South Africa: Namibia & Richtersveld

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Die pad ist lang (the road is long, “Namibian” German) 

Previously, “Namibia, Week 1″…

Wednesday: Tonight I have been watching the sun set behind the hill, hoping that some kudu might provide a nice silhouette, but no luck today. On the animal front, earlier I had spotted some new birds and again heard the fish eagle, but did not see the latter. The sunbirds are always a delight and I now recognise their chirping, so can get my camera ready in good time while they fly from tree to fence to flowers and then off into the veld.

Earlier we had been in Windhoek. There was a strong police presence along the road, at every intersection, many with automatic rifles. We heard sirens and were signalled to get off the road; a few minutes later some police cars and then three limousines raced past, in total I counted 17 cars. It may have been the President of Namibia? A little over the top, in my opinion, for a poor country. I later heard that ex-president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, used to travel in a convoy of two cars; other leaders could learn a lot from this humble and great man.

Thursday: Getting on the road has taken a frustratingly long time, as the car & caravan are being rewired etc. Thus decided to go into Windhoek, about 30 km down the road to visit the Botanical Gardens (and also test my GPS system). The gardens are quite beautiful, but is the dry season and it showed. The quiver tree “forest” was nice, but a little bit of water would probably transform the aloes and lilies into a hillside of colour. The gardens also contain a research institute, with posters on display, e.g. medicinal plants. Afterwards coffee at the Wilde Eend (wild duck), a small cafe under a thatched roof, in the middle of a plant nursery.

Friday: We may start heading towards Cape Town today, 1000 miles as the crow flies, 5 days of stunning scenery and heat ahead of us – time to smell the dust and switch off the phones. 15:00, and we are on the road, with a Range Rover and caravan Kappsfarm – Windhoek – Rehoboth – Mariental.

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Leaving Kappsfarm, Windhoek, towards Cape Town. Knatters the cat had to be left behind

On the way to Rehoboth we drive under the well-known “frame bridge”. No time to stop, though, there is a long “pad” ahead. Later we cross the Tropic of Capricorn, the sun now always being to our north.

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Overnight in Mariental at a campsite in town. No charge, just a tip for the security guard as we are not using power or the shower facilities. The security guard’s name is Ismael, from Okahandja. He works 2 months, then gets 3 weeks leave when he goes back home to tend his goats. The owner of the campsite was quite chatty; this seems to be a typical small Namibian town with a few supermarkets, more petrol stations and a large community of know-it-all, gossipy folk. The campsite owner’s family are sending their kids to secondary school in South Africa and they drive to Windhoek once a month, a mere 250 km each way, to go clothes shopping etc.

Saturday: The campsite was a bit noisy with a cockerel on one side and big trucks driving past on the other side waking me up at 4 am. Time to make coffee and then hit the road. So far it has been all tar roads, today we should hit dirt. Down to Keetmanshoop, then turn west towards Luederitz before heading south again. The road and the railway line next to it are dead-straight for miles on end.

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Keetmanshoop is a bit of a dead-end town, really just a refueling stop before continuing on our journey.  Not much has changed since my last visit in 1981. Breakfast next to the Luederitz road, then over the Fish River (leading on to the Fish River canyon further downstream) to Goageb.  Does anybody actually live in this town, all the houses seem to be empty with broken windows, a bit of a ghost-town atmosphere?  We turned off the main road onto a route recommended by a friend to drive along the D446 and D727 . Absolutely spectacular landscapes, although the light was a bit “flat” for good photography (a good reason to visit again), with many quiver trees and even a few buck that were not frightened away when we stopped. There is a viewpoint called “kyk-in-die-pot” (look into the pot), where one can look directly into a farmhouse kitchen, now sadly deserted – we need to camp nearby on our next trip!?

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Panorama along the Kyk-in-die-Pot road

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One of 5 klipspringer seen along the road – they did not charge for “posing”

IMG_4699_BOne of many beautiful quiver trees along the Kyk-in-die-Pot route

After getting to the Rosh Pina tar road again it was time to find a site to stop for the night. No campsites here, so we decided to drive into a farm and, after a short negotiation with a Nama grandmother living nearby, we were allowed to camp overnight in a dry riverbed (27°12.324’S, 16°29.207E).  Dinner consisted of lamb chops, garlic braai broodtjies (grilled bread rolls), finished off with tinned peaches with custard. The night sky gave a beautiful view of the Southern Cross and Scorpio. This is God’s country, amazingly beautiful.

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Camping in a riverbed

GPS route 1

Kappsfarm to day-2 campsite: 836 km

Sunday: We left our riverbed campsite to continue south towards the Namibia/South Africa border via the mining town of Rosh Pina.The Namibian passport control was very friendly, unlike at Windhoek International Airport, and we were quickly on the way over the Orange river, which is the border at this point, at Sendlingsdrif. Another friendly welcome on the South African side and we were in the Richtersveld Park.

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The road from Rosh Pina to Sendlingsdrif. In the valley below is the Orange River, which is the border between Namibia and South Africa

Next… “South Africa: Richtersveld & Namaqualand”

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