Swakopmund – The quirky remnants of a colonial past

Swakopmund - The quirky remnants of a colonial past

Our visit to an "African" town.

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Normally, we can stay in African cities/towns for a day or two, after which we are glad that we are on the road again to a wilder destination. Some of the African cities are just too big, with cars everywhere and so many people! Others are too small and simply boring, even mind numbing (both in activities and appearance). In Swakopmund, however, we felt at peace. It is a quirky town, in more than one way; not too big, but it still populates enough people to facilitate a cinema, restaurants, shops, etcetera. Perhaps the weirdest thing about Swakopmund is that it is riddled with “old” German style colonial buildings; think of apres-ski in the desert and you’ll get the picture. The thing is, however, that it kinda fits; like when a thing is so ugly or misplaced that it becomes something you can actually appreciate. This might be because the Swakopmundian (?) climate is probably more similar to a German summer than any Namibian season (doesn’t matter which one, all the same). What makes it so German is the thick layer of fog and “cold” winds that are blown towards Swakopmund by the Antarctic current every day. The fog and the wind can only travel inland for maximum 60 km’s, after which they lose the battle from the heat and drought. Most of the time, only a few kilometres inland from Swakopmund, it will become scorching hot with a bright blue sky and blazing sun, while in Swakopmund you have to wear long pants and sweaters… Really strange huh?!   

Wearing sweaters in the desert!

On the day of our arrival we were really looking forward to do something you can only do in a city. Can you guess what? Going to a cinema! We parked the car on a camping at the edge of town and after a warm shower we started walking towards the cinema, while playing Pokemon on our phones of course. We decided to go to the new DC movie, Justice League. We payed for the movie and popcorn, when we were confronted with a dazzling array of flavours to put on our popcorn. Apparently, Africans need more than just sweet and salt (in the Netherlands you’re considered a rebel when you even mix sweet and salt). But here you can choose chutney, salt and vinegar, pepper and cheese and onion (probably forgot a few). And as if picking one isn’t hard enough, you also have to decide how much you put on your popcorn. For us it was just too much choice, so we let the guy behind the counter decide. Big mistake! The amount of cheese and onion that he put on the popcorn was just too much for our taste buds!

Except for the popcorn we didn’t have anything to eat that evening and we were craving for “not our own cooked food”. So, we went to a Chinese restaurant… Not the best idea, as it was probably the least tasty fish I ever ate! In our defence, it was positioned next to the cinema. The next day, however, we decided to make up for the Chinese experience by going to a proper fish restaurant. We changed accommodation that day from the camping to a really cool backpackers, called Desert Sky Backpackers. The lady at reception advised us to go to the Tug. I didn’t really understood why you would call your fish restaurant the Tug, until we arrived there. Apparently, the restaurant is made out of an old towing ship, called the Tug. We had such a good evening there! Our table was positioned next to the captain’s steering wheel, so it really felt like we were inside a ship (Kellie: We were! It just wasn’t floating) . In addition, the service was good, the location of the restaurant great (at the start of the pier) and the food was awesome. We had the seafood extravaganza (the actual name of the dish), which we shared. After eating veggies and a little bit of meat for about three months, it was exactly what we needed! There were two types of fish on it, calamari, big ass prawns and something called John Dory Goujons. So good! To finish it off, Kellie had probably the best dessert ever; thé chocolate fondant (you know, with the molten chocolate core). Overall, it cost us only €50, which made the experience only better! While rolling back to the backpackers, I can say that we were completely satisfied.

The next 5 nights we stayed at this same Backpackers. This is definitely a personal record for us; staying at one accommodation willingly in one city for a period of time while travelling! You may applaud. This feat was made possible by our full agenda; we had lots to do on the computer, made some really good friends at the backpackers, visited two head offices of awesome projects, cleaned the car, serviced the car, did some shopping and decided to spent some serious cash on local activities. I am not going to bore you with the car/shopping/laptop stuff, so just lets fastforward to the first activity we participated in: Tommy’s Living Desert Tour.

The main purpose of this tour is to get a deeper understanding and respect for the desert and its inhabitants by going to the Namib desert in a big 4×4 from the 70’s (they only drive on the same paths to minimize the damage to the environment). Tommy, our tour guide, turned out to be a real comedian and at the same time a passionate talker about the desert and all its mysteries. He taught us that the desert is an extremely vulnerable ecosystem with animals that are very well adapted to these harsh conditions. With his tracker, they found sidewinding snakes that move with a sideways motion limiting contact between its body and the hot sand, a horned viper which can belly dance itself just below the sandy surface, a web-footed gecko that is translucent (can actually see some of its organs!) and can dig like crazy, a namibian sand spider which is the most lethal spider in the world (well according to Africans, not Ozzies would tell you else), and a namaqua chameleon which is just the best creature ever! How cool to be able to see these animals in their natural surroundings! It got even cooler when, on the way back, we drove over some big sand dunes which stretched all the way to the ocean. After this beautiful drive across the dunes, we entered the highway again to take us back to Swakop. Amazing experience!

The other activity we did was ocean kayaking! The main attraction here was another big fur seal colony at Walvisbaai. The beauty of kayaking with fur seals is that they don’t see you as a threat when you’re in the water (they apparently do not have natural enemies in the water), unlike the mainland, where jackals and brown hyena’s try to eat their pups. This makes them really playful, enthusiastic and inquisitive which resulted in witnessing them throwing a dead fish over and over and fur seals basically jumping in our kayak! So much fun! On the route to the colony we also saw flamingo’s and jackals. We didn’t have the luck to see dolphins or whales, but who cares. Told you Swakop area is cool! Other activities you can do are skydiving, sand boarding on the dunes, racing on quads, riding on camels (yes, camels), fishing trips and probably a lot more, but we didn’t want to spent that much more money.

In between all the nice activities we also visited the HQ’s of Save the Rhino Trust (which we met in Palmwag) and Elephant Human Relation Aid (EHRA). Read about those experiences here and here respectively. The funny thing was that a day after we visited the HQ of EHRA a volunteering group of theirs stayed at our backpackers. From that group we especially bonded with Josh, ein German who was fortunate enough to be able to volunteer at various NGO’s (as you might know volunteering is not for free). Josh already knew Tim (a Dutchy, like us) from a previous visit to the backpackers. Tim practically lives at the Desert Sky Backpackers while “finishing” his Master thesis (he is in no hurry) on a German genocide that took place at the beginning of the 20ste century. Let’s just say the Germans practised their former traits in Namibia first. As a true historian he was genuinely a joy to listen to though! Tim had something on his bucketlist since arriving in Swakop, he just needed some victims to join him. He had the splendid idea of visiting the most posh and expensive hotels in Swakop for an alcoholic beverage. Next to his interest in their beers, he also wanted to visit these buildings because of their colonial past (one hotel was even used as the HQ by the Germans during the genocide). Of course, any person could see that we did not belong in these fancy hotels, so it was our strategy to act as sophisticated as possible. It was our believe that this was the only way that we could get our hands on them German beers. Before every hotel we entered, we straightened our faces and backs and walked in like undercover agents. It made sure that every beer tasted like victory.

After a few hotels (we managed to successfully infiltrate them all) we ended up at the farewell dinner of the EHRA volunteer group. After twelve days in the field with EHRA, most  of the volunteers go back home (except for Josh). We were not really invited to the dinner, but we were experienced in going undercover so no one would notice it anyway (plus we already befriended the boss of EHRA). Luckily, everyone accepted us and we had a blast with all the volunteers (also had some fish and beer). After dinner we went to a bar/club of which I forgot the name. It was one of those places where no one dances, but the music is really loud (strange concept). Talked a lot though, which I regretted the next day, and had some shots, which I regretted a second after that, but overall it was a good night =). Ooww yes, and we ended up at a KFC were I had a cold chicken burger (couldn’t find the strength to complain about it, so I ate it in silence → Kellie: not really silence, just complaining big time to us, and not to the KFC staff).

The next morning we were a few friends richer. In the afternoon, we learned there was some sort of festival thingy going on near our previous campsite. We decided to go with Tim and Josh, but we never really found out what it was all about. Something with bikes and white people. The clue is however, that on our way back to the backpackers we stumbled on fishermen who were cleaning their fish before selling it to shops. I remember that a lightbulb lit up in my head and I approached a person that seemed to be in charge (only white dude, don’t mean to be racist, but that’s just how it is there). He offered me a snoek of at least a meter long (beheaded, gutted and cleaned) for 100 Namibian Dollar (about €6!) I was like “what”? Hell yeah! We even got a braaiing recipe for free. With pride probably written all over my face (Kellie: yup, and a lot of disbelieve), we walked back to the backpackers where we started prepping for the evening braai. We first marinated the fish in a lemon and parsley mayonnaise and started on building a fire. The fish was complemented with two tasty and colourful salads. That moment when we put the fish on the braai was magic and tasting it for the first time even better!

At the same time five South Koreans were also “grilling” something next to use. Instead of waiting for the fire wood to turn into searing hot coals (so that you can just put your meat on the grill), they put aluminium foil over the open fire, covered it with oil and started cooking their meat. This probably didn’t really work out the way they envisioned it because (with all the additional fat from the meat) the oil on the foil caught flame several times. I can tell you that it is quite funny to see five South Koreans frantically trying to put down a fire to protect their meal! They had enough meat though (I seriously think they ate, or burned, half a pig), so it didn’t really matter for them.

At the end of our meal we got joined by a strange, and already drunk, Namibian guy (probably in his forties and a bit shabby). He had an even stranger request; he asked if one of us could bring him to the local shebeen (liquor shop) for some booze, because he was too drunk to drive. First we were like, mmwwaahh… Not really. But when we finished eating I took him there, with his car. He had a manual Toyota, which normally wouldn’t be a problem, but we were in a former British colony so the steering wheel was on the wrong side. This meant that I also had to shift gears with my left hand, which was some getting used to. While driving he told me too much about his job (selling and maintaining air conditioners, mainly in mining), car, wife, children, drugs, etc. Even offered me a tour through Swakopmund. I had to drive though. Kindly rejected. Arriving at the shebeen, he told me to talk with and touch no one, okay… Most of the people there looked friendly so I didn’t know what the fuzz was about. But still, I kept a low profile. This was mostly because the shebeen didn’t look really welcoming, liqour shops in Africa are quite similar to banks in Europe; the liquor, money and employees are separated from the drunk people by a thick metal bar. Luckily we we’e in and out, and back at the backpackers in a jiffy (still not sure how he could tell me so much about himself in such a short amount of time).

The rest of the evening we talked around the campfire. The Namibian guy obviously talked the most, cracking one after the other offensive joke. Kellie, Tim and Josh soon left the campfire because of him after which he started showing me some of the worst photos and movies I have ever seen. Won’t go in detail, it was just too much. Fortunately, he noticed that I didn’t like it and he decided to go to bed. Kellie and I followed his example soon after, we had to leave Swakopmund the next morning for Sossusvlei. Tim and Josh though, went out for a drink with some Americans which apparently (they told us everything about it in the morning) escalated really bad. One of the American girls had something of a mental breakdown (might have been a psychosis). According to Josh and Tim, the girl “escaped” from the backpackers without a key (3 PM or so = not safe), so they decided to run after her, bring her back and calm her down. It took them all night! Allegedly, she shouted things about being possessed and wanting to walk into the ocean. We slept through all of it ?. After that story and our morning tea, we thanked the guys for the wonderful time in Swakop and drove off in the direction of the desert. Back to the warmth and more adventures! Read about the surrealistic Sossusvlei in our next blog!

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Damaraland – A Red Rocky Realm

Damaraland - A Red Rocky Realm

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It’s been a while since our last blog, but that doesn’t mean nothing interesting has happened. Quite the opposite! We had no time to write blogs, we were busy living and experiencing life at its fullest (plus it’s holiday season, time for family and friends)!

Now, where did we leave our last blog? I think we just left the Kaokoveld region in Namibia and we were heading to the next destination: Palmwag. By then we had been in the wilderness for about five days and there is only so much fresh food that fits in our little car fridge. Our next stop looked like a pretty big town on the map (based on the fact that the letters were a larger font than the other towns), so we figured we could find a store and stock up. Heading towards Palmwag, we found ourselves in a different landscape again. This time it was quite hilly, and all over the hills were loose red rocks. You can imagine it looked beautiful, and also, we could see far ahead. We rounded a corner and according to the map, we were supposed see Palmwag in the near distance…  But, all we saw was something that looked like a lodge? So, I grabbed the Lonely planet to figure out what was going on, and where we could stay in Palmwag. It said Palmwag Lodge was the main accommodation and not much more about the town. The lodge we saw in the distance turned out to be Palmwag Lodge, it also turned out to be Palmwag... That was it! There was no town, just the lodge and campsite with it! Okay, a few kilometres down the road there were a few houses clustered together, but the inhabitants all worked at this Lodge (and campsite), so that was it basically! One of the best examples we have seen so far, of a community benefiting from tourism! Oh and plus, definitely no shopping for us.

Red rocky landscape!

The employees, especially the people from the reception, were brilliant; very nice and funny! After a good welcome we found ourselves on a campsite in the heat and thus we went off to the swimming pool. Here we were greeted by a blond woman in a pink bikini who was getting in the pool meanwhile complaining loudly about the freezing temperatures of the water. I totally agreed with here, so we bounded immediately. Tamarra (her name) and her friend Denise are from Canada, which Lars and I agree is a country that is definitely in the top 3 of producing the nicest, most fun people in the world. And Denise and Tamarra only reinforced this feeling! We decided to visit the Palmwag reserve the next morning together in one car; money saving and much more fun!

All involved agreed waking up early would be best (as usual…) and so Lars and I cleared out the car to make room for Tamarra and Denise, and we left the following morning around 6 am. We had heard that a pride of lions had been spotted the day before, and after a lot of digging we did NOT get the information of their whereabouts. Our last chance was to ask the guy at the gate, so after greeting the guy good morning (no response), Lars asked the question: “Do you know where the lions are?” This was his response: he pointed through the gate… Okay… “Sooo, they are inside the park?” A nod… nothing else. You know what, we kind of figured that out by ourselves! We tried one more time to get a little more detail, chatting him up with all our combined charms, trying to keep our faces straight. Alas, no response. Then we wished him a good day and finally (!) he mumbled something that sounded like goodbye back! He just wanted us to leave him alone?!! After this last response, we couldn’t stop laughing for quite a while.

We still set out to find those lions. However, after a very long drive (way past lunch time), we hadn’t found them. We did come across three of those infamous desert elephants. This is where we learned that desert elephants (logically) are smaller than normal elephants and they have spindlier legs to support their long distance traveling for water. In short, they are cute!! At the same time, we also saw several giraffes on top of a hill. The rest of the drive we enjoyed the landscape, the company and the challenging roads.

We figured that we would try another short drive that afternoon and find them lions then! This time we entered through the other gate, and boy, we should’ve done that this morning!! This guy knew all the things that were spotted in the park and actually stopped us to point it out on the map. However, the lions had left their last spotted place and were now roaming freely. But, as I mentioned to Lars only a few days before, we still hadn’t found meerkats. You know, Timo!! And I really, really wanted to see those cute little guys. Much more than lions. And as usual, my wish was fulfilled by Lars. All of the sudden he stopped and asked for the binoculars. And all of us had no idea how he had spotted them, because they were so small and pretty far away, but there they were! A group of meerkats coming out of their hiding, and there were even young ones. Omg, it was so cute, I had a Despicable Me moment “their soo cute I’m gonna die!!”

Anyway, the visit to this area wasn’t just for fun. In this area 70% of the remaining free roaming black rhinos are found and this is mainly due to the efforts of one organization; Save the Rhino Trust. We were able to get in touch with them and visit their basecamp and it is amazing what they have done. Please read more about our visit to them here (under construction) or visit their website to help them even further!

Now we are a few more days since leaving the wilderness, and still we haven’t done any shopping. We asked where the nearest supermarket was and you won’t believe it, but turns out we had to drive for two and a halve hours to get there. Not just that, it was the same place where we had our shocks fixed. This country is at the same time very big (read distance-wise) and very small (read limited amount of shops-wise). After our visit to the shop (the size of a small shed), we headed towards the Skeleton Coast. We had planned to spend a night along the coast, inside the National Park but when we arrived at the gate, we heard that this campsite only opened the next day… So the only way was through (transit). Lucky for us, this turned out for the best, because after driving for a few hours, it was pretty much all the same. Very cool, but still the same, the landscape felt like we were driving on the moon surface. The shipwrecks you can find along this coast (where its name comes from), are pretty much all perished except for a few stumps. Plus something of which we’re not entirely sure what it was, some machinery, but all rusted and therefore pretty cool looking.

We camped at a small fisherman campsite called Mile 108, very busy with white South Africans coming down the coast for the holidays for fishing, all in very big 4WD trucks to drive down the beach. The owner was very nice; he glued my Birkenstocks back together, so I wouldn’t trip anymore every time I walked, plus he showed us a beautiful off-road track through a river bedding on our way to Brandenberg, the highest mountain of Namibia. On our way we went and again we had to make a detour, this time for fuel. The two fuel stations we thought we would come across on our way, well, they didn’t have any fuel… Fortunately it wasn’t a big detour and after a beautiful drive through a crater landscape (literally through a crater called the Messum crater) we arrived at the campsite. During this drive we had seen Dragon heads and Welwitschia’s, one of the ugliest, but coolest flower species I have ever seen, an individual can live up to thousands of years (in Afrikaans it is called Tweeblaarkanniedood)!

The following morning, we visited a rock art painting known as “The White Lady”. This painting is famous because it is one of the most detailed rock paintings you can find in the world, plus it is beautiful! It is, however, not a lady, but a shaman fully decorated to perform a ritual and the painting has been severely damaged by early tourism where people poured water over it etc. A painting that is 2000 years old! And on the same panel there were simpler, but even older paintings of 5000 years old.

But that wasn’t even the best part of our visit. This was our local guide, as soon as we had him talking. Lars and I sometimes play this game where we try to guess which country people come from. So, I asked this guide if they do the same when people come walking up. And he said yes! Well of course I wanted to know what they look at. Here’s his (I think very accurate, especially considering it is only based on experience and not prejudices) description:

  • German: they are all overly prepared; big boots, sunglasses and hats, even long trousers against the sun!
  • Dutch: very tall, not just the men but the women are as tall as the men! They always hike wearing slippers.
  • French: like the Dutch but much smaller, and the guy always wears the stuff for both of them.
  • Italian: they talk a lot and they don’t listen to each other!
  • South African (white): the men are always fat, a big belly and the women mostly skinny.
  • American: same as South Africans, but the women are also fat. Plus, they mostly arrive in big groups with a tour bus.

I’m not entirely sure if he was afraid to say anything else about the Dutch because he seemed a little bit reluctant when I asked, maybe he wanted to add something like that we ask too many questions! But anyway, it was a very interesting cultural (past and presence) walk and as it can become 40 degrees between those mountains, we were happy we went early in the morning. But now we didn’t have much to do the rest of the day, and thus we hang out at the pool, did yahtzee and drank ciders, finishing the night with a nice braai (with all those fresh veggies we just drove 500 km’s for).

From Eddie and Vera we had heard that the riverbeds around this region were especially pretty and after advice from the locals, we set out to follow the (mostly dry) river the next morning. And wow, it was amazing! You can’t imagine just sitting in a car and having such a beautiful day, it’s insane! At one point we had to leave the riverbed, because we were being submerged by reeds and we weren’t sure if we would be able to get back out if we went any further. Plus, there might have been some elephants in those reeds. But then the rest of the drive was along the Brandenberg and the view was amazing. We ended at the local SRT base camp (as they are also attending this area).

The next day we decided to go back to civilization, but not after one last drive through the riverbed. The thing is, if you want to get out of the riverbed you basically need to go straight up the rocky and steep slope surrounding the riverbed valley. With the help of Tracks4Africa we found the trail that would lead us out and it was insane. And a lot of fun!!! And a little bit scary. You can’t imagine what people call roads, but slowly we made it out!

After this adventure we drove back to the coast to visit the Cape Cross Seal Colony. That was another experience. I wouldn’t say it was fun, but it was definitely something. There were hundreds of thousands of fur seals at this cape and it was the most horrific stench I have ever, and I mean EVER, smelled. This was not just because there were so many seals, or so I assume, it was also because all of them just had young’s (about two weeks old) and a lot of young don’t survive the first few weeks. I won’t dwell on all the different reasons, but what it comes down to is that besides the many cute alive ones, there were also a lot of dead pups thereby increasing the smell of death. But hé, that’s live! At least all the brown hyena’s and jackals do not have to worry about food. We found a lot of tracks and even saw several jackals along the coastline.

Our final destination that day was Swakopmund, a pretty big tourist town along the coast. The first thing we did that night was visit the cinema! Never thought I would say this, but it was good to be back in civilization! And so, to make up for this feeling, we spent five nights in this town. Read about the friendships we made here and our visit to the surreal Sossusvlei iin our next blog!  

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Kaokoveld – a pathway into another world

Kaokoveld - A pathway into another world

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Silence… No cars moving in the distance, no chirping sounds of birds, not even a touch of wind. Complete silence… It truly can be deafening, as they say. We were parked on top of a mountain pass, lying in our rooftop tent with all the blinds open. We had crawled into our sleeping bags, looking like big cocoons with only our heads sticking out, the only parts exposed to the chilly night air. Above us was the night sky in its full glory, the Milky Way stretching from one side of the horizon to the other. What a night, what a place!  

Our beautiful view on the mountain top!

Three days earlier we entered the region called Kaokoveld, which lies in the north-west of Namibia. It is believed to be one of the true remaining wildernesses of southern Africa and we were there to test this statement. It is known for its rough terrain and roads, the beautiful landscapes and the local tribe called the Himba. You have probably seen them on the telly or a magazine. The Himba, especially the women, still hold on to their traditions by “dressing” as they have done for who knows how long. As the quotation mark implies the Himba women live in a fairly naked state; their boobs can freely enjoy the wild outdoors (no cloth to hold them back from encroaching on lower regions), as is most of the rest of their body except (luckily) their mid-level private parts. To accent their features, and protect them from the sun, they cover themselves with oker, which gives their skin a beautiful dark red colour.    


Two Himba woman and Kellie

The unofficial capital of the Himba is Opuwo. Driving into this city felt other-worldly, almost like entering a Star Wars movie. In addition to the Himba, the Herero people also call the Koakoveld region their home. Almost to compensate for the cloths that the Himba lack, the Herero women wear long dresses in any colour imaginable as bright as they get (imagine bright pink or fluorescent green) and they finish their style with a hat that would even make our former queen, princes Beatrix, very jealous. The hats have two cool features: firstly, they always seem to match the dress and secondly, they protect the wearer from the scorching sun with a very interesting cap that has the shape of a triangle. Can you imagine that? Now imagine these beautiful people living side-by-side in a small city in the middle of a desert world, kinda begins to feel like Star Wars, huh? Very cool!!

The funny thing is that when arriving in Opuwo, you don’t really have time to adjust to this very different culture. The reason for our visit to this city was partly to prepare for the upcoming trip to the wilderness of Kaokoveld; we had to fuel up the car and get enough provisions to last us at least five days. The first thing we did was a visit to the fuel station where we were immediately bombarded by Himba ladies. Now, you have to know that I am very loyal to Kellie and I think it is very disrespectful to look at a woman’s “Tha-Thas!”, but… When they stand right in front of you to offer you their goodies (here, I mean other type of merchandize ?) it is very hard not to have a peek. Luckily for me, Kellie agreed.  

Even though we had to get used to it and might make it sound like we’re making fun of it, it was pretty obvious how proud these woman are of their heritage, and you can’t do anything else than respect that. It is amazing how much royalty they radiate and I felt a vicarious pride for them!

A real African sunset!

The other reason why we were in Opuwo is because we wanted to visit an organization that supports local communities in setting up a conservancy. This organization is called Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (thankfully in short, IRDNC). Read more about IRDNC and our visit on the Projects Page, here (not yet published).

After we finished with the pre-trip prep we stayed the night at IRDNC’s camp and left for Kaokoveld the next morning. Now, the previous blog ended with us breaking our rear shocks in Etosha NP (read about it here). Although we fixed some new shocks we didn’t have the chance to thoroughly test them out. With the reputation of Kaokoveld, the knowledge that we need to cross and drive in some riverbeds and the information that it rained a few weeks ago in mind, we were slightly nervous whether we would be able to make it (even besides considering the new shocks). What did not help was that we came across a guy that got stuck in the mud (took him 5 hours to recover the motorhome!) and I saw a 4×4 car like ours getting towed back to civilisation (didn’t tell Kellie this at the time). (Red. aka Kellie: This is the first time I heard/read about it!) Nevertheless, we decided to go anyway! Only one way of finding out if you got what it takes right?

Our goals were to make it to the dots on the map called Orumpembe and Puros. These were two of the handful of named places where people live in Kaokoveld. Our interest in these places was that they were both the “capitals” of Orumpembe and Puros Conservancy. We wanted to know if the local people benefit from setting up a Conservancy, how they do it, what resources they use and if they use those resources sustainably. We already visited a Conservancy (called Mayuni, read about it here) in the Zambezi (former Caprivi) region, which worked surprisingly well. It would be interesting to see if their performance is shared with more Conservancies in Namibia or that it was special.

The first night we wanted to sleep at a campsite about 15 kilometers north of Orumpembe, it was called The House on the Hill. We had to drive about 150 kilometers that day to reach it. Doesn’t sound like that great of a distance, right? Well, it took us close to the whole day to reach it. The first section of road from Opuwo was still okay, relatively speaking. We could drive about 40 kilometers in the first hour/hour-and-a-half. From there on the road got narrower, rockier and hillier (including river bed crossings, which luckily were dry). Can’t imagine we drove faster than 20 kilometers per hour on average. We weren’t bored or frustrated for a second though, because the scenery was nothing less than spectacular (like New-Zealand spectacular, but then dry)! Slowly, as we proceeded, the landscape began to change; the trees and shrubs started to disappear, the mountains became higher and valleys in between flatter. It became more arid. For us this meant that the closer we got to our campsite the more we had to stop to enjoy the landscape and take some photographs. This probably contributed a lot to why it took us the whole day to reach the campsite .

With about 10 kilometres to go we noticed something strange in the distance. It looked like the dust trail of a car, but than huge. At a certain moment Kellie shouted: “it is a sand storm!” Now this is of course really cool, but according to our GPS the sand storm seemed to be in the exact location of our campsite! We drove on, we could always camp somewhere in the wild if necessary. The sand storm had a Namibian desert style orange colour, and as we got closer we could begin to see how the strong westerly ocean winds picked up the sand that was lying on a big plain. Luckily for us, we noticed now that our campsite was positioned just behind the sand storm, on the other side of a hill. We had to go through it though to get there. Just before we entered the storm we closed the windows and drove through. From a far it looked a lot more impressive and we past the sandy plain unharmed.

The small sandstorm!

The campsite was set against a hill (yes, with a house on it) and next to a dry riverbed. We had a lovely braai that night including portobello’s with goat cheese, puffed sweet potatoes and roasted corn. A local dog must have smelled our feast as he paid us a visit to search for scraps. He looked starved and Kellie gave him some bread, a can of salmon and lots of water. I think she made friends for life! (Red. one of the sweetest dogs we’ve come across!)

View on the sunset from the campsite!

The next morning, we talked with a guy called Exit (awesome nickname!) from the Conservancy (read about it here) and afterwards we left for the next destination, Puros. We noticed that in Kaokoveld you have always two options in going somewhere: through the riverbed or next to it. These roads are often connected every few kilometers, which meant that we could get out of the riverbed at any time if the riverbed was getting muddy or worse. Again, we felt empowered by the Tracks4Africa app which showed every little road there was with such accuracy! So, we decided to just give it a try! We deflated the tyres and drove right in. What a great decision that was! For a whole day we drove through a dry but green riverbed with on both sides stunning mountains. We found oryx, ostriches, giraffe and… a donkey?! From a distance it looked like the donkey was hopping strangely, but when we got closer we noticed that its front legs were tight by a rope. Who does such a thing?! We stopped and had a closer look. The rope was burning through its skin and the donkey clearly was struggling to move around. We decided to do something about it. We first tried to gain the donkeys trust by giving it some bread, but it didn’t want any of it. Maybe some water than? Nope, no interest. It was still hopping away from us. The donkey left us without options, we needed to corner him. On a ridge next to riverbed we sparred with the donkey; we tried to get close, the donkey turned its bottom to us as if to kick us and we had to retreat. This went on for about 10 minutes until the donkey finally surrendered and stood still. I talked to him with my soothing voice to keep him calm (red. Yeah right), while Kellie cut the rope. And we succeeded! The rope gave way and the donkey walked away as if nothing has happened. Good for you donkey!

Not long after that we left the riverbed and went up a mountain pass. The plan was to go down the mountain on the other side to another riverbed. When we made it to the top of the pass though, we decided to stop there and set up camp on the highest point, the view was simply too good to drive on. The wind was relentless up there and for about three hours we just sat in the wind (and sun) shade behind the car. With the sun almost setting we positioned ourselves for the show and waited…

With the sun dropping behind the mountains, the wind steadily ceased until it was completely quiet. In the beginning it is kind of unnerving (especially in the darkness), as if something can jump at you in any second. But you quickly get used to it and it is quite special! That night we set the alarm at 2.30 AM (we were sure that the moon would be gone by then) to learn how to make photographs of the night sky. When we woke up, the stars were magnificent!

To get a sense of how desolate this place is. The Kaokoveld is about 45 thousand square kilometres (the Netherlands is about 41 thousand square kilometres) and only a couple of thousand people live in it (excluding Opuwo). We didn’t come across another car while driving for two days straight. I think it is something very special that such places still exist, and we should cherish it as much as we can. And some of you might think that this is dangerous; what if the car breaks down!? If calamity strikes, and we get bogged or have a break down, we could always live with the Himba for a week or so until someone rescued us!

Nothing of the kind happened though! Sisi could take anything that Kaokoveld had to offer. With our confidence boosting we drove off down the other side of the mountain a couple hours after sunrise. Closing up on the next valley we drove around a part of the mountain and saw the next riverbed in the distance. Absolutely stunning! It looked like a piece of the Sahara with a riverbed oasis (including palm trees), but then with orange sand and placed between two mountain ridges. The vegetation was surprisingly lush, and we had the whole valley to ourselves. Well, besides the few giraffes and oryx of course! 

Just after lunch we arrived in Puros and set up camp, and cleaned out the car (dust was accumulating) after which we had a very short talk with a guy from the Puros Conservancy. We did some relaxing in the hammock and had a nice braai and the following morning we moved on to the next place, through, again, a different landscape. The Ongongo hotspring, this is a natural spring and the waterfall coming down was warm water! Here we camped and relaxed some more (Lars by playing around with the camera). This was our last stop in Kaokoveld and unfortunately we only found a lot of dung and no desert elephants. But! They also hang out in the next area we’re going; Damaraland. You can read more about this in our next blog!

Lars playing around with the camera, making pictures of the weavers above the pool!

Posted by bylifeconnected in Blog, 1 comment

Etosha National Park – The Arid Eden

Voor de Nederlandse versie – Klik Hier

Two days, 2200 Namibian dollar (±€130), two new shocks and 650 km’s in total, and we’re back at Etosha National Park western gate. Because this is where we took off with a dancing car, and when your car is dancing over every tiny bump, you know that something is not right! This is what happened: we had to drive down the worst road in the entire history of the world. Okay, maybe that’s not true, but it was the worst road we have ever been on!! Imagine those little “slow-down” bumps they put on roads sometimes for which you don’t actually have to slow down that much (80 k/h is perfect!). Now imagine about a thousand of those right after each other for about 40 km’s on stretch. HORRIBLE!! Depending on how fast you drive, you either stay sort of on top of them, meaning you won’t have any control of where you’re steering, because there is no friction with the road. Or the other option, drive real slow and feel e-v-e-r-y bump. We tried the first option first, driving about 40 km/h, and a madly focus on the road to be sure not to oversteer. And then faith hit and there was one bigger bump, we heard a big PANG, the back of the car drifted, and we were almost sideways on the road. Now luckily, 40 km/h is still quite slow, and nothing bad happened. But we had heard that noise, so we stopped the car, looked around if there were any lions, and then got out to check the car. Oh, we had to look around for lions, because this road happened to be inside Etosha National Park, a NP that is known for its good roads!!! WHAT?! Well, not the one going to the west, that’s for sure. Anyway, looking under the car, we saw oil dripping all over the back bottom and the tires, and a little smoke as well. We still don’t know anything about cars, so we had no idea what could’ve happened. Then a big truck came driving up and the guys were sweet enough to step out and have a look. I must say, they were a lot more worried about the possible lions in the vicinity, but that aside. They had a look at the oil, but also weren’t sure what happened. The engine seemed to be doing well. We checked all the oils and the brake fluid, double checked if it was the gasoline leaking. It seemed to be nothing like that, so we decided to drive on very slowly, hoping very much that we would make it to the next camp. Our initial plan was to leave the park, but we had chucked that one in the bin as soon as we heard that the next 40 km would be the same as this. And to not break our car further, we drove between 15 and 20 km/h! Now you think, that isn’t so bad when you’re in a game reserve, right? Find some animals? But this game reserve is very, very dry, and thus collects its animals around water holes. And we didn’t come across any waterholes, so there were no animals, just that endless number of bumps without relieve. And then a light turned on… the ABS.. Now what the hell does that mean?! (I told you we don’t know anything about cars). But, we are a bit prepared, or Lars was anyway, and he had bought an overlanding book. This mentioned something about an ABS, couldn’t find what it was exactly, something with the brakes. But I did find that we would be able to keep driving. That’s all we needed to know! Later Lars his brains worked again, and he remembered it stands for Automatic Brake System, whatever that is!

Anyway, we finally made it to the camp, called Olifantrus (I’ll spare you the dirty details of why it was named like this), and here we met a wonderful Dutch couple that got us easily out of our bad mood. When we entered the camp, there was a single bump and here we realized that the thing that had broken might have been our shocks, because our car danced after hitting the bump. Lars went to ask our neighbours, the ones with a beautiful, camperlike overlanding vehicle, to see if they might know a bit more. Marco (as tall as a Dutchman can be) came to have a look and confirmed our suspicion that one of the shocks had broken. This shock wasn’t even two months old! As always, we look at the bright sight of a bad thing and this time it was the fact that we had to stop at this camp. First of all, there was a beautiful waterhole with a hide next to it, so we saw a lot of owls and drinking black rhinos that night. Secondly, we got to know Yvonne and Marco. They had been traveling for six years!! What an amazing way to live. They are absolutely diehard travellers, and we could learn a lot from them. Not just for traveling, but also when we want to start our project, with their vast amount of experience. We heard a lot of stories, and if you would like to check out what they’re doing, you can find their facebook. They’ve been to Kafue NP and Yvonne told us that when we’re at our starting point, they would come visit and help us!

If you’ve read our blogs so far, you might have noticed that normally something good happens after something bad. Besides our meeting with Yvonne and Marco (which was very good), this time it was the other way around. A lot of amazing things had happened at Etosha National Park (and before the NP) before the car incident. This incident was to balance it out. But wait, let me start at the beginning.

And this time, the beginning is not exactly in a game reserve. Instead (before Etosha), we went to an area where we could hike, called the Waterberg Plateau. It was time to use our legs again, just like in Tsodilo hills (read about it here). We decided to stay there for two nights and the first morning we slept in (7.30 am) and took it slow before we finally made it up the mountain. It was a short, but beautiful hike, but because we were a bit late, we decided to head back to the pool and cool down! In the afternoon we had planned to go on a game drive. Apparently, the top of the plateau is a game reserve. Oh sorry, so we did go to a game reserve again. Anyway, after chilling at the pool, we went on the game drive with a local ranger. We wanted to do this drive mainly because we wanted to go on top of the plateau!! He told us that, besides being a NP, the plateau was also used as a breeding area; there are no predators (accept the occasional leopard) and the edges of the plateau are natural boundaries for everything (including poachers!). We had our beautiful view and we saw a lot of buffalo’s and we made some friends (Belgian/Dutch, right on the border?! Still not entirely sure). They were going home the next day, but hadn’t seen a rhino yet. So, your wish will be fulfilled and just before we got back to camp, when all hope seemed lost, there was the rhino! A white rhino, right next to the road! He was curious and came pretty close to the car before taking off grazing again. Satisfied with our drive we went to bed.

The next morning we woke before the crack of dawn (5.30 am), because we wanted to see the sun rise from the top of the plateau. We were a bit late (couldn’t get out of bed, go figure), so I think we set down a record time sprinting up the plateau. They normally suggest it takes 40 minutes, now took us 20, WITH some pictures in between. We weren’t exactly on top when the sun touched the horizon, but it was close enough! And it was beautiful! We had an amazing view on a misty country and the colour of the rocks couldn’t have been more mesmerizing. Now that’s what you call, a good morning wake-up hike, plus we had some fun making pictures and using the tripod! By the time we got back to the car it wasn’t even eight ‘o clock! In the Netherlands, that’s when I get up! We had enough time to get to a nice guesthouse with proper WiFi and a swimming pool and sort pictures, and post some blogs on the website.

Our jumping jacks that morning!

After some shopping the next morning, we set out for the next NP, Etosha! This is supposed to be the Kruger of Namibia, where even sedans can get everywhere (remember the first paragraph of this blog……). We entered Etosha NP, and the drive to the camp was about 90 km and indeed this road was very good. As we had an early morning we went straight to the camp, no detours to waterholes. The next day we got up early (again) and did a drive to some waterholes before coming back to the campsite for lunch. This morning drive we didn’t have a lot of luck, but another chance that afternoon! I was kind of tired of driving the whole time, so I tried to convince Lars to take it easy just one afternoon. He thought it was a waste (which of course it was), so we compromised: we chilled at the pool for half an hour and left around 4 pm so we could catch the best hours of the day. We went straight to an area that had three waterholes close to each other. Lars and I had discussed that morning what we still wanted to see. I mentioned that I had never seen a cheetah drink… And Lars just wanted to see a cheetah, because that was the only cat we hadn’t seen yet. So we set out to find it, and find it we did! Or Lars did, he saw something stalking through the high grass and seeing a group of Hartebeest all looking in the same direction, we knew it must be a cat. We followed it, and there he was, an old male cheetah!! And a cheetah with a purpose, although a little distracted by some springbokkies that were running away, the cheetah went straight to the waterhole to drink! There you go Kellie, handed over on a platter, your drinking cheetah. As the good people we are, we stopped two other cars, so they could enjoy the view with us. The cheetah even walked by on the road, and we were a very, very happy couple on our drive back to camp. We stopped at one more waterhole and there we saw a white ánd a black rhino drinking! Wauw, could this day get any better. We had to rush back to make it in time before the camping gate closed.

That afternoon we had met our German neighbour, Dominik, a guy traveling on his own. He liked the company and so did we and after our dinner (very sophisticated according to Dominik with his peanut butter sandwich), we all went together to the waterhole next to the camp. This waterhole had a tribune for the crowd and a light so that we could see the animals that visit at night. What an amazing concept, a lot of animals you just won’t see during the day. The night before, Lars had seen hyena’s and two black rhinos fighting and expectations were high! It didn’t let us down, again we saw hyena’s, five of them. And we saw a black rhino with a young, and four other ones. As we heard a leopard in the vicinity, we couldn’t help ourselves and stayed a lot longer than intended in the hope it would come visit. It didn’t. No fuss, more chances the next day!

And so we rose with the sun again! We went to the same waterholes where we had found the cheetah, see if it was still around. And we were not disappointed! Although, now we found four cats. And it wasn’t cheetah, but lions! How about that! Now we only needed to find a leopard and we would’ve seen all cats in Etosha!

I should tell you that I had absolutely no image of Etosha before we arrived, not about the landscape, not about what to expect of the animals, just that it would be busier with cars than any place we’ve been so far. That’s what Eddie and Vera had told us. It turns out Etosha mainly consists of a huge saltpan which ones used to be a lake, surrounded by marsh land. Now everything is dry, but it is beautiful! There are huge stretches of edible grass and they are filled with so many different animal species; zebra’s (both mountain and Burchell’s zebra), kudu, springbok, black-faced impala (endemic and endangered), wildebeest, Red hartebeest, ostriches, giraffes, steenbok, elephants and eland. And then there are the waterholes, especially during the dry season, these waterholes attract animals. We had one particularly amazing sighting after we left the lions to their daytime-naps. We went to a waterhole and had seen a lot of zebra following the same road as us. We knew they must be heading for the water. We had parked the car at this waterhole, an especially beautiful waterhole I may say, and waited. After about five minutes the zebras came pouring out of the bushes all heading towards the water! I tried counting and there were at least 150 zebras! And as soon as the zebra’s thought it was safe enough to drink, the wildebeest finally found the courage to approach the waterhole as well. A group of about 50 wildebeest joined the zebras at the waterhole. I have never seen such big herds, and it is impressive!!

The beautiful sighting at the waterhole, with the biggest herd of zebra we have seen!

Now, I mentioned before that there were supposed to be a lot more cars in this park, Eddie and Vera even felt like they were in the zoo at times. At this waterhole we were the first to park, and thus had the best spot in tha house, but overall about six cars had appeared. I never actually realized they were there, because I was so taken by this beautiful sight. And the rest of this day and the day before we were baffled by Eddie and Vera’s judgement, it wasn’t busy at all! Turns out, this might had to do something with good timing, aka, the waking up early part! And then during the afternoon, we are not on the road as animals are not on the road; it is too HOT! That’s when you should chill at the pool. And so we did ?, this time at Okaukuejo, the main camp in this NP. After some tanning, we headed back out and had some more wonderful sightings at the waterholes.

A few pictures to get a feeling of the amazing characteristics of this park. Both the animals and the landscape!

We ran into Dominik, he was so kind to have taken two dutchies with him on the game drive! We tried to find the lions again, but they had moved on. And so did we, however, at a much slower pace than Dominik. And lucky for us, because of this pace we happened to spot something with the shape of a cat sitting in a field. When we spot a cat in the field, we generally assume it is a cheetah. But looking through the binoculars, we realized it is a leopard! Damn! Etosha made sure we saw everything, didn’t it!! And to have a really good sighting, most of the time you need to be patient. We waited for the leopard to start moving. And finally, she did. In the meantime, (only) two other cars had joined us. And one ranger stopped for a little bit before moving on, he told us he drove this road every day twice and it been months since he saw a leopard! I can’t believe we were that lucky. Anyway, the leopard started moving and we slowly followed. There is an unwritten rule that the one who starts the sighting, owns the sighting, so can claim the best spot. As we were the first car, that was our place and we claimed it! We followed the leopard and finally we could make a turn and if she kept that pace up, she would cross the road in front of us. We saw her through the bush moving closer and stopped the car. I was sitting on the edge to try and make pictures of her through the bush. And then she decided that where we were standing, was where she would cross the road!! She stalked out of the bush, looking right at us! It was amazing, I had adrenalin rushing through me! I could see her so clearly, also through the lens of the camera. Then I heard some whispers behind me from the other car, and I realized that maybe I should get back in the car! Actually, by then it was a little late, and the adrenalin rushing through me had nothing to do with the idea that I might have been doing something dangerous. It had to do with this beautiful, beautiful animal that allowed me to look at her from so close by!

After this, she disappeared into the bushes and we went back to camp (again making it only just before the gate closed, which is at sunset). We had another campfire meal and a good night at the waterhole (though a bit shorter) and the next day we decided to sleep in a little bit, get all our stuff, including the laundry we had done the day before, and leave at a decent hour. Which, in this case, meant we left around ten. And now did we finally experience what Eddie and Vera probably had experienced; a huge number of cars on the road. At the place we had found the leopard the night before, we saw about four cars parked. We stopped and asked what they saw, it was the same leopard hiding in a tree!! But you couldn’t really see her, plus we had to share the experience with a dozen other cars that arrived after us. So naturally, we moved on, we wanted to get to the western gate that afternoon. Now you might think, wait, the western gate… isn’t that the one she mentioned in the first paragraph. Oh yes it is. This is where we get back to where I began, that HORRIBLE road!

I want to end with a positive note though, when we left the park the last morning with our dancing car, we had stopped at one last waterhole. We saw a herd of elephants here, with one enormous female. And we are not entirely sure if it’s true, but we think this might have been a famous Desert Elephant. Hopefully, we will find out more about this animal in our next adventure, our drive to the beautiful but inhospitable Kaokoveld to visit a several conservancies (after we fix the car).

And of course if there is a salt pan, we’ll take the opportunity to have some camera fun!!

Posted by bylifeconnected in Blog

Etosha Nationaal Park – De woestijn van Eden

Etosha Nationaal Park - De woestijn van Eden

Een enorme hoeveelheid wilde dieren in een extreem droog en prachtig landschap

Twee dagen, 2200 Namibische dollar (± € 130), twee nieuwe schokdempers en 650 km later, en we zijn terug bij de westelijke poort van Etosha National Park. Dit is de plek waar we vertrokken met een dansende auto... Wanneer je auto na elke kleine hobbel een dansje pleegt, dan weet je dat er iets niet klopt! Dit is wat er was gebeurd: we moesten de slechtste weg in de menselijke geschiedenis berijden om van de ene naar de andere kant van het park te komen. Oke, misschien is dat een heel klein beetje overdreven, maar het was zeker wel de slechtste doorgaande weg die wij ooit bereden hebben!! Ik zal even een plaatje voor je schetsen. Stel je die kleine "vertragende" hobbels voor die ze soms op wegen plaatsen in Nederland (zoals op de Westerlandweg), van die hele korte waarvoor je eigenlijk niet zoveel hoeft af te remmen (80 km/u is perfect!). Stel je nu ongeveer duizend van die hobbels achter elkaar voor, en dat voor zo’n 40 km lang. VERSCHRIKKELIJK!! Ze noemen het hier corrogation, in het Nederlands zal het wel corrogatie zijn, maar het is een woord wat ik nooit kende! En afhankelijk van hoe snel je rijdt, blijf je er een beetje bovenop, wat betekent dat je geen controle hebt over waar je heen gaat, omdat er geen wrijving is met de weg. Of, de andere optie, je rijdt heel langzaam en voel e-l-k-e hobbel. We hebben eerst de eerste optie geprobeerd, met een snelheid van ongeveer 40 km/u, en een waanzinnige focus op de weg om zeker te weten dat ik niet overstuurde. En toen sloeg het noodlot toe en was er een net wat grotere hobbel, we hoorden een grote PANG, de achterkant van de auto gleed weg en we eindigden bijna zijwaarts op de weg. Gelukkig is 40 km/u nog steeds vrij traag en was er dus niks ernstigs gebeurd. Of nou ja, behalve dan dat geluid dat we gehoord hadden. En dus stopten we, keken rond of er leeuwen waren en stapten uit om de auto te controleren.

Oh wacht even, we moesten dus eerst rond kijken voor leeuwen, want deze weg bevond zich in Etosha National Park. Even ter zijde, dit is een park dat bekend staat om zijn goede wegen... WAT?! Nou, in ieder geval niet degene die naar het westen gaat, dat is zeker. Hoe dan ook, onder de auto kijkend, zagen we olie over de achterbodem en de banden druipen en ook een beetje rook. Aangezien we nog steeds niks van auto weten, hadden we dus ook geen flauw idee wat er aan de hand was. Misschien was het de benzinetank die een gat had? Of ergens anders een gat... Geen idee?! Toevallig kwam er net een grote vrachtwagen aanrijden en de jongens waren zo lief om even uit te stappen en een kijkje met ons te nemen. Ik moet zeggen dat ze zich veel meer zorgen maakten over de mogelijke leeuwen in de buurt, maar dat terzijde. Ze bekeken de olie, maar waren ook niet helemaal zeker wat er gebeurd was. Het rook niet als benzine en ook niet als de motor olie. De motor leek verder gewoon nog te werken. We controleerden alle oliën en de remvloeistof, en ook  of de benzine lekte. Het leek het allemaal niet te zijn, dus besloten we dat we maar gewoon heel langzaam verder zouden rijden, in de hoop dat we het volgende kamp haalden voor het donker was. Ons oorspronkelijke plan was om het park te verlaten, maar dit plan hadden we al snel aan de kant gegooid toen we hoorden dat de volgende 40 km de weg precies hetzelfde zou zijn. En om onze auto niet verder kapot te maken, konden we dus maar tussen de 15 en 20 km/u rijden! Nu denk je, dat is toch zo erg nog niet als je in een wildreservaat zit, toch? Beetje diertjes kijken? Maar dit gebied is mega droog en dus zijn er eigenlijk alleen dieren te vinden rondom de waterholes. En, helaas helaas, waren er langs dit hele stuk weg geen waterholes te vinden, en dus ook geen dieren... alleen maar die eindeloze hobbels zonder enige verlichting. En toen ging opeens ook nog een lampje aan... ABS ... Wat betekent dat nou weer?! (Zoals ik al zei, we weten echt helemaal niks van auto’s). Maar we zijn wel een beetje voorbereid, of nou ja, Lars was; hij had een overlanding boek gekocht met allerlei informatie over auto’s en wegen etc. Ik kon wel iets vinden over een ABS, maar niet precies wat het nou was, iets met de remmen. Wat ik wel vond, is dat we in principe gewoon konden doorrijden ook al stond het lampje aan. Nou, dat is alles wat we hoefden te weten toch! Later werkte Lars zijn hersens weer, en hij herinnerde zich dat het staat voor Automatic Brake System, wat dat dan ook is!

Na de langste, korte rit van ons leven zijn we eindelijk aangekomen in het kamp, genaamd Olifantrus (ik zal je de nare details besparen van waarom het zo genoemd werd). Toen we het kamp binnenkwamen, was er één enkele hobbel en hier realiseerden we ons dat het kapotte ding hoogstwaarschijnlijk de schokdempers waren, want onze auto danste na gezellig na aan de andere kant van de hobbel. Lars ging onze buren vragen, degenen met een mooie, camperachtige overlanding-auto, om te zien of ze misschien wat meer wisten. Dit bleek een fantastisch Nederlands stel te zijn, die ons zo uit ons slechte humeur wisten te halen. Marco (zelfs voor een Nederlander een lange vent) kwam kijken en bevestigde onze verdenking dat een van de schokdempers kapot was. Deze schokdemper was nog geen twee maanden oud, kun je nagaan! Maar, zoals altijd kijken we met een positieve blik naar een vervelend iets, en deze keer was het het feit dat we dus verplicht moesten stoppen in dit kamp. Allereerst was er een prachtige waterput met een schuilplaats ernaast, dus we zagen die avond veel uilen en drinkende zwarte neushoorns. Ten tweede hebben we dus Yvonne en Marco leren kennen. Ze zijn al zes jaar aan het reizen!! Wat een geweldige manier van leven, eentje die vooral ondersteund wordt door de huur die ze va AirBnB ontvangen van hun huis in Amsterdam. Zij zijn absoluut diehard overlanders en wij kunnen veel van ze leren. Niet alleen over het reizen, maar ook als we ons project willen starten, aangezien zij ondertussen een enorme hoeveelheid ervaring hebben! We hebben veel verhalen gehoord en als je wilt weten wat ze doen, kun je hun facebook vinden (dutch M.Y. live). Ze zijn bijvoorbeeld ook naar Kafue NP geweest en Yvonne vertelde ons dat wanneer we ons project starten, ze het leuk zouden vinden ons te bezoeken om een beetje te helpen!

De waterpoel bij Olifantrus kamp had een uitkijkpunt direct op waterniveau, achter glas. Heel cool om een neushoorn van zo dichtbij te zien!

Terug naar het verhaal. Als je tot nu toe onze blogs hebt gelezen, heb je misschien gemerkt dat er normaal gesproken altijd iets goeds gebeurt na iets slechts. Behalve dan onze ontmoeting met Yvonne en Marco (die dus erg goed was en na het ‘incident’), was het deze keer juist andersom. Er waren veel verbazingwekkende dingen gebeurd in Etosha National Park (en zelfs voor we het NP binnen gingen), en dit was allemaal dus vóór het auto-incident. Maar wacht even, laten ik even bij het begin beginnen. En deze keer is het begin niet echt in een game reserve. In plaats daarvan (vóór Etosha), gingen we naar een gebied waar we konden wandelen, genaamd het Waterbergplateau. Het was tijd om onze benen weer eens te gebruiken, net als in de heuvels van Tsodilo (lees hier meer). We besloten om daar twee nachten te blijven en de eerste ochtend sliepen we uit (wat betekent om 7.30 uur wakker worden) en namen rustig de tijd voordat we eindelijk de berg beklommen. Het was een redelijk korte, maar mooie wandeling, maar omdat we dus een beetje laat waren, besloten we al snel om weer terug te gaan naar het zwembad en af ​​te koelen! ‘s Middags hadden we gepland om mee te gaan op een gamedrive, want blijkbaar is de top van het plateau een game reserve. Dus toch, eindigen we weer in een game reserve!! We wilden deze rit vooral doen omdat we boven op het plateau wilden komen en dat mocht niet met je eigen auto. De ranger vertelde ons dat, naast een NP, het plateau ook als broedgebied werd gebruikt; er zijn geen roofdieren (behalve af en toe een luipaard) en de randen van het plateau zijn natuurlijke grenzen voor alles (inclusief stropers!). Op de game drive kregen we het prachtige uitzicht en we zagen ook nog eens een heel aantal buffels en we maakten een paar vrienden (Belgisch / Nederlands, vlak voor de grens?! Nog steeds niet helemaal zeker). Zij gingen de volgende dag naar huis, maar hadden nog geen neushoorn gezien. Het doel was om deze wens te laten vervullen. En juist toen we bijna terug waren bij het kamp, en dus alle hoop verloren leek, verscheen daar opeens de neushoorn. Een witte neushoorn, pal naast de weg! Hij was zelfs een beetje nieuwsgierig en kwam aardig dicht bij de auto voordat hij rustig weer verder graasde. Tevreden over onze rit gingen we naar bed.  

De volgende ochtend hadden we de wekker gezet voor het krieken van de dag (5.30 uur), omdat we de zon vanaf de top van het plateau wilden zien opkomen.We waren een beetje laat (he wat raar, we konden niet ons warme nest uitkomen), dus ik denk dat we een recordtijd van de wandeling (meer een sprint) naar het plateau hebben neergezet. Normaal gesproken zeggen ze dat het zo’n 40 minuten duurt, nu kostte het ons 20, zelfs met wat foto's ertussenin. We waren niet helemaal boven toen de zon de horizon raakte, maar het was dichtbij genoeg! En het was prachtig! We hadden een geweldig uitzicht op een mistig landschap en de kleur van de rotsen had niet betoverender kunnen zijn. Nou dat is wat je noemt, een goede wake-up wandeling. En tegen de tijd dat we terug bij de auto waren, was het nog geen acht uur! In Nederland is dat ongeveer het tijdstip dat ik op sta! We hadden vervolgens tijd genoeg om naar een leuk pension te gaan, met de werkende WiFi en een zwembad, en vervolgens foto's te sorteren en wat blogs op de website te plaatsen.

Onze ochtendgymnastiek! En na die sprint heuvel opwaarts was het nog vrij vermoeiend ook!

Na wat boodschappen de volgende ochtend, zijn we vertrokken naar het volgende NP, Etosha! Dit zou het Kruger van Namibië moeten zijn, waar zelfs sedans overal kunnen komen (denk even aan de eerste alinea van deze blog......). We kwamen Etosha NP binnen, de rit naar ons kamp was ongeveer 90 km, en inderdaad, deze weg was erg goed. Omdat we een vroege ochtend en al een lange rit gehad hadden, gingen we echter regelrecht naar het kamp, ​​geen omleidingen naar waterpoelen. De volgende dag gingen we er vroeg uit ​​(alweeeeeer) en hebben we een rit gemaakt naar enkele waterpoelen voordat we terugkwamen naar de camping voor de lunch. Die ochtend hadden we niet veel geluk, maar een nieuwe kans die middag! Ik was ondertussen een beetje moe van het vroege opstaan en de hele tijd in de auto zitten, dus probeerde ik Lars ervan te overtuigen dat het tijd was een middagje rustig aan te doen. Hij vond het een verspilling (wat het natuurlijk was), dus we maakten een compromis: eerst een half uurtje afkoelen aan het zwembad en dan vertrekken rond een uurtje of vier 's middags, zodat we de beste uren van de dag in het park waren. Dit was overigens nadat we tussen de middag een enorme voorraad was hadden gedaan, andere reden dat ik eigenlijk wilde chillen. Hoe dan ook, we gingen rechtstreeks naar een gebied waar drie waterpoelen dicht bij elkaar lagen.

Lars en ik hadden die ochtend besproken wat we nog steeds wilden zien. Ik zei dat ik nog nooit een cheetah had gezien die aan het drinken was... En Lars wilde gewoon een cheeta zien, want dat was de enige kat die we nog niet hadden gezien tijdens deze reis. En dus we zijn erop uit gegaan met het doel deze kat te vinden, en we hebben hem gevonden! Lars zag iets stalken door het hoge gras en zag een groep hartebeesten die allemaal in dezelfde richting keken (niet naar ons), en we wisten dat het een kat moest zijn. We volgden het, en daar kwam hij een heuveltje op gelopen, een oud mannetjes cheetah!! En het was een cheetah met een doel, hoewel hij even werd afgeleid door een aantal springbokkies die weg renden, ging de cheetah verder rechtstreeks naar de waterpoel om te drinken! Daar ga je Kellie, overhandigd op een zilveren schaaltje, je drinkende cheeta. Wauw! En om ons goede karma hoog te houden, hebben we ook de andere twee auto’s gestopt die langs kwamen, zodat ze met ons van het uitzicht konden genieten. De cheetah liep zelfs langs over de weg, en we waren een heel, heel gelukkig stel op onze rit terug naar het kamp. We stopten nog even snel bij een andere waterpoel en daar zagen we een witte én een zwarte neushoorn drinken! Wauw, kan deze dag nog beter worden. We moesten ons ondertussen wel een beetje haasten om terug bij het kamp te zijn voor ze de hekken sloten, maar we hadden het gehaald.

Die middag hadden we onze Duitse buurman Dominik ontmoet, een man die alleen reist. Hij keek uit naar wat gezelschap en wij vonden het ook leuk, dus na ons diner (zeer verfijnd volgens Dominik, die zelf een boterham met pindakaas had gemaakt), liepen we samen naar de waterpoel naast het kamp. Deze waterpoel had een tribune voor de menigte en een licht zodat we de dieren die 's nachts bezoeken konden zien. Wat een geweldig concept, omdat dit veel dieren zijn die je overdag gewoon niet zult zien. De avond ervoor had Lars hyena's en twee vechtende zwarte neushoorns gezien, dus onze verwachtingen waren groot! En deze keer werden we niet teleurgesteld, opnieuw zagen we hyena's, vijf zelfs. En we zagen een zwarte neushoorn met een jonge en nog vier andere. Toen we een luipaard in de buurt hoorden, konden we er niets aan doen en bleven we veel langer dan we van plan waren, in de hoop dat hij zou komen drinken. Helaas bleef hij weg terwijl wij er waren ☹. Maar niet getreurd, de volgende dag weer een kans!

De zwarte neushoorns die we bij de waterpoel zagen. Biertje mee, lekker onderuit en relaxen!!

En zo stonden we weer op met rijzen van de zon! We gingen naar dezelfde waterpoelen waar we de cheeta hadden gevonden om te kijken of hij nog ergens daar rond liep. En we werden niet teleurgesteld! Echter, nu vonden we ineens vier katten. En dit waren geen cheetahs, maar leeuwen! Wat dacht je daarvan! Nu hoefden we alleen een luipaard te vinden en we zouden alle katten in Etosha hebben gezien!

Het directie bestuur van de savannah hebben even pauze en zijn gezellig met z'n allen aan het drinken hier!

Even buiten het verhaal om, wil ik graag zeggen dat ik absoluut geen beeld had van Etosha voordat we aankwamen, niet over het landschap, niet over wat te verwachten van de dieren, alleen dat het drukker zou zijn met auto's dan waar we tot nu toe geweest zijn. Dat hadden Eddie en Vera ons verteld. Het blijkt dat Etosha voornamelijk bestaat uit een enorme zoutpan wat heel lang geleden een meer is geweest omgeven door moerasland. Nu is alles echter helemaal droog, maar het is prachtig! Er zijn enorme vlaktes met eetbaar gras en ze zijn gevuld met zoveel verschillende diersoorten; zebra's (zowel de mountain als de Burchell’s zebra), kudu, springbok, black-faced impala (endemisch en bedreigd), wildebeesten, red hartebeest, struisvogels, giraffen, steenbok, olifanten en elands. En dan zijn er de waterpoelen, vooral tijdens het droge seizoen trekken deze waterpoelen vele dieren aan. We hadden een heel bijzonder moment bij één van deze waterpoelen, nadat we de leeuwen aan hun middag-(overdag)dutjes hadden overgelaten. Onderweg naar een volgende waterpoel kwamen we een heel aantal zebra’s tegen langs de kant van de weg, tussen de bosjes, en ze gingen in dezelfde richting als ons. Dus we wisten dat ze op weg waren naar het water. We hebben vervolgens onze auto bij deze waterpoel geparkeerd, een bijzonder mooie waterpoel trouwens, en daar hebben we gewacht. Na ongeveer vijf minuten kwamen de zebra's uit de struiken stromen allemaal richting het water! Ik heb geprobeerd te tellen en er waren minstens 150 zebra's! En zodra de zebra’s hadden bekeken dat het veilig genoeg was om te drinken, vond de groep gnoes ook ineens de moed om naar de waterpoel te gaan. Een groep van ongeveer 50 wildebeesten sloot zich aan bij de zebra's. Ik heb nog nooit zulke grote kuddes gezien, en het was heel erg indrukwekkend!!

Het prachtige uitzicht over de waterpoel met de grootste kudde of zebra's die wij ooit gezien hebben. En toen kwamen er ook nog gnoe's bij!!

Nu benoemde ik al eerder dat er in dit park veel meer auto's zouden moeten zijn, Eddie en Vera hadden zelfs het gevoel dat ze af en toe in de dierentuin waren. Bij deze waterpoel waren we de eerste die geparkeerd hadden en dus hadden we de beste plek, maar over in de gehele tijd dat we daar stonden waren er ongeveer zes auto’s bij gekomen. Echter, heb ik me dit helemaal niet bewust gerealiseerd, omdat ik zo ingenomen was door deze prachtige aanblik van wilde dieren. En de rest van de dag waren we eigenlijk net zo verbijsterd over het oordeel van Eddie en Vera, het was helemaal niet druk! Nu bleek dat dit misschien iets te maken had met een goede timing, oftewel het vroege opstartdeel! En ook dat wij 's middags niet op pad waren, want de dieren zijn dan ook niet op pad; het is veels te heet! Dat is wanneer je in het zwembad moet chillen. En dat hebben we ook gedaan, deze keer in Okaukuejo, het hoofdkamp in dit NP. Na lekker te hebben gebakken (te heet, meer in de schaduw gelegen), gingen we weer op pad en hadden nog een aantal mooie aanblikken bij de waterpoelen.

Een aantal foto's om een gevoel te krijgen bij dit park. Zowel het landschap als de hoeveelheid dieren was echt super indrukwekkend!! En zoals je merkt aan dit aantal foto's, konden we niet echt kiezen!

Ook kwamen we Dominik tegen, hij had gezelschap van twee dutchies, de andere buren die een sedan reden en hij was zo vriendelijk om ze mee te nemen op een iets comfortabelere game drive! Samen probeerden we de leeuwen terug te vinden, maar ze waren helaas verdwenen. En ook wij reden dus door, maar wel op een game-drive tempo, niet zo snel als Dominik. En gelukkig voor ons, want vanwege dit tempo zagen we toevallig iets met de vorm van een kat een stuk verderop op een valkte. Als je een kat op een vlakte ziet, dan ga je er al snel vanuit dat dit een cheetah is. Maar kijkend door de verrekijker, realiseerden we ons dat het een luipaard was! Damn! Etosha heeft er dus voor gezorgd dat we alles hadden gezien (sorry Sanne en Ivar, maar er is vast nog wel iets over voor jullie!). We kunnen in ieder geval aanraden dat als je echt mooie dingen wilt zien, dat je behalve geluk, ook een beetje geduldig moet zijn. In dit geval was de luipaard aardig ver weg en dus hebben we gewacht totdat ze begon te bewegen. In de tussentijd waren er (slechts) twee andere auto's bij gekomen, ook al was dit naast de hoofdweg. En ook een ranger was even gestopt voordat hij verder ging. Hij vertelde dat hij deze weg elke dag twee keer reed en het maanden geleden was dat hij een luipaard had gezien! Ik kan niet geloven dat we zoveel geluk hadden.

Hoe dan ook, de luipaard begon uiteindelijk te bewegen en we volgden haar langzaam. In een game area is er een soort ongeschreven regel dat degene die het dier heeft gevonden, de beste plek kan claimen. Omdat wij haar hadden gespot, was dat dus onze plek en we hebben hem ook zeker geclaimd! We volgden de luipaard. Uiteindelijk konden wij de bocht om en als ze in deze richting bleef lopen, zou ze voor ons de weg oversteken. We zagen haar door de struik dichterbij komen en stopten de auto. Ik zat op de rand buiten de auto om foto's van haar door de struiken te maken. En toen besloot ze dat waar we stonden, dat dat de beste plek was om de weg over te steken!! Ze liep naast de auto de struiken uit en keek ons ​​recht aan! Het was echt fantastisch, ik had adrenaline door me heen stromen! Ik kon haar zo duidelijk en van zo dichtbij zien, mede door de lens van de camera. En toen hoorde ik wat gefluister achter me vanuit de andere auto, en ik besefte dat ik misschien weer in de auto moest kruipen! Eigenlijk was het tegen die tijd al te laat, want ze was al voorbij gelopen. En de adrenaline die door me heen stroomde had ook niets te maken met het idee dat ik misschien iets gevaarlijks had gedaan. Het had te maken met dit prachtige, mooie, elegante dier die zichzelf van zo dichtbij aan ons liet zien!! En ze hield precies hetzelfde tempo aan, alsof ze zich totaal niet stoorde aan ons. Hierna verdween ze weer in de struiken en gingen wij terug naar het kamp (weer net voor de poort gesloten werd, hetzelfde tijdstip als de zonsondergang).

We hadden nog een lekkere braai (bbq) maaltijd en een mooie avondje bij de waterpoel (hoewel ietsje korter) en de volgende dag besloten we om een ​​beetje uit te slapen, al onze spullen bij elkaar te verzamelen, inclusief de was, en op een fatsoenlijk uur pas te vertrekken. Wat in dit geval betekende dat we rond een uur of tien vertrokken. En nu hebben we dan eindelijk ervaren wat Eddie en Vera waarschijnlijk hadden meegemaakt; een enorm aantal auto's op de weg. Op de plek waar we de nacht ervoor de luipaard hadden gevonden, zagen we ongeveer vier auto's geparkeerd staan. We stopten en vroegen wat ze zagen en het bleek dezelfde luipaard te zijn die zich in een boom verstopte!! Maar je kon haar niet echt zien, en we moesten de ervaring delen met een dozijn andere auto's die na ons arriveerden. Dus gingen we snel weer verder, we wilden die middag namelijk naar de westelijke poort. Nu denk je waarschijnlijk, wacht, diee westelijke poort ... is dat niet degene die ze in de eerste alinea noemde. Jazeker. Dit is waar we terug zijn bij het begin, die vreselijke weg! Ik wil echter eindigen met een positieve noot, en toen we de laatste ochtend met onze dansende auto het park verlieten, waren we nog even gestopt bij een laatste waterput. We zagen hier een kudde olifanten, met één enorm vrouwtje. We hadden nog nooit zo’n enorme olifant gezien en dachten dat het misschien een beroemde desert elephant was. Maar we zullen over deze olifanten meer ontdekken in ons volgende avontuur, onze rit naar het onherbergzame Kaokoveld waar we een aantal conservancies gaan bezoeken (nadat we de auto hebben gemaakt).

En natuurlijk moesten we gebruik maken van het feit dat er een enorme zoutvlakte achter ons lag, dus hebben we wat lol gehad met de camera!

Posted by bylifeconnected in Nederlands, 10 comments

Mayuni Conservancy – Goede karma opbouwen!

Mayuni Conservancy – Goede karma opbouwen!

Een blog over een cultureel en wild avontuur, maar ook over een zeer succesvol project!

Na onze natuurreis in de Okavango (lees het hier), gingen we we op naar onze volgende, meer cultureel gestemde bestemming. Vanuit Maun reden we de enorme afstand naar het verlaten gebied van de Tsodilo Hills. Een gebied dat ook wel Mountain of Gods wordt genoemd. We arriveren hier rond zonsondergang en we konden voelen waarom dit gebied al duizenden jaren en door verschillende culturen, als heilig werd beschouwd. De bergen verschijnen vanuit het niets in een verder geheel vlak en droog landschap. In deze bergen zijn ongeveer 4500 verschillende rotsschilderingen te zien waarvan velen meer dan 3000 jaar oud zijn!!

Hier gaat de zon onder achter de ‘Mountains of the Gods’. Wat een prachtig gezicht!

We kwamen aan op de camping van het gebied, waar we Craig ontmoetten, een Zuid-Afrikaanse vent die al een tijdje alleen aan het reizen was. Zowel hij als wij waren blij met het gezelschap. We genoten samen van een prachtige sterrennacht vol praatjes. De volgende ochtend gingen we vroeg op pad om in de koelte van de dageraad de bergen te bewandelen. We hadden twee lokale mannen als onze gidsen, Tshebe en Phetolo, die ons alles vertelden over de schilderingen en de omgeving. Naast het bezoeken van de schilderingen, hebben we ook lekker geklommen en door grotten gekropen. Oké, misschien overdrijf ik nu een beetje (het was 1 grot), maar het was heel leuk om eens wat actieve dingen te doen in plaats van de hele dag in de auto te zitten! Tijdens de wandeling en in één van de grotten toonden de gidsen ons een soort sporen in de rotsen. Deze sporen in de vorm van gaten, waren gemaakt door de vele, vele gereedschappen die duizenden jaren geleden werden geslepen; bot op steen, steen op steen. Het was heel raar en tegelijkertijd heel indrukwekkend om iets zo tastbaars en echts te zien als de schilderijen en deze gaten, en je dan te realizeren dat het zo ongelofelijk lang geleden gemaakt is door mensen die op ons leken, maar toch zo verschillend zijn van ons; onze voorouders…

Tegenwoordig gebruiken ze de gaten in de rotsen trouwens nog steeds, alleen niet om gereedschaps te slijpen, maar als spel! Het spel heet Diketo en werkt zo: je gooit herhaaldelijk een steen in de lucht en terwijl het steentje in de lucht hangt, schep je een aantal kleinere stenen uit het gat, vervolgens probeer je ze één voor één weer terug te plaatsen zonder ze van de rots te laten vallen. Phetolo liet het ons zien en bij hem zag het er heel makkelijk uit. Maar deze hand-oogcoördinatie is een stuk moeilijker dan je denkt! Lars en Craig probeerden het allebei, maar faalden jammerlijk. Ze gooiden de stenen in alle richtingen behalve in het gat! Het was rondweg gevaarlijk! En ik was daarna toch wel een beetje bang om het uberhaupt te proberen! Bovendien was ik stiekiem meer geïnteresseerd in het verkennen van de grot (zelfs al vertelde Phetolo dat er misschien slangen zaten…). Na de grotverkenning en tegen de tijd dat we eindelijk terugkwamen van wat een twee-uur durende wandeling had moeten zijn (bij ons rond de 3,5 uur), was het erg heet en dus namen we een verfrissende douche voordat we weer op pad gingen. En ons pad bracht ons over de grens naar Namibie, de Caprivi-strip op! Omdat Craig in dezelfde richting wilde gaan, hebben we hem overtuigd om met ons mee te gaan naar de camping die wij hadden geboekt. Deze camping was op aanraden van Eddie en Vera. Wat we niet wisten was dat het alleen voor 4×4 auto’s was…

Toen we bij de gate aankwamen, vertelde de man ons dat we nog ongeveer 13 km moesten rijden op een weg met veel zacht zand. En kijkende naar de auto van Craig (All-Wheel Drive Sabaru) zei de man dat die het waarschijnlijk niet zou redden. Ik stelde voor dat hij zijn spulletjes zou pakken en met ons mee kon rijden. Maar met een griezelige hoeveelheid vertrouwen in zijn auto, zei Craig dat de auto het kon! Het was tenslotte een soort van 4×4! De man keek ons ​​sceptisch aan, maar liet ons toch door… Oke, laten we het dan maar gewoon proberen! Wat heeft een beetje vast zitten ooit iemand kwaad gedaan ten slotte! En het werkte!!! Zijn auto bleef achter ons verschijnen, zelfs bij de delen waarvan ik echt dacht dat hij het niet zou halen. Maar toen, na ongeveer de helft van de afstand te hebben afgelegd,  moesten we bergopwaarts in diep zand rijden en de klaring van de auto van Craig was simpelweg niet hoog genoeg. Dus in plaats van de top van de heuvel te bereiken, eindigde hij vlak voor de top bovenop het zand, zonder enige grip van zijn wielen in het zand. Omdat dit de derde auto (en de vijfde keer) was dat we iemand anders zijn auto hadden uitgraven, waren we, wat je noemt, experts. We wisten dat het probleem de hoogte van de auto was en dat we het zand onder de auto moesten verwijderen. We wisten dat we wat stokken moesten pakken om ze onder de wielen te krijgen voor wat extra grip bij het weg rijden. En we wisten dat als we hard genoeg zouden duwen, terwijl hij het gas volop indrukte, dat we het waarschijnlijk wel zouden halen. Natuurlijk wist Craig dit allemaal niet, dus hij maakte zich een nogal zorgen. Hij liep verwoed rondjes om zijn auto, dingen mompelend, terwijl wij het zand aan het weggraven waren en stokken aan het zoeken waren. Toen vertelden we hem dat hij volle bak het gas moest indrukken. In het begin gaf hij gas, stopte en deed het opnieuw. Het probleem is, zodra je het gas loslaat, rol je gewoon terug in het gat. Oftewel, toen we dat merkten begonnen we naar hem te schreeuwen dat hij het gas niet mocht los laten, hoeveel geluid z’n auto ook maakte! En langzaam maar zeker konden we op deze manier zijn auto naar de kant van de weg duwen. Omdat we slechts halverwege waren, besloten we alsnog zijn spullen te pakken en de auto achter te laten. Wat ik nog niet verteld heb, is dat dit allemaal gebeurde terwijl we in een wildlife gebied waren, waar wilde dieren vrij rond lopen. Ik legde aan Craig uit dat, in onze ervaring, er na een shitty rit (of een vastzittende auto) hier in Afrika bijna altijd iets goeds gebeurd. En dan vooral in gebieden met wilde dieren. En nog geen minuut nadat ik dit gezegd heb, rijden we zo bijna op een roedel wilde honden in die midden op de weg lagen! En dit is een zeer, zeer zeldzame waarneming. Zeker omdat dit een groep was van ongeveer vier volwassenen met negen pups! En daar waren ze zomaar, recht voor ons op de weg. De pups vochten om een ​​stuk vlees wat net was meegebracht door een van de volwassenen! Fantastisch! Er is zoveel interactie in zo’n roedel met wilde honden. We zagen bijvoorbeeld een volwassene aankomen en de pups stormden op haar af en sprongen met zoveel kracht op d’r dat ze  omver viel! Maar het was speels, want daarna gaf ze hen het stuk vlees. Vervolgens gingen vijf puppies ermee vandoor, het vlees alle kanten optrekkend. Lars en ik waren zo blij en opgewonden! In het begin zat Craig met zijn hoofd nog in zorgenmodus om z’n auto, maar hij werd meegesleurd door het gedrag van de wilde honden en ons enthousiasme. Maar pas toen we bij het kamp aankwamen en het personeel ons vertelde hoe weinig wilde honden ze zagen, en hoe jaloers ze waren, besefte hij eindelijk hoe zeldzaam deze waarneming was (hoewel we het hem natuurlijk wel verteld hadden). En het raakte hem (en ons) hoeveel geluk we wel niet hadden dat zijn auto vast was komen te zitten; misschien hadden we ze wel gemist als we in één keer door hadden kunnen rijden!

Tegen de tijd dat we op de camping aankwamen, was het al donker, maar we hadden het geluk dat de manager onze plek niet had weg gegeven. We hadden weer de beste plek van de hele camping; een groot veldje onder een boom aan de oever van de rivier en een open vlakte aan de andere kant. Omdat wij zo laat kwamen opdagen, hadden een aantal mensen meermaals gevraagd of ze daarheen konden verhuizen. Ik weet niet waarom we zoveel geluk hebben met deze dingen, maar ik ben echt blij dat het zo is! Vervolgens willen we onze tenten gaan opzetten, en Craig vraagt waar we “die grote doos” hebben neergezet.. Toen besefte hij dat hij vergeten was die hele doos, degene met zijn tent erin, uit z’n auto te halen! Het was zo grappig, en gelukkig zagen de managers er ook de humor van in toen we weer terugliepen naar de lodge. Hier boekte hij een van de luxe tenten. Vervolgens zijn we bij in de boma (verlaagde kuil met kampvuur) gaan zitten met en biertje en hebben we de rest van de avond niks meer gedaan. De volgende ochtend gingen we op gamedrive met een lokale game ranger genaamd Justus die sinds 1992 in dit conservancy-gebied werkt. Naast de impala, lechwe en hippo, was er die ochtend niet veel wild, maar… we hadden bijna de leeuwen gevonden (halve ochtend getrackt)! En nog belangrijker, Justus vertelde ons alles over het gebied. Dit was één van de redenen waarom we Nambwa en de Mayuni Conservancy in de eerste plaats wilden bezoeken. We wilden meer weten over hoe deze conservatie was opgezet, en het feit dat in een gedeelte, ook jagen is toegestaan.

Onze prachtige kampeer plek, met een lekker terrasje half boven het water. Vanaf het terras hoorden we de nijlpaarden en zagen we zelfs een aantal lechwe’s aan de andere kant drinken.

Dit is wat we hebben geleerd. Laat ik beginnen met het feit dat dit gebied laat zien dat het mogelijk is om een zeer succesvolle samenwerking te creeeren tussen de lokale bevolking en lodges, met als doel de natuur te behouden, zodat iedereen van het toerisme kan profiteren. We hadden dit nog helemaal niet beseft voordat we het gebied bezochten, dus dat was een zeer interessante bevinding. Mayuni Conservancy was de derde gemeenschap die een conservancy oprichtte in de Caprivi Strip regio, na Salambala-conservatie in het oosten en Wuparo-conservatie in het zuiden. Het werd gestart door IRDNC (Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation), een NGO die in Namibië werkt en één van de toonaangevende modellen van community-based natural resource management in Afrika heeft ontwikkeld. Dit blijkt uit de successen van de conservancies die we hebben gezien in de Caprivi-stripregio (nu Zambezi-regio genoemd). Hopelijk kunnen we iemand van deze organisatie ontmoeten, aangezien we tot nu toe nog geen reactie op onze mail hebben gehad. Maar we zullen de komende maand proberen hun kantoor te bezoeken?.

Hoe dan ook, terug naar de Mayuni-conservancy, het gebied waar we de wilde honden zagen (jeej!). Toen IRDNC hier binnenkwam jaren geleden, waren mensen sceptisch en wantrouwig tegenover deze mensen en hun plannen. Vier vrijwilligers begonnen echter met het afbakenen van het gebied en patrouilleerden als een soort wachters tegen stropers. In het begin hadden ze echter alleen hun handen, en verder geen munitie. De lokale bevolking lachte hen uit. Maar na verloop van tijd kregen ze munitie en uiteindelijk zelfs een voertuig en door dit en hun volhardheid kwam de gemeenschap hen dan toch te respecteren. In de tussentijd werd ook een bijeenkomst georganiseerd, eentje met eten en bier om het aantrekkelijk te maken. Er kwamen dan ook heel veel mensen opdagen en de gemeenschap begon te begrijpen waar het deze conservancy nou om draaide. Als iemand uit de gemeenschap een goed onderbouwd idee heeft om een ​​project te starten, bijvoorbeeld iets in de landbouw, een ambachtelijk bedrijfje of wat dan ook, dan kunnen ze geld vragen aan de conservancy. En ze kunnen ook geld vragen voor een onderwijs tot ranger, waarbij de conservancy dit ziet als een investering. Het geld van de conservancy komt dus terug in de gemeenschap. Neem bijvoorbeeld de camping waar we verbleven, Nwambwa. Dit is een camping die eigendom is van de gemeenschap en waarvan de winst allemaal naar de gemeenschap gaat. Drie jaar geleden werd dit uitgebreid met een lodge, die deels eigendom is van de gemeenschap en deels van een Brits-Namibische belegger. Naast de managers en een paar game rangers, komen de rest van de werkgevers uit de gemeenschap.

Ook wordt een deel van deze conservancy gebruikt voor professionele jacht. Echter, in tegenstelling tot hoe ze het doen rondom Kafue NP (lees het in dit blog), jagen ze hier op een duurzame manier. Jagers mogen niet zonder gids en ze krijgen alleen toestemming om oude mannetjes te doden; oude olifantenstieren, kudu’s of oude nijlpaarden. Als je ‘per ongeluk’ een vrouwtje neerschiet, moet je een boete betalen. En als je twee in plaats van één dier doodt, dan moet je het dubbele betalen. En het mooie hier is dat de conservancies in dit gebied samenwerken: aan het einde van het jaar telt elk gebied z’n dieren, en als blijkt dat er bijvoorbeeld geen olifanten in een gebied zijn, zullen ze jagers naar de buurman verwijzen. Maar het geld zal altijd naar de gemeenschap gaan.

Justus, die een paar jaar voor het jachtbedrijf in dit gebied heeft gewerkt, vertelde ons dat hij denkt dat ze in deze regio waarschijnlijk binnen twee jaar zullen stoppen met jagen, ook al verdienen ze er geld mee. Hij zegt dat er net als in Botswana genoeg geld uit het ‘gewone’ toerisme zal komen. De belangrijkste reden is echter dat als ze doorgaan, ze een moeilijke relatie met hun buren zullen aangaan. In Botswana is geen jacht toegestaan ​​en omdat er geen hekken zijn die Namibië en Botswana scheiden, doden de Namibische mensen dus de dieren die over de grens zwerven. Voor Botswana voelt dit alsof ze ‘hun dieren’ doden, wat logisch is. Verder vermeldde Justus dat lodges niet het enige zijn waar je met toerisme geld mee kan verdienen. Het gebied heeft bijvoorbeeld ook een moestuin, een restaurant, een winkelcentrum en zelfs een bakkerij nodig. Er komen dus banen voor het oprapen door het uitbreiden van toerisme! En om aan te tonen dat dit model heeft gewerkt, kan ik Justus citeren: “Mensen uit het dorp laten lechwe en impala in hun huis lopen en zien ze niet als vlees, maar als een manier om geld te verdienen aan toerisme.” En dat is een zeer goede manier om de natuur te behouden!

– Kellie –

Posted by bylifeconnected in Nederlands, Projecten, 4 comments

Mayuni Conservancy Namibia – And a way to build up some good karma!

Mayuni Conservancy – Some “good karma”-building

A blog about our adventures ánd a conservancy project!

Voor de Nederlandse versie – Klik Hier

After our beautiful wildlife trip in the Okavango (read about it here), we went for a cultural experience. From Maun, we traveled the long distance to the deserted area of the Tsodilo hills. An area also known as the Mountain of the Gods. We drove up around sunset and we could feel why this area is and has been a sacred area for many different cultures over thousands of years. The mountains arise out of nowhere in an else-wise flat and dry country. In these mountains, there are about 4500 different rock art paintings of which many are over 3000 years old!!

Sun was setting behind the Mountain of the Gods when we arrived. Beautiful!

We arrived at the campsite where we met Craig, a South-African bloke who had been travelling on his own for a while. He and we were happy with the company. We enjoyed a beautiful chatty, star-gazing night together and the next morning we woke up early to hike the hills in the cool of the dawn. We were guided by two local men, Tshebe and Phetolo, who told us everything about the paintings and the area. Besides visiting the paintings, we also did some rock climbing and caving. Okay, I might make it sound a little bigger than it was, but it was very nice for a change to do some active things instead of sitting in a car the whole day! During the hike, and in one of the caves they showed marks in the rocks. These marks in the shape of holes, were made by the many, many tools that were sharpened so long ago. It was very weird and at the same time impressive to see something so touchable and real like the paintings and these marks, and then realize it was made thousands of years ago by people so alike and yet so different from us. Nowadays, however, they still use the holes in the rocks, only not for tool sharpening, but for a game! It’s called Diketo, and works like this: you repeatedly throw a rock up in the air, and while the rock is in the air, you scoop several smaller rocks out of the hole, after which you try and put them back in one by one. Phetolo showed us and made it sound and look very, very easy. But this hand-eye coordination is a lot harder than you might imagine! Lars and Craig both tried, but were failing miserably, throwing rocks in all directions except into the hole! It was kind of dangerous! And I guess, after that, I was afraid to even try. Plus, I might have been a bit more interested in exploring the cave (even though we were told there might be snakes…). By the time we finally got back from our supposed-to-be-2-hour-walk, it was very hot and we took a refreshing shower before we hit the road. As Craig planned to go in the same general direction, we convinced him to join us to the campsite we booked. What we didn’t know was that it was only for 4×4 cars…

When we arrived at the gate, the guy told us we still had to drive about 13 km on a road with a lot of soft sand. And looking at Craig’s car All-Wheel Drive Sabaru, the guy said he probably wouldn’t make it. I suggested he could pack his gear in our car, but with an uncanny amount of faith in his car, Craig said the car could do it! It was sort of a 4×4 after all! The gate guy looked at us sceptically, but let us in anyway… All right, we figured to just give it a try then! And it worked!!! His car kept going, even at the parts I really thought he wouldn’t manage.  But then, about halfway to the campsite we had to drive uphill in deep sand, and the clearance of Craig’s car simply wasn’t high enough. So instead of reaching the top of the hill, he ended up on top of the sand just before the top, without any grip with his wheels whatsoever. As this was the third car (and the fifth time) we had to dig out someone else’s car, we were, what you would call, experts. We knew the problem was the clearance and that we had to remove the sand under the car. We knew we had to get some sticks to put under the wheels for some grip. And we knew that if we would push hard enough, while he kept hitting the gas, we would probably be able to get it out. Of course, Craig didn’t know all this, so he was in a bit of a worry, walking around his car frantically, while we were digging the sand from under his car. Then we told him to hit the gas while we pushed. At first, he hit the gas, stopped and hit it again. If you let go of the gas, you just roll back in the hole. We started shouting loudly at him to keep it going and very slowly we pushed the car out and on to the side of the road. As we were only halfway there, we decided to get his gear and leave the car behind. You should know that all of this happened while we were within a game area, were wildlife roams freely. I was explaining to Craig that our experience is that after a shitty ride (or a stuck car) something good is bound to happen here in Africa, especially in game areas. And not even a minute later we almost drove into a pack of wild dogs! And this is a very, very rare sighting, especially as this was a group of about four adults with nine pups! And there they were, right in front of us on the road. The pups were fighting over a kill that had just been brought over by one of the adults! Beautiful! And there is so much interaction amongst wild dogs, we saw one adult arrive and the pups went running towards her and just jumped on top so she rolled over by the force of the pups. After that, she gave them the kill and they ran off and five of them started pulling it in different directions. Lars and I were so happy and excited! At first, Craig was still with his head in worry mode for his car, but he got dragged in by the wild dog’s behaviour and our enthusiasm. And only after we arrived at camp and the staff told us how few wild dogs they saw, and how envious they were, he finally realized how rare this sighting was (even though we had told him). And it hit him (and us) how much luck we had that his car got stuck; we might have missed them if we would’ve been able to continue!

By the time we did arrive at the campsite, it was already dark, but we were lucky enough that the manager had not given our spot away. Again, we had the best spot of the whole campsite right on the edge, next to the river, and some other people kept on insisting they wanted to move there! I don’t know why we are so lucky with these things, but I am really happy we are. We went to put up the tent when Craig finally realized he had forgotten to take the box with his tent in it! It was so funny, and luckily the managers saw the humor as well when we walked back over to the lodge and he booked one of the luxury tents there. After that, we just got a beer at the boma (fireplace) and called it a day. The next morning, we went on a game drive with a local game ranger named Justus who had been working in the conservancy area since 1992. Besides the regular impala, lechwe and hippo, there was not a lot of game that morning, but we almost found lions! And even more important, Justus told us everything about the area. Which was one of the reasons we wanted to visit Nambwa and the Mayuni Conservancy in the first place. We wanted to know more about how this conservancy was set up, and the fact that, in part of it, hunting is allowed.


Our beautiful campsite with a deck looking out the river. We heard the hippo’s and saw some lechwe’s right across from us!

This is what we learned. First, let me just say it is a very successful cooperation between community and lodge owners with the aim of conserving nature so they can benefit from tourism. We had not realized this before we visited, so that was a very interesting finding. Mayuni conservancy was the third community conservancy set up in this region, after Salambala conservancy in the East and Wuparo conservancy in the South. It was started by IRDNC (Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation), an NGO which works in Namibia and has pioneered one of Africa’s leading models of community-based natural resource management. This is apparent from the successes of the conservancies we have seen in the Caprivi strip region (now called Zambezi-region). Hopefully we will be able to meet with someone from this organization, as we haven’t been able to get in touch yet, but we will try visit their office in the coming month ?.

Anyway, back to the Mayuni conservancy, the area where we saw the wild dogs (yaay!). When IRDNC came in, people were skeptical and suspicious of these people and their plans. However, four volunteers started with demarcating the conservancy area, thereby patrolling the border sort of as anti-poachers. However, in the beginning, they did not have any ammunition besides their hands. Locals just laughed at them. But over time, they received ammunition and even a vehicle and the community came to respect them. In the meantime, a meeting was organized, one with food and beers to make it attractive. And a lot of people showed up and the community came to understand what the conservancy would be all about. For example, if someone has a good well-substantiated idea to start a project, e.g. farming or small craft business or whatever, they can ask money from the conservancy. But they can also ask money for a guiding education, where the conservancy will see it as a way of investing in them. So, the money from the conservancy is coming back into the community. Take for example the campsite we were staying at, Nwambwa. This is a community owned campsite of which the profits all went to the community. Three years ago it was expanded with a lodge, which is partly owned by the community and partly by a British-Namibian investor. But besides the managers and a few game rangers, the rest of the employers are from the community.

Then another part of this conservancy is used for professional hunting. However, oppositely to how they do it around Kafue NP (read it in this blog), here they hunt sustainably. Hunters are not allowed to go without a guide and they can only kill old males; old elephant bulls, kudu’s or old hippo’s. If you ‘accidently’ shoot a female, you’ll have to pay a fine. And if you kill two instead of one animal, you must pay double the amount. And the beautiful thing here is that the conservancies in this area work together: at the end of the year each area does an animal count and if it turns out that for example no elephants are in one area, they will refer to the neighbor. Smart!

Justus, who worked for the hunting company in this area for a few years, told us that he thinks in this region they will probably stop hunting within two years, even though they earn money from it. He says enough money will come in from ‘plain’ tourism just like in Botswana. The main reason however, is that if they continue, they will enter a difficult relationship with their neighbors. In Botswana, hunting is not allowed and without fences separating Namibia and Botswana, the Namibian people are killing the animals that wander across the border. And for Botswana this feels like they are killing ‘their animals’, which makes sense. Furthermore, Justus mentioned that lodges are not the only thing that can provide money or the community. The area also needs for example a fresh vegetable garden, a restaurant, a shopping center and even a bakery. So, there will be enough jobs coming around when tourism picks up! And to show that this model has worked, I can quote Justus: ‘People from the village let lechwe and impala walk in their house and don’t see them as meat, but as a way to earn money from tourism.’ And that is a very good way to preserve nature!!

– Kellie –

Posted by bylifeconnected in Blog, Projects, 4 comments