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Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Mowani Mountain Camp to Estosha - Okaukuejo

Normal gravel roads, we stopped at Outjo for petrol and some beer and wine. The supermarket was an experience, way more busy than we're used to and I guess as it’s the last stop before the park there’s lots of street selling and pestering. We seem to have got the hang of walking off.

The accommodation this time was out our first government run place. Heard and read polar reviews so we were a little apprehensive. No reason to be. We're staying in one of the water hole bungalows which is modern, clean and boutique hotel in its styling. Really impressed, and, it has a birds eye air conditioned view of the water hole!

We checked in and went straight out for a drive.. Around 16:00. Went towards the water holes in the west of the park. Didn’t stop at any but on loop back to the camp two cars where stopped looking at what appeared nothing. Closer work with the binoculars and Rays pap lens picked out three, three !! Lions .. What looked like two young boys and a girl just lying down. It was 17:30 and the park gates close at 18:45. We waited, we waited and where rewarded. The main lad got up and started walking while his two friends/siblings lagged behind. We followed him along the road to which he gradually got nearer to. I hope those pictures come out!!

We made it back to camp with about 5 mins to spare before the gates close. The next issue was the food. Buffett which always sets Max off. But again, way better than expected. The staff where friendly and welcoming and the meat was cooked to order.
Water hole at night - When we got back from dinner there was a herd of elephants,, maybe 20-25. Loads of giraffe and three White Rhino. Queue 20 mins of me trying to work Rays Pap camera in the dark. Needless to say the pictures are crap, but enough to act as a reminder of a crazy night of animal visits.

In day one we have pretty much achieved all the big game possible, Leopard and Cheetah excluded.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Day of relaxation. We'd declined the excursion which was a nature drive with the possibility of seeing one of the last remaining desert elephants. Although tempting we'll be spending the next 3-4 days in the car while going through Etosha.

Went for a walk after breakfast, it must already be in the 30's. Not too much to see but plenty of flies pestering us.

We seem to have adopted a Bee, massive thing, now named Duncan - after my dopey friend, as it’s big, dark and clumsy. Flies into walls, rocks, anything.. Daft bugger.

Dinner of fillet steak - I keep going on but the food here is superb.

Some new guests have arrived - A couple of German 'Older' ladies - 60's and their guide. Who is a knob. Arrogant and rude beyond compare.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Sam's Giardino to Mowani Mountain Camp - Damaraland

Started early so we could go and get the windscreen fixed. They drilled a hole at the very end of the crack through the top layer of glass (apparently there are two) and injected some resin/glue which they activated with a UV light. This should stop the crack spreading.

Another 4 1/2 hour drive over gravel roads, the crack didn’t spread so I think we're safe. Left Sam’s around 9:10 and arrived at the next lodge 13:30. The dust is back. Luckily we bought some J-Cloths at Swakopmund.

Number 2 of 3 of the best lodges to stay at in Namibia - which we're staying in all three. Set up in the mountain around the massive boulders liberally scattered around the region. A tent on a platform design similar to Walverdans and Kulala. Stunning scenery.

This is probably the poshest place we've stayed so far. The service is equally as good as everywhere else but you can tell they are briefed on professionalism. Dinner was either main of Kudo fillet or Chicken, Kudo then. Brilliant.
Just after dinner the X Factor started. The guides, waiters, chefs etc threw together a medley of songs. Each taught to the others from the local area they came from.

Our waiter for the evening was Epson - I wonder if he has a brother called Hewlett Packard.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Up early to rendezvous with Jean of Eco Kayaking Tours. Which involved a 4x4 drive out to Pelican point and the paddling along the coast to the seal colony. At which point they all leapt into the sea to come and play with us - brilliant, jumping, shouting, biting the paddles. They've been known to jump on the boats and float alongside for their tummies to be rubbed. Sadly nothing as intimate on this trip but still an exception experience, not to be missed. Jean is passionate about the wildlife and this really shines through on her tour. There were also a couple of Jackal pairs guarding their dens and newborns.

Noticed a crack, maybe 10cm, in the windscreen. Called Euro car and they seem happy to just carry on. We're going to see a man in town early tomorrow, maybe there some African magic he can do to stop it spreading.

Had lunch at the Light House, Bar and Restaurant down by the beach. This town is growing on us, its a real oldie worldly place. Kids playing (white and black) in the park, people hanging out on the beach. But if you look hard then can still see other, sadder part of Africa, a small kid checking the bins and some drunks sleeping off. It’s a real mixture.

Filled up with crap food, biscuits, crisps etc in preparation for the stay at the two Government lodges in Etosha - just in case.

Dinner was the 5 course affair offered daily by Sam along with wine which we could select from his huge wine cellar - he also does a wine tasting in the evening if you want. Food was simple but nice, King Lip fish and homemade ice-cream.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Day of rest.

Wandered into town and down to the restaurant we're eating at tonight - The Tug, and then around town. Weird place. Its an old German town on the coast with a mix of old a new buildings. The new are, well, weird. Odd colours, architecture like the design was smoking really strong skunk.

Drove out to Walvis Bay to scope where we're meeting the kayak lady tomorrow morning. Around the bay are some really nice houses, much like Camps Bay in Cape Town. Lunched at The Raft and got guilt tripped into buying a wooden Rhino O'Neal from the man from Zimbabwe. 100 N$. Drove out around the bay to the salt works and hundreds of flamingos hanging out.

From our room on the 1st floor I watched the gardener open what I think was his pay packet, I don’t know if it was a day, a few days or a week. But it was 60N$ and what looked like some tokens. 60N$ is about £6. That’s the part of holidays you don’t see unless you look hard and the part that I find hard to balance when you compare the amount of money spent on car hire and staying at some of the places on this trip.

Ate at the Tug, fish extravaganza. We're learning, only a main meal, which was as per the norm in this country, massive and good.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Kulala Wilderness camp to Sam's Giardino-Swakopmund

Spoke to deputy manager of the lodge about the guides driving yesterday. He mentioned that he had heard there was something wrong with the back of the Land Rover. Maybe, maybe not. We'd still go back there but not take any of the excursions. The main reason was the private gate into the park which didn’t actually buy us anything other than £200 lighter.

400km of gravel road, more cars on this that we'd seen so far. Left at 09:00, arrived at 15:00. Some nice early roads with up's n down through some passes then about 90k of complete straight road in the most deserted place ever. Star Wars could have been filmed here.

Found the noise in the car. When the dashboard gets hot it starts to squeak. Nice, perfect on gravel roads in a desert!

Bumped into Ben and family at Solitaire - 200km outside Kulala and the last gas station until Swakomond. Really nice surprise and they greeted us like old friends. They had a great time staying at the Government lodge near the park gates and hired a guide to take them over the 4x4 section. The bakery at Solitaire is a must - ask him his opinion of South Africans. Prepare to hear colourful language.

Staying at Sam's Giardino in town. It’s a motel type place in an almost Alpine chalet type design. Clean, cheap and comfortable with a couple of legendary dogs, the last of which sadly died last week, and which Max immediately put her foot in it by asking about them. Sam is a Swiss guy, I think pretty eccentric but I doubt you could find a more helpful person in Africa.

Gave in, had the car cleaned. Inside was disgusting, everything must have had a 2mm layer of dust on it, could hardly read the clocks or operate the radio. Even though it won’t last, all the roads for the next 1500km 'ish are gravel but it was minging. I think because the road was busier we used the AC more when following behind other cars, I think this just sucked all the dust off the road and spat it into the cabin - fuck knows what our lungs are like. Will try the cabin only circulation button next time !!

After the recent culinary gorging we wanted something simple. Neapolitan in town, pizza and pasta. Book it. Starters, main, sure .. WRONG ! They have the biggest portions of excellent food, the calzone must have weighed 2kg and mostly went in a doggy bag which a girl on the street asked for it. I hope she makes it last, she could feed a family for a week.

Walked to and from the town, it’s OK, seems pretty safe. It’s a complete contrast to the previous places. Busy, still got the hoodies and los locos we have at home.

Thursday, 24 September 2009


Paul 1 Mosy's 0 - no need to release enough chemicals to wipe out Maidstone, there where none around.

05:00 wakeup call by Teek - the guide for the day. Sunrise drive to Sossusvlei to look at the dunes. This lodge is part of a group that has a private gate to the reserve - the main reason for us staying here. The hoy-poloy can either stay at the government run lodge or get to the public gates for 6/7 o'clock and then purchase park tickets.

Due to leave at 06:00. 06:20 finally board the Land Rover, 06:30 still waiting to leave. The lodge had booked 9 people for an excursion with 7 seats. Fortunately (or so we thought) for us but unfortunately for another couple we where 2 of 7 that had inadvertently sat down before anyone realised there weren’t enough seats. The other couple decide to drive themselves. They have a 4x4 hire car so can go all the way to the end of the dunes. Our little Hyundai was only 2x4 - something we'll change next time.

Because we left late we probably didn’t get as far into the park as we should have but the guide stopped at a couple of places for some nice photos while the light was good.
Stopped at Dune 45 with the option of walking up. We declined and stopped at the bottom taking pictures. Some of the guests braved the climb, 20-30 mins .. pah, screw that this is a holiday not a step class.

Carried on to the last 5km which is strictly 4x4 only and visited Deadvlei followed by lunch.
So, to the journey home, supposedly via . The vehicle for this excursion was a Land Rover Defender. Bearing in mind Land Rovers are shit at handling on tarmac even before you screw with them (I know I've owned one) this one had had a lump welded onto the chassis making it maybe a 130?, then a hi top roof conversion, closed sides and seating for 7 in the back, add to this tires with low pressure in order to deal with the sand (which it did admirably) and you have a pretty fucking scary thing to drive at and speed on tarmac. Add to the inherit instability issues and a bunch of modifications an increasingly tired/sick or maybe hung-over driver who's been up since around 04:00 (it’s now 13:00) and some gusty wind on the main road and speeds of 100-120km/h then it equates a drive home worthy of any ride at a theme park. Needless to say after the 5th or 6th time he nearly ran off the road one of the Toblerone twins asked him to slow down. By which time we were all white knuckled on the seat in front. He did slow down but the driving was still completely erratic, veering off course, missing lines on corners, really shit and pretty scary to be honest. When we hit the gravel road back to camp I thought the worry was over, how wrong I can be. As before, missing bends, slamming on the breaks when the same springbok we drove past on the way out, in the same place, jumped out. Bumps in the road taken way too fast. This guy supposedly drives this route every day, these shouldn’t be surprises.
Needless to say he didn’t get a tip and I sit here contemplating a conversation with the manager. The trip wasn’t cheap, 1000 N$ per person and for that I was expecting some real value add over what we could have done self drive. The guide even without his crazy, actually no, dangerous driving didn’t seem particularly happy in the service industry or really make much of an effort - maybe more evidence of him being sick. But even if he was sick he made mistakes, if he was sick then he should have called in and we drove slowly back not faster! Maybe he gets punished for being late back, so then the lodge is in the wrong. Or, if that’s his normal driving then he is going to kill someone.

So complain and maybe he will lose his job or not and maybe something worse.
Next time we'll hire a 4x4 and self drive, get to the gate at 05:00 and be first in line, save ourselves £200.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Wolwedans Dune Camp to Kulala Wilderness Camp

Slept through the sun rise, the previous day trip was brilliant, but long. Filled up on the excellent breakfast, homemade bread and muffins etc. Dinesh drove us and our companions down to the main lodge to check out and collect our car.

Very sad to be leaving. Said our goodbyes and hope the other people we on this trip will be as nice as Ben and his family. Maybe we'll make the Octoberfest trip one day, and if they come to London they'd be more than welcome.

Short 80km drive to Kulala Wilderness camp, again on gravel roads, the dust gets everywhere and its futile trying to fight it. Although Max is trying - she'll learn. Spotted a Zebra heard grazing about 500m from the road side.

The car has developed the most annoying noise, its almost like water running. Maybe the AC? Can't identify.

A canvas and thatched room with granite rocks being used to build the bathroom. Just a relaxing day in preparation for tomorrows 05:00 start for the trip to the Sossusvlei dunes.

Staying with us we have Dart anion and his girlfriend - direct from Wolwedans, Swiss family Robinson, toberlerone twins, nightmare English moody cow & the no chins. Everyone gets a nickname.

Mosy alert, its not malaria time but I hate the bastards so will be using all possible don’t bite me fuckers technique’s and chemicals.

Dinner of ... yes Oryx, again .. although there was also a choice of fish. But fish in the desert just seems wrong. This time the Onyx was in a stew, which I think used a poorer cut of the animal as there were a few chewy bits. But nice flavours and service.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Slept with the tent doors open and awoke just before sunrise @ 6:45. Fantastic. The day was a picnic trip out. Started with Dinesh leading us around the dunes and reading some the night creature’s tracks. Tracked a White Lady Spider, Snow Boot Cricket. Drove out into the wilderness with a lunch spot at a set of prehistoric boulders - now called Flintstone picnic spot.

Dinner was again four courses of some of the best food we've had. London, New York, Paris - These guys match it. Apparently Walverdans run a culinary school in Windhoek for all thier chef's which then go to the resorts and also work at a restaurant in town. Tonight’s main course of Oryx steaks and again, not shy of keeping the wine glasses topped up.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Bagatelle Kalahari Gameranch to Wolwedans Dune Camp

400km drive to Walwedans dune camp, left @ 09:00, arrived at 13:15. Gravel road from Maltahoe. At the end of town the road signs for C19 completely disappeared and the road turned into gravel - pretty scary as there’s a fair drive before we actually got to the sign for the C19 with no bugger around to help/ask. The road to the camp is totally 4x4, big rocks, sand drifts etc. Driving across Zarishootgte pass was crazy and certainly needs a high clearance vehicle. No prius drivers here. Once you turn off for the road to Walwedans its pretty rocky for the first 1km and then turns sandy. Met at the main reception area by a guide called 'Promise' - seriously. He drove us up to the Dune Camp, theres also the Dune Lodge and the Private Camp for the Hollywood stars. In fact Angelina and Brad hired entire site for their visit, no private camp for them.

We met and had lunch with three other German guests from Munich who also turned out to also to be our companions during the activities. We'd been assigned a guide called Dinesh who we'd meet at 17:00 for the sundowner drive.

The accommodation is a tent!!! Brilliant. Doors can be left wide open 24 Hours with fantastic views over the mountain and sunrise. There’s no electricity and the water is solar heated. Luckily the guide book had told us this so everything electrical was super charged before we left Baggatelle.

Evening sundowner with our new companions Ben, Lisa and thier daughter Anna. A short drive with a story about fairy circles. And then drinks watching the sunset. Dinesh found (I say found they seem to have a diesel addiction and immediately gather around the Land Rover when it stops) and explained about the Armoured Cricket AKA - Brown Booby. And how it ingeniously eats any part of its body thats causing pain, but this ultimately means 'the brown boobie can eat itself to death'.

Dinner was a communal affair with all the guests in the dune camp - 11. Met a Dutch couple of which the guy - Mike is a serious amateur/semi pro wildlife photographer, currently in the final 7 of national geographic with what sounds like a stunning photo of a tree frog.

Excellent four course dinner, main being Zebra. Plenty of wine, seriously plenty of wine flowing.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Awake at 06:30 - fuck its cold in the desert. If any bugs survived last night’s temperature plummet then good luck to them, tomorrow they can feast.

We got up early to go on the morning drive, or so we thought. Some confusion caused by now named 'hat man' - one of the local guides. We thought there was a AM and PM drive, actually its just PM. So we had breakfast and christened my Barmah hat with a 2 hour walk around the dunes along with the resident kudo and her baby. We stumbled across Meer cat manor, vlads long lost family.

Although at 7-7:30 its fleece and long trousers, by 8-8:15 is warm enough for shorts. So at least today’s mistake was a good lesson for the other early morning starts on the trip.

Sun downer trip arranged for evening. Spotted some local game, Kudo, Oryx and some others that I've already forgotten the names of.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Windhoek to Bagatelle Kalahari Gameranch

Collected the car from Euro Car, Hyundai Tuscan, Toosan, something like that - 4 door 2x4 hatchback from Eurocar and hit the road. Saw a pride of baboons within minutes. Windhoek seemed OK for the brief part we drove through. Its Africa, we were worried about being rolled as we left the airport but its fine, much like South Africa, well Cape Town and the South, no need for the fake grab bag with old credit cards and money we'd made up, and promptly left in the boot/trunk anyway!

Arrived at Bagatelle Ranch via 15K of gravel road, the rest of the380km journey was tarmac. The white car aint so white now. Beautiful location on the edge of the Kalahari Desert with two days of relaxation planned with maybe a couple of excursions around the local area.

Snooze in the afternoon and an excellent dinner of Ostrich, Kudo stew and pumpkin. Followed by I think the best apple crumble I've ever had.

Some interesting fellow guests. Gouk Ghan and his grey haired boyfriend playing footsy, the three bottles of wine Germans and the brilliantly excitable girl and boyfriend/husband (they could be honeymooners) from the plane. So we'll be seeing them all the way round the country.

Went overboard on the insect prevention. Repellent, plug-in and net over the bed.

Friday, 18 September 2009

London, UK to Windhoek, Namibia (via Frankfurt)

Due to a recent purchase of a totally in-appropriate car it meant our normal itinerary of getting to Heathrow and driving the car and parking at the parents wasn’t possible. So East London to London Heathrow Terminal 5 this year involved navigating the DLR and tube with two bloody great bags and rucksacks. The TFL website estimated 1:40 journey time, 1:40 my arse - there must be a thousand stops on the Piccadilly line. Flight departs at 16:45 to Frankfurt. So we left at 13:00 heading for the Piccadilly line rather than Heathrow express which leaves from Paddington. Journey went swimmingly; luckily all the interchange stations had lifts - something we'd completely overlooked.

LHR - my bag over weight, actually really overweight, 32KG. Payup or leave stuff behind. £25, thank you BA. Maybe the North Face trek bag with 10KG of protection before clothes wasn’t such a good idea, or maybe I just packed to many clothes - I think the latter.

Customs confiscated the cooler blocks for our ice bag.. And then Frankfurt customs confiscated water we'd bought for the flight.

And what’s with T5. There’s enough space at check in for 3 terminals but as soon as you’re past security the queue and space for the metal detectors is tiny. Shoes off/shoes on, belt on/belt off... Make your mind up!

Windhoek - Night flight from Frankfurt so slept most of the journey. Oh, and Air Namibia give the most space I've ever seen to First/Premium class, not that we were in it. But we’ll be enquiring for last minute upgrades on the way back , you never know.