Leaving South Africa and going into Namibia, we went from rain to sunshine. As we crossed the Orange River we left the green, verdant, wet countryside behind and went into the dry, arid Namib Desert.
Our first stop was just outside the town of Keetmanshoop, adjoining the campsite is the largest stand of Kokabooms, that is quiver trees to you and I, in Namibia. These are a weird plant of the Aloe family and a national icon. The camp also has four cheetahs in two fenced areas, and at five o-clock each day is feeding time, we are not too much into this sort of thing, but we went anyway, just for something to do, and it was great, the difference here was that we were allowed into the compound with the animals………as long as we don’t let them eat us! One the amazing things we found out, is cheetahs meow, just like your average domestic pussy.
Helen was talking to a South African camping next to us, and during the cross examination about our trip, Helen revealed that we had, no real plan, an old guide book, no fridge, and no sat. nav. The South African was dumbfounded, he was amazed, he just could not believe that we had done this whole journey without a……………..fridge.
After we learnt all we could about the life cycle of quiver trees, the eating habits of cheetahs, and the traveling requirements of South Africans, we headed off to the desert, to a place called Ai-Ais, there is a thermal spring there, and Helen does enjoy her natural hot water dip. On our way there we bypassed the Fish River canyon, as we have been there before, but this time called in at the Canyon Roadhouse, which we missed before. The place is littered with old cars and bits, indoors and out, I found it quite fascinating.
From here we had a few more days more of wandering through the wilderness to get to Sossusvlei, a vast area of stunning sand dunes, we have been here before but then it was very windy, the sand blowing about meant that I got mediocre photos of a fantastic area. This time, no wind, 5:30 am we get up for an early start, there are a million stars in the sky and it is looking good, as we are driving out to the dune area it starts to get light, and also the clear skies become cloudy, this means that my wonderful shots of the bright orange dunes against the backdrop of a cobalt blue sky are yet once again going to stay in my imagination.
We spent that night in a place called Solitaire; this is another one of those places that has remnants of old cars scattered around. It is OK to leave old cars outside in a climate like there is here they will last forever.
We crossed the Namib desert to Walvis bay and then Swakopmund Namibia’s only two seaside resorts, but with the Benguela current coming up from Antarctica gives the whole coast line a chilly atmosphere, so we did not stay too long before moving inland. There is some ancient rock art that is called White Lady, some years ago a French archaeologist who did not seem to be able to tell the difference between men and women, called the white legged man in the centre of the art works, “White Lady”, the name has stuck ever since.
Up country a bit more we saw our first desert elephant. Asleep in our tent some noise outside woke us up, I popped some shorts on and went out to investigate, it was an elephant feeding on the bushes in the camp, after a while he came over to the bush next to our tent, not three metres from where I was standing, Helen who had joined me, took a large number of paces back, I just stood there looking up at this magnificent beast, and thinking this is better than being fenced in as in South Africa.
And up to the Kunene River and the border with Angola, and home of the Herero and Himba tribes people. One of the camps we stayed in had a another nocturnal visit by elephants, and again I climbed out of bed to have a look, this time instead of grabbing some clothes I grabbed a camera, unfortunately it seems that scrambling about naked in the dark waving a compact digital camera does not get David Attenborough quality pictures, but there you go. Of course there is always the worry that someone else is up, and looking at the elephants, but instead of carrying a digital camera they are carrying one of those, light up the world torches.
Namibia is a country where animals like elephants, giraffe, zebra and antelope roam freely; also there are some spots where leopard, cheetah and lion roam at will.
We had a good surprise when we got to the camp at Kamanjab, as we were over landers we could camp for free; our photo was taken to go in the book of over landers that had stayed there, that was an offer we could not refuse so we stayed for three nights.
And so to Etosha National Park, unfortunately according to some locals the area is suffering it’s worst drought for thirty years, we were expecting all the wild life to be crowding round the few water holes that we could see, as luck would have it, that was not so, I suspect that a lot of the animals have migrated to wetter climes. But we did see herds of antelope, zebra, and a host of elephants, rhinos and giraffe etc. possibly we are getting a bit picky now.
Just North of Grootfontein there is a bushman’s cultural village, the San were the first people in Africa, and so we went to learn some of their traditional ways of life. Fifty miles into the desert to find this group, and there we learnt about the potions that can be made from plants, that could be useful if we ever get a headache or diarrhoea out in the bush, and we can remember which are the good bushes and which are the poisonous ones. I made a bow and arrow, and with great stealth, crept through the undergrowth, my San leader noiselessly crept, I stumbled like a drunken bull elephant, once we came upon a bundle of dried grass, my San leader shot and missed, I shot and hit it, I killed the dead grass. Well I would have done if they had let have a poisoned arrow. After a bit of singing and dancing, we went back to our tent, and the San went back to their real village. Very interesting, and great fun.
From here back up to the Angolan border, and along the Caprivi Strip, to Katima Mulilo. As we drove along the strip, in one place a herd of elephants crossed the road in front of us, and a bit later a herd of buffalo came out of the bush to the roadside, reminding us that this is a wild country. That night we were camping on the banks of the Zambezi River, and tomorrow we go to Botswana.
We have been to Namibia before and therefore expected this visit to be a short one, maybe about two weeks, but we have just clocked up six weeks. We love it. Awesome country, Awesome.
There are some photos on http://picasaweb.google.com/mickhelen99
There are some map markers on http://www.zeemaps.com/map?group=468852.