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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Sand, potholes and donkey’s cont……..

Day 13 – 16/08/2017 Outjo to Henties Bay, Namibia

After another early rise, breakfast, settling the bill and swapping contacts with new friends we departed just as the sun was rising.

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Sunrise in Outjo

We were delighted to spot other early risers including Steenbok x 12, Gemsbok x 50 and a few ‘Namibian bulldog’s’. One of the Gemsbok was on the road side of the fence and when he got spooked by us he flew over the fence with ease to get back to the heard.

 

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A lovely herd of Gemsbok

We drove to Otjiwarongo then on to Kalfield where we made a pit stop. Next door to the small shop was a baker who was busy removing a fresh batch of bread from the oven. The aroma came wafting out and David couldn’t resist. He purchased a lovely fresh loaf of bread for our lunch for $2 AUD. 

It is here we saw a sign which said ‘Dinosaur footprints’! We couldn’t believe our eyes and of course just had to go and explore. It seemed simple enough. Drove for about 10 kms down a dirt road before realising we have taken the wrong road. We stopped to ask a group of men who were working on the road for directions. They said we had to go back to town and there we would see the sign. However when we got back we found the sign but it still wasn’t clear which road to take. A lady who walked past us told us which route to take. It seems we took the left fork in the road instead of the right.

On the way the terrain starting changing with a few hills appearing in the distance and more bushes and trees. The gravel road wasn’t too bad.

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We stopped near here for lunch and ate the lovely fresh bread with cheese and biltong

I was very excited to see my very first dinosaur footprints. We found the sign and turn off  to the Otjihaenamaparero Farm. Here lie the 200 million-year-old ceratosaurus and syntarsus tracks fossilized in the sandstone near Mt. Etjo.

We stopped just outside a gate in front of the farmhouse where we were met by a man who gave us directions and took payment.

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Bridge on the way to the dinosaur footprints

We walked through another large gate on the edge of the parking lot, down a pathway past a tree full of weavers nests. Then we walked over a small bridge and down towards a small campsite. There were a couple of signboards here about the dinosaur tracks and one family camping there. We walked through a small gully and up a rock face following some very faded signs. It wasn’t always clear which way to go but we had been told they were about 300 meters from the camp.

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A lovely weaver birds nest

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Spotted this little fellow just under the tree near the nests

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The landscape outlook on top of the rocky outcrop

We finally saw a small sign at the top of the rocky outcrop which said ‘Footsteps’. 

The footprints which are three toed were quite clear. It was evident that someone at some point must have tried to cut the best one out of the solid rock. Happily without success.

There are two sets of tracks. The first set are smaller syntarsus tracks that run for about 12 meters. The syntarsus was a 10 foot long pack hunter that ran upright like a large bald chicken in shape. The second set are of ceratosaurus, a 20-foot-long hunter with a large nose-horn on its skull.

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I sat down and placed my hand into the syntarsus three toed footprint to see the scale and placed my foot next to one. How incredible to see these footprints embedded in stone. A message from the past.

We were advised to take the route from Kalkfiled past the Spitszkoppe. Drove through Omaruru, Karibib, Usakos and turned right towards Spitzkoppe which means ‘pointed dome’ in German. These are a group of bald granite peaks located between Usakos and Swakopmund.

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There are many examples of bushman artworks here and the mountains were the film location for 2001: A Space Odyssey and the “Dawn of Man” sequences. Spitzkoppen is spectacular.

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A few villages popped up shortly after turning back onto the main road. Some of these villages had small vending stands with a large variety of semi-precious stones displayed for sale. We stopped to have a look before continuing on our journey.

Awesome scenery with progressive landscape unfolded on route towards the west coast. The Kalahari is spectacular with more sand than you could imagine, revealing a unique atmosphere. It feels like you have landed on another planet. In the middle of the desert landscape trotting across the sand in perfect camouflage was a Ruppell’s bustard which looks like a bush turkey.

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The endless sand rolled right up to the ocean where we finally came to the turnoff south to Henties Bay.

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‘Lady Jane’ decided we needed to take the scenic route once we arrived in Henties Bay. This time I was really worried as we were in the heart of a shanty town. Fortunately the GPS eventually figured out the correct route and we arrived in time at the guest house. An absolutely delightful place run by a lovely couple, Usher and Thomas.

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We unpacked and went to have an early meal at a place called ‘Something Fishy’. Great little place with amazing food. After a long day on the road sleep came swiftly. 

 

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Sand, potholes and donkey’s cont …..

Day – 11 14/08/2017  Rundu to Outjo, Namibia

Woke to a lovely sunny day and a very welcome alfresco breakfast supplied. The table was set outdoors in the small courtyard. Lovely continental breakfast plus anything else we wanted, toast, a variety of jams, tea and coffee. Just what we needed for the next leg of our journey.

After breakfast we packed the car, filled the tank up with petrol and left for Outjo, situated just below the Etosha National Park. As we hit the open road David asked me “What can you see?” We were the only people on the road, no fences just a straight open road. He said, “An open road and a full tank of petrol”. That became a standard line from then onwards.

It was a good tarred road and a beautiful day what more could we ask for? We saw lots of warthogs grazing on the side of the road. The first road sign David saw he mentioned to me that it looked like a ‘funny looking bulldog’ and thought there might be some kind of kennel or dog breeding program somewhere? I was rather perplexed so I asked him to point out another sign if he saw it again. About 10kms on we spotted an identical sign. It turned out to be a sign for warthogs! After great hilarity at David’s expense he renamed the warthogs, ‘Namibian Bulldogs’!

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‘Namibian bulldog’ sign

The trip until now was pretty uneventful until we came across a sign saying ‘Meteorite!’ Well we just couldn’t resist. David said he thought it might be the sight of the largest meteorite in the world. We left the main road and travelled about 30 kms on a gravel road.

On further investigation we discovered it to be the Hoba meteorite which is indeed the largest in the world.

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Me sitting on the Hoba

Namibia is world-famous for its meteorites. The Hoba Meteorite is the largest single meteorite known in the world today. It is situated on the edge of the Kalahari plain on the farm ‘Hoba West’ not far from Grootfontein in the Otjozondjupa Region. It was first described by Johannes Hermanus Brits in 1920 and declared a national monument in 1955. The meteorite weighs approximately 60 tons consisting of iron, nickel and cobalt with traces of carbon, sulphur, chromium, copper, zinc, gallium, germanium and iridium. It is estimated that the meteorite fell to earth less than 80,000 years ago. The estimated age varies between 190 to 410 million years.

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Close up of the Hoba meteorite

The meteorite is dark brown in colour and cold and smooth to the touch. Absolutely amazing! I couldn’t get over the fact that this enormous chunk of iron, fell from space and landed here on earth so many years ago and still exists for us to see today. Spectacular and quite surreal.

Instead of kissing ‘The Blarney Stone’, I kissed the Hoba instead.

Just as the sun was setting, according to ‘Lady Jane’, we were nearing our accommodation for the next two nights. We turned off the main road onto a dirt road which just didn’t seem right. It was in the middle of nowhere. We passed an entrance to what looked like a farm and in front stood a couple of old rusty vehicles. I asked David to stop so I could take some photos. I love old rusty objects so this combination was irresistible.

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One of the rusty cars

Soon after ‘Lady Jane’ told us to turn off onto another dirt track. By now we were both convinced she was once again taking us on the ‘Scenic Route’. We passed through a gated entrance and travelled up a rather bad road. Much to our relief there was a building nestled up against a wonderfully picturesque granite outcrop (known as a koptjie.) We had arrived at the correct place at 6:30pm just as the last rays of sun disappeared behind the horizon.

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The picturesque landscape

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‘Lady Jane’ got us there!

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Watching the sunset from the deck

A lovely young lady came down the stairs to meet us with a baby on her hip. We checked in and were taken to our accommodation. This Lodge is run be a family and they welcomed us to join them for dinner a little later that evening. After a shower I headed back to the main building to relax. We all sat outdoors on the deck under the sparkling stars. Wilma, the mother of the young man running the business was visiting from Cape Town and she came to introduce herself. During our conversation Wilma told me how she supplies the woman at a local squatter camp with fabric and thread for them to embroider. The fabric is then made into table cloths, pot holders etc to sell. This not only helps them financially but develops their skills for future business prospects. It’s so hard for these people in the squatter camps to pull themselves out of poverty. Life is extremely tough and it is heartbreaking to see the sprawling squatter camps throughout Namibia.

We waited for a few other Japanese guests to arrive before dinner was served outdoors. It was delicious. A real feast was laid out for us, soup, chicken and chops cooked on an outdoor fire (braai/barbeque). Served with a variety of salads, garlic bread and potatoes in their jackets stuffed with sour cream. A very yummy marshmallow tart was served for dessert.

It was early to bed for me. I was excited about our visit to the Etosha National Park the next day. It was going to be another early start and it wasn’t long before I drifted off.

12 -15/08/2017 Etosha National Park

Up at 6:30am, quick breakfast, muesli in a cup with long life milk in the room. David really wanted to see a cheetah. We were told they had them at the Eldorado Cheetah Park on the way to Etosha. We weren’t sure if we were going to go or not as they were in captivity but seeing them in the wild was not guaranteed. However when we saw the sign we decided to turn back and go and check it out. The first thing I noticed was a room mounted with animal trophy heads, which did not bode well for them.

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The Eldorado sign

We were informed that the animals in the park had all been given safe haven after the threat of being shot. The animals were causing the locals grief hunting their livestock. Human animal conflict is a real problem in Africa. As the animals habitat shrinks and the volume of people increases major  problems occur with the loss of livestock and danger to the people. Supposedly the offending animals were darted, captured and relocated at Eldorado.

Eldorado has a variety of animals and they could accommodate us with a quick paid guided tour. We didn’t want to spend too much time there as we only had one day in Etosha.

The animals were kept in fenced areas which were fairly large. The first animal we came to was a Brown Hyena also called a Strandwolf. This was the first time that I had seen this animal and I was really excited. Unfortunately he was cowering in a corner with a large gash in his neck, covered in blood. Apparently the brown hyena was kept in a different enclosure to this one which is where the spotted hyena is kept. The Brown Hyena dug his way out of his enclosure and into the spotted Hyenas enclosure to pick a fight! Looks like the Brown Hyena came off second best suffering quite a beating.

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Brown Hyena

The spotted hyena was strutting around quite proud of his conquest, definitely the dominant of the two. I was assured by our guide Philemon that the owner was in town collecting antibiotics for the injured animal.

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Spotted hyena

Philemon lead us round the perimeter of another fenced off area to where a female leopard was kept. This female has been here for seven years and Philemon has been her keeper throughout this period. At first we couldn’t see her. Philemon called out to her in Afrikaans and asked her to go and sit on the log. The next minute she appeared. A truly magnificent animal in peak condition. She casually sauntered out of the long grass over to a fallen tree, climbed up and sat there happily posing for us. What a photo opportunity. It was quite difficult to fit and rest the camera in between the small wire gaps.

I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to see this leopard out in the open for such a long time. Although in a fairly large enclosure she is still a wild animal and only responds to her keeper. I could have spent all day observing her. When she was ready she casually climbed off the log and swiftly disappeared into the long grass.

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Superb female leopard

The next treat were 2 caracals, another animal I had never seen before. The caracal is a medium-sized wild cat native to Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and India. Both these animals were very skittish. Although Philemon was feeding them through the fence they were not happy, hissing and swiftly running off to eat under the trees. I did manage to take a few photos but it was difficult. They didn’t stick around after feeding and melted into the bush.

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A handsome Caracal

While walking to the next enclosure we could hear a free roaming lion roaring in the distance. The chances of seeing this animal was pretty slim.

The last animals we saw were 4 stunningly sleek cheetahs. As Philemon called them to come and feed they slowly emerged one after the other. Absolutely exquisite animals. They took my breath away. The last time I saw a cheetah in the wild was on my honeymoon 35 years ago in the Kruger National Park.

The cheetahs were extremely vocal with high pitched squeals as they furiously competed for the meat that Philemon was feeding them. The sound is not at all what I expected. After feeding, the cheetahs flopped down and lay preening each other just like domestic cats. It was so magnificent to see. When they had enough of us they sauntered off back into the bush.

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Content Cheetahs 

It was now time to go. What a treat to see these animals.

We arrived at the Etosha, Andersson Gate at 9:30am. There was a queue and it took about thirty minutes to get through this gate and then drove approximately 10 kms to the main building to pay. There was another queue there and we were back on ‘African’ time.

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Entrance to the Andersson Gate

The Park, located in the Kunene region in north western Namibia was proclaimed a game reserve on March 22, 1907. Etosha spans an area of 22,270 square kilometres and got its name from the Etosha pan.

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A Himba woman

At the gate there were a few Himba woman selling their craft. The Himba are indigenous people living in the northern Namibia, in the Kunene Region.

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What a magical place, so stark and dry yet mysteriously beautiful

Not far into the park we could see a lot of cars parked in the distance. We made haste to see what was there. At this particular water hole there was an absolutely magnificent variety of animals starting off with a female Gemsbok and her baby. The giant Gemsbok/Oryx is a large antelope native to the Kalahari. This is one of the animals I have waited so long to see. So many times I have viewed them in books not dreaming I would actually get to see one in real life. Oh my word, I thought I was going to have a conniption!DSCN0430

A female Gemsbok and her baby

As the other vehicles pulled off we moved around the waterhole to have a closer look. We could not believe our eyes! Gemsbok, Kudu, Zebra, Buffalo, Springbok, Giraffe, blue wildebeest, and Ostrich all in the one place! I didn’t know where to photograph first. What a sight! All these animals drifted happily among each other, down to the waterhole and some lingering before moving off into the distance. Once again I could have stayed at this spot all day. But move on we did.

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Giraffe, Springbok, Zebra and Ostrich

There were various trails to take and we opted for the Rhino Trail hoping we would spot one. We didn’t see many animals at all on this trail except for one elephant and a few birds. By now it was nearly midday and it was hot and dry. It took some time to make our way back to the main road in the park.

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An elephant having a dust bath

On the way back to the gate we came across large herds of Zebra, Buffalo, Ostrich, Kori bustard, Lilac breasted roller, Crows, Red Hartebeest, Ostrich and Gemsbok.

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Red Hartebeest

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A fabulously satisfying but exhausting day in the magnificent Etosha

DSCN0864Namibian sunset

 Our accomodation was about an hours drive from the gate and we exited at 6:30pm. The day was complete. Thank you Namibia!

After another delicious meal, great company and early to bed. 

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Sand, potholes and donkey’s cont ……

Day 10 – 13/08/2017 Maun, Botswana to Rundu, Namibia

Had an early rise to rooster’s crowing, dogs barking and a fat headache. I wasn’t at all surprised with all the shaking from the previous day’s travelling to and from the game reserve.

We have a big day ahead of us, so must get my act together quick smart. First to negotiate the ablutions, then breakfast, pack the car and off to an early start.

Today we were are heading off to Rundu at the northern border of Namibia and Angola. We left Maun as the sun was rising, travelling west towards Sehithwa where we turn north  making our way towards Namibia. This road runs parallel with the Delta and at one point you can see a small portion of it.

DSCN9887Rural Botswana

If we thought the previous days roads were bad this stretch proved to be one of the biggest challenges of all. The potholes had potholes and in some cases sinkholes! This stretch of road was very slow and tiring as you really had to have your wits about you. It was quite comical to watch the big tucks in front of us as they swerved from one side to the other as they tried to negotiate the potholes. Making quick decisions was essential. Dodging in between the gaps if it was big enough or  hightailing to the left or right extremities. Some of the vehicles didn’t care and just ploughed straight through regardless. Can’t imagine how long their tyres lasted? The edges of the tar road were so badly deteriorated that it was safer and more comfortable to drive off the road on the verge. Some of the verge tracks were also well worn and almost in need of repair! 

DSCN9684The turnoff to Tsodilo

Just after Etsha we turned left onto a dirt road and headed west to the Tsodilo Hills located near the Namibian Border in the Okavango Sub-District, about 40 kms from Shekawe.

 

DSCN9853On the road to Tsodilo

The roads were unsurfaced and corrugated but hard, so it wasn’t too bad. We arrived on the outskirts of a very small village. This area was sparse and very dry with a few baobabs scattered, some livestock and a few people.

DSCN9697The village near Tsodilo – The horse and donkey are tethered around the neck

We saw a sign saying Tsodilo but couldn’t see the entrance to the park. We then noticed a gated entrance just a little way back and assumed that must be the way. The hills in the distance looked absolutely majestic in this otherwise sparse landscape.

DSCN9705Tsodilo Hills in the distance

As we arrived in the car park we were met by our (San) guide who took us on a short one hour tour along the Rhino (in name only) Trail. Rhino must have roamed this area at one point in time but were no longer present. Our guide told us that they are planning to re-introduce a variety of game back into this area.

I was extremely excited to be here and felt really privileged. This place reminded me so much of where I grew up in Rhodesia so many years ago. This was so strange as it was geographically nowhere near it. The rock paintings here were not dissimilar to Australian aboriginal rock art.

Tsodilo is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage sight with one of the highest concentrations of rock art in the world. It has been called the ”Louvre of the Desert”consisting of three main hills known as the Child Hill, the Female Hill, and the Male Hill and an unnamed knoll. Some of the paintings have been dated as early as 24,000 years before present day. Declared as a National Monument in 1927, Tsodilo is revered as a home of ancestral spirits and a place of worship by the Hambukushu and San people.

DSCN9749Our San guide

Our guide was very enthusiastic and keen to share his knowledge with us. I took photos, a couple of videos and he then lead us along a dry sandy pathway skirting the side of the rock face to a nearby cave. We walked through a narrow space between some enormous rocks to the cave. Here he pointed out little round shaped indentations on the rock floor of the cave. It is believed these were created by grinding by the bushman.

DSCN9782Rock indentations

Sadly time passed too quickly and we had to head back. After a quick look at the museum and paying for the tour we walked back to the carpark. I could easily have spent a day or more exploring this very interesting and spiritual place. I felt like I belonged, it was really strange. 

DSCN9725Rock art of the San people

Before leaving we decided to have a light lunch under the tree where we had parked our car. A friendly dog came and laid near us. It wasn’t until we looked at him closely that we noticed his back foot was missing. It didn’t seem to bother him and he somehow managed to get around quite well considering.

DSCN9837The friendly dog with a missing foot

After lunch we packed up and headed back to the main road anxious to get to the border post before closing. It was tricky to estimate the time it would take us to get there. Even though it wasn’t that far we had know idea what condition the road would be in from that point onwards.

DSCN9842A tree in full blossom spotted on the side of the road

On the way to the border there were a lot of warthogs grazing on the side of the road, a few ostriches, donkeys, goats, birds more donkeys and horses.

 

DSCN9643An eagle taking flight

DSCN9649Goats on the side of the road

DSCN9670Horses, donkeys, and a man with a gun

DSCN9890Ministry of prayer spotted from the car

Luckily we made it to the border in good time. It was very quiet and we got through very quickly. As we left the border post, for the next 30-50 klms we travelled on a dirt/gravel road through the Bwabwato National Park. At this time of day, late afternoon, there was quite a lot of traffic mostly heading into Namibia. The road was fairly good as dirt roads go but unfortunately all the dust made viewing difficult. All the cars raced past us at great speed, obviously on their way home. 

DSCN9931Dusty road and speeding cars

DSCN9925Not a sign you see every day!

 We had hoped to see many animals, but we only managed to spot a Roan Antelope, Sable in the distance very well camouflaged and a Kudu.

DSCN9921Roan antelope and a Sable

Once through the park we missed the turnoff and landed up at the ferry crossing. We stopped briefly to take a few photos and watch the ferry prepare to launch.

DSCN9904The ferry getting ready to cross

DSCN9905A vendor at the crossing 

After a few photos we doubled back and found the correct road. It wasn’t too long before we were back on a surfaced road which was excellent. This was very welcome and oh so comfortable. We passed through numerous villages with some vendors on the side of the roads displaying their goods. Pottery, thatch bundles and bundled wood for burning.

We read that the Popa Falls were quite near but couldn’t see any signs. We were driving alongside the Kunene River river which is about 1,050 kilometres (652 miles) long. The Popa Falls are near the town of Divundu, 200 kilometres east of Rundu. It turns out that these falls are not falls at all but small rapids which we did spot as we drove past. It was getting late so we didn’t have time to stop.

DSCN9960The sun setting on our first day in Namibia

Arriving in Rundu after dark we made our way through town. Rundu was much larger than I expected and luckily ‘Lady Jane’ took us directly to our accommodation at a guest house. It was very new and clean and the staff were extremely friendly and welcoming. The small guest house was surrounded by a very secure high gated wall, with a 24 hour security guard on duty. We checked in then headed off to have dinner at a local restaurant. Very pleasant ambiance and good food. That night the hot shower felt fantastic! After making a few notes I fell into bed and a deep sleep came swiftly.

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Sand, potholes and donkey’s cont ……

Day 8 – 11/08/2017 Palapye, Botswana to Maun, Botswana

Another early morning rise, breakfast and we were on the road by 7am. Before we left Australia I was warned about the many obstacles we would encounter in Botswana, they weren’t kidding.

I don’t think I have ever seen so many donkeys in all my life. Donkeys on the side of the road, in the middle of the road and donkey carts. As there are no fences to keep the donkeys contained they roam freely, well most of them do. The donkeys seem to have right of way and are not at all fussed by the traffic. Some of these poor animals are either tethered to each other or with a horse. They can be seen hobbling along trying to keep in time with each other, like a three legged race. It is absolutely heartbreaking to see. This practice is obviously to keep the animals from straying too far from home.

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Dodging the donkey’s

I thought we were going to see plenty of animal bodies along the way but to our surprise we only saw one. The drivers on the road warn you when they spot them,  everyone works together to avoid collision. We saw donkeys of every colour, size and condition. They all appeared  to look so forlorn  walking with their heads bowed down. This might just be how they normally walk, it really tugged at my heartstrings.

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Looking so forlorn

Although the road from Papalpye to Maun was not too bad we still had to be on pothole alert. In places there seemed to be attempts to repair the damage caused by the trucks, but most of the repairs looked quite old and were already starting to disintegrate.

We saw some game along the way but not much. The road was pretty straightforward and long!

We arrived in Maun at 4pm. Maun is situated centrally just below the Okavango Delta. The town was a hive of activity and our accommodation at a backpackers was pretty basic. The ablutions consisted of  a tent with cubicles with a flap as a door. These flaps had velcro which adhered to a velcro strip on a pole  if you were lucky. Being unisex made for interesting ablution time.

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The view from the backpackers

After checking in, the lovely receptionist came with us to show us where David could possibly get another sd card for his camera and where we could have dinner. The backpackers situated on the bank of a tributary of the delta looked over a very marshy but picturesque watercourse with lots of birds. They also had a very friendly resident dog who came to greet us.

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After unpacking we had a short rest and caught up with our emails. We then went for dinner at Cappello, a lovely restaurant opposite the airport and close to the backpackers. The restaurant was excellent and the food didn’t touch sides after a long day of donkey dodging!

We arranged to follow the backpackers tour vehicle the next day to the Moremi Game Reserve, Northern Botswana in the Okavango Delta. We were both really looking forward to this.

As we had to rise at 4am it was early to bed by 9pm. Sleep came swiftly.

Day 9 – 12/08/2017 Moremi Game Reserve

 We had a quick breakfast which we prepared ourselves in the backpackers kitchen, although adequate it had some really dodgy wiring. 

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The mural in the kitchen/lounge area

We were on the road by 5am. Keeping up with the tour vehicle was a mission in itself. They shot off at breakneck speed in the dark travelling well above the speed limit. It took so much longer than I thought it would to get to the entrance to the Game reserve.

As soon as we turned off the tar road onto a gravel road it was a nightmare. The corrugations were beyond belief and it was a case of shake, rattle, fly off your seat and bump your head on the roof!

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Arriving at the Moremi gate entrance

We arrived at the Moremi Game Reserve Gate at 7am after more than an hour on the bumpiest corrugations.  If shaking caused weight loss by now I should be skin and bone.

Not long into the park we spotted impala and then giraffe, so this looked to be a very promising day.

Little did we know what was waiting for us!

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In the Moremi Game Reserve it was very dry

It was fortunate for us that we were following another vehicle as the roads proved to be very challenging indeed. The vehicle in front had 3 tour guides and one problematic Russian passenger.

It was all going smoothly and we spotted quite a few animals and then turned onto a road which was extremely sandy. I mean really sandy. David said he wasn’t happy as the car was not handling well. We managed to get through a very bad patch and I breathed a sigh of relief.

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A lovely Tssesebe

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Red-billed hornbill

We headed close to the delta and stopped for a quick coffee break. One of the men headed off to a large termite mound for a smoke. I realised pretty quickly that he was having a joint. It was later confirmed when I cracked a joke and one of the other men realised I had guessed  what the smoke break was for. He smiled and laughed a little more than necessary!

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One of our happy friend’s

Quite close to where we were standing, under a big tree, stood a large elephant. He was quite happy going about his business and didn’t seem to take any notice of us. After coffee we ventured deeper into the delta where we spotted a variety of water birds. We stopped to observe a very large elephant surrounded by some Chacma baboons. This elephant however wasn’t happy with our presence and started charging towards us with ears flapping. David put foot and we left him in peace. The elephant must have been having a bad day. Maybe just one too many tourists for a day?

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He was heading straight for us!

Well it had to happen! On our way back on the same road as we had previously passed through we got horribly stuck, I mean really stuck in a thick white sand pit. Although it was now pretty hot, what unfolded over the next hour was like watching a comedy!

Another tour guide arrived who had two passengers and they stopped to lend a hand. Now there were six men and an irate Russian women all giving their opinions on what actions should be taken.  I stood back and took a video for posterity.

First came the pushing and yes you guessed it the car sank even deeper into the sand. Then came the digging followed by more pushing. Then to top it all the single passenger, the elderly Russian foreigner decided she had all the answers except she couldn’t speak English. So after much gesticulation, flailing of arms, hand signals with accompanied huffing and puffing she stormed off  to sulk in the car. “I Pay, I pay” she yelled at the driver, trying to persuade him to leave us there to deal with the problem as she wanted to see a lion! In the end I lost the plot and gave her a bit of a serve, much to the amusement of the driver and his assistants! By now they had, had quite enough of her! I think she would have been happy to feed us to the lions!

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Tug of war and lots of chiefs!

After more digging, pushing, brainstorming, then towing combined with pushing, the sand let go and the car was set free. All up it took about an hour and it was now time to head back towards the gate.

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Buffalo skull at the Moremi Gate

We arrived back at the gate by 5pm and then had to once again negotiate the awful corrugations all the way back to the tar road. Once we hit the tar road it was back to donkey dodging, goat avoiding and spot the potholes. We arrived back in Maun at about 7:30pm.

Some of the animals and birds seen during the day: Impala, Scrub Hare, Elephant, Giraffe, Warthog, Chakma Baboon,Vervet Monkey, Red lechwe, Tsessebe, Hippo, Kudu, Ground Squirrel, Dwarf Mongoose, Zebra, White Ibis, Egyptian Goose, Spur Winged Goose, Glossy Starling, Black Winged Stilt, Helmeted Guinea Fowl, Jakana, Yellow billed hornbill, Red Billed Hornbill, Spoonbill, Ducks, Grey Heron and Glossy Ibis.

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During the day we stopped at this signboard and the driver in front was deciding whether to turn right or left. He should have turned left as the road to the right lead us to the sand pit! This was indeed a day to be remembered!

 

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