Oct 14 Waterberg Plateau
Monday, after the weekend in Windhoek, Rich dropped me off in front of the Namibian Wildlife Resorts (NWR) Office in the hope of getting camping reservations for Etosha Pan. He carried on to a supermarket in order to get our most important camping provisions; beer and wine were not sold on Sunday. I was lucky at NWR and was able to get a night at each of the three campgrounds in Etosha and a night at Waterberg on the way up. After an hour driving around Katusha, trying to find our way north we were on the way. Katusha is the community in Windhoek where, similar to Soweto in Johannesburg, people come and build shacks while they try to find employment. Katusha is where over 2/3 of the people in the city live.
Three hours took us to Waterberg, a game reserve set on a plateau about 150 m above the surrounding country side. A few species like eland, sable, roan antelope, and rhino have been introduced here. We took a four hour game drive that was pretty painful. Basically sitting in a big game truck with only a couple of 20 minute sessions in game hides, where we had close encounters with giraffe and water buffalo. We did see one roan and a few sable.
Oct 15 Namutoni, Etosha Nat Pk
In the morning before breakfast we did a two hour walk up through the interesting cliff bands to the rim of the plateau. Our walks are so infrequent that they all feel so good. We did see some apes and dik dik and a few birds, but mostly it was the view and the hike that was most appreciated. We had another four hour drive, including a gasing and provisioning stop. The entry into Etosha brought us to our first camp spot, Namutoni. We set up our tent and then hung out for a while trying to stay cool until it was time to head over to the waterhole. Each of the campsites is set on a waterhole and viewing areas have been created. We went back twice to this one and saw a few zebra and antelope species. There was also a nice sunset.
Oct 16 Halali, Etosha Nat Pk
After a brief visit to the waterhole and breakfast we were off on the drive to Halali, the campsite in the middle of the park. It is only about 75 km, between the sites, but along the way the information map shows all of the waterholes and these at least double the distance driven. At the first we saw a rhino and some hyenas. At each of the six or seven stops we saw some and sometimes many animals. We almost always saw birds as well. At times the drive took us along the Etosha Pan itself, which is a great salt/mud flat that extends northwards to the horizon. It shimmers with differing colours depending upon the sky, temperature and composition of the flat. You could get lost appreciating its shifting moods. At one five or more km stretch we followed along with thousands of primarily zebra and wildebeest on a slow meander westwards. These were among the prime species that we saw each day. We also saw giraffe, springbok, black-faced impala, ostrich, in proliferation. And of course the birds were endless in number.
Our final venture on this day was a fruitless 37 km drive through the bush without seeing much, but the day was still wonderful. The campsite at Halali was similar to others we have been at, with the main challenge being to get out of the sun. We had lunch are the restaurant. Each of the campsites is actually a resort with rooms and chalets of differing calibres, restaurants, swimming pools and kiosks as well as the camping areas.
Oct 17 Okaukuejo Etosha Nat Pk
At our first hole, on the way to Okaukuejo, we saw a couple of sleeping lionesses. They were some distance a way and we would have missed had they not been pointed out be another visitor. Along the route, as we drive through the park, are about an equal number of private vehicles like ours; although a 2wd is adequate on the gravel roads. There are also many in open game trucks out from one of the camps, and finally there are quite a few closed tour buses. So the roads can get busy at times, but much of the time we were on our own. The second water hole on this second day we had a distant male lion pointed out. You could easily mistake these for a log lying amongst the rocks. Without binoculars and a high powered lens you can not really see anything. On the road we came to about four vehicles stopped along the road. We crept alongside one and asked what they were looking at. “A lion”…”where is he” we asked …”right beside you” came the reply. He was about 2 meters away, under a tree beside the road. Rich could almost reach out and pet him. We turned about and got in line for our few minutes of look and photo op.
At the camp, earlier today, it was again very hot and so before we set up camp we each retreated to some shade; Rich to a shelter to work on his notes, me to a pool where I sat and cooled my body temperature. Late afternoon we headed over to the water hole and it was active.
As I was getting there about 40 elephants were stretched out on their march into the pool. An old matriarch had preceded them and greeted them as the came. There were about 15 young ones and they were having trouble keeping in line, in anticipation of the fun. Once at the pool they drank, swam and rolled in the water but mostly played, exactly like the young of any species. A group of older males, none of which was really big, stayed at the end of the pool drinking. Mothers and babies were the centre of activity here. After half an hour of this, they began their dignified parade from the pool, letting the zebra, springbok and the rest have their turn. One lone bull stood on the horizon all the while. What I would give to understand that story. Elephants have to be the most communal of the mammals, and the intricacy of their activity and interactions with each other and with the other animals is fascinating.
This waterhole, of all that we saw here is a wonder. There was never a time when things were not happening. It is not hard to understand why Okaukuejpo is the most popular site in Etosha.
We stayed between a Scots couple with three young boys and a British couple who have a vehicle on a seven month guaranteed buy back deal. Something both Rich and I are interested in.
Etosha is the last of the big game parks for us on this trip, and it has proven to be the best experience in some ways. Rich says that he has never seen the multitude of game even in Kenya or Tanzania.
Oct 18 Uis
We had another nice hour and some at the waterhole in the morning before heading out of the park. We did not really have a destination picked out when we left, but as the day rolled on, and we got onto the gravel roads west and a bit south of Etosha we finally picked out a B&B in a town down the way and headed for it. On the way we were on some scenic routes and basically had a driving day.
Our B&B in Uis a small mining town, the White Lady, is named after a San paining in the mountains nearby. This is our first hotel after four nights of camping, but I have had some troubles sleeping in hotel rooms, struggling between the noise and cold of air conditioning and the heat of rooms shut up to keep the mosquitoes away. I always sleep well in our tent.
We arrived at about 6:00 and after some time our hostess asked if we wanted to join a German party in a braai (BBQ). Not much hesitation on our part after our continual meatless pasta dinners that we have while camping. We had Oryx steaks, pork ribs and boersworst sausages with potatoes, bread and a salad bar.
Oct 19 Spitzkoppe
After a great breakfast at the White Lady, and a short drive on which we saw some new birds, we entered SpitzkoppePark, named for its Matterhorn, like mountain, although we do not think so. The small group of mountains is a proliferation of red rock boulders stacked on top of each other, in a wonderfully random way. All of the campsites are in little niches in the rocks. All very neat, but we picked one and set out for a walk. It is a bit cooler here, now that we are getting close to the sea, but still hot at mid-day when the sun is out. I scrambled down a ravine, snagging myself at times on the prickly bushes and then found some nice easy scrambling up to a natural arch. After a couple hours of this, we drove around most of the park, Rich had his walk and we had a fine pasta dinner. We also found new birds. This is a wonderful place, even though you have to bring your own water.
Oct 20, Swakopmund
We had another easy breakfast, entertained by the cheeky Startlings, this time the Pale-Winged. At our campground I think I got photos of seven different birds, from my camp chair. We drove an hour an a half down to Henties Bay, almost imperceptively dropping 1000 m in the process. Still it got colder as we approached the Atlantic coast; the weather here dramatically affected by the cold Bengguela Current coming up from Antarctica. This is the same current that keeps the sea moisture from dropping on land, creating the Namib desert that runs along the coast from South Africa into Angola.
Another short drive got us to Swakopmund, the prime sea-coast and recreation centre for Namibians. This is an old town, still with heavy German influence, historically and as a favourite destination for German tourists. We checked into a B&B to get cleaned up, stocked up with food, more camping permits acquired and emailed.