Sunday, 25 September 2016

Namibia 4

The border dash was fairly uneventful, lots of driving, sadly no Harry as we had finished him around Etosha (we had moved onto the Hobbit which was fine until about chapter 8 where I got lost..). We had two stop overs, one at Oppi Koppi which was free for 'Overlanders' providing you posed for a photo. We saw Rob and Mandy, Kars and Simone and the two cyclists Sarah and Scott who we met at the Fish River Canyon in the photo book hall of fame. It was a nice site, and they provided a good meal, I finally tasted zebra, oryx, Spring bok and kudu on a game sosaties (a kebab skewer), which was really nice as well as a pizza.. Something you have to have when the chance arises! Charles and I have started a plate sharing thing, we both other something the other one likes and halve it.. All very romantic but really it prevents food envy.. The crux of all good relationships! The second stop along the way was Roy's Camp, another example of the farmers branching out in times of hardship, the camp site was decent and on the site of a farm.. The pool was a real welcome after 6 hours of hot and sticky driving! Why I ever complained about the cold in Swakobmund or Pretoria I will never know!  As we are moving onto the fairly touristy Caprivi strip sites are becoming busier and harder to find a place, great for the businesses but harder for us, Oppi Koppi was so full they were squeezing and sharing camp sites, this, however, is generally not a problem as they are all huge! 

Two days before our visa was to expire we decided to try our luck at the border near Ngepi camp and a short drive through the Bwabata National park. After another sweltering drive we arrived and explained our situation to a lovely immigration official who told us we could have another 30 days (having only used 60/90) but to do so we would have to be stamped out of Namibia, walk over to Botswana get stamped in then out, returning to Namibia for a new visa.. So we left the car in Namibia and walked the 100m to the Botswanean immigration. The lady there thought it was highly amusing, and chatted away to us as she was filling out paper work and stamping our passports twice. Coming back into Namibia all was well, new visa stamped, carnet checked and a new road tax slip - we had lost the last one and needed a new one, you can get fined if you fail to produce.. The policeman there was highly unimpressed we had lost it but after a bit of sweet talking (and 250 dollars) he was all smiles and polite chat!

Arriving at Ngepi camp along the Okavango river we we shocked, when we had been here in April the river had been so high, and half the camp site had been under water. Now it was dry, there was no fun river crossing to get in (Charles being most put out as he had wanted to clean the underneath of the car driving through), the camp site was accessible and the river level much lower. This was a good thing as we took the last camp spot, they were so busy, all houses filled and all sites booked out! Our spot was not as good as the first time, sadly we weren't on the river this time but we were glad to be able to stay there. We booked in for 4 nights, mainly to slow down a bit, sort out the car and also visit the national parks around the area. The first two mornings were spent cleaning the car and fixing problems that had occurred - the connections for the light switches had become loose and bulbs needed to be changed and fitted.. Also the car needed a serious clean inside. We don't care too much about dust, it's just a daily issue but it had gotten bad even for us! The afternoons were spent on their sun deck or in the caged pool in the river cooling down. Lots of wild life to be seen as well as bird life. Sitting on the deck and around the bar area throughout the afternoons allowed us to chat to others at the camp, we met Figure of 8 Africa, Goeff from the UK and his daughter Eve, in a defender and Toyota who had followed our blog (very strange meeting people who already know your journey), and Clement and Joanne who were South Africans and had quit their jobs etc and were travelling around for 4 months. It was nice to chat to others and swap stories.. Bugs, police, animals and good places to stay. 

(River level and water level in April when we first visited)
(Same spot in September)

On the Friday we went into Babwata National Park, it is a small park but when we went in back in April we saw loads of animal. We were lucky to see buffalo which we hadn't seen much of, and also roan! I am slowly getting to grips with all the names of the antelope-y animals, David Atenborough doesn't really touch on the roan, eland, sable etc during his Africa shows, so I have to be forgiven for only really knowing zebra and Impala.. And even then I get Impala confused with Spring bok, puku and lechwears! By 12 the sun was roasting, we were sweating and the animals had retired to the bush! Back to Negepi we went and moved to our new camp site 20 by the river - we had extended our stay by another night and were lucky enough to be able to move, our first site was fine but not next to the hippos on the river which is definitely a feature of the camp site! Our first evening there was great, hippos grunting away as we had our braai - pork and home made bread, with a couple of beers - we were going to eat at their restaurant but the menu for the night was stew which, to be honest, we could easily make ourselves, plus our braai was much nicer! The second day in our new spot was spent spending time with, and chatting to our new neighbours, 3 couples who had all met in Hong Kong but two were South African and they were doing a tour of Namibia. They were very fun, and made the day and night fly by with lots of smiles. 

(Home made bread) 

We had wanted to move along the horse shoe part of the Caprivi however realising we had no food, it was a Sunday and there was no shops until Katima Mulilo we changed our plans to head there. Frustratingly we didn't arrive until 1.10 when the shops closed so we splashed out on a KFC and headed towards Namwi Island Campsite on the Zambezi river. It was an ok place, not much soul but served a purpose for the night until we could head back into town, find some food and move to the Caprivi Houseboat Lodge, which the previous night had been full. We stayed here for 2 nights, fishing, catching up on admin jobs, researching Botswana and speaking to family! We also spoke to a bird photographer who recommended another campsite 30km away. We weren't going to go there, as we had never heard of it however he told us it was great for bird watching! Never keen to turn down ticking off some more birds in out 'Birds of Southern Africa' book we moved there after our stay at the house boat. 

Kalizo Lodge did not disappoint. Campsites set on the wide, meandering river, under large trees, we arrived about 10am and were already seeing some beautiful birds! Carmine bee eaters, which were a shocking pink and orange were everywhere, skimmers, storks, as well as fish eagles and yellow billed kites. Sadly our camera was not so good for some of them, but we managed to get some fairly decent photos! Boats out on the river were catching huge tiger fish and it was great fun watching them as they hauled up these huge fish! In the morning we drove the 2km just outside the campsite to a hide. We had been told there was a colony of carmine bee eaters there which were worth a look. There were hundreds of them and we certainly didn't need the hide! The noise and the colours were incredible! An amazing sight to behold, and Charles was having great fun taking photographs!  

On our first trip to the Caprivi we had stayed at the rather expensive Namushasha Lodge, which was rather nice! Heading towards Nkasa Rupara National Park we stopped over there for the night, spending the afternoon in the swimming pool and the evening drinking gin and tonics on their beautiful decks! We made a hasty getaway after sunset due to the amazing smelling food making its way out of the kitchen, it was all slightly above our price range, and besides, our sausages in the braai were almost as nice!

Nukasa Rupara National Park is a small park at the bottom of the bulb of the Caprivi. We had come here previously but not stayed as we couldn't find the community campsite. There are a few here, one being the Livingstone Exclusive Campsite (we thought Namushasha was expensive this was 285N$ per person per night), a tented campsite which again would have been out of our price range and a community campsite, Rupara Camp. This time we made a concerted effort to find it, and with a bit of luck we did! A small site, each pitch with its own toilet and hut for shade for a mere fraction of the price, 80N$ per person per night. After securing our spot we headed off to the park HQ for a permit for the next day, and spent some time driving around the roads leading up to the park which you can do for free. We saw loads of elephant, all a little stressed with the hot weather, warthogs having a great time in the mud, zebra, wilderbeest and Impala. Not bad for free!  The weather here in the Caprivi at the moment is excruciatingly hot, by 9am the sun cream is on, and I have gone back to tshirts for prevent too much sun burn (having got burnt badly at Kalizo!). It makes things ten times harder; when driving I am always hopeful I will be in the shade, and if not have a scarf over my arms as the sun is so feirce, it makes exercising hard (we choose to do it morning or late afternoon), and just walking around the camp site you get hot and bothered! The campsite was fantastic, whilst setting up our lunch under a grassy hut, 8 elephants and a baby came down to the watering hole for a splash and a drink! Not even in the park and we were getting up close and personal with the wildlife! 

(Elephants whilst eating lunch!)

As darkness fell and the mossies began to bite we headed up to the tent to watch the watering hole. We had both just fallen asleep when we heard crashing noises and awoke to two elephants trashing the trees around us. They were about 5m away and drinking out of the toilets! There were some funny sounds coming from both ends, slurping and farting, and lots of trees snapping! It was slightly nerve racking but after an hour they moved on! Was a pretty cool experience! After an early wake up, we drove round the Nkasa Lupala national park, seeing and hearing loads of elephants, Impala and warthogs. As the sun rose higher we left the park, filled up with food in Katima and headed towards Ngoma (where we would cross to Botswana). We stayed the rest of the day and night at Chobe Lodge, on the edge of the Chobe River and across from the National Park, it was stunningly beautiful. The lodge and campsite were on the river, Charles was able to fish whilst I sat and bird watched. Over the other side of the river there were elephants and zebras. What a way to leave Namibia!

(Views from the camp site at Chobe Camp)

 Namibia.. I can honestly say we have loved this country, it is deinfitly up there with the top places we have been, but not top (Malawi still clinches it!). Down South we loved the scenery, the different places to see related to their flourishing diamond mines, the canyons and craters, the walking and the towns quintessentially German/Swiss in their appearance. The middle and as far North as we went, was so different, dry and arid, experiencing Namibia hospitality at its best. Staying with those who know the land inside out and experiencing some things no 'tourist' would see! The wildlife was stunning, and landscapes vast! The Caprivi strip is still a highlight, it's so green and full of animals and birds! Whilst it is more popular with the tourists (and a bit more pricey) I would recommend a trip from Livingstone in Zambia, all the way down the Caprivi towards Etosha and then Windhoek. You really will see some gems of Namibia. It is an easy country for tourists, everything is labelled, and sign posted, prices are fairly readily available and you don't have to search for somewhere to stay, food is everywhere but is very Un-Namibian, however apart from pap and meat I am not really sure what is! For me, it still wasn't quite up there as Malawi, due to the lack of interaction with locals, and fact that it is so busy with people however it is  still a place I would recommend in a heart beat! 

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Namibia 3

Our next big adventure was into Etosha, or E-toe-Sha as the Americans like to call it, is one of the biggest and most densely populated parks in the world. A bit of history (as the entrance blurb is next to me). Etosha is made up of a pan which was a lake millions of years ago this has an area 4730km, whilst the park as a whole has an area of 22270km. It has around 114 mammal species, 380 bird species and 110 reptile species. These statistics mean you would hope to see something and luckily we did! We stayed about 30km outside the park the night before in a fantastic campsite called Mondjila Safari camp; cheap and a good location, nice campsites and amazing smells coming from the kitchen - sadly it was a little too pricey for us! Having stayed up most of the previous night lion hunting (unsuccessfully), we were both shattered and in bed early. This was probably a good thing as we were up at 5.30 to get to the gate for opening at sunrise. Since the clocks have changed, forward, sunrise is now at about 6.45. Getting into the park was interesting, a fairly simple process made difficult by lazy gate staff and a bizzare paying systems, however we decided to pay for two day passes which came to £16.. Not bad at all really, cheaper than most places! They get you on the camping in the park so we decided we would camp outside and come back in each morning (so we planned..!).

Etosha is very commercial, the most commercial national park we have been to yet! Lodges and camp grounds were very modern, shops, tourist shops and filling stations were littered around. The roads on the whole good, graded gravel tracks and only some places you really needed a 4x4.. Road users fairly inconsiderate, driving extremely fast with little or no consideration for the animals next to the road which often jumped out of the way! The most common sights around the watering holes are the numerous white Toyotas (now nicknamed the impala of the road), and the overland/tourist busses carting people around from animal to animal.. Here's a lion, here's a zebra.. And so on! However, despite my early ramblings and grumblings it was actually a nice park! On a small side note, day 1 we hit, and went over the 40,000km mark for the trip.. We will be placing bets on the final count!

Despite how dry it is here, there are loads of animals, high populations of predators which have not seemed to make much of a dent in the game population.. Hundreds of zebra, Spring bok and Impala on every road! Very quickly on day 1 we saw a pack of jackles, black faced Impala (quite rare), Spring bok, oryx, kudu, Impala, zebras and elephants! As the sun got higher, and temperatures reached highs of 40 degrees, the herds of Toyotas retreated to the restaurants leaving us 'poor folk' to claim the peace and quiet in the park. It was at this point we saw two spotted hyenas chilling on the plains, very ugly, yet strangely beautiful animals, they look like thay have stolen someone's clothing and not quite matched it all up! Charles was very pleased as he really likes these animals. Arriving at the nearest water hole we were again rewarded with a rare sight, a black rhino which I have yet to see - they are funny looking animals, squat with small eyes.. They look like something out of Dr Who (I can't remember what, but the ones who liked to kill a lot with a potatoe head coming out of a space suit.. Rich you may know their names!). As the afternoon wore on we noticed a pack of Toyotas cirlcing around at the side of the road, another thing in Etosha is that it is very easy to let someone else do the spotting and then go and crash their party (this happened with the hyenas, we spotted them and within 10 minutes there were another 6 cars around us). We were right to do so, and as we puled up saw a female lion, her cub and a kill lying under a tree. An incredible sight and we spent a good hour watching them, the power in her teeth ripping the zebra to pieces was amazing, the cub was giving it a good go also! With the gates soon closing we headed out at the East side of the park and stayed the night at Sachsenheim Guest Farm, a lovely place on a cattle farm - cheap, hot water and big sites, and only 20km outside the park. 

(Obligatory ice cream selfie)

Up early again we headed to the gate where again it was all kinds of a pain to get in.. Whilst we had already paid the previous day it was far too much effort for the gate staff to off of their bottoms to check, meaning each car had to stop and the driver get out before they could get in making it a long and drawn out process! Finally we got in and headed back into the park via a similar route to the previous day. We went more back roads this time, seeing red haartebeast, hyenas with a kill and hundreds of vultures. Driving past the place where the lions were the previous day they had long gone, however this had not filtered through to the tourist game drive drivers who were all circling the place mystified that the lions had gone.. But they were there yesterday, they kept saying to us.. Makes you wonder really.. We headed back to the Anderson gate where we had come in the first morning and were there around lunch time, as we got there and looked at the map and also how many days we had left on our visa, we realised that we weren't really in a great position, also having just spoken to another Landrover owner (we really are few and far between so tend to seek each other out and band together at all opportunities to swap break down stories) who had stayed in the park that night, we decided that we may regret not doing so if we didn't. We like a change of plan, it keeps us on our toes and luckily we spoke to the most competent NWR receptionist we have yet to meet who was able to make us a reservation at Olifants which apparently has one of the best watering holes. She found it funny we had not made a reservation andslightly shocked at the fact our plans were only stretched to the next hour! Luckily she found us a reservation and we drove rather quickly the 133km to get there. We saw less on the second day, more of the same game animals, hundreds of zebra, wilderbeest (or Williams as they are now fondly known). 10km from the campsite we stopped off at a huge watering hole, around it were a herd of elephants including some small babies, zebra (who were doing a pretty good job intimidating the elephants away from the water), Spring bok, Impala, wilderbeest, ostrich and giraffe. It was a pretty magnificent sight to behold! The was also a jackle, who sadly seemed to be on its way out, we didn't think it would survive the night - apparently there has been an outbreak of rabies amongst the jackle population so it could have been that! 

The campsite Olifanturus was less commercial than the others in the park, it was smaller and even though we were in the overflow site it was still great. In fact we thought we had a better deal than the other campers as we will had all the same facilities (electricity, braai etc) but were right next to the picnic tables.. Bonus! Tent was up in record speed and beers opened so we went and sat in the hide next to the watering hole. The hide was amazing, you walked up a 50m walkway over the campsite fence and into a octagonal two story building right on the water, the top level was open and the bottom had huge floor to ceiling windows. As the sun began to go down we watched a huge herd of Zebra cool off, it was funny watching them surge forward, much like the forwards in a rugby scrum, but get irritated at each other and kick out. As it got dark we quickly cooked some dinner, had showers and rushed back to the hide. When you know the opportunity to watch animals is out there you find yourself thinking about what you are missing out on when you aren't there.. During dinner we sat there hoping we didn't miss out on anything! We didn't miss out, as we arrived two black rhinos were standing 5m from the hide drinking water and snorting rather loudly. One was rather territorial of the water and any other animal was inspected and driven away if not liked! This didn't stop other animals from arriving however, a huge herd of eland came, these large, cow like animals had great fun in the e water and as they sloped off two jackles arrived and shortly after 6 elephants. The elephants were fantastic, having a great time splashing around,  the sounds they make were so loud as they were literally 5m again from the hide, many of the so big their eyes almost met ours on the second floor! He hide was much quieter in the morning, as we drank our coffee, we thought people would be up early to watch the animals or set off into the park but most seemed to be asleep still! This was a shame for them as after hearing it calling, a spotted hyena came bounding up to drink! It was a pretty impressive sight! 

(Rhino in the red light)
(Elephant in the red light)

Our third day in the park was spent moving towards the western side to come out of the Gaston Gate. It was full of artificial water holes and lots of giraffes, elephants, kudu, Impala, Spring boks, warthogs, zebra and oryx. Sadly no lions but you can't win them all! A great few days in Etosha! We are now in a camp site just outside called Oppi Koppi which allows Overlanders to stay for free before we make our break for the border! 

#namibia #etosha #southernafrica 

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Namibia 2

Still in Swakobmund we had a day to walk around the town before we went sand boarding the next morning. We went to the aquariums for a bit of education, learning about and seeing the local fish population, there was an underwater tunnel to walk through which was fun.. We were probably the oldest ones there but it appealed to us plus it was cheap and killed an hour or so! Having found a really good coffee shop, Slowtown Coffee Roasters, the day before we headed back there to warm up. The temperature here is cold, a real shock from the sweltering temperatures more inland. They have a haze zone here from the wind and mist coming in from the sea which keeps the temperature down - jeans, tops and coats weather! The town itself was a mixture of high end branded shops, the pound land equivalents and lots of restaurants, again with a range of prices! Having warmed up we had a few chores to do, running low on malaria tablets we picked some more up, I think I have said this many a time, but if you are going away to Africa, buy your malaria tablets abroad! We got 6 weeks worth for both of us for £3.50, almost a fraction of the price we spent in England, and no prescription required! Whilst finishing off the boring bits we received some good news about a tax rebate so treated ourselves to pizza! Small things! A good day just spent wandering about (20,000 steps on my Fitbit.. Almost doubling the previous weeks total).

We were picked up at 9.30am the next morning to head to the sand dunes in the Dorob National park. Both of us were a little nervous, Charles more so due to his newly outed competitive streak.. Obviously he had to be better than me! After the safety briefing and putting on the boarding boots (all equipment is the same as snowboarding), we trudged up the sand dune.. This was the not so good bit! Due to it being a national park no permanent structures can be built including a chair lift or way of getting to the top! The climb was fairly brutal and hot but getting to the top of the dunes we were rewarded with some spectacular views of the park and Swakobmund in the distance. Explanation done and off we went! It was pretty much the same a snowboarding just slower, the sand being comparable to end of the day slush or deep powder.. You needed to keep a lot more weight on the back foot compared to snow, and you didn't need to stay on the edges as much! Once we got the hang of it again it was great fun! It did feel strange doing it in a vest top in the heat, however it will be the nearest we get to boarding this year so we made the most of it! Towards the end we were able to try the lie down boarding (there are two options, stand up and lie down), which was insane! You push yourself off a dune on basically a waxed up piece of MDF and just let it take you down! The group doing this had reached speeds of over 70km/hour! We decided to try it out, I managed a top speed of 63km/hour, Charles initially got the same but needed to beat me so went down again to get 67km/hour.. Lunch was provided after along with some beers and it was back to the backpackers for us, until around 5 when we went to the Brewery Pub for a drink and went to watch the dvd they had created of the boarding.

(Lie down boarding!)

Packing up and leaving Swakobmund was a good feeling, we liked being there - little luxuries and a change of pace, but we're ready to head onwards and north-wards! The plan was to head to the Messum Crator, and follow the coast up a little until we could get no further (we had not been able to get permits for the Skeleton Coast - these are few and far between and only collected in Windhoek). The drive to the Crator was fine until the last 40km where the road got very bumpy with lots of corregations. Stopping at the Crator, a huge 20km wide basin with huge rock formations around it in the middle of nowhere, we had some lunch and realised the chassy had cracked pretty badly. Plan 3 devised and we were on our way back to Swakobmund to get it fixed! 

(The Crator)

Arriving back in Swakobmund we checked back into Skeleton Beach Backpackers for two nights, it was late by the time we arrived so nothing could be done to the car at that immediate moment. Going out the next morning we arrived at the first shop to be told he was too busy, but he sent us off to another company who specialise in welding; boats, cars and oil rigs! Their factory was very impressive and he told Charles the same thing as the first guy - we needed to strip off all the old weld, cut a V shape into the chassy and do a bottom up weld (I think this is what I said.. I was reading in the car at the time!). This was going to take two days so our first priority was to find some where to sleep for the evening.. Back to the backpackers and after speaking to the manager (who is fantastic), she found us a dorm to sleep in - I am not sure how she did this as they were fully booked but she did some jiggery pokery! A dorm room was not much more than camping so we paid the excess and were to be sleeping in bunk beds in a small, clean room with two other girls! I had never slept in a dorm room before, and I was feeling a bit uneasy about it.. It was probably because the car wasn't there (it's a bit like a safety blanket), also sleeping in the same room as other people you don't know, and the different times people come in of out the rooms added to the awkwardness of if all! What if I needed the toilet in the night and woke everyone up! For those of you who have done it, or are doing it now I am sure you will laugh at me but it was a odd sensation not having the tent for a bit of privacy. Normally we head to be early-ish to watch a movie or some sort of tv series but that night we found ourselves stretching the evening out so we didn't step on our room mates' toes!

Getting the car back the next day was such a relief, I had not enjoyed sleeping in the dorm. Our dorm companions were lovely, however just so noisy throughout the night.. Snoring and the occasional chat. Sleeping in a new bed always takes getting used to but I was glad to not have to spend a second night doing it! One of those experiences I will not miss! The welding company, Rotary Engineering Services, did what looks like (I am no expert) a good job with the total cost coming to around £152, which was not as expensive as they quoted but enough for us to hope it wouldn't happen again. This is now the fourth time we have had it welded.. It was a fault the car had before we bought it, the previous owner had covered it up well so until it broke the first time we had no idea, that coupled with the English weather battering the chassy it has done well to get us so far. I have begun to refrain from talking badly about the car unless we are out of ear range, I am convinced it goes wrong every time we do!  

(Sun set over Swakobmund beach)

The next destination was to take us towards the Northern part of Namibia, however after being diverted towards Windhoek because of road works and after a quick discussion, we decided that as we were heading there any way we would stop over and get the fridge fixed! Another big expense but one we finally felt needed to be done.. Food wasn't lasting as long as we had hoped and it was not feasible to buy every day or every other day. Better to just bite the bullet now than when we have to get it fixed when we sell the car. Arriving at the Electrical Repair Centre the owner made some phone calls and told us he would come in the next day to replace the compressor and to expect it done in a couple of days. We checked back into The Cardboardbox Backpackers for two nights hoping it would be done. By Friday we had not heard anything and were desperate to leave the noisy backpackers in search of solitude and quiet! Sadly the fridge had not been finished but despite this we headed out to the Von Bach Dam about 60km outside of Windhoek to spend the night. That evening was lovely, it was quite, not shouting or bar fights next to our tent, just us, the dam, a braai and wine! Just what we needed! 

(Night over the dam)
(Getting the cork out, note the hair cut..!)

Fridge finally ready on Sunday morning, we went to collect it. The owner told us the 24 volt transformer we use to plug the fridge into the mains was at a too higher voltage, this had caused spikes in the electricity flow when taking it off the 12 volt battery it is on when driving. This in turn had fried the motor in the compressor hence it not working. He had replaced the compressor, but advised us to buy a new transformer - on a Sunday this was slightly difficult so one wasn't picked up! It seemed very strange considering the 24 volt transformer was the one the fridge came with ... Perhaps an email to the fridge company is in order!?

With our last trip to Windhoek out of the way we slowly moved up North, stopping at Outjiwarongo and a crocodile farm for one night. The crocodile farm was very interesting, we were taken around on a tour of the farm and given explainations - they breed about 1500 crocodiles a year, and at the age of 5 they are either turned into meat or sold for their skin. The breeding crocodiles, around 30+ years, were huge and were rather volitile! Heading up towards Outjo the next day we were called by Andi to say he had just arrived in Hentines Bay (back down South) and we should join him, Jasper and others there -friends of his and farmers up in Outjo. The next morning, after a great evening chatting to and camping next to two other Landrover owners, we drove the 7 hours back down! It was definitely worth it, a couple of days of fishing (sadly not catching anything), drinking and good company made up for the freezing weather and diesel! 

On our way back up we wanted to extend our visa, however we were told whilst this could be done (we have only used 60 out of 90 days), it would have to be done on 15th September when our visa is about to expire. We are hoping to go to a border post that day and see whether they will add on another month, if not we will go into Botswana and come back in..! Divining the back roads up the West Coast we arrived in Mesisa for the night, visiting the Organ pipes, slate looking rocks in a ravine, and the burnt mountain, a purple mountain, before heading up to Outjo again. 

(Organ pipes)
(Burnt mountain)

We arrived at Etotongwe Lodge in Outjo late afternoon to meet Andi, and after a 'few' drinks we headed out to Jasper's hunting camp on a farm 60km outside the town. It was a great place, Mandy and Rob had also stayed there a few months previously. It was in the middle of nowhere, boiling hot and lots of wildlife which made for a great few days and evenings there! As we headed back into town and then onto Jasper's parents farm Charles spent some time with Andi cutting down and splitting wood (tonnes and tonnes of it).. A hot and sticky process but I think a bit of physical labour was beneficial to both of them! It was great to spend time at their farm, I was able to go out to their hide to animal watch, and we were spoilt with amazing food and drink!

(Really not a good photo but Charles and Andi when they came back from the fields.. They were both dirty and very brown! You can only really just see charles' teeth!)

Our last night with them we went out to a local farmer's hide to wait for a problem lion. When talking about hunting in a place like Namibia it is very different to poaching which you often hear about in the news at home. The farmers here are mostly, but not exclusively, cattle farmers and at the moment are suffering the worst drought in 50 years. They haven't had more than 50mm of rain for 5 years and as you can imagine it is making farming rather difficult. They are loosing cattle through starvation and dehydration, with the prices going down for their products. Adding to this are the predators, lions, jackles, hyenas and leopard, who are also trying to survive, however this entails them coming down from a poorly maintained Etosha (incompetent game Rangers and broken fences, coupled with a dislike for cooperating with local farmers or arriving within a short time scale) and making a large dent in the cattle numbers. Hundreds are killed each year. Farmers have to resort to killing these animals due to the fact that not only do they do the come back once, but many times as it is easy food compared to hunting game. For someone looking in from the outside it is very easy to sit back and chastise people for killing these beautiful creatures, however living with, and talking to these farmers you really see there is no choice, and despite the 'accurate' counting methods there are actually a lot of these animals. There are lots of laws, loop holes and disorganisation around hunting, which doesn't help the farmers. Despite being holed up in a wooden hide all night, quite and cold, we saw nothing apart from a lonely giraffe and a Daker - lions 1 us 0. A really interesting few days, it opened my eyes to a different perspective on hunting, life in Namibia and different opportunities - it was great spending time with Andi and Jasper, as well as his family and co-farmers.

From a small camp site 30km outside Etosha we will spend a few days in the park, coming out each night as the camps inside the park charge phenomenal amounts! From there our plan is rather vague and dependent on visa availability! 

#namibia #sandboarding #swakobmund #hunting #livingthedream