Monday, 30 May 2016

Namibia 4, Hunting!

As we drove out of Etosha we noticed a sign only a few kilometres out of the park saying Cheetahs. So we decided to go check it out. We drove up to the farm house and was greeted by the farmer who gave us a little explanation as to what they do and how they acquire the predators. As a game and cattle farmer he is constantly fighting to save his animals against the predators who come into his farm and kill, a lot of the time killing for fun, with most killing up to 20 calves a day and leaving them to rot in the sun. They are easy targets and the predators therefore only come to feed on the cows instead of the wild game, threatening his business and the jobs he provides. 
These predators don't come from Etosha, but the surrounding areas, totally wild.
On the Eldorado farm they will hunt these predators and instead of killing them, they will capture them and cage them for the public to view. I suppose a bit like a zoo. 

With our guide and meat in tow, we walked down to the cages. On our way down we saw Eland, Kudu, and wildebeest at his little watering hole. We saw hyenas, leopards, caracal and got to feed the cheetahs. All these animals are absolutely stunning when you get to see them up close. And we were surprised to hear the cheetahs sound like house cats, just with a much larger and louder purr and meow. But I did feel a little sad to see them all caged up.

We headed for a town called Outjo where we would meet Andi, from Wheelie Adventurous. He travelled down the west coast of Africa on his BMW GS1200 and we had met him in Togo along the way. He was staying with a local farmer he had met and said we were welcome to join them. That night we stayed in Ombinda Lodge where Rob could get a bit of car maintenance done (another wheel bearing!) before meeting Andi the next day. 

We arrived onto the farm and waited for them to return from tracking poachers. It was great to see Andi again, who introduced us to Achi (an Israely girl travelling southern and Eastern Africa on her own on a BMW GS700) and Jasper (the local farmer). We sat enjoying a cold beer and all got acquainted. It was almost time for the gorgeous sunset, so we headed of to the camp which was set up on his farm for hunters. We climbed on the rocks and the drinking began. We got to know Jasper a bit and we soon learnt that he was an amazing story teller and had us all hooked on the tails of the bush. 

The next day we set off into the bush for a game drive around his farm. When arriving at a view point, Jasper saw a fire pit with his eagle like eyes, so we headed to the area to track the poachers that were causing extensive disruption to his farms. With rifles in tow, we started making our way through the thorny bush. The poachers would hide out in the bush trapping and killing the animals and drying them for biltong to sell on the black market. We started tracking the bush while Jasper was noticing all the signs. There was no shoe spore, but just a large flat surface that only a keen eye would notice. Jasper explained that they wear bags over their feet to hide their tracks. Eventually we arrived at a camp, but it seemed old, and this was not the one Jasper had noticed. So we marched on. We did eventually find the camp Jasper had seen. With bones lying everywhere, big Kudu horns hung in the trees and stollen wire lying on the ground. Wire was connected to trees where they would usually hang the meat to dry. Jasper was furious! We dismantled the wires and with nothing more to be done, we headed back to the car. 

That night we ate like kings with a huge abundance of meat to keep our energy levels going. Jasper told us about the difficulties he faces being a farmer in Namibia. Ultimately he lived an amazing life, but it came with a number of issues he had to face daily and we had only the scraped the surface by experiencing one of them that day. He explained he had to go out searching for poachers at least twice a week as they were not only effecting the number of cows, but also the game on his land. And ultimately the livelihood of his business.
And then there were the predators, that Namibia seems to have in abundance. Jasper explained that the predators no longer go for the game as they are a difficult kill, but would rather go for the easy kill being the cows, putting a real strain on his business and the welfare of the 50 odd employees and their large families he needs to protect. A lot of these predators, like those at the Aldorado farm outside of Etosha, would kill for fun, killing between 20-30 cows in 1day. They don't eat them, just kill them. As a farmer, this would kill his business and therefore uses his legal right to take matters into his own hands.
Even after contacting the animal conservation companies, alerting them of the presence of these preditors and the need to have them relocated. He gets no help and they are not interested, or arrive months after being alerted, which is too late. So unfortunately he has to hunt them. He explained how he hated this part of his job, but unfortunately it came with the territory. 

The other side of his business is hunting. He is a professional hunter and has all the legal requirements to host hunting experiences on his farm. People will travel from all over the world and pay to have a hunting experience. Jasper monitors the animals on his farm every year with the help of the conservation companies and makes sure the levels of animals on his farm are adequate for the space. If there are too many animals, this too is detrimental as it means there will not be enough food or water and most will die of starvation anyways. Namibia has been in a huge drought for many years and looking at the land you'd never think anything could survive out here. The conservation companies give him a quota as to how many animals he can and should kill. There is no grass, the leaves are brown and there is a real lack of water. So offering a hunting experience serves many purposes. It brings in a lot of money for the animal conservation in Namibia, it helps bring tourism, and it helps Jasper keep the numbers down. 

The next morning he let Rob get a bit of target practice in and shot a 306 rifle at rocks. This was so that if we came across anything in the bush he would know how to use it correctly. He shot well and was really accurate with it. I have to admit as I stood watching I was not expecting such a loud bang and it felt like it had rattled my insides, giving me the fright of my life. I didn't feel comfortable handling it so I left to the others, while I just tagged along. 

That day we went out tracking a lion as Jasper had word that there was one on his farm and already had killed a fair number of his cattle. We found the spore and tracked it for some time with no result. (I have to admit, I was pretty relieved we didn't get to see it). But it was great walking through the bush with Jasper as he pointed out all the different spore and seemed to notice things that we would never. The bush came alive as he explained everything. 
After leaving we enjoyed a lovely game drive and saw all the beautiful animals on his farm. Zebras, kudu's, gemsbok, disk-dik's and steenboks. His passion for these animals was amazing, and it was this part of his job that I envied so much. Part of his job was to drive around his extensive land regularly to monitor the amount of game on his farm, and ensure the levels weren't dropping. Totally amazing!

We continued to be fed and looked after for the whole week, truly getting a taste of Namibia through such an inspirational man. He took us out in Outjo for lunch and we all enjoyed delicious pizzas, wine and don pedros for desert. The locals started arriving at the pub and they all insisted we stayed for a braai. That night turned out to be a very drunken affair. The locals are amazing and so welcoming, and Namibia is continuing to really capture our hearts. 
Shot after shot, drink after drink, we were getting rather mellow! I even found some confidence deep down to start practicing my limited Afrikaans with the locals, and in my drunkenness surprised myself as to how much I actually knew. 
We eventually pulled Rob away from the bar and drove the hour or so back to the farm with Rob snoring in the front seat. As we drove through the night the roads were alive with wildlife! Jasper was doing great at giving me the most amazing night drive as he angled the car so I could see all the animals in the spot lights. Gemsbok, zebras, jackals, kangaroo like squirrels.... Absolutely beautiful!

The next morning we enjoyed a proper Namibian breakfast! Gemsbok steaks, scrambled eggs and beer! All before 9am in the morning. We were having a ball and being treated like royalty! We couldn't have asked for a more amazing experience! 

After breakfast, and in true Namibian style it was time for more target practice. We got to shoot a hand gun and the boys more rifles. I didn't chicken out of the shotgun this time and gave it good go, hitting two of the targets (beer cans!!). It was actually so much fun, and I was buzzing afterward. Then the boys tried the rifles and Rob did so well, shooting the beer cans and sending them sky hi. This time sticking bullets in my ears to absorb the massive blow.

It's safe to say that day was incredibly drunken and we spent the day getting highly intoxicated and enjoying the company and more amazing stories from Jasper. We ended up swimming in one of the boreholes on his farm. As slimy and cold as it was, we were having the time of our lives!

After our swim we headed back out for another game drive and to catch the beautiful sunset on the farm. We even stopped and got to stroke a zebra that seemed to be a bit tame. 

Jaspers meat supply was running a bit low and he needed to supply his workers with food. So it was time to hunt either a zebra or gemsbok on his farm. This was the part Jasper was not fond of, but it needed doing. Rob, myself and Jasper went out to the waterhole just before the moon rose to get us all in position. We settled in a small wooden built hide where we could view the animals quietly and discreetly. We sat incredibly still with the rifles ready. I sat scared and nervous. I did not want to see an animal get shot, but I now had a new understanding of the need for it. I am very squeamish when it comes to things like this, so this was a big deal sat there and witnessing how things are done. 
Jasper made it very clear what could and what couldn't be shot. He would only allow old animals that had been pushed out of a herd and were alone. The kudu's on his farm had suffered rabies and he was trying to increase the numbers, so kudu's were out. He would give the yes or no, making sure the right animal was shot. And if the right animal didn't come down for a drink, it would need to wait till the next day. I liked how strategic he was, reducing any unnecessary killing and ensuring he was not affecting the young herds or reproduction. As crazy as it sounds, he truly cared about the future of these animals and effecting them as little as possible.
In the total silence when you could hear your heart beating, the sounds of the bush came alive. The smallest rustle in the bushes made you jump, and Jaspers amazing eye sight once again caught sight of a lone zebra, an old stallion. It was time to get the rifles ready and as Rob lined the rifle up, he was not comfortable as the scope was not letting in enough light and meant he couldn't see clearly. Jasper had given Rob the low down before getting to the hide and one of the rules was that if you weren't comfortable with the shot, don't do it. Rob whispered that he could not see clearly, so Jasper handed him the 308 with a different, more clearer scope. The zebra had turned to look at us hearing the movement inside our hide. A few seconds later I jumped with the incredibly loud sound of the shot. It felt like my stomach had jolted into my mouth and I was in shock. My body shook and I tears burned my eyes as I tried to hold them back. But Rob had shot the zebra with complete accuracy and the zebra was down as quickly as could have been possible. 
We gave it a few minutes before going to see that everything was OK. We approached the zebra and I couldn't hold back any longer, the tears poured down my cheeks. Seeing this beautiful animal lying motionless on the ground had almost crippled me.

It is something I never want to witness again, but I was glad it had been done quickly and as humanly as possible. I am not a vegetarian, and still, this experience has not made me change and I will forever enjoy eating meat. It's just something me as a person can't handle seeing, but I am glad that Jasper was so professional about it and was strict about how it needed to be done. There was no ruthlessness about it.

After we winched the zebra onto the pickup, we went back to the farmhouse where the zebra would be gutted and hung, before given to his workers for food. Jasper reassured me during our trip back, telling me I should never feel ashamed about how I was feeling. He hoped that I understood why it needed to be done. I truly did! I just couldn't control my emotions. 
Once at the farmhouse, Jasper pulled Rob to the zebra to give him a serious talk about what he had done. Almost like a ceremony or ritual. The blood of the zebra would be smeared on his cheeks, forehead and nose to symbolise his first kill. To ensure he had respect and understanding of what that meant. Jasper spoke to him in a hushed tone, making him really think about what was sacrificed and to ensure he understood that life is a privilege. 
Putting aside everything, this was an incredibly special moment!!
Later, Rob told me he too felt incredibly emotional about what he had done, but that he felt privileged he was given the opportunity to do it and experience hunting in such a controlled manner.

I have a real respect for farmers and even though the experience was difficult for me, I feel it has really educated me about the world of farming and hunting. It is not all bad, if done in the right way.

Our week with Jasper, Andi and Achi, was coming to an end. It felt as though we had all grown together so much over our week together. We had a great time, laughing, joking, chatting, and just getting to know one another. 
Jasper is a truly inspirational man and we were so privileged to have had the opportunity to get to know him. We had a true Namibian experience in the bush with a man that felt like family. I don't know if he will ever know how much this week had meant to us! 

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Namibia 3, Etosha NP!

We headed into Grootfontein where we could stock up on supplies and finally buy Rob a cheap phone as he had lost his in Senegal. It was about time he got one and they had a good one on offer. Grootfontein seemed like a really nice town, but we didn't hang around as we wanted to see the 60 ton Hoba Meteorite that was just west of the town. 

We arrived and bought our tickets to see the meteorite. We wondered up the path and eventually came to this massive block of metal and rock in the middle of stairs surrounding it. At first it seemed like an ordinary rock in the centre of a circular staircase surrounding it, but when looking closely the beauty of it unfolded. The shining colours of metal and rock came alive. It was now not only a rock, but a swirling, molten like metal under my feet as I climbed on top of it. When I started thinking of how impressive this rock was, you could really take in the beauty of it. It is the largest known meteorite (as a single piece) and the most massive naturally occurring piece of iron known on Earths surface.

We then headed straight for a campsite outside Etosha National Park for the night so we could get up early and enter the park with the whole day to explore. It was called Sachsenheim Guest Farm and only 25km outside the park, so it was a good place to stop. It was extremely quiet with us being the only people at the sight, besides a very cute Labrador cross who kept us company all night. It was a old black labby that was so well fed, you could almost use his back as a table, but he was lovely and insisted on cuddles regularly. We decided to whip out the travel monopoly and it all started getting very competitive. It was great fun, but the sun soon went down so we tallied up the scores to start making some dinner. Much to Robs dismay, I won, but only just!!
The next morning we were up early ready to take on an exciting day. After a cold shower for me and hot shower for Rob (lucky bugger!), we headed for Etosha!

I was buzzing as I couldn't wait to enter and see this incredibly world famous national park that would display beautiful views of animals and the Etosha pan. We arrived at the gate and filled in our details before being instructed to go to the Namutoni Camp Site where we could pay our entry permits. It was a really quick process and learned the permits last for 24hours instead of a daily permit like most other parks which was great to hear! It was N$80 per day for Rob as a foreign visitor, N$60 per day for myself having a SA passport and N$10 per day for the vehicle. All in all about £7 a day. We were thrilled to hear it wasn't extautionate like a lot of the other parks and meant we would stay for 3 nights instead of the 2 we were originally planning on. 

Etosha is one of the oldest national parks, opening in 1907, and it was interesting to learn that the 4730km Etosha pan was originally a lake that dried up millions of years ago. The park boasts 114 mammal species, 360 bird species, 110 reptiles, and 16 amphibians. So with those odds, we were hopeful we would see some very interesting animals. 
With our permits paid for and armed with a map, bird book and animal book; we were ready! 

Within moments of entering the park we spotted a couple of steenbokkies hiding in the trees, and it was just the start of what was to come. We drove around the Fischers pan, before making our way to the Halali campsite where we would spend 2nights. Our first day in the park was fantastic and we saw loads of the usual springbok, wilderbeest, warthogs, giraffes, black-faced Impalas, Kudu's, gemsbok, zebras.... The list just continues, and don't even get me started on the birds!

That night we arrived into Halali Campsite, the name of German origin signifying within the parks borders sport hunting and needless killing of animals is over. It turned out to be a very basic setup where everyone is sandwiched in, with pitches being very close together. It was extremely busy and Rob and I discussed how we preferred the smaller parks as they felt more intimate. This large park had perfectly graded, large, gravel roads with a speed limit of 60km. People would bomb up and down those roads, and to be fair we ended up travelling faster than we would normally as the roads almost asked for it. The waterholes were often loaded with vehicles and you had to find a space where you could get a good view. But it was still an amazing experience, but was nice to compare the differences.

After boerewors and mielies on the braai, we walked to the Moringa waterhole which was beautifully lit up with a seating area to watch the game from the campsite. We sat amongst loads of tourists, mostly from Germany, waiting to see what would make our way down. After about half an hour, we heard the distinct chuckle of hyenas, which sounded incredibly close. And then a little while longer we noticed the pack of spotted-hyenas sheepishly running down for a drink. There must have been about 6 of them and they really are beautifully ugly animals! They are expert hunter who have high shoulders, sloping backs and large heads. What a privilege to see them. Unfortunately they didn't hang around for long as we all heard a rustle in the bushes. And all of a sudden a large black rhino wandered slowly, down for a drink. We were thrilled!! 

He slowly spent his time taking a drink and just enjoying chilling by the water. Then out of the corner of our eyes, we noticed another coming down, and then another. Wow, three rhinos blessing us with their presence. But, the original rhino wasn't as chuffed as us to see he had to share his watering hole and soon all hell broke loose and the two males were now having a good go at each other. Smashing their large heads and horns into each other. They were grunting and making quite a large noise, kicking up dust in the sand. This impressive demonstration of brute force carried on for ages. We were incredibly lucky to witness it!

We woke up early the next morning and waited at the gate ready to hit the road as it owned at 6:15am. We wanted to head out early in hope to see what the morning would offer us. We were soon in luck as Rob spotted two huge male lions enjoying the morning sun. They had beautiful bushy manes and wandered around showing us how huge they really were. We sat and enjoyed watching them for a while before they wandered off into the distance. Our next stop was the Rietfontein watering hole where we were once again blessed with lions. A female and a young male who was carrying around a leg and snacking on it when it felt like gave us more reason to sit back an enjoy the view. Even with the lions there we watched zebras, wilderbeest, kudu's, jackals and another rhino come down for a drink.

We spent the rest of the morning driving around seeing more animals. We even got to see a lioness with newly born cubs jumping and playing around her. They were incredibly cute with little spots on their fluffy coats. Unfortunately we were surrounded by cars and tour groups trying to get the best angle. Unfortunately the lioness was a little too far and very weary off all the fus to take a decent pic, so we decided to get out of there before getting totally trapped in by the other cars. 

We decided to head back to Halali camp where we would have lunch and hop into the pool before heading back out for a late afternoon drive. Back at the camp we watched a honey badger strategically open all the bins scavenging for scraps. It was actually a beautiful animal with fluffy paws and came right up to Rob, sniffing his legs. Everyone around us came over saying how dangerous they were and that they had a tendency to munch on men's balls for fun. Well, Rob straight away changed his mind about this animal as he thought it was really cute. Relief seemed to wash over his face as it turned around and left his balls in peace. 

After a lovely, refreshing swim and drying in the sun, we were ready to get back out there and see what else would come say hi to us. We headed back to the Reitfontein waterhole where there had been so much going on in the morning. We got there and watched all sorts of things come down for a drink, even seeing the lions we had seen in the morning. Eventually car after car arrived and we were sharing the waterhole with tour guides and rental cars. 
Eventually we noticed a red car. Now normally this would be no big deal, but in Namibia, everyone drives white cars! So far on our travels through, we have only noticed white cars or the land cruiser olive green... That is it. And now at this watering hole there was a red car, it had to be foreign! With our binoculars out we didn't have them pinned on the watering hole but on this red car. We had turned into stalkers and were now spying on these people. They had an English registration plate, we were now very excited! We gathered that as it was getting late, they had to be staying at Halali, so we would find them there and say hi.
As we drove out of the watering hole we tried to get their attention and give them a wave. They were looking incredibly weirded out at us as we frantically waved at them. 

Back at the camp site, to our amazement they came and found us. We were delighted to hear they had been following us all the way down west Africa and had been reading our blogs for info. They were called 'Can't stop for every Impala'. It turned out to be a very drunken evening as we swapped stories, forgot to cook, but not to drink; and after far too much chatting we had noticed it was 2 in the morning! The camp was quiet and dark, but we had been so busy chatting we hadn't even noticed. They are a lovely couple and we were so lucky to meet them. 

We were planning on getting up early like the day before, but unfortunately we were hanging. So it was a rather slow morning and we were only on the road after 8am. We didn't see to much and arrived into Okaukuejo Camp. Again we headed for the pool area to chill out in the heat of the day. As we were sat chilling out, a man came over and said "are you Rob?".... Weird! But he said he had been following our adventure all the way down and wanted to come wish us well. It always catches us off guard when people seem to know about us. You kind of just assume the family and friends follow us. But he was from Cyprus, and in Namibia for a short holiday. A really nice guy and we should have bought him a drink, but we were a bit shocked and taken a back. People actually are interested in our Africa experience... 

That night we went to the watering hole at the camp again were blessed with seeing beautiful animals. A lion, rhinos, jackals, giraffes and elephants all game down for a drink! It was so peaceful as we watched all the animals enjoy drinking. 
Etosha had treated us well and we absolutely loved it! It's definitely a must if you are heading to Namibia!

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Namibia 2

Rob and I were on own for the first time in many years, after living with Robs parents who so kindly put us up to help save for this trip of a lifetime. We were both feeling excited and nervous to see how we would cope, just the two of us.

We decided it would be the end for us travelling in Zambia as it was to date, the most expensive country we had travelled in. Food in the larger grocery stores was the same price as in the UK. Diesel was equivalent to £0.75 and after our big expenses with the car, we were ready to move onto the cheaper Namibia and spend more of our remaining money there. Namibia had really captured our hearts, so we were excited to go back and see the rest of what it had to offer.

We arrived at the Zambian side of the border, had our passport and carnet stamped out really quickly. Then onto the Namibian side where it too took incredibly quick. Had our passports and carnet stamped in and then another fee for road tax at N$242 (£12). It all took about half an hour and we were through. It really does help when the borders are well laid out, sign posted and of course, when know what they are doing!

We went straight to the Caprivi Houseboat Lodge where we enjoyed meeting Rachel and meeting the dogs the first time we were in Namibia. Here we could chill out, get some washing done the next day before heading into town in search of a leisure battery for the broken one we were currently using. 
Our leisure battery had given up the ghost quite early into our travels, so we had bought another ordinary car battery (as we were unable to buy a leisure battery in central Africa) to power our lights and keep the fridge going when we had the solar panels connected during the day. But it would only last a matter of hours, so we weren't able to buy any fresh food, because we couldn't keep it cold in the fridge, and of course that meant no cold beers! A huge problem for the likes of Rob!!!
But recently our actual car battery was no longer keeping its charge, so to start the car, Rob would have to link the main battery to our second battery to get it started. This meant we needed a new battery of some sort, obviously a leisure battery would be the most ideal, where we could replace the broken battery with the 2nd car battery we were using and then hook up the leisure one. 

After chatting to the guys at the Caprivi Houseboat they informed us we should have a good chance at finding one in town. So we headed off in search of one, and to our surprise we were in luck! N$1842.50 (£90) later, we had a battery and seed net in tow. Some how we had survived the whole of Africa without a seed net, but Rob was now adamant we needed one. A kid in a candy store was more like it, and dragging him away was harder than ever! But at least he did finally agreed we didn't need anything else! For now that is! 
We've spent £1500 on parts and maintenance for the car!!! That's a big chunk out of our total budget and some of the reason we've had to eliminate other countries! So we are hoping that's it for a long time!! She's done really well, but gosh she's been expensive!
We got back to the lodge and sat enjoying a cold beer overlooking the river. A fantastic afternoon, with a very happy Rob. Everything was now working perfectly!

The next day we headed for Nambwa campsite inside the Bwabwata National Park in the Susuwe Triangle. After paying the park entry fee of N$90 (£4.50) per person (a much better fee than 25 USD in Zambia... That's before you've even camped there!) we were in. The music was turned off, seat belts off, and speed reduced to about 10-15km so we could try our best to spot animals and birds in the wild! This was awesome. There's something about entering a national park. Immediately you relax and all the normal stresses of modern life just vanish! It's just you, your car, the sound and smells of the wild and the bush. The great thing is it's not like a zoo. The animals aren't caged in, they are wild, so you have to keep your eyes peeled because they aren't going to just jump out and give you a show. These animals are skittish and shy, you have to be quiet and view them in their natural environment. 

We saw elephant, Impala and kudus everywhere. Such beautiful animals. After driving for the morning we reached the campsite and paid our bill for the night at N$175 (£8.50) per person and made some lunch next to the river. We decided to head back out and drive to the horse shoe, which was a bend in the Kwando river where Elephants frequently visit. 
We headed back out and we were soon greeted by a massive herd of elephants and their little babies. They weren't entirely happy with us being there grunting and waving their heads to assert authority! We decided to hang around for about an hour while we waited for them to wander off so we could continue our journey to the horse shoe. But they had other ideas. We were surrounded, with elephants everywhere. You don't realise how big these creatures are until you are right next to them! 
After being sat there for over an hour with us watching these massive destructive animals tear down trees and munch everything in sight. We decided to leave them in peace and return to the campsite. The horse shoe will have to wait for the next day.

That afternoon we spend our time flicking through the bird book and trying to put names to all the different kinds, that were jumping and chirping around us. It was bliss! We went to bed early after being told the hippos come out of the water at night and to be careful of them. We were asleep within moments after our epic first day in the park. All through the night we were woken by the rustling of the trees around us, and as we peered out of our tent, there was nothing. We were then woken for the last time at about 4:30am and this time when we peered out, there was a great big elephant wondering around our car picking and breaking the leaves of the tree next to our car. It was literally within touching distance of us, and because we were in our roof tent, we were at eye level with him. We sat incredibly still, hoping he wouldn't hear us or notice us watching him. The last thing we wanted to do was upset him. Our hearts were racing and we were in total awe of this fascinatingly massive animal! What a great thrill that evening was!

The next morning we woke up early and headed straight for the horse shoe where we would enjoy our breakfast observing the morning activities. There was only a few birds pottering about and Impala enjoying the morning sun. We drove around the rest of the park and decided we would return in the afternoon before heading out the park. We saw loads of impalas and Kudu's, and the odd elephant. We arrived back at the horse shoe, but there wasn't much going on. We decided to have some lunch and hang around for the next hour to see if anything came down for a drink. But just as we were about to get ready and leave. Elephants started descending on the river. We were shocked as to how many there were. 20, 30, 50, 70, 100..... Over 100 were all drinking, swimming, playing and just having a great time enjoying the water in the sun. We were amazed and sat there feeling like the luckiest people around. Eventually we had to get going as we needed to start heading out the park to find somewhere to stay for the night. We edged passed them as quietly as we could, but they were still not happy with us. The little ones were around and they were being very protective. The road was a sand track and the only way we could drive was in low range, so if an Ellie decided it was gonna have us, we were going nowhere quickly! We edged more forward and this one Ellie was not happy. Flapping its ears and waving his trunk around. I think it's the first time I've ever seen Rob scared! Our beast of a car would be no match against this larger giant! Eventually Rob just put his foot down and quickly (well... as quickly as you can go in low range) drove past him. And all of a sudden we both breathed out a sigh of relief. We made it out alive, and Daisy was still in one piece! It was awesome!

That night we stayed in Kwando Lodge, very close to Namushasha were we stayed last time we were in Namibia. Well, it definitely wasn't as nice as Namushasha, with its green grass, personal ablution block and braai stands, but it was more a large space that big overlanding groups would utilise. We still enjoyed a drink overlooking the Kwando river before heading back to our very basic campsite were we enjoyed yet again a lovely braai and chatting the night away. 

After leaving the campsite the next morning, we passed the Namushasha heritage village and decided to go check it out. The guide would show us around a typical village setting and explain how they did things then and now, and the trade they would specialise in. The ladies would learn how to weave baskets and the men would make tools, weapons with metal or learn how to carve wood. It was incredibly interesting but something was tickling the people that worked there as they were all laughing and giggling as they demonstrated some of the things they do in their villages. 
They demonstrated a court hearing where people would bring their issues to the elders. They re-enacted two ladies that had disagreements with an arrangement they had made for one to look after some chickens. It was supposed to be a serious display of how it would be on real life, but their acting skills weren't that good and everyone was laughing at how the elders were pretending to reprimand these ladies. It was hilarious! 
They then demonstrated some of the local songs as they played their traditional instruments while signing and dancing. And then the medicine man started doing his dance, climbing the trees ad circling the others. The giggles and laughing continued, and eventually they had us laughing as well! We ended our tour with the medicine man telling us we were of good health and that we would continue to have safe travels in Africa. 
Totally weird tour and not sure how much of it was true as they all laughed while doing all their demonstrations. But we had got to laugh at them laughing, so all in all, a happy experience!

We headed towards Divundu where we would find a campsite after stocking up on food and drinks. We arrived at Mobola and was pleased to hear camping was N$90 per person, on the river front with braai, sink, electric and shower. Perfect! It was absolutely stunning here with birds chirping, hippos calling at night and just total tranquility! We ended up staying two nights here and enjoyed exploring the island across a swinging bridge. A beautifully set bar on the island opened at 5:30pm, just in time to watch the sun setting over the river. The sunsets are just more and beautiful every time we see them.

We headed for Rundu where we wondered around town and enjoyed the Namibian feel! Definitely falling more and more I love with this country! The people are so friendly!
We found a campsite in town called Sarasungu, but unfortunately this was really not that nice. There was great grass and electric and braai grill, but there just was nothing amazing about it. The bathrooms were far away and then they didn't flush!!! Can you believe I had to use a bucket!? In Namibia!? 
Rob and I laughed as it was actually quite a nice place in comparison to what we had settled for in central Africa. The bathroom was even clean, there was a toilet, running water, and a shower... And I still moaned! We had been seriously spoilt while being in Namibia! We had so easily just slipped back into the normal luxury camping we were used to at home! We laughed and reminded ourselves how lucky we really were! It's those crazy, unglamorous, unpredictable times that made us truly love this experience. 

Our next stop was Roys Camp, but on our way down we were stopped at the foot and mouth road block. I was the typical stupid tourist and told Rob we will be fine and wouldn't be stopped for our meat. Well, we were stopped and a Rob was able to do a 'I told you so!'. But luckily the guy said he was happy for us to cook our meat on the side of the road and could then continue travelling onwards with all our meat in tow. So there we were, in the baking sun, cooking all our meat; a little sad we wouldn't be able to braai it! 

We eventually arrived at Roy's Camp which was a quirky place with junk used as decoration and revamped to look authentic. It was a great place! There was a little pool with an old bathroom tub as a water feature. There was a really cool vibe about this place so we decided two nights it had to be! 
While enjoying a beer, we noticed an old Land Rover pull into the parking area. It was definitely an overlander! And then we noticed the foreign number plate... It was British as well! We got far to excited for own good and called out to her asking if she was from England. Her name was Amily and she had been travelling with her dog along the east coast for the past 18months and now starting to make her way up on the west. She was so brave doing it on her own! She was lovely and we enjoyed chatting with her and getting to know her a little. 

The next morning we chatted a little more before she hit the road again. 
I decided that the best way to fill my day was to transform my African dress I got made in Congo, that turned out nothing like what I expected, into a skirt. It did take all day, but I'm pretty happy with my invention as its so easy to wear around camp. Yip, I'm pretty impressed with myself and my new skirt! At least it's not sitting there gathering dust anymore. 

That night we met two travellers guiding a group of French tourists around Namibia. They were brilliant to talk to and we got to know a little about how they got into the tourist game and even more amazing; that they were still loving it! They enthusiastically told us about things to go and see in Namibia. Their passion and love for their country oozed out of them. It was great fun while we swapped stories and chatted about how people that haven't travelled to these countries, can't quite grasp being in the bush, with wild animals around. They had to convince them over end over that these animals are dangerous and going for the routine morning or evening jog in the wild on your own was probably not advised. And of course African time always drives people mad! To be fair, sometimes it still drives us mad! They told us how they loved educating people on African life and show them how different life is here. Fantastic couple, with incredible jobs. 

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Zambia 2

We had just said our goodbyes to the parents, who had left for Botswana and then on to Johannesburg in South Africa to drop off their hired car (Bushlore) and catch their aeroplane back to England. We were left with just the 4 of us, and gosh, did it seem quiet. But there was no time to dwell on our loss as we had a day of spring cleaning ahead of us. 
We got cracking with the clothes washing and got those hung up in the heat of the day so that they could dry quickly in the sun. Next was the car. We unpacked all the boxes so we could give the interior a proper dusting out. It's times like this when a vacuum cleaner would be amazing! We wiped down all the surfaces, and the interior started looking a bit like our Daisy we once knew. We even gave our seat covers a wash and they came up looking amazing! We had forgotten they were grey as we had gotten used to the dull brown they had become. 
We were chuffed and a sense of new, made us happy!

That night we enjoyed a calzone pizza the boys had made for us with the little ingredients we had left. They made the base with flour, water and yeast, they added the tinned passata, green pepper, onion, cheese and tinned corned beef. After it came off the braai, it looked amazing!!! And it tasted amazing too. 

The next morning was time to look at the cars, while Cat and I did more washing. This time it was the bedding that needed doing, the hardest to try clean in a bucket!!! But we did well and the camp was once again smelling of roses from the detergent. The smell however, was eventually disguised by the smell of oil, cars and sweaty boys! Rob checked and adjusted the rest of the wheel bearings. Charles did the same and then fixed a few of his oil leaks. 
We still hadn't been to the shops as their wasn't any around us, so that night it was pizza again on the menu. This time we had tuna, onion and cheese and it was once again a fantastic bodged meal! 

(Yay, clean sheets and pillow cases!)

The next morning we needed to get to Livingstone where we could hopefully buy a clutch slave cylinder and then a drive shaft. So it was a bit of a jerky drive to Livingstone, but we got there and arrived at Foleys Africa garage where we met Nick the manager. After giving him the list of things we needed, his initial response was a flat out NO! They didn't have anything we needed and as it was a long weekend coming up, the soonest he could try get it to us was in 4-5days time. Luckily we had time, so it was no biggy. But after rummaging in his garage he started pulling out everything we needed, including wheel bearings, wiper blades, an air filter and a fuel filter. Nick took off a drive shaft off of a new 110 defender he had lying around which Rob was adamant would work, but Nick wasn't so sure. Luckily, low and behold it worked perfectly.
Charles also needed a few bits and was lucky enough to have everything he needed. He needed a vacuum pump as it was leaking oil, a few other things like wiper blades, an air filter and a hub nut spanner as we were separating and had been using Robs up until now.
We paid the hefty bill for our Daisy of 3056 Kwachas (£235) and went on our way to Shoprite and then back to the Livingstone Waterfront where the boys could fit all their bits and bobs onto the cars.

Charles and Rob got up early and cracked on with the cars. They were having a great time with beers as support.. Yes they were drinking at 9am in the morning!!! Crazy boys!! After they were done, it was only fair that we spent the afternoon lazing around the pool and then later a drink at the bar, in hope to join the wedding party that had been mulling around the grounds. We ended up meeting three bush pilots who had just finished a job and were staying in the lodge before making their way back to Lusaka. Well they ended up buying us drink after drink and it all started becoming very drunken. So we all decided to buy 5pizzas to share between us all. One of the pizzas included crocodile meat which the 4 of us where incredibly intrigued by. I suppose we were all a little disappointed as it ended up tasting a bit like turkey, with the texture between chicken and tuna. But the rest of the pizzas where delish! Cat and I had to get in there early and we had to make sure we ate quickly with the five boys eating as if it was their last supper. Cat even started saving a few pieces by her side to guarantee she got to try every pizza. 
Charles and Cat quickly went back to the cars to get the peach moonshine Andrew had given to us while we were in Angola. This stuff was lethal! Even looking at it, you'd know it was no off the shelf liquor. It was in a Lipton ice tea bottle with the lid duck taped to keep the alcohol from evaporating! This was going to be a messy night.
Cat and I were not feeling up to getting drunk as we had booked a microlight ride over the vic falls in the morning, and the last thing we wanted to do was ruin it. We had to be at reception at 6:45, so we were boring and called it a night.
The boys eventually returned at about midnight. Rob was a little worse for ware but still awake , which is always a good sign. He told me about one of the pilots who was sick over the edge into the Zambezi river. Well, I recon Cat and I made the right choice by going to bed!

The next morning was our microlight session. We all woke up buzzing and couldn't wait to get going. Rob and David (Cats dad) did it a couple of weeks before and absolutely raved about it! We were even more lucky as our parents called us to say they would pay for the three of us! It probably would have been something we wouldn't have done because of the cost, and now we were lucky enough to have a go. Again, our parents were still spoiling us rotten!
We got on to the mini bus which took us to the landing strip. We signed all the formalities and Cat went first. They called her to the microlight and she was soon strapped in, with her microphone on and helmet all buckled up. Soon she was motoring down the runway and off she went up into the sky and disappeared out of sight.
I was getting so excited as it was me next. They ushered me to the microlight and I met my pilot who seemed absolutely lovely. He was a Zimbabwean and an ex-military pilot and I knew I was in good hands. He helped me put on the microphone so that we could talk throughout the flight and then secured my helmet. We were soon off and lining ourselves onto the runway. Eventually he opened the throttle and this little go-carting engine was motoring was helping us motor down the runway and soon we were up in the air, and pilot instructed me to put out my arms so I could really feel the wind. I was flying and felt incredibly free. Soon we were up high and I had a 360 degree view of the land. With Zimbabwe on one side and Zambia on the other, it was magnificent. I could even see the curvature of the earth in the distance. No words could describe what I was seeing. 
The morning sun was beating down on the land and reflecting off the massive Zambezi river. On the Zambian side I could see all the amazing resorts lining the river, and on the Zimbabwean side was national game reserve, so the land was untouched by man. In the distance was the incredible spray jumping into the air as an effect from the mighty Victoria Falls. We were headed that way and my pilot was pointing all sorts of things out to me and informing me about the erosion the river was creating and soon the Victoria falls would be even wider than it is today.
We arrived at the falls and I was in total awe at what I was seeing. My heart was racing, not in fear, but in total happiness. At that moment I felt like I was the luckiest person around. I was seeing the mighty Victoria falls in its total beauty and glory. Not many people get to see it like I was seeing it. The vast amount of water bellowing over the cliff was ginormous and incomprehensible to my tiny mind. We circled it a few times and the river that flowed after it created a winding gorge that displayed beautiful colours. It was phenomenal!
Eventually we turned back and went over the Zimbabwean game reserve in hope to see some animals down below. We were lucky and saw elephant, zebras, kudus, monkeys, buffalo, and the most impressive from up high were the hippos. You could really see the massive size they were with their silhouettes in the water. They were so cute as they rested their heads on each other while relaxing in the water. 
Eventually my time was up and we were edging towards the runway. I was expecting a great thump as we landed, however it was smooth and easy. It was the greatest experience and I could not recommend it more. I suddenly knew now why Rob was boasting about it so much! This experience is like non other!

Charles landed and we all seemed to have the same opinion! We had all had the best time ever! Charles and Cat even got to fly theirs as their pilots let them have a go. It was a no brainier and we all needed the video as evidence and a way to remember what we had seen. 
Unfortunately their computer was having problems and it took a couple of hours to eventually all get our footage, but we were all in good spirits, so nothing was going to effect that!

That afternoon we headed into town to check out the Livingstone museum which would give us some insight into the history of the falls and its people. While walking in town, we passed two children holding decorated boxes. Cat immediately recognised these boxes and stopped them to ask the children about them. These boxes were gifts for under privileged children that don't have toys and things of their own. Cats mom, in the UK, helps with this Shoe Box charity in collected toys and gifts to rap up and send to Africa . These kids had received these presents and they were holding them with such pride and joy. It was great to see and Cat was even more thrilled to see for herself the result that these charities actually provide for children around the world. We wished Lesley (Cats mom) could have seen the smiles on their faces. 
We arrived at the museum and it was huge. Lots of reading and lots of memorabilia from David Livingstone who founded the falls. It's a great museum, just make sure to give yourself lots of time to go through it all. Very interesting!!!

The next day we decided to head back to JollyBoys backpackers as we needed to access some wifi. Charles and Cat needed to plan a route for their onward journey, after knowing what their financial situation was. And I needed to look at living opportunities for either Namibia or South Africa. And of course to check bank statements after our costly car issues.
After turning up we met some guys who were travelling from Mozambique. They were cousins and had just finished high school. This would be their cap year. So we got chatting to them and they seemed like great guys and we enjoyed getting to know them. 

The next couple of days we got to know them very well. The boys helped them make some indicator light casings from Windhoek draft cans; but for some crazy reason it worked really well. Got to love the African bodge job! And they helped move their roof tent so that it would open to the rear of the car instead of to the side. They were all having great fun fiddling with the cars and us girls got to crack on with our research.

(The boys had put Cat to work and got her sew their broken fly net on their tent)

Cat and Charles finally came up with a plan and they would visit the rest of Zambia, making their way up to Malawi. From Malawi they would head into Mozambique, Swaziland, up into the Kruger National park in SA (also allowing Charles to change over onto his South African passport, meaning less visa fees), then Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and then South Africa. So this was where the 4 of us would separate. Rob and I just don't have the money to join them and we would be cutting our journey short. We are incredibly jealous (particularly for Malawi!! Always somewhere I've wanted to go!) but such is life. 
We will just be doing Namibia, Botswana and then South Africa. 
So this would mean we needed to make our last night together a special one.

We had met a guy that managed a small charity called Bhubesi Pride that brought Rugby into Africa ( They travel through teaching the locals how to play and offer some kit to help. They were going to play against the Livingstone team and immediately Rob was keen to join in. He played rugby back at home and was missing it so much, so this would be the perfect opportunity to get stuck in. They were delighted for him to play and we even got Charles, David and Robert (the guys travelling from Mozambique) to join in. We drove to the rugby pitch and they all got stuck in teaching the young children how to pass the ball and demonstrate some tactics before playing a game of touch rugby with them. The kids were loving it and their skills were really good. 
Eventually the older guys arrived to play sevens against them and they all looked incredibly professional with matching uniforms. These guys meant business!! Already our guys had been running around the pitch for an hour in the blazing heat, so they all seemed a little tired. But they started playing with all the energy they could muster. When our boys had the ball they were doing great, but when the Livingstone team got the ball, our guys had no chance! These guys were as fast as lightening!!! They moved and the African athletic ability showed! 
The Livingstone team won by 2points and my word were they great sportsmen. It was great to watch and they were thrilled that we'd showed up. Apparently it's really tough to get a team as they always get let down with no shows. 
After the game we all enjoyed a few drinks with the team and it seemed as though everyone was loving us being there. Eventually we had to say cheers to the Livingstone team and head back to camp to start making some dinner. 

It was our last night together with Cat and Vharles, so it was going to be a good one!! The shots were out and we were all getting very merry!! We laughed like crazy that night and were getting increasingly drunk! We still hadn't eaten anything and although the chicken was on the braai, it hadn't been properly lit in our drunkenness. We were all dying off one by one. My Rob was first, of course, as David carried him to the tent and tucked him in. Then it was David and soon we had lost Robert who we later found passed out in the bathrooms. Cat and I cleaned up the camp fire as best we could before realising Charles was also nowhere to be found. He too was in the bathrooms keeping Robert happy. All of a sudden it had turned a little disastrous. So Cat and I poured an amarula each and headed up to the view point at the top of the resort to leave them to it. We sat chatting the night away until Charles joined us, shocked himself as to how drunk he was. It was a fantastic night and one we will always remember!!!

The next morning everyone was feeling a little fragile, particularly Robert, who had obviously never drank as much as we had the night before. He was still throwing up the next morning.
But the rest of us continued our morning and ordered a full English breakfast from the bar and would spend our last morning eating together. It soon crept up on us, but it was time to say goodbye. 
A sad moment but in high spirits that they would have an amazing trip ahead of them. They still had so many countries to do and I was glad they get to go do them. It would be strange not traveling with them, but our next chapter would be a new kind of adventure.

Love you guys always! Travelling with you has been AWESOME!!!!! Looking forward to catching up around the camp fire somewhere in South Africa...