As our time in Namibia is drawing to a close, I’m finding a part of me already misses the incredible skies and vivid sunsets of the desert. As barren as those lands were, they held something special. I can’t deny though, that being next to a river is food for my soul. Watching the hippos wallow in the river, and seeing the crocs cruise by, fills me with such a sense of peace. It also makes me want to hop in the river however. They seem to have such fun cooling off while the rest of us land dwellers over heat in the upper 30-degree weather. And this isn’t even the hot season! I don’t know how the people here cope in the summer months. The last week has been unbearable, we have been doing game drives in the middle of the day, even though we know we’ll see no game, just because we need to cool off. Our thermometer measured 41 degrees a day ago, luckily that wasn’t the day we got ourselves stuck in the sand…
After our time basking in the cool hide at Olifants Rus in Etosha, we spent a rather hot and dirty 2 nights at Halali, another rest camp in Etosha. We weren’t blown away by anything it had to offer, except a very welcome swimming pool and exceptional views of hyena, ellies and rhino at its waterhole. The camp was overrun with honey-badgers at night who possessed the strength of an animal 5 times its size. They upturned bins, stole meat off people’s tables and generally terrified everyone with any common sense. It’s sad to see how the influx of people into a natural environment upsets the natural order, and introduces dustbin diving as a way of life to these incredible creatures.
We finished off Etosha by spending some time on the pans; an environment that is flat and empty as far as you can see. Shaun was itching to run off into the horizon, which I’m choosing not to take personally, but luckily common-sense prevailed. It would have been a very long run – the pan is approximately 130km wide. We weren’t terribly sad to leave Etosha and head for the wetter, marshier, climate of the Okavango Delta. We stopped mid way to check out the Hoba meteorite, the world’s largest uncovered to date. Personally I found this awesome. Not much bigger than our car and only half the height, it weighs about 30 times as much (a mass of 60 tons), being made almost entirely of iron! We spent 2 nights in a great campsite nearby and then made our way across the north/south ‘border’ (vet fence) and up to the Caprivi strip. Anyone who read my last post will already know the change of environment we experienced, with a sudden and dramatic shift to rural Africa. As we edged closer to the Okavango river, known in these parts as the Kavango, the number of people escalated with a rate that I have not seen since driving out of South Africa. I think almost all of Namibia’s rural population must be living in the relatively tiny, northern territories.
We stayed at a camping lodge right on the river, and had our first experience of being woken with the sound of grunting hippos outside our van. Luckily we had no run-ins with them and were able to leave the lodge intact, after a wonderful few days of making friends, enjoying a bar that was not our van, and acclimatising to the much anticipated, delta-wetland air.
Shaun called that our ‘soft launch’ for what lies ahead. All we had to worry about there were crocs and hippos. We left the relative safety of the lodge and headed into the real wilds of the Caprivi – fenceless reserves and wild camping!
Wild camping = No ablutions / No fences / No neighbours … Bliss (unless you get eaten)
Yes, we were nervous. So we (read Shaun – I am a little too relaxed with time) made sure we got to the reserve with plenty of time to set up camp before the sun went down, so we could curl up in the confines of our, hopefully, safe van. Shaun’s unyielding time-keeping was a blessing, because it gave us just enough time to dig ourselves out of the mess we got into when we hit our first really soft, un-driveable stretch of sand!
The first rule of soft sand driving is let out most of your tyre-pressure.
The second rule is follow the tracks!
Although we got the first rule down, we thought we’d argue the second because the tracks didn’t point the way we needed to go. It turns out arguing with the rules of 4×4 driving is as fruitless as arguing your way out of a traffic fine. We lost, dismally! After getting ourselves well and truly stuck, we posted the children on the roof of the car as ‘look outs’ – we were in the reserve and had no idea what was lurking around the corner. Shaun and I proceeded to dig the sand out from under the wheels, make bags of sand with the hessian sacks we had so obediently packed into our recovery gear, find logs to place under the wheels (along with our bags of sand), and then repeat that process 5 times until finally we got the car, coughing and spluttering and all of us overheating, 100 meters down the road to our exquisite camp spot. We were that close. We just managed to get the camp set up as the sun went down. Our first night in ‘really-real’ Africa was a close one.
Because we are travelling with kids we have governed ourselves with rules, one of them being:
When the sun goes down, we get our tasty looking backsides into the van!
The kids are just too deliciously bite size to be wandering around after dark. It has taken a while for them to become accustomed to the sounds of the nightlife right outside their windows though. Thankfully we have only heard the lions and hyenas from a distance, but we have had hippo and ellie just steps away from our van. Luckily they have now adapted well and sleep soundly through the trumpeting, grunting and roaring, because last night we had an ellie having a real shout about 5 meters away from our van, long into the night. This morning they reported hearing nothing except the thunder and lighting, which welcomed the first rain of the season. It has blissfully dropped the temperature by almost 20 degrees – heavenly!
We have only 2 nights left in Namibia before venturing south into Botswana and around the Okavango delta. We are all feeling blessed and spoiled by not just the game we have seen, but the sheer proximity to it. Lets hope our self-imposed, rule-driven, really-real African experience winds along as smoothly as this river, which we, for now, call home.
Bundles of love,
S & M & L & L
For those of you who simply can’t get enough of our incredible animal photo’s 😉 … here’s just a few more