Goodness, time has flown by! Opuwo seems a very long time ago now. It was the first place where we had a sense and feel of real Africa on this trip, a busy, dusty town where you see many Himba women covered in red ochre and Herero women dressed in long Victorian gowns with matching impressive headgear.
Our next stop was Etosha National Park. We entered from the far west, paid for two days, and stopped at the over-priced and rather shabby NWR (Namibia Wildlife Resorts) lodge. We did see a lion from their viewing platform in the morning so all is forgiven. The next day we continued along the horribly corrugated road but were rewarded with seeing lots of game en route at the watering holes. For our second night we left the Park (being searched for meat, guns and ivory at the gate) and found a very special campsite (half the price and ten times better than NWR) just outside the Park (Etosha Village Camp). Probably our favourite campsite so far on this trip, we had our own area of bush to camp in with great facilities and a pleasant pool to wallow in! We also had a pair of pet Hornbills who sat chatting to us (actually I think they were complaining we were in their house) .
We re-entered the Park and carried on alongside the Pan with some lovely natural waterholes. The Pan is a vast dust bowl extending over the horizon and at one point you are able to drive out onto it, an impressive sight as it spreads out all around, with dusty whirlwinds whipping up in the distance.
We then left Etosha and headed south towards Tsumeb. To illustrate just how ponderous our pace of travel is, I must tell you that at this point on our trip we had overtaken a total of 4 moving vehicles (in 6 weeks), the last of which was a train travelling alongside the road to Tsumeb with whom we played tag for a while, as we stopped and started in search of a camping spot. He was chugging along at about 20mph and we became quite pally, hooting each other every time we passed!
Unfortunately, it was around this time we discovered the dreaded corrugations had caused our spare fuel tank to split and we were gradually leaking diesel which couldn’t be transferred to our main tank as it was already full, an environmental, as well as a costly, nightmare!
In Tsumeb we spent a few days in another great campsite, big lawn, lovely shady Jacarandas and massive pool! We met, and spent a very pleasant evening with a couple from Switzerland travelling in their big Steyr truck. It is always good to meet and swap information with fellow travellers.
Another town, another mechanic’s yard! Ah the joys of overland travel in Africa! Not getting the tank fixed (too great a problem to sort out before we get home) but getting the back door catch welded (again!) and getting a roll bar stud replaced before all the others had a chance to snap off! I am getting quite fond of my days spent in and around workshops and this one gave me a chance to slobber and be slobbered over by a pack of 4 delightfully friendly, huge, push you over in their exuberance, dogs.
Have to feel for Brucey though – not only does he have to work blooming hard driving the van on these roads (they are worsening, with the dreaded potholed tarmac as we go east) but when we do stop there are countless repair and mend jobs to be done screwing back everything that has come loose en route!
Onward and upward we moved towards Rundu (another town another … yes well, least said….) and to Caprivi Strip, via Grootfontein and the Hoba Meteorite (an enormous slab of nickel and iron). As we trundled north the population increased, with mud hut settlements lining the road and it became more tricky for us to find secluded spots to camp out. But we did, and so far on this trip we’ve had no problems, always managing to spend quiet uninterrupted nights alone with the stars, the occasional cattle or wildlife and the trillion insects (a bit of an irritation admittedly).
We stopped in two lovely campsites right on the edge of the Okavango river (with Angola on the opposite bank), and enjoyed the fabulous birdlife on and around the river as well as the atmosheric ambience of sundowners overlooking the river, before leaving Namibia (sad moment) and entering Botswana (exciting moment). The smoothest border crossing we have ever experienced in Africa (we are not expecting the same ease as we go east!) despite the fact that we failed to produce a certain vehicle permit that should have been issued when we picked up the van in Walvis Bay, and we knew nothing about!
Things are definitely now becoming more African, yay! People, cattle, goats and dogs everywhere, the delightful aforementioned potholed tarmac (ouch! on behalf of Betty Buster) and crazy drivers! As wonderful as Namibia is (and it is truly a wonderful country) this is what we have been missing. The first town we visited in Botswana was ALIVE! Busy, busy, busy with everyone out on the street, chatting, laughing, selling their wares, doing their deals, playing their music (at last some African sounds, fab!)
Our first port of call in Botswana was the Tsodilo Hills to see some rock paintings. We did a guided walk up the hill (designed to highlight how unfit this particular “old folk” has become) and were impressed at how well preserved the prehistoric art is, despite being open to the elements! On the road back masses of butterflies and dung beetles gathering on elephant droppings – I love these little sights of Africa.
We are now in Maun and have spent Christmas in a Lodge campsite on an island at the edge of the Okavango delta, though we have yet to visit and experience that wonderful area. Every evening the locals have been gathering on the opposite bank for a bit of a rave, blasting out sounds from the back of their cars before the Police come along at about 9pm and turf them off. Funnily enough, for us it is preferable, listening to the cacophony of African rave music wafting over the water, than it is to endure the sound of (as Bruce terms it) “another wailing woman” (don’t ask us who, possibly Miley Cyrus?) coming from the pool party at the Lodge! Hahaha!
On Christmas Day we had the unexpected, but delightful, pleasure of meeting Andy and Hilary, fellow campers who originally hail from Bristol (yup, small world!) but have been living for the last 30-odd years in South Africa. We had both booked in to the Lodge restaurant for Xmas Dinner so teamed up to enjoy it together which was great (despite the restaurant claiming to be full when we arrived, even though Hilary had made her reservation a month before)! Having a natter about African travels, Clevedon and the Long Ashton Park and Ride, whilst sitting in Botswana eating turkey and stuffing, what more can you ask for on Christmas Day!
Happy New Year everybody!