A Travellerspoint blog

Day Twenty – Defacing National Treasures

12th October 2011

sunny 38 °C

In nearby Twyfelfontein sits one of the largest collections of San rock art in Africa. The San are a nomadic ‘tribe’ of Africans who have roamed southern Africa for millennia. Subsistence by nature they lived from the barren land around them hunting for meat and leather and harvesting what they could from the earth. The rock art itself comes in two forms; carved or painted. We’d seen several paintings already in the Drakensberg mountains in Kwa-Zulu Natal but here the medium was predominantly carvings in the sandstone rock that surrounded us.

Some of these carvings are very old, the bone tools used to create them have been carbon dated at 6000 years old. It’s believed that they were largely created by the Sangomas or ‘medicine men.’ These sangomas were able to enter into a trance-like state for hours, they believed that they could call upon the spirits of the animals and their ancestors, asking them to bring the rains and along with them survival. In the Drakensberg we’d been told that these trance like states were achievable because the medicine men were normally smoking Dagga (pronounced Dacha, it’s marijuana.) In Twyfelfontein we were told that the sangomas just concentrated really hard to the same effect. Whether they were high or just ‘focusing really hard,’ they carved images into the rocks that are still visible today.

We arrived at the rock art centre at around 9am which was a little late as now the sun was warming up to full baking ferocity. The white bodies of the Germans in our tour group shimmered with excess sun lotion as we followed our guide like lambs, questions arose and were answered by our expert local. As she described how Twyfelfontein obtained its name, doubtful spring, she repeated its name in, Oshivambo , the local language. At this point Kraut number 4 piped up, “Are you able to zpeak ze local language?” We cringed with embarrassment for the entire German nation as our guide politely explained that she’d been born down the road and was able to speak Oshivambo, Nama and Herrero. She was also fluent in German but English was a universal language that was understood by 90% of visitors to the site and so that was the language she’d chosen.
At this point it is only fair to add that representatives of the good old U, S of A had been observed at the entrance gates pointing a camera at their guides face. The camera had been positioned deep into those boundaries of ‘personal space’ as the Americans told their guide to speak ######## and make as many of the clicking noises as possible.

As we were shown around, the heat was phenomenal. Water leaked from every pore of our bodies like we were no longer waterproof. At a convenient pause whilst we waited for Kraut number 11 to finish photographing a dancing kudu, Emma took a seat and Laura and I had a refreshing slug of 30 degree mineral water. Number 11 duly arrived and disingenuously apologised but still the guide paused. Only now she was looking at Emma. A couple of uncomfortable seconds passed as the group slowly refocused and saw a herd of small antelope galloping from beneath Dr. Alsops’ left buttock. A herd of 6000 year old small antelope. To be precise.

After our morning in Twiffle we had a drive to get to Outjo, the stepping stone to Etosha National Park and home of a superb German bakery. We stuffed ourselves with strudel and hit the road to find a spot to camp.

I’d been getting steadily itchier feet about paying N$70 per person for camp sites given we have months yet to travel and a budget that won’t get any bigger. There was also a certain romance to be had from ‘bush camping’ under the stars. I scoured the map for some likely spots, finally settling on a salt pan 80kms away. We nomads departed Outjo in search of a place to lay our heads.

Thirty kilometres along the road to Etosha there was a flash of colour from the side of the road accompanied by a soft thud as a Lilac Breasted Roller snapped its stunningly beautiful neck on the left upright of Redvers’ windscreen. We stopped, I’ll tell you why shortly, and saw this most beautiful of creatures lying softly, wings spread across the dry grass. I can honestly say I was gutted. Somers had a look on her face like I’d just stabbed an elephant to death. There were limited paths we could take from this point, but the one we were to take had been prearranged several weeks ago with one Spike Milligan. I was bound. I had given my word. Anything we killed in the road we would eat. Children are a grey area.
We were back on the road with a fair sized Lilac Breasted Roller now stuffed into a plastic bag behind the cubby box. Away from the main road we scouted potential Plan B camp sites as we closed in on our pan.

It soon became clear that the pan was on private property. We drove up a long driveway flanked by five metres of bush either side before a fence and then bush as far as we could see. At the end of the driveway we found a set of huge ten feet high gates bounding the property, a chain and padlock signalled no one was home. This driveway would be our home for the evening.

We struck camp behind some tall bush so as not to be seen. I began preparing our feast. Plucked, gutted, beheaded and de-footed, our prize looked like a miniature roast chicken. I duly seasoned the beast with some crushed rock salt and black pepper and stuffed her with a slice of lemon. She was wrapped in tinfoil with a little oil and roasted for 20 minutes before having her skin bronzed on the braai.

The Roller was ready. I took off the legs and carved the breasts into three tiny mouthfuls each. I served the breasts to Em and Laura who looked just like television presenters asked to eat something they already knew they wouldn’t like. They nibbled, I’ve seen mice take bigger mouthfuls. I ate one leg and then the other, finishing the breasts for good measure and washing them down with a stiff gin and tonic. The gin helped. Being a little insect eater our Roller was never going to taste like grain-fed organic chicken. It didn’t matter. Spike would be proud.

Posted by ibeamish 10:05 Archived in Namibia Comments (0)

Day nineteen – Wild Rhino and contentment

11th October 2011

sunny 35 °C

Waking in Ugab Camp was an absolute pleasure. As we opened the roof top tent the sun rising sun set the hills on fire, bright burning orange. Guinea fowl wandered the camp scratching for breakfast whilst, in order to shower, we collected our hot water from oil drums turned on their side with a fire burning beneath them. From there we took our pail of hot water over to a frame from which was strung a steel bucket with a shower head attached through its’ bottom. Fill up your bucket, pull it up, open the tap, and have a ‘nature shower’ with only a fine reed screen to avoid embarrassment.

We spent the day 4x4ing across the mountains from the Ugab rhino camp to our destination at a community camp site near Twyfelfontein. The route took us through old mining camps, along river beds and past craters. The heat soared into the high thirties and Redvers trundled on up precipitous shale tracks always managing to find purchase somewhere. We were driving through the open country, no national park restrictions; this was country without fences. En route we saw genuinely wild giraffe, herds of zebra running across the endless mountain flanked plains and, the absolute tip of the iceberg, a solitary male black rhino, one of around a hundred that live in as the largest wild herd in Africa.

The journey was mostly a comedy because Emma was sat in the back, effectively on a wooden box. She had no seatbelt and was surrounded by a number of loose objects of varying size, shape and sharpness. As we bounced up and down, shunted one way and then another, Emma had to balance on her bottom with arms and legs in four different directions to restrain the cargo as we dealt with the terrain of the Damaraland wilderness. The end of the journey was marked by the Organ Pipes, a less than mind blowing, but none the less ‘nice’ rock formation in one of the valleys: think Giants Causeways’ runty sibling in a desert. (Lonely Planet probably quotes them as being, ‘out of this world must see rock formations that leave the viewer in awe.’)

I’m now sat cross legged on a small rock. A circle of stones in front of me contains the glowing coals whose heat and flames are cooking an entire chicken, a few mushrooms, peppers and some corn and a little clever seasoning. The smell is making my stomach rumble. The post sunset glow casts its hue over our camp whilst the barking geckos are just starting to cackle for a mate (the sound is not so far from a laughing Gordon The Gopher if anyone remembers Going Live...) and a gentle warm breeze is blowing across the camp. It’s about 28 degrees now the sun has gone down, Miss Somers and Miss Alsop are sat reading, we have cold beers in our hands and there are more in the fridge. If you’re not jealous then now is the time...

Posted by ibeamish 10:02 Archived in Namibia Comments (0)

Day Eighteen – The Skeleton Coast and ‘Ra’ is a word

10th October 2011

sunny 32 °C

Last nights’ fish was Kabeljou (cod) we eventually discovered as Manuel was relieved from duty by someone who bore no resemblance to Basil Fawlty whatsoever.

Today was Skeleton Coast day. The barren desert stretching from The Swakop River in the South to the Kunene River in the North. The Benguela current rips up the Atlantic Ocean bringing rich pickings for the sea life to feast upon. The sun bears down on everything out with the ocean, as the wind incessantly whips across the dust removing all moisture from the earth. Its barren, occasional patches of lichen survive with tufts of only the hardiest grass and an occasional Welwitschia plant (believed to live up to 1000 years!) The salt pans are the reason anyone lives here and we did our bit by purchasing a large lump of crystalised pure rock salt from an honesty stall at the side of the road. (Imagine the advert: This isn’t just salt, this is finest Namibian Rock Salt hand crafted by the hands of the indigene on the Skeleton Coast in South Western Africa and it tastes like no other salt, oh hang on, yeah it does taste salty...)

This coastline has become the graveyard of many things, but shipwrecks in particular were to be my focus. Somers and Em were still to be convinced but we had time. Over the past three centuries a job lot of ships and their ill fated crews have come to an end on the shallow and rocky shores of the Skeleton Coast, the chances of survival, with no fresh water for hundreds of kilometres and very little to eat were minimal. Many of the wrecks have disintegrated back to the earth, others are buried in the dunes and others are rusting hunks of brittle iron submerged by the tide twice daily.

The first of these wrecks was that of an Angolan fishing boat. It was already scrap metal in 2008 as it was being towed back from Walvis Bay in Namibia to Angola. The tow rope snapped and the boat washed ashore. The Angolans still want it back but the Namibians aren’t soft and are convinced the white man will come to look at wrecks and bring with him the dollar. As I took photos I wondered what kind of tourist comes to look at ship wrecks. The second was a ship called Winston, wrecked in 1970 and there wasn’t too much left, you could make out his shape, some large cogs and docking points and a whole world of rust. The third and sadly final wreck was entitled ‘Unkown wreck to the north of Winston.’ If you can imagine a large rusted iron box with holes in it, stranded on the shores edge with baking hot sun shining down then close your eyes and you could be there too. (I think she’s mostly under the sand so we were only getting the top deck.) Dead seals littered the coast line, their skins preserved in the sun and sand with only bright white teeth left looking healthier than they had been in life.

From here we turned in land. Across the salt pans and finally toward the rocky hills of the Ugab River valley. The grass started to appear after 20kms or so and the road turned into a 4x4 track winding through steep sided rocky hills. The hills themselves appeared like crystalised sedimentary rock turned almost on end. The lines formed by the different layers running uip the hills were extraordinary.
The road continued and our doubts regarding our route increased until we rounded a corner and entered a clearing flanked on all sides by these sedimentary mountains. There were only two vehicles camping at the Ugab Rhino Conservation hut and we were first there. It was a truly remarkable location. I climbed up the hill that our camp spot backed onto for a view of our clearing. Three valleys led into the one area, but there was only one way in and out. Spectacular.

We had our inaugural game of travel scrabble. The rules meant that the word had to be in our travel dictionary, this turned out to be a complete pain in the a?$e as our dictionary only has about fifteen and a half words in it. Emma won by a short head, Laura was second and I came last. Although I’m not at all bitter or annoyed, and definitely not still reeling from defeat, I’m buying a full Oxford Complete English Dictionary the next chance I get, we’ll strap it to the roof.

Posted by ibeamish 09:14 Archived in Namibia Comments (0)

Day Seventeen – Sandy pants and what is the Fish of the Day?

9th October 2011

semi-overcast 27 °C

We woke up and started talking to each other using words like ‘dude,’ ‘awesome’ and ‘far out.’ If I could have grown my hair a few inches, tanned overnight, gained a chromosome and taken back a weeks’ worth of showers I could have not just looked the part, I could have been it.

But we are tourists, we are British and we have never sand boarded before. So we got our excitement fix by talking in politely excited but hushed tones as we drove out into the Namib desert toward Dune 7. Not surprising really that, rather than name things after national artists, engineers and philanthropists, the Germans simply numbered everything. ‘Vee av six dunes already, vee shall call zis... Dune 7.’ Emma and Laura hadn’t snowboarded before. Even though I had, the nerves were still there, no one wants to be the nonce on the video that fell over first go!

We climbed Dune 7, boards in hand and I quickly became an out of breath sweaty mess. (The ladies perspired gently but otherwise continued to smell of flowers.) Thank God it was overcast because we’d have probably shrivelled up and died otherwise.

Emma and Laura were getting their first lesson of sorts as I attempted my first run, I think I got away without falling though I definitely lacked style. Somers and Em began their first descents with a grace and deftness only accomplished by an English Lady. Without being able to turn they both headed diagonally for the edge of the dune and off into the Namib Desert somewhere. Attempt two was always going to be the real moment where both had to commit to a turn. (For those who don’t snowboard imagine sliding down a hill with an ironing board strapped to your feet. If you face downward, board across the slope, then as long as you keep those toes up you’ll carry on sliding. The higher you lift your toes the slower you go. But turning means getting onto your heels and that’s where the problem comes.) Somers put in a great turn but those toes dropped slightly at the end. As they dug into the dune, the board stopped dead. Somers’ body jerked from her ankles all the way up through her belly, neck and finally her head as she was thrown face first down the hill. I’m not sure which bit of her hit the sand first but from where I stood it looked like her whole body landed at once. From my position halfway up the ridge at the side of the dune I doubled over in stitches as a flustered Somers sat up with half a grin and started wiping sand from her mouth!

Back at the top, because I’m a boy, I’d seen the jump and thought why not. We were being videoed continuously and no one likes a show off but everyone loves a good crash. True to form I ended up with a very sore bottom from landing on it repeatedly. On the slope Emma was now putting in some sweet turns but had yet to muster any real pace in doing so!

Next was the chance to lie flat on a board and go head first straight down the steepest dune. We lay down and pushed off plummeting downwards. We were hitting 74kmh, as proved by their radar gun, as we flew down the dune. Occasionally and very accidently we let a knee slip off the board to get an idea of what a belt sander feels like on your knee caps. It hurts.

Dinner was had in the faithful tug boat restaurant bar from the previous evening. Here Somers enquired as to the nature of the ‘ocean fresh line fish.’ Our skilled waiter informed her that it was a “fresh fish from the ocean.” “Oh,” replied Somers, “What type of fish is it today?” “It’s a very nice fish madam,” he replied. At this point we were entering Faulty Towers territory, and before Somers could ask whether the fish had a name, a next of kin or any views on the politics of overfishing, we all burst out with a previously well stifled snigger.
Our waiter couldn’t ignore this outburst and asked us not be rude as he was still in his ‘experience’ phase and he still had to learn. Back in our boxes we sat quietly still contemplating what exactly todays’ fish might be.

Posted by ibeamish 09:03 Archived in Namibia Comments (0)

Day Sixteen – Alsop Aboard and Desert Adrenaline

8th October 2011

sunny 19 °C

This morning was different. We were going to have a new friend, our threesome was going to become a foursome, and we had to set off early to collect Emma from the airport. We did a quick tour of Windhoek allowing Emma to buy a 50% life size wooden replica of a hippo crafted over seven years from fifteen trees by indigenous tribesmen who have never seen a ‘white devil’ before. All at 50% discount from the start price.

We had a days’ drive to get to the coast at Swakopmund ready for massive adrenaline thrills and everything else they promise in the old German town on the coastal edge of a desert. We’d planned a ‘road less travelled’ route through the desert to get there but 40kms in we had to perform an about turn after reading in the Lonely ‘I made this book up and everything is totally amazing’ Planet, that our campsite was in a US$50 per person per day national park with a campsite fee of US$100 plus 7 quid per person! I think they may have trained Springbok serving you their own fillets for that price but I can’t be sure. Like I said, we performed an about turn and hit the main road for Swakopmund.

Five 90kmh hours later we arrived at the Desert Sky Backpackers. We booked our sand boarding adrenaline hit for the next morning and went out for a beer. The public house of choice was a converted tug boat, now incorporated into a building on land that served Camelthorn beer from a local microbrewery. That ticked several boxes.

Posted by ibeamish 08:59 Comments (0)

Day Fifteen – General Sir Redvers’ Entry into Namibia

7th October 2011

sunny 35 °C

Day Fifteen – General Sir Redvers’ Entry into Namibia 7th October 2011
We awoke in the Cardboard Box Backpackers in Windhoek. Today we had to register Redvers, he was still an alien as far as our Carnet goes.
Our Carnet (Carnet Du Passage En Douanes) is a vehicle customs document issued by the British RAC that needs signing into and out of a country. It is bound by a huge sum of money so that if we leave Redvers behind (not possible, we’ll lose limbs first) or sell him illegally (in exchange for a stuffed Kudu with a beaded blanket and fake Nikes) the po-leece can hunt us down like wild dogs and retrieve their coveted dollars. If, at the end of our adventure we are missing an in or out stamp for any country we’re liable for up to 800% of Redvers’ value. We will buy donkeys and camels and have him dragged home if necessary, that, or bury him at sea with his chassis and VIN numbers filed off.

Anyway so our border crossing had rendered us without an entrance stamp and that made us worry lots. But we were the dream team, only ten minutes of the morning had gone by and we had an address for the customs office in town, our papers were ready and we were eating pancakes at the bar.

Office Number One; we cruised into town like locals and pulled up outside the Nambian Customs Office. After speaking with the car guard we went inside. There we met a lovely lady who explained politely that although we were in a customs office, it wasn’t the customs office that deals with carnets. That office was at the railway station. Ten minutes of directions ensued roughly equating to left out the door, right, second right and it’s on your right, an elaborate map drawing session and an absolute peach of a ‘wig scratching moment’ and we were back on the road. (Most black ladies in offices seem to have wigs. Their heads are shaved and atop their bonce is a perfectly styled, straight haired nylon accoutrement, often requiring a double take to be completely sure of. Only one look is required however, when the lady decides to scratch her head in front of you and the hair-piece suddenly stands up like a cat in front of the fire, moves left, moves right, and then repositions itself in a slightly squiffy position on the side of her head. My open mouth and slight lean forward only lacked an eye rub to make it any more obvious.

Office Number Two; we accidently knocked on a private import and customs clearing agents’ door. After explaining we were in the wrong office, the young lady proceeded to lock up and walk us to the actual office we were looking for on the other side of the railway! The Namibian government must be organising PR lessons in schools as we haven’t met an unhelpful Namibian yet!

Office Number Three; as we explained our story for a third time, the lady clasped her head in both hands and said she had no idea what we were talking about. Why I oughta... I restrained myself and careful coercion led her to reveal that there was another office but she didn’t know where it was. As if it had been pre-rehearsed, we both slumped lazily and explained that if she didn’t know, we had no chance and this was the third customs office today, we’d have to wait at her desk until she found out. Ninety seconds later she had explained where the office was and how to get there. Sweet.

Office Number Four; as a precaution, at the Mata-Mata border coming in to Namibia we ensured the immigration guy stamped our carnet so as to semi-officiate our entry. We arrived at our next office and were directed deeper into the lions’ den to another desk where we met three ladies (all wigged up to the max) and a guy. This was the correct office! Inside we rejoiced, but only briefly. Relieved we handed over our carnet, he opened it up and his face dropped. “Someone has signed my space,” he said. Wholly Jebus Son of Crikey screamed my eyes as my mouth managed, “Can’t you just sign next to it?”
No, apparently, “I’ll have to start another page,” said Captain Useful. “We have 25 pages and potentially that many countries to enter so that’s not gonna be a plan,” said I.
“Just sign it and it’ll be our problem at the border won’t it,” piped up Miss Somers with complete authority and perfect timing. Our man may as well have staggered backwards, he was out with an almighty left hook that he never saw coming, and there was no coming back. “Err ok,” he said as he signed us off. Redvers was in!
We wandered around Windhoek for the afternoon, visited Zoo Park where we were accosted by two dudes looking for ‘sponsorship’ for a display they wanted to put on about the torrid past of South West Africa (now known as Namibia.) We listened intently to their history lesson. Howeverwe knew there would be compensation anticipated for this time they were giving us. We had three options, one was to tell them all about the little guy in Pella who stole our 40p. The second was to get all ‘Dragons Den’ and ask about feasibility, projected costs and potential returns. And the third, which we opted for, was to tell them we were living in a Cardboard Box and there was no money for it. Back to the backpackers...

Posted by ibeamish 08:56 Archived in Namibia Comments (0)

Day Fourteen – Tropical Hypochondriac

6th October 2011

sunny 34 °C

As the day dawned, life was a little better. A distinct tension still hung in the air broken only by monosyllabic interludes between the Beamish and Somers camps. We were however functional, Redvers too, despite the fact that I could still see where a nut used to be and could see up into the gear box. The morning routines completed, we were in Mariental and already the shelves of supermarkets look like heaven after five days without a major town. Meat and booze were the principal orders but crisps, chocolate and fizzy drinks also featured. Phone cards, Stanley knives and various viscosities of Redvers fluid completed the morning.

To the garage with Redvers. A long story short, the missing bolt is from the inspection inlet to the gear box. Redvers doesn’t need it and won’t bleed from it. I’m now a Land Rover hypochondriac. Best result really.

The afternoon drive to Windhoek took us across the Tropic of Capricorn, apart from it being a line of latitude somewhere around 23 or 24 degrees south; we’re not entirely sure what it’s for. We posed like Muppets under the sign anyway because it seemed like the right thing to do.

Police Engagement #4 occurred on the Windhoek city limits. What a terribly nice chap! A tall dude of medium build with a big smile and an animated personality, who actually just wanted to say hello. He also taught us, ‘How are you?’ and ‘Thankyou.’ I stopped short of offering him a beer but the thought was there and that is what counts.

Posted by ibeamish 08:53 Archived in Namibia Comments (0)

Day Thirteen - Punctures and Persistance

5th October 2011

sunny 30 °C

The alarm screeched at 5.25am, I’d foolishly left it in the hood of my sleeping bag, right next to my ear. We woke up, in Botswana! If yesterday was anything to go by then today had to be a belter. We packed and left before dawn. With no accommodation booked in Mata Mata we were chancing our luck to see if they could sort something out by the time we got there. We spent a few hours driving, the pick of the sightings being a Carmine Bee-eater, which must have been lost because the book says it’s not a frequent flyer down here. (We’re now casual bird geeks.)

We got to Mata Mata and once again found no room at the inn. Despite the fact that, spacially at least, the camp was not full we were told we couldn’t stay. Namibia would have to come a day early.

Namibian customs, our first border entry, went like a dream. Tick, tick, Somers and I were in. The only problem was that there was no customs official based at Mata Mata so Redvers needed checking in at Customs in Windhoek. Whoop bloody whoop. We’ll do it before we collect Emma in Windhoek on Saturday. They’ve given us a 90 day visa, if customs officials are anything like South African bureaucracy we may need it.

The 300kms to our stopover at Mariental went reasonably but for our first puncture. We fixed it ourselves with our ‘snot-worm’ kit and carried on. NB. Tyre repair ticked on our list of ‘things to do.’

As we got to the campsite at Hardup dam near Mariental, we were tired and it was getting dark. The polite lady told us there was no room. A dam, surrounded by fields with no room for a car and a tent. “There are 20 campsites and they’re all taken,” she stated in plain monotone. This despite the guidebook saying that the campsite offers no running water or electricity and therefore only space is required to ‘offer’ a campsite. It was full up. The minions on gates have no power they just learn the rules and enforce them. We borrowed a mobile phone (sat phone sim card has been lost by the courier somewhere...) and found another campsite 50kms away who had space. We traveled, we arrived. The lady is lovely, genuinely, the place is/will be amazing when it’s finished. But for now we have marble and zebra skins adorned campsite bathroom!

We are exhausted, we’ve covered over 500kms in 16 hours, cleared our first real border, been in four campsites in three countries and my evening inspection under Redvers revealed he has lost the drain plug for his gearbox and has no, zero, nada, gear box oil left. We’re in Namibia, in a luxury campsite under construction with a stationary vehicle and tired bodies.

Morale is low. Tomorrow will be better.

Posted by ibeamish 23:04 Archived in Namibia Comments (0)

Day Twelve - Don't piss on the cheetah

4th October 2011

sunny 28 °C

Up at 5.30 and out by 6. And boy was it worth it! After an hour we came across some stationary cars who had heard there were cheetahs nearby. At this point they were nowhere to be seen. The convoy trundled onwards until suddenly the lead car stopped. Twenty yards in front of him was a female cheetah. Suddenly along side the 6 or 7 cars appeared four fairly mature cubs wandering along after mum. We were the last car, and while everyone in front took amazing pictures of super close cats we were watching a small child smash a plastic dinosaur against the window of his fathers’ Toyota Hilux. Grrrrrrr. We thought about overtaking and cutting in but being that we’re British we thought twice.

After ten minutes the cats had all scarpered to our right and into the bush. One appeared fifty metres away and I began snapping away. As I took grainy and blurred pictures at full zoom I heard a rustling immediately in front of the drivers’ door. As I lowered my camera there was the mother creeping through the thicket! So close that my camera couldn’t focus! Somers performed similarly trying to view the cat through the binoculars before realising they were wholly unnecessary! The cheetah trotted around behind us as one by one her cubs followed her. Mum was hunting! Crouching she moved forward one paw carefully placed after another. All the time less than 6 feet from Redvers. Suddenly her focus changed as there was a series of loud barks from across the river. Two black backed jackals came running across to confront her; she didn’t want a fight, the hunt had been scuppered and diplomacy required a tactical retreat. There we sat watching her and her cubs sitting, watching, about 30 metres from us.

Around this time Laura revealed that she had needed the loo for some time and, if she waited any longer, may spring a leak. What a pleasure for us blokes, in the most trying of circumstances we can whip it out and the jobs a good’un. Somers however was more than aware of both her limitations as a lady and the hungry cats’ just metres from us. She searched for a vessel. That vessel came in the form of a tall coffee mug. I’ll save the vivid descriptions of a perched Somers desperately trying not to spill a drop but suffice to say, twice I opened the door, and twice the thirsty sands of the Kalahari received a full cup.

We made it back to the main gate by lunch to arrange our first border crossing. (The Kgalgadi becomes one huge no mans land if you choose to go through customs at its gate.) We sailed through but with no space in the South Africa camp site we booked a spot in the more basic Botswana site (no water, no lights, no electricity, come to think of it no actual site to camp other than a bush filled field.) We were out of SA and wanted to head for Namibia but you can camp in Botswana without officially crossing the border.)

Later on, news of a lion meant we drove for our lives along the Nossob river to Kij Kij waterhole. We found him and watched him sleep as the sun set. It was approaching 6pm and our camp gates closed at 7 meaning our maths was put to the test. What’s the shortest amount of time required to cover 37kms without breaking the legal speed limit of 50kph whilst still ensuring you see the lion stand up, roar, chase its dinner, reproduce and make cute cat faces? We stayed until ten past and then legged it.

Posted by ibeamish 23:01 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Days Ten and Eleven - Just Another Day in the Desert

2nd and 3rd October 2011

We spent day ten driving up the bed of the River Nossob. It gets wet once in a blue moon, by that I mean the last time you could get your knees wet while stood in it was 2000 and before that was 1974! We saw plenty of game but no cats. Braai, beer, bed.
Day eleven was the jopurney from Nossob to Mata Mata. Another pleasant day. We saw Red Hartebeest, Wildebeest, Kori bustards (the heaviest flying bird on the planet,) Ostrich and eighteen chicks (even heavier but no flying,) another mummy cheetah with her ‘yoofs’ and a whole load of Gemsbok. (Super-cool looking, swash buckling Samurai style warrior beasties that act a bit like horses with five foot javelins super glued onto their heads.)
Another swim, another braai, another beer and five days of journal caught up on.

Posted by ibeamish 22:57 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Day Nine - Off for a safari in the Kalahari

1st October 2011

sunny 30 °C

We hit the road early doors and stopped briefly in Upington for two things, 1.) our new security system. (A motion sensor that sets off an alarm when you move in front of it, we’ll leave it in the car to scare burglars away, its not attched to anything and its barely audible outside of the vehicle, can’t see how it can fail really...) and 2.) some feather pillows. Fan dabi dozy!

Next stop the Kalahari. Pulled a beauty to get 66% off everything we do for the next four days, I told them my new South African ID number. It was new because I made it up five seconds after they told me the difference in price between South Africans and Brits, and two seconds before they asked me what nationality I was. Easy peasy. Feeling flush, we booked an evening game drive and hit the pool for an hour or so. Then we went to get the beers in.

So there we are, all lazy from chilling by the pool; sauntering, beers under arm, around the reserve shop with our wads of cash that we’d saved at the gate, when an ornately painted ostrich egg should catch my gaze and draw me in. I reached out and as I picked it up, didn’t notice the string attached to it. The same string that also happened to be looped around another, equally ornate and horribly fragile, candle holder. As soon as I’d knocked it, my spider senses kicked in. Aware that my arms were full (beer in one, egg in the other) I put my delicate right foot out to break the candle holders’ fall and maybe even gently ‘keepy-up’ it back onto its’ shelf. The lethargy however, and the fact my timing is only ever good during one in ten attempts, ensured that today I met that candle holder fully on the toe. It didn’t break at my feet, it went like a rocket across the shop floor behind the till point, through the cashiers legs and into the wall where it shattered. Not being sure whether to laugh or cry, I giggled and then apologised weakly. “You braik it, you bai it,” said the Dutch chick behind the counter. My smile disappeared. Five awkward minutes later, I’d explained to the shop manager about increasing profitability through sensible stacking policies. We had our beers, we’d outstayed our welcome.

Two lions, one mummy cheetah and three ‘ickle ones, a jackal, a few spotted owls and job lot of springbok and we’d finished the drive. No braai tonight though. Beer, pasta and pesto seasoned with sand.

Posted by ibeamish 22:55 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Day Eight - Broken principles and Augrabies Falls

30th September 2011

sunny 29 °C

Day 8 Broken principles and Augrabies Falls 30/09/11
Today was a good day we were heading to some super cool water falls and on the way found a little village where, just under a hundred years ago, some missionaries had decided to build a small cathedral based on some pictures they’d seen in a book.

As a prologue to the next bit, so far Somers and I have been ‘tight’ with the locals. Every kid, and a quite a few oldies, has their hand out. Be it ‘Give me money’ or ‘Give me something,’ they all want. Everything we’ve heard and read says don’t, and I agree. The poorer folk of these places can’t rely on handouts and must realise that they must enter the modern market place. I’m a white guy in Africa with a half empty land rover. Offer me tat and I’ll probably buy three, beg and I’ll look you in the eye and politely say no. So far I haven’t dispensed with a begging penny.

And then we pulled into Pella, home of the village cathedral. We were a little bit unsure of where this great structure was, despite the size of the village and the lack of two storey buildings to obscure the view. Anyway, a long story short, a kid came over and told us. He also explained where the Orange River was and then sold me down it with a story about him playing rugby with his mates and his team desperately saving up for a kit. We gave him five rand (40p.) He asked for more, and said we had to give his mate the same too. Laura asked him whether he’d like to say thank you. He said nothing as he threw a wicked look, turned and walked away. We were gutted that we’d broken our rule.
(As a footnote, there are three, beggars not ‘ Pellatians,’ in Liverpool that I used to see regularly, they would all say please, they would all say thank you and they'd normally tell you a joke too. If we all team up, and get the three of them over here for a seminar, we could end world poverty...)

We got to Augrabies Falls in the afternoon. We had a swim in the pool, braai’d, drank beers and watched the sunset on the falls, as the dassies (80%guinea pig, 10% rat, 10% beaver) mooched on the rocks.

Posted by ibeamish 12:06 Archived in South Africa Comments (1)

Day Seven - Driving (forever)

29th September 2011

sunny 27 °C

Day 7 Driving (forever) 29/09/11
We drove, for seven hours, to Springbok. We did pass Namaqualand but we were too late in the year for the big ‘flower season,’ we got the idea though.

Posted by ibeamish 11:59 Comments (0)

Day Six - Swimming with sharks (almost)

28th September 2011

snow -13 °C

Today was a day of sorting stuff out. We had some shopping to do. We were in desperate need of a few things including guide books, a camping mat and most importantly, travel scrabble. A Swahili speaking chap in Kenya beat Oli and I in 1993. Revenge is best served cold and he has no idea we’re coming...

With boring stuff done Emma asked would I like to go for a swim. At this point I'll introduce you all to Emma Alsop,vet extraordinaire. We lived with Emma in Durban before she moved to the McVeigh practice in the cape. Apart from being a vet and an awesome laugh, she swims for fun in some of the most shark infested waters in the world. Not only that, she breaks world records in doing so, recently knocking half an hour off the previous world record for swimming from Cape Town to Robben Island (Mandelas’ old haunt) and back. That’s about 16kms without a wetsuit through water that gets to 9oC and a place that Great White sharks call home (and dinner time apparently.) In my book that means she’s a world record holding mentalist so the invite couldn’t be refused really.

I got my trunks out (shorts, don’t get excited) and Emma had lent me a fetching red cap. At this point I should probably announce that the same morning a guy got eaten by a shark in Muizenberg. That’s not as far away as I'd have liked but did add some intredipidity to the affair. This was it... Emma had chosen Clifton beach, there are four beaches at Clifton and one of them is for chaps of a chap-o-philic nature. It didn’t matter because a.) sexuality aside, with my pallid white flesh, slender physique and newly added man handles I was attractive to all beings, they’re not made of wood, and Somers agreed. And b.) when I got out of the ocean I’d be a shivering mess for a while with my genitals back where they began life somewhere near my kidneys.

Not to be a wimp, Somers took a piccie of Emma and I, declined once again to join us and watched as we hit the Atlantic. I took it like a man, straight in, only one girly squeak and we were swimming. The view was stunning, out to sea the sun was dipping and inland the hills glowed in its evening warmth with Table Mountain looming in the background. This was fantastic, and as I started to lose feeling in my upper body, I couldn’t help but think how sublime the scenery looked. As I clawed at the water, my brain contracting and my lungs suddenly asthmatic, I tried not to think of the sharks. (I’d already seen the YouTube aftermath of the guy getting eaten that morning, the bystanders videoing the 15m shark circling the rescue boats, its’ fin protruding intermittently.) I may have panicked slightly. I put my head down and started ploughing through the water trying to keep up with Em. When I put my painfully cold head back above the surface I’d started swimming in a curve, out to sea. By this point, I have to say that I’d embraced the magic, experienced the thrill, and braved the cold. I had the t-shirt and now it was time to get the f out. I’d been swimming for about seven and a half minutes! We turned for home and I swam for my life. Back on land I shivered like a Zulu in the arctic, I held on to all that was dear to me to try and warm him up but he wasn’t risking coming out again just yet.

Warm showers all round and another boozy evening.

Posted by ibeamish 11:48 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Day Five – Southward bound and the turn for home

27th September 2011

sunny 24 °C

Last night we met a couple of guys from the UK who had come down from Cairo on their motorbikes. It was their summer holiday between terms and they had nothing better to do! Naturally they carried all they needed in their panniers; I laughed as I produced cold beers from our onboard fridge (I did have to move the selection of cold meats and cheeses before I could get to them though.) Anyway the best thing is one they were called Jim and Humphrey. I’d never known a Humphrey before today, he was a terribly nice chap but with a name like that I doubt he was educated in a state comprehensive...

So off we went all of a few km’s to the most southern tip of Africa. Not to lose the romance but it looked a little like any other rocky shore line and once again plans for swimming the ‘two ocean traverseTM‘ were shelved; mostly because it was choppy but a little bit because the water was bloody freezing. We did have a paddle though and I’m proud to say we straddled the two oceans like we were riding a naughty stallion. However with the repeat avoidance of ‘crazy’ swimming adventures, we’re clearly not getting any younger. Content with that, we popped to the Cape Agulhas lighthouse for a tour and some morning tea. (The scones were average but the tea was nice.)

After Agulhas we had to turn for home. The only way out was north so this is it; we’re on our way! The afternoon was spent on a cliff overlooking Hermanus Bay. From our lofty position we watched Southern Right whales doing back flips in the ocean. Proper boss.

Later on we made it to Cape Town where we met Alasdair and Emma and went for dinner in a restaurant called La Colombe in Constantia. It was very, very, very nice. Five courses all paired with wine and a chap called Roussouw seemed to like it so much he gave it three stars. (I’m told that in the restaurant business that’s very good. I’ve stayed in three star hotels before and their food is normally average, I’ve even seen a lad behind the counter in McDonalds’ with four stars on his badge so...)

Back home we had a few catch up night caps and called it a day.

Posted by ibeamish 11:43 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

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