national park

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!

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Etosha National Park – The Arid Eden

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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

De Okavango Delta – Een vinkje erbij op de bucketlist!

De Okavango Delta - Een vinkje erbij op de bucketlist!

Deel II van het olifanten paradijs dat Botswana is!

Waar waren we ook al weer gebleven in de laatste blog... Oh ja, Savuti in Chobe NP, en Sisi's zeer gestadig, leeglopende brandstoftank vanwege het diepe zand. Afhankelijk van hoe je het bekijkt, zou Lars zeggen dat haar billen te groot zijn voor de weg (zoals een echte Afrikaanse vrouw). Ik zou juist zeggen dat ze te klein is (zoals een Japanse vrouw, wat, zoals je weet, haar nationaliteit is. En dus geloofwaardiger). Haar billen, ook wel bekend als “de brandstoftank”, is het laagste deel van Sisi. En dus het deel dat over zand van deze wegen sleept. Het vertraagt ​​ons enorm, waardoor de motor meer kracht moet geven en er dus een hoger brandstofverbruik is. Maar in vergelijking met andere 4x4-auto's is haar tank juist veel kleiner, slechts 70 liter, wat het bij elkaar geteld enorm het aantal kilometers beperkt!

Hoe dan ook, een onopgeloste discussie later, zijn we nog steeds in Savuti en weten we dat we nog niet eens halverwege zijn. Ook weten we niet precies wat de wegomstandigheden in de Okavango zullen zijn, dus we zijn een beetje nerveus. Zouden we nog eens 2,5 dagen in Okavango kunnen rijden met deze hoeveelheid brandstof? Of zouden we het niet eens naar Maun kunnen halen, de dichtsbijzijnde plek voor extra brandstof? We hadden simpelweg geen idee en besloten maar gewoon een beetje te gokken. YOLO!

De "kleine" neushoornvogel (ook wel bekend als Zazoo!) die op onze YOLO instelling neerkijkt!

We vertrokken en tegen de tijd dat we eindelijk de gate bereikten, wisten we het nog steeds niet zeker. Dus maakten we gebruik van onze "geweldige" rekenkunsten, waarna we een educated guessok konden maken dat we zeker niet terug in Maun konden komen als we meteen de Okavango ingingen. Makkelijke beslissing, we moesten terug naar Maun, en we moesten snel zijn omdat we het nog airtime voor de telefoon moesten kopen zodat we het boekingskantoor konden bellen om onze camping te annuleren. En geloof het of niet, twee minuten voor het boekingskantoor zou sluiten staan wij buiten een winkeltje met airtime in onze hand! We hadden het gehaald, of eigenlijk Lars had het gehaald, met waanzinnige rijvaardigheden en een enorme hoeveelheid grote kuilen die misschien de banden van iemand anders hadden geknald, maar niet die van Sisi's. Dus, wij bellen... oke, het andere nummer... Nope.. niemand neemt op! Hebben we daarvoor zo ons best gedaan! Jammer, maar helaas. We verbleven die nacht in Maun en hadden expres een camping met WiFi gezocht zodat we onze pech konden omdraaien in iets positiefs. Namelijk het downloaden van een app met de naam Tracks4Africa. Dit is een navigatie-app die offline kan worden gebruikt met aaaalllllleeee wegen erop (nja, bijna alle), inclusief de kleine 4x4 tracks die je eigenlijk helemaal geen wegen kan noemen in bijvoorbeeld de National Parks. Vera en Eddie hadden deze app hun hele reis gebruikt en vertelden ons dat het de prijs zeker waard was... En even ter zijde, na de eerste dag waren we al hier al ruim van overtuigd. Het geeft ons echt een gevoel van vrijheid, omdat we nu altijd weten waar we zijn en hoe lang het duurt voordat we op onze bestemming aankomen.

De volgende ochtend reden we die 130 km die we naar Maun hadden gereden, weer terug, waarbij we via de zuidpoort van Moremi Game Reserve reden, zodat we wat wilde dieren konden zien. Maar we moesten vóór 16.30 uur in het dorp Khwai zijn, want dan zou het boekingskantoor sluiten. Dus wij kwamen daar rond 16.00 uur aan... En toen pas ontdekten we dat het zondag was... Wat is dit joh! Op de een of andere manier lijkt het altijd zondag te zijn als wij dingen moeten regelen!! Want ja, natuurlijk zijn ze op zondag gesloten. Dus wat moeten we nu doen? Nja, laten we dan maar gewoon naar de camping gaan. Godzijdank hebben we die app gedownload, anders hadden we hem misschien wel nooit gevonden! Plus nu konden we de scenic route nemen, langs de rivier. En mooi dat het hier was joh! Wij denken dat we Moremi GR inmoeten, maar we konden gewoon in dit gebied blijven. Het hele Khwai-gebied, hoewel niet officieel een Nationaal Park, waas evenzeer een natuurgebied als Moremi of Chobe. Sterker nog, het is de verbinding tussen de twee parken. Dus het was prachtig! We reden langs de rivier en om de 50 meter stond wel een olifant te drinken of te grazen. Tegen de tijd dat we eindelijk op onze camping plekje waren, waren we zo blij! En toen bleek ook nog eens dat we weer de beste plek hadden!! Overigens waren de afstanden tussen ons en de volgende tent minstens 200 meter, dus we stonden letterlijk in de wildernis. We zaten helemaal aan de rand, met aan de ene kant een vlakte en aan de andere kant de rivier. Wauw, het was de beste plaats waar we tot nu toe zijn verbleven (lijkt wel alsof we dat blijven zeggen). Omdat we wat tijd over hadden voor de zon onder ging, hebben we nog een kleine tour gedaan (mede mogelijk gemaakt door Tracks4Africa). Tijdens dit rondje ben ik bovenop de auto gaan zitten. Sssshh, niemand vertellen hoor, mocht echt niet, maar het was zoooo leuk! En vervolgens hebben we vanaf ons fantastische kampeerplekje, bovenop de auto, de zonsondergant bekeken. Het was aardig idyllisch, en dit werd eerder versterkt dan aangetast door het feit dat een muis een gaatje in mijn teen beet toen ik Lars knuffelde!!

Een prachtig uitzicht vanaf onze camping op de rivier en de zonsondergang. En vervolgens komt er een olifant voorbij om het nog mooier te maken!

Even over het kamperen. Wanneer we in een natuurgebied slapen, lijken onze oren zich in te stellen op de geluiden van de dieren. Normaal slaap ik de hele nacht door, nu hoor ik (denk ik) elk geluid. Die nacht hadden we er heel veel gehoord; nijlpaarden, olifanten, bavianen en zelfs leeuwen en een luipaard. Deze laatste twee hoorden we 's ochtends nog en beide niet te ver weg. Opgewonden als we waren, vertrokken we zonder ontbijt om deze dieren te vinden. Dat ontbijt komt later wel! Hoewel we onsuccesvol waren, was het een toch een mooie rit door een prachtig waterrijk gebied. 'S Middags kwamen we eindelijk bij het boekingskantoor en kregen we te horen dat we de nacht die we gemist hadden, gratis en voor niets nog konden blijven! Superlief van ze! We hadden hier ook een boeking gemaakt om die middag met een mokoro mee te gaan. Dit is een kleine, traditionele boot die al honderden jaren door de lokale bevolking wordt gebruikt om te vissen. Stel je de boten in Venetië voor, maar dan een formaatje kleiner. En ze hebben zelfs een gondelier!

Omdat we wat tijd over hadden voordat de mokoro zou vertrekken, dachten we dat we de vertrekplek maar vast moesten gaan zoeken om daar ergens een bosje op te zoeken en te chillen. Dus, we kwamen vroeg aan en werden begroet door de manager van een kamp die ook, zogenaamd, een getrainde gids was... Wij hadden dus in ons hoofd om rustig lunch te maken en een beetje te ontspannen, maar deze gast kwam bij ons zitten... Dit was echt mega ongemakkelijk. En vervolgens werden we omringd door olifanten (zie vorig blog), dit was echt mega leuk! Maar ja, zo welopgevoed als wij zijn, hebben we dus maar met die vent gepraat. Hij praatte veel over zichzelf, en misschien dacht hij dat wij een paar naïeve, goedgelovige toeristen waren, want hij probeerde ons ervan te overtuigen dat olifanten maximaal 15 jaar oud worden. 15? We hebben twee keer gecontroleerd of we het goed hadden gehoord, misschien zei hij wel 50 ... Nee, echt, 15 jaar, soms een beetje ouder... Wat natuurlijk klinkklare onzin is. Olifanten, en ook nijlpaarden, kunnen zo’n 50 jaar oud worden, en olifanten zelfs 60. Ik weet niet of hij zijn leugen besefte, of dat hij gewoon niet beter wist, maar het was duidelijk dat hij geen opgeleide gids was... En hij zou ons meenemen op de mokoro?!? Maar het lot bemoeide zich ermee, net toen we op het punt stonden te vertrekken, arriveerde er een gamevoertuig met veel mensen. Gelukkig voor ons, want het bevatte ook de officiële mokoro-gids. Ook al rook hij een beetje naar alcohol (en de rest van de groep gedroegen zich als krankzinnige dronkaards), hij gedroeg zich niet zo en hij toonde veel kennis en ademde (behalve de alcohol) een gevoel van rust uit. Dat is perfect als je een mokoro-ritje maakt, kan ik je verzekeren.

De rit zelf was prachtig. We dreven langzaam over het water, omringd door prachtige waterlelies, ondertussen genietend van de rust en de geluiden van de vogels. We zijn ook gestopt om onze benen te strekken. De gids liet ons een Hamerkop-nest zien (complete villa stijl!) en hij legde uit dat ze de klei van termietenheuvels gebruiken om hun huizen te plaveien. Dit is een zeer oude traditie die door vele, vele generaties vóór deze gids al werd gebruikt. De mensen uit het dorp Khwai maken deel uit van het San-volk (bekend als Bushmen) en woonden honderden jaren lang in het Moremi-wildreservaat, ver in de Okavango-delta. Ze zijn door de overheid verhuisd naar het Khwai-gebied, aan de rand van de Okavango, waar ze actief deelnemen aan het behoud van de omgeving. En wat een prachtig gebied is het, vol met wilde dieren (ik lijk dit niet vaak genoeg te kunnen zeggen:D).

Na onze ontspannende mokoro tour gingen we terug naar de camping. Het was een kort na zonsondergang, dus we begonnen met koken in het donker. We hadden al een hele tijd geen winkel gezien, dus dit was het moment om een ​​blik met zalm open te breken. Nu, denk je, wat heeft ons avondeten met het verhaal te maken?! Nou daar komtie... Lars had de extra vloeistoffen uit het zalmblikje ongeveer vijf meter van waar we zaten geleegd op de grond. Hij was net klaar met eten, ik was nog bezig, toen hij ineens iets achter hem hoorde. Denkend dat het weer die verrekte muis is draait hij zich om. Vervolgens wendt hij zich heel rustig tot mij en zegt: "Kellie, hyena!" WTF! De hyena bevond zich net binnen onze lichtcirkel op ongeveer vijf meter en we zagen hem rondsnuffelen, ons totaal negerend. Hij was zeker weten op zoek naar die zalm! En toen hij het niet kon vinden, liep hij gewoon weg in het donker... We haalden onze grote zaklamp tevoorschijn en probeerden hem te vinden, maar hij was verdwenen. Het had natuurlijk eng moeten zijn, omdat ik weet dat hyena's gevaarlijk zijn. Maar op dat moment was het vooral spannend en eigenlijk helemaal niet eng, waarschijnlijk omdat de hyena absoluut geen belangstelling voor ons had! Ik denk dat Lars hetzelfde voelde, hoewel... nadat de hyena was vertrokken, bleef hij rondlopen met de zaklamp en heeft hij wel honderd keer elke struik beschenen. En dan mis ik nu nog een belangrijk onderdeel van dit verhaal... Zowel ik als Lars moesten naar de wc voor een ​​nummertje twee zoals ze dat wel eens zeggen. En dit was nadat we de hyena in ons kamp hadden gezien. Nu moet je weten dat de wc op zulk soort campings bestaat uit een gat graven in de grond, je ding doen en die kuil weer dicht gooien. Lekker primitief. Normaal gesproken zou ik dat een beetje uit de weg van het kamp doen, maar deze keer kon privacy me echt geen reet schelen, Lars moest in de buurt blijven! Alleen de combinatie van deze omstandigheden maakten het absoluut de moeilijkste shit die ik in mijn leven d’r uit heb geduwd.

Goooeeed... Laten we even terugkeren naar een wat schappelijker gespreksonderwerp. De volgende ochtend moesten we afscheid nemen van het gebied, maar niet na nog een ochtend rondje. We hadden geen haast met terug gaan naar Maun. En dit was onze laatste kans om die luipaard in een boom te vinden, weet je wel, die ene die al op onze bucketlist stond sinds we drie jaar geleden voet aan wal zetten in Afrika. En van te voren hoopten we die in dit gebied te vinden! De grootste kans om carnivoren te vinden is tijdens de vroege ochtenduren, en naarmate deze uren voorbij tikten, verdween ook onze hoop. Niettemin hadden we een prachtige ochtend rit, alleen dat kleine teleurgestelde gevoel die van binnen is moeilijk tegen te houden.  

Net toen we op het punt stonden om verder te gaan, zagen we het game-voertuig met de mensen met wie we de dag ervoor hadden gekletst. Uit beleefdheid zijn we even gestopt om gedag te zeggen. En ik ben zoooo blij dat we dat gedaan hebben, want geloof het of niet, ze hadden nog geen kwartier geleden een luipaard in een boom gezien! De game ranger wist zeker dat dit jonge vrouwtje er nog steeds wel zou zitten, en hij was zelfs zo lief om ons daarheen te brengen. Het was echt heel dicht bij de plek waar we het game-voertuig tegen kwamen, maar de rit naar de luipaard voelde als uren voor ons (vijf minuten tops). Toen we een bocht omgingen en een andere auto zagen staan, wisten we dat ze nog in de boom zou zitten! We keken omhoog... en daar was ze, een heel jong vrouwtje die van bovenaf eens goed aan het bekijken was water er allemaal onder haar afspeelde. Wat prachtig! We konden ons geluk niet op, wat een fantastisch vaarwel. Of nja, zo dachten we, want het luipaard bleek niet onze enige vaarwel!

Daar is ze! Wachtend totdat wij d'r eindelijk zouden vinden. Wat een prachtige dieren zijn het toch ook, zo elegant!

We hadden besloten om de lange, maar mooiere route terug te nemen, wat erop neer kwam dat we zoveel mogelijk langs de rivier bleven rijden. Toen we een heuveltje over reden, werden we overwelmd door een vallei vol met olifanten! We telden minstens 500 olifanten binnen ons zicht, en waarschijnlijk waren er nog veel meer in het omringende struikgewas. En aangezien dit duidelijk een weg was die vaak bereden werd, waren wij de enige daar. Het was ronduit fantastisch. We parkeerden de auto onder een boom, klommen op het dak en hebben gewoon lekker zitten genieten. Er waren mannetjes en vrouwtjes van alle leeftijden, sommige aan het grazen of drinken, sommige aan het baden, sommige aan het vechten en we zagen zelfs twee kleintjes met elkaar spelen. Er was zoveel te zien dat we gewoon niet wisten waar we moesten kijken. En vervolgens moesten we hier door heen om aan de andere kant van de vallei te komen! Gelukkig hadden we inmiddels geleerd hoe we olifanten konden lezen. Maar er was toch een moment waarop het wel een beetje spannend werd. Op het pad wat we moesten nemen, waren drie vrouwtjes olifanten met een jong... en ze leken totaal niet geneigd om voor ons aan de kant te gaan. We probeerden ze heel langzaam een beetje verder te duwen, maar toen besloten twee enorme stieren hun slurf in andermans zaken te stoppen. Ze kwamen trompetterend op ons af rennen met hun oren wijd open! Ook al wisten we dat het een nep aanval was, het is nog steeds erg eng, want deze dieren zijn echt enorm!! En aangezien we omringd waren, wilden we niet dat ze de rest ook met hun opwinding infecteerden. Dus in plaats van de weg te volgen, besloot ik dat het op dit moment wel oke was om toch maar van de weg af te wijken. Ik ben er vrij zeker van dat mensen het wel zullen begrijpen.

Botswana heeft ons hier nog een laatste keer laten zien dat zij het perfecte olifantenparadijs is. En deze hele ochtend was een ideaal einde van de meest fantastische en verbazingwekkende natuurbelevenissen in ons leven. Nu kunnen we doorgaan naar de volgende stop, een culturele stop deze keer; Tsodilo Hills (lees het hier).

Posted by bylifeconnected in Nederlands, 5 comments

The Okavango Delta – Another check off the bucketlist!

The Okavango Delta - Another check off the bucketlist!

Part II of the elephant paradise, and much, much more!

Voor de Nederlandse versie - Klik Hier

Where did we left off in the last blog… Oh right, Savuti in Chobe NP, and Sisi’s not so slowly and very steadily draining fuel tank due to the deep sand (if you missed it, read it here). Depending on how you look at it, Lars would say her bottom is too big (like a real African woman). I would say it is too small (like a Japanese woman, which, as you know, she is). Her bottom, also known as the fuel tank, is the lowest part of Sisi. Thus it is the part that drags on deep-sand roads. It slows us down, causing more fuel use. However, compared to other 4x4 cars her tank is much smaller, only 70 litres, which is what limits the amount of kilometres!

Anyway, one unsolved discussion later, we are still in Savuti and we know that we are not even half way. We are not sure what the road conditions will be in the Okavango, so we’re a bit nervous. Would we be able to drive another 2,5 days in Okavango? Would we even be able to make it in one go to Maun, in case we need extra fuel? We simply didn’t have a clue and decided to gamble a bit. YOLO!

The little hornbill (aka Zazoo) that frowned upon our YOLO attitude!

We set off and by the time we finally reached the gate, we still weren’t sure. So we made use of our "amazing" math skills, after which we could make the educated guess that we would definitely not be able to make it back to Maun if we went into the Okavango straight away. That was decided, we had to go back to Maun, and we had to be fast because we needed to call the booking office to cancel our campsite. We made it in time, or actually Lars did, with insane driving skills and a lot of major ass bumping that might have popped anyone else’s tyre but Sisi’s. We called, but.. the booking office did not pick up. Unfortunate, but not unsolvable, we stayed at Maun for the night at a campsite, picking one with WiFi so we could turn this bad luck in some good use; we downloaded an app called Tracks4Africa. It is a navigation app which can be used offline with aaaallll the roads on it (well almost all), including the small 4x4 tracks you can’t even call roads in, for example, the National Parks. Vera and Eddie had used it their whole trip and told us it was definitely worth the price. We agreed after only one day, and are even more convinced by now. It really gives us a sense of freedom as now we  always know where are and how long it will take us to arrive at our destination.

The next morning we drove back those 130 km’s, thereby passing through the south gate of Moremi NP, so we could watch some wildlife around the so-called Black Pools. But we had to be in Khwai village before 16.30, because that’s when the booking office would close. So we arrived there around 16.00… And only then did we find out it was Sunday…. Somehow, it seems to be Sunday everyday here, or at least, always when we need something! And of course, on Sunday they are closed. What to do! Okay, we just went to the campsite. Thank God, we downloaded that app so now we were able to find it! And we took a detour along the river, because it looked interesting. And interesting it was, it made us find out that the whole Khwai area, even though not officially a National Park, is as much a wildlife area as Moremi or Chobe. In fact, it is the connection between the two parks. So it was beautiful! We drove along the river, and every 50 meters we saw an elephant drinking or grazing. By the time we finally got to our campsite, we were so happy! And then it turned out we had the best campsite, again!! We were on the edge with on one side a plain and on the other side the river. Wauw, it was the best place we’ve stayed so far. Because we had some time before sundown, we did a little tour, where I sat on top of the car (ssshh don’t tell anyone), and it was soooo much fun! And then we watched the sun set from our rooftoptent. It was just perfect, not even changed by the fact that a mouse bit my toe when I was hugging Lars.

A beautiful view on the river and the setting sun as an elephant passes by to elevate the beauty to a whole new level!

When we sleep in a wildlife area, our ears always seem to attune to the sounds of the animals. That night we heard many; hippos, elephants, baboons and even lions and a leopard. We heard them in the morning, both not too far away. Excited as we were, we left without breakfast to find these animals. Even though we were unsuccessful, it was a good drive through a beautiful water rich area. In the afternoon, we finally made it to the booking office and were told we could stay the night we missed, without paying extra! So nice! We also made a booking to go with a mokoro that afternoon. This is a small, traditional boat used for hundreds of years by the locals. Imagine the boats in Venice, but then one size smaller, they do include a gondolier as well! Because we had some time before the Mokoro would leave, we thought we should try and find the place. So, we arrived there early and were greeted by the manager of a camp and also, supposedly, a trained guide… We thought to just put our chairs under a tree and relax a bit, make our lunch whatever. That was all good, but this guy joined us… As well as the elephants we mentioned in the previous blog (read it here). And so, as well-raised as we are, we talked with the guy even though it was quite awkward. He talked a lot about himself, and maybe he thought we were some naive, credulous tourists, but he tried to convince us that elephants live about 15 years. 15? We double-checked, making sure we heard right, that he hadn’t said 50... No, 15 years, sometimes a little bit older…. Which is simply not true. Elephants, and hippos as well, they can become as old as 50, and elephants even 60 years old. I don’t know if he realized his lie, or if he simply didn’t know any better. But it was clear he was definitely not a trained guide... And he would be the one taking us on the mokoro?? But just as we were about to leave, a game vehicle with a lot of people arrived. Lucky for us, because it included the official mokoro guide. Even though he smelled a bit like alcohol (and the rest of the group acted like insane drunks), he didn’t act like it and he showed a lot of knowledge and breathed an air of peace. Which is perfect if you go on a mokoro ride, I assure you.

The ride itself was beautiful, we slowly floated forward, surrounded by gorgeous waterlilies, meanwhile enjoying the peace and quiet and the sounds of the birds. We also stopped to stretch our legs. The guide showed us a Hamerkop nest (full-on villa!), and he also explained that they use the clay from termite mounds to pave their houses. This is a very old tradition done by many, many generations before this guide. The people from Khwai village are part of the San people (bushman) and used to live in Moremi Game Reserve, way further into the Okavango delta, for hundreds of years. They were relocated to the Khwai area, on the edge of the Okavango, were they actively participate in the conservation of the environment. And what a beautiful area it is, full with wildlife!

After our relaxing mokoro tour we went back to the campsite. It was a bit after sunset, so we started cooking in the dark. We hadn’t seen a shop for a while, so it was time to break open one of the cans with salmon in it. Now, you think, what has our dinner to do with the story?! Let me tell you! Lars had emptied the extra fluids from the can about five meters from where we were sitting. He had just finished his dinner and I was still eating, when he heard something behind him. He turned around… then turned back to me and said: “Kellie, hyena!” WTF! The hyena was just within our light circle at about five meters, and we saw him sniffing around, not even seeming to notice us. He was definitely trying to find that salmon! And when he couldn’t, he just walked away into the dark… We got our big torch out and tried to find him, but he had disappeared. It should have been scary, because I know hyena’s are dangerous. But at that moment it was more exciting than scary, mainly because its absolute lack of interest in us! I think Lars felt the same way, although… after the hyena left he did keep walking around with the torch, shining into every bush. And then of course another important part of this story… Both me and Lars had to go to the toilet for a number two, so to say… And this was after we had seen the hyena in our camp. At this campsite, this would be your toilet: dig a hole in the ground, do your business, cover it up. Now normally, I would do that a little bit away from the camp.. but this time though, I couldn’t give a shit about privacy, Lars had to be near! But the circumstances made it absolutely the hardest shit (not literally, luckily) I have taken in my life.

Let’s get back to some civil conversation. The following morning we had to say goodbye to the area, but not after another morning drive. This was our last chance to find that leopard in a tree, you know, the one that had been on our bucketlist since we set foot in Africa three years ago, and which we had hoped to find in this area! The highest chance of finding carnivores is during the early morning hours, and as these hours were fading, our hope faded as well. Even though we had a beautiful game drive, we couldn't escape that touch of disappointment.

Just when we were about to move on, we saw the game drive vehicle with the people we had met the day before. Out of good manners we didn’t just drive by, but stopped to say goodbye. And I’m soooooo happy we did, because believe it or not, they had seen a leopard in a tree not even fifteen minutes ago. They were sure she would still be there and so the game driver was so kind to take us there. It was so close, but the drive there felt like hours to us (five minutes tops). When we rounded a corner, and saw another game vehicle, we knew she was still there! We looked up in the tree, and there she was, a very young female looking at everything going on below her. Beautiful! We couldn’t believe our luck. What an amazing goodbye. Or so we thought…

Finally, there she was, waiting for us to find her! What a beautiful animal, so elegant!

The leopard wasn’t our only goodbye! We had decided to take the scenic route back, so we followed the river area a little further. When we rounded a corner we were overwhelmed by a valley full of elephants! There must have been at least 500 within our sight, and probably a lot more in the surrounding bushes. And as this was obviously a road not well driven, we were the only ones there. It was amazing. We parked the car under a tree, climbed on the roof and just enjoyed. There were males and females of all ages, some grazing, some bathing, some fighting and we even saw two little ones playing with each other. There was so much to watch, and so much interaction. Luckily, we had gotten to know how to move around elephants by now, because we had to manoeuvre through this valley filled with elephants to get to the other side! There was only one point where it got a little bit excited, because on the track we had to take, were three elephants with a younger one.. and they didn’t seem inclined at all to move for us. We tried to push them very slowly, but then two big bulls decided to put their trunks in someone else’s business; they came at us with their ears wide, trumpeting! Even though we knew it was a mock charge, it is still scary, because these animals are huge!! And because we were surrounded by them, so we did not want them to infect the rest with their excitement. So instead of following the track, I decided it was okay to just move a bit around it for this time. I’m pretty sure people will understand.

Botswana had shown us one last time that they are the perfect elephant paradise. And this whole morning had been the perfect ending to the most amazing wildlife experiences in our lives. Now we can move on to the next stop, a cultural one this time; Tsodilo Hills (read it here).


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Chobe National Park – An Elephant Paradise

Chobe National Park – An Elephant Paradise

Chobe National Park - An Elephant Paradise

Part one of our beautiful wildlife adventure in the North of Botswana

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While writing this story, outside on a chair, we are looking at an elephant heading our way... wondering if he will come closer (also wondering if we would like it if he would). He is relaxed, casually browsing with his 5th leg slapping against his underbelly. Show-off! No match to be found here, even our local ‘guide’ (more on him later) looks impressed. Anyway, while the elephant walks slowly around us we are astounded by the huge number of elephants here in Botswana. Five days ago, we entered Chobe National Park and travelled all the way down through Savuti and on to Khwai/Moremi NP where we are now. Our adventure started in Kasane for what we hoped was going to be the best wildlife experience of the trip! Expectations were high and we were excited to start our journey through the African wilderness. Before we entered Chobe with our car, we decided to book a boat tour over the Chobe river. Around 15.30 we boarded the boat which could just as well have been a German retirement home on the water; except for us and a young German couple, the remaining 40 persons were probably using up their pension. Luckily, they did not spoil the experience, which was a refreshing experience after driving so many kilometres. For about three hours they navigated and parked us close to hippos, elephants, crocs, antelopes and birds that lived in and along the river. While having the pleasure of sipping a cold cider, we had some wonderful sightings.

The following morning, we arrived at the entrance gate of Chobe National Park at 7am precisely (opening time for self-drivers) to be ahead of the others. The plan for the day was to drive along the Chobe Riverfront (a route of about 50 kilometres). The best sightings were a lion and lioness (a bit hidden in the bushes), a baby baboon riding on the back of her mother (Jiihaa!), a lot of fish eagles and a huge herd of about 200 elephants. The last one took our breath away. We entered a viewpoint that provided us an overview of a cleared area next to the water that was filled with elephants. Later, we found out that many small herds of elephants come together at places where water or/and food is plentiful. Here they’ll form mega herds of hundreds to even a thousand elephants. However, they are only able to do this in this region, because Botswana houses about 250.000 elephants. This is about 25% of the world’s population! An absolute elephant paradise!

Later that afternoon we arrived at Muchenje where we filled the petrol tank for the last time and stayed at Muchenje campsite for the night. While sitting on the deck with our dinner, we had a beautiful view of the sunset. One of the owners joined us, a former British man (he left the UK about 40 years ago), and we talked about the area, Botswana and it’s presidents. The next morning we relaxed a bit at the pool and then left for the remaining part of Chobe (Linyanti and Savuti).

Before entering the park there was a sign “engage 4x4, deep sand ahead”. We have been told to do this before where we didn't listen and everything was fine, so we ignored this sign as well, Sisi would be able to handle anything. But the sand got deeper and deeper and after a few kilometers we did decide to stop and deflate the tires for more traction. That did the trick and we drove on until we stumbled onto a vehicle that was stuck in the deep sand. The main problem with the sand is that in between the tracks of tires the sand is elevated. Vehicles with relatively low clearance level will drag there bottoms on the sand, creating more friction, until… they come… to a stop. This happened with the Australian (Eddie) and Norwegian (Vera) couple we run into. As good citizens we got out of the car and walked towards them, equipped with our spade, and a big smile on our faces. They responded in kind. You know those people that take everything as it is and try to make the best out of it? Meet Eddie and Vera. What happened was that they had stopped without thinking about the sand, because there were elephants next to the road! As soon as the elephants left, they hit the gas, but nothing happened… They were stuck. And that’s when we came in. We started to recover the car together and while reaching under their car we learned that it is actually really fun to dig someone else’s car out of the sand. Eddie told us about reading that “this road swallows cars for breakfast”. An exciting prospect, considering we are lying under a car right at the beginning of this road. After a few tries and pushes the car was out. Now it was our turn… Kellie took a sprint and went through this bit in one go! On the other side we met up with Eddie and Vera who thanked us with a cold beer. We learned that they were heading the same way as us and left in convoy together.

Our sunset view dinner from the deck at Muchenje campsite.

Only a few kilometres further we had to stop again. Not for Eddie and Vera, but for a car filled with four Dutchies. This makes it sound like there are loads of cars on this road, but actually these were the only cars we came across. And all of them got stuck in the sand. The Dutchies told us that this was the third time (!) that day that they got stuck. And in the following 5 km, we helped them recover their car three more times… Welcome to the African bush! We finally told them to keep the car in low gear, try to drive on the side of the road instead of in the tracks to remain a high clearance, and just keep hitting the gas no matter how much noise your car makes. Plus, we drove ahead to find the best parts of the road and clear some of the deepest sand. And that’s when they finally managed to get through the last 8 km.

Our car was fine and we made it to Linyanti with our confidence skyrocketing. Noticing that our 98’, self-bought and fitted, Landcruiser could take on all that Africa has to offer better than many of the far newer, and much more expensive, rental cars made us feel really good. In addition, we got the best campsite of the camp, with a great overview of a small river. At arrival we saw elephants grazing and enjoying the water down in the river in the light of the setting sun. It doesn’t get any better than this! Because of the amazing view we invited Eddie and Vera to stay at our campsite. They willingly accepted and we had the most wonderful braai. A true African feast; with beetroot salad, potato salad, capsicum, corncobs with butter, chicken and boereworst. The rest of the night we spent talking and laughing around the campfire; the perfect ending of an exciting day!

Our camping spot at Linyanti. If you look closely, you can find the elephants on this picture!

The next morning we decided to wake early to search for wildlife with Eddie and Vera. We took some of the loops in search of the lions we had heard that night, and the tracks we found that almost moved into our camp. All the campsites we booked in game areas, are not fenced, so any animal can walk through, which makes camping a lot more exciting! We didn’t find the lions, but we found some elephants and a roan antelope. From there on we took the road that, we thought, lead us to Savuti (in the middle of Chobe). After a few kilometres we found a huge dead elephant skull along the road. We stepped out of the car to stretch our legs and make some pictures of it. At the same moment a helicopter flew over us and started to circle the area around us. We waved like well-behaved tourists, to show that we are not poachers. What poacher would wave at a helicopter, right? But we were pretty nervous. Even more so when the helicopter started to land on the same road we were parked! At that moment I thought we were in a whole lot of trouble. Pretending confidence though, we walked towards the helicopter from which three game guards, one with a big rifle, exited. Even more nervous. Once cleared from the helicopter they asked us what we were doing here. We answered that we were interested in the elephant skull . Then they asked us if we weren’t scared of lions. We answered that we weren’t. Luckily, this broke the ice and they followed us to the skull. They began to explain how you can see if an elephant died of natural causes or poaching, as this was the reason they landed in the first place. We just happened to be there... Afterwards, they stressed that we shouldn’t leave the safety of the car while in the park and they pointed us in the right direction. We, of course, waited for the helicopter to ascend before turning around and driving off. Another experience added to the list!

Along the road we stopped next to a big elephant bull. We think he was curious as he kept coming closer to the car. He didn’t send any warning signals to us so we stayed put and waited for him to pass… but he didn’t. He came even closer and at a certain moment I could have touched his trunk if I wanted to. At that moment though he got too close for comfort, and I decided to move the car slowly forward. My heart was pounding like crazy while I watched how he would respond to revving of the engine. He stayed relaxed though and just crossed the road behind us. With big eyes Eddie and Vera looked at us (they were in front), and we exchanged how exciting that was. After this experience the road got worse; deep sand for kilometres in one stretch. At this moment we started to notice that our fuel was going a lot faster than normal, which worried us a lot because we had a long way to go! We calculated that the car was consuming 1 litre for every 4 kilometres, which is ridiculously inefficient; normally it is about 1 litre for every 8 kilometres (also not great). We did not even think of driving back to Muchenje though; we had an expensive reservation at Savuti that evening. This created some uncertainty as we were not sure if would be able to make it to the other side (about 250 kilometres further). For us though, the only option was forward, deeper into the wilderness…

Arriving at the entrance gate in Savuti we heard that a lion pride had killed an elephant. We drove around but couldn’t find any signs of the kill, which should have been only 300 meters from the gate... Hunger won from curiosity, and we first made a quick lunch. With our bellies filled we continued the search. Kellie and I eventually found the lions by tracking the tracks of other cars into the bush. They were lying under a bush, their bellies even thicker than ours. We never found the elephant. From there we had an afternoon game drive through the Savuti Marsh, a supposedly wet area but at this time of year no water drop to be found. Nevertheless, the plains were stunning with cumulus clouds in the background. And to stretch our legs we even climbed a small hill to visit some rock art.

Overall, the wildlife on this drive was a bit scarce, which we hadn’t expected after reading the Lonely Planet (expectations are always bad). So we were kind of disappointed when we drove back towards camp. Suddenly, we saw a big dust cloud ahead of us; the sign of a big herd (buffalo or elephant) on the move. It were about a hundred buffalo’s and they were heading for the waterhole that was very close to the lions we had found earlier! All the buffalo’s gathered around the waterhole, a hole way too small to accommodate them all. Then an elephant tried to push through the herd of buffalo’s to get to the water, which was already occupied by two hippo’s as well. Just before it reached the water, it got scared of something and ran away, trumpeting. Then, out of nowhere, the lions suddenly appeared! They were after the buffalo’s and the herd started to move. Not chaotically, as one might expect, but very organized. We could feel and hear the enormous amount of hoofs smashing against the ground as a big cloud of dust covered the area. After a few moments the dust settled and a battleground between prey and predator emerged; the leaders of the buffalo’s and lions were facing each other. In turn they charged one another, measuring the strength and confidence of their opponent. One bull buffalo charged! The lions retreated, afraid of the massive horns of the buffalo. They only stayed put for a bit, and then the lions set in the chase again. The lions made several attempts to brake the formation of the buffalo herd to seclude one from the rest. And this went on and on right in front of us. It felt like we were in a National Geographic documentary! The only thing we missed was the voice of David Attenborough. The hunting lions were with five lionesses and a one young male, the adult males were being typical lions. We found them lying about 50 metres away; watching the spectacle just like us. The kings of the savanna do not hunt, they get fed. Unfortunately, it was getting really dark as the lions continued the hunt. We knew we had to go back to camp, even though we did not see the conclusion of the battle. Without a choice, we decided to look for any signs of who won in the early morning the next day. At the campfire, we talked the day and especially the evening over with Eddie and Vera while preparing another feast. What a sighting!! We slept like babies (didn’t even wake when a small herd of elephants walked through our camp).

The next morning we said goodbye to Eddie and Vera (we had an amazing time with you guys!!), and headed to where the battle had taken place the previous night. And we couldn’t believe our eyes! We found a carcass surrounded by lions, however, it was not a buffalo! Apparently, the buffalo’s had won the battle and instead the lions had killed a medium-sized elephant! Because of the huge population of elephants in the region, the local lions had become elephant hunting experts, very cool! We stayed at the kill for a couple of hours, watching them feed in turns and walk to the waterhole to drink. After a while though it got too hot for them to stay in the open and one by one they found a place in the shade. For us this was a sign that we could move on, on towards the largest inland delta in the world: the Okavango Delta. Read about this exciting adventure in our next blog.  

- Lars -

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