African shoestrings – Namibia Day Fifty six – Namib desert

Dan Viljoen is a good place for hiking or even just casual walking. We sauntered along the 3 kilometre Wag-n-Bietjie trail to the Stengal Dam enjoying the twittering of birds and the gentle breeze and then at the dam watching a lone wildebeest and a family of warthogs go about their business.
The park has plenty of game, none of which are at all dangerous. On the game drive we did after the walk, we spotted Mountain Zebra’s, Gemsbok, Springbok, Red Hartebeest, Kudu and two Wildebeest standing on a cliff edge with a backdrop of Windhoek in the distance.
Coming from a country such as Australia where the wildlife is on the whole small in size and nocturnal in nature, it’s mind-blowing how much wildlife you can see on this continent. Even more mind-blowing is the thought of how much more there must have been before the arrival of Europeans, who brought hunting and poaching and the destruction of the animal’s habitat. Fortunately most African governments have recognised that preservation of these magnificent beasts is important not only to the environment but also to tourism and have set aside large areas for them to roam freely and safely.

The Rooibes trail we followed the next morning was around 6 kilometres longer and was a good little hike through green hills covered in scrub brush and small acacia trees with panoramic views across to Windhoek before following a river bed. The final couple of kilometres let it down; taking us through a neglected part of the park that was overgrown and speckled with dumped used tyres. We’ve encountered several good walks in the past that have been spoilt by the last stretch. Its almost as if the track designer lost interest two thirds of the way and just ordered the trail builders to find the quickest and most convenient way back. Still it was a good walk and once again we saw plenty of wildlife.

I managed to get hold of Werner, the car hire owner ,so that we could do something about the gaslight that wouldn’t work. We met him back in Windhoek at the Maerua shopping centre, Windhoek’s and probably Namibia’s biggest. We swapped lights did a bit of food shopping and headed out to our next destination, the Naukluft Camp in the Namib Naukluft National Park.

The road to Rehobeth was 100 kilometres of flat bitumen and even in our little toy car we could get up a head of steam. What slowed us down considerably was the 130 kilometres of gravel road to Naukluft. We had, to be fair, been warned. Werner had told us to keep the windows closed to prevent dust getting in but driving in mid 30’s heat without air conditioning and no fresh air was just too much. From hereon in we knew that most of the roads we needed to use would be gravel so we had to get used it and if that meant driving with the windows down and sharing the car with grit, well too bad! So by the time we got to Naukluft we were just a little hot and dusty.

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It is extremely fast and can reach speeds of 100 km/h and can leap 4m through the air. The common name "springbok" comes from the Afrikaans and Dutch words spring = jump and bok = male antelope or goat.

It is extremely fast and can reach speeds of 100 km/h and can leap 4m through the air. The common name “springbok” comes from the Afrikaans and Dutch words spring = jump and bok = male antelope or goat.

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African shoestrings – South Africa Day Fourty seven – Kalahari

On that subject, of food, these tours feed you well. Whether it is a budget tour like ours or a five star tour, the tour companies must drum into the tour leaders that the guests must eat. I can just hear them now “Never mind the spectacular scenery or the animals, the object here is for the tourists to eat at least three big meals a day, and if possible morning and afternoon tea and equally as important on time!”

On one tour we did in Kenya the 4WD got bogged in sand in Lake Nakuru and despite our protestations our guide insisted that we get a lift with a passing vehicle so that we wouldn’t be late for lunch. It was a long lunch because he turned up 6 hours later, covered in mud from head to toe. We would have much rather stayed and given him a hand.
In Uganda on a Gorilla safari we had a guide called Charles. Charles had a small straw picnic hamper that he spent a great deal of time arranging and rearranging after use so that all the crockery would fit in a certain way. Watching him go through this ritual for the first time it, was merely amusing, by the time we had our last morning or afternoon tea it was all we could do to prevent ourselves from breaking into absolute hysterics, as he fastidiously and obsessively arranged everything first one way then another until satisfied and then sighed, contented with his final arrangement. What didn’t occur to him was that we could have quite happily saved him all this pain and skipped morning and afternoon tea!

Strangely enough most tourists remember the food they have on these trips more than the experience they had! How often do you hear “Oh and the food was wonderful/crap”
Maybe the tour operators have a point!

We had some unwanted visitors that night. Jackals, like the baboons in Golden Gate come in darkness and scavenge anything they can get at. We weren’t affected but a group of school kids who were sleeping under the stars had a torrid time as the jackals ran off with all their stuff and scattered it around the camp or worse took it into the bush.

The next day was our last of the tour and that meant heading back to Upington, 160 kilometres away, 60 on gravel, slowly at first so that we could search for any game. But once again it appeared that the script had been ignored. We were all now thoroughly depressed and ready to give up.

Suddenly by the side of the road Roland exclaimed “Lion”. Sure enough right by the roadside lay two male lions asleep under a small but shady tree. The lions of the Kalahari are meant to be amongst the biggest in Africa and sure enough after seeing them up close, I can see why. They were big! They didn’t really entertain us apart from one of them standing up, moving 5 metres and plonking himself down again with a heavy thud before going back to sleep. But we didn’t care we had finished on a high and all of us had a bit of a smile on the dusty journey back to Upington.
Mind you I think Rolands smile was more one of relief than joy. He had, at the beginning, dangerously bragged about how much game we would see in the park and felt personally responsible for any success or failure. Not that he should have done. Game watching is a bit like trying to win at the races; you can study the form but in the end it’s pretty much out of your control.

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A lion sleeps in the shade of an acacia tree in the Kalahari national park on the border of South Africa and Botswana

A lion sleeps in the shade of an acacia tree in the Kalahari national park on the border of South Africa and Botswana