Saturday, August 20, 2016

Kalahari Rest Camp to home.

Breakfast only started being served at 07:00 so we couldn't start at the crack of dawn and we had what was probably the best breakfast that we've had on this trip.  And best of all, really good strong coffee.

The trip itself was rather uneventful other than seeing three cows, one donkey and a cerval cat all killed by traffic and we couldn't have missed all of them on the way up so these must have been killed in the last couple of weeks.  After a couple of hours I started feeling tired so Caron drove from Jwareng to the border while I had a nap.

We stopped in at Kalahari Kofi again for some more really good coffee and pancakes and marvelled how we missed the main road on our way up and effectively took a detour through Lobatse before joining up with the main road again.

The border was a breeze and by about 13:00 we were back in South Africa and decided that we would head for home instead of staying in Zeerust like we had planned.

We messaged Sam to say that we were arriving a day early but he only got the message later because he was asleep by which point we were busy buying pizza for supper and were only 20 minutes away.  Too late to clean the house up properly so, for the first time, we arrived home to a not-so-clean house.

True to form when we arrived home, something isn't working.  Normally it is the internet connection but, for a change, it was the DSTV so we didn't get to see the rest fo the Springboks vs Argentina which we had started to watch while we were waiting for the pizza.

We didn't bother to unpack leaving that task for tomorrow but just had a long hot shower and enjoyed having our own bed and pillows.

End of another sojourn into africa.  Starting to look forward to the next one already ... possibly up the western edge of Okavango, into the Caprivi strip, Zambia and then back into Botswana at Kasane and then home.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Spitzkoppe to Kalahari Rest, Kang in Botswana.

We woke up at 05:45 to the pitter patter of raindrops on the tent, surely it couldn't be but it was ... rain in the desert. Fortunately, for us and obviously not so fortunate for the plants and animals, the rain didn't last long and after a quick cup of coffee we were on the road at 06:50.

While taking the tent down we were hit by a really strong gust of wind which flattened the tent even with all the guy ropes still attached.  The gust broke at least two of the sections of the tent poles so now I need to fix the poles as well as the front zips which no longer work so well and one of them not really at all.

The moutains were still under shadow as we left and I was hoping that, now we were departing, my luck from the previous two days would change and that that I could get some decent photographs.  It was not to be and I departed without any really good photographs of Spitzkoppe.

We knew that today was going to be a long day in the car and we were not disappointed.  From Spitzkoppe to Okahandja was pretty quick but from Okahandja to past Windhoek took forever because of the roadworks as well as just the sheer amount of traffic and it was about 13:00 before we finally got out of Windhoek only to find that we couldn't find anywhere to get something to eat.

As it happens the road ran past the international airport so we ducked in there to have a toasted sarmie and coffee which wasn't half bad actually.

From then on it was a straight drive to the border which we arrived at just after an overland group of 25 people and, thankfully, they were a little disorganised and we managed to squeak in at the front of the queue.  This didn't stop one of the people pushing in front of us which led to Caron chastising him and his wife obviously felt bad because she went right to the back of the queue.  As we were leaving, passports stamped, another overlander arrived so now there was a 50 strong queue that we just avoided.

Botswana is quite different to Namibia and 'feels' a lot poorer.  I am not sure that it really is but the level of infrastructure in Namibia is a big step up on what there is in Botswana but for some reason, I prefer Botswana.  I'm not really sure why but I definitely felt a little like I had arrived home which is pretty wierd because I have no connection whatsoever with Botswana.

Overlanding in Botswana and Africa in general one has to be quite vigilant for goats, cows, warthogs, people and ostriches because the locals don't teach them road safety when they are young.  We had a near miss with a juvenile desert chicken who tried to cross the road but then shied away and we missed him by inches.  Fortunately I had already slowed down a lot but trying to 'read' the intentions of wild animals is a hit and miss affair if you will pardon the pun and if there is a group that is on both sides of the road, be very cautious.

Night fell and we still had about an hour to go and the old adage about driving after nightfall in africa which is "don't do it" is entirely appropriate.  It is just about impossible to see the cows sometimes.  Sometimes the light picks up an eye but mostly one doesn't see them until it would be too late if they walked onto the road.  I was torn between the desire to go as fast as possible to minimise the amount of time spent driving at night and driving as slowly as possible to enable one to see the danger and avoid it.  There is no right or wrong here just more or less risk and I ended up driving at 80km/hr which I felt gave me a reasonable chance if something was to walk onto the road.

We arrived in Kalahari Rest near Kang at 19:45 after 12 hours of driving and I was feeling quite tired.  Our requirements were, did they have a room, could we pay by card and did they have a restaurant that was open.  They answered in the affirmative to all three which was a relief.  Murphy was not however done with us for the day.

Since the lodge runs off solar power they use donkey boilers to create hot water and because we had arrived so late the boilers were all cold so while we went off to the restaurant before it closed and'someone' was tasked to start the boiler up.
When we arrived back at the chalet there was no rosy glow under the boiler so I went back to the reception to ask what had happened and almost got very lost on the way.  It is truly confusing trying to drive in the bush at night when there are no landmarks and lots of tracks.  I was told that the infamous 'someone' was there now so I drove back to check and sure enough there was nobody in sight so I drove back, sense of humour starting to fail, to reception only to be told that he was now there.  This time the the duty officer came with me and when we arrived at the, still dark, boiler he shouted the name of the 'someone' who replied from about 50m away where he was chopping wood in the pitch dark.  Having now established that there genuinely was someone attending to the boiler the duty officer departed and it turned out that 'someone' didn't have firelighters so I found some in the back of the car and 30 minutes later we had hot water.  Not a lot of it because the pressure was really low but it was at least hot and we could wash some of the day away before collapsing into bed.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The last real day of holiday.

Today was more or less the same as yesterday, only less.  Put my head out of the tent at 06:00 to find that it was cloudy again so I went back to sleep.

The zips on our tent have given up so we have to close them really carefully and hope that there isn't a really big wind.  I am not sure where we can get them fixed but we have to do it, these zips are really broken.

We hid under awning again for most of the day and I am really happy with how the awning is turning out. It isn't as difficult to erect as I thought it would be and because it is 100% shade cloth doubled over it give really deep shade.  I spent most of the time reading the "Language instinct" and finding it really heavy going but I soldier on.

We went for another drive on the same route as yesterday only in the opposite direction and it was all going very well until the sun set behind a cloudbank depriving me of the the colourful sunset on the reddish granite of Spitzkop.  Again we saw some interesting birds, today it was a Dusky sunbird, a Rock Kestrel and a Rosy faced Lovebird.

So that it is pretty much it, back at camp we started packing up what we could and found the mouse had come of visit again.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Spitzkoppen day 1

Having been travelling almost every day for the last couple of weeks it was time to down tools for a couple of days and just vegetate or at least vegetate as much as I am capable of.

We hadn't yet decided whether or not we were going to stay two nights or three.  First impressions of the place would be that one night would be enough but in the end we decided to stay three nights and have two really peaceful relaxed 'rest' days before the long drive home which will be about 2000km over two and a half days.

Having said that it was a rest day I was up at 05:00 to go to a koppie just outside of Spitzkoppe which should have had fantastic views of the mountains.  The views were great but the weather wasn't playing ball and we had clouds, the first clouds that we have seen for two weeks.  At 05:30 it is still pitch black but I was determined to be there for the pre-dawn, finding the koppie proved to be quite difficult because there are no signs and the headlights on the road mean that everything else is invisible.  Finally found the koppie, funny to think that one could misplace a mountain, and then clambered up it in the dark with my tripod and camera case.  This camera case is wonderful in many ways but climbing a koppie in the dark isn't one of them.  Finally got to the summit and as day dawned ... cloud so no nice rays of sunshine illuminating the distant mountains and after waiting until 07:30 I gave up and headed for home.

At least getting home there was something to look forward to ... pancakes and coffee.  Washing up, putting the awning up and having a shower took us to 11:00 at which point we both hid in the shade of the awning.  Temperature was in the low 30's and we are still very close to the middle of winter.  This place must bake in summer.

With my new guy ropes I found that the central pole's guy ropes can be put onto the same pegs as the corner pegs but in the wind the pegs would slowly but surely work their way out.  It is definitely better to have a peg per guy rope and not to share pegs.

Having finished Moeletsi Mbeki's diatribe it was back to Steven Pinker, this time the "The language Instinct" which is pretty interesting but not what one would call light reading ... at all.

We spent most of the afternoon under the awning reading and having a few snacks until about 16:30 when we went out for a 90 minute drive around the entire mountain range and that was at about 30km per hour to give some indication of just how big the mountains are.

I managed to get a couple of photo's but nothing to write home about so we'll try again tomorrow.  The bird list continues to grow and we added a Mountain wheatear and a Ruppell's Korhaan.

Back at camp and after supper Caron was getting the coffee pot out of the box and found a mouse looking guiltily at her ... he had been having a fine supper on our bread so the rule that one follows in wild camps where animals are prone to trashing one's camp to get at edibles still applies here.  Food stays in the car and never in the tent.  We took most of the items out of the box and then tipped the box over so that he could get out but when I had it at about 30 degrees he tried to scrabble out but there just wasn't enough purchase so his legs were going ten to the dozen but he wasn't actually moving forward.

For some reason I am tired and we were in bed and asleep at about 21:00.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Onkoshi to Spitzkoppen.

A last look out over the plains from the sun deck before we departed.
We had an early breakfast and were on the road by 07:30 heading for Namutoni because we have decided to buy a couple of african mask which, it turns out, aren't from here but are from the tribes in the Okavango.  Close enough I say.

Had to fill up with water because the information we have is that Spitskop campsite is a dry campsite so I had to use my 'one size fits all' because, again, I couldn't get the fitting to screw on.  I think that the thread size here must be just slightly larger than the one we get in S.A, probably a German standard.

The trip really started at Namutoni at about 08:30 and we pretty much drove the whole day and setup camp at 16:30.  We did stop a few times for comfort breaks and to buy coffee in Otjiwarongo as well as to get some more Namibian dollars because we are almost out.  We were able to withdraw money in Tsumeb from the FNB ATM, the standard bank one's were off line.  I'm not sure why the ATM's are offline so much around here but the banks really should look at this.

Not a lot interesting happened during the trip but setting up camp I manage to burn out my submersible pump for creating hot water for a shower.  I had plugged it in but I thought that it was off and only noticed the wisp of smoke emanating from the shower bucket where it was far too late.  I don't know why I didn't hear the pump turn on because it is so quiet here and I think we got lucky with the campsite, it is situated quite far away from the other campsites in a gully and there are a couple of really big, somewhat shady, trees for us to park off under.  I happened to have a spare pump because the recently deceased one was showing signs of giving out before I unintentionally smoked it.  I was feeling pretty pleased with myself for having thought that far ahead until I turned the new pump on and ... nothing ... it didn't work.  After a little bit of diagnosis it turned out that there was a fuse missing in the plug, who sells an item without a fuse?  As luck rather than foresight would have it, I happened to have the appropriate fuse so all was well and I could make hot water for washing up and for showering.

For supper we had a braai with roast potatoes and asparagus and some left over chops from the other evening.  Very delicious.  This campsite is eerily quiet and although we know that there are people nearby we might as well be on our own in the middle of the Kalahari.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Out and about from Onkoshi

Onkoshi charges pretty pretty high prices and their location is hard to beat but if they want to charge these prices, the food could really do with some upgrading at N$2500pppn I would expect more than what I would normally receive at a garden variety B&B at 1/7th of the price.  Location does count for a lot but it isn't everything.

Heading out in the morning the first stop was Namutoni to fill up with fuel, pump up the tyres and have a look at the 'fort' which turned out to our surprise to have been a real fort.  In fact, it had actually seen some fighting and was burnt by the locals at one stage and then rebuilt by the Germans in 1907.  Now it is a tourist shopping mall.

After the fort we tried to find a waterhole that was on the map but ended up at Chudib which is a waterhole that we visited yesterday.  Ariving there we found two jackals who appeared to be dead lying just next to the water, it took us about 5 minutes to realise that they were very much alive ... just enjoying the cool earth right next to the waters edge. 
The antelope in general and the kudu in particular were very wary of their intentions and would stampede at the slightest movement of the jackals.  Even the eland and the giraffe were very cautious and the giraffe eventually left without having had a drink.  It was quite comical, these two tiny carnivores keeping probably 100 kudu, impala, springbok, eland and giraffe at bay.  The antelope would sneak closer and closer until one of the jackals would lift it's head or roll over at which point there would be panic in the assembled antelope ranks.  The antelope would retreat and then slowly sidle back up to the water only for the same thing to happen.

Once we had left the jackals we drove past the Namutomi camp and there were several elephant size holes in the fence, clearly this type of fence was no match for an elephant and they had wandered into and out of the camp at several locations.  Very irritating if your job is to fix the fence.

We took a bit of a loop road back to camp and aside from driving out a little bit onto the pan before Caron got too antsy and I headed back for terra firma, we came across some roadworks.  They seem to just keep on adding layer over layer that eventually builds the entire road into a very compacted mound.

Today was vulture day and we saw the lappet face and white backed vultures.  It was the first time that we have seen vultures which was abnormal but when we finally found them there were dozens of them at the waterhole.  Lots of bones lying around so I guess, assuming that something hadn't conveniently died next to the waterhole, that they are being fed.

We were back at about 14:00 and I spent the afternoon reading Moeletsi Mbeki's "Architects of Poverty" which is a bit depressing but interesting nonetheless. Essentially the black governments of sub-saharan africa aren't ruling in the interests of the people of the country (which I agree with) but in the interests of external (read white) parties (which I don't agree with) who give kickbacks to the government which is effectively reduced to a proxy. I can just imaging Mugabe fuming that he and his government is being regarded as merely a front for white business interests. He does raise some really good points about the lack of a bourgeois in almost all sub-saharan africa countries courtesy of the colonial powers and how important the bourgeois is in order to keep governments honest.  It's only an afternoons reading so well worth the time spent.

We had dinner at the lodge before retiring for some champagne as we looked out over the starlit pan.  It could definitely be worse.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Halali to Onkoshi

Woke up really early i.e. 5am to go to the waterhole to hopefully see a procession like last night but there was absolutely nothing to see and we abandoned the effort at about 06:30 because we had a long drive ahead of us.  It's not so far in distance but with stopping at all the waterholes and other sightings it takes a long time to cover any distance and I don't like arriving too late.  Ideally, for me, we should arrive at places between 14:00 and 16:00 so that we can get setup and have time to relax with a sundowner, preferably alcoholic, before getting busy with the evening meal.

I had breakfast and a couple of cups of coffee before we struck camp and by just after 08:00 we were on the road after stopping at the shop to buy some more of their firewood which is really fantastic for coals and gives off a wonderful scent when it burns. The Ratels had raided the dustbin overnight so they eventually got what they wanted, just a bit later.

While driving along we crossed paths with a group of four huge male elephants, we know that they were male because one of them had his schlong hanging out as if to say, I'll show you mine, lets see yours ... pisswilly.  Caron was most impressed as it was, after all, about the size of my leg.

At Kalkheuwel which is a water hole there was a whole herd of zebras drinking and one of the youngsters slipped and fell into the waterhole taking two of his mates with him and causing quite a commotion, the herd scattered instantly before the thoroughly soaked wide eyed youngsters emerged from their unexpected bath.

We had just turned left at Namitoni towards Onkoshi at about 13:00 and I was now tired and just driving when Caron went all spastic next to me ... cheetah!  Not only was there more than one, we think it might have been a mother with two adult cubs, but they were very close to the road and very keen on hunting a wildebees or, more likely, a springbok.  Unfortunately for them the wilderbees had spotted them and were between them and the springbok who hadn't seen them.  In the end they gave up and went to while away the rest of the day in the shade of a tree which was unfortunately far from the road so we eventually gave up and left.

Today was also the day for Eagles and we saw an African Hawk Eagle, a Booted Eagle and a Tawny Eagle all in quite quick succession.  In addition we saw a African grey hornbill.

Arriving at Onkoshi it is like going from nothing to opulent luxury and we have the honeymoon suite in the resort which, while more expensive, looks exactly the same as all the others so we're not sure why there is a price difference.  All the rooms look out west over the length of the Etosha pan which is pretty awesome in the morning but not so wonderful in the afternoon because the sun streams into the rooms after about 15:00 and there is no shade on the deck facing westward.  Temperatures here are in the low 30's at about 14:00 so it was really nice having an outside shower facing onto the pan, no point in drying oneself because it only takes about 15 minutes and one is wonderfully cool and dry again.

We headed down to the restaurant for supper at about 17:30 and had some drinks on the patio as the sun dipped over the horizon before having supper which really wasn't bad at all.  By 20:30 I could barely keep my eyes open and it was lights out as my head hit the pillow.