Namibia 2009

From Palmwag to Twyfelfontein

A day off in Palmwag

After a windy night I get up quit early and secure the towels we hung up to dry last night. From the pretty shower stall I can watch zebras grace – perfect.

It’s our day off today. If you set out for an off-road safari you should always plan some extra days for contingency. Since everything went smoothly (not a single flat tire or the like) we spend this extra day here at the Palmwag lodge.

For breakfast we put everything we find in the various boxes on the table. Everything must go as our group safari will be over tomorrow when we all go our separate ways.

After breakfast we clean all the equipment and put it back to where it belongs. Also, since Akiko and I will spend another 10 days in Namibia we have the lodge staff clean a bag of our cloths. In contrast to what you pay at the Epupa falls campsite it’s expensive because every piece of clothing is counted and registered on a “order sheet”.

Since I have a lot of time I try to charge the battery of the small digicam – with the power adapter of the razor as I forget the camera’s adapter. The voltage of the two adapters is the same but the jack isn’t. So, with little hope I try nonetheless…Of course it won’t work.

Trying to charge the digicam battery with the razor power adapter

Trying to charge the digicam battery with the razor power adapter

We hang around, read at the pool and check the equipment in the car once again.

Akiko and I are both utterly sad that our group will break up tomorrow. We both really like all four other members. Very nice people. All have a good and honest heart. I never experienced before how a group of six strangers (ok, three couples) can operate in perfect harmony in an instant. I somehow hope that the others are sad too and that they have similar feelings towards us.

From now on we’ll be on our own. No guides who decide ahead of time what today’s menu is. No one who’d happily answer our questions about off-road, Namibia or the world. Akiko and I wouldn’t mind staying at lodges for the rest of the trip but we booked camp site or nothing at all. Also, we wouldn’t mind if this were the end of the trip and we had to fly home tomorrow. We’re really down and depressed and I have a lump in my throat. Of course, we’re looking forward to the rest of Namibia, particularly Etosha, but still…

Since it’s our farewell dinner tonight Stefan and Marga ordered a fantastic buffet at the lodge!

Namibia 2009 photos

From the desert back to Palmwag

We wake up at sunrise on the moon (how we dubbed the rock desert we’re surrounded by). It’s super super beautiful! Simply magnificent. The night was quiet but I really really missed the toilet. We’re warming up and enjoy a prolonged breakfast. Since the stiff breeze stopped sometime during the night it gets warm quickly.

Desert before Amspoort

Shortly after we drive down into the Hoanib river bed at Amspoort we see a giraffe and her cub right next to our vehicle. Right ahead three male desert elephants block the way. One of them behaves quite aggressively and it’s clear that he’s the boss around here. So we stop and wait 20min until he calms down and lets us pass. Again I’m humbled by this experience. If I had had any doubts it’s certainly clear now: we humans are guests at best and intruders at worst here and have to behave accordingly. This is animal territory. Further along in the river bed we see many more giraffes, hordes of baboons eating elephant shit and ostrich harems.

The leader of the pack pacing backing and forth across the track to show who the boss is

Then it’s quiet. I guess it got too hot for the animals who probably hide somewhere in the bushes. The drive drags on in the dusty river bed. Sesfontein doesn’t seem to get any closer…

Giraffe in the Hoanib river bed

The last 2-3km before Sesfontein must be sheer horror for any inexperienced off-road driver. The hard-pressed sand and dust on the track turns into what feels like brownish yellow flour. There’s no clear track anymore but about  a dozen tracks that run parallel next to each other. If your vehicle gets stuck here you’re pretty much lost. I try to keep my speed up. Spin the steering wheel left and right trying to find to most promising route through that bushy flour-sand area. All my senses are alerted. Stefan and Thomas are somewhere to the left and right of me respectively. Both fully occupied finding their own way.

When we hit the solid tracks of D3707 we stop for a quick break. We all shake the dust off our cloths and hair. We spit a few times hard to get the dust off our teeth and flush the rest down with a few sips of luke-warm water. Even the tiniest chink in the car is covered with that d** flour-sand. That was a hell of a ride!

As we pull into the gas station in Sesfontein smoke escapes from the hood of Stefan’s Landy. We pop the hood and see a naked wire glowing. The isolating plastic melted already. Irony: it’s the wire for the blinker which Stefan dutifully used for the first time in several days when we pulled into the gas station.

By sheer coincidence Marga knows a guy in Sesfontein who used to work for a Land Rover shop! We send for him and wait. In the meantime we examine the truck of a mining company which is parked at the gas station. The truck in general and particularly its wires are in dire state. From the driver we learn that they drove here all the way from a drilling site in the Hartmann valley. Jesus, what a fagging that must have been for them with that vehicle.

Marga’s acquaintance will be able to repair the wiring in Stefan’s Land Rover in a rough-and-ready way but to get it fixed properly they’ll have to visit the mechanic in Palmwag. Meanwhile Thomas, Sandra, Akiko and I should head to the lodge in Palmwag and prepare our camp site. Although the C34 is a major track and in good condition the drive still takes time. It gets dark when we’re still 20km north of Palmwag. Driving at night is challenging as many riviers cross the track. It’s a constant up and down.

At 6:20pm we pull up in front of the lodge. A servant dashes towards us from the reception and hands Sandra and Akiko a welcome drink. We’re not quick enough to tell him that we only booked a camp site! When we’re done putting up our tents Stefan and Marga arrive. After todays events we’re too tired and worked up to cook and have giant delicious burgers at the lodge instead. A delight! After a super hot bush shower we settle for the night knowing that tomorrow is our day off. We won’t drive anywhere.

→ Namibia 2009 photos

Sleeping furthest from civilization in the desert

Basically we could sleep in today but due to the francolins scolding we wake up quite early nonetheless. While having breakfast more and more birds of all sorts seek our company – or the company of the other birds. We get a little angry at Stefan because he feeds some left-over chilis to the poor birds.

Shortly after 9am we leave the camp for the tiny Purros settlement, which consists of a few huts, a kiosk-style convenient store, and a school. The school appears to be the only “solid” building (by western standards) in the village. After we asked nicely we’re allowed to enter the class room and chat with the kids. The class room has a good spirit, we feel that.

School in Purros, the kids dance for us

It makes us happy to see these kids are given a chance to profit from education. We learn that this school was built and primarily sponsored by Wilderness Safaris a major operator for ecotourism and conservation in southern Africa. Apparently the Purros school doesn’t get a single buck from the Namibian state as the attitude seems to be that it’s a waste of precious resources to finance a school in the middle of nowhere. For us westerners this is utterly incomprehensible for we consider schooling and access to clean water to two most important improvements for people in Africa.

We’re also thoroughly impressed by the kid’s uniform and the teacher’s bleach white ironed shirt (left in the photo). Despite its size Purros has so many kids that the school offers a morning- and afternoon-shift. Many of the kids speak at least a little English. Some of the (too) few text books are in English and the teacher is speaks it well. I try to explain to girl what the meaning of the large statement on the wall is: “In education lies your future!” How true.

However, we also see that school supplies are scarce. There are not enough pens and not enough note books. Although we don’t generally donate money to organizations which claim to invest it wisely in Africa (we loath the huge administrative overhead and corruption in Africa) Akiko and I decide on the spot that we can do something locally here for this school. When Marga and Stefan will return to Purros in September with another group they will bring boxes of school supplies bought in Windhoek at our expense.

Afterwards I play soccer in front of the school with the kids from the afternoon shift. Fortunately, they have at least a soccer ball. I realize that here a simple ball can mean so much. I make a mental note to load a few balls into our Land Rover next time we set out on a trip to remote areas in Africa.

We leave Purros in south-west direction to follow the Hoarusib river through its partly narrow canyon towards the ocean. The impressions are overwhelming! The river is not dry, there’s green, and when there’s water there are animals. Just as we enter the canyon a group of desert elephants crosses our path.

Desert elephants in the Hoarusib canyon near Purros

The canyon twists and turns and we have to drive very slowly and carefully as to not startle elephants or other animals behind the next corner. We’re glad to have a radio in each vehicle.

Lion family in Hoarusib canyon: daughter, mom, son.

When the canyon opens up unexpectedly to a wide plain after several kilometers we see a number of huts on a rock high above nicely overlooking the area. We let our Land Rovers climb up the steep, narrow and rugged path to the huts. The view is breath-taking! We learn from the workmen we meet that they’re working on a new luxury camp – the Schoeman’s camp (after its owner). Judging from the attitude they display it might take a while until it’s ready to open.

Update 2011-01-02: seems the camp did open, indeed. It’s now officially called Leylandsdrift camp operated by Skeleton Coast Safaris. There’s no special website for the camp but I found a blog entry here: http://www.travelpod.ca/travel-blog-entries/tc-mike-travels/1/1286265413/tpod.html.

After the lunch break at the camp we continue slowly south-east through the deserted coastal region. There is a track that follows more or less the (invisible) border to the Skeleton Coast National Park. On the plateau we face a stiff breeze from the atlantic. Since we’re running late we decide to camp right here next to the track surrounded by nothing but rock desert.

It’s an interesting experience but also a bit difficult. The landscape is stunningly beautiful but I miss the toilet. Dinner is rather scarce and quick. Cooking on this windy plain is no joy if the only lights you have are a few gas lamps and your headlamps. However, the starry sky is compensation enough! The stars are bright and clear and seem so close. Laying on the back in our roof-tent and staring at the sky is…well, I can’t describe.

Southern hemisphere stars, focussing on the center with an exposure of roughly 30min

I guess I never slept further from any signs of civilization than here.

→ Namibia 2009 photos

Treasure hunt in Marienfluss valley?

Once again we get up early, because we are facing a long stretch to Purros. Fortunately, during breakfast we don’t know yet how difficult it will be … Last night at around 1:30am Camp Syncro suddenly came to life because a few locals left for where ever with roaring vehicles.

Hardly 400m outside the camp, we already have to insert the first photo stop, because next to the piste few skinny goats stand in the morning light – apparently a worthwhile subject for our guides. Goats, so what?, I think and stay behind the wheel of my beloved Land Rover. The same corrugated metal track that leads to Camp Syncro leads, of course, away from it – unfortunately there are no alternatives.

Since I apparently got up on the wrong side and, inexplicably, have a bad mood, the track seems to be in even worse condition than yesterday. Stefan creeps with his Landy ahead as if he was on a treasure hunt. Bombing down the track with anything below 80km/h does not seem logical, but what do I know. I’m a Namibia-rookie. So I am sitting sullenly in our hot and dusty box (aka vehicler) and sneak behind the guides. At least Akiko takes the same opinion as I.

According to our map a place called “Red Drum” must be just ahead of us and I’m looking forward to seeing a road crossing in the featureless landscape of Kaokoveld. Oh boy, how could have imagined that Red Drum is just that – a red drum in the middle of nowhere. It marks the junction (if coming from the south) for Marienfluss valley to the east and Hartmann valley to the west.

A red drum at Red Drum in Kaokoveld

A red drum at Red Drum in Kaokoveld

Not far from Marble Camp (alt. link) we stop for lunch. The brave Swiss we met a Camp Syncro will apparently stay overnight here. Not a bad place. We wouldn’t mind either calling it quits here for the day. Off-road driving is a lot of fun but can get tiring. Stefan and Marga seem to notice this and change the route spontaneously. Instead of following the Chumib river from Orupembe south-east we follow D3707 which a grader has just finish clearing up “for us”.

On the way from Orupembe to Purros

On the way from Orupembe to Purros

After the slow pace the previous hours it’s a big relieve to “fly” over the even track with 100km/h. The landscape is wonderfully meager, wide and deserted. For the first time in my life I see a jackal. I’m quite surprise how small they are. I didn’t know they’re the size of a large fox. The stretch to Purros is a long haul despite the perfect track conditions. It seems to drag on forever.

When we finally get there I’m positively surprised. The guy who welcomes us at the gate speaks English, the camp is pretty, the hot water for the showers is ready and we’re the only guests at the camp tonight.

Namibia 2009 photos

Van Zyl’s Pass and Camp Syncro

In Namibia’s north-west it’s comfortably warm in winter – even during the night (unlike in the more central regions). Last night I used the sleeping bag as a blanket and we had the “windows” in the roof tent all rolled up. The constant exchange of fresh air inside the tent apparently works everything but detrimental for a good night’s rest. I slept like a baby.

I’m the first to get up and I use the time to heat up the donkey shower. It’s a good feeling to be up first and to do good for the group. Since I really learned to enjoy off-road driving here in Namibia I’m very much looking forward to the route today: Van Zyl’s Pass is waiting! I’m eager to find out what it’s really like. All the stories I heard and read, how much of it is true?

For breakfast we prepare “Geröstel” (fried potato chunks and onions) left-over in the fry pan. It tastes fantastic! While we have breakfast a Himba boy from the nearby village shows up to collect the campsite fee. As many other campsites in remote areas the Van Zyl’s Pass camp is a Namibia community project. Since the boy doesn’t speak English he simply hands us a brochure with the fees neatly listed. His eyes glance hungrily over our rich breakfast table and we give him some oranges and fill a plate with Geröstel for him. His bony body makes it obvious that at least part of the community lacks ample food supply.

Pumping the tires again once the vehicles are out of the river bed

As the campsite is located in the middle of a sandy river-bed we had to release some air from tires before returning to the road to Van Zyl’s pass.

The drive through the mountains to the pass is simply fantastic! The extremely rugged road and the very slow pace that results from that is responsible that at least the co-driver  can enjoy the scenery. The pass itself is less demanding than anticipated. It is very demanding for the cars obviously but with a car like the Land Rover TD4 it’s fine as long as the driver is alert. You don’t need to be an off-road super-guru. You shouldn’t attempt that route alone, though. If your car breaks down you’re lost. youtube.com has a number of videos that give you a good impression of the pass.

It's customary to tell the world that you (or your car rather) mastered Van Zyl's Pass

The sandy earth road in the Marienfluss valley on the other side of the pass is pure horror, though. It’s extremely corrugated and even if you race along with 80km/h it feels like your car is going to fall apart any minute. If you go slower it’s even worse…

The 60km to Camp Synchro seem endless. I just want this to be over, it’s most definitely the flip-side of the off-road medal. After I hit a stone while trying to navigate around particularly bad bump in the road the warning lights start flashing automatically. The respective button on the dashboard doesn’t indicate they’re flashing though and they can’t be switched off either. I’m just happy that the tires didn’t get damaged. In moments like this one realizes how heavily we depend on our vehicles in such remote areas.

Marienfluss valley between Van Zyl's Pass and Camp Synchro

Marienfluss valley between Van Zyl's Pass and Camp Synchro

I’m in a foul mood because of the road conditions and I’m angry at myself for letting this influence my mood. I want to be more calm and more positively thinking. We’re on vacation after all. Many people envy us for that. And here I am swearing at a road in bad condition – not very “grown up”. In this mood I have little hope that a pretty camp is expecting us but Camp Synchro is a very positive surprise. It’s like an oasis at the Kunene river. We find lovely spots for our cars overlooking the river and we settle for yet another romantic dinner around candles, torches and a small fire. I even manage to fix the flashing warning lights by disconnecting the primary battery for a second.

Namibia 2009 photos

Approaching Van Zyl’s Pass

Starting today we’re definitely exposing ourselves to Namibia’s lonely and deserted north-west – we’re heading towards Van Zyl’s Pass.

Passing Okongwati we stop again at the “gas station” we stopped at a few days ago while on the way to Epupa. In the region we’re headed to every drop of petrol counts. The Okongwati gas station is off the main (gravel) road hidden behind a few shacks. You’ll miss it if you simple drive through the village from Epupa to Opuwo or vice-versa. It’s everything from ordinary as it’s got no gas pumps. A quiet lady who doesn’t speak English sits in front of a shack that stores a 2-3 barrels of diesel – and regular if you’re lucky. Sometimes there’s gas and sometimes there isn’t. The gas is transferred from the barrels to you car with canisters or old pet bottles. The fact that this procedure inevitably takes time doesn’t matter. It feels real, we’re in Africa after all.

Gas station in Okongwati

Gas station in Okongwati

We’re already accustomed to the fact that gas stations in Africa are run by women because men apparently can’t be trusted in southern Africa when it comes to handling money. The boys who help the lady are happy that Thomas presents them with a pair of bright yellow rubber gloves.

The first several kilometers on the D3703 lead us on a narrow soft sand-road through almost lush groves. It’s wonderfully quiet and peaceful. There are no other safari cars and apart from a few Himbas every now and then we don’t see a single soul – it’ll stay that way for the rest of the day. Usually we stop when we see Himbas and give away corn flour or the like. They however would rather have “sweets, sweets”. Thomas & Sandra often give away LolliPops to kids which Akiko & I disapprove of. On the other hand we feel bad to deny them the goodies we ourselves would have liked as when we were kids.

A few kilometers after Okauwe the dust road is supposed to turn from south to south-west. Both my map and the GPS map say so. In reality it’s a little different. There are many tracks in the sandy savanna. When the GPS keeps insisting that we have left the imaginary route we turn around and start looking for the turn that we must have missed. The route we were following isn’t even listed on the GPS maps.

The road condition is getting worse (very rugged) as the day gets longer and longer. Shortly before we reach the Van Zyl’s Pass campsite near Otjitanda we stop at a Himba village. We try to tell the chief that we would like to take a few pictures in exchange for flour. Of course, he speaks neither English nor Afrikaans but our hands proof to be a wonderful secondary communication tool.

The stench in the village is atrocious for our sensitive western noses. The Himba live on the same ground as their goats. Hence, there’s goat and dog poop everywhere. Inside their clay huts the stench is a mix of cold smoke, sweat, excrements and rancid butter. This world is fascinating and repulsive at the same time. I very strongly feel that we shouldn’t even be here, that we should leave these people along. I feel that we’re destroying a precious unique culture just by being here, by taking photos and by letting the Himba see our western gadgets.

Traditional Himba village

The sun will soon set and we have yet to drive some 10km until the camp. In Otjitanda our eyes become big as some brand new solar panels appear next to the road. Apparently, the state installed them to power the water pumps in the tiny village. I hope that our guides don’t stop to take pictures as we’re hungry and don’t feel like putting up our tents in darkness; we’re running late already.

The Van Zyl’s Pass campsite is super pretty and very private. The other two sites appear to be unoccupied and we feel like the only people on this planet. Yet, despite this remoteness there are water tanks for the showers and the toilets at the camp! Apparently they weren’t expecting anyone today – the water pipes are all dry. We follow the pipes back from the showers towards the tanks and eventually find two valves that were closed.

I’m tired, particularly my head is tired. However, Akiko’s presence comforts me. 2 Panadol help against the pulsing head ache and we spend a cozy evening with our friends under the African sky.

Dinner at Van Zyl's Pass campsite

Namibia 2009 photos

4×4 trail along the Kunene

I slept like a baby! The omnipresent rush of the Kunene river must have lulled my mind. As I get up at 7:10, being the last of the party, I plan to spend some “quality time” at the river alone. Impossible! Getting ready for the day, taking a quick shower, putting down the roof tent, preparing breakfast for 8:30…there’s just about enough time for that.

Despite the lack of quit in the morning I’m looking forward to this day. Our guides planned a short real 4×4 tour along the Kunene towards Ruacana. The plan is to be back by 2pm to have enough time to swim in the river, take pictures – and to relax in the deck chair for once.

The trail along the river is true Land Rover country. It’s not accessible during the rainy season and although it’s less than 200km from Epupa to Ruacana it would be a tough and long day trip in this terrain. Our plan is to follow it for a while, have lunch at some scenic spot and then return.

Beautiful 4x4 trail along the Kunene

Beautiful 4x4 trail along the Kunene

At little further east from our camp we see crocodiles sunbathing on sand banks in the middle of the river. For once I’m happy that I can watch from the shore and keep a safe distance to the animals :-) It’ll turn out to be the highlight of the day.

We meet many Himbas – almost exclusively kids. They’re happy to get matches, vaseline, corn flour and apples from us when we stop. We also leave some of our empty 5l water bottles with them as they have to carry water from the river to their homes. Surprisingly, some of the kids speak a little English. We learn that there’s a Himba school not far from Epupa that they attend during the week. Today is Saturday, they’re off. When we ask them where their parents are we hear: “At the bar, they like to drink alcohol”. Puhh, what a sad situation. I feel sorry for them.

Himba kids mount our Land Rovers

Himba kids mount our Land Rovers

My Land Rover drives almost without me controlling it, it’s fantastic! To further familiarize myself with the car’s capabilities I loosen the grip on steering wheel during a rather steep 80m ascent. Climbing slowly the tires find their way between the rocks and gutters without my control on the wheel. It’s a good feeling. Off-road rocks! Akiko, too is thrilled. Although she has no interest in driving herself we’re a perfect team because the enthusiastically navigates us through the rough terrain. She leans out the window to spot the best tracks.

Decoration-ladden Himba

Decoration-ladden Himba

During this day trip I ultimately realize that I should have brought two SLR cameras instead of one. Constantly switching between super-zoom and wide-angle lenses is sooo troublesome.

Namibia 2009 photos

Hobatere Camp to Epupa Falls

Africa still muddles my mind. I’m happy but also a bit out of place. Seeing the first wild animals the previous night and the gorgeous campsite at Hobatere were pure endorphin.

We get up early enough to see the sun rise over the savanna – beautiful. The weather is crisp and a heavy wind (going on all night already) make preparing breakfast more difficult than usual. Since we take our time and watch birds that we feed with chunks of apple we need to hurry cleaning up and putting the tent down. We have a long day ahead of us, all the way to the Namibia/Angola border to Epupa Falls.

Bird-watching at Hobatere camp

Along the way we drive through Opuwo the “capital” of the Kunene region. Stefan the guide calls Opuwo a shithole (Drecksnest in German). I don’t find it charming either and I guess the town has got two faces, at least. I’m glad that I come across the mayor’s Christmas message only after I return home otherwise I would really have expected a prospering town. Opuwo suffers from the usual “side-effects” when strong tradition in rural African areas clash with the 21st century western culture: poverty, neglect, prostitution, crime and alcohol abuse. On the other hand there a few pretty logdes for tourists in the vicinity. Mobile phones and traditional Himba co-exist next to each other.

Impression from Opuwo, the supermarket we used was more western-style, though

Impression from Opuwo, the supermarket we used was more western-style, though

Pumping gas becomes an ordeal because we’re once again surrounded by groups of kids and young men. No all of them are friendly looking in my opinion. My western need for security is being probed. Marga gets herself into trouble with (self-declared?) army officer because she takes pictures of an old and rusty army truck without asking for permission. The heat builds up but the spark doesn’t jump and we get a away unharmed.
Shopping is a little easier. At the parking we pick 5 “security guards” out of a group of some 20 kids for our three Land Rovers. We “pay” each one with a can of Coke. On the recommendation of Marga & Stefan we buy corn flour, sugar and bags of Bic ballpoint pens in the super market to give away to Himbas.

In Opuwo the tarred road ends. For the next 10 days gravel roads, some better, some worse, will be our constant companions. Namibia’s north-west is Himba-country. They, too, will become companions in that if we see people at all, they’ll most likely be Himbas. They wave from the dusty shoulders of the gravel roads when we pass them. From time to time we stop and donate a bag of corn flour or something similar. Otherwise all we leave behind is a giant dust trail. Some of the Himbas yell at us angrily if we don’t stop. I can’t really hold it against them as we’re invading their territory to a certain extent. Looking negatively at the whole development one could say that every safari car that travels these roads adds to the deterioration of their culture.
It definitely isn’t a good sign that even the small kids a long the road claim that taking photos isn’t free: “No photo, $10″ they demand (10 Namibian dollars are about 1.3 US $). A herder boy tells Akik0: “Give me your shoes.” They ask for “sweets” and “pen” as a pen makes them look educated and hides their illiteracy.

Namibian kids begging for sweets and pens

Namibian kids begging for sweets and pens

The gravel road seems endless, Epupa Falls seems light years away. It was too ambitious to drive all the way from Hobatere to Epupa in one day. It’s certainly doable we you rush it but we’re on vacation and stopping every now and then is more than just a mere necessity. When we finally arrive at Epupa the best spots at the campsite are already occupied, of course. With a bit of luck we manage to squeeze two Land Rovers next to each other and Marga’s & Stefan’s next to our adjacent neighbors. There’s only enough time for a quick stroll around before it gets dark around quarter past six.

At Epupa there are three options in terms of accommodation: the Epupa Lodge, the Omarunga Camp (tented camp), and the campsite next to the camp. For African means Epupa is quite green thanks to the water of the Kunene river. Palm trees grow along the river and the climate is mild even in July (i.e. African winter) which means that it’s comfortably warm in the tent at night. In summer, however, it’s 40° C. The campsite is well equipped, the sanitary installations are quite new, the showers are romantic (again, no-roof-starred-sky-showering) and they even practice waste separation.

Also, if you have cloths that need cleaning I recommend you let the locals here do that (ask at the campsite). They earn a few bucks extra and you’ll experience that cloths even get clean when washed in the river with nothing but plain soap. Plus, it’s very reasonable even if you tip them generously. You fill a bag with cloths and agree on the “flat-rate” price.

Campsite at Epupa Falls

Campsite at Epupa Falls

Namibia 2009 photos

From Waterberg to Hobatere Camp

The first night in the roof tent was an ordeal. I guess I didn’t sleep much after midnight. It certainly didn’t help that the temperature dropped closer and closer to 0° as the hours went by. Fortunately, my dear wife was only centimeters away. Her presence gave me comfort.

In the morning we get up at dusk and enjoy a hot shower to warm up – feels great. Again, I’m surprised how good the infrastructure is. Soon after we prepare a wonderful breakfast starter – papaya cuts with sugar and Greek yogurt (plain yogurt). Tip: always look for Greek yogurt in Namibia! Akiko is incredibly helpful and cooperative preparing  and clearing breakfast, I’m sooo proud of her. It’s important to have people like her when you travel with a group.

The way back to the main road from the Waterberg Plateau seems never-ending, but I will get used to gravel roads over the course of the next three weeks. It certainly wasn’t worth it coming out here for just this one night.

We head north-west. Thomas and Stefan both run over a guinea fowl (each). They linger in herds on the shoulder of the road and if their escape strategies are absolutely unpredictable.

Might as well be in Australia I guess...

Might as well be in Australia I guess...

Wherever we stop, kids and teens try to sell us jewelry, “crystals” (usually polished white stones) and makalani nuts. It’s a little uncomfortable because we’re not (yet) used to that but we learn quickly how to say no. After all we want to be friendly and nice and yet we also don’t want to fill our baggage with stuff we might throw away at home. I feel sorry for the kids and teens. The idleness in which they seem to be caught is overwhelmingly sad.

In Outjo we stop in front of a super-market. Side note, I recommend using the one at the south-east end of the village. Before we even get out of the car we’re surrounded by a group of kids who all want something from us. I feel a little uneasy and queasy. Again, I have to learn quickly to deal with situations I’m not comfortable with. In the west we’re not used to being imposed on. One guy carries a wooden stick, he seems to be the leader of the pack. Marga asks him to watch our cars and we’ll bring hime and his deputies something to eat from the super-market. Although I’m happy to hit the road again that experience will prove to have been important for me in terms of “letting the African culture in” i.e. dropping some of my guards.

In Kamanjab we stop for gas. Although we carry spare cans on the roof of the Land Rovers we make a habit out of pumping gas at each gas station along the way. That’s certainly not un-wise in Africa. Kamanjab is dreary and bleak. At the gas station a few herero women in their traditional dress sell jewelry. Friendly teenagers try to sell makalani nuts. They’re a lot less touting than groups in other places. Of course, one of their first questions is “where are you from”. We don’t tell them right away that we’re from Switzerland but engage them in a little chat about what they know about Europe. Quite a bit, we learn. When we tell them that our country lays between Italy and Germany they’re at loss. When we finally unveil the answer they all yell “Hopp Schwiiiz!” (“Go Switzerland” in Swiss German). Now it’s our turn to be speechless! We burst out with laughter.

Entrace to Hobatere Camp decorated with antlers

Entrace to Hobatere Camp decorated with antlers

After another 70km we finally arrive at Hobatere campsite. The camp is an naturalist’s dream – simply marvelous! There’s hardly any information about this community campsite on the Internet and I don’t know how you’d book in advance. The Hobatere Lodge is 1km away, they might know. The campsite is very basic and luxury at the same time. There are regular toilets aaaaand a hot shower! To build them black canvas is wrapped around trees and bushes. The foundation is made of concrete but there’s no roof – the star-laden African sky acts as the roof.  The water for the shower is heated up by a fire that burns underneath an old gas bottle turned into a boiler. When you wait taking a shower until the sun has set it feels like warm rain falling from the starry sky.

Outdoor shower and sink

Outdoor shower and sink

We also try to fix the fridge built into Thomas’ Land Rover. Unfortunately, we have to learn that the tools the car is equipped with are lousy. Another lesson learned: make sure the tool set is complete when you take over a rental car in Namibia. We also notice that we weren’t given spare fuses for each appliance. With fuses from Stefan’s and my car we manage to get by…

Namibia 2009 photos