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!