Sand, donkeys and potholes cont…….

Day 21 – 24/08/2017 Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

It was an early rise at 5:30am. After breakfast we were heading off to the Victoria Falls. We will cross into Zimbabwe at the Kasangula border post. We were warned that we needed to be there early so as to avoid the crowds as this is a particularly busy border crossing.

Just after breakfast we headed to the meeting point to await the driver who was to take us on a tour to the Victoria Falls. Or that’s what we thought? We opted to use the guest house tour service so as to get through the border as quickly as possible. As it turns out we needn’t have bothered as they did not assist us at the border and it was not a tour but a courier service.

There seemed to be some sort of hiccup as the driver was late. The owner came to talk to us and was in a state of panic. He informed us that they had run out of water and many of their guests were very angry and disgruntled and were threatening him with non payment.

Apparently for seven years this side of town has never had any water. On finding this out we enquired as to where their water actually came from. The owned replied ‘Oh we just go and collect it in a big drum from the river’. Luckily we had our own supply of drinking water. I was really pleased I hadn’t ingested any of the unpurified river water although I did however have a bath the previous night. I wondered why the water was so brown. Hopefully there wasn’t anything too sinister lurking in there. Apparently this Guest House only got electricity installed 2 years ago. This really puts things into perspective. Coming to Africa is always so challenging and humbling and makes me realize how lucky I am to live in a first world country. Most of these things we just take for granted.

Our driver Simon delivered us at the border by 7am and there was already quite a queue. Luckily at this time of day it wasn’t too bad.  There were so many trucks lined up to go through the border but these were channelled through a different route.

It took us about 30mins to get through without a hitch. When we were finished Simon walked us to the exit point where he introduced us to his brother Tadedza who was to be our driver on the Zimbabwe side.

We drove about 70 klms into Zimbabwe to the falls. Tadedza wanted to first show us where he lives so he made a small detour. The next stop, on my request was the large baobab tree situated close to town. Here David purchased his first three soapstone items from the vendors on the side of the road. They all vied eagerly for his attention hoping to make a sale. While David was busy doing some heavy negotiating I took some quick photos of the magnificent baobab tree.

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The big baobab

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As we headed off I carefully wrapped David’s statues into my soft camera pouch to protect them. Tadedza placed the wrapped statues into the glove compartment for safe keeping. Tadedza dropped us off at the falls entrance and told us we were now on our own and we would need to walk wherever we needed to go. He arranged to meet us at 2:30pm at the main entrance to the Victoria Falls Hotel after which we would need to make our way back to the border. 

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Entrance to the Victoria Falls

We spent about 2 hours walking the breadth of the falls and back again to the entrance. Such an awesome sight. It was a beautiful clear day with not much spray so the conditions were good for taking photos. Although I have seen the falls before it always takes my breath away. A spectacular sight. This particular day there were a lot of tourists and viewing was crowded. I couldn’t even take a photo of the David Livingstone statue as it was perpetually surrounded by people. I decided to take a photo of a Vervet monkey sitting on the sign instead.

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A curious Vervet monkey

It was now getting hot and I was really happy that I had brought an umbrella.

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The mighty Victoria Falls

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Heading towards  the bridge and Batoka Gorge

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Victoria Falls bridge

After the Falls we took a short walk to the Lookout Cafe which sits above the Batoka Gorge. Unfortunately on the dirt pathway walk there was a young vendor who latched onto me. Following alongside me he relentlessly badgered and harrased me to by his rather large soapstone carving. No way could I fit this in my limited luggage and I was not there to purchase anything. I did feel really sorry for him but eventually had to be really blunt with him to stop him from following me.

The splendid view from the Lookout Cafe must surely be one of the best overlooking the Batoka Gorge. Down below you can see the rafts bobbing up and down as they venture out to the rapids. You can also see the adventurers rushing past suspended high above the gorge strapped into the flying fox slide.

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Batoka Gorge looking towards the Victoria Falls bridge

As it was hot we opted for a lovely cold slushy which went down a treat! Now feeling somewhat refreshed we walked on another pathway up to the iconic Victoria Falls Hotel for lunch.

We sat on the veranda overlooking the beautifully manicured garden which rolled down to another viewing point towards the falls. By now I had built up quite an appetite and looked forward to lunch. While waiting we were entertained by some banded mongoose who scuttled across the fresh green lawn to sip droplets of water from a garden tap. They attracted many admirers who gathered round to take photos.

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Thirsty banded mongoose

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Breathtaking view from the Victoria Falls Hotel

After a lovely light lunch we went for a little stroll around the hotel gardens. After which we strolled into the lavish interior rooms of the hotel before heading off to the Larry Norton Art Gallery. I met Larry a few years before when I hosted an African Art Safari to raise funds for rhino conservation. Part of my tour was a visit to his home and studio but unfortunately he was not at the gallery this day. The gallery curator proudly showed us his beautiful work!

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Spotted this beautiful water lily in one of the ponds 

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The plush colonial interior of the Victoria Falls Hotel

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As it was nearly time to be collected we headed to the entrance to await Tadedza’s arrival. Another driver came to collect us as Tadedza was held up at the airport. He was very well informed and chatty. On the way to the border we saw lots of lovely trees with yellow flowers glistening in the afternoon light of the setting sun. We got through the border pretty quickly. The young driver phoned Simon to let him know we were back.

On the way back to our accommodation just on the other side of the border we saw some elephants, baboons, egrets and impala, the first animals for the day other than a lone bush buck and some vervet monkeys at the falls. It had been a long day and we both welcomed an early evening.

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 A superb end to another wonderful day in Africa

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Posted in Activist, Adventure, Animal, Artist, Australian Artist, Botswana, Conservation, Landscape, Passion, Stop wildlife crime, Victoria Falls, Wildlife, Wildlife Artist, Zimbabwe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sand, potholes and donkeys cont ……

Day 19 – 22/08/2017 Gobabis, Namibia to Maun, Botswana

With a long drive and border crossing ahead of us we made another early start. East of Windhoek there were trees, shrubs and evidence of blossoms starting on the trees. But east of Gobabis there was no sign of any greenery.

Leaving Gobabis“Open road and a full tank of petrol”

We took a wrong turn and started heading south towards Keitsas. We must have travelled about 10kms along a dirt road when we suddenly remembered being told it was a sealed road all the way to the border!

On this road we spotted a pale chanting goshawk perched on the electric pole. There were also a few cows but not many. After stopping to take photos of a large owl also perched on top of an electrical post, we turned around and headed back to Gobabis. After locating the correct road, by 7:30am we were on the N2 heading towards the Mamuno border.

Border roadFinally found the correct road and now heading to the Mamuno border post

It was pretty much scrub all the way to the border post.

When we arrived at the Namibian border post there didn’t seem to be anyone around. A bit confused we kept driving through until we reached some parking bays. It looked like there might be some activity inside this building. The next moment a bakkie (ute) came rushing up behind us hooting vigorously. He parked his vehicle next to us. A flustered man hopped out and rushed towards us to tell us that we had driven kleen through the Namibian border without going through customs. We told him that it looked closed. He instructed us to follow him back to the Namibian side where he took us through the arrival side. The officials wanted to know why we hadn’t stopped? We told them that the building looked like it was locked up and apart from no signage there wasn’t another soul in sight! They burst out laughing and ushered us through their office to get our passports stamped on the exit side then we were ushered back through the entrance side where we were directed back to the Botswana border post. We were through in about 20 mins as there were no other cars at this time of the day. When we got to the Botswana side we told them what had happened and we all had a good chuckle.

Tuck shopBoi’s Tuck Shop spotted on our journey

We spotted some unusual art works along the way, placed at various entrances. The one below was by far the most ingenious. Clevely perched on top of an anthill, which not only provided good height it also blended well into the environment. Not quite sure how they got it to the top and how it was secured, but it looked pretty solid.

DSCN4577Local artist making use of the natural resources

DSCN4595smlI have never seen so many dead cars on the side of the road!

DSCN4574Donkeys used for local transport

Our journey so far had been pretty straight forward to Ghanzi where we encountered a veterinary disease control check point. There was a stop sign, but on seeing an official standing 10 feet away with clipboard in hand waving us forward we edged slowly towards him and stopped. There were no other cars at this time. As soon as I looked at the officials face I knew there was going to be trouble.

Although we greeted him courteously he was extremely aggressive and snarled “Didnt you see the stop sign”, to which David replied, “Yes we did but you waved us forward”. On hearing this he vehemently denied waving us forward and said  we were going to incur a $1000 fine. Interestingly not long before reaching the checkpoint we had seen a sign with a hotline number to report any corruption as Botswana had zero tolerance!

David dug his heels in, turning to me he asked if I had seen the official waving us forward, to which I replied I had. He became even more aggressive and told us that if we argued with him the fine would be $3000. To this I replied that we most definitely were not arguing with him but that it had appeared to both of us that he was waving us forward. As there was also a boom gate I am not sure why he was so angry. I think he just thought he was going to make an easy bribe.

At this point another car pulled up behind us and he reluctantly waved us on. I think he realised that he wasn’t going to win this one.

DSCN4448Donkeys grazing close to the road

Happily the 700klm trip from Gobabis to Maun was mostly uneventful other than dodging potholes, goats, horses, donkeys and more donkeys. 

When we had to stop for some cattle crossing the road this calf curiously came to the window to say hello. Such a sweet little fellow.

DSCN4621A curious calf

Sadly many of the donkeys had been tethered together in pairs. Keeping them hobbled stopped them from wandering too far off. These poor animals all looked so sad and dejected as the graze right on the edge of the road as cars whiz by. It’s amazing that we didn’t see many dead donkeys, victims of hit and runs.

Livestock transportTransporting livestock

Throughout our journey we saw the occasional ‘Willy, willy’ also known as a ‘Cock eyed bob’ otherwise known as a whirlwind! As there was not much else to see these whirl winds caused us great excitement! It was very much a case of lets see who can spot the whirlwind or dead car first!

We stopped on the side of the road for lunch under an acacia tree with pretty yellow flowers. By now it was getting quite hot but not unpleasant. Unfortunately the heat also brought the flies so it was a very quick lunch, a quick photo and back on the road.

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DSCN4495Maun, now a familiar town

Having booked into the same backpackers in Maun, now a  familiar town,  we knew exactly where to go on arrival at 4pm. We received a warm welcome from Katie and quickly unpacked all our gear.

We decided to go into town to do a bit of shopping at the Spar then David dropped me back at the backpackers before going to a local car wash to remove the now caked on salty Namibian dust.

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The car was detailed in about 40 mins flat by three enthusiastic men who took great pride in providing an excellent service. The car came back restored to its former glory ready to once again hit the open road.

We prepared a light dinner in the backpackers kitchen of cold meat, salad, beetroot, crackers, bread cheese and tomato. It was delicious.

The electrical outlets and wires going in all directions in the kitchen would never have passed Australian standards but in Africa it seems anything goes!

Early to bed for another early rise tomorrow for a long trip to Kasangula, Kasane via Nata. Fell asleep to the sounds of roosters crowing, dogs barking, trucks churning past and a cacophony of frog sounds. During the night I woke up feeling the evening chill but luckily there was an extra rug at the bottom of the bed. In no time I was snug as a bug in a rug.

Originally we planned to go through the National reserve via Savuti but after getting bogged in the sand in Moremi we decided against this as we were told that the road conditions would be pretty much the same.

Day 20  23/08/2017  Maun to Kasangula, Botswana

Woke up at 5:30am to the sound of roosters crowing and birds twittering. It was a beautiful crisp morning and I looked forward to what this day would bring. After packing the car we had a light breakfast before leaving on our 7 hour road trip to Kasangula. We were hoping to see more wildlife on this leg of the journey.

We left Maun at 7am and the journey was once again pretty uneventful. Although the roads were sealed most of the way there were still many potholes to keep us alert.

DSCN4630Luckily this gravel road wasn’t too bad. Either that or we were just getting used to them?

An unexpected detour onto a gravel road near Pandamatenga revealed a lovely surprise. Out of the blue we came upon a marshy dam filled with white flamingos. So unexpected! Of course we had to stop for a photo session. It was such a pleasant sight with quite a variety of birds in the middle of extremely dry terrain. Egrets, stilts, glossy ibis all enjoying this little oasis. In the distance cows  were grazing in a fenced paddock.

It was quite a long detour but luckily we came back to the sealed main road. It was such a relief after having our stomachs churned like a milkshaker.

DSCN4635Flamingo’s galore and so much more, a little oasis

We had to go through another veterinary disease control point where we had to drive the car through a dip for foot and mouth as well as dipping our shoes (all of them) in a tray of liquid for the same reason. No incidents with officials this time, actually this chap was very pleasant and relaxed.

Government desease control

On the next stretch we spotted giraffe, blesbok, wildebeest, vultures, fish eagle, rollers and hornbills. This day proved to be much more fruitful as far as wildlife is concerned.

DSCN4677Kudu crossing – wildlife crossing make the roads very dangerous to travel on at night

DSCN4563A dainty little blesbokDSCN4548A galloping Wildebeest who had just crossed the main road 

We passed through many small towns. As we got close to Kasangula there were more and more tucks on the road. As we neared the town there were many trucks lining both sides of the road. We later discovered that these trucks were waiting to cross the Botswana, Zambia border on the ferry. The ferry could only take two trucks at a time and only operated from 6am – 6pm. Many of these trucks are stranded for up to three weeks at a time awaiting their turn to cross over. 

Kasangula

I think the food outlets here must be doing a roaring trade. Some of the trucks now choose to go via Zimbabwe cross the bridge over into Zambia as an alternative, as this seems to be a much quicker alternative. At this particular point three countries meet, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

It turned out our accommodation in Kasangula was located very close to the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Once again poor ‘Lady Jane’ took us on the scenic tour and nearly got us bogged in sand again. We stopped near a small village and asked them if they knew where to find the Guest House. Luckily a woman knew where to go and gave us directions. We weren’t far from the entrance, we had just taken the right fork instead of the left.

As it turned out the gps accordinates provided were in fact incorrect. On arrival we informed them of the error.

The Guest House was very well hidden, the signs were dirty, crooked and sometimes faced the wrong way or were absent altogether which is why it was pretty hard to find. We arrived at about 4:30pm. The owner was quite aware of the state of the signboards but it didn’t seem to bother him. He just laughed and told us that he had been meaning to fix them.

Although the accommodation was very rustic it was clean and quiet. Even though it was still relatively early it had been a very long day so we decided to just chill after unpacking. We had a short rest before going to the kitchen area for an early dinner of pretty much the same as the night before, ham, lettuce, zucchini,tomato, cheese, crackers and bread.

The owner David came to ask us if we would like to go with the other guests to another Lodge for drinks and to watch animals at their waterhole. They also had a hide that we could walk down and view the animals at very close quarters to the waterhole. Although pretty tired we couldn’t resist the opportunity to observe elephants up close and personal. It was a very special evening but unfortunately there weren’t many animals that night.

By this time the fatigue was setting in and I couldn’t wait to get back, have a hot shower and into bed! Another wonderful day in Africa.

Posted in Activist, Adventure, Animal, Artist, Australian Artist, Botswana, Conservation, Landscape, Passion, Stop wildlife crime, Travel, Wildlife, Wildlife Artist | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sand, potholes and donkey’s cont……

Day 18 – 21/08/2017 Keetmanshoop to Gobabis

Another early start, a quick breakfast of rusks and a hot cup of tea, muesli with long life milk before heading off at 6:30am. Our destination today the town of Gobabis via Windhoek. Originally we were going to take the shorter route to Gobabis but Karel recommended that we stick to the sealed road instead and go via Windhoek.DSCN4154

Filling up in Keetmanshoop

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“Open road and a full tank of petrol”

We travelled through Tses, Mariental, Kalkrand and Rehoboth on a good sealed road.DSCN4236

Arriving in Rehoboth

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Crossing over the Tropic of Capricorn again

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Mats made out of animal skins displayed on a fence

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No hitchhiking allowed

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Subtle changes in the landscape

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One of the many car wash bays

Coming into Windhoek we realised what a big sprawling city it is. After being in mostly isolated areas for many weeks, Windhoek was very overwhelming. The hustle and bustle of city life, large office buildings towering over us, it felt very claustrophobic. Everyone doing their own thing in haste!

Windhoek is the social, economic, political, and cultural centre of the country and although there are many historical buildings around we couldn’t get out of there quick enough.

By now we were starting to get hungry and just past the airport situated about 30 kms from the city centre,  we pulled off near the railway line to have lunch. Had left overs from the night before on provita, washed down with grapetiser. On the farm running alongside the railway line grazed a herd of horses. We also saw a lone black backed jackal slink past in the distance.

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Herd of horses on the farm

On the way we passed a camp that looked interesting so we turned around and popped in. The manager was happy to chat to us about the animals there. He told us he had killed 10 black mamba snakes in a year found in close proximity to the tented accommodation.The black mamba is a venomous snake and is endemic to parts of sub-saharan desert.

In the grounds surrounding the reception area roamed two Himalayan goats which seemed so out of place. After a short visit we were about to leave when David discovered a foreign set of keys in his pocket. It turned out to be the room keys from the previous accommodation in Maltahohe. While sorting out the spare tyre dalema, David had forgotten to hand them back to the receptionist who in turn forgot to remind him. We received a desperate email asking us if we still had the keys as they had no spares! We had to find the nearest post office to return them before leaving Namibia the next day.

While passing through the tiniest town called Witvlei, low and behold we spotted a post office! After a few phone calls to the camp to find out where to return the keys, they were bagged and couriered back to Mariental at a cost of $5.50 AUD.

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Driving into Gobabis

We arrived in Gobabis at about 4pm and located our accommodation shortly after. Gobabis is a small neat town and it wasn’t difficult to find our way. While checking in at reception there was a parrot in a nearby cage with the most piercing high pitched screech. We wondered if this was going to be a noisy night? We were assured that the parrot would not disturb us.

The owner Coenraad was very pleasant and helpful and told David that if he ever visited again he would personally cook him a steak Gobabis style.

The receptionist told us we might be able to see some wild animals at a nearby luxury lodge called Goba. As it was still light we decided to go and have a look. It was a lovely place but we only saw one gemsbok and an ostrich.

We headed back to our accommodation had a light dinner of leftovers from the previous night, a hot shower and retired early. It had been a long day having travelled more than 550 klms!

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Sand, potholes and donkey’s cont……

Day 17 – 20/08/2017 Maltahoe to Keetmanshoop

Woke early to a very crisp morning and watched the sun rise while making a cup of tea and some cereal.

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We had two visitors, a great dane and a very thin lame greyhound. A little affection and we were best friends. Broke my heart to see them in such bad condition.

When we enquired where we could get a replacement tyre we were informed there was a local man on the premises who sold tyres! I guess blow outs were a common problem and provided the perfect opportunity for an onsite business. This was very fortunate for us as the next town was pretty far and we could have found ourselves in a real predicament if we had another blowout.

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The tyre shop

So with a tyre fitted, pumped and spare in tow we set off at 8:20am.

We headed west to Helmerinhausen through Aus on a gravel road and then on to Luderitz.

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On the way we saw gemsbok, kudu cattle, goats, ostrich, squirrels and duiker. Through Aus there were quite a few hills which became gradually more sparse as we neared the ocean. Very beautiful, stark yet awesome in its own unique way. While passing through Aus we had the good fortune to spot the first of the Namib wild horses. So exciting to see them roaming free. These horses have conquered and adapted to the desert, roaming the sparsely vegetated plains of the Garub on the eastern fringe of the Namib-Naukluft Park.

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Namib desert wild horses

The desert stretched for miles and got more and more sparse as we drove towards the the town of Luderitz.

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‘An open road and a full tank of petrol’

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Railway siding

Luderitz, a harbour town is situated on one of the most inhospitable coasts in Africa lying between harsh desert and ocean. After the discovery of diamonds nearby in 1909, the town flourished with the establishment of Kolmanskop mining settlement. After the German war South Africa took over the administration in 1915. After the deportation of many Germans, shrinking the population Luderitz now has minimal dock activity and only small fishing enterprises and a few carpet weavers.

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Entering the town

We drove around the town and saw a couple of lovely churches, many colonial buildings with very interesting architecture. We stopped briefly to have a look at the lighthouse overlooking the harbour which was covered in mist. Luderitz is also known for its wildlife and we were lucky to see flamingos towards Dias point.

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Luderitz Flamingo’s 

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Interesting architecture

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Lovely church perched high up on the rocks

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The church door

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Overlooking the misty harbour from the lighthouse

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I love old doors and the great textures that are revealed

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The harbour once the mist lifted

The settlement of Kolmanskop now a ghost town is slowly being reclaimed by the harsh sandy environment. It has become a very popular tourist destination offering incredible photo opportunities.

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The entrance to the ghost town which was already closed to visitors

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Remnants of a mining settlement 

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The sandy desert surrounding Kolmanskop ghost town

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Land of the brown hyena

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Kolmanskop

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Namibian crows spotted on a dumpster nearby

Leaving Luderitz we headed southeast towards Keetmanshoop via Aus, Goageb and Seeheim. As we left the sandy desert area, scattered scrub bushes started appearing and distant hills became visible.

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A lone oryx/gemsbok in a harsh landscape

The journey to Keetmanshoop was mostly uneventful but the scenery was ever changing and beautiful.

 

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Spotted the odd windmill

‘Lady Jane’ decided to take us on the worst dirt road to our destination in Keetmanshoop. When we arrived we found out that for some reason the gps coordinates directed visitors via the dirt road instead of the sealed road which is just a little further on. The accommodation was situated in a light industrial area on the edge of the town. Keetmanshoop appeared to be quite a large town. The owners, an afrikaans couple Rina and Karel gave us a very warm welcome. The Inn was very clean, neat and secure. Rina told us where we could get a lovely meal just around the corner. Unfortunately the very popular German restaurant was fully booked and could not supply a table but were happy to prepare us a takeaway meal.

We sat patiently in the reception area and reflected on the day. It was well worth the wait the meal was delicious.

Another perfect day in Namibia which revealed so many little treasure along the way.

Posted in Adventure, Animal, Artist, Australian Artist, Conservation, Landscape, Namibia, Passion, Texture, Travel, Wild Horses, Wildlife, Wildlife Artist | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sand, potholes and donkeys cont……

Day 16 – 19/08/2017 Solitaire to Maltahoe

Woke the next morning to a stunning view looking out towards a distant hilltop.DSCN3041

The campsite and early morning view

There were some weaver birds nesting just outside my tent and a lovely plant in full blow growing in the dry dust against some rocks.

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Weaver birds chirping in the tree

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Flowering against all odds

After packing we had to drive back to the main building to check-out. Only to find that miss congeniality was getting a massive serve from a couple of South African customers over their breakfast. They were complaining bitterly about the service, cold bacon etc! They even suggested she go and get some proper training. I felt so sorry for her.

She eventually came back to the reception to help us, totally disgruntled and unhappy with the world.

After taking a few photos we left the camp and headed to Solitaire to take some photos. At Solitaire there were a collection of rusty old cars making perfect subjects for photos. There was a restaurant, a very popular bakery, a small lodge with some lovely cacti, aloes and succulents outside as well as the fantastic old car below.

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Relics at Solitaire

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Huge cactus

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Old Truck nestled against the aloes

When we left Solitaire we decided to drive through the Riethoog Pass before making our way south to Maltahoe.

The mountainous area was really picturesque and as we left the plateau and descended into a valley we spotted a large farmhouse. The sign outside said Remhoogte ‘Tea, coffee, cake and the best view and hospitality’. Well we just couldn’t resist checking it out.

The 15,000 hectare property is managed by a Pastor Donovan and his lovely wife Lorette. They both welcomed us and Lorette served us the most welcome cup of tea and homemade carrot cake. This was a good start.

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Donovan and Lorette – If you would like to have the same experience they can be contacted at tel: 063683312

After tea, Donovan took us for a drive through and between the mountains on the western side of the property in his bakkie/ute to see the best view around. I sat in the front with Donovan and David stood at the back holding on for dear life as we bounced over the rugged terrain.DSCN3243

The bakkie on one of the less precarious areas

Quite tricky to negotiate at times over precarious ledges, almost vertical climbs and rocky outcrops but it proved to be everything they promised. Donovan pointed out some crude scaffolding erected with unmilled timber and twine high on the side of the mountain . This scaffolding was erected by the bushman so they could extract honey from the mountain face.

Down in the valley Donovan stopped and we piled out and followed him through the bush under some trees and down to the first of two natural springs. Here we sampled the clear pure sweet water.

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Taking a sip of the sweet clear water

On the way to the next spring we spotted a large male kudu ascending majestically to the top of the mountain before bounding up and over as soon as he spotted us. We also saw a few dassies, klipspringer, chacma baboons and grey go-away (Grey lourie) birds.

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Kudu heading for the hills

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Chacma baboon giving directions

Donovan pointed out plants the bushman used to make tea. These are dark brown grasses that stick up stiffly growing on the mountain edges. Some of the other trees we saw are: the quiver trees, phantom tree, wild olive tree, wild cypress,wild fig and Anna tree which is not indigenous.

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The illusive Quiver tree, which is part of the aloe family

In one of the grottos just above the other natural spring grew a small tree, which according to Donovan hadn’t changed or grown in the past eleven years.

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Slow growing tree in a little grotto

Our excursion took about 2 hours before arriving back out the farmhouse where Lorette had prepared some delicious homemade bread toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches for us rounded off with refreshing home-made cool lemon juice.

After an unplanned but most enjoyable and memorable stop at the Remhoogte farmhouse situated between Solitaire and Nauchas we headed south for Maltahoe at 3:30pm. Donovan gave us instructions to get to Maltahoe so we didn’t need to punch our co-ordinates into ‘Lady Jane’. Big mistake!

As we were nearing Maltahoe we thought we needed to feed the coordinates to ‘Lady Jane’ to find our accommodation address. To our horror we discovered that we still had another 97kms to go. It turned out that the Camp was in the Maltahoe area but no where near the town. The sun was already starting to set so we weren’t at all happy about this.

The road to the campsite was very badly corrugated which slowed us down even more. It was now pitch black outside and there wasn’t another light or car in sight.

Well it had to happen didn’t it?? We had a massive blow out in the middle of nowhere! So out with the phone torch and headlamp to inspect the damage.

The tyre was completed shredded I have never seen anything like it. No option but to get the spare on as quickly as possible. My hat off to David who jumped into action and got the shredded tyre off and and the spare on quick smart. I stood alongside with my phone light for a little extra light. Just as the tyre was fitted another car happened to come past with 4 passengers. They stopped to ask if we needed help. By then it was all done and dusted so we thanked them for stopping and they drove off into the night, dust billowing behind.

With the tyre replaced we set off with caution with another 60 kms to go on this bad road at an even slower pace . Feeling extremely apprehensive with no spare!

At 7:30pm we found the entrance to the camp and felt confident we had made it in time to check in. Close off time was at 8pm.

We drove into the camp which was in darkness and spotted a few young campers sitting around a fire. We asked them where the reception was only to be told it was already closed! ‘Maybe tonight was the night we were going to sleep in the car’!

With our torches in hand we went to see if we could find anyone around the vicinity of the reception building that could help us. We received a friendly greeting from one of the local dogs. This camp is very isolated so there wasn’t even a possibility of finding alternative accommodation. By now I was extremely tired, hungry, dusty and frustrated. Just then David noticed small torch lights in the distance bobbing towards us.

Two local woman arrived in their pajamas to check us in. They weren’t too happy with us but we explained that we had a blow out. Extremely relieved we followed them in our car to our campsite.

We had a quick bite to eat of chakalaka corned beef and cheese on provita crackers topped off with a hot cup of tea and chocolate. The night sky was by now full of stars and called for a bit of star gazing but it turned out to be a little too crisp.

It was now time to have a much needed shower only to find that not only was the tap situated at the very top of the shower head (only accesible by standing on the bath) there was also no pressure or hot water. Oh well that was that.

Falling into bed at 9:30pm I think I fell asleep before my head hit the pillow.

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Sand, potholes and donkey’s cont …….

Day – 15  18/08/2017 Henties Bay to Sossusvlei

The next morning Henties Bay was covered in low lying mist. We asked Jaceq if he could show us the beach before we left. He took us for a short brisk walk to the closest beach which was really close to where we were staying. Although we could hear the sound of the ocean it wasn’t visible. Walked through the streets, interesting to see the different architecture. The roads are not tarred. The air was really crisp and hopefully as the mist lifts it will reveal a beautiful day. After a quick look, a few photos we headed back to pack the car.

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The road leading to the ocean in Henties Bay

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Crisp morning air at the Henties Bay beach

As we had another early start, Jaceq packed a lovely breakfast for. We left Henties Bay at 7:08am and proceeded south towards Walvis Bay.

Once again we hit the road works and a very corrugated detour. We had to pass a truck which was spraying the road surface with salt water. The surface would then be rolled and compacted to harden it. Most of the roads in this area are prepared the same way. Unfortunately there was quite an overspray from the watering truck which splattered our car, especially the back window. This salt spray stuck to the car like glue.

Jaceq warned us to be extremely cautious on this particular stretch of road at this time of the day as the mist made the surface like glass and the car could go into a slide very easily. I was happy David was driving as this road was not at all safe and he proceeded with caution. In no time at all our silver car transformed into a chocolate colour.

We passed the deserted village again between Henties Bay and Swakopmund. This time we saw one person! With the low lying mist it looked really spooky!

As the mist lifted we spotted a wreck lolling about in the ocean. We turned off the road to go and have a closer look. It was the fishing trawler Zeila with birds draped all over her. She looked spectacular as the sun shone on her against a dark sky. Zeila was sold as scrap metal to an Indian company and got stranded after it came loose from its towing line on 25 August 2008.  

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The Zeila wreck

On the beach someone rearranged some bones in the shape of a skeleton. The bones must have been from the carcass of an animal or large bird? It looked quite ominous with the shipwreck in the background rolling about in the waves.

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Mystery man

We passed through Swakopmund and onto Walvis Bay Lagoon to see if we could spot the pink flamingos.

We were not disappointed! Saw 1000’s of them. This was indeed a highlight for both of us and our cameras didn’t stop. We were among other keen photographers all furiously clicking away. These birds are so incredibly graceful and appear to glide along in unison. When a group of them took flight you could see the vivid pinky red underwing plumage which looked spectacular .

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Pink flamingos at Walvis Bay

After spending some time with the flamingos we popped into the Walvis Bay Sailing Club for David to have a chat and for me to take photos. We left Walvis at about 10:45am and headed further south to Sossasvlei passing through Sessriem and Solitaire.

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Sossusvlei turn off

The terrain was at first mostly sand but gradually changed with short scrub bushes and sparse trees. The first 64 kms of road was sealed and then we hit gravel and the speed limit varied from 30-60kms. The road on this stretch of gravel was not good and in places another track had been formed and is clearly visible in the photo below. 

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This part of the road was so bad another track had been worn

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Sparse trees in a sandy landscape

When we arrived at Solitaire we took the wrong turn and only realised about 10 kms down the track before turning back. Found the correct road and arrived at the entry point to the park at 3:30pm. Sossusvlei is located in the southern part of the Namib Desert in the Namib Naukluft National Park. It is a salt and clay pan surrounded by high red dunes.

Seeing these dunes is something that has been on my bucket list for a long time. Couldn’t quite believe I was actually going to this magical place.

After purchasing the permit we made haste for the dunes as there wasn’t much time left. We were keen to see as much as we could within the time we had left. Fortunately the road to the dunes was tarred and very good. As the dunes were only accessible with a four wheel drive, once we arrived at the carpark we had to book a tour. We approached one of the guides and found out it was going to cost us another 300 Rand each. Together with a couple of Austrian tourists we set off in a modified land cruiser, 2 series. The guide drove at breakneck speed like a maniac through extremely thick sand and bumps. We were more airborne than on the seat. The two Austrians turned out to be extremely obnoxious, selfish and a real pain! We ditched them as soon as we could and climbed onto another vehicle full of Asian tourists. Heading back to the carpark these tourists were very friendly and welcoming.

One of the scenes I have always dreamed of seeing is an oryx/gemsbok standing silhouetted against the red dunes at sunset. That day I wasn’t disappointed, nature provided and took my breath away. It was spectacular! A picture perfect photo op, I feel another painting coming on!

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Sossusvlei sand dunes

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A beautiful lone Oryx/Gemsbok

On the way back to the parking area the driver also drove at breakneck speed. As he hit a huge dip we all went flying and Davids camera crashed to the floor of the vehicle. Luckily he had a filter on as this got chipped. Otherwise it would have been the lense! BUGGER!

We had to race to get back to the gate in time arriving at 5:15pm, with fifteen minutes to spare. Although there was a relatively short queue it took absolutely ages to get through. The lady on duty seemed to be moving in slow motion! Actually I think maybe she was in reverse.

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The entrance point to Sossusvlei

Soon after leaving we passed a mountain range that was glowing in the afternoon light surrounded by wispy cloud formations.

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Glowing mountain range

Our accommodation was somewhere on the route back to Solitaire. Should have been pretty simple. Only one problem ‘Lady Jane’ could not recognise any of the roads and it was  already starting to get dark. This area is very isolated with only the occasional lodge or campsite.

Once the sun set it was a very dark night and visibility was really poor! We couldn’t see any sign boards. Was starting to think this time for sure we would have to sleep in the car. The first gated entrance we saw we decided to go in and ask for directions. It was a lovely looking lodge. As I walked into the reception area these wonderful aromas wafted through my nostrils from the dining room and made me so hungry. The lady on duty was very helpful and said the camp we were looking for was about another 5 kms on the left just after we passed in between two mountains. 

Finally at about 6:30pm we found the side road leading to the Naukluft Lodge where we would find directions to the Campsite.

The receptionist at the main building was extremely unfriendly and unhelpful which didn’t help. She gave us a map to guide us to the camp but it wasn’t at all clear and we inadvertently landed up back at the main road.  We had to drive back up the long driveway towards the main building where we found the correct road and followed it around a mountain.

The tented camp was clean although there was a bit of a sewerage smell outside. Not again! There was a definite pattern forming!

For dinner we shared some left over fish and soggy salad from the restaurant the previous night at Henties Bay. Some leftover red wine for David and a gin and tonic for me. For dessert a few squares of chocolate which luckily hadn’t melted.

I hit the shower with great haste, the hot water felt great! With all the dust washed away, feeling tired but clean I fell into bed. Unfortunately I had a really uncomfortable nobbly pillow, and the tent sides flapped vigorously in the wind. However sleep eventually came and I nodded off.

 

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Sand, potholes and donkey’s cont …….

Day 14 -17/08/2017 Exploring the Skeleton Coast, Namibia

Had a lovely hearty breakfast provided by the owners son Jaceq, who is the chef, before heading north up the Skeleton Coast.

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The view from our car

The road was very good and ran parallel to the ocean which at times we could see. Occasionally there were short sandy access roads leading from the main road to the ocean which I imagine were mainly utilized by the local fisherman.

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Keen fisherman

We decided to go down one of these roads so that we could dip our feet into the atlantic ocean. I must admit that I was a bit anxious about getting bogged again on this very sandy road! After parking the car on a small elevated parking area overlooking the ocean, we rolled up our pants and raced down the edge of the dune. Without hesitating we bravely ran into the foamy surf rolling onto the beach.

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Cold foamy beach

Needless to say I beat a hasty retreat as the water was freezing, deciding to go exploring instead. It was a crisp cloudy morning and it was great to feel the coarse sand between my toes and to stretch my legs. There wasn’t another soul in sight. Spotted the carcass of a leather backed turtle on the beach. It wasn’t clear what the cause of death was but it appeared to be of natural causes. How I wished that it was alive.

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Remains of a Leatherback turtle

Soon after we headed back to the main road and continued north passing many pink salt lake farms. On the side of the road we spotted some upended boxes with large salt crystals perched on top for sale. There wasn’t anyone manning these stalls, just honesty boxes supplied. The crystals were absolutely beautiful and varied in colour from white to baby pink and darker shades. Just behind the boxes was a salt lake.

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Pink salt rock crystals

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Salt lake farm

Other than the occasional rocky outcrop the landscape was very arid and stark. Such a harsh place to live in.

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Stark, confronting landscape

We made our way to the Cape Cross Seal Reserve which is protected and owned by the Namibian government. Cape Cross is a small headland in the South Atlantic on the western coast 60 kms north of Henties Bay and is home to one of the largest colonies of Cape Fur Seals in the world.

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Cape Cross Seal Reserve office

After turning off the main we drove towards the ocean, spotting a lone black backed jackal scurrying across the sandy plain. It looked so out of place. After paying an entry fee at the office we had to drive a small distance to the colony.

There were a lot of parked cars and tourists busses. It was quite smelly but not as bad as I expect it could get during the summer heat. There were seals everywhere, even sprawled right at the edge of the parking area. They didn’t seem to be at all fussed by all the onlookers. At this time of year, the colony existed of females only, all feeding their pups. The males were out to sea hunting. There was a long elevated walkway, perfect for viewing and taking photographs. There were seals as far as the eye could see, left and right up the beach, as well as vast numbers in the ocean.

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Juvenile seal pup

There were a few ocean birds as well such as the Kelp Gull.

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Kelp Gull

Somebody pointed out to me that in among all the seals were some black backed jackals feeding on the carcasses of mostly infant seals. Now I know why the jackal we saw earlier was hightailing it towards the ocean, he was late for lunch!

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Black Backed Jackal

The seals were not at all perturbed by the jackals presence. I think the jackals feed mainly off the remains of naturally deceased animals.

Near the parking area are a couple of crosses, monuments with the inscription, “In the year 6685 after the creation of the world and 1485 after the birth of Christ, the brilliant, far-sighted King John II of Portugal ordered Diogo Cão, knight of his court, to discover this land and to erect this padrão here”.

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Padrao

After leaving the colony we headed back to the main road where we saw a sign that said ‘Caution Lichen Field, vehicles prohibited’.

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Lichen Field

We stopped for quick look. Parked the car and walked into the field. The lichen came in a variety of colours, textures and shapes. The Namib hosts around 120 species of lichen some of which are thought to be more than thousands of years old. Very interesting and really beautiful.

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Lichen blooms

Back on the road we continued driving north about 150 kms all up, through the most desolate country with not much to see. I wanted to go to the Rhino conservancy but it was just too far and it wasn’t guaranteed that we would even find it.

So we decided to rather head back and make our way South to Swakopmund to see if we could find the Welwitschia plants. Just after Henties Bay we came to some road works which really slowed us down. Between Henties Bay and Swakopmund we passed a small German settlement with elevated water tanks. Some of which were perched on the roof tops. These colourful houses looked well maintained and there was even a boat parked in front of one. However there didn’t seem to be a soul around. The place looked deserted. We later found out these were German owned holiday homes.DSCN1662

German holiday homes

We stopped at the museum in Swakopmund to see if they had a map or alternately to tell us where we could get one. The lady at the museum informed us that we had to first purchase a permit at the Environmental Society before heading into the Naukluft Park. David parked the car and I walked to find the Environmental Society building which was relatively close to the museum. Once located, inside the ladies on duty were exceptionally helpful and chatty. During our conservation they informed me there was a man I could see in the building who could give me some information about the rhino situation. What an opportunity, so after purchasing the permit and getting the necessary paperwork I went to find the (rhino man). To cut a long story short it was a total waste of time as he wasn’t about to share anything with me. He was extremely evasive and guarded. I can’t say I blame him the rhino situation all over Africa is not at all positive.

With instructions and a map of sorts in hand, I strode off back to a patiently waiting David. On reading the instruction sheet we found out about the Moonscapes.

We didn’t waste anymore time and headed off to see the Moonscapes and hopefully locate the Welwitschia plants. In the valley of the Swakop River a spectacular moonscape is formed. As the river cut through softer deposits these soft materials were laid some 460 million years ago when the climate was much wetter. This is a popular location for feature films and it was easy to see why, driving through this surreal landscape it felt like we had landed on another planet.

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Moonscape landscape

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Spectacular! Unfortunately we couldn’t find the Welwitschia plants and it was starting to get late so we decided to make our way back to Henties Bay after a long day exploring part of the Skeleton Coast and Naukluft National Park.

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Sunset on the way back toHenties Bay

After dinner, had a shower and was in bed by 9:21pm. Really comfy bed so it didn’t take me long to fall asleep with the sound of the waves crashing in the distance.

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