Ok so this post is (just) a little late. It actually follows on from my first travels with my Dad after I’d spent a week back at work. End of September-ish time.
Ruacana and the North
From Opuwo we headed North to the Kunene River and Ruacana. These are a set of waterfalls which, when running, rival Epupa for scale and majesty. Naturally they weren’t running (height of the dry season and all that) but you could see from the rockface that they would be impressive were they, ahem, actually running.
Must return when they are. Assuming I can actually get up there in the rainy season that is.
The Kunene River was very nice though as was the campsite we stayed at with a lovely view over the valley to Angola. The Hippo Pool we went to see was I suppose 50% correctly named – it was a pool even if there were no hippos.
From there we headed East through Oshakati and, having spectacularly failed to locate any of the many campsites marked on my pocket atlas of the world, eventually struck gold and found an unbelievably posh lodge somewhere near Etosha that also did camping, well away from the eyes of the lodge dwelling millionaires of course. We even had an armed guard for the night which was interesting curiously both reassuring and worrying.
Having made much more progress than planned on the previous day we continued to burn up the Namibian countryside and made it to the start of the Caprivi Strip. This is the bit of Namibia that juts out Eastward above Botswana and below Zambia and Zimbabwe. We stayed for two nights at a place called Poppa Falls on the edge of the mighty Kavango river.
At this point, owing more to luck than my spectacular planning we also met up with some friends who were over doing a South Africa and Botswana trip with a one night stopover in Namibia. More cool beers overlooking the river.
There is a little gamepark here (the name of which escapes me but it’s south of Divundu and on the Botswana border) which we had a drive round and finally saw some Hippo which made up for the disappointment of the get-your-hopes-up-named Hippo Pool at Ruacana.
After travelling the length of the strip (longer than you’d think) we pitched up in Katima Mulilo where two friends of mine who arrived at the same time as me are based. They have an amazing old colonial-era house a short stroll from the Zambezi River and made us very welcome.
Katima is a bustling town and whereas Opuwo fills the African stereotype of dusty streets, dusty traditional tribespeople, dusty goats wandering around and dust (did I mention the dust) Katima is yet another totally different African stereotype of bursting greenery, wide open expanses of river and bustling markets full of fantastic wares and people cooking fish (and other small things) with great clouds of steam spewing forth.
Their open-arms policy backfired on our guests when they made us so welcome we stayed two nights rather than the planned one, went out for goat and pap at lunchtime and sat watching the sun go down over the river, beer in hand, naturally.
Waving fond adieu to Katima and my friends we then headed back along the strip. At this point we threw ourselves on the mercy of a new VSO volunteer I hadn’t met who works at the KiFi Inland Fisheries institute (right next to the game park below Divindu) who very kindly put us up for the night. My Dad is a bit of a fish worrier and a Marine Biologist in a previous life so was fascinated to tour the fishery (well the now being built fishery) and talk scaly things. It was pretty cool and I’m looking forward to crashing another visit once it’s up and running.
Not being a contemporary account this is where I get a bit confused but I do know we came back to North Central Namibia at this point and stayed somewhere near (or in) Otavi. I think.
Another night at the picturesque, cheap and baboon-infested OppiKlippe followed.
Back to the Coast
Having convinced ourselves that our memories of the coast as a grey, miserable and cold place must be incorrect and getting confused with Skegness in our addled minds (this is sub-Saharan Africa after all, where the sun always shines) we risked another trip to the coast and went to Swakopmund.
Swakopmund was still a charming little town with very Germanic architecture and names yet still grey, cold and spitting rain. This time however we did actually manage to find a campsite just outside the town rather than trekking halfway back to Europe up the Skeleton Coast.
I should just add I’ve been to Swakopmund a few times since this trip, once for an entire week, and on occasion it was blue skies and blue seas. Briefly. Before returning to fogged in greyness. It does make a welcome relief from inland though – for short periods.
The next day, in keeping with the fish theme we attempted to visit the National Aquarium of Namibia which is located on the seafront. Turns out it was closed on whichever weekday it was (maybe a Monday).
Accepting defeat with cheery good heart we gave up on the coast and headed back inland. To sunshine.
For the last night of camping with my Dad we stayed at Gross Barmen springs near Okahandja, just North of Windhoek. The place was absolutely deserted and we had an entire, massive, campsite to ourselves with huge ablution blocks and hot water to cater for the entire population of the Khomas Region. To ourselves apart from the wide array of Baboons that wandered around, seemingly always shocked to come across us humans in “their” campsite.
Good fun was had using the toilet blocks as hides and watching whole troops playing around with their young and upsetting rubbish bins and the like. Well, it amused me anyway.
Back to Windhoek for a night crashing again on fellow volunteer’s hospitality and regaling them with tales of our travels.
The next day I safely saw my Dad through the departure gate and on his way back to Blighty. Cold, wet, miserable, winterbound, sleet and rain covered Blighty.
I spent a further night chancing my luck and the hospitality of my good VSO friends in the capital and then headed back to the North spending a stormy (seriously, from nowhere, rain, lightning, the works) night at OppiKlippe now in a sun shelter “tent” having handed back the executive canvass specials I’d borrowed from VSO.
Twyfelfontain is a UNESCO World Heritage site West of Khorixas where there are world famous rock paintings and engravings. I picked up a couple of fellow VSO vols in Khroxias and in the encroaching gloom of the evening we headed out to camp somewhere near it. And out. And out.
Eventually we found a campsite with no office staff to be seen, claimed ourselves a pitch and setup camp for the night. Thanks to the culinary skills of my accomplices we even managed to get a hot meal prepared and didn’t die of food poisoning. Not being too fussy but I am very glad we couldn’t see what we were eating.
The next day we toured the rock carvings and engravings. Well, yes. Anyway. Obviously not wanting to detract anything from the wonderousness of these or indeed their historical significance but I think my philistine heathen ways failed to gather the full beauty and significance of the works.
Or maybe it was just a few crudely carved animals looking like a playschool wall. But UNESCO knows best and I am led to believe they have been there a long long time.
After that and a brief stop off for a cooling drink at the Twyfelfontain lodge I dropped my fellow vols back in Khorixas and drove back to Opuwo and home.