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Namibia – Saffies and Aussies on Safari – Day 10

Thursday 11 June 2015 Namutoni to Halali

We are packed and ready to leave after our usual excellent restaurant breakfast.

It is a zebra day today.  We see them in huge herds and wonder if they are having a convention!

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Mom and baby zebra

Mom and baby zebra

Lots of wildebeest too

Lots of wildebeest too

At one waterhole we see a hyena

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and at Kalkheuwel we find a young elephant that has met his end.

Poor thing

Poor thing

We wonder what could have caused it – we cannot see his head but the rest of the body doesn’t seem to be injured.   As we are on our way to the next camp there is no chance that we can return to see what will take advantage of this freely available carcass.

At 9 o’clock just before Batia Water Hole we find 3 cheetahs lighting in the grass – well camouflaged making photography difficult.

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We continue on our way and find rhino, impala, kudu and a vulture on a nest.

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We arrive at Halala at midday after visiting Goas which gives us a good show of elephants bathing and other species drinking.

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After unpacking and settling in Erich and Wendy have a snooze while Earl and I go to the camp water hole.  We see a few impala come down and there is some bird activity.

Golden-breasted bunting and violet-eated waxbill

Golden-breasted bunting and violet-eated waxbill

At 3:30 we go back to Goas. There is very little happening at first but then Wendy calls– here come the elephants.  It is fascinating watching them come down all in a line.  They come extremely close to the car parked in front of us and I think the occupants are quite nervous.   A male comes to join the females but they ignore him and when they leave he does not follow.  We feel sorry for the poor lonely guy – but this is the way it works with elephants!

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005 Elephants 004 Elephants at waterhole

There are interesting birds to watch too.

Red-billed francolin

Red-billed francolin

Double-banded Sandgrouse

Double-banded Sandgrouse

Yellow-billed hornbill

Yellow-billed hornbill

We get back to camp with 8 minutes to spare before gate closing time.   We go t straight to the water hole and are delighted to find two black rhino drinking.    We are there just in time as after 10 minutes they leave.  Some zebra start to come down but change their minds – it might be because a tawny eagle is in their way or the coming and going of the sandgrouse might make them nervous.

At quarter past six we leave to get ready for dinner at the restaurant.   Our neighbours come to ask if we have a torch as they’ve spotted a honey badger raiding the bins.  This delays us a bit but we manage to get photos of the cheeky creature.

Naughty Honey Badger

Naughty Honey Badger

One is on our stoop when we got back from dinner, giving me quite a scare!

We find that we can self-cater at this cabin and will make a plan to do so tomorrow.  It is very basically equipped but we have our own utensils. Unfortunately the camp shop is poorly stocked but we should be able to get meat and canned vegetables.

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Namibia – Saffies and Aussies on Safari – Day 7

Monday 8 June 2015 Windhoek to The Waterberg Plateau

Our hostess, Anthea, cooks us a superb breakfast and tries to get an appointment with dentist for Erich because he has broken a tooth. Unfortunately he is unable to see him straight away and as Erich is in no pain he decides to leave it until we return to Windhoek in a week’s time.

The birds are active at the feeding table and bird bath and before we leave I take a few photographs of these cute little blue waxbills and black-throated canaries.

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On our way to the Waterberg Platteaux we stop to shop and refuel at Okahandju.  The street markets look interesting so we decide to browse.  The traders are pushy and call for us to come into their shops.  We look at some necklaces and small bowls in one and ask how much.  He shows us a hugely inflated price on the calculator on his cell phone and says – “This is my normal price – but because you are my first customer today – I will give it to you for less.”  The price offered is still way too much so I help Wendy bargain. “$400 is my final offer.” I tell him after haggling for several minutes.  He looks upset and annoyed and shakes his head so we turn to leave.  He calls us back – Fine -You can have it all for $400 but it means I will starve!”

We wanted to browse at some more shops but the pushiness of the traders put us off and we escaped as fast as we could.  It’s a pity – because if they offered a reasonalbe price to begin with they would get more customers and make more money! Every trader who approached us after this began with – because you’re my first customer, I will give you a special price!

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Earl decides to buy some braai meat and salads as he has a feeling that there might be a place to braai at The Waterberg.  When I booked in I was told there was no self-catering at any of the Namibian Wildlife Reserve chalets.

When we check in, we find that we could have had one chalet instead of 2.  The person who booked me in had not explained that I only needed one chalet for 4 people although she knew perfectly well I was booking for 4!  There is a fridge and kettle in the chalet but it is not equipped with any other catering utensils.  There is, however, a braai!  I have my own catering equipment so we are delighted to be able to have a home cooked meal for a change.  The cottages are clean and comfortable and banded mongoose are there to welcome us.

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After snacking on last night’s leftovers from Joe’s Beer House we go for a 4 hour game drive on the plateaux.  It is fun and we see giraffe, sable, buffalo, springbok, impala, eland and kudu.  We hope to see the rhino but no luck in this respect!

Wendy and Erich at the viewpoint on the plateau

Wendy and Erich at the viewpoint on the plateau

Inquisitive Giraffe

Inquisitive Giraffe

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Damara Hornbill

Damara Hornbill

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It is warm travelling up to the plateau but the sun is etting on our return and so the chill sets in. Luckily we have our warm jackets and rugs with us.  There are also rugs available on the vehicle.

We have a lovely braai for supper and turn in early so as to be ready to leave for Etosha tomorrow.

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Namibia – Saffies and Aussies on Safari – Day 6

Sunday 7 June 2015 Sossusvlei to Windhoek

We are up and ready to for breakfast at 6:30 sharp, enjoy a leisurely breakfast, take photos of a hot air balloon over the mountains, check out and set off for Windhoek.

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The highlight is travelling over the Spreetshoogte Pass.  Meaning: Spreeth’s Peak Pass. It connects the Namib Dessert with the Khomas Highland by traversing the Great Escarpment and is the steepest pass in Namibia.

The pass was erected during World War II by farmer Nicolaas Spreeth, after whom it is named. He owned the farm Ubib just at the foot of the escarpment. Whenever goods were delivered to his farm they would be dropped at a bus stop at farm Namibgrens (English: Namib border) on top of the mountain. To gather them the choice was to either travel via Remhoogte Pass approximately 30 kilometres (19 mi) southwards, or to trek uphill along existing Zebra paths.

Spreeth decided to do the latter, fortifying the path with quartzite rocks whenever he undertook the journey. Soon the bright white rocks formed a line that could be spotted from a distance. Spreeth even catered for motor vehicles (not very strong at that time), placing long, flat patches of road ahead of every steep ascent. He built the pass literally with his own hands. To flatten obstacles he used dynamite.

Here we go

Here we go

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Our hostess is not home when we arrive at Anjo Villa Guest House so we duck to the local supermarket café and have a coffee before checking in.

What a charming place it is.  After unpacking we sit under the trees and have a glass of wine and a chat, download emails using the free wi-fi and at 4:30 make our way into Windhoek.  As advised by Anthea we pop into Joe’s Beerhouse for a drink but are so fascinated by the place we decide to stay for dinner.  It is a series of outdoor enclosures and spaces filled with all sorts of memorabilia and relics of the past and present. Basically it’s junk made to look interesting. Possibly each piece has a history and a story behind it. We wander about enjoying the exhibition and then sit at a table next to a roaring fire in the middle of the boma where we eat. Wendy and I enjoy Kessler and sauerkraut, Earl has lamb shank and Erich eisbein.  They both have  to get doggy bags as the portions are so huge.

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After that we head to the casino, have a cup of tea and lose some money before coming back for an early night.

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Namibia – Saffies and Aussies on Safari – Day 5

Saturday 6 June 2015 Sossusvlei

Our wake-up call is a knock on the door at 4:30 am.   It is a tad chilly and we all meet wrapped up in fleeces and warm jackets.   It is an hour’s drive to the sunrise spot.  We take photos of the rising sun before climbing a high dune.

Dune Sunrise

Dune Sunrise

The name, Sossusvlei, comes from two languages – Sossus is the Nama word meaning No Return – or – Dead End.  Vlei is the Afrikaans word for marsh or pan.  The actual Sossusvlei is a salt and clay pan which fills with water on the rare occasion that it rains. There is no water in it when we visit. The name “Sossusvlei” also refers to the surrounding area (including other neighbouring vleis such as Deadvlei and other high dunes), which is one of the major visitor attractions of Namibia. The area has many high sand dunes of a vivid pinkish/orangish/reddish colour caused by the high content of iron in the sand and the consequent oxidation processes.  The older the dune, the redder the colour.  Big Daddy is 380m high and this is the one we climb!

Big Daddy

Big Daddy

Erich at the top

Erich at the top

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The dry pans look white because of the high salt content

Wendy does well but has a height phobia so decides to go back down after a while.  As we climb it seems to get steeper and steeper with each footfall!   There are a number of other climbers, some in groups, some individual.  We have a photographic group in front of us so they keep stopping to take interesting and creative photographs giving us an excuse to rest frequently!   We are supposed to descend at a certain point and go down to Deadvlei but I turn back and go the way I came meeting Sammy on his way up and he tells me to return so as to get to Deadvlei with him. Omiword – another upward climb before I can descend!   I am feeling a bit shaky – from low blood pressure or altitude intolerance – or perhaps I’m just not fit enough for dune climbing!

The descent is lovely.  We make our way to Deadvlei where the trees have been dead for almost a thousand years.  There is underground water so there is a grove of green trees there too.   We wonder around and take creative photos and then make our way back to the vehicle.

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Looking across to one of the dunes

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A short drive to Sossusvlei and we disembark once again where we find a beautifully laid breakfast table set up by Sammy who then presents us with cereal, fruit salad, yoghurt, cold meats, boiled eggs and fresh bread.  Wow.  The Cape Sparrows think it was for them and twitter away in the trees until we give in and feed them a few crumbs.

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Our return trip takes us past all the amazing dunes and we marvel at the shapes and contrasting colours.  We stop to photograph Dune 45 so named because it is 45 km from Sossus Dune Lodge.

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By now it is hot and we all take off the outer layers.  Back at the lodge I have a shower and change into shorts.

I put on cargo pants and take a fleece to fly over the dunes in the afternoon.  We have to go to another lodge just outside the park to get our over-dune flight.  We pay our fare, receive proper tickets and fill in an indemnity form at the Adventure Activity desk and then are taken to the airfield by one of the staff who also explains where we would go and what signals the pilot would give to indicate what he sees below. Unfortunately the plane is not equipped with earphones!   Loubser is our pilot and we are his  fifth trip of the day.    I am feeling only a tad nervous having recently been up in a light aircraft with Abri and survived!  This plane is a little bigger but not as comfortable as Abri’s.   But I can open a tiny square in my window to take photographs which makes a big difference.   I will let the photos tell the story.

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Sossus Dune Lodge from the air

The Dunes

The Dunes

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Wave after wave of them

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Old Mining Settlement

Old Mining Settlement

The dunes stretch all the way to the sea

The dunes stretch all the way to the sea

The Wreck

The Wreck

Seal Colony

Seal Colony

Dinner this evening is kudu steak for me and Earl and pork for the Schoffls.   After our long and exciting day we are in bed by 8 o’clock.

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Namibia – Saffies and Aussies on Safari – Day 2 and Day 3

Wednesday 3 June 2015  Ai Ais

We are all in the pool by  quarter to 8 this morning.   Erich and Wendy are earlier than we are.  They’ve had tea on their stoop and had watched the sun rise!  The water is divinely warm.  My eyes are itchy from allergies and I am sure the water is making them feel better or is it a placebo effect?  Whatever, I feel great relaxing in these soothing waters.

After our swim we go off  to breakfast and sit chatting till 10.   Then we go  for a walk around the lodge, admire the scenery and find some birds.

At 1 Earl and I go for an hour-long full body massage which is divine.  Erich and Wendy each had half-hour back massages.   Afterwards we have a long afternoon nap.  When we wake up we go for a lovely, long swim in the hot baths.  I stay in a lot longer than Earl and chat to a Grade 11 girl who had just completed the 6-day hike of the Fish River Canyon.  She tells me it was amazing but she is exhausted and every muscle is aching.

Earl comes to call me.  Stuart and Janet have arrived. We knew they were doing a similar trip to ours at the same time and had planned to meet them in Etosha. They aren’t meant to be here but had started off from Cape Town later than planned so decided to spend the night at Ai Ais. They join us for drinks and then dinner and it is a super evening.

Relaxing in the pool

Relaxing in the pool

Ai Ais

Ai Ais

Outdoor pool

Outdoor pool – Hot but the air is cold!

Baboons are a problem

Baboons are a problem

Mountain Chat

Mountain Chat

Swallow-tailed bee-eater

Swallow-tailed bee-eater

Dinner

Dinner – Earl, Stuart, Janet, Wendy

Thursday 4 June 2015 Ai Ais to Africa Sa fari Lodge

We wake to a rainy and cold day!  This is not meant to happen in the month of June!   After showering and packing we go to meet the others for breakfast at 7:00 am.   After breakfast we all head to the Canyon Lookout. We have to pay R60 per person to drive to the lookout point but it is worth it. It’s just a pity that the weather is not clear. Still we get excellent views of the canyon and don’t mind too much about getting wet.  Earl and I were here 20 years ago in brilliant sunshine and no fences.   It is a little different today but the views are the same.

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We then bid farewell to Janet and Stuart who head to Luderitz while we make our way to Mariental where we will spend the night at Africa Safari Lodge.  The weather improves and there is no rain when we arrive at Keetmanshoop.  We stop at the Spur for lunch and I buy a Namibian Sim Card at the local phone shop. My package is amazing – I pay in R295 in cash and dial in for whatever I need for a week.  Each week I renew my contract until my balance runs out.  I get Facebook, the internet, Whatsap and a number of free calls.  whenever I return to Namibia I use the same sim card and top up my balance. I do not have to RICA!

We arrive at Africa Safari Lodge at 3:00 p.m. It is lovely.  We have ‘tea’ on the stoop and then an afternoon nap.

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When we wake up it is dark and we find a rhinoceros on our front lawn!

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Dinner is superb.  We start with Sweet Chilli Calamari and Greek salad and then have gourmet Oryx steaks with mushroom sauce and mash potato.  To die for!  Dessert is Apple crumble and ice cream.

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Our room was is really comfortable. The bed is made from a concrete slap on which is a very comfortable  mattress with down duvet.   There is a television and we watch a skop, skiet and donner movie before dropping off to sleep.

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Ai Ais, Namibia – Saffies and Aussies on Safari – Day 1

A year ago our Australian friends, Erich and Wendy asked my advice on what to do and where to go in Namibia, a place they have wanted to visit for many years. Earl and I decided that we wouldn’t mind another trip to this amazing country so we decided to go ourselves and asked them to tag along.   Our itinerary of 26 days included Ai Ais, Africa Safari Lodge near Mariental, Sossusvlei, Windhoek, The Waterberg Plateau, Etosha National Park and then on our way home we spent 9 days in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

We are now back and what an adventure it has been. I am in the process of sorting out the hundreds of photographs and will try to publish one episode per day but forgive me if I fall behind 🙂  Some of the trivia and information mentioned in my posts are taken from park pamphlets, brochures, books on the area and Wikipedia.

2 June 2015 – Cape Town to Ai Ai

Finally this day has arrived. I love the excitement of the pre-dawn start to a long journey. I settle down in my seat – pushed far forward so Erich has space for his long legs behind me.  I scribble down our departure time on my pre-prepared chart – 4:30 am – The kilometerage registers 119632. What will it be when we return?  I know my neat chart with its recordings of costs and stops will look the worse for wear when we return too! Cape Town is cold and rainy and we look forward to warm, dry weather and the healing waters of the Ai Ais hot springs.   Perish the thought – the cold and rain continues.  Our first stop is a freezing Klawer and our hot Wimpy breakfast and coffee is sooo welcome.   It is strange to see pelting rain soaking into the dry Karoo earth.   The weather only improved around Springbok.

Earl is not at his best at border crossing so I make sure that all the documentation is ready and hand my list of items to be taken across the border to the grim-faced officer at Vioelsdrift.  Within minutes he has dismissed most of them as unnecessary and pins my list to the form he has filled in – no problem!  The whole procedure is over in 40 minutes and by 2 pm we are in Namibia!

It is interesting to see wine farming taking place on the banks of the Orange River.  Aussenkehr is such a farm. It is planned to develop Aussenkehr into a town. 6,000 erven have been surveyed and water and sewerage systems have been built.There is less than 50 millimetres  average annual rainfall but the farm includes 15 kilometres of riverfront and has a government-approved quota to draw water for irrigation from the Orange River.

Vineyards of Aussenkehr

Vineyards of Aussenkehr

Straw houses we passed on the way

Straw houses we passed – Aussenkehr

We bought wine and beers from the Aussenkehr Spar - which is in the middle of nowhere

We bought wine and beers from the Aussenkehr Spar – which is in the middle of nowhere and serves the farming community and straw house dwellers.

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The road we travel

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Moonscape

We arrive at Ai Ais at 3 pm Namibian time, taking the new dirt road which is a tad quicker.   The weather is overcast and there are a few drops of rain and it is really cold.

The local Nama people call the springs Ai-Ais which means  ‘burning water’. This lovely natural hot-spring is situated at the southern end of The Fish River Canyon, in the Karas Region of southern Namibia. It is part of the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park.

We have room A3 and A4 which lead onto the indoor pool area.   We have a swim and then a rest before going for drinks and then to supper at the restaurant.  We all have eland steaks which are rather nice.  They are served with rosti, butternut and green beans.  Then its off to our comfortable beds decked with down duvets – so welcome after a hard day’s travelling.

The indoor pools

The indoor pools

Dinner

Dinner

The restaurant

The restaurant