The wind played havoc all night and was still howling this morning. There is sand everywhere.
The oryx (who apparently is the only animal to have 4 colours) said a final goodbye, by crossing in front of the car on the way out – (David is sure all the animals in Africa have secret suicide tendencies- they keep going in front of the car instead of away from it, this one even ran 100m, so, it could run in front of us!)
Looks like we aren’t getting away from the sand and wind – there are road signs everywhere with warning. Oh joy!
We are in the middle of a sand storm – the sky looks like a dark haze, but is in fact sand. You can see the sand being blown across the road surface.
Finally, out of the sand and into the rocky mountain and yellowish grassy, spinifex type, plains.
We take a detour to Duwisib castle. The castle was built in 1909 for a German nobleman and has been restored with much of the original furnishings. This was an interesting stop, but probably wouldn’t do it again, as it was more a family home than a castle.
We reach the small town of Aus- finally some decent tarred road – gee we have missed you! Back up to 120kph. Well actually that’s not true, as David has been doing that on a lot of the dirt roads as well!
Decide on another detour- going into Luderitz, we need to find a bank to do a currency exchange- we only have 180 rand- approx. $18.00 and nowhere is taking card at the moment or the lines are down.
Luderitz is an old town founded in 1883 and has a natural harbour for boats. The wind has picked up again and sand is blowing everywhere, at one point it felt like we were at Perrisher, but instead of huge snow banks built up along the road side it was banks of sand. There are local workers trying to push it back off the road surface.
Woo hoo we have some money – only after going to 3 different banks in town! Lunch is at the “Cosy Corner Coffee Café”, which promised free wifi, but as usual it wasn’t working! Burgers all round. Much to Brendan’s disgust, we grab a few things from the local Sparr & Topps stores. We’re not sure where he thinks all the junk food comes from, but he complains whenever we have to do more shopping. We don’t have a lot of room in the fridge/freezer or storage for other things, so we are continuously topping up, when we reach a large enough town.
About 10km, on the way out of town, is the famous Kolmanskop- an abandoned ghost town (used to be a diamond mine town) the buildings had been abandoned when the mining became unproductive , over the years the sand has started to reclaim them, filling some rooms. Unfortunately the wind is still bowing and we decide not to go in – would wreck the camera’s and be very unpleasant for us, we stop on the side of the road and snap a few pics.
We arrive at the reception for the campsite and have a drink at the bar, Natalie, the bar attendant, advises that the winds should ease tonight. There is a small amount of internet here, so David and Brendan catch up with what is happening in the world.
The reception is about 2km of dirt tracks from our campsite. There are only 10 sites ours is number 7. All of the sites have a windbreak and are nestled around large camelthorn trees. They are not very private and are very close to each other. We have gotten used to private campsites, and when there are other campers within 50m-100m from us, it feels cramped!
After dinner, which took forever, due to the wind, we packed up for an early night- really so we could escape, the dreaded breeze! Unfortunately, the South Africans in the adjacent camp site, have decided to play their music, and laugh, loudly around their fire. We’ve gotten used to secluded, and quiet, campsites so this is irritates David, immensely
Ballooning this morning, which means an exceptionally early morning start. Up at 3.30am to pack the car- the only problem with having your home on your back! We travel for around 70km, which wouldnt be so bad if it wasnt for, the abysmal headlights on the Ford Ranger, the extremely corrugated roads & the very real danger of running into an oryx! We meet our pick up/ escort, and then, follow him for another 25km to the “Le Mirage Resort” – wish we had stayed here – looks like an old castle in the middle of the desert. After signing the indemnity forms, we are loaded into their transfer vehicle and driven to the launch site. You can see the balloons being filled in the distance. This is a first, for all of us – how cool. There are 3 balloons in total today, each one has 16 passengers.
Once the balloons are filled, we can load, 4 people per each compartment. There are, two, foot holes for you to use to leverage yourself in, as the basket would stand about chest height. They fill the balloons with more extremely hot air- would be nice in winter, and we start to slowly ascend into the clouds. We rise to around 850m above ground level with our lives in the hands of our 2 Belgian pilots – Denis and Lenny.
We are gently floating towards the Sesriem canyon, in the Namib-Naukluft National Park – we were only there yesterday. The view of the sunrise over the vast lands is spectacular, and one I don’t think I will ever forget.
All too soon we are landing – it was very precise, coming down just metres above the canyon opening and settling on the road just a few metres past the lip. No drama’s or excitement, though we had been warned that if the wind picked up when we were landing, it could become a “very exciting” landing .
The balloon is deflated quickly and the staff pack it all away in no time. We are driven, a little further along, the edge of the canyon, where a champagne breakfast is laid out on beautiful white and silver linen table cloths.
There is a variety of food to choose from. Both Brendan and I try the smoked zebra, at first David refuses, but as Brendan goes back for seconds he relents and tries a small mouthful… We are given “Ballooning Survival” certificates and asked to donate to a school project if possible, which we do. There are also recycled balloon material shopping bags for sale – I purchase one, as well.
Once back at the campsite we all take a long nap – it is hot but the wind is blowing so this cools us down a bit. The wind gets stronger…
Andrew our ranger/ manager comes by at 5pm to take us for a guided drive thru the park. Apparently, we had been booked in for a 4×4 self-drive permit- we didn’t know anything about this and have nothing in our paperwork. We decided to change to a guided tour so David doesn’t have to drive anymore & we don’t have to pack up again. We had to pay the difference in US dollars as no credit card facilities and we are just about out of local currency. David sits in the front – a smart move as it is exceptionally windy in the back. We only see oryx and a few different species of birds. Towards the back of the park Andrew points out the fairy circles- they still do not know how or why they are formed. The water supply is one of the best in the area – they had to dig 93m down, to get it.
Finally, some sand boarding. We have to climb more dunes! Andrew laughs at the competitiveness between Brendan and David, they both mark lines in the sand for their longest ride… I agree, after much encouragement from David, to do one ride – you have to sit crossed legged on the board and pull back. Wooosh, off I go, and of course go the furthest – gold medal to me! Sandboarding champion of the
World, Namibia, Namin-Rand Game Reserve!
We had to have dinner in the bathroom enclosure again, and even then, had gritty bits in it.
The wind picks up even more – early night for us.
David wants sunrise photos – so we are up at 4.30am – yes I know – an ungodly hour of the morning! We travel out to the largest dune, Dune 45 – it takes a lot longer and was a much further drive than expected, and we only just got there, just in time to climb the dune, for sunrise. David decides to stay at the bottom to get shots of the dune’s face. Brendan and I decide to try and climb it with the other 50 people or so. I got to about 1/10 of the way before having to stop, this is really steep and soft sand is taking it out of me. Slow but steadily we make our way up. I didn’t get to the top for sunrise, but had a great view.
We decided to keep going anyway – this was made trickier as people were now coming back down – there isn’t a lot of room along the ridge-line,so you have to sort of get up close and personal with strangers as you try and pass by on the edge of the sand dune. You think you are at the top, but it still keeps going! Eventually we make it – thank you Lord! Now that we have accomplished this we decide to go all out and walk out to the peak – was a bit easier & I was on cloud nine that I had made it without a coronary.
Brendan put his hand print & initials in the side of the dune – where you couldn’t go any further – though this would be blown away, by the wind, in a few minutes. We make our way, slowly, back down. The people who couldn’t camp inside the park were now starting to come in. We had about a ¼ left to go when we heard David calling us- he wanted us to run down the side of the dune, Brendan went first then me – only slowly – the sand came up to your knees – made it!
Back at the car we emptied all the sand, from our shoes and socks, out – this formed our own, small, sand dunes!
We now continue a further 10km to Sossusvlei then travel the last 4km through 4×4 only sand tracks to Dead Vlei- a dead lake – we have to walk 2km thru more bloody sand dunes to get there. Once there we take photos with the other hundred people who are already there. David is not too happy, as he can’t get a great photo without someone in it.
Ok, had enough of sand – we head back to the campsite for showers and a late breakfast.
On the way to our next campsite we pass signs for ostrich and zebra – we don’t see them where the signs indicate but do eventually see them as well as oryx and springbok.
Namibrand Nature Reserve is one of the largest private nature reserves in Africa covering an area of approx. 202,000 hectares of the Namib desert. It is also considered a dark sky area and is home to the Tok-Tokkie beetles.
There is a mix up with our accommodation, the notes advise to go to the “Hide Out” which we do- and stay for a couple of hours before the ranger comes and checks – we are at “Venus campsite” – there is no mention of this at all on our paperwork. We pack up and go to the correct campsite, which was not bad, until the wind came up!.
After breakfast we pack up and say good bye to this seaside town, we make our way further south. The temperature is only 15- yuck. It quickly warms up to 40deg as soon as we get away from the sea fog.
The terrain changes again and we travel through more mountain areas that take us enroute to the Namid-Naukluft area.– we have to go through 2 passes – Kuiseb pass and Guab pass – they twist and turn like a serpent, with steep drop offs looking down into the large, rocky canyons – very picturesque.
We stop at a little town on our way called solitaire for lunch and take a few pictures of the old cars & cactus. On our travels today, we pass through the Tropic of Capricorn – the sign is crappy so we don’t take a photo.
We book into our campsite – number 1 – hardly any shade!
We drive out to Sesriem canyon, where David and Brendan walk down to the canyon floor – I only have thongs on so I give it a miss. I took a few photos of the boys at the bottom but then high tailed it back to the car- my feet were burning- it is so hot.
We have drinks in the bar after going back to the campsite. All sites are full for the night- the benefit of staying here is you have access to the dunes for 1 hour before and after sunrise/ sunset.
We didn’t have any power at camp, so they had to call out a guy to look at it- turns out 5 camps were out- once they arrive it doesn’t take long to get it back on. We have Chinese neighbours in number 2 campsite and they serenade us with recorder playing for a good 2 hours… oh my ears are bleeding! We head out to Elim dune for sunset. Walking up the dune is hard work, I have to take my thongs off and go barefoot, it nearly killed me & I didn’t even get to the top! The sunset is very colourful and we take a few photos – as usual.
Hot showers tonight- need to wash off all the sand!
It was a peaceful sleep, with the sounds of the oceans waves crashing to shore crooning us. At breakfast David noticed a guy at he next table wearing a xxxx shirt, they were Aussies from Brisbane, they were flying out today.
It is damp (and cold – only 20 deg so far) due to the sea fog blanketing the area, it takes a few hours before the sun eventually burns it off, this occurs daily – is similar in San Francisco
We were picked up by Desert extreme 4×4 quad bike excursions staff and taken to their office to sign waivers etc. Our guides name was Max, he was a uni student & this was his part time job over the school break. We put on hair nets and full-face visor helmets, then were led to our quad bikes. Mine was number 30 and looked like a beast. We have to travel in single file, I had to follow Max, followed by Brendan & David had to bring up the rear. After a quick lesson on where brake / accelerator were located we were on our way into the mighty dunes. Luckily we wore long pants and a jumper – it was cold! Though I only had on my cardigan and it kept opening up, even after I would tuck it in… It wasn’t long before I was lost, all you could see all around was large sand dunes. No way I would have made it out of there alive if I got separated. Up and down and around on the peaks we road, I reached speeds of 55km/hour, though Brendan and David went a bit quicker – they left a bit of a gap so they could push it.
There was a big drop you had to go down, I thought Max was going to take photos so I stopped at the top causing Brendan to stop behind me, on the steep slope, and got bogged – woops. David had to get off, and go and push him up that last few meters. We stopped on the top of a large peak and had a few photos – all you can see is sand dune after sand dune, it is quite daunting. The 2 hours went by really quick and soon we were back at their facility and driven back to the Stiltz.
We showered and then decided to travel to Walvis Bay- this area has one of the largest concentrations of greater & leaser flamingos in the southern African area. We pass huge tankers off shore and large circular oyster farms floating about 250m off the shoreline. New oceanside estates are being built, but their back fences are already half covered in by the sand- that will be an on going job to keep the sand levels down. As you get closer to the town the roads become lined with huge cycads on both sides. We make our way down to the lagoon area and firstly see the greater flamingos – these are whiter in colour.
Further down the road we pull into another section where there are hundreds of lesser flamingo – the more pink coloured ones. We take plenty of pictures & watch them for a while before David gets bored and we have to go.
Once, back at Swakomund, we walk around the streets for a while, but most things are closing due to it being xmas eve. We hadn’t realised, as we had been keeping track by days, not by date! We find a pizzeria open and have a late lunch before heading back to the Stiltz, we decide on staying in for the night.
What a hot night- was so stuffy, it started off quite nice, then as we went to bed the clouds came in & trapped the heat! Then, this morning, it has become windy, cold & starts to sprinkle as we pack up – jumpers are bought out again.
The landscape changes again, from the rocky boulder mountains & outcrops to a sandy desert. We travel through the desert till we reach the seaside town to Swakomund. Just outside of town there was an old German Fort, set in an oasis amongst the sand dunes, which looked like something out of the old French Foreign Legion films
We see the Atlantic Ocean- something none of us had seen before. This place reminds David of Surfers & me, a bit like Bali though in other areas, the architecture has a heavy German influence. We cannot book into our lodge yet, we are too early, so we find a nice little café and have some lunch, the earliest lunch we have had in weeks, before we do a bit of shopping for the coming nights we will be camping.
The Stiltz lodge is 9 separated units on stiltz with a common raised walkway joining them, we overlook a small lagoon and the ocean ,there is also a viewing platform where you can sit and admire the view, we saw 1 flamingo. We have a 2-bedroom unit, which is nicely decorated and spacious- internet, albeit slow- David is happy. We arrange and book a quad bike tour, over the sand dunes, for tomorrow. We then go for a long walk, firstly up to the jetty, where the waves are crashing in against the pylons of the jetty – this juts out about 100m over the cold angry looking ocean. Then continue further along the promenade where we came across a local craft market, people were selling their wares (there was even a Himba lady, bare breasted and all) – I ended up buying some stone leopards- can’t buy the wooden figures, due to customs. The street sellers all know about Australia’s strict quarantine rules, from the Border Force TV show, and usually stop trying to sell you wooden, plant & animal products as soon as we mention where we come from! We continued on our way, and on the way back David was looking at another, family of tourists, thinking I know you – they had the same look on their faces- we had run into them at Khwai – they were from Switzerland, we ended up talking to them for ages – they were at Spitzkoppe last night as well – stayed at camp 11 – we looked at that one! They are also travelling to Sesriem on Xmas day – same as us. What a small world.
We said bye and made our way down to the Tiger Reef bar and grill for a beer & dinner – we were a bit early for sunset (7.45), the location was right on the water and was extremely popular.
Once again, donkey boiler problems! I only had a luke-warm shower…
We left the eerily beautiful landscape of the Twyfeltfontein area, of Damaraland, and made our way towards Spitzkoppe – a large mountain approx. 1740m high – and is referred to as the Matterhorn of Namibia, due to its shape. It is only a 255km drive but once again on dirt & dusty roads. We stop in the town of Uis for fuel & some groceries- excellent grocery shop for such a small town!
Once at the Spitzkoppe rest camp we check in, we can pick any site, which is not currently in use. After checking them all out, we find site “Swakop A”- this is tucked in between some boulders & is nicely secluded, it will do us the night- no power or water at these sites. (only a drop loo as well- at least it is enclosed)
David and Brendan climb one of the boulders at camp for a great view of the area.
Late afternoon beer (water for me) crackers & cheese – what a life!
After dinner David goes to take a few sunset shots, Brendan & I clean up and then go and find him, he is up on a large boulder & can’t get a good shot, so we move to another boulder. We then decide to hike over to the “arch” to try and get some good shots.
We climb up to the top, where Brendan and David continue over to the cut out with the sunset behind- I tried but was in thongs and it was too steep. We were about 15 minutes too late- is a bit too dark to get great shots, but was fun anyhow. I got lost on the way back – my direction skills need sharpening!
Fire tonight…fingers crossed no scorpions are in the area- as they are attracted to the warmth of fires!
David is trying again with his camera, to capture the stars, though it is coming over cloudy….
We had a sleep in this morning…yay. David had a few issues with getting the donkey boiler to start – damm wood wouldn’t keep a light! This is strange because we have found the wood from the Mowani tree to be excellent firewood, that seems to burn forever.
We travelled to Twyfelfontein where we found the world heritage site –was only about 10km from our campsite – this area has a large concentration of petroglyphs. We had to sign in at the carpark, then walk up to reception where we paid our fees and were appointed a guide, the Damaraland people also speak with clicks and pops – there is no way we could pronounce our guides name- so he called himself Brian- much easier on the tongue. We had to have good shoes and a hat to do the walk. Brian guided us around 1 of the 4 tracks in the area, which allowed us to see the ancient engravings/ pictures on the rocks.
These petroglyphs have been carbon dated back 6000 years. There are giraffe, which were sacred in the day, elephant, rhino, lion, wildebeest even a flamingo ,seal and penguin and human feet– they were nomadic people. Brian explained some of the drawings/ stories – some pictures were stretching it a bit though. When you stopped and looked around, they were everywhere, though as the rocks have fallen, some of them are eroded and faint. Geologists are still finding more in the area daily.
Back at the carpark we hired a local guide, Arthur, who for $600 Namibian dollars (approx. $AUD60), would take us tracking for the elusive desert elephants. These elephants have longer legs and are taller than the average elephant. It took us over an hour of bumping along, crisscrossing 4×4 sandy tracks- much longer than we had thought, but we eventually found a herd of them! They were in a dry creek bed under some trees- some were having a nap! Yes, they had longer legs, but I didn’t think they were too much larger than some of the others we had seen along our travels so far. After watching them for a while and numerous photos later, David dragged me away…Mr Meanie…
Next stop was the Organ pipes & burnt mountain. The organ pipes are a mass of angular dolomite, vertical, columns of rocks that have formed along a large creek bed in the shape of pipes – burnt mountain was disappointing – basically a few mountains which were black in colour – we decided not to go back for sunset, which was supposed to be impressive!
We then stopped at the Damaraland Living Museum, this was very much like Sovereign Hills in Ballarat, locals have dressed up as the past traditional people would & live the life for the day – our guide Simon- who was a bit of a showman, showed us some of the traditional herbs & plants people used for medicines – & still do today, blacksmith – making tools/ knives etc, ladies making crafts – ie necklaces from ostrich eggs/ porcupine quills, shells etc, fire starting, followed by a traditional song & dance.
We went back to camp for an extremely late lunch. A cool wind started blowing, so a good sleep tonight.
We finished dinner & showers before sunset today – yay no torch needed!
We sat up our chairs on the rock surface at the front of the campsite and watched the sunset- it got a bit chilly, so we had to dig out our jumpers.
Once it was dark, another vehicle came in, they were uncertain of where they were going, stopping and starting, reversing and going again till they worked out the correct entrance to their site, David and Brendan then wanted to play the lion recording we had… this kept them in stitches for ages – small things!
Off again, heading to the Mowani Mountains, in Damaraland. First, though, we need fuel, milk & bread. Luckily, today, the servo has their network up & running and can process credit card payments, so we filled up (approx. 100L @ $AUD 1.50/L).
In the “OK Supermarket” we got our milk & bread, and just before we left the shop, David said hello to a young boy, who immediately then begged for money. Sad, really. Then outside another young boy asked for money, when David told him no, he then asked for food, so we gave him a nectarine.
On the road out of Opuwo, approx. 10km towards Sesfontein, the mountain range resembled the old box canyons from cowboy movies. Then, a little further, it looked a little like the Kimberley’s, in NT, with its rocky outcrops.
A little later, some light-coloured giraffes, were beside the road.
We had been told to expect another veterinary checkpoint, but didn’t expect any problems with our meat as we had been told to stock up on our food for the next couple of days. We were wrong! A police officer, and an agriculture inspector, proceeded to remove all our meat, chicken & eggs from the fridge. After explaining that, this was all we had to eat for the next few days, and that we would be away from any food outlets, he replaced the meat back into the fridge, with a promise from us that we would cook all the meat and not throw any raw off-cuts away. Once again the Namibians always seem keen to help out travellers!
By now, we were entering Damaraland, the mountainous landscape seemed to become even more dramatic with every rise, and turn in the road. Just an amazing place! We have been using a Dashcam instead of a GoPro as we can leave it running all day, and just press a button to save a few minutes of video whenever something interesting is seen on the road. We overloaded it today, and had to replace the memory card.
An Ostrich pair, were beside the road, and as we slowed to look, we realised that there were about eight ostrich chicks running as fast as they could to get away from us! So cute!
As we neared tonight’s campsite, the landscape changed to lots of sand and rocky outcrops. Well, it looked like sand. It turned out to be a fine rocky gravel.
We turned into the final road into our campsite, and saw that we’d be camping among the boulders. It looks so nice. We had another outside shower, this one set amongst the boulders – toilet & washbasin, all well set up. The water is heated by a donkey boiler – basically fire lit under a raised drum. We had an undercover (shadecloth and sticks) area for cooking & seating. This was a really nice set up.
David and I went for a walk and climbed up one of the outcrops, was a great view & I didn’t fall.
As the sun slowly set we watched a few baboons make their way across the flat plains in front of our campsite and watched a family of springbok come down from the mountain area to graze on the little grassy patches to the side.
A guide came and lit the donkey boiler for us, we ended up having hot showers by moonlight (no power at this site) …was quite nice!
We sat and watched the sun set- was a nice orange/ pink afterglow.
David was upset – he wanted to do some night shots, of the stars, as there were no other lights in the area. However, the moon was full & thus the shots wouldn’t work…
Today saw us travel to a Himba tribal village for a cultural tour. The trip was about 12km on a rocky dirt road – at the bottom of the valley. Looking from our lodge, the valley below seems green and forestry, but once on the valley floor you see that it is actually very dry, dusty & eroded, the trees/ bushes are scraggly, spikey & sparse – not at all what it seemed from above.
Our guide, Ishmael, explained the greeting – a special handshake & greeting of “morrow morrow, peri vi, peri naue” (Hello, How Are You, I am fine) – to every single person we saw – this was a mouthful.
The women of the tribe are still dressed traditionally, bare breasted, with cow hide coverings & dreadlock style of hair, which is coated in a form of the red ochre, with frizzy black extensions on the end and an “eremba” (a piece of cow/ or goat leather made up like a crown) on top of their head. They have special lower leg coverings which indicate how many children she has, they are also adorned with a variety of necklaces and leather jewellery. The men are dressed in a more western clothing these days, but still carry around staffs & machete like knives – for protection against animals etc.
We ask a variety of questions which were interpreted by our guide and one of the chief’s sons, Hans. (Namibia was a German colony before WW2, and has a lot of German influences) He has only just returned to the village, due to a death in the village. He was 24 and had been in Opuwo, looking for work. He was very helpful and spoke English very well. We took a variety of photos before we are shown to the head man’s / chief of the village hut. The village is designed in a circular fashion, with the chief’s hut first and then the other of the family, the chief can have up to 5 wives and they all have huts near his- he visits them all but usually has a favourite- this causes jealousy between the other wives but no violence is allowed. There is a sacred fire in the middle of the village where they have all of the ceremonies & the headman communicates with their ancestors.
There is no electricity in the village & the water has to come from a well. We were shown how they sleep on the floor- which is made from cow dung, water & dirt, with a small firepit which has fresh charcoal for heat. We then watched how one of the women made an ochre butter – this can take up to 1 hour to grind & prepare which they then rub into their skin, 3 times a day, to keep it moist. It also acts as a sunscreen & insect repellent in one! They make the crème/ butter themselves in the rainy season when the cows are milking by putting it into a kaberbash (like a dried gord fruit) hang onto a tree and shake for an hour or so before setting aside. The woman, don’t bathe like us – as in daily with water, as it is forbidden. They use the charcoal & herbs to perfume (steam) themselves & clothing, this acts like deodorant, I found this ritual a bit unusual especially when they started to steam their female parts…
On our way out we said our farewells and thank you’s –” o kee naun” to all the villagers we saw.
Once back at the lodge David & I made the trip back into town to fill the car with fuel for tomorrow… credit card facilities down- try tomorrow, so we then went to see if we could change some money, thankfully this time no problems – if the credit card machine doesn’t work, we can at least pay with cash!
Back at the lodge, a late lunch was called for before a leisurely swim, surprisingly, the pool water is quite cool and then some drinks and sunbaking all afternoon… argh this is the life.
The hamburgers on the lunch menu turned out to be huge, and we all decided to forgo dinner tonight.
Around 9:30pm we had a knock on the door, and David opened the door and was faced with a security guard, armed with a rifle. After a bit of communication difficulties, it turned out that they were concerned that we hadn’t come to dinner and as the kitchen staff were soon leaving, that we would miss out.
After a bit more explaining, that we were fine, and that we would come to breakfast at 7am, they bid us good night. Our experiences, with the Namibian people, has been all good, and they are genuinely happy to have you visit their country, and for you to have a positive experience while here!