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