Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Days 254 & 255 – Namibia

June 16 & 17, 2010 – Etosha National Park to Tsumeb to Etosha National Park to Outjo, Namibia

Since Eric and I had a successful yesterday at Etosha, we decide to have a day off from game viewing and instead drive to Tsumeb, which is on the east side of Etosha, in preparation for our tomorrow.

But before we hit the road we have a delicious breakfast of bacon and eggs with Adri and Hanel.

After breakfast, I say good-bye to their pet kudu “Liza”…

Actually, they just call her “Kudu” – I’m the one who named her “Liza”.

… and Eric says good-bye to the biltong.

Biltong is like a South African jerky and Adri’s is amazing.

Since we have to pass through Outjo, we make a quick stop at the Outjo Bakeri – it just wouldn’t be right for us to not say “hello”.

We arrive in Tsumeb mid-afternoon and Eric and I are ready to go for a nice walk around town, as well as have some quality “Skip-Bo Time”. Unfortunately, this isn’t in the cards for us… no pun intended. The search for a place to stay doesn’t turn out to be as easy as usual – every place we look at is either under construction, over-priced or it doesn’t have a kitchen. So, not finding anything that suits us, we drive towards Etosha’s Namutoni Gate with hopes of finding a campground.

As luck would have it, we’re passed on the highway by a truck with South African plates, towing a camping trailer. So we follow them to a campground located about 15kms from the gate.

Our second day in Etosha turns out to be just as successful as the first. We start the day watching a giraffe drinking from a watering hole.

We have a couple of first-time sightings, including a red hartebeest…

…and a secretary bird.

Just after lunch, Eric and I drive out into the Etosha pan, which is unbelieveable.

We catch a glimpse of a yellow mongoose darting across the road.

And the highlight of the day is watching a lion and a lioness prowling near a herd of springbok.

We can’t believe our luck seeing lions both days in Etosha, but today is the piece de la resistance because this time the lion is actually moving.

At the end of the day we find ourselves back at the Andersson Gate, so decide to return to Outjo and stay at Kai-Oms… only this time we’re going to sleep inside – have I mentioned it’s winter here?

Day 253 – Namibia

June 15, 2010 – Outjo to Etosha National Park, Namibia

Before leaving for Etosha, Deon, one of the owners of Kai-Oms, provides us with some tips and pointers for exploring the park. And let me tell you, his pointers really help out – Eric and I have another very successful day of animal-viewing.

We’re both left speechless by the quantity and variety of animals sharing the waterholes…

We’re even fortunate enough to see one of Eric’s favourites up close and personal.

While Eric drives, I’m on the hunt for game.

Of course, I have to remind myself to put the camera down and look with my eyes or I’ll miss the little creatures, like these ground squirrels…

Check out the size of his, er, nuts.

The termite mounds in Namibia are fascinating!

I tell you, termites are nature’s architects.

A lot of South Africans are fleeing their country because of the World Cup and as a result, Etosha’s campgrounds are packed and we’re unable to get in. Luckily Jeanny, the other owner of Kai-Oms, recommends a campground just south of Etosha’s Andersson Gate, so we head there at the end of our safari.

Eldorado Restcamp turns out to be just what we need. The owners, Hanel and Adri, are lovely – they set us up with blankets, a camp-light, a couple of beers and they even start our fire for us. Eric and I are warm and happy when we go to bed and we fall asleep with visions of bacon dancing in our heads… they’re cooking us a farm-style breakfast in the morning.

Day 252 – Namibia

June 14, 2010 – Opuwo to Outjo, Namibia

Eric and I set off with hopes of driving up into the northern part of Namibia and across the top of Etosha National Park.

However, being that this is Africa, the road we intend to take no longer exists. So, after 20 minutes of driving in search of another suitable road and 15 minutes of reasoning & contemplation, we decide to turn around and head southeast to Outjo. The town of Outjo is located just south of the Andersson Gate at Etosha National Park, which puts us in a prime position to enter Etosha nice and early tomorrow.

We find a great backpackers to stay at - Kai-Oms Backpackers Accommodation and Lodge – and set up our tent… we’ve opted to camp another night because we don’t feel like sharing a dorm room with a family of four.

Much to our delight in Outjo we discover one of the best, if not THE BEST, bakery in all of our travels – it looks like it’s going to be chocolate cake and cheeseburger meat pie for lunch today… though not necessarily in that order.

Eric and I are super content – clearly, it doesn’t take much!

These are the Creatures in Our Neighbourhood

Oh, these are the creatures in our neighbourhood, in our neighbourhood, in our neigh-bour-hood…

Chloe the Chicken…

Danny the Donkey…

Dog the Dog…

Larry the Gecko…

Bessie the Cow…

Carl the Camel…

Hazel the Pig…

Cat the Cat (or in this case “Turnip” because she was special)…

Lionel the Lizard…

Liza the Kudu…

Randy the Rooster…

… and Mildred the Goat.

They’re the creatures that we meet when we’re walking down the street, they’re the creatures that we meet EACH DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!

Day 251 – Namibia

June 13, 2010 – Kamanjab to Opuwo, Namibia

Today is a driving day.

We’re heading to Opuwo, a village known for its diverse population of Himba and Herero people. It’s an interesting place because of the diversity of buildings… it’s the administrative capital of the region – meaning it’s a government town – so there are numerous institution-like buildings, but it’s also in a very remote part of Namibia so they’re all located on a dusty road, surrounded by a collection of small commercial buildings and traditional African rondavels.

It’s a good place to spend a lazy afternoon and our braaing experiences continue, complete with the necessary tools of chopsticks and pliers!

Day 250 – Namibia

June 12, 2010 – Khoraxis to Kamanjab, Namibia

Once again it’s an early rise – today we’re checking out the UNESCO site of Twyfelfontein Rock Paintings.

As it was at the White Lady site, a local guide takes us around the area and shows us about 20 painting sites. Of course the difference here is that these aren’t actually rock paintings, but rock carvings, which is a form of rock art that’s new to both of us.

The carvings alone are pretty cool…

… but combined with the scenery, it makes for a pretty awesome site.

Along the way, we meet a rock rat.

It ran off before we could catch its name.

We continue cruising along gravel roads and wide open spaces and finally decide to stop at a campground in Kamanjab.

The owners are lovely and offer to supply us with blankets to ward off the cold… have I mentioned it’s winter here? Being the big fan of blankets that I am, I graciously accept the offer. They also have free firewood, so it looks like braaing is an option tonight. Eric and I drive into town to look for some meat for dinner but to our dismay, all the stores are closed – apparently in Africa everything shuts down at 2pm on Saturdays. Looks like its beans and bread for dinner tonight… another lesson learned.

We return to camp, set up our tent and then take a wander through the property. This campground also happens to be a game park, so we head up to the lookout where we find ourselves face-to-face with 6 giraffes. And don’t worry – this park only contains the kind of game that won’t eat us.

It’s pretty surreal to be exchanging glances with a giraffe… Eric and I still can’t believe we’re in Africa!

Day 249 – Namibia

June 11, 2010 – Omaruru to Khoraxis, Namibia

Much to our dismay, our morning habits are drastically changing as we travel. No matter how hard we try, Eric and I can no longer sleep-in. We’re awake at the crack of dawn and are packed up and ready to drive by 8:00am. I wish I could say it’s from the excitement of our adventure, but it’s not – it’s because of the sun.

Today’s journey will take us to the town of Khoraxis. Unfortunately, there’s nothing great about Khoraxis but it’s proximity to the UNESCO site of the Twyfelfontein Rock Paintings is perfect.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Before arriving in Khoraxis, or K-Town as Eric and I call it because we can’t seem to pronounce “Khoraxis”, we make a stop in the Brandberg mountain range to see the famous “White Lady of the Brandberg” rock painting. As the name suggests, it’s a rock painting of a “white lady”. What’s interesting about it is that the painting dates back to a time before white people were known to be in the area and the “white lady” is actually a “white man”, or Shaman to be exact.

It is a 45-minute hike to the location of the painting, which we hike with a local guide.

The area in and around the mountains has approximately 45,000 paintings scattered throughout and it’s pretty amazing to think it’s been inhabited for thousands of years.

Of course these little guys would have been around throughout it all.

We cruise into K-Town midday, set up our tent and grab a few groceries. Throughout the afternoon we enjoy some R&R and in the evening we have a nice “braai”… or as we Canadians like to call it, a barbeque.

Our nice evening takes an even nicer turn when Eric and I overhear a group of children singing in the distance. Being the curious types that we are, we follow the sound until we find its source… a local primary school. They’re about to perform for a tour group staying at the lodge we’re camping at because they’re trying to raise money for a school trip to Etosha National Park. We meet one of their teachers in the parking lot and promise to come by and support the cause, so we finish off our evening watching them perform and having a great time.

Day 248 – Namibia

June 10, 2010 – Swakopmund to Omaruru, Namibia

Today our final destination is Omaruru. But first, there is much for us to do before we settle in for some more ghetto camping.

We start off by checking out Spitzkoppe, one of Namibia’s most recognizable landmarks. It’s a 1728m high mountain and its shape has earned it the nickname “the Matterhorn of Africa”. Eric and I think this is a bit of a stretch and we’re pretty sure Switzerland would agree with us.

Although the roads continue to annoy us, the road signs continue to amuse us. I mean, how often do you see a warthog crossing sign?

Well here in Africa, quite often.

Or for that matter, how often do you see an elephant crossing sign?

Actually, they have them in Thailand and they’re probably in India as well, so perhaps this is a bad example.

Just outside of Omaruru is Namibia’s only winery – Kristall Kellerei – so of course we feel it would be rude of us not to pay a visit. I’ve got to admit, we weren’t expecting much but to our surprise the wine is pretty good and we end up purchasing a bottle of Columbard. We also have the opportunity to try “Nappa”, which is a Namibian version of grappa. And it’s only fitting… Canada has its Ice Wine, so why shouldn’t Namibia have its Nappa?

Feeling adventuresome, we head out into the countryside in search of dinosaur footprints. In the area around Omaruru dinosaur tracks have been found in the Etjo sandstone and one very well preserved set is in a farmer’s field outside the town of Kalkfeld.

The tracks are said to be over 200 million years old, but Eric and I are a little skeptical about these “tracks”. Then again, who are we to argue with the experts?

After the dinosaur tracks we return to Omaruru Rest Camp for a game of Skip-Bo and a snack of “Simba’s Ms. Ball’s Chutney flavour” – our new favourite – and a glass of red wine, of course.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Can You Spot the Differences?

This is a road in Namibia under construction.

And this is a road in Namibia that’s not under construction.

Can you spot the differences?

Days 245-247 – Namibia

June 7-9, 2010 –Sesriem to Swakopmund, Namibia

We have an amazing, albeit chilly sleep – it’s winter here – and we wake up just in time to catch the end of the sunrise over the dunes. Today we’re heading to the coastal town of Swakopmund, but seeing as it wouldn’t be right not to have one last look at Sossusvleu, we drive deep into the park and enjoy a nice breakfast of PB&J’s in the nothingness.

We make another stop in Solitaire to fill Vinnie up with gas and ourselves with baked goods and then begin the long journey northwest...

Eric’s more than ready!

And once again, the scenery is unbelievable!

So many photo ops!

The drive takes us alongside dunes, through canyons and even across the Tropic of Capricorn…

This is my first time crossing “the Trop-Corn”.

…and eventually through northern part of Namib-Naukluft National Park, where it gets even more barren.

After a long day which ends with us having to drive through a minor sandstorm, we pull into Swakopmund looking forward to a warm meal, a glass of wine and a comfy bed – there’ll be no “ghetto-camping” for us tonight!!!

Although Swakopmund is considered the adrenaline capital of Namibia, we spend our time just chilling out… we’ve had enough adrenaline-inducing moments driving on some of the roads.

We check out a nearby shipwreck and understand how the Skeleton Coast got its name…

We visit a bunch of smelly seals at the Cape Cross Seal Reserve…

We enjoy a nice lunch of roast chicken, cheese buns and cherry tomatoes on the ocean’s edge…

… and we try our best to find a pink flamingo amongst all the white ones in Walvis Bay.