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Category Archives: Namibia

Caprivi Strip / Zambezi Region

Just before we entered Namibia, the president announced that the names of some Namibian regions and towns were to be changed in recognition of the tribal people of Southern Africa.
Lüderitz was re-named as !Nami≠Nüs (the symbols represent different click sounds).
The Caprivi region was renamed as the Zambezi region. 

Hippos in front of campAt this point, we had to make up our mind whether to go into Botswana, then to Zambia; or cut across the formerly named Caprivi Strip to Zambia. We had heard much about Botswana and were very tempted to drop in for a couple of weeks. However, the wet was coming down from the north, and we wanted to be out of Zambia when we met it, so we chose to take the Caprivi Strip option, as we could do this faster.

Ngepi, an environmentally aware campground with imagination and a sense of humour. Bathrooms and toilets were all open air, some with themes, some with river views. We stayed 3 nights, on the 2nd morning we woke up with a family hippos out the front, who hung out there for most of the day.

Mahango National Park, a nice and very compact park. We drove all the tracks in a few hours and saw giraffe, elephants, various bocks, zebra, monkeys. This elephant showed us how he held food in an ‘elbow’ of his trunk while he took small amounts at a time to feed into his mouth.

Elephant eating snaking from his stash

Nambwa Conservacy – seemed to be popular however there are only 7 campsites, therefore pre-booking is a must! There are a number of lodges in the area that take their guests on safari drives, we did a couple of self-drives.

We spotted a hippo, which sunk down as we drove by the waterhole. We stopped the car to sneak back on foot and hid behind some bushes and trees. After a while, the hippo surfaced and walked through the water comfortably and weightlessly, unaware we were spying on him. He then turned and disappeared up a channel through the reeds. Being one of our first hippos sightings, we were pleased with our stalking.

Hippo

We also had our first Buffalo sightings but they were quite shy and kept a big distance.

Not so happy to see us!We came around a corner; up ahead was a big group of elephants next to the track. I stopped not wanting to upset the elephants. The alternative track was a long backtrack, and a long drive around. I got out to tell the South African man and son that where following behind us.

We let them go around us and they continued and drove on, pushing through them, so I followed too, hoping that we would not come around a corner to face some upset, angry elephants. There were elephants left and right standing under the trees, every corner more elephants left and right …. a big group. We drove through steadily trying not to disturb them, only one felt he had to flap his ears to scare us ….sorry elephant, it always seems to be the young boys trying to prove themselves.

HippoWe had been driving all morning so stopped for lunch at horseshoe bend where we could watch a hippo grazing on the grass a little further on.

The South Africans continued on but then returned to parked right near it. It retreated into the water. He was enjoying that grass, and waited by the edge to come back out and munch on the lovely grass again.  Eventually he did come back out after about and hour.

Meantime after our lunch a group of elephants can down to the water for a drink.  I think if we were not there they would have stayed longer to swim and play.

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We took another drive and when we came back there was a group of elephants enjoying themselves and playing in the water.

Elephants having their afternoon bathA lodge safari vehicle was driving around to them. The elephants started leaving the water and making their way up the beach to the safety of the bush. The safari vehicle raced on to cut them off. The protective elephants did their best trying to scare the car back (giving the tourists spectacular photos), and making a shield as the young elephants, babies and others passed behind. When all the elephants had passed, the car parked and the driver and tourists got out laughing their heads off – Bloody Muppets.

Elephants having their afternoon bath

On our way out another group of elephants were at the water. We stopped to wait for them to finish as the road went between them and the bush; but more groups of elephants started arriving, waiting for opportunities to have a drink. We could have been waiting for hours and hours, so we left and drove though as calmly as possible so they could drink in peace.

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2013 in Africa, Namibia

 

Number 96 – Have we hit the highlight of our trip already?

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Khaudum National Reserve was marked as a destination for us as it is said to be the wildest park in Namibia.

Lonely Planet ref: Few tourists visit Khaudum as the tracks are unmaintained, hard on the vehicle and facilities are “rudimentary”. Elephants have destroyed what look like were once nice campsites.

We only had Elephant

After coming from Etosha where the elephants are used to visitors, we had to re-adjust back to wild elephants again. We were given accounts of elephant and hyena attacks on people in the park.

The Khaudum elephants tended to move away as soon as they saw you, or let you know your presence is not appreciated. We tried to keep our distance, with an eye on escape routes, but fast exits would be impossible if trapped by thick scrub in the deep bumpy sand tracks.

To get to the park, there is a 3hr (60km) sandy track. It is soft and deep immediately as you turn off the bitumum. The deep sand tracks continue throughout the park (take plenty of fuel).

*Namibia Wildlife Resorts asks visitors to travel in a two-vehicle convoy and be self- sufficient in food, water and spares. Caravans, trailers and motorcycles are prohibited.

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We spent hours driving in the self steering sand ruts being thrown side to side to side to side, plus kangaroo hopping resembling donkey kicks when judgment or concentration lapsed.

Go slow…., try fast for a while…., try going slow again…..; it was long and hard going on the poor car.

Over the last few weeks we had driven tracks with miles of horrid Namibian bulldust, some as wide as 6 lane highways! Whilst the bull dust bogs were shorter in Khaudum, the dust plumed out from the wheels then ran down the windows like rain. Others threw dust clouds that completely blocked daylight, temporarily turning the inside of the car into darkness – wow! Extinction of the dinosaurs went through my mind.

We turned into a track, the wheel ruts were very wide and deep from trucks. Our car could only travel in one wheel rut at a time, the other wheel up on the sand mound.

This made the car lean either left or right and scratch along the bushes on the side of the track ☹. It was thick scrub so we kept going on the lean and scratching the car, Frankie said “I hope this is going to be worth it”.

Finally we came to a clearing, where we saw a helicopter. They were spotting elephants for relocation to Erindi, a private game reserve. They invited us to join them the next day to capture 2 bulls, they even brought extra fuel for us so we could join in the unexpected adventure ☺.

Khaudum National Park, with 5000 – 10,000 elephants, is overpopulated for its area. Erindi and the park have been negotiating and planning for 7 years to relocate 200 of these elephants to the game reserve.

We had to be at their base at 7am, therefore we had to leave camp at 5:30am.

Rule#1 – Do not drive in the dark – Broken.

You could see so much elephant activity in the area, I was worried we might encounter elephants on the way and be delayed, but we were lucky none were on the track at that time and we only saw 5 big hyenas. Many of the animals in this park seem to be bigger than ones we had seen in other areas.

(The elephants here are said to be the biggest in Africa. In fact, Erindi found their standard elephant transporters were not big enough to accommodate the Khaudum bulls and they lost a few days production, in the beginning, as they had to pause operations to get height extensions added to the transporters)

We travelled with Ruan, who is the game manager of Erindi. I had the best seat (but forgot my camera☹) and was sitting up front with Ruan (whoops I had pushed Paul, the owner of Erindi, into the back of the ute). Ruan was coordinating the operations, so we were the first truck in the convoy! He was like an octopus, talking back and forth to the chopper on one radio, then the other trucks on another radio, plus driving (shame I cannot understand Afrikaans).

As we were coming up the track, we could see the helicopter herding the darted bull towards the track. The elephant crossed the track and the chopper stopped him going too far, trying to keep him close to the track.

The elephant was ready to lie down so we pull off the track towards it, with all the other trucks following. The elephant had now stopped. We were first to him and parked right there and got out. Wow! He was standing there leaning backwards with his front legs out straight, slowly leaning further back more and more. We took some photos. Then he dropped to a sitting position with his front legs still straight. I wondered if they all go to sleep this way. Once he had sat down they pushed him over onto his side.

Sitting down, just before going to sleep

It was all go! Guys were clearing bushes with chainsaws, the 2 vets were attending to the bull, a stick was put in his trunk to hold it open, measurements and data was being taken, and he got “95” graffitied onto his bum. It’s a 2 crane job, the 2 cranes and a flat bed were already in position, straps were put around #95 and the 2 cranes simultaneously lifted him. The flat bed backed in and together they all skillfully positioned, lowered and laid him down so he was lying on his side, centered across the flat bed. He was tied down and Job Done!!

The largest Bull measured 3.7 meter shoulder hight and  weight 8.2 tones whilst under anaesthetic

The chopper took off to find #95’s friend. It was herding him but this time the elephant needed to lie down before they could get him close to the track so we had a bit of a bush bash to get to him.

This time Ruan pull up to the side of the elephant and jumped out. The chopper had dropped off the 2 vets and they were already attending the elephant, which was sitting in a crouching position. Ruan had put some straps around the elephant and jumped back in, he then pulled him over onto his side. Wow, everyone knows what they have to do and the team can immediately deal with every situation (Elephants have to be lying on their side or they could crush their lungs).

Same deal, the chainsaw guys were clearing, the cranes and flatbed backed into position, data recorded; #96 is lifted and expertly laid down onto the flatbed. Impressive coordination!

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With #95 and #96, the convoy was ready to make its way back to base for wake up and transfer. I was on the flat top with #96 and Maria, one of the vets. I was looking around for a secure hold for the journey, they told me it was ok to sit on him! Heheheh, I wondered if #96 would mind, and thought I’d better just lean against him to brace myself. But his body was really relaxed and wobbling so I had to be careful not to step on his ear with each bump and gear change. He was having a wonderful snooze and SNORED VERY LOUDLY all the way! Pretty funny.

Once back at base there was another display of no fuss coordination as they smoothly transferred sleeping #95 into the wake up crate. Here the vets administered the anti dote and he was helped to his feet, and then moved to a transport crate for the trip to Erindi. Same procedure for #96.

It was a sad day for the team, as Sept 30 was the last day of the relocation season as the weather starts to get too warm for the well being of the animals. The teams smooth operations had transferred 96 elephants in just 6 weeks. The only down time they had were a few days at the beginning of the season to add the height extensions to the crates. The remaining 104 elephants will be collected next season.

Number 96 coming in for relocation

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For Frankie and I, it was a privilege to watch firsthand, the professional collection of #95 and #96, and we thank Paul and the Erindi team for the extraordinary opportunity and experience.

Staff and guests of Erindi were already reporting seeing the other elephants as they were settling in well.

There has been quite some media interest about the whole project by the likes of BBC, National Geographic, etc so hopefully we may see some programs about the project.

http://www.erindi.com

DSC_0236 Big Foot

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2013 in Africa, Namibia

 

Kaokoland (Northern Namibia)

We passed through Opuwu to restock for the next 10 days or so, in Northern Namibia. There were many Himba and Herero in traditional dress going about their day, on the street, in the supermarket, stocking up on grog, carrying cases of Black Label (their preferred beer) on their head. I did not dare to take any photos.

KaokolandWe headed up to the Cunene River on the Angolan border. After being in the desert, this was very refreshing and relaxing; and having endless tap water was luxurious. A guy came around the campground looking for company to do the 4WD Riverside track, which goes to Epupa Falls. He did not get any takers; some said it was too difficult; others were not permitted to take their hire cars that way. We were doing it, but we did not want to go until 2 days later. He needed to head off the next day and was very nervous so we told him not to worry, as we would be a day or so behind him.

DSC_8690The only vehicles we did see when we did the track were a convoy of Mercedes G Wagons, 7 of them coming in the opposite direction. They were on a Mercedes event and having a GREAT time!!! And who wouldn’t! They had been flown to Epupa Falls, handed these brand new company cars, Mercedes G Wagons, no less; to bash down a 4wd track, in Northern Namibia. (Each car only had 140km on the clock and was brought to Epupa by truck. They did not have to go easy on the vehicles as Mercedes would look after any problems if something happened.

The drive takes about 6-8 hours at flower sniffing pace, we split this over two days and arrived at Epupa Falls to have another day relaxing (as with Cunene, there was no malaria, no hippos, no fishing).

Van Zyls

DSC_8915Van Zyls track is quite long, slow, rocky and bouncy, with a number of low range/ 1st, technical sections. Good ground clearance is useful. Take everything to be self sufficient.

We found rocks placed in many of the trees along the track. Not sure what it means or who does it.

The people in the campsite next to us at Epupa Falls told us they were doing the Van Zyls track as well. They took off a couple of hours ahead of us, very early the next morning. They were in a Landcruiser and a Mitsubishi (something) with independent front and rear suspension. This probably explains why we were seeing so many scrape marks on the rocks.

Around mid afternoon we had already come up behind them, the ladies were walking, guiding the cars over the rocks, they must have been doing that all the way.

They let us pass them, and said they would be camping “at the top”. We moved on slowly and within 100 meters they had already dropped behind and out of sight. Not far along was a reasonably steep rocky hill climb, with a couple of tricky technical steps right before the top. I was thinking those guys are going to be out examining this hill for a while as Frankie made a nice clean ascent straight up in our good Defender (if they could not drive their car up the last section they might have had to winch as it would be difficult to build it up, and awkward to snatch). We passed what could be “the top”, it was not obvious, but a quick check on the GPS confirmed it. There were no good spots to camp up there, certainly not for three cars, so we continued on until we found a nice area.

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Van Zyl's pass

Next morning we waited around to see if they would come by, but I think some of the sections would have put them back at least a few hours. One of the ladies would not have had a happy face with the endless bouncing and rough going.
We left after waiting an hour as we still had another tricky descent before we got to the end of the track.

DSC_8969After Van Zyls track, we could either turn right as originally planned and head back to the Cunene river along the Marienefluss; or turn left and head back into the desert – we turned left and once back in the desert, we were spotting animals again. We passed a wreck of a ute, said to have been blown up by a land mine – Not sure if it got blown up where we saw it, but I made sure I only walked where there were plenty of footprints.

 

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Out of the blue, there was a couple tricky technical sections, and one climb in particular took us by surprise. No problem, just had to drop into low range and we went straight up. A local car had been following us and when we stopped I was instantly his best friend, we had a brief chat in broken English. When we were leaving he gave me a big bear hug. I guess he was super surprised to see a girl driving up those hills.
We drove up to a marble quarry and felt the smooth, cool marble on the hot desert day.

 

One day we were driving in a riverbed and stopped to set up camp. When bush camping we make sure we get up into our roof tent soon after sunset, so before we retired we took a quick walk to see if anything was nearby. About 150m along, Frankie stopped, he heard something on the other side of the bush and suddenly we were staring at a giraffe. The poor thing got such a fright that we had crept up so close, that it took off, up onto the plains and way off into the sunset. It eventually stopped and even though it was so far away it would not take his eyes off us as we walked back to our car.

Giraffe at Sunset

Driving through the desert
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The expected elephants were not around Puros Conservancy, but we stopped to camp anyway. We had a relaxing afternoon and enjoyed the luxury of endless water on tap again. Every thing is so dusty it is nice to be able to wash your hands all the time. I also caught up with the laundry (later regretting I used so much water during our stay).
Next morning, as I was having breakfast, I saw a giraffe walk by, so I took my muesli and went to see if I could get closer. We stood staring at each other, both of us chewing our breakfasts. The nearest bush to the giraffe was 20-30 meters, so I only went as close as that bush. (I am not sure if my idea of running around the bush and keeping the bush between us, would protect from giraffe attack, if there is such a thing).
We drove through Puros town and I chatted with a local. I asked about water and he explained that the water is pumped up from the bore by solar. When the town tank is full, a bell sounds to indicate to the town residents that water will be released to their taps and they will be able to fill some containers with good clean water. I asked how long it takes to fill the tank, and depending on the weather, the tank fills approx every 3 days. I then realised that water for the locals is not endless but quite limited. I suddenly felt guilty about the amount of water I splurged for washing our clothes and to be able to feel clean again.

This was the first of the Desert Elephants we saw.

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Elephants are clever and can hid well. This fella was behind some bushes waiting for us to pass, but we spotted him before he hid, and therefore could see his tail swinging as he was waiting for us to leave. We stopped the engine and waited. In the meantime his friend also came browsing along but did not notice us. The first elephant then had to come out of hiding to be with his friend.

Etosha

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Most of our animal spotting has been while traveling along the back tracks. The animal fear factor varied a lot, depending on how many cars come by, from fleeing at first sight, to just moving away a short distance as you get close.
Then there is Etosha National Park. The animals are so used to cars that some won’t move off the road and you have to gently drive through huge herds.

 

 

Begging

We came across many Himba and a few Herero. Himba tend to come out and stand on the track with their hands out and expect you to give them something. We were told NOT to give money or food to begging children as it reinforces continued begging. Giving food is only acceptable in return for something eg they help set up your tent, or fetch water, selling handicrafts. One thing we did noticed was Himba do know what a GoPro is, and if they saw it mounted on the bull bar they would not approach to beg, they even send the children away in the opposite direction.

Himba on Cunene River Trail Herero Woman

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2013 in Africa, Namibia

 

Swakopmund to Twyfelfontein

(6/9/13 ) We spent most the day getting ready to head into the bush again.

Tap water to date has been quite varied in taste, but not too smelly or slippery like some bore waters we get in outback Australia.  Swakopmund’s town water is salty therefore we filled our tanks at, RO3 Water, a South African franchise business which processes town water through 6 treatments: sand, carbon, 5 to 1 micron filtering, Reverse Osmosis to remove the salt, UV and Ozone to kill microbes, producing great drinking water, luxurious! They also discourage continuous container disposal.

Skeleton Coast - Salt RoadRefueled, restocked and laundry up-to-date, we exited Swakopmund by the Salt Road, to head up the cold, foggy Skeleton Coast.

Ships have been coming to grief since the 1400s, and the desolate desert coast would have been a dreaded place to be stranded.

We did take a photo of a shipwreck which came aground only 5 years ago, (nobody died), but all you can see in the photo is fog.

There are many turnoffs to fishing spots. The fishing must be very good judging by the number of cars loaded up with big rods.

Salt mining still occurs. People sell Salt lumps along the side of the road ~$3 to $12 (AUD) per lump

The Seal colony was a noisy, smelly place. There was plenty of complaining with a lot of clambering over and sleeping on top of each other.

Skeleton Coast - Cape Cross

It was interesting watching what they do. Bulls were confirming their borders with the neighbouring bull. A large group of young seals (kindergarten age) had been out in the sea together. They returned and each had to find their mummy by clambering around, and calling out. As they moved around the bulls were either checking them or warning them to keep away.

We turned inland onto a corrugated track and left the cold Atlantic air and fog behind. Driving just 10 minutes inland, the fog disappears and transforms into a warm and clear day; 30 mins later we have to turn the air con on.

Lichen proliferates in the fog. The ancient Welwitschia Mirbilis plant grows in the desert river beds.

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I am lucky to have a good tour planner, this day he announces we will be having our lunch stop in a crater.

We had to drive through Mars to get there

When trip-planning Frankie also used Google Earth to select our various lunch or camping spots.

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Our lunch spot had sensational views.

Messum Crater

Back roads and small tracks are our preferred option, it is usually harder going for the car but on the plus side you might not see anyone else for days. We continued our scenic drive and onto one of Frankie’s possible camp locations. There were Aardvark burrows everywhere including right on the track. Constant concentration was required, dodging holes otherwise we’d loose a wheel.

Our camp site was in a great location and the combination of many things made me finally feel at home (ie similar to our travels in Australia). ie bush camping with no-one around, the temperature finally warm enough for me to sit around relaxed with a nice cold beverage, gazing at the amazing Rocky Mountains surrounding us, a nice hot shower in the sun.

Mt Brandberg

However in Oz, we do not have to worry about possible encounters with lion, leopards or hyenas (only crocs) so we made sure we retired to the tent early.

We should start seeing other wildlife now (other than deer) so next day it was my job to animal spot as Frankie was busy concentrating on the track, corrugations, aardvark holes and other obstacles. But for hours I could not stop gazing at the amazing mountain range of rock.

Goantagab River areaMaybe that is why we only saw 2 mountain Zebra.

Pretty awesome mountains, and so many thoughts and wonders went through my head as to how they formed and how many millions of years I could see in all the layers and weathering.

That evening we were looking for a spot to camp, following the bends up a dry river bed/canyon. Again, I was just gazing at all the amazing rocky cliffs on both sides. Another turn and then Frankie yells …… GIRAFFE!!!

…3 of them!! and zebra too. It was the first time we had seen giraffe so it was a bit of a surprise…. They were surprised too and ‘hid’ behind the trees:

We set up camp nearby and again got up into the tent soon after sunset.

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Frankie could hear zebra snorting all night, and in the morning we missed a wonderful “bedshot” of a Zebra who was staring straight at us from the top of a hill with the bright pink sun rising right next it. Oh well, it was an amazing site, so now we have to take the camera to bed with us.

There are many rock art sites and we went to the Brandberg White Lady and Twyfelfontein carvings

Twyfelfontein

Namibiam architeture is pretty stylish. The eco-designed building at Twyfelfontein was made from recycled materials and looked very cool. 44gal drums were used to make the rippled roof and the drum lids were used in the walls. It was a very hot day and no energy was required to keep it amazingly cool inside.

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Camp grounds in many of the Namibian lodges are also very stylish using nice wood, stone and/or reed features, making it feel more like “glamping”. Outdoor loos and showers with views are not uncommon.

Our journey continued north towards Kaokoland.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2013 in Africa, Namibia

 

Luderitz to Swakopmund

30/8/13 Back to the coast, diamond areas and the cold Atlantic of Luderitz. The town’s campsite is right at the end of the point, absolute prime real estate, however quite exposed for camping and our down jackets were unpacked again for the cold night air.

Luedritz

All is good if you can get out of the wind, with some German food and German beer that’s cheaper than in Germany, (disappointing for a coastal town, the fish dish was inedible).

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Luderitz is in a super windy area, also chosen for the windsurfing speed record attempt. We stumbled across the trench where the record was broken at 52knots last year! (or around 100km)?

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Diamond mining still occurs in the area and just offshore; however Kolmanskop is now a ghost town. We wandered in and out of many buildings, most now filled with sand.

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Back inland to Aus, where there were hundreds of horses sleeping and standing outside the ladies toilets. The Sperrgerbiet (forbidden diamond areas) ran on both side of the road all the way from Luderitz.

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Sossesvlai 3/9/13
Stunning scenery and Number 1 attraction of Namibia. The sunrise climb is the thing to do. Tick. (See pics in photo galley)

There are 3 areas with giant granite monoliths. We did two. The campsite was a couple km from a uranium mine, which proudly sponsor the campground’s garbage service! The noises from 24hr/day digging and trucks moving around carried in the night air.

Blutkuppe - Granite Monolithlooking up,DSC_8096 looking down to camp.

4/9/13

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Swakopmund - Skeleton Coast

Swakopmund, a town which is more German than Germany. Finally fresh seafood, properly cooked steaks, and fantastic groceries again! Makes the cold foggy climate very bearable.

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Fairy Rings – These bald spots in the grasses of Namibia are unexplained and cover vast areas.

IMG_3285 Not much rain for Solitaire

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Posted by on September 6, 2013 in Namibia

 

South Namibia

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DSC_733825/8/13 Across the Orange River was Namibia, with amazing landscapes deserts, spectacular mountains, lunar scapes and mars scapes.

I thought we had driven to Mars when we were heading into Ai Ais hot springs resort. We had a soak in the hot pools and walked to a lookout with stunning views.

Fish River Canyon

27/8/13 Fish river canyon – again, more spectacular views.

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We crossed paths with Charlie Boorman motorbike tours twice that day. They pull into Ai Ais for morning tea, and later into Fish River Canyon. He was not scared of messing around on the very edge of the cliff. They were going to be in Victoria Falls in 6 days. We will take around 6 weeks to get there.

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We stopped well back from the cliff edge for all of our photos.

DSC_744328/8/13 We were passing the LR repairer Johan Strauss of Steinfeld Garage, so dropped by to replace a worn shock bush. Wow, what a stunning property, and he also has a canyon (with descent 4wd tracks as we discovered). We passed Johan on his way to a job, on the 5km drive to the house; his assistant Korvas sorted us out and then suggested we take a drive around the property to kill an hour or so; by then Johan should be back so we could pay.

DSC_7461He gave us no warning but I would suggest not to head down into the canyon unless 4wd experienced: technical, rocky, low range 1st, with some track rebuild required; some unexpected fun. (When driving gets interesting, it becomes my turn and I push Frankie out of the drivers seat to take photos). We continued for a few kms along their fence line (the property seemed endless), time was passing, so we turned around to return to the house, down and up the canyon again.

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Other common scenes of South Namibia:

Social Weaver Birds Nest

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Social Weavers build large nests in many trees (or here a telegraph pole). They are very busy flying in and out, threading straw into the nest like thatched roofs.

We try to make friends with small creatures.

There are many Quiver tree “forests”. They are actually not trees but aloe plant.

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Posted by on August 29, 2013 in Africa, Namibia