A Travellerspoint blog

Biltong, Braiis and Beers

all seasons in one day
View Round the World Baby! on Dodgey's travel map.

Well, South Africa is proving fun!

Pretty much straight after our arrival we went out for dinner to meet the gang and get acquainted with South African dining.

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(Clockwise from left, Kirstin, Dalton, Keegan, Jani, Michael Lee, Nicki (Sis-inlaw), and Michael(dad of all the boys) )

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(And I’ve eaten half of that already…)

They certainly know how to eat! – and the Rand is very favourable against the Pound at the moment – I ordered 250g of large prawns for something like £5 – as a “side” ;- )

I went on the “Golf Day” I mentioned last time. Michael and I drove about 160k’s North to the country for a corporate “jolly”. When we arrived at 10.30 all the players already had two or three empty beer bottles by their sides. I was introduced to everyone, we got the briefing for the day – the game was to be an American Scramble (longest drive off each tee gets played – 4-ball teams), and off we set in our golf carts. Except we had 2 carts and there were 5 of us – so a lot of standing on the back took place.

Our host explained that the day was not so much about golf but more about drinking. Excellent! This was to be a most Africaans day out!

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There was one chap driving round in a blue cart loaded with ice and beers. On more than one occasion I had to chase after him, belting across fairways to reload, so to speak.

The golf was going well for most, bar one chap who managed to tee off and not even reach the ladies tee. Later he hit one that actually went behind him, and on another occasion he broke the shaft of his driver when he hit the ball with it, instead of the head. At first I contained myself to save his pride, but after the umpteenth cockup we were all in hysterics. The beers were flowing well too….

By the time we’d done the front 9 we had all easily cleared 10 or more beers each. African golf is fun – not just the beers, but the wild animals too – walking across the fairways, or monkeys hanging down to watch your shots from a few feet away.

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(Not unusual – well, it is. Normally they are on the fairway!)

We tucked into a meaty lunch – I was wolfing down as much as I could to soak up some of the beer. At one stage one of the guys offered me a beer, “no thanks, I’m trying to get a breather before round 2!”. He replied, in a very Africaans accent, “Roger, South Africa is not a country for pussies”. LOL.

So the afternoon continued. At this stage I’d loaded the back of the cart with an ice bucket full of beers. Well, I didn’t, a chap did. A chap who called me “master”. It was like stepping back in time into a movie.

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(Note the ice bucket in the back – sorted!)

The back 9 was basically a drunken brawl. I tried to drive the cart over a foot bridge and got wedged in – just a little too wide! The guys were taking a leak at every tee, the shots were getting worse for the really bad guy, and the laughter was growing. We had a ball :- )

After the golf we sank lots of “Jaegermeister Bombs”, Tequila, and god knows what else, and then headed off to a bar / club. I was totally wasted and Michael was trying to find out where we were staying with little luck. Getting close to despair at about 3am we found we actually had a motel room.

I woke up at 6am, on the floor. The truck was outside, with the windows open with the keys still in the ignition. Michael drove us back to Pretoria and I slept in the back.

Welcome to South Africa! :- )

The rest of this week has been mainly Braai’s & beers. We went to “Meat World” to get our , well, meat.

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(meat as far as the eye can see – yay! And the dark stuff hanging above is biltong – ready to be sliced)

Michael and Nicola are members of an evangelical church so we went with them this Sunday – very fascinating and a lot more fun than a regular English service to say the least. Not sure if we’ll go again, but it was a great experience.

Btw – we are staying in a gated golf estate and it is just like being in Desperate Housewives, except there is no one walking the streets, apart from the 1000’s of maids and gardeners. There is actually a dedicated bus service for the maids and gardeners.

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(Even the cats are trained to guard)

Update:

Many Braais and beers later – oh , and lots of Biltong – something I detested in England, but here you choose the rareness and size and then they cut it up in front of you. I’ve got a taste for medium rare. It goes down a treat with a cold beer.

We went up to a lake camping area yesterday – basically Braai, beers, Biltong (can you see a repetitive theme here?). They provide free canoes and Braai facilities. We had a super day in the sun. It all started innocently, but after many beers it got out of hand. Not one person managed to keep their canoe upright. Some capsizes were due to poor boatmanship but the majority were down to tipping each others’ boats over :- ) . K & I tried a “dry start” where you sit in the boat and get someone to push you off the edge into the water. We took on so much water we had to bail it out with her empty champagne cup.

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(Jani, Kirstin and Nicki)

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(Familiar feeling being in one of these.. again)

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(Michael, me. And K)

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(yep, more red meat! – awesome!)

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(… and the sparkling wine is going down well…..)

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(.. as did the beer, so we decided we could get 3 in a boat – which lasted a minute at best before we capsized – and yes, I’m in my pants)

Having a super time… Other randomness – I noticed a spider scuttling into a corner when I lifted the lid to the pool pump housing. I kept my distance. A few days later some round spikey white egg sacks appeared – like something from an alien movie, so I investigated on the web (yep, there is a joke in there).

It turns out that out guest spider is a Brown Widow – very close relation to the Black Widow. It’s venom is twice as potent but luckily it tends to inject half as much as it’s black cousin. Still not good though and can cause breathing difficulties amongst many other nasty symptoms.

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(You can clearly see one of the eggs, and if you look hard, the spider is tucked under the lip in the corner – I was too scared to get any closer)

It had to die! – One can of hair spray and a lighter later and the deed was done. Well, in truth, I bodged it, and she ran to the floor carrying an egg sack. We got her in the end but it’s safe to say that we (Kirstin, Nicki, and me) were all screaming and panicking as it ran about.

Yeuch!

But much nicer…

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(Relaxing at the local club house)

Oh – nearly forgot – the weather systems are amazing here. For the most part it’s very hot and sunny, but with little warning thunder storms can move in. On one occasion lightening hit the ground or a conductor about what seemed a couple of hundred feet away. The explosion when you are that close is unbelievable, and terrifying.

Speak soon!

Posted by Dodgey 08:06 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Fun in Zimbabwe

sunny 38 °C
View Round the World Baby! on Dodgey's travel map.

So – We continue! – Heading to Gweta for our next night.

We were supposed to stay at “Planet Baobab” – a lodge that is surrounded by Baobab trees – but of course they messed it up again and it was fully booked. Fortunately I got a very quick picture of a Baobab tree!

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(Not the best example but still pretty cool. Some of them are extremely fat – they look like “toy” trees)

We ended up in quite a nice place actually, and I got the web for once, so I played a game of poker :- )

The following morning we set off for Kasane Chobe National Park – a great drive – tarmac at last! On the way we got lucky with the wildlife. One of our group spotted an elephant in the bushes, we stopped, and found 2 of them – right by the truck. And I mean right by the truck. As one walked towards me I have to say it was just a tad frightening.

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Lovely creatures – when they are not angry ; -)

That afternoon we took a boat safari in Chobe National park – a 3 hour affair where we at last got to see LOTS of hippos up close.

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We saw elephants and crocs too but I won’t bore you with yet more pictures.

Next day… and it is the last day of the tour – and to be honest, both of us were really looking forward to being back in our own chosen company – i.e. not in a tour group.

We took a short drive and a painless border crossing into Zimbabwe.

The first thing we noticed is lots of people walking everywhere, shops with bare shelves, and lots of people selling their wares.

Zimbabwe is in a real pickle at the moment as they are suffering hyper inflation – locals can queue for a day to use an ATM, and then the money they get out it so devalued it doesn’t buy a loaf of bread. The people there need everything. It’s very sad. Even more so that we were not briefed by our (Zimbabwean) guide – we would have bought loads of stuff with us like cheap clothes, pens, food etc from Botswana, but no. Nothing mentioned.

Kirstin traded 2 old t-shirts and a biro for a stone sculpture of a hippo, and I traded some old shorts and 100 Rand for two beautiful teak carvings of a man and a woman. Someone suggested that we ought to just give them money and clothes. I disagree. They need money and clothes, and they don’t need carvings and other curios. Trading lets them retain their pride, and it discourages begging, which we saw none of.

Our tour cook came back bare footed. She’s traded her flip-flops for a carving :- )

Curios purchased, we entered Victoria Falls park itself. We hit a good time of year. The water is just starting to build up, and that means the spray is minimal and you can actually see the falls. I’d like to see it in full song too, but this was great, and the spray was already ever-present (It reaches 150ft in height in the wet season).

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(The world's most dangerous jacuzzi)

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(We met lots of these)

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(And gave our left over lunch to the locals)

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A true treat to see.

Suitable awed, we checked into our 5 star Elephant Hills hotel.

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(Not a bad balcony view hey!?! – and there is a golf course among the trees too)

Internet cost $12 USD an hour and was hopelessly slow. I’m doing this update in SA.

Being that we were in the extreme sport centre of Africa, we got a briefing on all the activities available to us. We HAD planned to skydive – but as with most of the better activities, it was on the other side of the falls in Zambia and the visa for going over for a day is…..

Wait for it…

Wait for it…

$135 USD EACH!

Madness. It seems that as everyone has started going to Zambia instead of Zimbabwe (people are frightened to go to Zim), the Zambians got greedy and upped the visa price. If you want to go to the Zambian side of the falls it is currently cheaper to take a helicopter flight to get your pictures than to walk across the bridge.

Anyhow – being in Vic falls there was one thing we absolutely HAD to do. White water rafting the Zambeze! So we paid up and then had a quiet night in preparation. To say we were apprehensive is an understatement! The Zambeze is regarded as one of the best and most fierce white water rafting locations in the world. That, and one of our group did it the day before and told us it was a mix of fun and terror and that he’d spent 20 seconds underwater at one stage. He also had a large gash across the bridge of his nose……

When we arrived in the morning at the start location one of our group was very surprised that we’d chosen the Zambeze as our first place to try rafting. That helped the fear. Really.

The adventure started with a walk down ludicrously steep steps to the river – 860 meters down..

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(All the pictures are screen grabs from the DVD we bought so the quality is a bit crap)

We then had a safety briefing, which terrified us even more. Then we practiced pulling each other back in the raft, and then… we set off…

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(That's us on the left)

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To be honest, I think we missed the first half of the day as we spend most of our time clinging on for dear life with our eyes closed!. To say it is exhilarating is an understatement. You have to paddle or you’ll flip. You have to work as a team. You have to watch you don’t lance anyone with your paddle. And you have to listen for your guide’s instructions. All the while you are being confronted with 10 foot drops, 20 foot waves, you name it.

After our lunch stop we gained courage and also realised we were actually a good team. We had not flipped once, and we only “lost” two people over the side so far, including a small girl at the very front who got thrown through the air right over the boat.

It’s an odd experience – frequently you see 7 people in front of you, and then seconds later they are all above you…..

The afternoon was much more fun as we had gained confidence. We started looking where we were going, and into what. One of the rapids is called Big Mother. That was the one that threw me over the side. A wave in front of us about 20ft+ high, after a 10ft drop. Before I could blink I was out, and just as quickly I saw the boat and grabbed the rope.

On several sections we all jumped out and floated down the river and through the milder rapids (grade 1) which was awesome fun – we rafted down a mix of grade 2 to grade 5. There was a grade 6 which was deemed too dangerous and we walked round it.

Not once did we totally flip. The one other boat in front of us seemed to flip at every rapid so we felt rather chuffed with our performance.

A totally amazing day. Followed by a killer twist.

How do you get out of a gorge? Walk.

870 metres up – all steep steps carved into the mud. Some steps were rough ladder affairs made from logs – all very Indiana Jones. It was EXHAUSTING! (and we had to carry our helmets, jackets and paddles)

If a guy had not been there with water half way up I’m not sure I would have made it. I could hear my heart pounding.

Fortunately at the top a guide was waiting with chilled beers. We drunk hard and fast! A truly memorable day. I have cuts all over my knuckles. Blisters on my hands, and both of us have thighs that don’t work any more.

Last night we flew into Johannesburg where Nik & Mike (K’s sis and bro in law) picked us up and took us to their house in Pretoria.

I’m liking SA – we went to our first butchers where I have never seen such an array of dead animals in my life! – Braai heaven! And I’m enjoying Biltong and beer :- )

We got trashed. I’ve got an uber hangover, and I’m getting up at 5am tomorrow. I’m going with Mike to a golf course 100k’s away where I’m going to be the golf caddy driver for the day and then we’ll have a session at the clubhouse and stay overnight….

Oh one more thing – say an amazing sight last night – The moon with Venus and Jupiter each side..

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Speak soon!

Posted by Dodgey 05:42 Archived in Zimbabwe Comments (2)

The Floor is Alive

sunny 35 °C
View Round the World Baby! on Dodgey's travel map.

(p.s. I have a feeling by the time I post this update that it will go over one page so look for a “next page” link or something when you get to the bottom - in fact, I'll do 2 posts, this one for Botswana and the next for Namibia - so make sure you read the post below this before this one - so scroll down now! = to "Missed Dunes", as it will be new to you - don't be tempted to peek now!).... Then scroll back up and continue from here...

Update – we crossed the border yesterday – no photo’s as its apparently a very bad idea to take photos at borders… Still – we were greeted by one huge thing by my feet as we went to sit on the kerb…

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(We so nearly sat down by it!)

Off we trundled into Botswana. The first thing I noticed was the lack of fences – in Namibia every bit of land is owned by someone (white people), but the moment you hit Botswana the fences disappear – and consequently, the roaming animals appear – frequently in the road. Things also started to get a little greener – we are hitting the start of their wet season.

By late afternoon we made it to our lodge – although it took 45 minutes to go the last 500 meters as they have a fair few animals in their “sanctuary” (read zoo) , which is not a bad thing – we got to see some more Cheethas real close – right by the truck. They were pacing up and down and we guessed it was approaching feeding time..

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(Yep!)

After dinner and a few G&T’s we went to see the local tribe – the “San People” perform a 1 hour ritual dance, which they do every night. Not quite sure of the meaning but there was clearly lots of “cleansing” and “healing” going on. It was an excellent show. As they pace round the fire, they stamp their feet in perfect timing so you can really feel the ground shake.

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(That’s as good as it gets with my compact in low light I’m afraid, though I should have a video incoming soon…). Ahh. Here we go..

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Today we drove for a few hours to Maun, where we are staying the day in basic rooms (so hot I can’t describe). Most of the group has gone out this afternoon on a scenic flight over the Okavango Delta. We passed up on the offer ($75 each)as it’s a 1 hour flight, and we’ll be flying over it tomorrow, for 20 mins, then back 2 days later, for 20 mins, so can’t really see the point.

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(Our bar where we spent a long time!)

At about 9pm something odd happened at the bar – we started to notice hundreds of flying “things” by one of the lamps. Within 10 minutes they were into the 1000’s and engulfing every light in sight. It was a real swarm / invasion – we all had to move closer to the bar but they were still dive bombing us. It turned out they are flying ants, that wait for rain (which we had a heap of), then fly out of the ground, mate, shed their wings, and then die after laying more eggs. It was bizarre – when the commotion died down the floor was totally covered in wings.

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(Tricky to photo fast moving objects a night, but you get the idea)

Onto the next day.. and it was time for our flight out to the Okavango Delta – an unfeasibly large area that once had a river running through it, but due to tectonic plate movement further downstream, it got blocked, and consequently the land flooded, and stayed that way – hence a delta of mostly water with many small dry areas of land.

When we got to the airport I had a firm mission to sit in the cockpit – we were flying in small Cessna’s and I’ve always wanted to do it. When we were greeted by our 2 pilots I made it clear I wanted to be up front! – “No problem, you can come with me” – Excellent!!

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(Chocks Away Chaps!!)

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(Although you see some water, pretty much everything is water, it’s just where the grass / reed is taller it looks dry from above)

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(Don’t Touch!!)

It was a super flight, all at 470 feet, airspeed 100 Knots, heading 332 – hehe – I was checking everything! – It is 99% the same as when playing on my computer flight simulator – the only difference was the flaps – operated by a hand wheel. I can honestly say, particularly after the landing – if the pilot kicked the bucket I could of landed it! – The only thing I didn’t know was the approach speed – about 40-50 knots – much slower than I though. A real treat – and K loved it too. Going to see if we can shove her in the cockpit on the way back :- )

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(The fire station on the landing strip!)

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(Not the biggest runway in the world)

After our landing we were guided through the marshland to our next mode of transport – snall canoes with a “poler” on the back (A chap who does all the work)

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(Nice way to travel – although our boat was teeming with ants :- ) )

After a relaxing 40 minute ride we arrived at Gunn’s Camp – a proper Delta camp in the middle of nowhere. It’s all tents and tree houses – very well done – in fact, I’d say we’ve arrived at paradise – Africa as we expected it to be.

The lady in charge showed us around, briefed us about the honesty bar, then warned us that a herd of elephants walks through the camp most nights, and told us what to do if confronted by one! She also told us about resident Warthogs that are likely to sleep under our tents and also jump in the toilet / showers… This all sounds like superb fun! :- )

We are also not to wander away from the main camp paths because of snakes, hyenas, cheetahs and many other things, and we can’t go near the water, particularly after 7pmm because Hippos use it as their highway. We are assured that if you are close enough to a hippo to see its face, you are in deep trouble.

Rather hilariously, when it came to allocating tents she said, “is there a honeymoon couple here I believe?” – no one replied, so Kirstin quickly piped up , “we’ll be the honeymooners if you like!” – so bingo! – we got the only tent that is mounted high up with stunning views over the delta, a double bed and a private shower and toilet.

Over dinner last night it dawned on us that she might have meant “anniversary”, not “honeymoon” – as there is a couple with us who had theirs a few days ago. Ahh well – lol!

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(Our balcony)

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(Our “bedroom” view)

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(Our home for 2 nights)

After a few relaxing beers – and boy is this place relaxing!, we got back in our canoes for a short trip to a walking point, where our guides put us in single file and off we trekked for 2 hours, looking for wildlife.

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(offwe go!)

It’s a very strange feeling wandering into an area where there are plenty of animals that can and will kill and/or eat you if you are not careful. A kind of “helpless adventure” feeling. Rather exhilarating.

It didn’t take long to start spotting animals…

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We got very close to some Giraffes – and just as we were gawping at them we noticed one much closer to us amongst the trees to our right. It made a run for it and it was awesome! – when you are up close and all you can see are giant legs and you can feel the ground shaking as it runs – wow! – really amazing. When they got to open ground you could really see them run – so graceful – it’s a real treat)

We refocused on the original giraffes. I would have got a better photo but just as I lined up the shot, a woman in our group (who I had previously explained to how the camera flash is useless son long range shots) took a flash shot – and sure enough, they bolted. – “Turn your flash off”, I said, showing her the button on her camera, “why, is it annoying you!?!” – Doh!!! “You know how we were told not to wear bright coloured clothes so we don’t scare off the animals…??? – what do you think your flash does???” Jesus. What can you do.

It’s quite funny actually. Loads of people sport nice Canon 300D cameras with long lenses, and they all use them on the “auto” setting. I’ve tried explaining to some how you can get far superior shots just with a little knowledge, but they revert to auto. They’d be better off spending a quarter as much on a compact with a long zoom like the Panasonic Lumix. And most of them use the flash for everything. Same as in Cambodia, loads of people taking pictures of sunsets with flashes going off everywhere. I wish cameras all came with a big red warning card and a picture of how far a flash has any effect so people start to grasp the idea of turning them off). Ok, moan over. :- )

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(there were a bunch of Baboons , but this one caught the sun)

Not forgetting the Termites…

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(There was a real “Jurassic Park” feel about the walk, especially in areas where the elephants had destroyed lots of trees, and their giant dung everywhere. I felt very small at times, and just a little wary)

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(Not such a lucky Giraffe)

After our (exhausting) walk we came back and hit the bar, supping beers, G&T’s, and red wine, well into the night. We used our giant torch to see lots of eyes reflecting back from the bush, and watched at lots of fire flies flashed like demented Christmas tree lights. One actually hovered just in front of us – they really do look like small LED lights – super bright. Then it was time for bed – the time we were dreading – we made our way back to our tent……

Cheeky bloody insects! – the tent was clear when we left earlier. Now, there was a web + spider across the front “door”, a web + spider from the bed (my side of course) to the tent wall, and to top it all, a scorpion on the ceiling above our bed. It was so bad it was actually funny. Add to that the fact that the power was off and our torch was failing fast!

In the end we squashed 3 spiders, and scooped the scorpion into a piss-pot (yes, we have one) and then crushed it with a bottle of shampoo.

We both lay in bed nervously, sweating profusely in the high humidity, praying for no more bugs. Still, as a bonus we got to lay and look at the stars.

We awoke at 5am this morning to a stunning sunrise – making all the clouds in the sky a perfect salmon pink. A superb way to start the day.

They did another guided walk at 6am – we got up at 8.30 ;- )

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(oh yeah- that’s our tent in the distance on the right– the only one high enough to see from the bar – exclusivity hey! :- ) )

Further Update; Well, what a place! – we want to stay here forever – waking up seeing the sunrise at 5am (remember the tent front is just a mesh), then falling back asleep, then waking up again at 8am because you are basically burning in the sun!, that, and all the wildlife around you – warthogs, elephants, you name it. It really is special.

We had a bit of a session last night with the managers of the camp – Chris and Jasmine, plus John, our guide and Geraldine and Paolo, sitting on the deck looking out over the Delta. We noticed that the bar looks exactly like the bar in Star Wars – you know, the one with the aliens playing music and Han Solo shoots the guy under the table…

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(see??)

So… after far too many beers, we dressed the girls and John up and recreated the scene…

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(lol – we tried!)

This morning we flew back out of the Delta to Maun. This time K and I got a tiny Cessna to ourselves. She sat in the front this time, and we flew at 400 feet. She loved it, I loved it. I think if we come back to Africa we are most definitely coming back to Botswana and the Delta…

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A random picture for now… then Zimbabwe and Victoria Falls (Which we hope are filling up as we heard it is dry at the moment….)

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Oh... and another game park in Botswana 1st....

Posted by Dodgey 09:55 Archived in Botswana Comments (0)

Missed Dunes

sunny 40 °C
View Round the World Baby! on Dodgey's travel map.

Where did I leave it last time..? Oh yeah, Stampriet.

We had a nice stay in the lodge there, and for once, a Braai (BBQ)!

During the day we drove to Naukluft National Park in the Namib Kalahari desert. There was an optional activity of seeing the !kung tribe (the ! is a click – you know, with your tongue) perform a re-enactment of their hunting process. We enquired about the authenticity and as suspected we found that it is guys from the local town who after doing the show, put back on their Western clothes and drive their Toyotas back into town. At £40 each we decided to give it a miss, and I used the time to update the last blog entry. Rather amusingly, I said to K, “I bet they come back and tell us what fools we’ve been for missing something excellent”. Sure enough, when they got back we were greeted with , “Look what you missed!” and had cameras shoved under our noses. They saw a Giraffe. We are off to a game reserve in three days…. And the local town is full of people who still talk in the “clicking” language – you hear it on the streets and in the shops.

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(As far as we went)

After another arduous journey we arrived at our lodge – where we would be staying for two nights. Our first chance to actually unpack proper! – except without being told, we were not at the place we had booked – a nice lodge. We were in a crappy farm. A dump – with a “driveway” that took one and a half hours to traverse in the truck (Something we later found out our guides had not noted – the extra time/distance).

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(That’s the back of our room – and the red thing is a wood burner – our hot water heater)

Everyone was peeved, but of course, no one said anything :- ) . Totally dusted out (I cannot begin to tell you how much dust gets in the truck) and knackered, we tucked into another unremarkable dinner – more than unremarkable – they potatoes and rice were undercooked so they took them off to finish them – so we waited. Whilst we waited, the rest of the group ate all the meat, and helped themselves to seconds, so when the rest of the meal came back that was all that remained. You have to laugh.

Oh well, we tucked into the wine and decided to make a night of it, having a good chat with some of the group. It was at this stage we found out that we’d have to get up at 4.30 am the next morning as it was a long drive to the Sossusvlei Sand dunes and our jeep and guide would be waiting for us at 8am. 3.5 hours to get there, 3 hour tour, then 3.5 hours back to the same “lodge” (farm). Off to bed then!

The next morning (very early!) – we departed, albeit delayed as the guy who thought his camera was stolen messed around for 15 minutes. We arrived at the Sossusvlei Dunes entrance at 9.00. Remember our guide was supposed to be waiting for us at 8am, and he’s a further half an hour inside the park. 9.30 we arrived, and he was not there. “Don’t’ worry”, our guides told us, “he’ll be back soon for us”. We knew full well that he’d taken another 3 hour tour and we’d be waiting until 11am. No one admitted this.

To kill time our guides took us for a 500 metre walk and explained the ecosystem of the desert and we wandered up the smallest dune in the world.

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By this stage is was getting VERY hot. You could feel your neck burning through factor 30 almost immediately and it occurred to a lot of us that our journey into the “Dead Flay” would end up being through the midday. We could smell disaster!

Sure enough the jeep guy showed up at 11.30, had a brief chat with our guide, then when our guide turned his back, drove off! He didn’t want to take us for our scheduled 3 hour drive and walk through the dunes as he was understandably concerned that people might die in the midday heat!

In the end another guy was persuaded to drive us 5km into the dunes for a brief lesson on the ecosystem, but we would not be able to do our tour into the dunes proper.

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(That is the real colour you are seeing – the sand is laced with iron ore which oxidises red/orange)

All kind of interesting but we’d missed our tour, after a 5 hour drive, waited around in the desert for 2 hours, had a less than inspirational “lesson” on sand for 1 hour , by a guy that clearly didn’t want to be there, and then a 5 hour drive back. I say a 5 hour drive back, but it was actually 3 and a half. Somehow our driver ,managed to shave off 1 and a half hours on the way back - on the same route. A theme that will reoccur as we go on….

I asked our guide how they managed to get their timings so horrendously wrong and he came up with , “well, we have never stayed at the farm before so it was longer than we thought, and we waited for the camera guy, and people made toilet stops…”. Hmm. So we were 1 and a half hours late, and the “driveway” to the farm is 1 and a half hours long… Even I can work that out. They never bothered to time how long the driveway took when we arrived the night before. Pretty lame to be honest. A very long day and we missed the main event. (And they are starting to give the excuse, “That’s Africa” pretty frequently now).

On a more upbeat note, I’ve noticed an amazing species of bird in North Namibia. They are called the Sociable Weavers.

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They make amazing huge nests out of whatever twigs they can find, and all live together. Hence the name.

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They can get so big, like the one above, that they break the tree branches and fall to the floor. They then start again. The nests can weigh up to a tonne!

Inside they make lots of holes which they fly up into….

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They even make some “dummy” holes to fool snakes.

We’ve seen nests that have completely engulfed water pump windmills, and one that was made entirely of thatch, as a hut had been re-thatched nearby and they scavenged all they needed from a bountiful supply :- ) I love them – they are so cool.

Next stop was a laughably small “town” called Solitaire where we stocked up on water and snacks.

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(Shame we missed that one)

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We also passed over the Tropic of Capricorn – I have no idea what it is but K is a Capricorn …

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We were heading for Swakopmund, one of the largest cities in Namibia – bearing in mind there is a total population in Namibia of about 1.5 million.

The tour “fun” was continuing… Swakopmund is the “adventure capital” of Namibia and I have been looking forward to doing a few activities there from the start. I checked the night before we set off to see what time we’d be arriving in the town/city, “1pm at the latest”, I was assured, “are you sure?”, I asked, “yep, no problem, it’s an easy drive”. Cool, so plenty of time to do activities that afternoon, and then all the next day….. but things were afoot….

At the daily “meeting” after dinner some people asked if , instead of the usual cheese and spam sandwich lunch, they could go to a nice restaurant en-route to Swakopmund at Walvis Bay. At this point both myself and K interjected with something like, “A nice lunch sounds grand, but only if it does not delay our arrival at Swakopmund as we have lots planned to do there, and we are only in Namibia once….”. Our guides seemed to think it was no problem as it would take the same time as our normal sandwich lunch. “Are you sure?”, I asked, “I can’t imagine anyone wants to go to a nice restaurant for 1 hour max – it takes half an hour to get your drinks and choose food etc”. At this point the guides kind of skirted round the issue, so K intervened and asked for assurance that we’d get there on time and perhaps they could take bookings right now, for tomorrow’s activities on Swakopmund. They dodged that one…. I suggested that perhaps we should leave an hour earlier for a safety margin. They ignored me. You can guess what happens next…

Yep, we left late. Then we stopped to view some unremarkable “moonscape” rocks, and build a “friendship tower of stones”

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(It’s a big world)

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(With long dusty roads)

Clearly running very late, we also stopped to look at a small bird about 50 metres away, we drove as slow as possible. We stopped and stopped again. We were starting to get the impression they did not want us doing independent activities.

We arrived at Walvis bay at 1.30pm (we were supposed to be there at 12pm). Then it got hilarious. We drove round and round looking for “the” restaurant, and when we found it, half the people on the bus assumed we were going the NEXT day. I approached the guides and asked why we were running so late once again, given that they knew we had an agenda. I got a load of bollocks about the stops taking up time, and that they normally take camping groups who leave earlier… etc etc. Pure bull. I just sighed and said “whatever” and walked off.

At this stage One of the guides came out, apologised, and then told me we are in Africa and I must “chill out” – sure – I’m here ONCE and we are missing things because of lunch in a restaurant. I can eat in restaurants anywhere in the bloody world! Then it got better. He confirmed I could get to Swakopmund by 3pm to catch the Quad biking in time, but everyone else had 15 minutes to have lunch!!! – Great so they put the whole thing on ME – what a situation to be in. I gave in and said, “let’s just eat, forget the activities – you can’t make people have lunch in 15 minutes, in a restaurant”. Bloody ridiculous. So that was our afternoon shagged. Incidentally, the guide also told me that his “activity company” was safe, and they preferred us to use that and not arrange our own activities… now the truth was coming out. They’d delayed us on purpose. I was spitting teeth. I ended up telling him I’d arrange my own activities, like it or not.

As you can imagine, by this stage we are well established as the black sheep of the group :- )

We had a lovely lunch after all that, lol

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(Not in there, it was closed, but it looked cool)

We arrived in Swakopmund and headed straight to the activity centre where we watched a presentation and then chose our things for the next day. Of course I wanted to do Quad biking that day so we could sky dive the next day, but that was not to be. I even watched the last group ride off into the dunes. Sigh.

All checked into our new hotel we had a good wander and all went out for a great dinner at a coast side restaurant. K had Oryx steak and I had a huge T-Bone. We had a good laugh, and it was great to eat at a table with a table cloth. I even found Internet so I got to watch my poker show at last.

All the commotion about quad biking had actually created quite a lot of interest lol, so the next day we had a group of 7 of us. There are sand dunes that run 30 km along the coast, and we got to choose our machine for the day. Most of the girls plumped for the 125cc automatics, and myself and Marcus grabbed 250cc manual geared machines. The beauty of having a large group was that we got two guides. One for the slow group and one for the fast group (Me and Markus). Off we zoomed!

Our guide was a certified nutter and we were full throttle all the time to keep up. Riding up near vertical sand dunes maybe 50 foot up or more, then turn, and straight back down – absolutely brilliant!! – They call them “rollercoasters” as you go up and down so much. Lots of wheelying, jumping, sliding. It was fantastic!

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(My trusty steed)

After about half an hour We rejoined the “slow” group, and it immediately became clear it was far too slow for some. K was looking pissed off. She’d asked to join our fast group, and with that, one of the horrendously slow riders that she was trying to shake off followed too! K was thinking about reversing her decision so she didn’t mess it up for me and Markus by bringing the slow coach with her. As it turned out, I think the pressure made her “ up” her game and we didn’t have to do much waiting around –she knew she had to gun it or get “demoted again”. K LOVED it – she was flat out all the time wearing a huge grin. Mind you – she got properly stuck :- )

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(hehe)

It was a superb day – you really don’t get the chance to quad on sand dunes in many countries. We covered about 60Km, and I managed a few good wheelies. Markus loved it too. I did a “doughnut” – where you spin in circles. Markus then followed suit, and immediately flipped his machine over. I haven’t laughed so much in years. Top fun and everyone had a great time.

Shame that was all we had time for… Still – it was great.

We spend the rest of our time in the town having drinks and eating. Then we found out we’d lost a group member. You know I mentioned there was one person (not named) in my last post that was not very “likeable”. She was demanding, rude at times, and very loud. More eccentric than anything, but we treated her with respect – she was a nice lady, just used to having her own way. Well it seems that she’d overheard other group members moaning about her, and she flew home. A real shame.

On a change of subject – Swakopmund roads are odd. Tarmac, but covered in mud….

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(why cover a road in mud? Who knows?)

All amped up from the quad biking, the next morning we headed off for Kamanjab, to see the “Himba Tribe” people. On very dusty roads…

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(See that dust behind? Where do you think the dust from the FRONT wheels goes? – yep – inside)

We passed some local vendors on the way…

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And stopped at one, where we saw…

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(That’s a 3-donkey power vehicle)

Eventually we arrived at our accommodation…..

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Which we then found out, yep, they’d buggered it up again. It was closed for renovations. We moved on to another site… where, again, with no explanation, or apology, we were shown to our…..

TENTS!

Our tent was a 2 man tent with 2 wooden beds. So small we left our back packs on the truck. We’ve paid nearly 2 times the cost of a camping tour for accommodation, and we get tents. And guess what? They staff had a room each in proper buildings. You can imagine we are getting more pissed off by the day.

Chin up! We are British!

The morning’s activity was to go and see the Himba Tribe. They are a nomadic tribe who wash with Ocre and butter fat – so they are always red in colour. We were forewarned to wear only clothes that we were not fond of :- )

The situation with the tour is this: The tribe kept getting moved on from peoples’ land, until one farmer let them stay. No one knows the agreement – some say it’s for the money, some say the farmer has a Himba wife. The men have all gone “Western” and don’t’ spend much time in the camp, but the women want to maintain their traditions – so the story goes. And upon inspection it seems to be true. We’ve also seen plenty of Himba women walking around many towns, naked, so it’s clearly for real.

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(Where the cows live)

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(This is the “Queen” – we all gave her gifts, like bags of rice etc)

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(This lady made us laugh, she has a cell phone! – we were told she’s from another tribe, hence no ocre colour)

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(She’d been waiting for this opportunity for a long time)

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(We sat inside her hut whilst a translator let us ask questions, and vice versa – she was curious why we didn’t have babies at our age – she is 18 and knows nothing about birth control)

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(Westernised clothes, African game)

A really interesting visit, although it felt very odd taking photos of people and not being able to speak to them. They seemed happy enough, although they all have their front four lower teeth knocked out with stones when they are 4 years old – ouch! – Apparently it’s for beauty and to make them sound unique compared to other tribes. There are about 10,000 of them left in North Namibia so we are told. Their lucky men get to have as many wives as they can afford. 5 cows each for a dowry. Aids is rife with about a 20% occurrence throughout Namibia, tribes people or not. Mind you, when we get to Botswana, the Aids rate is over 40%! We are VERY careful when making contact with anyone local.

All done and dusted (well, Ocre’d) we set off for Etosha national park (The next morning)

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(The local kids are no less cute!)

We drove through the park, from watering hole to watering hole, with various diversions when word got round that there was activity in certain places. Here come the animal shots….

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(A Kudu)

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(Springbok – seen a load of them)

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(The white in the distance is the beginning of the salt pan, about 17,000Km sq of salt)

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(Ahh – giraffes with their kids following)

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(I know, it’s a tree, but I liked it)

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(Some Emu’s :- ) )

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(they are so odd!)

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(Wilderbeast)

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(yep – lions on our 1st day – though my zoom is not really up to the job so this is unzoomed)

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(A nice shot, and there are actually lions, male x 2 to the left, but they are too far away)

.. so a good spotting day. Slightly ruined again by our dozy guides. We’d been in the truck for 9 hours – and it’s deafening on the rutted safari tracks and we wanted to get to the lodge by 6pm so we could catch the sunset over their private watering hole, that and our guide had told me we needed to make 6pm to get the room keys (and as you can imagine after all the other accommodation and tour cockups, we have lost trust in them). 6pm was approaching and we were stopping to look at a tiny bird, 30 metres away, in a tree , that no one could see – this was the guides decision. Again, we stopped to see one Ostrich. We’d seen 100’s of them all day, running across the road in front of our truck, this carried on and we got very frustrated. That and the fact that some of our group take photos, and then demand the truck stays put while they put their cameras away and then start videoing .

At one stage, they stopped again, for no apparent reason (no communication) and Kirstin shouted, “move on, come on, let’s go! I need the toilet!”. Amazingly after being told that under no circumstances are we ever allowed out of the vehicle in the park, they immediately stopped, threw her a dirty look, and told her to get out and pee behind the truck. They then took another hour of dawdling to get us to the lodge at 6.30pm. Sunset was at 6.45pm. So we had so literally sprint to the view point and just caught it. It’s the same every day. We always arrive late for everything and it’s getting feking tiring. All they need to do is leave earlier, or prioritise, but no, they dick about.

I’m typing today, at our lodge. We decided we could simply not bear another day of dicking about – a whole day in the rattle-truck pandering to every request to stop and view invisible birds and the 1000 th Springbok. So we are having a super nice day. Last night we shunned yet another crap dinner and ate in the restaurant – fillet steak, chicken, and Oryx streak. Our guide came over to see us, and instead of asking what was wrong just informed us of the next day’s departure time, to which I told him we were not coming. He wasn’t interested why.

So today we are drinking cold beers, swimming, and generally relaxing. We are not panicking about the animals, we have both decided to visit Kruger Park when we join Kirstin’s Sis and Bro in law in December. Relaxing is AWESOME. (small update – everyone just did a half day game drive instead of a whole day as they were all shagged – funny that! :- ) )

It’s a crying shame. We think the guides had not cottoned on to the fact that people who do the accommodated tours have money to spend. We are essentially doing the same tour as campers, but in rooms. By that, I mean that they are treating the lodges like camps – i.e. staying there for as little time as possible. We’ve stayed at so many lovely places, but got there so late we sleep immediately, then depart at 7am, ignoring the lovely bars, and restaurants. The food is also dire. Every lunch is sandwiches with cheddar cheese and spam. Dinners are no better. We’ve had meat three times. Chicken on the first night, an awful beef stroganoff, and one “braai”. Every lodge has a Braai – we never use them. All the other groups do.

We are going to start buying meat at each daily market stop and cook ourselves.

Ahh well – it all sounds negative but it’s all wonderful from an experience point of view.

Little extra update. We had a meeting last night where they asked for our feedback. Kirstin explained that whilst most things are fine, they need to manage “time wasting” as we are arriving at our lodges late every day, and we are missing the opportunity to relax and reflect on each day, and socialise. All the people who previously agreed with us looked at the floor, and said nothing. One chap suggested we should re-read the itinerary! – lol – still – we have made good friends with a few people – Markus and Katia form Germany, Geraldine from Belgium, Paolo from Portugal. Plus, everyone was made to get back on the truck in a timely manner today and so we made it to our destination in daylight! Progress!!!

Currently in Windhoek getting very excited about our trip into Botswana tomorrow! – Update again!- Went out for dinner tonight at a big place with the meatiest menu I’ve ever seen. I had a rib eye and fillet combo and K had something called a “bush fire grill” – Oryx, Crocodile, Ostrich, Kudu, Zebra, and maybe something else- pretty much a menu of half the animals we have seen! – Which reminds me – one of our guides, Pilili, has a great habit of describing animals by their name first, followed by the best cut of meat from them – i.e. there you see some cows / T-Bone steaks, over there are Kudu – steaks again, over there are some lamb chops, to the right are some Oryx – great fillets.. etc. I like it a lot! ;- )

Posted by Dodgey 08:30 Archived in Namibia Comments (0)

Africa – Yep, it’s Definitely Big


View Round the World Baby! on Dodgey's travel map.

So, our adventure starts! – We got a cab to the Nomad Tours office where we met the rest of the group and the staff crew, and the truck, called “Janice”. The first thing we noticed was that the group was very different to our one in Egypt. A much more mature crowd. I think we are the youngest this time, whereas we were the oldest in Egypt. Clearly no one in the group fancied the idea of camping :- )

…off we go! – The truck is basically a two axle lorry with a converted body for passengers with coach style seats and big windows. It’s actually very good – primarily because there is plenty of room to get up and walk around when you feel like it. Secondarily because there are only 12 of us and 28 seats…

As we drove North through South Africa the scenery started to change very quickly. By the time we got to the Cederberg region we started to see “big” views.

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We also saw a LOT of vineyards. They grow wine here on an industrial scale. We actually stopped at a winery and got a guided tour of the machinery and all the various processes. No pictures – they are not that interesting unless you like looking at steel vats. We also got our first taste of African heat. The factor 30 came out very quickly.

Our destination for the day was a lodge at Citrus Creek – a region as you’ve probably guessed is known for its citrus fruit growing. A cool place, although most of the group were fairly shocked to find we were sharing “houses” with a room each. No probs though, it gave us a chance to get to know each other over a delicious “poike pot” of chicken stew.

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The next morning we departed for the Namibian border. The scenery continued to fascinate. Miles and miles of granite rocks and mountains, all formed by volcanic activity. A kitchen maker’s dream.

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(That’s all granite and it falls away in giant sheets over time – each layer cooled at a different time when it was formed so it if full of natural “faults)

Then a quick stop for lunch under a tree…

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(The skies are starting to get bigger)

… and onwards to the border…

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After a very short hop we arrived at our first Namibian home…

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…where we did what all English people should do in Africa…

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Gin & Tonic!

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The nest morning I took a canoe ride down the Oranje river whilst Kirstin enjoyed a chill out back at the cabana.

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A good trip and not too hard a workout, with some fun small rapids.

Suitably knackered we hit the road again. I say road, but this is Africa and we got our first taste of the “African massage” – the roads are just graded dust. You get a noisy vibrating massage all the time – and bear in mind we are covering over 500k’s some days.

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It’s not that bad actually but it does get a little tiring after a few hours.

We were quite surprised to find the Namibians make wine – and lots of it! We thought the vineyards in SA were big but nothing can prepare you for the sheer scale of the vineyards in Namibia. They only grown them in one region, along the river, but boy do they make use of the water!

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(One of 12 trucks we passed, full of workers for the vineyards)

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(The huts the workers live in , and the vineyards in the distance)

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(Almost the same picture but it shows the scale of the vineyards better. I like both pictures so much I had to post them both)

At one stage we stopped in the middle of the desert so we could get a feel for what it is like to be in the middle of nowhere. It was certainly eerie.

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One of our guides, Pilili, asked what is the first thing you notice and K correctly answered – the silence.

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(Thought I’d post one with us in it!)

Our destination this day was the Fish River Canyon – the second biggest in the world (I think you know the biggest…). Absolutely breathtaking!

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We had a bite to eat, and some more G&T’s :- ) , then watched the sunset…

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And the moon too….

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(Our driver and guide, Pilili)

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(The colours in the sky are amazing)

That evening we stayed in butt-f@*#k-nowhere, in a place called Seeheim.

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(Some “junk” in the garden)

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(You’ve now seen all of Seeheim – those tyre tracks are ours – one house, one “station”)

The next morning we set off to see the Quiver trees at Kokerboom Forest and the Giant’s Playground. As we approached the forest we saw our first big cat following us along the side of the road.

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(A cheetah!)

The people on the truck got very excited and all the cameras and camcorders were out in a flash.

We had a good walk around the quiver tree forest. The trees are named such because the natives used to use the hollowed out branches for arrow quivers.

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(And yes, that is me “Quivering” – don’t underestimate how hard it is to look like you are quivering in a photo – I had to practice!)

The Giants Playground is basically a HUGE collection of rocks, many of which are neatly stacked into large towers (as if giants have been playing here.. see?).

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(That’s a LOT of rocks – it goes on for miles and miles – the rocks have split and eroded, leaving them stacked up)

Trucking on we then spent about an hour looking for a tree to have lunch under. There are not many trees here – it really is all desert. We found one tree but it was swarming with hornets and the floor was covered in dung so the group protested and we drove on in search of another tree. It took an hour to find another 2 small ones!

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The rest of the drive in the afternoon was hard work – all very rough roads and now the dust had really started. It’s very fine and abundant. I noticed the ingress of the dust when I went to check the time and had to wipe the face of my watch to see the hands! – it makes you choke and sneeze too.

Some observations about the group: It’s very entertaining watching how different people are, especially when they are older and more set in their ways. You know, “Window open all the time”, “Window closed all the time”, “window open all the time even if it means everyone behind moves to get out of the wind” – that kind of thing. All harmless but it’s amusing me how people are definitely less accommodating as they get older. At one time, I emptied the on board chill box (of all the water), bought 4 bags of ice, refilled it, crushed the ice, and before I’d actually finished someone was ramming their bottles of water ON my hand as I was packing the ice down. By the time I’d walked to the back of the bus to get my beers to put in the chiller and returned it was already practically full! – “it’s no biggie, you’d have done the same K said”, nope, I wouldn’t. I’m learning to be more tolerant of people’s foibles. No doubt people have spent years dealing with mine! : - )

2 days later… well – our tolerance has expired! – We’ve agreed that this is the last time we’ll do a group thing. It’s not just a question of whether you like the people or not – in our group everyone is likeable in one way or the other (well, except one), it’s more that fact that they dick about and mess things up for everyone else, that and the sheep mentality. It’s more than funny.

Our guide actually made an announcement yesterday that we are in fact going to a game park later this week where we’ll see all the beasts close up and that we’ll “want to delete all our current photos of animals” and that we should not be stopping so much. No one has taken any notice. We feel like strangling people. Actually, smothering with a pillow.

Still, life goes on and we are loving the scenery and the wildlife – I’m actually finding I have a penchant for botany. The animals are all fine, but I’ve seen them on TV. I know, it sounds shallow, but I have, and I’m sure I’ll love seeing them close up, but I’m finding I’m far more interested in the plant life, and some of the birds.

We stayed at a lovely lodge that night in Stampriet – all done in old fashioned Victorian style with lots of old photos and what not.

Posted by Dodgey 07:47 Archived in Namibia Comments (0)

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