Two weeks into our 2nd trip to Southern Africa – starting point was Windhoek/Namibia – we saw big grey rain clouds mounting in the sky. We were on our way from North East Namibia to the Botswana border on an unpaved, “4x4 only” route. Sure enough, 24 hours later a tremendous thunderstorm sent us running for shelter. It was the first rain after 6 months and every creature was waiting for those first showers.
But let’s start in Windhoek: Our camper van “Reisephant” had been parked at a garage near the Windhoek International Airport for the last 8 months. When we arrive, it stood freshly washed, hooked up to electricity and ready to go on site 3, where we had left it. What a service!It took nearly 2 days to shop for food, cell phone cards, renew the car insurance and to install the ne “Engel” fridge, the original one couldn’t cope with African summer temperatures and Stefan had ordered this model last February in Windhoek. Now in October the thermometer shows over 40C at noon.
Our first stop was the Waterberg Plateau Park, north-east of Windhoek. How different it looked from February! Then the savannah was green and yellow with blossoms, the camel thorn trees decorated with the hanging nests of the weaver birds. Now al was just hot, dried up and dusty, those nests nothing more than useless straw balls swaying in the hot wind. But some Mopane trees actually turned out their first reddish leaves and here and there there was a hint of green – do they know more than we do? We took advantage of a hiking trail to get some exercise and were rewarded with a great view into the plains and some nice photos of birds and monkeys. These baboons can be quiet a nuisance on campgrounds, we cannot leave any door open, as we had to learn, they stole our water hose and all the adaptors…
We continued north to a place called “Palmwag Lodge/Concession” a crossroad from Central Namibia into the Kaokoveld or Etosha Pan for many travellers and local people alike. On the first outing off the main routes (not roads!) we saw some rare Hartmann mountain zebras and very pale giraffes – and had to dig our car out of a dry and very soft river bed and lunchtime – remember, the sun shines directly from above, no fun!!
Only the mayor A and B roads in Namibia are paved, the C, D, E etc roads are more or less well maintained gravel roads, taking their toll from drivers and tires alike. the next day we blew a tire – when? at 12:00 noon, of course. So we abandoned our plan tor drive all the way to the Angolan border to see the Epupa Waterfalls. Instead we used our cell phone card to the max to find suitable tires here in the far North of the country. And found them in Oshakati/Owamboland. This part of Namibia north of the Etosha Pan is so different to the South Where we visited the Namib dessert and fish River Canyon before. this is more like Africa, hutted villages, small but busy markets, poverty visible along the road – but big trucks as well, transporting goods and building material to and from the Caprivi region and Angola. More than 50% of the Namibian population lives here and needs these things urgently.
Our next destination was the Etosha National Park, a “must do” while travelling Namibia. Now, at the very end of the dry season all animals have to come to the waterholes near the roads, some of them men made, some fed by natural springs , many dried up since weeks, months.We took lots! of photos. The 3 camps where one can stay inside the park were fully booked with tourists in 4x4 pick ups and their roof tents and with Overlander trucks. Those tours are so well organized: you’ll never miss a sunrise, because the cook bangs his pots 30 min before dawn. It is interesting to watch this mix of people, young and old travelling together, enjoying a bottle of S.A. red wine and a good conversation until 10 pm sharp! then it’s bedtime and off they go the next morning at sunrise ;)). there we met an Australian couple, who’re actually sailing around the globe on a catamaran. They took a short break for a change of scenery in Namibia, whole their ship was moored in Walvis Bay. We enjoyed our evening talks and promise to keep in touch with Gene and Bill.
Big bushfires had left their mark (and death toll on the elephants and other animals) on the eastern part of the Etosha Park, not a pretty sight, really. And bush fires were visible ever since along our way, nobody seems worried how much land burns down. (do we really have to worry about the emissions of a small campfire for roasting marshmallows?, I ask myself)
The border crossing near Tsumkwe/ Namibia was no problem: Everybody at a border post has plenty of time and a few kind words normally do the trick – safe journey! Botswana wants to prevent the outbreak of cattle diseases and insists on checking every car: our fridge was checked for meat and milk, but like everybody else we have had a “braai”/BBQ the night before; the tires were sprayed and we had to step onto a chemical-soaked mat – you better don’t wear sandals that day ;)
Our friend Norman from Toronto recommended to visit the “Tsodilo Hills” in the north west corner of Botswana, so here we are. This hills, which suddenly rise out of the flat plains were titled World Heritage Cultural Site in 2002 for their thousands of rock paintings. For the bushmen this place is the home of their gods. Scientists described the rock paintings as early as 100 years ago. The access route to this interesting place looks like it hasn’t been maintained since 2002 and we thought, we’ll be the only people who made it across 35 km of corrugated road. But a local school had set up their tents on the main camp ground for 2 weeks and we heard them laughing and singing at night. When we drove to the other camp site we met another German couple who’s travelling Africa since 2 years in a Toyota camper van, that had been build by the same company as our car – it is a small world! Herta and Werner use this car since 15 years and had a lot to tell from their trips to Siberia, Arabia and this journey through Central Africa. We’ll follow them on their website as well.
Without our local guide Tsetsena we would have overlooked 90% of the rock paintings which we visited first thing the next morning. Rhinos, giraffes, kudus, even penguins and whales, all painted on flat rock surfaces thousands of years ago - by whom? Even the bushmen don’t know. It was definitely worth detour which then lead us to a lodge with Campsite at the so called “Panhandle” of the Okavango Delta – and into the rain again….