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. 



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