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The Further Adventures of... We were meant to be buying a new car but then we thought of something better to spend our money on....

Northern Namibia; Botswana and Victoria Falls

ZAMBIA | Saturday, 15 March 2008 | Views [1184]

We're now in Livingstone, Zambia and we're half way through our trip of from Cape Town, South Africa to Nairobi, Kenya. We last updated the journal in Swakopmund, Namibia since then we've stayed with bush man, done game drives in Etosha NP; boat cruises in Chobe NP and canoe'd through the Okavango Delta.

When we left Swakopmund we headed north through Namibia. The scenery gradually got greener. Un-Namibian green apparently - it was an unusually wet wet season. We passed through an area famous for its rock art. We stayed the night at a beautiful rock formation: Spitzkoppe and took some absolutely fantastic sunset shots. Sunsets in Africa are something else. We saw rock engraving that were 2-6000 years old. We also called into the Cape Cross Seal Colony - I'd seen this on the telly 200,000 seals squished toghether on the beach. What you can't appreciated on the telly is the smell or how many baby seals actually do get squished!!

Cheetah Park

The cheetah park is not a conservation project - its a family of farmers looking for a compromise. They didn't want the cheetah eating their animals or the cheetahs killed. Their response was to capture any wild problem cheetahs and keep them on enclosures on their farm. It all started when they killed a mother; but she had cubs and the cubs were brought up as pets in the farmhouse!

Unfortunately our 13ton truck got stuck in the mud on the private track up to the farm. It was already dark; we spent 80mins trying to dig the truck out (when I say we I mean Jason; Mick and Tobi tried to dig the truck out). Failing this the people who lived at the farm came to collect us in 4x4s but the track was so bad we still had to carry all the camping; personal and cooking gear through 1.5km of mud in the pitch black. As Dragoman (tour company) slogan does state not your everyday journey. We got to camp at about 10pm and had a gourmet supper of peanut butter and jam sandwiches.

The next day a hard core few spent the morning digging the truck out - the rest of us drank a lot of tea (books; music; clean clothes were on the truck about 5km away). In the afternoon we went up to the farm house and petted the tame cheetah. Forget guard dogs this place had 3 guard cheetah!! They're just like pussy cats - but more likely to go for the jugular! Later on in the afternoon we went to feed the captured wild cheetah. These are held in large animal enclosure on the farm. We stood on the back of an open truck with bugger all seperating you and the cheetah (one of the guides was armed with a walking stick!). As soon as we entered the enclosure a cheetah skulked out of the bushes behind the truck and stalked alongside us. The further into the enclosure we went the more cheetah could be seen through the bushes. We stopped in an open part and the cheetahs began to circle the truck. It made for some good photos but it was a little disconcerting. They passed close enough to brush the front of the truck. The cheetah are fed hunks of donkey which are thrown from the truck. They race and fight each other for the hunks and then run off into the bushes to eat them.

On the way back we stopped at the enclosure adjacent to our camp. The guides went into the enclosure armed with two pieces of meat and the big stick. They returned with the cutest baby cheetah. A ball of fluff; only 2 weeks old; that they'd taken from the mother. The poor thing was scared shitless. We could pet it and they put it down were it did its best to hiss at us but it wasn't very scary.

Etosha NP

The good thing about being here in the wet season is the ground is lush and every animal has a baby trotting along beside it. The bad thing about being here in the wet season is you can see beggar all due to the thick undergrowth. The water holes are empty - water is abundant so the animals can wonder to any area they like. Despite this we still saw most of the animals we wanted to see. We saw so many Springbok; Oryx (still majestic); zebra (commonly called disco donkey) and of course ostrich. There was a large cluster of giraffe - i didn't think they were a herd animal but there were 30 or 40 either side of the road. They first day wasn't so good: we'd stopped to take a photo of a bird nicely situated on a dead tree - another car pulled up to see what we were looking at; his response was "Why are you looking at the bird there's a lion 500m down the track". The lion was within a few metres of the road with an oryx carcass. An impatient car behind papped his horn (we were blocking the road) - the lion got up; oryx leg in mouth; and walked a little bit further into the trees. It as a male lion and I swear he was looking right at me. Very cool! We're never satisifed now that we've sign a lion we now want to see a lion kill!

The evening game drive was all about finding elephant!! Regardless of how thick the bush is you think you'd be able to find a 1ton 10ft high elephant. We drove along the edge of the Etosha pan (which actually had water in it - only happens every few years). We saw some beautifully situated oryx but we were looking for elephant. You have to back in camp at sun set (as they shut the gates) we were about to turn back when a lone male wondered onto the road in front of the truck. He wasn't particularly pleased to see us; he opened his ears; waved his trunk and started to come towards us - just a warning. Jason had to reverse down a single track gravel road but he was doing it blind - all he could see in the wing mirrors were 12 people leaning out of the side of the truck taking photos!

San Bushman

We spent the night with a group of san bushmen. These used to be the nomadic hunters but the farmers didn't like them hunting their animals so the government moved them to land of their own and overnight they had to change their lifestyle. They now keep their traditions alive as a 'living museum' - like the Black Country Museum in the West Midlansds. There are a couple of different projects throughout Namibia. The one we visited wasn't sign posted; advertised; documented anywhere - goodness knows how Dragoman found it. Apparently the BBC were there in January filming a documentary. We camped at the village - people staying over night is very uncommon (once every 3 months) and the kids were SO excited.

They performed some songs and dance in the evening around a camp fire. It was very good. The bushman are still untouched by the 'tourist business' ethics. The dances were performed in a tight circle as they always had been. The traditional dancing involved a lot of bum cheek vibrations. The explanations were brief and the other villagers talked over the top. Half the village came down to watch the performance too - they talked; sang and danced along. The san bushmen talk with a click language so all you could hear as you sat around the fire was a lot of tutting - not sure what the noise means to them. They have 4 distinct click sounds (I can only do 2 of them) and they run them into other syllables. There's a bush called !'nara but when they say it the click sound flows into the word.

It was a very amusing set up we camped in the village - the village where they lived in their 2nd hand Western clothes. The next day we went down to the tourist village where they 'worked' wearing their traditional clothes. We did a bush walk were they dug up roots and talked about the plants; set snares etc. We then spent some time in the 'village' learning how to make bows and arrows (for blokes) and beads (for ladies). Every young lady had a baby on her back - when the baby peed it just dribbled down her legs too - eugh.

Change of plan

On our way to the Delta we stopped at a lodge on the okavngo river, on the Angolan border. The track down to the lodge wasn't great and we got seriously stuck in mud in the middle of a field. We stopped so suddenly that i ended up sitting on the floor of the truck! The main road was in sight and a builders JCB style truck pulled us out. Unfortunately the blades on the fan were broken; the radioator was knackered and the air filter was hanging off. We extended our stay in the lodge as the truck was going nowhere. They ordered parts from Windhoek to arrive on Saturday morning...no one was hopeful that they would arrive. We got th radiator but they resorted to proper bush mechanics for the fan: they heated the fan blades on our gas cooking stove and then smashed as straight as they could!! The air filter is held on with a selection of rope (and probably some paper clips).

Okavango Delta

We travelled into the Okavango Delta in the traditional "fibre-glass" mokoro canoes. We spent 2 nights in the delta. The Okavango river flows inland - its path is blocked by the Kalahari desert and the water spreads out into a 30,000km2 wetland. The first at a fixed camp with very nice outdoor showers. Our tent had hippo footprints right by the door which didn't make me happy (luckily no hippos spotted in the camp the night we were there). The first camp was only a kilometre into the delta. The next day we loaded up the mokoro's with all the camping gear and headed off into the delta. The waterways that dissect the swamplands are actually hippo highways. As hippos are the biggest killer in Africa the polers are loathe to use the waterways and instead just cut a new trail through the grasses. Consequently you get covered in grass seeds; frogs; and crickets. The shallower pools are covered in water lillies. We saw a few hippo bathing at the deeper end of one of the pools we crossed. It was very relaxing but we didn't see as much as I'd hoped - most of the time visually you could have been sitting in a field of long grass!

Chobe NP

Unfortunately there was only enough time to do an evening boat cruise in this park - I would have loved to do a game drive too. There were 3 overland trucks on the boat. Although we thought it was a game cruise others obviously thought it was a booze cruise. I was surprised that we saw anything given the noise we were making! We started off small - a very pathetic crocodile basking on the side of the river; we then upgraded to kudu (very big; quite tasty antelope). Through the bushes a herd of elephant came down to the waters edge to drink and play. There were a family of a dozen at the waters edge and we were happy to stay and watch them for a while. We then went to see a large group of hippos - we went close enough to make them yawn ( a warning to keep away). On the way back down the river the elephants had entered the river and were playing in the water. The photos aren't great as its a silouhette into the setting sun but it was very cool to watch!

Victoria Falls

Victoria falls are very impressive. The local name translates to "the smoke that thunders". The spray can be seen from our campsite 5km away; in the quiet of the night you can hear the roar of the falls too. We went to see the falls yesterday but it would be more appropriate to say we 'experienced' the falls. You could see nothing due to the spray and you couldn't take many photos. Imagine the most impressive waterfall you've seen and now make it 1.7km wide! It's like someone just slit into the rock and the river disappears into the hole - its then focused through a gorge which is only 100m wide down into a place they call the boiling pot.

I anticipated there were be water in the air when we went to see the falls but the reality was a lot wetter. The spray from the waterfall was like a swirling monsson shower. We were soaked to the skin in a minute; the paths were ankle deep in water in places. it was better than any shower we've had in Africa - if only we'd taken the bodywash! It is the wet season; but the water is at its highest in April.Obviously you only got fleeting views of parts of the falls until another swirl of water engulfed you. Photos were out of the question the camera was in a bag; in a bag; in a bag! We did a helicoptor flight over the falls this morning which was great. The pilot then zoomed down the gorge below the falls only a few metres above the water - that was the highlight of the flight.

Yesterday afternoon there'd been a tropical storm and when we returned to camp the water was ankle deep in places. Luckily there had been people in camp and they'd moved some of the tents out of the flash flood river - it had been lapping at the zip of one of the tent. The water subsided in a couple of hours but I suspect its a taste of what we can expect in the next few weeks as we travel across Central Africa during the long rains.

What's next: Travelling through Zambia; up to Malawi and into Tanzania.

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