be there!
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    Thanks for the compliments, guys.

    Walter - it must have been the 24th.

    Elize - Hell! there were two of us drinking red. Luckily Jean only drank white.

    Elize - The stone elephant lives in a koppe on the D2342. If you come from Uis, the Koppe is on the left and about 25km from the junction with the C35.

    I've also corrected my spelling mistake on the marble blocks - Engel, thanks for pointing that out.

    Chris
    Last edited by Chris Card; 2012/11/15 at 04:33 PM.

    Chris & Liz Card (Land Rover Defender Tdi (N104 625W) & 1928 4.5L Bentley in UK) Drive safe - better to arrive late, than dead on time.
    .............leaving only footprints.

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