Sunday, 17 April 2016

Namibia visit 1

I call this blog visit 1 because we are only passing through the top of Namibia to get across to Zambia to meet Charles and Mandy's family on 18th April. We are driving across the Caprivi strip to cross the border, however, it has worked out well this way as it really is something we would not have done if we headed straight to the southern parts of Namibia!  We will visit Namibia again later on in our trip and go down south to see more of the country!

The border to get in was simple, more high tech as well! Coming out of Angola we had our photos taken and all data was transferred electronically, this was a first! It was only the language barrier that caused an issue however google translate came in handy a couple of times along with some guess work and large arm movements! Arriving on the Namibian side our tyres were sprayed, and our feet disinfected.. Charles thought it was because of a recent outbreak of foot and mouth in the southern countries. I can't imagine them spraying our tyres would have done much good considering how dirty and muddy the car is all over but the lady doing it was fantastic, very funny and outgoing which made the experience amusing! We went into immigration and got stamped in (no visa required), but had to pay road tax (242N$ which is about£12). There are about 20N$ to the £ which makes the calculations quite easy! Getting through to the customs was also simple and we were out driving on the left hand side in no time - This is the first time since England we had driven on the left hand side and it very strange! The boys were extatic they could now use the mirrors correctly and I was just happy I wasn't on oncoming traffic duty any more when overtaking!

Coming out of the border there was a pick and pay.. Again another South African thing.. Charles and Mandy were in heaven! Before we knew it our basket was full of beer (Windhoek a local Namibian beer) and various ciders.. Hunters and Savannah with other treats including biltong and crisps. The prices were so cheap, a six pack of cans came to £2. We decided we may like Namibia! I am pretty sure we have visited a supermarket every day since being in Angola and Namibia., the novelty of getting all your food in once place has yet to wear off! Leaving there we headed to a camp site, I hadn't been very well over the last few days.. Sore throat and a cold (in the heat in Africa?!), so some rest was needed! We arrived at a lovely little place which was being done up for renovation but the facilities were really nice! Rob instantly got aquatinted with the animals there, picking up and holding a goat which gave him so much joy, along with a duck who couldn't wait be let go!  Tent went up at 3pm and I went to bed until the smell of the fire being lit dragged me up! Dinner was another fire and sadly for myself again an early night! Everyone had agreed that a day of rest was probably needed, so we spent the Sunday at the camp site.. I was feeling slightly better but was looking forward to not having to sit in the car all day! Washing was done - sheets, clothes and other bits and bobs, car was cleaned and re-packed. Things you don't get a chance to do when driving non-stop. It was nice to be able to get things sorted out and fixed - the boys spent the evening with their heads under the bonnets, it seems that since the Congo the cars have decided to give up a little with new rattles and things coming loose every time we turn on the engine! Around lunch time we headed out to the shoopping mall - things have got very Western again! Our clothes have taken a bit of a beating what with the mud, hand washing and wringing out, so we found a cheap clothes shop and stocked up on basics and also on some slightly smarter clothes too. The prices were unbelievable again, I picked up two vests, some shorts and a dress for £10. It is nice to now own clothes that are slightly smarter especially when you go out, driving is fine is scruffy clotthes because they just end up muddy and sweaty, I just need somewhere to wear them now!

The boys could smell the KFC there so we decided to give it a try. Sadly, like most of Africa, when ordering food you must have at least 3 choices - normally they don't have the first two choices and this time was no different! They had nothing but chicken strips and snack burgers. Undeterred we got some of each! It was ok. KFC like but the boys were happy and we were all very full! Heading back to the cars we finished putting washing back and lit another fire. Evening came around and it was pork chops and salad for dinner. The meat since Angola has been really nice, you can buy actual cuts of meat instead of chunks of what ever they pull off the animal! It is welcomed having meat on the plate. we even had some feta cheese and ice berg lettuce! Living the high life now!

(The owners of the site had a parrot which, as we were leaving plucked up enough courage to come and perch near us!)

After relaxing for a few days, and working out how many km we had to do before Livingstone, we decided to press on. The roads so far have been pretty perfect, tar and open - you can see the livestock before it jumps onto the road in front of you! Since southern Angola there has been a lot more farms, something we haven't seen really since Togo and Benin. This is the same in Namibia - lots of agriculture and farming going on - it seems to pay well here also as there is a lot more farm equipment and good irrigation systems. Lots of livestock as well, next to the roads it is common to see heards of cattle (really beautiful colours), goats, horses and donkeys.. You just have to watch out for them on the road - I can see why driving at night is dangerous! The sky is back to the very blue colour it was in Morocco and the clouds look like marshmallows for miles around! It really is stunning. The general accomodation is still the same, just more well kept and often had a reed fence around each housing unit. It looks a lot smarter and tidier than huts just everywhere. There has also been less rubbish, we have even seen recycling bins in some villages!

The first day we did about 150km to get to a small village, and the second doing about the same distance to a river lodge! We had read on iOverlander that it was stunning and the pitches were rather luxurious (camping standard). For £10.50 each pitch got its own shower, toilet, sink, BBQ and seating area - we chose two adjoining and went in search of the bar! The place had wifi so it was time to chat to family, and then friends in the evening which was really lovely!

We travelled about another four hours down the Caprivi strip and arrived at the Negepi lodge. We had been recommended it by two people and the place was just fantastic! Right by the river, the camp spots and little river lodges were spread out across the site. The main hub had verandas over looking the river with hammocks and wooden animals dotted about. The river was very swollen and crossing the normally dry road to get into the camp the water came up to our bonnet, the boys loved it! The rains, we were told, had not fallen here but in Angola a few months ago but the water had now finally come into Namibia! Funnily enough in Angola we had been told there had been very heavy and unexpected rains at about that time. The afternoon was spent in the national park on a game drive. This was my first ever so I was very excited, however I wasnt the only one!

Within the first few minutes of being in the park we had seen a wilderbesat and then some elephants. The elephants were different to the ones in Burkina, a lot bigger and darker gray! The animals just kept coming, next to the water hole we saw a  heard of sable which are very rare, Charles was extatic as we were about 10m from them all. Behind them were more elephants and zebra.. Our guide was into his collective nouns and told us a group of zebra is a dazzle of.. 

(The sable with the elephants in the back group) 

Leaving there we drove through the bush on a 4x4 track, despite the car being very noisy and us going very fast the animals were not shy! We saw so much.. Impala, lechwe, sesbe, kudo andbush Buck all grazing, again not shy at all! Running across the road we saw a monitor lizard and many mongooses, in the air a crimson breasted strike - there were lots a beautiful birds about, our guide knowing every one! 

All of a sudden our guide came to a grinding halt, slinking into the bush was a leopard. We only caught a glimpse of it, but it was amazing. Our guide, Theo, was so excited, amazing game drive he keep repeating. It was the first time since working at the lodge his guests had seen one on a drive! We counted ourselves very lucky and word of our success did filter through the lodge that evening! 

After seeing the leopard we didn't think it could get much better, the sun was beginning to go down as we crossed the river. Floating around happily were 7 hippos, much bigger than in Burkina. Again they were happy to let us sit there even showing us their mouths, again according to our guide showing God they have no fish! Along this route we also saw giraffes, so graceful (giraffes walking are a journey of giraffes, and standing still are a tower of giraffes!), buffalo, warthogs, ostrich and many birds! We were just so lucky, even Charles and Mandy were impressed, Mandy even got a little overhwelmed! For me, I counted myself so lucky, to spend a couple of hours in a park for the first time ever and see so many beautiful animals! Someone must have been smiling down on us! 

We travelled further down the Caprivi strip and ended up at an amazing 5* lodge, camping was expensive however it offered a view over the wet grasslands, along with an amazing toilet block and kitchen area. They offered a pool next to a terrace where we spent the afternoon. We had woken up early that morning so Charles and I went for a run along the river bank (exercise has not been the top priority on the trip so it was hard work), hearing a splash we stopped to see a mother and baby hippo sunning themselves in the river! The coolness of the morning was lovely, and by the time we got back to camp everyone was awake and we had breakfast in front of the stunning view. These lodges are stunning, all of them, however you really need a lot of money, and be there on a holiday specifically at the place to appreciate them.. Going on game drives and boat trips etc is what they offer and for the casual camper it can be expensive. 

Leaving there we drove around the bulb of the strip and to Katima the border town, on the road we had gone from livestock next to us to elephants, ostriches, warthogs and baboons! Every so often we would come to a grinding halt to observe the animals - very strange experience! We had a couple of nights to play with and turned up at the Caprivi house boat site. Another quirky site set on the banks of the Zambezi - with its own resident croc - we settled down for an afternoon of fishing for the boys and book downloading for us! We spent the evening with a fire chatting to the other guests and went to bed at a normal time! This place offers boat safaris, you spend a week on the boat along the Zambezi watching wildlife and seeing the sites - something I would love to do! 

On the Saturday we had a lazy morning, utilising the Internet and tracking Gill and Roger who were making good progress in their way to meet us. We ate our breakfast and trying to keep up the exercise did some circuits - in a 2 day rolling streak and I am feeling.. Can't believe I used to go to the gym so often at home, very out of practise!

(Chaka my spotter during the circuits)

Charles and I also managed to get rid of another box making the car tidier and also more open at the top. Washing was also done and left out in the sun to dry. The heat here in Namibia is a dry heat, a lot less sweaty and humid than some of the other countries, which makes it easier to perform daily chores! We we sitting next to the river when we were called out to the front, the owner had managed to catch a baboon spider, one of many they have here. Its was just smaller than his palm and brown and hairy. It is the first big spider we have seen but it was very docile! They live in holes in the ground jumping out on unsuspecting prey as it scuttles by! 

Mid afternoon and all Charles' Christmases came at once, Rachel, one of the workers there, had the previous night said he could go on her motor bike. Normally when people say things like that we don't get our hopes up because there is often alcohol involved, or it is brushed over the next day. However when she came out with an orange helmet and the keys Charles face was a picture. He took the bike around the surrounding villages and was a very happy boy! The stay at the boat house was really pleasant, it's quirky additions, laid back attitude and self service bar was a recipie for success! Very glad we came here!

Our week in the northern part of Namibia was over, but we are so looking forward to coming back in a few months to visit the rest of it! What an amazing country!