unURBAN

unURBAN

Etosha

NamibiaPosted by Malin Wed, June 13, 2012 13:47:22

After arriving in Africa we have only visited one park (Addo Elephant National Park) to look for animals. Now it was time to visit Etosha, “one of the world’s greatest wildlife-viewing venues”as Lonely Planet described it. We had heard that camping in the park is quite expensive and it would be worth camping at one of the campgrounds just outside one of the main park gates and go in for a day visit, from sunrise to sunset. But someone had recommended us to stay in the one of the park campgrounds, because then you could watch the animals at the flood lighted water hole at night. We thought it might be worth seeing a water hole at night one time and paid the 50 USD for one night camping at the Okaukuejo Campsite and 21USD entrance fee that was valid for 24 hours when you camped in the park.

In the park we started driving around different loops and we saw mostly zebras and springbok, but springbok does not really count since you see them all over the place outside the parks as well. Compared to Addo we did not see many different animals our first afternoon in the park, and we were not really too impressed. Back in camp we went straight to the water hole and we saw our first elephant in the park.

As the sun set and we were cooking dinner the black backed jackals turned up in the campsite and they came really close to us. If people left any of their cooking equipment or food on their table the jackals would walk over to the table for a taste.

After dinner we brought a wool blanket (it is colder in Africa at night than we expected, but then it is winter time) and a bottle of red wine over to the water hole, and we were ready for an evening of wildlife viewing.

It was really nice and quiet and it was really great to see elephants, zebras, giraffes and rhinos approaching the water hole out of the dark night. In total that evening we saw six rhinos coming to drink water. It was great.

Next morning we were on it again starting the drive around to the different water holes in the park. This time of year is the dry season and animals gather around the water holes, so that would be the best place to spot wildlife. This morning we saw many more animals than the afternoon before. We also got to another part of the park where we could see out over the 5000 sq km Etosha salt pan. It looked hot and dry.

On our drive in the park we did not see any of the cats or hyenas. All in all the stay in Etosha was ok, but we still thought Addo was better. With one hour left on our 24 hour permit we decided to go back to the Okaukuejo water hole and eat lunch there. It was not just us that had decided to have lunch, it looked like all the cud-chewing mammals in the park had decided to visit the same water hole as us. We could hardly believe our own eyes when it came to the amount of animals there, it was just incredible.

As soon as they were done drinking the animals headed off, but there were even more animals coming in. So the Okaukuejo water hole made the whole stay in Etosha worth it for us.

Entering a park like Etosha or Addo to see “wild” animals is kind of contradicting. The animals are wild, but they are in a fenced off area and they cannot migrate like they normally would. Etosha is more than 20,000 sq km and that is quite large, but there is still fences around it. Etosha National Park is also divided into two sections, and the western section that covers one third of the park is served exclusively for tour operators and the eastern two thirds are open to the general public like us. When we visited now it was low season and we did not even have to book a campsite in advance, and there were still free campsites the night we were there. But still, at the water holes where the animals are you are never alone, you always share the spot we a few other cars.

At the water hole in the afternoon and evening it was quite entertaining to look all the different people and their camera equipment. We realized we need a serious upgrade when we looked around us. In the evening it was definitely a higher number of living creatures behind the fence than in front of it.

We just wanted to write short about this part of seeing wild animals in Africa. We all see the amazing animal photos of wild creatures and we all try to take the most amazing photos for our self, but what we don’t see that often is the scene behind and around the camera. This is not to say that we do not like the parks, we will visit a few more over the next weeks because it is the best opportunity to see many animals close up. But if we end up with a few good photos of wildlife then you know that it was probably another twenty people that got the same image on their cameras too.

Malin

  • Comments(0)//blog.unurban.no/#post137

North Namibia

NamibiaPosted by Espen Sun, June 03, 2012 23:29:39

Malin was up early on Monday morning, found the daypack in the back of the car, and went over to the local supermarket to fill up with freshies, meat, and drinks. I was told to get the he## out of bed, and to make sure the diesel tank and an extra jerry can was full, and to get ready to drive. The evening before we had read up on the Kaokoveld, Epupa Falls, Van Zyl’s Pass, and been through all the roads in Garmin Map Source on the laptop. Kamanjab to Epupa 440 kms on mostly good roads, from Epupa to and over over Van Zyl’s Pass on really bad roads, 150 kms, and at last up Marienfluss and back to civilization on medium roads, about 350 kms. We bought food for about 5 days (and we do of course have more dry food in the car as a backup) and filled up with 165 liters of fuel. On normal roads this would take us at least 1100 kilometers, but a lot less when driving in low range and in soft sand. We also got a few extra Namib Dollars from an ATM, and then we drove towards the border of Angola.

In our maps the last fuel station on our route north is in Opuwo. We stopped and topped up the tank before continuing north. The roads became smaller and smaller, and the people along the road was almost only Himbas. It is funny that the women keep their traditional way of dressing, but the men have all jeans, t-shirts, and pilot style sun glasses. What wasn’t so nice was all the people along the road begging. In the afternoon we pulled in to the municipal camp ground in Epupa Falls after about seven hours driving. It looked like an oasis after driving most of the day in a very dry landscape. Kunene River flow west and eventually in to the Atlantic Ocean, and it forms the border between Namibia and Angola.

We had been a little concerned about malaria as it could be present in this area, but fortunately we never saw a single mosquito. Barbequing and sitting around the fire in the evening was not a problem even in shorts and sandals.

The next morning we packed up camp and started driving towards Van Zyl’s Pass. This is an absolute must do road for all South African and Namibian overlanders. Our plan was to go all the way across in one day, but the road wanted it different.

The road leading up to the pass was quite bad and worse than we had imagined. The surface was very rough and with lots of sharp rocks sticking up. To avoid damaging our tires we used low range quite often and tried as best as we could not to hit the sharpest ones. When the sun was setting we still had a few kilometers to the start of the pass, and we realized that crossing the same day in the dark was not a good idea. A nice flat, grassy field in the middle of nowhere became our home for the night, and it must have been the quietest night in Africa so far. Not a sound the whole night.

Early next morning we hit the road and went for the Van Zyl’s Pass. And now I see that the roof top tent originally must have been designed for Africa. Even before the sun is up the air is so dry that the tent is dry and ready to be packed as soon as you wake up in the morning. In most of Americas we had to wait for an hour or two after the sun hit the tent before everything was dry enough to be packed up.

Van Zyl’s is a road that takes you down from a plateau on about 1300 meters to grassy plains 700 meters further down. It winds through a hilly landscape, down narrow valleys, and with sometimes steep traverses. At several spots along the road the line has to be chosen carefully not to risk both vehicle and crew.

From a view point almost at the end of the Van Zyl’s Pass.

I’m not really sure how steep this looks at the picture, but I can guarantee a significant pulse. I also realize that we have a scary combination at this time of high weight, relatively high point of gravity, and way to soft coil springs in the back. We were uncomfortably close to our tipping point / break over angle when crossing some sections where one side of the road was significantly lower than the other. Air bags for the suspension with a possibility for individual adjustment would be very nice to have when you carry a lot weight and want to drive rough roads.

We found our way down, and right behind us came also two other vehicles with a couple of adventurous South Africans. They also made it through without accidents. A bit further down the road however, we came across two other guys in a Landcruiser that had hit and punctured their fuel tank on the way down, and had had to drain 150 liters of fuel into an old drum along the road to temporarily fix the tank and fill the fuel back in. I think they were just done when we met them.

The landscape changes totally after leaving the mountains and driving out on the plains. Back in lion country and with a stunning view. We are driving north in a wide valley called Marienfluss, and after about an hour driving on a two-track on sand surface we are back to the Kunene River and the Angolan border. Looking for a camp by the river, the landscape changes totally again, and we pitch the tent among palm trees.

A little low on fuel (we were not supposed to drive all the way back up to the border), we sit down after breakfast with the Garmin Map Source and look through different alternative routes back into Opuwo. We are looking for the one with the shortest driving time, as this would normally mean lower fuel consumption when on bad roads or offroad. We drove south to Rooidrum (“the red drum”) and on to Orupembe where we turned east towards Opuwo.

In a full day of driving we saw one other vehicle. As the sun was setting we pulled in to a lodge/camp in Opuwo, and as we left the main road the fuel lamp came on. Perfect timing and perfect fuel calculations. And we had one full jerry can left with diesel. 740 kilometers on 125 liters. Not too bad considering the bad roads and several hours in low range (and air condition….).

320 kilomters was left to drive from Opuwo to Kamanjab, and on this drive we wanted to drive through the Khowarib Schlucht (gorge).

The drive is mostly along and in the mostly dry riverbed. We were hoping to see elephants, but hey were obviously booked elsewhere this day. It was still a very nice drive. Now are we again back at the Oppi-Koppi-Kamanjab and plan our next moves, and it will include a visit to the Etosha National Park before crossing the border to Botswana.

More soon!
Espen

  • Comments(4)//blog.unurban.no/#post136

Namibia

NamibiaPosted by Malin Sun, May 27, 2012 22:27:48

At the moment we are in Kamanjab. Since crossing the border from South Africa we have driven 1850 km on Namibian roads and of those about 100 km is on paved roads. Our guidebook says “Namibia has one Africa’s lowest population densities” and it has been a lot of open space. The largest city we have driven through was Swakopmund with 42,000 inhabitants. Most of the distance has been in the Namib Desert, the oldest desert in the world.

It has been an incredible landscape to drive through and one of the highlights was Sossusvlei with the red sand dunes. Some of the dunes are as high as 325 meters. Sossusvlei is Namibia’s tourist destination number one and most people would like to be there for the sunrise so the dunes are even redder. At sunrise we were 300 km away, but we arrived there in good time before the park closed so we got the sunset instead. There were a few other vehicles in the park, but it was a great time to visit as we had it almost to our self.

From Sossusvlei you can travel on the main roads in the Namib-Naukluft Park, but to be able to drive on all the small roads you see on your map you have to buy a permit. Permits are sold at Namib Wildlife Resort (NWR) in Sesriem or one of their other offices depending on where you are. A day permit costs 40 Namibian Dollar (ND) per person and 10 for the car, total of 12 USD. We booked to stay at a basic campsite at Bloetkoppe, that is in the Namib-Naukluft Park, for one night, and then our vehicle permit was automatically valid for two days. Perfect.

Our campsite at Bloetkoppe.

A “moon landscape” we drove through on our way to Swakopmund.

From Swakopmund we wanted to drive north on the Skeleton Coast. The “Skeleton Coast” is divided into three sections. The first 200 km north of Swakopmund is called the National West Coast Recreational Area and there you can enter for free. Middle section is The Skeleton Coast Park that stretches from Ugabmund to Möwe Bay. To enter the park you need a permit from NWR and you need to have a reservation to stay at the campsites. If you have not booked a campsite you can get a permit to drive from Ugabmund to Springbokwater, roughly half of the Park in a day. A permit for the two of us and the vehicle for a day would cost 170 ND, about 22 USD. The northern third of the Skeleton Coast is called the Skeleton Coast Wilderness and the entire area is a private concession, and to enter that part of the Skeleton Coast is not for our budget. We were considering buying the day permit for the middle section, but it would have ended up being a bit of a detour for us.

As we were driving north along the first section and the fog rolled in we said it was enough of the coast and turned inland.

After a night in Uis we asked the GPS for the shortest way to Twyfelfontain. It was probably the shortest way, but definitely not the fastest. As we were driving along this road we realized we had not really checked what kind of road it was. When we later checked, it said deep soft sand and serious 4WD needed.

It was not that bad, but at one stage I gave up the driver’s seat to Espen as he is better to drive in soft sand than me. The drive was the best we have done so far in Namibia. Great landscape and just us on the road.

In one area we saw a lot of elephant dung, but not the desert elephant itself. At a water hole we came across our first giraffes and a few kilometers further our first rhino. And it was all for free, not in a National Park where you have to pay entrance fees.

Some hours later than expected we arrived at Twyfelfontain and had a look at some of the 2500 rock engravings that has been discovered in the area. The engravings and paintings were probably done by San hunters for as long as 6000 years ago. Fascinating to see 6000 years old engravings of the animals that we had seen along the road the same day.

In Kamanjab we are only halfway through our trip in Namibia so there are probably more nice drives ahead of us.

Malin

  • Comments(2)//blog.unurban.no/#post135

An uninvited guest

NamibiaPosted by Malin Sat, May 26, 2012 13:09:03

We had a pretty long day ahead of us with about 450 km to drive and some sightseeing on the way. Since crossing the border from South Africa to Namibia we had also crossed a timeline and we had to adjust our watches one hour back. By “keeping” Espen on South African time in the morning I managed to get him out of bed at 07.00 (told him it was 08.00). After an early breakfast the plan was to jump in the pool for a morning swim since we camped at Ai Ais hot spring.

But plans do change.

Opening our food drawer we saw the evidence of an uninvited visitor. A rodent had chewed on Espens breakfast cereal, a packet of Wasa crisp bread and a few other items. Then we could see other pieces of evidence in the car as well.

To deal with this we needed breakfast. Found some untouched food that we ate and Espen had his coffee, and then we were ready to find who had got into the Patrol.

Boxes, bags, more stuff, and eventually the food drawer came out of the car, and then we could spot some movement. It was a mouse. By using a stick we managed to get the mouse out of where it was hiding, but it just found a new place to hide. We thought we had control, and we tried to block off possible escape routes before we forced the mouse out of its hiding place behind the aux batteries.

The mouse was quick and found another way. We tried again, but the mouse escaped us again, and this time we could not see where it went except from forward in the car. We hoped it had jumped out of the car without us noticing. Just to make sure we kept on checking and hitting on places where it could hide to scare it out, but we did not see it again. Then we just had to pack all our stuff back into the car. Our early start turned out to be a ten o’clock departure and the swim was cancelled.

Ai Ais Hot Spring is next to Fish River and is the exit point for the five day hike of the Fish River Canyon. We drove up to the best viewpoints of the Fish River Canyon and it was pretty impressive.

It was not our intention to do the hike so we continued our drive north. Somebody had recommended us a Roadhouse just up the road, and it was a fascinating place to have some refreshments.

Here in Namibia it gets dark at 17.30, so at 16.00 and after a 300 km drive, we started to look for a place to camp. We found a nice campsite in the small town off Bethanien. There hadn’t been a sign of the mouse all day so we hoped it had jumped out, but to be sure we had saved the packed of breakfast cereal that it had enjoyed last night. As I was cooking dinner I could hear a noise in the car. Running quickly to the passenger side of the car where I had left the breakfast cereal I could see the mouse sitting next to the bag. Before I was able to get it out it ran and hid underneath the dashboard. After dinner Espen made his own trap using a piece of a plastic bag that made a lot of noise, breakfast cereal on top, and covering this was a pot held up with a stick with a string attached. With the string Espen could sit outside the car (drinking beer, he claimed) while waiting for the mouse. It took only a couple of minutes before we could hear the mouse. It must have been starved because it had nothing to eat all day as we spent a lot of time driving. Espen managed to trap the mouse and we released it outside the car.

It looked pretty confused as it was running around, not finding anything familiar after travelling 330 km in a car. It found a place to hide in a fence on our campsite and we felt so sorry for it. Hope it will be able to adapt to its new surroundings. We are at least really happy that it only travelled with us for a day.

Malin

  • Comments(1)//blog.unurban.no/#post134