Gannaga Adventures

Tanqua Karoo National Park Panorama

Trips to the lesser known parts of Southern Africa

 

 Namibia Etosha Trip: August 2014

I was fortunate to be able to do a second Namibia trip this year, this time with my wife Letty, my daughter Melanie, granddaughter Mariska and son-in-law Chris.

What I did not know, but soon found out, was that August and September are the most popular months for foreign (non-South African) tourists to visit Namibia.

(click the link to download the whole trip in MapSource format - gdb- EtoshaTrip.zip)

Day 1
Ceres - Norotshama River Resort

We had decided to camp here. You do not have a river view from the camp site, but the facilities are clean. I think the noise from multiple air conditioners backing onto the camp site could be a problem (few people were there when we camped and it was cool).

Norotshama Camp Site

What surprised me the most where the huge vineyards of export grapes at Vioolsdrift and Aussenkehr. I was aware that some of my clients had business there, but not at that scale.


Day 2
Norotshama to Ai-Ais

This was out of season and we found these, made mostly from reeds.

Huts at Aussenkehr

The area was surprisingly clean and right among these huts there is a well-stocked Spar.

I'd read about the Gamchab Canyon and 4x4 trail and we decided to follow the river. The loneliness (we were the only people in the canyon) and grandiose mountains made this one of the early highlights of our trip.

Letty got some energy from the mountains

Letty embracing rocks

My Cruiser never looked so small

Small Cruiser

Letty Pensive

This is the main turn off to the canyon if you come from Ai-Ais - BRING YOUR GPS -

Turn to Gamchab

On the way to Ai-Ais we met up with two ladies in a VW Polo who had a puncture, but not the right spanners. I changed the tyre for them and got some hugs in return and hope they made it safely to the next garage.

We met up with the rest of the group in Ai-Ais. I'd read about the major R35m refurbishments, but all that they did was build some new houses - the rest stayed the same.

Still, the camp site was clean and the ablutions fine.

Also, it was great sitting on the stoep of the restaurant drinking cold beers whilst watching groups of very tired hikers arriving from their trek through the Fish River Canyon and thankfully downing multiple ice-cold beers.

One of the hikers was a lady Letty met on her trip to Egypt last year - small world.

Day 3
Ai-Ais to Klein Aus Vista

I'd stopped at this place 2 months ago and we were fortunate to get the last camp spot.

From Ai-Ais to Hobas we were greeted by these guys

Zebras

I have been many times to Hobas and completely forgot to take any more photos for this blog.

Our little convoy at Holoog

Convoy

We had a great meal and a few cold ones at the Seeheim Hotel - highly recommended and also stopped at the //Nai-Ams Fortifications, a little-known fort off the main road to Lüderitz. It is not shown on Tracks4Africa, but have a look at my Garmin file.

Fort 1

Fort 2

Whilst browsing the Internet for accommodation during the preparations for this trip I came across the Alte Kalköfen Lodge named after this

Kalkofen

I had a chat to the owner of the lodge, an ex-South African, and commented on his courage to start such an ambitious project in the middle of nowhere. They have been going for a while and things look good for them.

Some time in the future we'll treat ourselves to a stay there.

Day 4
We went for the day to Lüderitz and Colmanskop and were lucky to spend some time with the wild horses of the Namib.

They looked in great shape.

Horses

It was drizzling and cold at Colmanskop, but a guide made the visit interesting.

Colmans 1

Colmans 2 

Colmans 3 

Day 5
Klein Aus Vista to Betesda Rest Camp, the closest accommodation (40km) we could get to Sossusvlei, everywhere else being full.

Just before turning off onto the D707 we came across this, apparently a windmill designed by some maths teacher from the region.

Windmill 

The D707 was beautiful as ever.

D707 Namib Dunes

The camp site at Betesda is a bit exposed to the elements.

Betesda Camp Site


Day 6
Day trip to Sossusvlei

The full impact of the number of tourists became apparent when we arrived at the Sossusvlei gate and were the 10th vehicle in the queue. It took us 45 minutes to get in.

The bright spark at the gate meticulously took down each person's details, instead of us filling it in. Once finished, he told the vehicle to go ahead and moved onto the next vehicle. By the time he got to Chris in front of me, the guy was about 300m from the gate. Chris kindly offered to give him a lift and the row of cars could all move forward.

Everywhere were masses of people, but I managed to take some photos without crowds.

Dead Vlei 1

Sossus 2 

Mariska Pensive 

Sossus 3

We then climbed the dune ahead of us.

Dune climb 

Day 7
Betesda Lodge to Walvis Bay

We stayed at the Lagoon Chalets Walvis Bay. The place is ok.

Letty and I spent some time driving up and down most of the streets of Walvis to get a feel of the place. I'd always said that Walvis is the Touws River of Namibia, but have now changed my mind. I wouldn't want to live there, but it's not too bad and reasonably clean. 


Day 8
Rest day

We did the dolphin trip, which included a trip to the seals at the nearby lagoon and eating as many oysters as we wanted. I didn't feel frisky at all after that, but had to get rid of the sand in my teeth.

Dolphin

The trip is professionally handled and they even fed some pelicans in mid-flight.

Pelican
  

Day 9
Walvis Bay to Palmwag Lodge

In the morning, four members of our group had to return to Johannesburg and now it was just family.

We saw some wrecks on the way.

Wreck

And went to visit the seal colony at Cape Cross. The smell was unbelievable. It was fun watching the Japanese tourists with their face masks - obviously not good enough to keep out the smell.

Welcome to the Skeleton Coast National Park.

Skeleton Coast Park Gate

Someone's dreams of diamonds were obviously not sustainable. This tower had collapsed.

Tower 1

Tower 2

Not a great place for farming

Farming

This type of terrain, with Letty by my side, makes me the happiest.
The mountains looked familiar and I realized I'd seen them on my trip 2 months earlier, but from a point about 50km south east from here.
Access to Palmwag

It was great to be back at the lodge after 24 years. The place has certainly grown - highly recommended camp site.

Day 10
Palmwag Lodge to Kunene River Lodge

This part of the trip caused me the most worries during the planning phases because of conflicting reports about the road conditions north of Palmwag, and especially the Otjomatemba Pass on the C43 north of Sesfontein. If any part of this road had washed away, we'd have to do a major detour.

I also wanted to visit Kaoko Otavi, one of the stay overs of the Thirstland Trekkers (Dorslandtrekkers) I'd read so much about.

On the way to Sesfontein we found these in full bloom.

Full bloom

Fort Sesfontein has been transformed into a lodge and we were not welcomed with open arms. On a previous visit one could walk around to get a feel of what it must have been like to be stationed here as a German soldier.

Fort Sesfontein

Letty was not impressed.

Letty

The Otjomatemba Pass proved to be quite a challenge. Although the C34 is one of the main routes in Nambia, the roads department had started to build the pass and then apparently just gave up. This road cannot be travelled by a sedan car and there are no warning at Sesfontein telling you about this.

We went up the pass travelling 4-wheel low, second gear. 

Tup of Otjomatemba Pass

We turned off to Kaoko Otavi and after 11km arrived at the village. Here even the Tracks4Africa map let us down. We found the fountain, but not the church the trekkers had built.
Enquiring at a shop brought us no further - instead of getting worked up, we decided to just leave this for another day.

Swartbooisdrif is where the Thirstland Trekkers had crossed into Angola initially and also returned 50 years later. The spot is marked by a few graves and a monument.

Grave at Swartbooisdrif

Ten minutes later we arrived in paradise.

Kunene River Lodge

We even enjoyed a sunset cruise on the Kunene.

Sunset Cruise

Day 11
Rest day at the Kunene River Lodge

Day 12
Kunene River Lodge to Halali Rest Camp in the Etosha National Park

We knew this was going to be a long day, but the trip up to the newish King Nehale Gate of Etosha was uneventful. This is the most populated part of Namibia and there were people everywhere.

Every second building seemed to be a pub, although most of them were closed. Also a lot of car washes.

Oshakati was a surprise - a city by Namibian standards.
One weird sight was seeing a car lot with local South African registrations on the cars for sale (Porterville, Tulbagh, Worcester, Bellville..).
I wonder how one buys a vehicle like that.

King Nehale Gate

We were pushed for time, but managed to see some resting lions at the very first waterhole where we stopped.

We stopped at Namutoni, but it was busy like a South African mall. Tourists everywhere. Not our cup of tea.

It was actually funny seeing all the tourists in their open safari vehicles with their mouths and noses covered with scarves because of the dust, whilst we set in air-conditioned comfort in our 4x4's. 

When we arrived at Halali we thought we were lucky - we were the only campers. NOT. By evening the place was packed and one lonely tourist decided to join us on our site. This was like Pilanesberg over a long weekend.

Three German girls arrived and unpacked their tent. They removed it and the poles from the bag and looked completely stumped. We did the gentlemanly/gentlelady thing and put up the tent in no time.

Day 13
Rest day and driving around the park.

This guy must have had a mud bath.

Elephant

You had to watch here you were driving.

Another elephant

The Thirstland Trekkers also lived at Rietfontein in Etosha, before it was a park.

Rietfontein Memorial

There are Zebras everywhere

Zebras

The Halali waterhole is only 5 minutes walk from the camp. Nothing much happened but it was restful.

Halali waterhole 

Day 14
Halali to Kamanjab Rest Camp

Whilst preparing for the trip I read that the western part of Etosha, which was never open to the general public, was now open for us to explore.

There are plenty of waterholes along the way.

Waterhole 

The strange thing that happened at one waterhole was that as soon as we got there, the herd of elephants got spooked and chased off.

Spooked elephants

I switched off my engine and calm returned. However, when I started my engine again, the stampede continued. Letty and I think that the elephants remembered being hunted in this part of Etosha. Some time later we passed a signpost "Elephant Abattoir".

The restaurant at the camp was closed (one has to pre-book) and we decided to go into town.

One says, you must not judge a book by its cover and I proceeded to do just that.

Whilst looking for a place to eat, we came upon OppiKoppi Restaurant and resort. On entering the pub there were a few ladies there with drinks and one of them had seemingly passed out on the bar counter. I was not impressed.
On enquiring whether we could eat there, we were presented with a menu of multiple choices.

And what a feast we had. The service was fast and excellent and the game steaks huge and cheap (R60,00 for a 600g steak).

I will eat there again and probably stay there, too.

Day 15
Kamanjab to Elisenheim Guest Farm 10km north of Windhoek

We stayed in the mountain hut. Chris had to unhitch his trailer and then it was 4x4. Great place to stay, if a bit pricey.

I managed to look down on two black eagles (Verreaux' Eagles)

The photos on their web site are better than my own.

Reversing down to where you can park your vehicle is not for the faint-hearted. I left my Cruiser about 50m on a piece of level ground.
Any mistake and your vehicle will roll down the hillside.

This was the view from my bed (Windoek)

Windhoek at night

Day 16
Elisenheim to White House Guest Farm near Grünau

Great place to stay.

The food is out of this world. You book it when you get there and the owner of the farm brings it to you on a tray. Highly recommended stopover. 

Day 17
Grünau to Ceres 

They say all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. According to that I should be an exciting lad.


Total distance travelled 5751km.