Sunday 29th April
Swakopmund to Spitzkoppe
Set off today at about 10.30am after our two nights in a lodge in Swakopmund. It was comfortable in the room and we managed to get our washing done there but the town wasn’t that great (it didn’t seem quite right – almost too clean and some of the up market shops had doors that you had to buzz to get in – we didn’t like that at all), although some of the group did sky diving, quad biking and sand boarding, the most popular adventure activities in the area. We travelled only about 2 ½ hours to our next camp site at Spitzkoppe where we had lunch in the shade. The camp was located directly next to a beautiful rock formation – a bit like a mini Uluru – and we loved it. Although there was no water and only a long drop toilet it was a lovely place to camp. It was a very warm day and we sat around until 3.30pm when we went for a walk with a guide to see some Bushman rock art. We were told that it was about 4,000 years old – it was quite basic but interesting as it showed animals that no longer live in this area, such as rhino, lion, and cheetah. The rock formations at Spitzkoppe are very beautiful, smooth granite outcrops that from a distance shimmer in the sun. After our walk, we climbed up on the nearest (lower) peak to view the sunset over the highest peak. The sky was clear and the colours changed from light to dark over a period of about 20 minutes. After we came down from the sunset, we had dinner. Some of the group slept in a cave nearby in which the leader had placed some candles and there was a small fire in there as well. The cave had an extremely large rock that partially blocked out the sky, but we didn’t fancy sleeping there because Lynn felt it had bad karma so we laid our mats on the sand near a rock and slept out under the stars. It was a beautiful evening, cool with a breeze.
Monday 30th April
Spitzkoppe to Kamanjab (including Himba Tribe)
Up at 6am this morning after our night out without a tent. It was so nice in the desert with a light breeze blowing. It soon warmed up and we set off to the north passing through scrubby country with dead grass. There doesn’t seem to be many animals here although we saw a few springbok near the road and a puff adder as well. We reached our next camp site about 20km from Kamanjab near the Himba Tribe village. We had lunch then a bit later at 3.30pm, we went for a walk to the village with a guide. The Himba women paint themselves with ochre and have quite an amount of jewellery and other decorations on their bodies. In the village lived 6 men, 25 women and 36 children (some of the children are orphans). They used to be a nomadic tribe that hunted and also herded cattle, sheep and goats. These days, however, they are not allowed (by the government) to hunt and so cannot follow their old lifestyle. It was quite interesting to see the village although it has been in this form for around 15 years, so is not a true representation of a nomadic herder’s life. We took photos and looked at the jewellery etc. that the villagers were offering for sale but unfortunately it all had seeds so we couldn’t buy any. The children interacted with us but the women did not and there was almost an uncomfortable feeling – not like other tribes we have visited. We then walked back to our camp nearby. The camp was in a bush setting with a simple outdoor toilet and shower. We had dinner and sat around the fire and went to bed about 10pm. The day was hot (around 32-33C) then cooler in the evening.
Tuesday 1st May
Kamanjab to Etosha National Park
Up for breakfast and left the camp around 7.15am. We drove to Outjo where we had a break to buy morning tea and drinks. We then drove to Etosha National Park and had lunch at the Okaukeijo campsite. After lunch, we drove through the park about 75km to the Halali campsite where we are staying the night. The camp is quite fancy with spotless toilet/shower blocks but it lacks the ambience of the bush camps. On the way, at the first waterhole, we saw many animals, including zebra, giraffe, ostrich, springbok, elephant and wildebeest. At the next waterhole, the highlight was seeing a leopard on its way to the waterhole, then drinking and then looking as though it wanted to hunt either a bird or some springbok that were there. While we were watching that unfold, a black rhino came down to the same waterhole as the leopard, but a distance away. It was quite amazing. We had never seen a leopard walking (previously only seen two in trees with their dead prey) so it was quite an experience. Eventually we had to go as the sun was setting and no one is allowed to drive in the park after sunset – tonight sunset was 5.40pm and we just got back in time. There is a very large fine if you drive after dark or before dawn. When we arrived at camp we set up our tents then had dinner at around 7.30pm after which we walked down to the waterhole at this campsite – there we saw elephants, first of all only three then eventually more than 30, including a very large bull elephant, a number of large cows and quite a few baby elephants. We watched for over an hour and a half until the elephants had all gone. It was quite beautiful to see. Then we walked back to the camp and went to bed around 11pm. The day was fine and very warm during the day, but cold at night.
Wednesday 2nd May
Etosha National Park
Today we were up early and drove through the park on a game drive back towards the camp near the main gate Okaukuejo about 75km away. On the way we stopped at the edge of the Etosha Pan, a gigantic old lake bed that shimmers in the sun. It is approx. 200km across and 70km wide. We just parked on the edge of this pan and took photos of the nothing out there. The total park covers an area of over 20,000 sq.km. so it is seriously large. There are a large number of animals here. In the morning we saw a smaller number of animals to yesterday, but it was very interesting. We saw wildebeest, hartebeest and about 14-15 giraffes all walking towards a waterhole, and some were drinking. We reached the Okaukuejo camp around 1.30pm and had lunch, set up camp (unfortunately right near the toilet block, had a rest till about 4pm when we set out on a shorter game drive till sunset. On this drive we saw a number of lions at a distance of about 250metres as well as ground squirrels, jackals and also, quite unusually, a caracal – sort of like a large house cat - very beautiful with pointy ears. We then had to get back to the camp just after sunset to beat the curfew which is 6pm today. After dinner we went down to the waterhole at this camp and observed two black rhinos drinking and walking around. They then did some mock charges at each other which was unusual to see – but it all became clear when one tried to mount the other… After being rebuffed they both actually walked into the waterhole and sat there for a while in the water. Very interesting - . We then came back as there was nothing else at the waterhole. The day was fine again, quite warm and dry – the evening is cool and we went to bed around 10pm.
Thursday 3rd May
Etosha National Park to Windhoek
We left at about 7.15am from our campsite at Okaukuejo in the Etosha National Park. We drove about 17km to the gate of the park. On the way, we saw two rhinos (we suspect the same ones that we saw last night at the waterhole) in the bush. Unfortunately the truck did not stay long enough to get good photos – it is really unusual to see any rhinos, let alone two together, so that was a bit disappointing. The others in the group are mostly only interested in cats. There weren’t many more animals on the way – a few springbok, some zebra and three giraffes. We soon said goodbye to Etosha National Park and headed south down the main highway towards Windhoek – it was a very good road and we soon reached our morning break stop at Otjiwarongo, where we had hot chocolate and cake for morning tea at the café in a large supermarket. We replenished our water supplies and then headed off again, having lunch at Okahandja, only about an hour from Windhoek, where there is a large craft market. Most of the items for sale come from Zimbabwe – it is difficult to purchase any home grown Namibian craft. The people who live in these towns north of Windhoek are mainly from the Herero tribe. In 1904, after the Battle of Waterberg, the German colonists (the army anyway) shot and massacred about 65,000 of these people, about 80% of the tribe’s population. They have never really recovered from that – they were a major tribe in Namibia before that but afterwards they were not. In 2004, on the100th anniversary of the massacre, the German Government apologised for the genocide and pledged $US28 million over a period of 10 years to assist with reconciliation. Sad story indeed. Anyway, we arrived in Windhoek at 3.30pm, spent an hour in the main part of the town and have now checked in to a hotel (hurrah) for the night. We are all going out to dinner tonight as we are farewelling three more members of our trip – but two more are due to join here for the trip up to Vic Falls. Tomorrow we head towards Botswana, which includes a two day trip to the Okavango Delta. The weather is fine, dry and hot today – about 32-33C.