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The Habdogs' Adventures

Cape Town to Windhoek

NAMIBIA | Monday, 30 December 2013 | Views [325]






Day 1 - Sunday 8th December 2013. Cape Town.  

This evening we had our pre-departure meeting and met our tour leader Vladia, our assistant guide/truck driver Wes, and our nine other camping companions. There are three other Aussies; Lauren & James from Canberra and Kathleen from Sydney. There are also two Americans; Ana and Marilyn, two Germans; Eike and Roberto, 1 danish girl Linnea, and Roben from the Ilse of Man.   Vladia's rules are as follows: 1. A positive attitude must be present at all times. 2. This is a Safari, meaning 'journey', NOT a 'holiday'. 3. Don't bother reading the waiver form because if you don't sign it you're not coming on the trip. 4. Wash you hands before all meals etc. If you are in doubt of whether they need washing, wash them anyway because if one of us gets sick we all get sick. 5. Again, a positive attitude must remain present at all times.  

Tonight we went on our third and final date to Arnold's Restaurant,  this time accompanied by 5 of our fellow campers. We were now on first name terms with manager and received 3 complimentary bottles of wine, which went down a treat.   We went to bed knowing that it would be the last comfortable mattress we would have for some time. We were also excited and a little nervous about our adventure that lay ahead.    

Learning Points:

1. Arnold's Restaurant food is still delicious

2.  Vladia has a lot of rules!    


Day 2 - Monday 9th December 2013. Cape Town to Cedeberg.  

Today we met our new mobile home for the next 40 days (or that's what we thought). We were on the road by 7:30 with a short stop to pickup some last minutes supplies before we commenced our safari into the wilderness. We had lunch on the beach in a small fishing town. The beach was no match for Australian beaches but it was nice to smell the sea air. The excitement for the drive was the truck door that swung open every few bumps,  requiring us to tie it closed with some rope! Vladia was not impressed and thus promptly on the phone finding us a new mobile home.   We finally arrived at our first campsite (door still attached) to find ourselves at a nice grassy spot in the vineyards. We thought life was pretty tough as we sat beside the pool having a drink followed by our first meal cooked over the fire.  

Learning Points:

1. Vladia's "not far" could be anywhere between 30 minutes to 3 hours. Likewise, "just around the corner" could be anywhere between 1km to 150km.

2. Apparently a broken door equals a whole new truck

3. Showers with a window overlooking vineyards are quite nice but we wouldn't want to be much taller otherwise it would be others having a view.

4. If this is camping in Africa (pool, bar, and hot showers) then this trip should a breeze right....    


Day 3 - Tuesday 10th December 2013. Cedeberg to Gariep River.  

We survived our first night camping in Africa. Once back in the truck we were soon leaving behind the vineyards, now heading towards the Nambian border and desert. With each kilometer closer towards the desert you could literally feel the air temperature rising. It was amazing how much the landscape changed and the further we traveled the more barren it became.  

Our campsite for the evening was just short of the Namibian border, located on the banks of the Gariep River. We set up our tents and waited for the temperature to cool before heading off on a guided tour up the surrounding rocky cliffs. Right in the middle up the very top of the rocky lanscape we found a quiver tree and desert flowers. The quiver tree was a very important tree for the Bushman (African equivalent of Aboriginal people) as they used the hollow branches for their quivers (to store the arrows). The hollowness of the tree also allowed the tree to cool itself by circulating the air. The Bushman also utilised this to store their food. Finally, the tree also had a white powder-like coating to protect it from the sun. The Bushman would utilize this as sunscreen. The desert flowers were also impressive. When you poured water on them they would open up into a star-shaped flower. At the top of the cliffs we had a magnificent view of the Gariep River and the surrounding farms.  

Learning Points:

1. In Africa, unless the tea is roobius, it is referred to as "the shitty English stuff".

2. Although we appreciate showers with a view, it is impossible to shower when the wind blows the water horizontally towards your towel and dry clothes hanging on the door.    


Day 4 - Wednesday 11th December 2013. Gariep River to Fish River Canyon.  

Thismorning we crossed our first border; from South Africa to Namibia. Thankfully it was uneventful, and the immigration man even had a good sense of humour. When he enquired as to why we had different surnames (on our passports) but were married Habby jokingky replied "because she doesn't like my surname", to which he responded "well I hope she likes you" and then laughed!   On our way to Fish River Canyon we spotted our first springbok, a type of African antelope. We had lunch on the side of the road, and now we were in the desert without any trees or rocks to hide behind, the girls scored lots of toots from the passing trucks for their pasty white bums. Although it didn't reach the expected 45 degrees it was bloody hot and no one left the pool side or shade all afternoon until it was time to visit the Fish River Canyon.

Fish River Canyon is the largest canyon in Africa, and arguably the second largest in the world. It is also the oldest canyon in the world, formed approximately 500 millon years ago in part by glacial movement, movement of tectonic plates and erosion. It was definitely one of the most impressive natural formations of southern Africa. We had a romantic group dinner watching the sunset over the canyon.   After dinner we went for a night walk under the stars as this place was one of the few places in the world that is not affected by an artificial light source (cities etc).  

Learning Points:

1. The desert is really hot

2. We could never get sick of African sunsets or starry nights

3. Vladia is a good story teller and always begins them with "a very long time ago.."    


Day 5 - Thursday 12th December 2013. Fish River Canyon to Sossusvlei area.  

Today started with the earliest wakeup so far... 4am! Yuck! We were on the road and driving by 5am as our itinerary stated that we had 10hrs driving in front of us. The benefit of getting up early however was be able to spot all the game wanderimg around before it gets too hot. We were lucky to spot our first kudu (African antelope) and zebra, along with oryx and springbok. Both Sam and Habby were like kids in a candy store standing up the front of the truck spotting all the game.   After a very long (12 hour) and hot day in the truck we finally arrived at our campsite and headed straight for the pool. As the evening approached we went to Sesriem Canyon, a much smaller but also beautiful canyon. The canyon was formed 10-20 million years ago by the Tsauchab River.    

At dinner we were treated with a surprise chocolate birthday cake (cooked on the campfire) for Kathleen, followed by a hilarious performance by the boys (with Habby narrating) of a Bushman story about how the Milky Way was created. None of us have laughed so hard!  

Learning Points:

1. Habby's narrative skills would have done Mary proud

2. Must get the recipe for campfire chocolate cake    


Day 6 - Friday 13th December 2013. Sossusvlei area.  

We weren't very impressed by our second 4am wakeup in a row (but we have been promised it will be the last) but it was quickly forgotten when we arrived at Dune 45 to find it almost completely hidden by mist. It was magical. We set off in the mist climbing Dune 45, two steps forward one step back, hoping to reach the top by sunrise. Unfortunately we "mist" it (forgive the pun) as the clouds didn't lift until at least 9am. What did make up for it though was the fun we had running downhill. Thankfully we are not suspicious about Friday the 13th, and as a matter of fact, being on holidays meant we didn't even realise. Otherwise, we may have considered taking it a little slower on the downhill instead of running down the steepest part with Habby eating multiple facefulls of sand. We all arrived safely at the bottom and were treated to a hot cooked breakfast by Vladia.   Our next stop was Deadvlei, a dried-up salt lake and resulting dead trees found in a valley at the base of the largest dune, 'Big Daddy'. We accessed Deadvlei by 4x4s, the girls truck racing the boys! At the car park we were welcomed by the pet jackal. We came close enough to pat it, but don't worry mums, we didn't as we too were afraid of catching rabies. This is where our treasure hunt for Geocaching started. Unfortunately, to our disappointment we believe it had already been found. We did find however, a shovel nosed lizard which Wes caught by throwing his thong in the air (to mimick a bird of prey) and digging it out of the sand after it had buried itself.    

Tonight we camped on a 13000 hectare Namibian cattle farm where the highlight was a tour given by one of the farmers Franz. We drove around the farm in the back of his small truck. We learnt to identify different animal tracks and dung, both important skills we can add to our Bushman resume. Franz showed us many small animals as well, including trap door spiders, lizards and beetles. We also learnt a lot about the Bushman history. The correct term is actually the 'San people' as "Bushman" is politically incorrect. Bushman were so-named because up until the 1970s they were hunted by the human race as they were consider animals.  The Bushman used to hide behind the bushes, catching their predators by surprise. The Bushman led a hard life, always following their food and water sources. In order to survive the weak, which sometimes included dependant children, were left behind. We also saw many Zebras. Despite their beauty, when in large numbers they pose a significant threat to the water supply, and when the numbers exceed 300 per farm the farmers are allowed to apply for a permit to cull 4 per year.   The fabulous day was topped off with a braai, a traditional South African barbeque grill. Our braai consisted of our favourite lamb chops and ribs eaten straight off the grill!  

Learning Points:

1. The way to our hearts is through our stomachs (especially when it involves lamb chops and ribs straight off the grill).

2. Re 4am wakeup... Vladia did warn us that this was not a holiday but a safari, meaning journey.

3. Sam is like a pig in mud when on the back of a truck driving through the open farm lands.    


Day 7 - Saturday 14th December 2013. Sossusvlei area to Swakopmund.  

Today we were treated to a sleep in (6am). Enroute to Swakopmund the game spotting started early with both of us up the front in our favourite lookout post. Our previous thought that we would not see many zebras was quickly dismissed as they were now pressent in hundreds, as were the springbok and oryx. With a group consensus we took the back roads in the hope to see more game and we weren't disappointed. We soon added warthog and klipspringer to our checklist. Africa continues to amaze us with its ever-changing scenery, each as impressive as the ones before. Today we traveled from the open plains of farmland to rocky mountain ranges, to again open plains before hitting the desert. In Swakopmund we had our first non-canvas roof over our heads since Cape Town - albeit dormitory style accommodation shared with the rest of our tour group. The afternoon was spent on a village tour led by a local guide. Swakopmund is divided into 3 areas: the main town, the township, and the informal settlement. 70% of the Swakopmund population live outside the main town. We visited 2 homes during which we had the opportunity to ask questions about their lifestyle and traditions. The first house was located in the township and was occupied by a Herero lady, and the second house was located in the informal settlement and was occupied by a Nama lady who also practiced traditional herbal medicine. Historically the houses in the township were built and allocated to families according to tribal origin. Families of the smaller tribe received the larger houses and vice versa in an attempt by the government to equalize the tribes power. The housing in the informal settlement was extremely basic, essentially small 1-roomed shelters. We were both a bit skeptical about the herbal medicine, particularly the elephant-dung tea! Our town tour wouldn't have been complete without trying the local delicacy of Mopani worms (caterpillars found on the leaves of the Mopani tree). They were edible but neither of us were in a rush for the recipe!     


Learning Points:

1. There is a reason we weren't raised on insects

2. We will stick to Western medicine thanks

3. To Habby surprise there is someone that not only matches but exceeds Sam's organisation skills/anal retentiveness ... Lauren. Haha. The similarities are actually quite scary!


Day 8 - Sunday 15th December 2013. Swakopmund.  

First up on our itinerary was a "Living Desert" tour where Habby was hoping he could prove his newly learned bushman skills. The tour involved driving through the nearby desert and dunes with the guides stopping to teach (and show) us life and important survival tips of the desert. Plant life was almost solely limited to the "dollar bush" which was named for its appearance and is a great water source for the animals. Reptile and insect life was endless. Our favorite insect was the head-standing beetle, appropriately named as it stands on its head with its back to the mist catching the moisture which drains into is mouth. It can catch up to 80% of its body weight. Sam's favorite reptile was the chameleon because of the following reasons: 1. The can't run fast and therefore are unable to chase her. 2. The colour changes are amazing. 3. We got to feed them head-standing beetles and meale worms.   Bushman Habdogs favorite reptile was the horned adder because: 1. He outdid the guides by tracking it himself. 2. It's one of the rarest snakes in the area and also the most poisonest (but not deadly).   Other reptiles we saw included the side-winder adder, gecko, shovel-nosed lizard and legless lizard. We finished the tour by 4-wheel driving through the larger dunes. We even got some air off one dune!   The next activity for the day was sand boarding. We had 6 awesome runs (Habby 7) but this also entailed climbing up the dunes 6 times. We reached speeds of around 70 kph on the steepest dunes. Sam may have required an extra little push to get over the edge unlike Habby who happily tried going backwards. Afterwards we had a small sand pit in the base of our shower and I'm sure we will be finding sand for days, but we had a blast nonetheless.   Our last night out in civilization for a while was at Kucki's restaurant where we both tried springbok, which of course (daughter like father) Sam's was the surf and turf. Delicious!  

Learning points:

1. Habby's love for snakes is match by Sam's hate for them.

2. Namibian sand finds it's way into anything and everything.

3. Habby's aspirations of becoming a bushman is on track.

4. Springbok is delicious although gemsbok (Oryx) is our favorite.    


Day 9 - Monday 16th December 2013. Swakopmund to Twyfelfontein.  

Today would be our last day on the coast for some time. We headed north along the skeleton coast before heading inland towards Damaraland. We stopped along the roadside to see the Herero and Himba people. The Himba people traditionally wear few garments but cover themselves in oryx fat and red ocra for sun protection. The Herero women wear dresses and a headpiece resembling cattle, which is the foundation of their livelihoods.     Our lunch stop was at the 'Living Museum', a museum that demonstrates the Damara people's housing, activities of their daily living and passtimes, including dancing and making jewelery (from ostrich egg shells and seeds). We also visited the site of Bushman paintings (rock engravings) at Twyfelfontein (meaning doubtful fountain, reflecting the poor rainfall and thus erratic flow of the springs) dating back 2000-6000 years. Most of the engravings were of animals.   In preparation for Christmas we had a group songwriting session in which we wrote our first song titled "The 12 days of Christmas". The last verse is as follows: "On the 12th day of Christmas Vladia sent to me, 12 hours driving, 11 Tourists touring, 10 Misty sand dunes, 9 Oryx frying, 8 Bushman dancing, 7 Zebras crossing, 6 Springboks pronking, 5 Australian's, 4 in the morning, 3 washing dishes, 2 Yankee Doodles, and a truck and a driver called Wes."   We performed this rendition for Vladia under the full moon around the campsite and she was pretty chuffed. We then sang and danced around the fire with some of the locals before heading on a night walk down the dry river bed.

Learning Points:

1. We might have the bums but we can't shake our booty like black women.

2.  We are probably lucky we are in the middle of nowhere with our singing skills, and it was most likey the reason we didn't see anything on our night walk.

3. Showers in the dark when cocroaches are present equals lots of girly screams from Sam and Lauren.    


Day 10 - Tuesday 15th December 2013. Twyfelfontein to Etosha National Park.  

Today we graduated with a diploma in surviving Namibian dirt roads ("the African massage") and have been promised mostly sealed roads for the remainder of the trip. Due to the hot temperature we arrived at Etosha National Park and our campsite early to ensure a seista, just like the animals, prior to our afternoon game drive. Our first water hole was spectacular, complete with giraffes, zebras, warthog, impala, springbok and birdlife. They say giraffes are like ladies but there's definitely nothing lady-like about the way they drink!! The remainder of the game drive was not as exciting with all the other animals still hiding from the heat. A couple of others on our truck claim to have seen a lion but we remain dubious as we couldn't see it and we are the only ones with binoculars.     We spent many hours that evening (until 1am) at the camps waterhole watching the animals come in to drink. We were very fortunate to have seen seven black rhinos, including a baby, drink and play at the water hole. The compromise was that many of the other animals were too scared to drink with the rhinos present but we did see the jackals and some springok lurking in the background.  

Learning Points:

1. Our binoculars were by far the best buy of the trip so far

2. We could never get sick of admiring the beauty of the African animals and landscape

3. Vladia is trying to kill us with early mornings and late nights.    


Day 11 - Wednesday 18th December 2013. Etosha National Park.  

The park gate opened at 6:12am. True to her word Vladia had us there early and waiting with only 4 hours sleep in the bank thanks to the Rhinos. Today we were hoping to see the big cats, and everything else was a bonus. We had 3 drives for the day: morning, afternoon and night time (spotlighting but unfortunately minus our bang bangs). Unfortunately,  despite 13 sets of eyes and calling out "here kitty kitty" in mutliple languages, we didn't see any of the big cats. We did see many other animals though including 1 African elephant the was as big as the truck and almost close enough to touch, as well as giraffes, zebras, impalas, springboks, kudus, steenboks, hyenas and a black rhino.   On our night drive we were once again unlucky with the bigs cats but we did add a porcupine and a spotted genet  to our check list. The funniest moment was when the hyenas started laughing (at us) after our guide mistook it for a lion when it was lying on the ground. Our hightlight for the day however was watching the family of elephants bathing in the water hole at our lunch stop.  

Learning Points:

1. In Africa the animals run wild and you aren't always guaranteed to see everything like in a zoo.

2. Hyenas really do laugh

3. African elephants are huge.

4. Jimbob would be in heaven with all piggy wiggies (warthog) and antelopes.    


Day 12 - Thursday 19th December 2013. Etosha National Park to Waterberg Plateau.  

This morning was the last opportunity to see the big cats as we left Etosha National Park. Again, we were unsuccessful in spotting them but we did see another black rhino (which is supposed to be one of the rarest animals in Africa).   Today was only a short drive and we reached our campsite at Waterberg plateau by lunch time. We had a lovely lazy afternoon lying on the mats under the shady trees, trying to choose our best two photos for the Etosha National Park photo competition (which Sam won with her picture of the baby elephant).   Later in the afternoon when it cooled down we hiked the Waterberg Plateau and watched the surrounding thunderstorm slowly approaching.  It was a spectacular view looking out over the flat plains as far as the eye could see. Luckily we had prepared our tent with its rain jacket ("don't forget your condoms kids" said Vladia) because the storm finally arrived not long after we went to bed. It was so loud we could feel the ground shake beneath us.  

Learning Points:

1. Habby still doesn't like camping in the rain

2. Baboons are supposedly disrespectful to women so you need to walk male-female-male-female when hiking in a group.

3. Richo's theory of "if there's not a road to it then it's not worth seeing" is incorrect.

4. Habby has got to stop giving sam tips if he wants to win the photo competions.

5. African thunderstorms are amazing.    


Day 13 - Friday 20th December 2013. Waterberg Plateau to Windhoek.    

Today we woke up to Vladia swearing at the baboons who were stealing her bread as she was trying to make us french toast. Just after breakfast Habby and Wes went on a leopard hunt as Wes had heard one during the night. They were unable to find any tracks but they  were lucky enough that they heard one somewhere in the nearby bushes.     We arrived in Windhoek,  the capital of Namibia, by midday. As quoted by Vladia,  "there's nothing to see in Windhoek", so we spent our afternoon stocking up on supplies at the shopping mall and catching up on the 'amazing' (haha) blog you're reading.   Unfortunately today we were saying goodbye to Ana, but we welcomed two new recruits to our truck.  We had a farewell/welcome dinner at Joe's Beerhouse where once again Habby had his oryx, but Sam lashed out and tried the zebra. With another game meat added to the favorite list we are seriously contemplating starting a game meat farm back home (hint hint Ian & Lyndel).  

Learning Points:

1. Not only is Habby losing his hair but he is also going grey - he found his first grey hair today! Devastating life moment.

2. In (only) Habby's opinion his beard was going great-guns after 14 days growth. For the benefit of all others, it was forcibly (by the 'boss') shaved off

3. Surely there is a market in Australia for game meat.

4. One of Ian's paddocks would be perfect for a small game farm.    

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