Driving with no agenda seems like such
a treat. As we are waiting for the Harrowers to join us in Etosha
in ten days or so, we have time to pootle around the north, relax
and do some much needed spring cleaning.
We visited an old Finnish mission house-come-museum before driving
south towards Tsumeb. On the way we passed through the 'Veterinary
Control Fence' or ' The Red Line'. This fence creates a physical
divide between the rural, subsistence farming in the north and the
commercial farming in the south. No red meat is allowed to be
traded, or even to be taken, across this fence. The north,
inevitably, feels much more like the Africa we have come to know
than the south, which opens up into enormous privately owned farms.
It was certainly a strange feeling to pass across the 'red line'
and for everything to immediately feel quite different. I couldn't
help thinking of the rabbit-proof fence and the Berlin Wall. It
isn't at all like either of these but it is still a bizarre concept
to control movement of people and goods even within a country.
South of the fence we were driving through farm land and I
frequently had to get out of the car to open and close gates being
stared at by the most enormous cattle I have ever seen. You could
fit a West African cow into each of these twice over. No wonder the
steak is so good.
We found a fantastic bush camp, just off the road but well
secluded. We were only bothered by the 'Go-Away bird', who has its
name because its call sounds just like it is telling you to go
away. It did make us jump when it came from nowhere as we were
setting up camp!
After a great night's sleep with no
noises except the odd bird or insect, we packed up and headed off
towards Tsumeb. We stopped at a natural lake which was formed when
the roof of a cave collapsed. For this reason it is very round with
very deep sides. Even more bizarrely, it also still contains some
German weaponry which was dumped there as the Germans were
retreating in the First World War.
Tsumeb felt like more of a film set than a real town, especially
after travelling through Africa. It has a distinctly German feel to
it: clean, neat, geometrically designed. The roads are wide and
all the houses are set in neat little plots surrounded by gardens
The local white people here are Afrikaners and they have a very
distinct look and culture. Think UK forty years ago or the
Whilst in the mechanic shop, our trusty and legendary friend Tango
walked in, who we had last seen on our penultimate day in Angola.
His bike had got him through in time just, but he had since been
trying to get it fixed.
After finding out how much of a rip off the local campsite was we
headed back into the bush and had our long-awaited celebratory
braai and beers. We had all made it to Namibia the land of dreams
for overlanders and it was good to reflect on where we had come
from and know that we had nothing to worry about in the immediate
Then Neil and Tango nearly burnt down the Namibian bush and the
immediate future did look slightly worrying for a while.
Fortunately the crisis was averted and not much damage was caused
except to Tango's jerry can and our fire extinguisher. We, and
Namibia, will live to see another day.
We desperately needed to park
ourselves somewhere for a few nights and get on with cleaning the
car and everything in it! We found the perfect place in the centre
of Tsumeb Mousebird Backpackers. It was friendly and had
fantastic facilities including a fully equipped kitchen, a dining
table and sofas. Oh joy!
Tango came with us and we had fun
hanging out, eating great food, drinking beer, doing some spring
cleaning and mechanics and wandering around the town.
Dragging ourselves away from our
little haven was done with some reluctance but it was nice to be on
the move again.
We didn't go far. We first stopped to pick up a
new duvet as the nights have turned very chilly and then drove
through Grootfontein to Roy's Camp. We took the opportunity to stop
for lunch in one of the neat little picnic spots on the side of the
road just because we could!
Roy's Camp is a beautiful spot right in the bush and there were
other overlanders which made for a nice atmosphere.
We are now in the land of roof-top tents. As well as people who
are driving their own vehicles, lots of people hire cars from
either Namibia or SA, ready equipped with tents, and drive around
Southern Africa. This also means that the campsites are very
different. Up until now we have been used to just a patch of grass,
gravel, sand, or mud and some sort of toilet and a cold shower or
bucket. Now the campsites are divided into plots. Each plot has its
own table, tap, light, electricity point and braai area. And all
the campsites have hot water and many have kitchens you can use.
We were amazed when a car pulled in late afternoon and it was
Kirk and Dale, who we had last seen in Abuja, Nigeria. We had a fun
evening sharing a braai and drinking some wine to celebrate Dale's
It's countdown to family time now and
we are both starting to get very excited.
This morning there was a real autumn chill in the air just like
one of those chilly but sunny October mornings in the UK. It is
getting harder to get out of bed but at least we are sleeping well
in the fresh air under our warm duvet. And at least the showers are
hot! The great thing is that you know that the chill will be gone
by the time you have finished breakfast and the sun will warm
everything up. By midday it is stinking hot again but there is
respite at sundown. The world's most perfect climate I'd say.
The trip to the mechanics turned out to be straightforward,
which was a relief.
We spent the night at 'Tree Sleepers' camp and decided to take
the mattress and mosi net out of our tent and to sleep on the tall
wooden platform up in the tree, under the stars and the full moon.
It was magical.
We made the most of our quiet spot to
do some forward planning with our maps and guide books. Then we
were plunged back in to the First World as we went to Shoprite to
collect some supplies for Etosha.
We decided to return to our
bush camp from a few days ago as it is near the entrance to Etosha
so we can get into the park early tomorrow. We had another good
night's sleep feeling chuffed about the fact that we were sleeping
for free in the land of extortionate private game lodges!
Day 155 | 25 Apr 2010
Mondjila Campsite, near Etosha National Park, Namibia
Today we woke up excited and ready to
pick up the pace again on our exploration of Namibia.
We decided to spend the day driving through Etosha from East to
West as we are meeting the Harrowers at the western end of the park
Etosha is certainly worth seeing. Grass and bush surround the
enormous dry salt pan which stretches as far as the eye can see. We
enjoyed the drive and managed to get up close to some elephants and
giraffe and not as close to some lions. We also saw countless zebra
and buck. I'm not sure you ever get too old to be excited and
amazed by the sight of wild animals in their truly natural habitat.
We exited the park because it was too expensive to sleep inside
and found a lovely lodge with a campsite just down the road.
We had one more wildlife sighting that evening - one I could
have done without. As we were eating dinner I turned and saw, at
very close range, a rather too interested snake. Unsurprisingly I
jumped a mile and then spent a while whimpering like an idiot in
the car while Neil valiantly tried to find our where it had gone.
We never did see it again so it either made a swift escape or it
was my Lariam playing tricks on me. Either way I was only really
happy once I was safely in the roof tent.
We spent the morning in
our beautiful campsite while Neil put his hand to auto-electrics
and fixed the headlights which had mysteriously decided to stop
working the day before. That's Land Rovers for you.
We then drove the 50 km back to Etosha in time to sit and wait
for Neil's family to arrive. It was bizarre that after all this
time and all these thousands of kilometres, it had come down to us
sitting in this point and waiting for Alex, Linda, Adam and Liana
to drive through the gate.
And then they were there and it was wonderful, and inevitably
emotional, to see them all again and to be with family after our
five nomadic months. The Harrowers had driven up from Cape Town in
three days in their two wheel drive so we suddenly felt so much
closer to South Africa and to the completion of our adventure.
We are in a beautiful chalet thanks to the generosity of Alex
and Linda. The best thing is that we only a minute's walk from the
watering hole and we headed straight down there, sundowners in
hand, as the sun set to see what animals we could see.
Well we didn't see many animals but that may have been our fault
as we did see our Spanish friends, Costa, Maria and Thomas and made
too much noise because we were so excited to see each other again
having all made it safely to Namibia. Sadly their famous two-wheel
drive van Inca finally died in Angola. They didn't give up
though. Thomas and Maria bought a Chinese 125 cc motorbike and are
both riding on it with all their stuff. Unbelievable!
Neil and I were woken in the middle of
the night by a crazy animal noise, which I thought sounded like an
elephant. Being slightly obsessed by elephants, I shook Neil awake
and we both ran down to the watering hole in our pyjamas. When we
got there we discovered that we weren't the only ones to have been
It wasn't elephants, it was lions. There were two
males and one female and they were making their presence known with
their roaring which resounded around the whole camp. It felt as
thought the noise was coming from every angle and it was certainly
intimidating and clear who was the King of this Jungle.
It was amazing to watch but we didn't get much sleep between
then and 6am when we got up again to go on a dawn game drive. When
in a game park like this sleep has to be a secondary concern
because animals don't do sociable working hours. But that is also
its magic. As humans you are on their turf, adhering to their rules
and schedule. You snooze you lose. Venture out of the car and
you're lunch. You may see nothing or come across a huge herd of
elephants. It's only cages and feeding times that make animals
predictable and we were so glad that neither of these existed here.
We drove for the morning not seeing more than buck, zebra and
giraffe, relaxed for the afternoon by the pool and then returned to
the watering hole at sunset. This time we were lucky as two giraffe
came to drink in their lanky way and then a lone rhino came along.
He was fully reflected in the water as the sun went down. It was a
true National Geographic moment.
Another early drive wasn't fruitful on
the game front but it was lovely to be out and about in the morning
We chatted and swam the rest of the day away before
experiencing our two best animal moments.
Neil, Adam, Liana and I had decided to walk up to the top of the
stone tower which is in the centre of the camp and gives a vantage
point out across the park. We only had fifteen minutes until they
closed the camp gates when Liana spotted a rhino not more than a
couple of hundred metres away. We quickly jumped in the car and
managed to get very close to it, just in time.
Later on at the watering hole we had the ultimate prize. Two
elephants came to eat and drink. They came so close to where we
were sitting it was actually quite scary. The sun hadn't quite set
so we had an amazing view of them with the light show going on in
the sky. This rounded off our time in Etosha perfectly.
The drive to Swakopmund was long but
simple. We are still in love with the good roads! As the sun set we
entered Namibia's lunar landscape, which was almost a mirror image
of Western Sahara. Interestingly, we are almost the same distance
from the equator as we were then (the Tropic of Cancer is in
Western Sahara and the Tropic of Capricorn is just south of Windhoek).
In contrast, Swakop is a perfectly ordered little slice of Germany
on the coast. We are staying in the holiday house of friends of the
Harrower family and it is a wonderful spot. The lounge and balcony
look out over the sea. We have a real bedroom and there is even a
It was great to be with the family in a family home and it made
us realise how much we'd been missing it.
A lovely chilled day taking in the
view, wandering around town, having coffee and cake in a cute
little cafι, visiting the supermarket, watching the sun set over
the sea and sharing a family meal in the evening. Bliss.
Neil is thirty but I mustn't gloat as
I'm not far behind.
It is amazing how it worked out to be with
the family for Neil's birthday the first time for him in eight
years after all our changes of plan and dates. God's timing for
There was a hectic sandstorm blowing off the dunes so we
couldn't go out for the play in the sand as we had planned. Instead
we visited the museum in town before going out for a celebratory
meal in the evening at Erich's restaurant in town. The food was wonderful. Namibia has that
fantastic combination of great quality beef and game as well as
excellent fish so everyone was happy, not least the birthday boy.
Sadly, Adam and Liana had to fly back
today. We have loved hanging out with them and can't wait to be
nearby in Cape Town. We all drove to Walvis Bay, 30 km down the
coast, through gigantic sand dunes, and waved them off at the
Neil and I then climbed 'Dune 7', one of the largest
dunes. It was rather like a vertical treadmill as you slip down
half of every step, but we eventually made it to the top and it was
much easier (and more fun) coming down.
On the way home we saw a flock of flamingoes in Walvis Bay
Lagoon. It was a beautiful sight.
Life is good when you've got a house
with a view of the sea, great company and copious amounts of good
food. And I have a new pair of jeans thanks to Linda and Alex as
an early birthday present. Possibly a slightly sad thing to be
excited about in the grand scheme of this trip but now that we are
back in the land of 'going out' in the evenings I came to the
realisation that I really couldn't wear any of the tatty clothes
that have been dragged through Africa and handwashed by me for five
We updated the website, which took
most of the day and then went out (in my new jeans) to the cinema
and for a Spur Burger. I'm feeling quite overwhelmed by all these
treats! Note to self: don't get too comfortable you still have some
roughing it to go ..
We left Swakop feeling a bit sad as we
had had such a great time here in this lovely house. Neil and I
decided to drive the scenic route to Windhoek. It is a gravel road
which goes through a national park and over the Bushua mountain
pass. We are so glad that we went this way as we were treated to
plenty of wildlife (ostrich, kudu, springbok, meercats and foxes as
well as many birds) and the view from the top of the pass, where we
stopped to have lunch, was stunning.
It was dark as we arrived
and our first glimpse of Windhoek was a pool of streetlights
amongst the hills. That's a sight we haven't seen for a while,
partly because we've hardly driven at night and partly because
reliable streetlights in cities aren't common north of here.
We are staying with Karin and Georg, the Namibian-German couple
who own the house we were in in Swakopmund. They live in a
beautiful house, behind a hefty wall, security gates and alarm
systems, which seems to be the norm here.
We were treated, once again, to a wonderful meal and a
comfortable bed. We are extremely grateful for their kind
While Neil was busy solving some Land
Rover problems at a local mechanics, Alex and Linda allowed me to
accompany them on their trip down memory lane in Windhoek. I saw
the block where they lived, the church where they married and some
of their favourite hangouts. Unsurprisingly, Windhoek has changed a
great deal over the past 35 years but it still retains some quaint
German architecture and it is quite easy to forget that you are on
the African continent when you walk amongst its smart buildings and
sit in European style cafes.
The food here, as in Swakopmund, has
a very German flavour. Rye bread, salamis, sausage, cheese and
cakes couple with amazing steak, game and fish makes for and
indulgent slice of culinary heaven - and a few additional inches on
We had some sundowners with some old friends of Alex and Linda
in their very lovely home, equipped with swimming pool and outside
Before bed, after another of Karin's delicious meals, we checked
out the election results on the European news channel. After being
out of communication channels for so long, it is quite timely that
tonight we could catch up with the events as they unfolded in the
UK. No conclusive results yet but exciting stuff all the same.
A last trip into town this afternoon
before a very special meal out in the evening. Karin and Georg took
us to their favourite spot a hotel on a hill with a 360 degree
vantage point of Windhoek, which is certainly a beautiful city.
We made it just in time for sun set so that we could see the light
show over the hills.
The food was fantastic and we had a very
Still nothing confirmed on the election although it is an
interesting turn of events that the Lib-Dems seem to everybody's
We made a trip to Super-Spar, which
was like making a trip to the heart of Berlin. We salivated over
all the fancy produce and then resisted it all as we have to get
back to the real world of living on a budget!
We were very sad to
see Alex and Linda head off. We have had such a special time with
the family and have been very very spoilt. It has really been what
we have needed after the tiring dash through Central Africa. It is
hard to imagine having the energy to be on the road again and we
let ourselves toy, momentarily, with the idea of following them and
being in Cape Town in three days. But we know we want to finish
this trip and have lots of exciting things yet to see ahead. Two
months will go quickly!
We spent the afternoon and night at Chameleon Backpackers in
Windhoek, which was the perfect choice as we were thrown straight
back into a world of travellers and felt excited to be back on the
At breakfast we met Jo and Gareth with
their three children Oliver, 9, Louis, 6 and Mahli, 2. They did
the same trip as us eleven years ago and are now living in Botswana
for two years where Gareth is working as a GP. It was inspiring
talking to them and seeing first hand the impact doing a trip like
this can have on future choices and family life. They were clearly
having a great time in Botswana and their kids are being brought up
to be adventurous and open-minded.
We finally left Windhoek mid morning and drove 350km north to
Otavi. We have decided to enter Botswana via the Caprivi Strip in
the north so we have to retrace our steps for a couple of days.
The drive was straightforward and dull but the campsite we
arrived at, late afternoon, was perfect. It was just us, a fire, a
glass of wine and a beautiful view of the bush and the hills.
We had a visitor for breakfast: a
peacock who enjoyed our muesli as much as we did.
through Tsumeb again on our way up to Rundu. It was strange, but
nice, to go back through a place that we recognised. We even
managed to retrieve the black note book that we (for 'we' read 'I'
) left in Shoprite over two weeks ago!
We made it to Rundu in time to watch a lovely sunset over our
first sighting of the Okavango River. From here we will follow this
river down into Botswana where it opens up into the Okavango Delta.
I have been given a potjie (pronounced 'poy-key') pot by Neil as
an early birthday present. It is a classic looking, round,
cast-iron pot with a lid and a handle. Many of them have three legs
but mine is a 'flat-bottomed potjie'. They are designed for
cooking on the fire and in a slightly sad, but fitting
'I'm-very-nearly-thirty' kind of way, I am extremely excited by all
the potential for camp cooking it has suddenly opened up. Neil is
equally as excited by all the potential for eating good food it has
suddenly opened up. Tonight we used it for the first time and made
a lovely stew over the wood fire.
We enjoyed the view of the river
before we drove east, along the Caprivi Strip, to Popo Falls. It
was an eventless journey so I did my audio book act and read to
Neil from our current book 'Playing the Enemy' the book behind
the film ' Invictus'.
The waterfalls we had wanted to see were out of bounds because,
ironically, there is too much water. There has been an exceptional
amount of water this year in the south of Angola and the north of
Namibia, which feeds the rivers in the area, which in turn flow
down into the Okavango Delta. We were told that every seven years
there is more water and then every fifteen years there is enough
water to fill the pans in Namibia and Botswana. We are not sure if
this year follows that pattern but there is certainly a great deal
of water around.
The flooded river was flowing very close to where we were
camping, which brought with it a slightly unwelcome visitor a
large crocodile. When Neil and our fellow Dutch campers approached
to get a better look, it flicked its tail angrily, soaking one of
our Dutch friends! I was only happy when safely in the roof tent.