Our home in Africa

A number of our followers have enquired about our living arrangements while travelling through Africa. Instead of answering all of you individually we’ve decided to cover the subject in a blog. For the rest of our followers,  we hope that you will also learn something  worthwhile from this article.

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Our Patrol and awning without sides fitted.

We acquired our vehicle of choice which had these specific  requirements:
A diesel 4×4 station wagon with very basic mechanics – no turbo or hightech electronics, with a high ground clearance.
Nor were we going to tow anything through Africa.
Our decision was based on owning a motor home for 11 years and travelling more than 100000 kms with it. Unfortunately, a 4×4 motor home with a high ground clearance is large and expensive, so we bought a Patrol and set about building our new home into it.

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Storage net on ceiling, doom, map and overhead console for medical box and bits and pieces

Everything we needed to take with us had to fit in or on the vehicle. This suited our minimalist requirements.
The two rows of rear seats where removed.
An Engel fridge/freezer purchased and fitted behind the drivers seat.

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Mozzie net, freezer beneath bed and laptop storage

We chose the Engel not only for its reliability and performance , but the low height of the unit was a most important factor.  Why? It determined the height of our bed as it had to fit beneath the bed.
Our Engel is used as a freezer so we have an additional thermofan fridge for vegetables, butter, yoghurt, beers,  wine etc. This stands on the bed while we’re travelling. When parked it goes outside under the table.

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Storage beneath bed and handy pull out table for roadside coffees etc

In the photo you’ll see collapsible cups for space saving. We also use a collapsible hand basin and hiking pots and pan which fit into each other for easy storage.
Ammo boxes were too low for efficient use of storage space so deeper containers were purchased from Plastic World.  A pull out small table for roadside coffee stops is very useful.  Thanks to Pieter van Oudtshoorn (who is travelling in Panama at this moment) for the idea.
A framework was built from multiply shutter board to accommodate 5 of these boxes and the fridge/freezer. The bed was built on top of the box framework. 

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Our boudoir. Note wash line and net curtains

Caravan mattresses completed our sleeping requirement.

We needed more space for extra fuel, tools etc and for additional warm clothing for Europe. We already owned a Thule roof box which we used for the clothing. So we purchased a Hannibal roof rack with a double jerry can holder, fitted folding stainless steel table and a spider 270° awning. The awning was to provide shade and give us a place to cook beneath as we could not do that inside the vehicle.

After a test run in windy, rainy conditions  we decided to have drop sides made by Hannibal to attach to our awning for extra shelter.
I had two tanks made.  One of 45 litres with a pump and tap for water and one of 40 litres for extra diesel.  A pump connected the auxilliary  tank to the main tank. With gerry cans we have a total capacity of 175 litres. Very expensive to fill!
We also carry 15 litres of drinking water and an airpot of 3 litres for hot water as well.
And we must not forget about George. During the day he gets his chance to rest and shares the bed with our folding chairs, towels laid out to dry and our toiletry bags. At night he guards us from outside the vehicle while we sleep.

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George in bed with Solveig

Our main objective in setting up the vehicle was to be comfortable while taking along essentials only. We are happy with our preparations. The only item we’d missed was an electric kettle which we’ve since purchased. Almost every campsite has electricity. It’s convenient and we save on gas usage too.

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The Chobe, 16-18th March

We’re still in the Caprivi, visiting Chobe on the Namibian side, at Camp Chobe. It is just 4  kms east of Ngoma Bridge border.
We drove towards Ngoma. A good tar road all the way with wonderful little villages.

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Camp Chobe

Arrived at signpost for Chobe Lodge and took the dirt road – but gave up!  Little anxious about all the water. Phoned Max and he came to lead us in on an alternate route.
OMG what a road!!! Started by going via the  back of the border control offices,  police etc. We then went UNDER Ngoma bridge in the most godawful black water mud. We continued along the bank of the river, slid around like crazy and Solveig just held on and prayed!!! Max, of course, drives like crazy!! 

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Lodge and Chalets

Shaken, we arrived at main camp and met the other staff. What nice people. We needed a drink! or two!!
Later after more drinks, off to our campsite (back same way) with setting sun in our eyes. After one mad slide we decided to stop right there and then and camped between two chalets on the river bank. Beautiful sunset!! Compensation?? Most definitely. Went to sleep with nature’s choir of frogs crickets and an occasional lion roar. Oh wow who could ask for more?

The following day we moved down to the official campsite. Good move, slid a bit but Ians getting good at off road. 

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Our campsite

Lovely shady spot with trees, scullery and great ablutions overlooking river. Wonder if we can change our toilets and shower at home to overlook the harbour?? The only missing perfection was absence of electricity (damn we do need it for the food and ice – the auxilliary battery prefers to be charged daily when running a fridge, freezer and everything else).

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African Openbill

Great just to chill and take in our amazing surroundings and being entertained by African Openbill (Stork), pied kingfishers, blacksmith lapwing (plovers), African Jacanas,

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Squaco Heron

herons and many more different bird species.

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Max at the helm

Max arrived in the afternoon by boat to take us up to the Main Lodge from where the river cruise starts. A bunch of rather unhappy Germans (they had come through on normal route – Max said the water would have gone over our bonnet). Guess the Germans did not really enjoy that. The route we took was bad enough.  In fact really scary!!

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Graceful flight

Anyway, the river cruise was a real highlight, just beautiful and great with Max pointing out all the different birds,

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Egret at takeoff

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African Jacana nest

And nests amoungst the lilies

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And the waterlilies!!! 

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White Breasted Cormorants

The cloudscapes, sun setting and birds perching and flying off en masse

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Cape Buffalo and Red-billed Oxpecker

and a few animals on the Botswana side was a sight to behold. Two hours of magic!! Thank you Max!!!

Had dinner at Lodge with Max and just chatted and chattered. Such a great dude!! Well done Janne and Johan! Had drinks in a boma around a fire and were entertained by kitchen staff singing beautifully.  Met a guy from WWF (rather arrogant) but knowledgeable and interesting.
Max took us back to camp by boat – had to be very careful of nets in the dark that were placed across the river by locals.

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Chobe fishermen

They also fished from Mokoros.  
Max showed us a fence around a little village which had lots of tins strung on it. This is an alarm system, if elephants come through, it makes a noise and warns the people, they come out and crack whips,
scaring the ellies away. Not quite an electric fence!!!!

All to soon we had to say our goodbyes and were off to Katima Mulilo for our last night in Namibia. We proudly managed the terrible road out without Max leading the way.
In Katima We did some shopping and exchanged our Namdollars for Kwachas then kept on bumping into Max and Shaun shopping for the lodge, a few more hugs and goodbyes later, then to  our camp at the Protea Zambezi lodge.
All we wish for is that all the countries we encounter are as friendly and courteous as Namibia has been.
The next day we had a pleasant surprise at the Zambian border control . Two years ago we had been ripped off by the officials housed in old caravans there. This time brand new airconditioned border control offices and smiling officials handled us efficiently and courteously. Yeah!!

The Caprivi

On the tar road again.  Wonderful, beautiful scenery en route. Stopped for lunch on roadside – chicken jaffels – sooo good!! It’s amazing what you can create with not much (ok so we did have mayo, sweet chilli sauce salt and pepper.

N’Gepi

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Garden of Eden

Late afternoon we arrived in the “Garden of Eden” – N’gepi on the banks of the Kavango river. Wow, thank you the Zouties ….
and John and Lynn Rich!!

Loved all signage on the way in – 2 × 4 route for Landies!  We used those!!

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Creative riverside ablutions

OMG! The Royal Throne – toilet with view, Fish Eagle bath overlooking the river……..

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Crocodile proof swimming pool

Floating swimming pool built with wire mesh to keep out the crocs.

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Coffee anyone?

Sign – no urinating while swimming, could be in your coffee next time!

Deck over river – decor made with mokoros – tables, bookcases,  bar counter etc.  

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Musical instruments hanging up in centre of ceiling,  drums, piano accordion,  saxophone, trumpet, African marimba, African string instrument. Ian thought he had arrived in heaven!!

 GET A LIFE…………..OR DREAM ON!!!!!

Next day up early to rooibos tea – thank you Ian. Moved to better site with solar electricity nearby. We are now plugging in both fridge and freezer. The whole camp is entirely run on solar power. The  hot water as well as the electricity.

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Reception

Coffee at reception (free) and met owner Mark Adcock.  What a nice guy. Really connected with him. Spoke about rivers and the powerful impact of nature’s purest liquid. He took us around to show us toilets in nature, loo that has a chain when pulled the dung beetles arrive, the tree house and apple tree cut down in the Garden of Eden.  It truly is a Garden of Eden and magically laid out. Had dinner that night in dining room overlooking river. Rained!! Had shower in Holiday Inn bathroom!!!

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Fish Eagle bath...

Yippee had a bath overlooking river. Never done that before – beautiful,  watching hippos on other side. I will never forget – imprinted!!
Rain off and on, so we spent the day photographing and chilling.  Read about birdman, Christopher, resident at N’gepi.  Highly highly knowledgeable on birds. Such a cool dude with little black plaits all over his head. Gave him an article in which he was written about. Ian very cleverly torn articles from our travel magazines which were relevant to our trip and as we leave areas those are tossed.

GET A LIFE…………..OR DREAM ON!!!!

As I sat this morning on the banks of the Kavango river in N’gepi camp I wondered what makes a place special to one. Is it the hippos grunting, blowing out Water from their noses while greeting one another. Is it the birds flying off to start a new day, singing happily.  Or maybe the incredible view from Gordon’s Bay of the first morning light touching Table Mountain, whales breaching in the Bay, seals stretching themselves lazily on the surface of the sea. Or is it the inner peace all of this brings about……

Yesterday we asked Mark Adcock what brought him to N’gepi in 1965. He answered; “to fill his soul”

A South African from Pretoria, he came here then, and found not only unspoilt nature, but also found his soul. 25 years ago he returned and started N’gepi. He owned a construction company in Botswana and could have brought in bulldozers and flattened the place and put up a luxury hotel, but instead he recreated the Garden of Eden with a whimsical touch.

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His creativity is found all over this Eden in the signage, the toilets, the showers, the the bath, the swimming pool! He has left his unique stamp on everything about N’gepi. And left nature as it was.

It was sad to leave N’Gepi but we eventually had to move on. We drove the long road through the Caprivi hoping to see Ellies but it was too wet to see any game.

Camp Kwando
Our next stop in the Caprivi, this time on the Kwando river.

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Yet another beautiful campsite in the Caprivi with passion fruit vines covering the large trees in the camp. There was an abundance of fruit lying on the ground. We picked up the good ones, removed the pulp and froze it for adding to our yoghurt and muesli.

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Kwando River

Still in the Caprivi, but another river…. This time the Chobe , untill next  time….
GET A LIFE……OR DREAM ON!!!

Ovamboland

I’ve titled this episode Ovamboland which to me covers the area south and east of the Etosha.
Outjo was a surprise to us as we were becoming accustomed to really rural towns, but here we found a small town with everything we could want for. Silly things like the replacement washer for our gas cooker(we neglected to have a spare!) and a new charger cable for a led lamp from Sven and Anka which we have found indispensable. And of course a few Tafels, a Happy Box and the usual 10 litres bottled water.
Sunday was another humid and rainy day so the best place to be was travelling in the comfort of our airconditioned car.
Our route took us to the edge of the beautiful Waterberg plateau. We’ve been to Namibia so many times, but usually kept to the Southern region and an occasional rushed trip to Etosha but had never stayed in the Northern region for long enough for it to also install some of that magic which is Namibia into our soul. Grootfontein was very quiet so we kept on to Roy’s camp.

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Entrance to Roy's

A must do place 50 kms north east of Grootfontein.
Roy’s was right up Solveig’s street.
“Oh wow, what a treat! The camp is stunningly put together with all sorts of kak.  Old bath with water flowing into pool, rusted old car, old bicycles, enamel bowls served as light fittings. We had a bush kitchen with fridge and gas cooker and laundry. Beautiful campsites with natural stone encased in wire. Soo well done and, of course, George just loved his swing – a giraffe one.

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Roy's Camp

We seem to get to bed late and also rise late. Coping well with mozzies and other flying creatures. Net in car – great, also candle, tabard cream, Doomspray for under dashboard inside car and a Doom Mozzie spray. We are well covered!!! It is soooo hot and humid. Permanently sweating. Is it hot flushes, power surges or weather????”

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Road to Rundu

Solveig:
The road to Rundu was magical with little Ovambo settlements, I jumped out and chatted and made contact with people, things they are doing, things they are making. Contact  and chatting is just my best!! Got shock of my life when I went up to a little baby and small child and they started crying and screaming at the sight of me. I do not think they had seen a whitey before. Especially an old wrinkled (tanned) white face, grey hair and pink stripes.

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Ovambo village

Made me think of the book I have just finished reading The Clan of the Bears by Jean Auel (thank you Janne)

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Solveig's favourite

Rundu is a fairly busy border town. We searched for a place to have coffee and found the African House.  More like a shabeen, but we felt very comfortable there.
We camped at the Sarasungu River Lodge down a very wet potholed road in a beautiful tropical setting. We preferred a site away from the river. It had a sheltered lapa area. We thought with all the rain we’d been getting an additional bit of shelter might come in handy.
The next day we had some much needed washing done in a local laundry, did some shopping and looked for a new campsite. We didn’t fancy the ride down that road again.

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Angolans doing their washing

We found a new venue on Tracks4africa on our GPS,  just 20 kms away, also on the Kavango river at N’kwazi River Lodge. T4A has been a great asset. It’s guided us accurately on our route and also to some amazing accomodation.  Only once did it wobble a bit when taking us out of a town. It took us through a terribly potholed muddy road when a tar road was nearby. I guess it didn’t know about all the rain that has been falling this summer!

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Solveig having a wonderful time

The next part of our journey is very special and needs a blog of its own. So please be accommodating and let us put it together nicely for you!

Etosha

We couldn’t come all this way and leave out Etosha even though we will be seeing lots of game throughout Africa. We entered the park at the recently opened northern entrance, the King Nehale gate near Andoni and about 90 kms East of Ondongwa. The Gate is 65 km from Namutoni. The first part over the pan which had water and  grass on it! There were lots of water birds in the flooded areas.

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Black winged stilt

The next part of the road had thick savannah and thorn trees. The rains have caused the grass to be higher than the car in places. Saw elephant and lots and lots of giraffe, especially at Klein Namutoni, a favourite Waterhole of ours.

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Giraffe at Klein Namutoni waterhole

The camp at Namutoni is lovely and even has grass. There were three backpacker overland vehicles there too.  One from Kenya and the others from the Helderberg. We were entertained by a family of banded mongoose and ground squirrels in our camp.

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Namutoni

We planned to spend only two nights in Etosha  and set off the next morning to Okaukuejo. The drive was special with lots of animals and birds.

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Springbok

We stopped at Halali to make ourselves lunch at the camp and continued towards Okaukuejo. 

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Black faced Impala

The light was so spectacular when we reached the camp we continued northwards to a few waterholes on the edge of the pan to take photos.

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Etosha landscape

Let Solveig continue:

Solveig’s contribution
Lunch at Halali (halfway) at campsite. Took photo of George with new sticker for Tortoise.

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I went  to check pool, met Ian near restaurant (always trying to walk, need exercise!) and continued on our journey to Okaukuejo for our night stopover.

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Pan view

We stopped at a beautiful view of the pan and opened the back door to take George out and show him. CATASTROPHE – where is George???!!!
Realised that I must have left him at lunch stop in Halali.   Phoned the camp in tears – prayed. We rushed back 120kph (60 kph speed limit) in an absolute state – found George in exactly the same place we had left him. Felt like a really terrible irresponsible parent! Just cried with joy and thanks – he was unharmed and happy to see us!!!
We had to stay in Halali for night instead of Okaukuejo. The pool is very large and Ian was able to do 20 lengths. Exercise!!!! Yippee!!!!. That night wewq had roaring lions and were entertained by 5 large badgers, emptying dustbins and scrambling for food.
We enjoyed a lovely supper – sirloin steak with pepper sauce, coleslaw and baby potatoes!!!! A celebration meal. I now understand why we must have our children when we are younger, we are too forgetful in our old age!!!!

Kaokoland

Kaokaland…. It’s a place of grandeur where you re-discover your humanity and silence becomes music to your ears.
The landscape is dry and rugged. It looks lifeless with its sunbaked mountains and plains,  but there are people living there, the Himba,  despite the rarity of water, with their cattle,  goats and donkeys.

At Kamanjab on our way northward we stayed at Oppi-Koppi. In the morning we decided to have coffee in their lapa pub before leaving.
Just by chatting to a Belgian girl working there,  Solveig found out that overlanders travelling through Africa were  offered free accommodation to stay there.

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Oppi-Koppi

We were very grateful for the refund. Communicating is so important on a trip like this.

Opuwo is the last town before the 180 km bone jarring road to Epupa Falls, where you can stock up at the OK and enjoy a coffee and a light meal at the restaurant next door while people watching.

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Himba at OK

You’ve never done people watching until you’ve been to Opuwo.

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Himbas all trying to sell to Solveig

Himba ladies trying to get one to buy their hand made jewellery and Hereros in their Victorian attire looking regal and out of place in this dusty outpost.

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Hereros

The road to Epupa had 129 (we counted on the return trip) river crossings or dry wash aways. We had to change down to 1st gear in some cases but never required low range.
We stopped for lunch and OMG the car would not start. We had luckily stopped on a hill and started the car by running it down the hill. This really worried us. Was it the starter motor or something else that had shaken loose on the bad road. We kept the motor running until we reached the camp.
But it was all worth it. Epupa Falls is in one of the most remote parts of Namibia and it is beautiful!!

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Campsite at Epupa

We stayed at the community run campsite right on the banks of the Kunene river under palm trees with the falls to one side. The spray from the falls cooled us with the help of a light breeze.

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Solveig and George at Epupa Falls campsite

We walked around the campsite checking the view of the river and falls. Afterwards we had a refreshing drink from the raised deck.

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View from the deck pub

We met some young tourists from Colorado who had driven all the way from Cape Town in a Ford Focus! They were so envious of our trip.

We took a walk to a viewpoint of the falls. The Baobabs added something special to the falls. It is amazing how a river can change the landscape with the palms and the greenery.

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Baobab at Epupa falls

The Makalani palm  is found all over in the north. The fruit of the palm is known as vegetable ivory. The locals carve a picture onto it. At filling stations you are often approached by a well dressed person who comes up to have a chat. He asks for your name in a friendly way and just before you leave he presents you with this carved out token with your name on it. It’s hard not to buy it the first time, but after many such episodes it becomes tedious!

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Vegetable ivory

They ask only R 10 for it.  Shame! A new way of begging? By giving you something in return and is that not a better way???!!!!

The next morning I had to examine the starter problem. I checked for loose wires, removed and cleaned the contacts of all relevant fuses. The fuse box in the engine was filthy with mud and dust and I cleaned that.  A neighbouring camper from Germany suggested that I knock the starter solenoid with something heavy which I did. The car started without a problem.  I’m not sure what fixed it but it was now fine again.
I decided that we would get expert advice and visit a specialist in  Ondongwa or Otjiwarongo to get it checked.

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Makalani Palms near Otjiwarongo

We went to Greensport in Otjiwarongo who.  I was advised not worry about the starter as it was working fine now. We can only trust their judgement.

Twyfelfontein Region. 25 to 28 February

A beautiful morning in Khorixas greeted us after an incredible thunderstorm the night before. We are so pleased with our storm arrangements which work so well.
A detour off our planned route took us to Vingerklip, about 75 kms to the east.

It was worth the extra distance because of the beautiful landscape we encountered on way.

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Vingerklip surroundings

We photographed Vingerklip which is the only remaining rock formation of its type in Namibia since “The Finger of God” collapsed a number of years ago. 

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Vingerklip

We had coffee at the Vingerklip Lodge and chatted to a young German couple touring Namibia in style while taking their gap year. How differently we did things when we were their age. Got married, had children…. But now we are free to travel.

The rain the night before had left its toll, the road to Twyfelfontein had many washaways and we had to progress carefully.  We  suddenly arrived at a river in flood!

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Onlookers at river crossing

Three cars were stopped and the men were all looking at the river not knowing what to do. We decided to test the depth and Solveig walked through the flooding river to the cheering of the men on the bank.

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Solveig testing depth by walking across

It was difficult going, her feet sticking in the mud and water up to her thighs. She got to the other side so I had no choice but to follow her in the car. I took it carefully and slowly in low range trying not to make waves. I didn’t want to test whether the car was waterproof or not!
The countryside was awash with fresh new grass and masses of yellow flowers.

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Spring??

A beautiful sight which rivals Namaqualand in spring.
It was almost dark when we arrived the at the flooding Aba-Huab river. Solveig was not keen to walk this one as it was very wide and muddy on the banks (which were churned up by an overland bus that had got stuck earlier).  Fortunately a safari driver who knew the area came along and crossed at a better crossing than the actual road, and we followed.
That night we camped on the banks of the river in the Aba-Huab campsite, under a thatch shelter. We thought we were in heaven, such luxury! Every creepy crawly and flying insect thought the shelter was a good place for them too . We were horrified the next morning when we found what had shared the shelter with us!
Again we met some German travellers who gave us their details and asked us to visit them in Germany. We’re meeting gsuch nice people everywhere.
The silence in the morning was in such contrast to the night before when the raging river had sounded like the sea. The river had disappeared!  They call them ephemeral rivers here.

Twyfelfontein area is a World Heritage Site and we’re not surprised. We started our explorations by going to the Organ pipes.

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Organ pipes

We were surprised how different the rock was to everything else in the area. This rock formation was exposed by erosion in a river.

By visiting lodges for coffee at unusual places was well worth it from our contact with special people and also enjoying the luxuries reserved for the mega wealthy.  Twyfelfontein Lodge was no exception.

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Rock paintings at Twyfelfontein

Set in amoungst huge rocks with the pathway to the lodge leading through them and past the rock paintings and etchings.

There we met the manager who gave us such useful information regarding the road to Palmwag, our next stop. We had a lovely long chat with a lady from head office doing an audit, then treated ourselves to a light lunch of toasted gammon, mustard and mayo sandwiches with a huge delicious salad with coffee.

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While exploring we found Rock Agama lizards which we call Augrabies lizards there too!

We crossed the now dry Aba-Huab river and visited a campsite we had wanted to stay at the night before but were prevented from doing so by the flooded river. The owner remarked that you could tell the rains were good this summer as you couldn’t count the ribs of the cattle.

The road to Palmwag was hard going as there were many wash aways from the heavy rains the previous days. Sights and views on the way we’re amazing.

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Beautiful dunes

The dunes and rocks are covered in grass, bushes and pretty flowers.

Then our most dreaded event occurred. We had a puncture! Luckily we had a tyre pressure monitor fitted to our tyres (thanks to advice from Andrew St. Pierre White) and were notified immediately there was a tyre pressure change. I stopped as fast as I could. The air was still escaping from the tyre and it was saved from certain shredding. Luckily this happened at a small settlement and we received plenty of willing helping hands to change the tyre. They were bushmen from Riemvasmaak near Kakamas in the Northern Cape.  Amazing, friendly and helpful people. At first we were a bit apprehensive by so many helpers – unfortunately as South Africans we have this ingrained suspicion – we gave the men some money for their help, a necklace for the lady and pencils and a pen for the young boy. They were so grateful and NOT begging,  such a difference from the Himbas and Ovambos who are always begging for money, food or water, just because we happen to be there.

I had the tyre repaired at Palmwag 70 nail biting kms later.  A sharp stone had cut the side wall so I needed a gater and tube. This brings back the question of what is the tyre correct pressure? They could  only repair it the next day, so we decided to book in for two nights. We were grateful to be at Palmwag. We had wraps with chicken mayo, left over roasted veggies and sweet chilli sauce. Our meals are never boring!

The camp is in an oasis…..

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We were right on the banks of a small river. The ablutions had reed walls with an open front to the view.

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Ablutions with a view

There was also a swimming pool, bar under thatch and a restaurant. The first night there was a light drizzle and it was cooler the next day so we never used the pool. Caught up with a bit of writing and editing of pictures.