You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2010.

Fine work, Tony – thank you!

We are ready to fly. Sunning it back in Windhoek while we wait for our early flight tomorrow and slight back tracking similar to when we stopped in Johannesburg first. We land in Accra tomorrow afternoon.

The Landcruiser is now on the high seas having left Walvis Bay on Wednesday morning, a day early.

We left Swakopmund on Wednesday. We didn’t do much there aside from taking in a desert tour to check out all the small creatures that live under the surface of the dunes. A really good trip lasting half a day and we got to see the very dangerous white lady spider that, in defence, rolls down the dunes at 44 circumferences per second. Impressive, and the guide showed us this by digging for one and then throwing it up a dune to let it roll back down again.

Other things we saw, all endemic to the Swakopmund dunes, were the sidewinding adder (very deadly), a skink (a headless lizard) and gecko (amazing big eyes for hunting at night, more like a haribo jelly sweet). We finished off with a chameleon, which had turned black to warm itself up but slowly turned paler once he relaxed and was then fed some beetles, taking them with its extremely long tongue. We ended our trip with a drive through the dunes.

I will file an update before we fly next weekend.

Africa’s first independent country. Ghana is known for its empire dating back hundreds of years that stretched over parts West Africa, just north of prsent day Ghana. The little black star was used by Marcus Garvey to name his shipping company ‘The Black Star Line’ that was intended to transport goods and, eventually, African-Americans back to Africa.

Owambo – A collective name for a group of tribes from northern Namibia and southern Angola. In the middle of the 16th century these tribes, which belonged to the Bantu group, moved southwards from the great lakes area in East Africa and settled between the Kunene and Okavango rivers.

An Owambo homestead (kraal or ”eumbo”) has a circular arrangement of homes with a labyrinth of passageways to confuse a stranger or evil spirit. They all lead to the central meeting place, the ”olupale”. The sacred fire is located here.

Herero – the Herero are a pastoral cattle breeding people. They moved to the country at about the same period as the Owambo from East Africa. They are instantly recognised here,  and in Botswana, by their traditional dress, which includes an odd looking hat. Today the number of Herero people in the country is around 100 000. In 1904 they rose up against the German empire with disastrous consequences – around 75% of Herero’s population was destroyed.

Damara – One of the oldest cultural groups in the country. They cultivate corn and vegetables, with livestock playing an important role in their income. Khorixas, their homeland, was proclaimed Damaraland in 1973. Today it is part of the Erongo region.

Himba – This ancient tribe of semi-nomadic pastoralists occupy the Kunene region of the country. The Himbas (who are relatives of the  Herero) are an extraordinary people who have resisted change and preserved their unique cultural heritage.

Other tribes in Namibia include Kavango, Nama, Rehoboth Basters, Topnaars, Coloured, Caprivians, Bushman (San) and Tswanas.

23/07/2010 – Swakopmund to Walvis Bay to prepare shipping – 20.8 miles today and 2480 miles since Cape Town before shipping.

We have to be in Walvis Bay for eleven to sort out shipping. This will be the last day with the vehicle for a while. We both felt a bit strange about packing away the Landcruiser and meeting it again in a totally different part of Africa after living with it for the last nine months. Were still sure about cutting out five or so countries to get closer to home!

Last minute decisions about what to take and what not. Mainly food related issues as we decided what to take out of the fridge before we switch it off! On eof the best roads in Namibia to W Bay. A desert road, dunes on one side and the ocean on the other.

All went OK, but we had a bit of a shock when we saw the height of the container. I had tried to find someone else to share the container with to reduce our costs. Glad it didn’t come through as it was just about big enough for ours! We had to re-pack the tent to get it into the container. It fitted fine after that. The next two hours were spent watching two men from the port lashing down the vehicle to make sure it doesn’t move about in transit.

We stood there watching and asking loads of questions about how a port works and if our vehicle will turn up in one piece!

One man and the guy from the insurance company swapped bush mechanics stories from growing up in Namibia. They reminded themselves to disconnect the batteries before shipping to fit in with port requirements. We were OK with disconnecting the fridge and the invertor.

The door closed shut and they put on a lock. It gets picked up next week to get taken to the port for loading. Walvis Bay has seemed to benefit from the pirates of the Somalia coast as a lot of traffic has been diverted via Namibia. The port is surrounded by sand dunes on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other.

We got a shuttle back to the hotel 30 km away.

22/07/2010 – Spitzkoppe to Swakopmund – 98 miles

Bang goes the great weather of the last few weeks as we drive into town. The dense fog that the town is known for. This must be the town where horror movies are filmed! A colonial German outpost, where everything German takes over. This is as far removed from the real Africa as you can get but it’s a good base to take the vehicle to Walvis Bay tomorrow. It does have great seafood, so we’ll be trying that.

21/07/2010 – Abu Huab to Spitzkoppe – 152 miles – Stayed at the Community camp site in amongst the mountains

Visitors to Damaraland in Nambia beware! Donkies pulling carts pull out of dusty side tracks coming from the bush like Formula 1 cars from a pit lane and cut you up as you drive along the main track. This happened today much to the amusement of the oncoming 4×4 that witnessed it.

We must have covered most of Namibia on dusty tracks. There must be one main road that goes south to north through the capital.

Spitzkoppe must be the spiritual home of Namibia and home to the iconic Spitzkoppe mountain, 1784 m high and  known as the ‘Matterhorn of Africa’. The granite massif is part of the Erongo mountains. The site is run by a womens co-operative so we found a place to stay amongst the rocks for one night before we headed to Swakopmond.

We gradually unloaded the Landcruiser as we watched the sun setting between the mountains. An ideal place to see our trip to Namibia come to and end as we went through our bags to decide what to take with us when we leave the vehicle to ship on Friday.

This is San bushman land and there are rock paintings here dating back thousands of years. Similar to what we saw in Zimbabwe with the San art of wild animals and bushman hunting.

Were listening to: M.I.A – /\/\ /\ Y /\

Janelle Monáe – The ArchAndroid (the girls get a look in. new albums from both)

20/07/2010 – Outjo to Brandberg (Aba Huab camp) 157 miles via Khorixa

We left the area around Etosha and headed to Damaraland, A great sounding name and it’s the area of Namibia between the Skeleton coast and Namibia’s central plateau. The name comes from the people who inhabit this region.

We stayed at a lovely place next to the Abu Huab river which is currently dry and is often visited by desert elephants so we were on the look ut for them. We were told they were last seen three days ago.

We also met up with a Dutch and French couple who were travelling in the same direction as us and we last met in Windhoek.

19/07/2010 – Etosha to Outjo – 127 miles

We’ve waited to see this one for a while! One of the big game parks and were hoping to see at this time of year lots of animals at waterholes in a desperate search of water. It’s not quite the height of dry season but its been almost two months since we hit the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana.

We waited at the gates to open at six in the morning. Our free camping spot up the road from the main gate was OK with no disturbances in the night.

We headed north after the gate towards some of the waterholes up there. We checked out Tsumcor and Andoni. We started to see giraffe and gemsbok. Etosha is translated as ‘great white place or ‘dry place’ which is taken from the vast greenish white saline pan that covers 5000 sq km. It is covered in water for only a few days each year. It surrounding bush and grasslands provide the right habitat for all the wild animals.

The tracks that link all the waterhole are covered in a fine dust like talcum powder. A nightmare for cameras and anything inside your vehicle.

We started checking out more waterholes, one in particular, Chudob was a great scene of loads of different animals all chancing their luck at getting some water. On the look out for lions or cheetahs who are on the hunt. It was the first park we have been to, where we have seen animals nervous and every now and again would look up and flee the waterhole in fear.

We spent the morning driving around and stopping like this. To get the best sense of how these parks work, you park up at a waterhole and just wait there for hours to see the different animals coming and going. It feels like a stage show, when one animal appears out of the bush and once it has finished and out of sight the next animals come. We got the sense of it  being staged managed when we arrived at Halali and checked out the waterhole there. There was a herd of elephants there eating and drinking in the late afternoon sun. Once they disappeared a rhino came out of the bush. We were wondering from a distance why it looked so odd and then realised it had no ears! And so it went on, then came springbok, then kudo until it was dark and we went back to make some food

On the way back we noticed a Landrover, which was the same vehicle that had originally tried to help us out of the mud in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. We said hello to the South African couple who owned it and chatted for a while. They had been touring all the game parks in Botswana and Namibia taking photos.

18/07/2010 Windhoek to Etosha – Route taken – Okahanja, Otjiwarongo, Tsumeb, Namutoni (near the gate to Etosha. We wild camped)  304 miles

Rushed around Windhoek in the morning before setting off to Etosha. Bun had misplaced her card, but luckily we found it in one of the shops she bought something in on Friday evening. It was that sort of day all round! As you can imagine, it was good to get out of the city.

We pushed on until after dark to get to a good spot to enter the park in the morning. We had booked into Halali camp on Saturday night which is in the middle of Etosha.

A longish drive so not much to report. Pretty flat and uneventful. The music came in handy as always.

16/07/2010 to 17/07/2010 – Windhoek

It worked out that Friday was a day we could apply for the Ghana visa so we headed straight there. We found the office eventually on Nelson Mandela Avenue at the top of town. We were in the office for twenty minutes when the man sorting out our visas out received a call from upstairs and then ran out of his office to our vehicle. We had the Landcruiser broken into and whoever did it got away with my camera body and a lens that was attached to it. It took a while to see what had been taken. I had another long lens next to it in a bag and that was left.

Anyway, a sinking feeling after nine months of no hassle at all with our personal possessions. Well, maybe one or two small incidents but nothing stolen. We had heard of others overlanding having similar trouble along the way.

We had come from South Africa where we were told to watch out at all times. The camera was well hidden out of sight and we had checked before we started the visas application if it was safe to park outside and we were told it’s OK!

We went through the usual formalities with the police but someone said I have more chance of falling pregnant that the police doing anything about it.

My main concern was getting the glass replaced so we did that done within an hour of the break in. Later in the day we got our visas back OK and I started to get everything together for the insurance claim. We also visited the shipping company to get that rolling.

I might try and get another Nikon body as I still  have three interchangable lenses for the rest of the trip while the insurance claim goes through.

15/07/2010 – Solitaire to Windhoek – 139 miles – route taken – Spreetshoogte pass, following the c26 to Windhoek

Only one or two places to stay if your overlanding. We checked out both and Charmeleon safari lodge came out the winner. It allowed us to park and use the roof tent. We only went to see the other place as we had met the owner in the desert at Klein aus Vista who had taken time out to do a walk from Luderitz to Windhoek. A massive walk and he was trying to achieve 20km a day. He had his assistant to drive the car when he was walking and his three dogs along for the ride. One only had  three legs after he had lost one when he was shot.

We were expecting a sleepy little German outpost in Windhoek with old colonial buildings, but got a modern little city that which seemed to offer little in return. Still we had to try and get our Ghanian visas as we wouldn’t have time when we come back here at the end of the month to fly to Accra.

It also gave us a chance to go to the NWR office to book out Etosha tickets for the weekend.

14/07/2010 – Sossusvlei to Solitaire – inc morning visit to desert – 129 miles

Gates opened at 6 30 , so we drove in just after they opened to get the best light before sunrise. For some reason they put the gate 30 miles from the most interesting place which is Dead Vlei, a pan surrounded by immense dunes. Camelthorn trees that are said to be five hundred years old poke out of the dry pan and look very dramatic as the sun come up. Half the pan stays in shadow in the morning and creates great photo opportunities as the colours of the dunes change against the white of the pan.

Before we got there, between the 2wd car park and the car park for 4wd vehicles, we help out a group of French tourists who had got stuck in their hire vehicle. It was one of those Toyota Hilux’s that are in abundance here as they are used as hire vehicle for people wanting to tour Namibia on their own. We had enough practice in the Sahara so we gave them a hand. We saw them trying to dig themselves out with a piece of wood! 30 minutes later they were on the move again. That was our good deed for the day done. We lost some of the early light, but just after they got going again, we turned around and noticed an ostrich descending one of the dunes in the distance. Bun luckily got photos of it.

We spent a few hours here just taking it in. An amazing spot. We got away before the tour groups arrived and headed to the other side to see the sand dune sea.

Sossusvlei is part of  the 32,000 sq km sand sea that covers much of this region. It’s a big tourist attraction here but still manages to feel isolated. The highest dune is 325m high and the area has one of the oldest and driest eco systems in the world where the landscape is constantly changed by the wind. There are five types of dunes found in the Namib desert , all varying in height and created from winds coming from different directions.

Unlike somewhere like the Sahara where you can gain access to the dunes through permits and where people still trade and live in the desert we loved it here.

I finally bought a springbok skin at the NWR shop. It had to be done, and as we near the end of our time in southern Africa the springbok must be the most viewed wild animal out here.

We had enough time to make it Solitaire for the night.  A quirky outpost in the middle of nowhere 80 km north of Sossusvlei. We met the Italian woman there again. She was glad it was much warmer too!

It is a town on the map, but it really is just a petrol station with a shop, tyre changing service and a bakery, which is known to have the best apfelstrudel in Namibia, cooked by this larger than life character called Moose Macgregor. God it was good, and after a few slices each we had had enough. He has been making it for twenty tears and you can see that from the size of his belly. He is the unofficial mayor of Solitaire. He moved there from Cape Town with his wife to visit his brother-in-law, and after eight months she left him. His strudel might be good, but she couldn’t take the isolation!

13/07/2010 – Duwisib Castle to Sossusvlei – Route taken – Maltahohe for the ATM, then Zaris, Tsarishoogte pass, Sesriem, Sossusvlei – 224 miles including late trip to the desert inside national park

Quick look around the castle in the morning then onto Sossusvlei. Still having trouble pronouncing this. I get odd looks when I say the name to people here!

OK route on gravel to get here, nothing like what we were treated to over the last few days. Sossusvlei is an ephemeral pan set amongst red sand dunes that tower up to 200m above the valley floor.

We risked it and tried the camp site at the offices of the NWR (Namibian Wildlife reserve) and we got a spot there near the gate of the national park.

One thing that had changed was the weather. It got gradually hotter was we dropped altitude and got closer to the Sossusvlei. In one day the temp went from 15c during the daytime to 28c. Finally. We got changed and at least at night we didn’t have to try and get warm by lighting a fire or jumping inside if we had the chance to.

We got in a late drive to the first part of the park near dune 45. It rises 150m above the surrounding plains and is a good spot to see the sunset. We also tried to find  Hidden Vlei but got lost so we wandered around before  making our way back to the entrance.

12/07/2010 Aus to Duwisib Castle – Route taken – Aus, Neisip, Tirasberge, taking the d707 alongside the Namib desert, another great route taken from the Namibian magazine, Duwisib Castle – 167 miles

We didn’t want to take the normal route on the c13 north to the castle to spend the night so we turned left onto the d707 50 km north where the road traces an arc all along the Namib desert. It was a great gravel track where you wanted to stop every ten minutes to take photos. We got our first glimpse of the red desert dunes that Namibia is known for. Fantastic landscape and as we passed several signs to isolated lodges in the mountains around there we wanted to spend the night out there. Hoeverer, must crack on. We saw some animals, fox and gemsbok, along this route.

We got to Spes Bona and then onto Betta to stop at the shop before going to stay at the Duwisib Castle.

What a weird castle and smack in the middle of nowhere. A neo-baroque castle built in 1909 by Baron Captain Hans Heirich von Wolf. The stone came from nearby mountains but most of the raw material came from Europe into the port at Luderitz. Artisans and masons came from all over Europe including Ireland, Denmark, Sweden and Italy. So the story goes, the Baron was re-enlisted in the German imperial Army during WWI and was killed during the battle of the Somme.

It now serves as a tourist attraction and we camped nearby. Another cold night!! We met Juliana that night , an interesting Italian woman travelling on her own in her old Landcruiser. She has been on the move through Africa for the last three years. She caught Malaria a few years ago and had to go back to Italy to sort it our. She is now back and on her way to Walvis Bay to ship like us, but she is heading to South America.

She amused us when she kept going on about the wire fences in Namibia. A vast landscape, but if you try and walk to the horizon you meet a fence. Namibia is the second least densely populated country in the world, coming second to Mongolia.

She went off to photograph the sunset and she met a fence so she came back to walk in the other direction. The problem doesn’t exist so much in the north, where they try not to restrict the movement of elephants and other wild animals. She had the theory that it had something to do with its German past!

I got in my first run since Cape Town. I was OK on the way out, but the damned wind got me on the way back! Bun got the fire ready whilst I was gone! I dragged loads of loose wood back to the fire on the way back to keep us going.

09/07/2010 to 11/07/2010 Cape Town to Luderitz – Route taken: Cape Town, Malemesbury, Piketberg, Citrusdal, Garies, Springbok (Wild camped overnight), Steinkopf, Vioolsdrif, Noordoewer, Rosh Pinah, Aus, Luderitz – 689 miles over two days (77 miles on Sunday from Luderitz to Aus)

Here we go again. It was great to be in Cape Town for three weeks and has to one of the most perfectly located cities out here. It definitely felt premature to end the trip in South Africa. The World Cup was great to be part of. We got to see two games which we thought before we arrived, wouldn’t happen.

South Africa is a fascinating country, very dynamic and diverse population.  There is still a noticeable divide and the townships are proof of that. The extremes of living conditions is wider here than we’ve seen anywhere on the whole trip. We enjoyed our time there and lets hope, as a presenter on the radio on SAFM kept saying, “lets’s hope South Africans keep smiling after the World Cup has ended”. Like many other countries in Africa, SA has it fair share of human rights and corruption scandals that seem to have been covered over during the World Cup. Jacob Zuma seemed to have a good year in 2009 despite a lack of progress in reducing crime and tackiling corruption. Memebers in the ANC are now calling for him to step down by the end of 2010.

All the horror stories about what will happen when the World Cup is on didn’t come true and we met numerous South Africans who were travelling north through Africa to get away from it and they warned us to be carefull. There was a more than usual presence of security and police offices during the W Cup.

We were originally intending to leave on Thursday but our ferry on the return from Robben Island trip was delayed so we decided to stay one more night at Greg’s flat.

On Friday we hit the N7 and headed north. More amazing views as we passed through Stellenbosch again and then over a pass towards the Cederberg mountains. We didn’t stop to pick up a massive bag of oranges that men were selling on the side of the road. We missed out wanting to crack on, but now that we are in Namibia where very little grows, we should of grabbed the chance!

It was too far to get to the border on one day so we wild camped down a track just outside of Springbok. Start as you mean to go on and any chance to save some money paying for overpriced campsites. We woke in the morning to dense fog. Very atmospheric  when we woke up at about  five thirty to pack the tent up and get going. We got going in the dark and reached the border around nine.

The border was easy and we stopped at the Wimpy on the Namibian side to grab some breakfast and free wi fi . Bun had found a good route to Luderitz in a magazine we had bought in Botswana called Go! Namibia. It would take us south of Fish River Canyon and up to Aus, passing along the Orange river and into the desert. We made good time, stopping to take photos. All change with the scenery. It was like we were back in the Middle East again with vast landscapes of nothing but desert and rocks.

We got confused about the time zzones again. We are now back in line with the UK until we hit Ghana.

We stopped after Aus on the road to Luderitz to view the world’s only desert dwelling wild horses which live on the plains outside of town. They can survive for up to five days without water but are provided with some assistance at Garub Pan where there is a borehole. Their origin in unknown; one idea is that are the descendants of cavalry horses from the German Imperial Army abandoned during the South African invasion in 1915. Bun loves horses so this was a treat for me. An oportunity to do some pull ups on the metal bar on the viewing hut!

Bun had wanted to visit Luderitz to see Kolmanskop, the ghost town which  was formally the headquarters of the Consolidated Diamond Mine. Luderitz town on the coast was something else. We arrived in town on Saturday afternoon and everything was closed. I was wondering why we had come here but it wasn’t until the next day when we visited the ghost town to see why. The weather didn’t help. It was bitterly cold and the rain came in late on Saturday to make things worse! We camped on Shark Island for the night and got going again on Sunday morning to see Kolmanskop.

We got our permits from the Namdeb Diamond Corporation, who own most of the land surrounding the ghost town and is still an active diamond area. They still have security offices there and keep a close eye on anyone like me who is on the hunt for a diamond!

The ghost town was very interesting. We got the chance to wander around after a short tour. What made it so appealing was that the men who came here to make their fortunes were living in complete luxury. They would order cavier and champagne from Europe straight to the port in Luderitz. The town existed until the slump in diamond sales after WWI and the discovery of diamonds elsewhere.

The town had a casino, bowling alley and Olympic size swimming pool. All of this in the middle of the desert. It also had the world’s first x-ray machine which was used for the purpose of finding diamonds inside the stomach of anyone trying to smuggle them out.  What got us really excited was they were digging up 900 carats of diamonds per person per day when they town was active! I kept scuffing the earth as we went around trying to unearth a diamond!

Now it acts as a tourist attraction and gradually the desert is taking over. Most of the houses on what is named ‘millionaires avenue’ have been destroyed from the weather and they now have dunes forming inside them. One house we went into had a granite bath tub and marble flooring.

After the visit we headed back to Aus. There was a place called Klein aus Vista and a smart lodge that offered camping. We met a English couple in a Landrover who were just starting their three/four month tour of Southern Africa. We watched the World cup final in the bar that night. We drank plenty of Camelthorn bok beer from Namibia’s only micro brewery based in Windhoek. Another freezing cold night, and we woke up to frost outside. Still a great place to stay and the fire in the night and morning kept us warm.

We listened to: Hugh Masekela- Hope.  South African’s one and only and a fitting album whilst travelling in SA. Also checked out Hugh Masekela presents the CHISA years 1965-1975.

Latest photos –

July 2010