Over the last couple of weeks (and then again for the next couple of weeks – whoopie) I’ve been travelling around Namibia.
First I went off to Epupa with Anne and Andy for a night. We got up there on Friday evening and as I had to be back for early Sunday morning to get a lift in a Ministry car down to Windhoek asked around to find a “hike” back on the Saturday.
In this I was successful – found a nice guy who owns the campsite was coming to Opuwo but leaving Epupa at five AM on Saturday morning so it was up at four-thirty and dismantling of tent in the dark (talking of tents – I had arranged to go camping and then realised I didn’t have one so many thanks to Edith in Khorixas for lending me one).
Epupa was pretty impressive even in the dry season. Apparently in or after the rains it’s truly spectacular so I’ll have to come back.
The 5am hike was actually a good thing as it gave me time to laze around and sleep do some washing on the Saturday.
We also some some fires up on the mountains that, in the day, are just grey smoke but during the darkness were very impressive orange flares stretching miles and miles.
Got down to Windhoek late on Sunday and spent a few days prattling about buying some camping bits and picking up the car I have bought from Mark and Alice.
A friend of mine from Khorixas was also down for a few days earlier in the week and so we spent time bimbling around and shops and going out to fancy designer flash bars where all the trendy young things (and us) hang out.
Also fixed (or at least pretended to) some IT issues for the VSO office who are always worth keeping sweet wherever possible (“Emergency evacuation? No, I don’t think we do have any volunteers that far North“).
On Thursday drove out to the airport to pick up my Dad who had arrived to see what scrapes I’ve got myself into and tour Namibia with me.
First stop was the Hardap Dam Park which is a known element having been there with VSO on our second in-country training. As before the camping was good and the whole place (and especially the Bond Baddie Hideout restaurant) spookily empty.
The game park is still shut but, treating closed gates with the contempt they deserved, we walked over the dam and into the park. Saw a few of some type of small deer type creature (no matter how many times people talk of Gemsboch, Springboch, Oryx, Kudu etc I remain convinced they are all just the same species of some type of deer at different ages).
Luckily no attacking rhinos or mambas though. Various signs said “make sure you read your permit” which we didn’t actually have. No doubt it said “don’t leave your vehicle and whatever you do, definitely don’t go walking through the park“. Well, what you don’t know can’t hurt you. I think.
The next day we headed to Sesriem (where we camped at such great expense it hurts me to even think about it) and saw/climbed (partly at least) the dunes of sossusvlei (the massive ones).
In the park for both sunset and sunrise which was all pretty cool. There are staggeringly big sand dunes to be sure.
The dot on the top is my Dad – here is another more zoomed image:
Note the sand blowing off the top. It was all pretty impressive but after a while, to my philistine eyes, sand is just sand. And gets everywhere. And sticks.
The Coast: Walvis Bay, Swakopmund, Mile 108 and the Skeleton Coast
Turning North we headed up to Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. The plan was to find a decent campsite around there and stay for a couple of days exploring the area and maybe going on a boat trip. That was the plan.
The weather was nice and skies were blue in Walvis Bay. Pressing on Swakopmund was a bit grey and we failed to find a campsite (probably through lack of observation more than anything). There were however a great number marked going up the coast towards the Skeleton Coast National Park so we pressed on. North, ever north.
Well the weather got greyer, colder and more miserable. It actually started to rain. As we were driving up the coast road (200m or so from the sea) under grey cloud we could actually see it break inland and the very hint of blue skies in the distance.
It turns out that the campsites marked were either non-existant (presumably washed away) or closed. This is the winter and in Namibia it means the coast is for the most part cold, miserable and wet. People come here in the summer not the winter. Doh.
Refusing to turn back we kept pressing on. And on. And on.
Eventually, having resigned ourselves to pitching a tent by the side of the road we camp to a camp at Mile 108 where, miraculously, someone was actually there. He was as surprised to see us as we were him but he was happy to let us crazy English dogs camp.
I am not lying when I say it could have been one of the bleaker sections of the east coast of England, in UK winter, on a bad day.
Anyway we managed to get a fire going and sat stoically (though not that stoically – I did put long trousers on).
The next morning we headed up into the Skeleton Coast national park. And I thought the previous day had been bleak. It’s miles upon miles upon miles of nothing apart from the occasional wreck and piece of terrain that wouldn’t be out of place on mars. To be shipwrecked must be pretty bad, to be shipwrecked here? Even worse.
Falling back inland (with one impressively shredded tyre) we were met with sunshine and blue skies that, in just 24 hours, I had forgotten existed.
Spent the night at a very nice campsite called Okiklippe which is 4km south of Outjo (on the main road to Otjiwarongo) and is a really beatiful and quiet spot.
Needing a new tyre, facing two new mechanical failures (handbrake and speedo) as well as to get my keys we then fell back to Windhoek.
Keys collected, tyre purchased and car repaired (well until the speedo failed again two days later) we then pressed back North and spent another night at Okiklippe where the howling of baboons and crashings in the undergrowth didn’t keep me awake. Too much.
Etosha is the biggest wildlife park in Namibia and is, frankly, huge. We spent two nights there and saw just about everything from elephants to rhino and giraffe.
The highlight for me was on the second day when we came upon about 50 plus elephants (young, old and in the middle) at a waterhole near the east end of the park.
Opuwo and Home
After that it was back to Opuwo and home for a week at work before taking off for another two weeks up to the Caprivi strip and beyond!
And of course getting the speedo fixed, again.