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.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Out and about around Halali.

Woke up late which in this place is about 06:30 and took our time getting going.  We had decided to have scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast but we didn't have any bread so I went over to the shop to get some and on the way back witnessed a group of Italians, another one, vs the NWR (Namibia Wildlife Reserves).  The Italians were having breakfast but had taken enough off the table to have a sizeable lunch from it as well and NWR were insisting that this wasn't right and that if they wanted to take enough for lunch they would be charge $70 per person.  I left before the dispute was resolved but I would put my money on NWR ...

Before heading out we had a quick trip to the waterhole and met up with the people that we had helped to change their rear tyre which, by the way, was a Hankook and over the course of the trip they had had three punctures and all in the same wheel.  That seems pretty odd to me.  Anyway, they had some more bad news, one of their party in a Ford Everest automatic has a problem with the gearbox/clutch and can't get out of third limiting their top speed to a paltry 60km/hr and with over 2000km to go to get back home, that is a real problem not to mention the worry that it might break down for good at any time during that trip.  Not sure what they are going to do but it is either going to take a very long time or be very expensive.  So after four months from rolling off the showroom floor it is going to be going in for major repairs.

While going to wash up after breakfast I saw a black and white slinky out of the corner of my eye ... ratels in camp coming for the rubbish of which there was plenty.  Very picky rubbish raiders, completely ignoring some plastic bags and trashing others to get the tasty titbits therein.  I got my camera and was busy taking photographs when I got just that little bit too close and the ratel went into defence mode which in it's case is more like an unconsumated attack.  I quickly backed off and let them have their way with the rubbish.

The basic drive today was around Elands Drive and then back towards Halali along the road next to the pan.  The Elands drive road has lots of places where the road has sunk into black cotton soil which is fine now in the dry season but must be hell to drive through in the wet season.  We came across the chinese group in their corolla who were parked in the veld and from the tyre marks, they must have skidded off the road.  Not sure why because the road was flat, they all are here, and straight.  There was an overlander helping them and it all seemed under control so we didn't stop.

Driving next to a pan gives one an irresistable urge to drive out onto the pan and the NWR have cleverly given people the opportunity to do this in a limited way so there is a lolipop road out about a kilometer into the middle of the pan and I happily drove out there just to have done it.

We saw some more birdies today, it really does fill in the time between seeing the bigger animals quite nicely.

Todays roll call was
  • Juvenile Gynogene
  • Purple roller
  • white crested helmet shrike
  • Secretary bird which stalked around and then would start stomping its feet to flush out insects which it would then snack on.

In the afternoon the ratels were back and causing distress to the Italians who tried to sho them away, a tactic that doesn't work at all with ratels so the Italians escalated the conflict and pointed a hairdryer at them and the ratel went ballistic, all fluffed up and spitting mad.  The Italians backed off, a very wise move.

Went to the water hole before sunset with cheese and wine and sat there until just after 20:00 and had procession of game coming and going.  The first to arrive were the Burchells Sandgrouse in a large flock and then a Soutern African wild cat who had to cross some open ground to get to the water and it's camoflage is so good that we could barely see him even on the open ground.  Next up was a black backed jackal which the wild cat didn't like and promptly disappeared.  The black backed jackal was displace in turn by a Spotted Hyaena who had to make way for a pack of 13 elephants that came charging in, clearly very thirsty.  Next up was a rhino that wanted to drink but he happened to approach from the same side as the elephants and was clearly uncomfortable with pushing the elephants aside so he skirted around behind them in a clockwise direction until there weren't any more elephants but now he was right next to all the tourists which he didn't like either so he reverse direction and went anti-clockwise until he could get to the water.  Having now got to the water, the elephants happened to move in a clockwise direction and couldn't get past the rhino and milled around until the matriach when up really close to the rhino who just ignored them and eventually the elephants slid past the rhino one by one and disappeared into the night.  Quite fascinating.

By 20:00 we decided that it was time to go and make supper which was a braai which I built in the provided braai areas and we were just discussing what to do with the meat if the ratels came back and who arrives, the ratel and his/her mate and made a bee line for our supper.  I didn't know what to do so I held it all above my head and they skirted around us and made for other campsites.  We could locate them at any time by the yelps of surprise and the gaggle of teenagers with camera's following them around.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Olifantsrus to Halali.

Putting the morning coffee on the flame was a shadow of what it should have been and I wondered if it was going to be enough to boil the coffee pot.  Caron speculated accusingly that the cylinder was empty and since I hadn't filled them up prior to leaving home she had a point.  As it turns out there was plenty of gas and when we used the same cylinder in the afternoon it was fine.  I checked the gas nozzle and everything looked fine so I don't know what the problem was.

Today seemed to be the day for seeing raptors and in short order we racked up the following sightings.
Greater Kestrel
Red necked Falcon
Pale Chanting Goshawk

Meandering along and stopping at the odd waterhole to check out the red hartebees, zebra, gemsbok, impala which are all a given at almost every waterhole we saw one of the cars from last night stopped on the side of the road with the two occupants peering under the rear wheel so we stopped to see what the problem was.

Their rear right hand tyre was completely shredded and because there was essentially no tire, they couldn't get the jack underneath the car which is a real design flaw in my opinion.  High lift jack to the rescue ... ta-da ... the first time that we have actually used our high lift jack and putting it under the towbar we lifted the entire back of the car including all the kit inside and on top of the car high enough to get the bottle jack underneath to just get the right rear wheel off the ground.  When the pressure really comes on it is quite hard work on the high lift jack and I had to use my whole weight at the end to get the lever down.  Very pleased that we have finally used it and that it worked as it should have. Caron found it all exceedingly funny to see me hanging off the jacks handle trying to pull it down.

Arriving at camp is a bit like arriving at one of the campsites in Kruger National Park ... an ocean of campsites, campers, ablution blocks and braais.  We managed to find one on the edge and pitched camp looking out into the bush which at least gives us the illusion of being on our own.  We camped next to a German couple and their three children and it was all looking quite good until a crowd of Italians arrived and pretty much camped on top of the German family, the last straw was when the Italians unplugged the Germans from the power without even asking them.  The Germans didn't see the funny side of this and exploded, took the Italians plug out and put theirs back in.  The Italians backed down, possibly memories of 50 years ago, and went out for supper.

By about 15:00 we were set and done and could relax in the shade of our awning but Caron's had was achingly sore, probably from over use today in striking and pitching camp so she sat with it wrapped in a wet towel for an hour or two which seemed to help.

We made pasta for supper but I wanted a fire so I made a small one in front of the tent so we could look out over the fire at the bush and the stars which was all pretty nice and the German family came over and we chatted around the fire for a couple of hours and more than a couple of beers.  The only fly in the ointment was that the fire was not in a formal fireplace which one of the camp wardens noticed when he ran past so we were admonished to make sure that the fire is properly out which we would have done anyway.  Suitable chastised, we crawled into bed and to sleep.

Finished "The Better Angels of our Nature" which is something of an achievement ... almost 900 pages of intense reading.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Olifantsrus to ... Olifantsrus.

A very quiet day which is just exactly what I need which means that it is exactly what Caron needs as well.

We woke up quite late i.e. after 06:00 and meandered off down to the waterhole.  The camp is very nicely designed so that one walks on a raised walkway over the elephant proof fence and all the way to the double storey viewing platform.  The bottom storey isn't so great because it has fixed windows which are quite dirty to to see anything through them is a bit of a mission and taking photographs just wouldn't work.  The top storey however is great so one looks down over the waterhole and can see quite far into the distance.

When we arrived we could see a lioness meandering around every futher away but we watched her anyway and she eventually came back to the waterhole and had another drink in the gentle morning sun. 
She seems to be lactating so there must be some cubs stashed somewhere close.

After the lion we drove out along the road towards Halali until we got to a picnic spot stopping at all the waterholes along the way.  A couple of them were dry so there were long stretches where there was absolutley no game at all.  The drive was rescued from oblivion by Caron spotting a Spotted Eagle Owl, pardon the pun, resting in a tree for the day about 10m back from the road.

Getting back to the campsite we spent the afternoon reading and vegetating under the awning ... thank goodness we have it because it turns a marginal campsite shade wise into somewhere that we can survive in quite happily.  There is an information kiosk about the history of Olifantsrus as well as about elephants in general which was well worth the time spent reading the information.  The camp originated as an elephant abattoir in the early 1980's when they culled about 500 elephants out of a population of 3000 due to overcrowding caused by the bush war just north of here.  South africans really haven't spread a lot of joy whereever we  have gone both then and now ... a bit like the Americans, we don't travel well.

In the evening we went back to the waterhole and saw the same lioness coming down to drink, they really are magnificent creatures and the game in general here is in very good condition.

A large group of South Africans pulled into the campsite next to ours late in the day and were quite loud and boisterous.  They had gone all the way up the Skeleton coast to the Kunene river mouth and were now on their way back down.  I thought that we were in for a long night of noise but as soon as we went to bed they pressed the mute button and we didn't hear anything further from them.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Leaving the Dolomite Super luxury and back to camping.

We left the luxury of the Dolomite camp behind us this morning and headed out for a few nights of real camping, maybe not hard core camping because there are things like water, ablutions and electricity but still pretty spartan given the surroundings.

We departed from Dolomite at about 07:30 and arrived at OlifantsRus at about 11:30, a very easy days travel.  After getting our camp sorted out I pitched the awning because there is just about no shade at all in this campsite, none of the trees are higher than about 3m and any shade that there is could be described as dappled, at a push.

Added a few new birds, burchells courser, burchells sandgrouse, green winged pytilia, Kori bustard and a marico flycatcher on top of theu usual antelope plus some wildebees and black backed jackal.

I spent some time making up some new guy ropes for the awning because the one's I currently have are a bit short and tend to pull the pegs out of the ground instead of along the ground.  There was quite a wind blowing so I was very thankful that I have bought some outsize spring pegs for the groundsheet that went deep enough not to be in danger of being pulled out.  I also chopped a couple of tent poles down to size so that all the poles now fit inside the packet that I have for them.

There is a large tour group in the campsite so we weren't able to have a hot shower but at least it wasn't freezing and it does feel good to climb into bed all squeaky clean.

After a dinner of soup and toast made on my new toaster which worked a treat we went up to the hide but after about 30minutes when we didn't seen anything, we called it quits and went to bed.

The campsite is setup to accommodate small groups of overlanders but it seems that it is attracting the large overlanding parties so the two showers for men and two for women is woefully inadequate and by the time we got to having a shower it was cold.  It wasn't too bad once one was in the shower but getting in was uncomfortable.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Out and about around Dolomite.

Staying at least two nights in a single place really creates the illusion of time standing still.  We have decided that we would do the tourist thing and look for birds and mammals in the morning but then retire at lunch time to read, drink wine and generally do what is just impossible to do at home which is to relax ... something that really doesn't come naturally to me.  Almost every holiday I go through a period of two or three days where I just feel depressed, normally about a week into a holiday and my, unsubstantiated, impression is that it is withdrawal from constantly being on a low grade adrenalin rush.

After breakfast and watching the light flood over the plain below our bungalow which is pretty awesome by the way, we headed out intending on doing a loop that looked possible on the map but turned out to be completely out of the question in reality but we spent the whole of the morning going from water hole to water hole checking out the game and spotting birds.  We find that birdwatching is really worthwhile and if you see some big game so much the better.

The birdlife here is pretty good and we have already had several sightings of birds which we haven't previously seen before like the African (Blue-billed) Firefinch, Kalahari Robin, Norther Black Korhaan, Short toed rock thrush, Scaly feathered finch, Monteiro Hornbill and, of course, it is great to see ones we have seen before such as the crimson breasted shrike and violet eared waxbill.  Thankfully I have Caron with me who has unusually sharp eyes.

As far as the mammals are concerned we saw a couple of Elephants who were lying down in the shade which is very unusual, we both thought that elephants didn't lie down but there they were, heads in the shade, having a snooze. 
There are plenty of springbok, Gemsbok and Zebra around as well as giraffe.

The afternoon was spent in the bungalow relaxing, reading and drinking some wine while I wait for the blues to pass, only another couple of days to go and I will be fine again.  At about 16:00 a herd of elephants traipsed past the foot of the hill that all the bungalows are build on and as they went they had sand baths which, with the backlighting from the setting sun, was quite beautiful.  I tried to photograph it but they were some way away and I don't know if I really got any good shots.

After that it was sundowners on the deck by the pool and I had to run down to run the car for 30 minutes so that the freezer wouldn't un-freeze overnight.  Dinner then bed.  Quite tired but for no discernible reason.  Adrenalin I say ...

Monday, August 08, 2016

Tsumeb to Dolomite Camp in Etosha.

I woke up a little early and a bit apprehensive as to what the mechanic was going to find so I arrived at the Toyota dealers at 06:30 making me the first in line which was just as well since the line was rather long by the time the dealer actually opened.
To cut a long story short ... don't buy pirate parts.  When I had JDS Auto service my car and skim and replace the drum brakes at the rear, they replaced the brake pads with pirate parts instead of the toyota spares. Very annoying since they have now proved to be defective and it has cost us the better part of a day as well as a lot of worry and tension that I really didn't need.

On the bright side we found a wonderful campsite so we had a really great afternoon, evening and night and the ablutions, to Caron's delight, wouldn't be out of place in a 5 star hotel.  I arrived back at the campsite at 09:45 from the dealer which I thought was pretty reasonable timing to get the car repaired, re-packed the car because I had unpacked the entire car to take it to the dealer and by 10:30 we were off. I spent the first couple of hours monitoring the tyre temperatures closely and was relieved to find that they really had sorted the problem out.  Both wheels rose in temperature in unison with the side of the car to the sun being a few degrees warmer.

From Tsumeb we drove through Otavi and then onto Otjiwanrowgo where we stopped to pick up some last minute shopping, visit the chemist and grab a cup of coffee before heading north up to Kamanjab where we filled up with fuel and had to pay cash which may be a problem because we seem to be endlessly short of cash and I really hope that the park accepts card ... otherwise we are in big trouble.

We finally arrived at the Dolomite camp at 18:00 almost on the dot, parked in the parking lot and were collected by a buggy which ferried us up to reception and then on to our room.  Another 7:30 of driving and just short of 2500km in total from home to here.

What a place, it has to be experienced oneself but it is simply magnificent being perched up on a ridge over looking the plains which stretch as far as the eye can see.  The view is particularly awesome with a glass of wine in one's hand.

On our way in I commented on how often the dark hued bushes just taller than the surrounding vegetation looked just like an elephant.  Having just arrived and looking out over the plains I pointed out two bushes which looked just like elephants and jokingly called them elephant bushes when Caron informed me that they really were elephants.  So now we have faux elephant bushes ... which means that they are elephants after all.

Supper is a fixed menu so you eat what you are given and, aside from the price, the food isn't bad at all.  I don't think that they are going to win any culinary awards but it was pretty good fare.  Before supper we got some drinks from the bar and went down to the pool deck to savour the last rays of the setting sun ... and the G&T of course.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Tsumkwe to Tsumeb

We slept a bit better last night and at least I didn't get evicted so now we know, a 3/4 bed is the minimum that the two of us can comfortably sleep in ... for the whole night.  Still a bit of a squeeze but not too bad.  I didn't sleep too well worrying about the rear drum brakes and what could be the cause so I was quite happy when Caron's alarm sounded at 06:00am and I could get up.  Only after we were up and showering did we realise that the phone hadn't swapped to Namibian time and we had surfaced at 05:00am, no wonder there wasn't anyone else up and about.

My plan of action with regard to the drums was to check if there was actually a mechanic in Tsumkwe but the receptionist said that the only one's they had were the 'under the tree' variety and that they weren't to be trusted, it would be better to get to Grootfontein and a proper dealer.  I like the idea of the proper dealer but Grootfontein is 280km on gravel roads, good gravel road to be sure but gravel none the less.  Having crossed this plan of action off we decided to take the chance and drive slowly checking the temperatures regularly.

I figured that if things got too hot I would need to cool it down without waiting for two hours next to the road so I wanted to fill up our 50l water supply so that I could squirt water onto the brake drums to speed up the cooling down process.  This was somewhat comical, fortunately the only person around at 06:00 to enjoy the show when I was trying to accomplish this was myself.  Lesson number one, never assume anything in Africa, one would think that I know this by now but, obviously, I am a slow learner.  Having scouted around for a tap I was very happy to find not only a tap, but a tap that worked and that had a hose on it.  After maneuvering the car next to the tap I put the hose into the filling cap and turned the tap on ... only to realise that I wasn't filling the tank up ... just watering the grass.  The hose was so damaged by the sun and the cold that the act of putting the end into the tank broke it into three portions.  I gave up on the hose, hoping nobody had seen me, but being the foresightful chap that I am, I have my own hose which I took out only to see that the original hose was duct taped securely to the actual tap.  So much for that plan.  Next step was to scout around for another tap and I found a perfect one, with water.  After bringing the car up alongside I took out my range of gardena fittings, found the correct size but couldn't get it to screw onto the tap.  It turns out that the calcium in the water has so encrusted the groves in the tap that there really isn't any screw thread left to screw the fitting onto.  Not to worry, I have a backup plan with a 'one size fits all' fitting which fits everything ... other than this tap of course.  I resort to holding the 'one size fits all' fitting onto the tap while turning it on.  As I turn it on, I see water coming out of the outlet nozzle, which I had omitted to close, and being channeled into the cars interior.  I quickly turned off the tap, got a face full of water whilst doing so and then closed the outlet nozzle.  From there on it was plain sailing aside from the odd shower of water as the pressure was too much and before long I had a full tank of water ... it remained to be seen if this was going to solve my real problem.

Refreshed from my unexpected shower I met Caron for a plain but very tasty breakfast before we departed with our hearts in our hands and our hopes held high.  Maybe having a satellite phone might actually come in useful ...

We kept monitoring the temperature difference between the two rear tyres and after an hour at 80km/hr, there was no difference and  even stopping to do the finger tip test we couldn't discern any real difference in temperature.  Maybe I had accidentally had the parking brake on yesterday and we were worrying for nothing.  We continued at our 80km/hr and after the second hour there was a clear difference and the right tyre was up to 49 deg while the left one was at around 42 deg.  As luck would have it we had to stop at a veterinary fence at this point and sign our car through.  The guard was clearly looking for a little something, making remarks about my sunglasses and whether we had an extra pair, so I gave him some iced tea which he had never seen before.  After the gate we stopped in the shade of a tree and sprayed water onto the drums which boiled away instantly but after a few bottles of water the temperatures was definitely lower and we continued keep a sharp eye on the temperature difference between the left and the right, stopping every half hour or so to douse the drum with water.  This definitely works so I am becoming confident that if worst comes to worst, we will at least be able to limp around our itinerary.

Getting onto the tar road to Grootfontein I kept the speed at 80km which feels like a snail's pace to check that it wasn't possibly the roughness of the dirt road vs the smooth tar that could be causing the drums to overheat.  It wasn't but by the time that I had worked that out we were already in Grootfontein which has little to recommend it.  Caron was getting a little stressed with everything and the few campsites/Chalets that we looked at left a lot of room for improvement and were a little depressing to put it mildly.  Heading into town I wanted to locate the Toyota dealership which I had been told was there so I made enquiries while filling up only to be told that the dealership was in Tsumeb and that although Supaquick would help me, it would really be better to head for Tsumeb which is 60km away.  We were struggling for cash because just about every single ATM was broken, powered down or offline but after trying about 8 we found one that worked and we now have a reasonable amount of Namibian dollars.

Heading north to Tsumeb I decided to speed up to 100km to check what the rear drums would do and the answer is that they did nothing untoward, behaved as if there was absolutely nothing wrong.  It seems like the first hour or two after a real break the drums behave themselves and the problems only start thereafter.  The other reason that we were happy to head for Tsumeb was that there is a campsite (reportedly) with green grass to camp on and big shady trees which will be a welcome break from the less than ideal B&B/Chalet's/Lodges we have been using to date.

For a change the advertising was not misleading and there is an absolutely wonderful campsite as one enters Tsumeb just across the road from the Toyota dealership.  Best of all, we arrived at about 14:00 so we had a whole afternoon where we could relax, do some washing, do some writing and reading and just enjoy the shade with a beer in our hands.  We definitely prefer camping to the B&B/Lodge/Chalet unless, of course, it is 5 star accommodation.

Setting up camp was like riding a bicycle, once one has got the knack one never forgets it, and in no time at all we were sitting next to a roaring log fire with a glass of wine in our hands.  The sun setting behind the trees and just a slight chill in the air ... how much better can this get.

Caron took a tumble next to the tent on her way to the ladies, she maintains that it was the guy ropes and that it was my fault for not having luminous guy ropes.  There are other explanations which I am not going to expand on ....  Unfortunately she hurt her knee and her hand which is a bit of a problem so we'll have to see how it goes in the next couple of days.  It didn't help matters when I pointed out that the guy ropes are actually reflective and that if she had had a torch in the darkness ... well, you can imagine the rest.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Thakadu, Ghanzi to Tsumkwe in Namibia.

Over night was really cold, as in 0 degrees and there is no heating in the Meru tents which are built for scorching heat not bitter cold so it was a very cold night.  We tried to sleep in the single bed but came to the conclusion that a single bed is just too small for us to comfortably sleep in, we aren't teenagers anymore after all.  Nice and warm but just too cramped so Caron evicted me at 03:00 to the other bed which was like hopping into a fridge and I never really did get warm again.

The breakfast at Thakadu was very basic but nice and at least they had filter coffee from bodums available.  I made the first round way too strong but we have now learnt that when it is available, double up and we made a second pot somewhat weaker.  We met the guy that warned us about the fridge at the border and got chatting.  A retired single guy, either divorced or widowed, we didn't ask so he occupies his time traveling, this particular trip being to Namibia to search for gem stones.  I can't really imagine how that would be very interesting but each to his own I guess.

The lodge was running their restaurant on Revel software which runs on an iPad and does their ordering and stock management uploading the days movements to a server somewhere.

The road up from Ghanzi was unremarkable in that it was a great road with lots of "P" stops, I think that they meant it to be P for Parking or Picnic, I choose to interpret it as P for Pee break.  About 90km before Maun we turned off the main road and onto a dirt road which was splendid to begin with but soon deteriorated because it is being upgraded and sometimes we had to ride on the middle mannetjie and move the odd rock that I couldn't go around but all in all, not too bad. 
I think that we possibly traveled the road in the best part of the year because at the beginning of the road works there was a sign nailed to a tree "Trouble tree, shit for the next 11km" and it really wasn't that bad, maybe a lot worse during the rainy season, if they have one here.  It looks like they find a deposit of clay like soil and then mine it to use for the road surface because where the road was finished, the road is definitely not the same as the surrounding soil.  Thank goodness for tracks4africa ... there are no sign posts in this part of the world and we would definitely not have found our way without it.

Arrived at border post which, on the Botswana side was literally a tin zozo hut under a tree. 
Did both emigration and customs in the same room, differentiated by the two desks facing each other.  Very nice, don't even have to move an inch to do either formality.  Very pleasant and very efficient, it literally took us about 10 minutes to get through.

The Namibian side was the complete opposite, nice shiny new offices being built on a scale which will swamp the Zozo hut.  The border officials were also efficient and friendly and in no time at all we were off.  It left us with the impression that Namibia is getting its act together to create such a nice border post as well as staff accommodation in what is clearly a tiny border post.  We were the third car through at 15:30 just 30 minutes before the border closes for the day.

Arrived at Tsumkwe and noticed the aroma of overheated brake pads and was just thinking the poor sucker in the car next to mine is going to have problems when I realised it was my car. I'm not sure what the actual problem is yet, the tyre temperature was at 66 deg on the right rear and 42 deg on the left rear and the rim on the right was too hot to touch.  I think that the brakes must just be ill adjusted but, not having any idea as to how to fix this, I have to hope that it will get us through Grootfontein where, we believe, there is a Toyota dealer.  First time I have had any real problems and, of course, it is with the one repair that JDS auto performed.

We had a very palatable supper at the restaurant, it is impossible to be a vegetarian here, there is literally nothing on the menu that doesn't involve meat unless you would consider chips to be a meal.

The night sky is really beautiful here with the milky way in full view but unfortunately it wasn't as peaceful as one would wish for.  The whole town runs off a solar farm which uses a diesel generator at night, so solar by day and diesel by night which means the drone of a large diesel generator all night.

It took us 7 hours to drive from Ghanzi to Tsumkwe which included the border crossing which means that Tracks4Africa were spot on with their calculation as to how long it would take us.

The bungalows at Tsumkwe which look suspiciously like they might have been an army camp at some stage.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Swartruggens to Ghanzi

We woke up early at about 06:00 after a so, so night.  The Ketel and Katel is right next to the main road so there was the sound of the odd truck going past all night long and over and above that the sound of the air conditioner which we really though that we had turned off.  So not a great nights sleep but I've had worse.

Breakfast was the traditional eggs, bacon and coffee but since they only had nescafe coffee which Caron turned her nose up at, we departed the B&B sans our morning coffee.

We were going through Groot Marico at between 80 and 90km per hour in an 80km/hr zone and a lady in a Jeep decided to overtake and had no sooner done so than she was pulled over by the cops for speeding as we neatly emerged from her radar shadow unscathed.

We were getting a little desperate for both coffee and Pula and decided that Zeerust was the place to satisfy both cravings.  It was not to be, we did manage to get some rands from the ATM but when we tried to to get some Pula from Standard bank, they had run out yesterday.  When we tried at Nedbank, they had Pula but they were still busy counting ... if we could wait an hour they would help us.  All this before we had had our first cup of coffee, which, by the way, was nowhere to be found in Zeerust and we left empty handed both in terms of coffee and Pula.

Arriving at the border was an eye opener, a beautiful brand new, huge border post clearly scaled to cope with easter weekend volumes so we were the only people in the queue and everything was going swimmingly well until a fellow traveler told us that we had to get customs clearance for a fridge, of all things.  I went back in and sure enough, they were genuinely interested in our fridge, who knows for what reason.  Then they asked if we had any camera equipment etc to which I replied in the affirmative and handed over my A4 size list of 'things with serial numbers' which they now dutifully typed in.  I would have felt bad if there was anyone behind me in the queue but there was nobody so if they want to get pedantic, then let them type ...

After customs the rest of the border was a breeze and I was heartened that the police checked with someone in the office that my VIN wasn't on the stolen list.  The Botswana side of the border was a breeze ... in and out within 10 minutes and best of all, their customs guys accepted credit cards for payment as well as cash, the cash which we didn't have.

About 2km's after the border post and before Lobatse there was a sign to "Kalahari Kofi" which we couldn't not stop at and were really very pleasantly surprised, real coffee in the middle of nowhere.  Their pancakes were also delicious so after two (tall) cups of coffee each we got on our way for the drive through to Ghanzi.

Driving through Botswana it is flat, followed by more flat and yet even more flat.  Unending flat, even the mountains are flat.  As it turns out the 'mountains' weren't mountains at all but mine dumps but that is how flat it is, a mine dump is raised to the level of a mountain or at least a small hill ... bigger than an anthill at least.

We saw several ostriches and they appeared to be giving me the beady eye ... I got the feeling that they might have known that I tucked into uncle burt over the weekend.  Having driven thousands of kilometers in my 4x4 and having managed to avoid killing bird life I am now over that particular millstone,  having killed not one but two feathered ex-friends in the space of five minutes.  I am considering painting my kills on the drivers door a-la the kills painted on allied fighter aircraft during WWII.

We tried once again to obtain Pula in Kang at the Engen and then again at the Bank of Gaborane but they too were our of Pula so we remain Pula less.

We finally arrived at Thakadu bush camp at 18:00, 10 hours to do about 700km and had a great supper overlooking a flood lit waterhole before retiring to bed.  A long day ahead of us tomorrow.