Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Desert Bound

Leaving Etosha after three days, we headed south west towards the coast.  Between us and the sea were vast expanses of desert and interesting places to visit.  We really hated leaving the park but were looking forward to seeing some of the isolated country that Namibia contains.  In square miles, Namibia is only marginally larger than the State of Texas but has a population of just over 2 million compared with Texas's 26 million.  It contains three deserts - Coastal, Kalahari and Namib - and much of it's coastline is protected in a national park.

She was waiving good by as we passed out of the park.

As we exited the park, it felt strange to be on a paved road and seeing other vehicles.  It was still very hot and we learned later that the temperature that day hit almost 45 degrees Celsius (113 F).  En route to our next overnight, we stopped to tour an amazing Petrified Forest site.  There were petrified rocks everywhere and this one tree was more than 30 meters long (almost 100 feet).

Our home for the next two nights was to be Mowani Mountain Camp which turned out to be one of the most beautiful places we have ever stayed.  The camp was built around the boulders of the region and so well integrated into the landscape you really didn't see it until you were literally on top of it.  

 The lounge and restaurant.

Our "tent".  The walls are fabric and the roof thatched.

Incredible landscape.

Linda obviously enjoying it.

To celebrate Linda's retirement, we had a candlelit dinner at a table set by that big rock.

A separate bar on a massive rock facing west. The perfect place for sun downers.

Over drinks with the manager, I made a strong case that he needed someone like me to manage that bar and live there permanently.  He said he'd get back to me -- I'm still waiting to hear.

We had a rest day so we signed up for an early morning game drive.  Since it was the low season, it was just us and Frederich, the guide, informed us he had heard about elephant sightings, so off we went.  We passed through several villages and drove up a dry river bed until we started seeing elephant tracks.

And there they were.

This young guy was very curious about the vehicle.

It was a pretty large herd and included a few young ones. They seemed oblivious to our presence as they ate from the trees.  They were moving up the riverbed and we followed along for quite awhile.

The next day, we headed out to see the rock art at Twyfelfontein, a UNESCO Heritage Site that contains one of the largest collections of rock art in Africa.  The area has been inhabited by Bushmen for thousands of years and the rock art, most of which dates back 2000 - 2500 years, was intended to show where animals and water was located.  There are close to 2500 different rock drawings in the area so we only saw a fraction of them.

This is actually a map.  The indentations in the circle signify water holes.

Note the drawing of the seal.  We are still a good distance from the coast but the Bushmen ranged over a large area.

An ostrich. Note the various positions of the neck and head.

Since we were "in the neighborhood", we decided to drive to the Doros Meteor Crater.  We could see it on the map but this being Africa, there were no signs indicating where it was.  Oswald came equipped with a GPS loaded with Tracks 4 Africa which did an excellent job preventing us from getting lost.  We hit the end of the main road, engaged the low range in 4WD and off we went.  There were a lot of tracks going off in various directions but the GPS kept us headed generally in the right direction.

Desolate country.

We got to where the GPS said the crater should be.  This rock was unlike any of the others in the area but we don't know if it's a meteor or not.


We went from our favorite lodge to what became our favorite campsite, Madisa.  It's remote and we were the only ones there.  Given its location, the local community has obviously worked very hard to create an oasis in some pretty tough country.  

Every campsite has wonderful shade,

great cooking and cleaning facilities,

and amazing showers, open to the sky.

Mud walls

Even a vessel sink.

The bonus was an almost full moon over camp.

Until next time . . .

Monday, February 18, 2013

Lions, Zebras and Giraffes, Oh My

The next two days were spent driving towards Etosha National Park.  We camped one night at Hakusembe Lodge outside of Rundu on the banks of the Okavango River.  It was a beautiful setting and we had the good fortune to meet a German couple who were driving a similar route in reverse.  We prepared a communal braii (barbecue) and enjoyed hearing their stories late into the night.

The next day we started out for Etosha, stopping to get supplies and gas along the way.  When we were gassing up, a gentlemen approached us and and after spotting the British registration on Oswald, asked if we had driven all the way down from the UK.  Turns out he was from Scotland and both he and his girlfriend of 45 years had driven the length of Africa 20+ years ago.  To me, the best part of travel is the characters you meet along the way.

Our overnight was at Onguma Bush Camp located at the eastern gate to Etosha.  There are only a few sites and each has it's own private bathroom and shower - deluxe!  After setting up the tent, we walked over to the lodge for a sundowner (cocktail) overlooking a water hole they have.


A huge group of giraffes came into view and we counted a total of 19.  You can also see wildebeest in the background.  We headed back to camp and cooked a great dinner before turning in.

The next morning, we entered Etosha through the Von Lindenquist Gate heading west.  Etosha is a huge park and it took us almost 3 full days to cross it.  The western part, not shown on this map, is open by permit only and we were fortunate to be able to travel there.

(Courtesy of Etosha's web site)

Once you enter the park, you are not allowed to exit the vehicle and all the campgrounds are fenced and gated.  Within the first few miles, we started seeing a variety of animals.

Lions hunt and eat at night.  Note the "buffet" in the distance.

Not unlike the behavior of every cat we have known!

The only rhino we saw.  

It was over 100 degrees and shade was sparse.

Near Halali, we detoured over to see the Etosha Pan, a huge dry lake bed.  In the rainy season, it gets covered by a few feet of rain and is home to large flocks of flamingos.  They have had no significant rain in almost two years.  

We arrived at Okaukuejo Rest Camp in late afternoon and set up camp.  This was probably the busiest campsite we would encounter but it had excellent facilities.  It also has a waterhole that is lit at night and attracts all kinds of animals.  It was difficult to photograph them as the sun went down but the next morning brought a huge variety of animals back to drink.

There are few roads in Etosha but along the way, are short trips off to see various waterholes.  We visited most of them but due to the lack of rain and the heat, we didn't see many animals there.  Many did choose to cross the roads in front of us and we spotted some along side.

As we entered the western section of the park, we saw no cars at all.  It was the heat of the day (over 100) and we did really didn't expect to see much in the way of animals.  Our destination for the night was Dolomite Camp and as we turned towards it, we were shocked to see this:

This large bull alternated between resting his trunk in the tank and on the ground.  He ignored us as we sat in the vehicle for about 30 minutes taking pictures.

Dolomite Camp sits on top of the only ridge for miles, offering a commanding view of the park in all directions.  It was our first night sleeping in a bed so we were really looking forward to it.  Upon arrival, you park at the base of the ridge and you walk up to the lodge and the "tents".  Each tent has a balcony with incredible views and we were fortunate to get one facing west.

We saw the storm approaching but it passed by without much needed rain.

The most amazing sunsets.