Stuck in the Mud

Namibia (2015): Part 1 – Cape Town to Etosha National Park

Another year and another trip up north! This time up through Namibia to Etosha National Park, across the Caprivi Strip (now called the Zambezi Region) and finally into Botswana for another visit to Chobe National Park before heading home.

A map showing our planned route through namibia and Botswana

Our planned route through Namibia and Botswana

We left Cape Town on 02 August 2015. Day one was a very short drive along the coastal R27 to our first over-night stop at Draaihoek Lodge near Elands Bay. We’d learnt from our previous trips that an early start wasn’t an option. This time, with only 220km to travel to get to Draaihoek, we had plenty of time to pack the car and trailer. A good decision and we got away feeling relaxed and without any problems in the early afternoon.

Draaihoek Lodge was fantastic. They put us in their Manor House which they felt would be more suitable for wheelchair access. Very nice…no steps, big rooms and easy access to the bathroom and toilet.

It didn’t take us long to settle in before going to sit on the verandah outside the restaurant. Pippa took a walk across the dunes to have a look at the beach and the sea. I kept the waiters company and had a little whiskey while watching the sun set. An excellent start to our trip!

A view of Draaihoek Lodge from the dunes

A view of Draaihoek Lodge from the dunes

A view of the ocean and dunes with the sun starting to set

The sun starting to set

We set off fairly early the next morning from Draaihoek on the next leg of our trip. Another easy day’s drive with only 550km to our next over-night stop at Oewerbos River Camp on the South African side of the Orange River near the Vioolsdrif Border Post.

We arrived at Oewerbos early in the afternoon after an uneventful but very pleasant journey. Neither of us had been on the route from Elands Bay to Clanwilliam before and we both enjoyed that section of the scenic drive very much.

I’d wanted to book a Riverside Tent at Oewerbos. The owner said that a chalet would be more suited for wheelchair access though. A pity. The chalet was comfortable and was accessible but the view was limited. Not a big deal…we were only there for 1 night and could still enjoy the views from the deck at the restaurant.

A view of our chalet at Oewerbos

Our chalet at Oewerbos

Pippa enjoyed her afternoon wandering around the camp. There was plenty of bird life to keep her occupied and the views were beautiful.

We spent the evening on the deck outside the restaurant and were treated to a lovely view of the river with drinks in hand while the sun set. The owner made us a delicious Pizza for dinner and then it was off to bed for an early night. We were both looking forward to crossing the border into Namibia the next morning.

Pippa watching something in the river below the deck

Pippa with her eye on something below the deck

A view of the sunset across the river

Always a special time of the day especially with a view of the sun setting across the river!

We were up early and got to the border post by 7:30am. It took less than half an hour to get through the South African side but we had a problem with the Namibian customs. Pippa’s passport hadn’t been stamped by the South African official so they couldn’t let her through. We drove back to the gate but weren’t allowed beyond that in the car so Pippa had to walk back to the South African buildings to get her passport stamped. After that was done we went back to the Namibian authorities and were processed and allowed to go through. By then it was 9:00am.

Our next night’s stop was at Goibib Mountain Lodge which is less than 200km from the border along the B1 highway. We’d planned to do a bit of sightseeing and visit Ai Ais and the Fish River canyon on the way though. Only an extra 100km added to the trip so we should have had plenty of time. Unfortunately I didn’t research the route properly so the day didn’t quite pan out as planned!

We left the border post and followed Mrs Garmin’s instructions to head north on the B1. Both of us thought that we should have turned west at the border and taken the road next to the Orange River to Aussenkehr. We followed instructions though and kept going north. After 30km we decided that Mrs Garmin was wrong and taking us on a wild goose chase so we turned around and went back. Not a problem…we had plenty of time!

It didn’t take long to get back to take the Aussenkehr turnoff. Mrs Garmin though continued to insist that we do a U turn and go back north. I of course ignored her, confident that once she realised which way we were headed she’d find her bearings.

The road for the first 40km to Aussenkehr was good. It then suddenly deteriorated into a very uncomfortable, corrugated mess. We pressed on for a while but soon became concerned. We hadn’t seen any signs directing us to Ai Ais and Mrs Garmin by now seemed to be quite shrill in her insistence that we do a U turn. Eventually, worried that the trailer might break down again we decided to listen to Mrs Garmin and go back. She was very pleased that we did.

Two hours wasted and 150km extra travelling added before we got back to where we’d started. We had plenty of time left in the day though so still not a problem!

We carried on north on the B1 for about another 20 km before being instructed by Mrs Garmin to turn left onto a gravel road. The road was quite rough and the scars of our previous trailer problems had me feeling a bit anxious again. We carried on fairly slowly and after about 70km came to a T junction to connect with the canyon road. More confusion! Mrs Garmin told us to turn right but there was a huge official sign indicating that Ai Ais was to the left. Decisions, decisions!

We ignored Mrs Garmin again and followed the directions on the sign. We hadn’t gone far before I started to worry about directions again. Mrs Garmin wanted us to do a U turn but the road was far too narrow. We carried on for a while with me becoming increasingly nervous. We then rounded a corner and came across an area which was wide enough for us to do a U turn. I didn’t know where we were and didn’t want to take the chance of carrying on so back we went. We later found out that we were only about 5km from Ai Ais at that point. Oops!

We followed the canyon road back past the junction where we’d come in. Mrs Garmin was happy again and at some point told us to turn left into a non-existent road. I wasn’t amused and re-programmed her to take us to the famous Canyon Roadhouse (also called Canon Roadhouse).

Not long after that we rounded a corner and came across a Kudu writhing in the road and a twin cab vehicle parked on the side with the driver and his family standing next to the car. We stopped to see if we could help. The Kudu had apparently jumped out from thick bush in front of them and smashed into their windscreen. Fortunately they’d been travelling slowly. The windscreen was shattered but nobody was seriously hurt…just very shocked. We were all very distressed seeing the injured kudu. It was desperately trying to get onto its legs but I suspect it had damaged it’s spine and couldn’t get up.

The family were staying at Ai Ais. We found out from them how close we’d been to the resort before turning back! They said they’d go back there to call a game ranger to deal with the Kudu and to get assistance to have their hired vehicle replaced. They assured us that they’d be okay and told us to carry on. I felt uncomfortable leaving them like that but with no space in our car to take them back to Ai Ais there wasn’t much we could do anyway. We carried on and were relieved when a few minutes later another vehicle passed us heading towards the family. Hopefully they were able to give them a lift. I didn’t think the damaged vehicle could be safely driven.

A view of the Fish River Canyon from the road going to Canyon Roadhouse

A view of the Fish River Canyon from the road on our way to Canyon Roadhouse

We eventually arrived at the Canyon Roadhouse in the early afternoon. We had a light lunch and coffee and after a quick look around set off again for Goibib. Unfortunately by then we didn’t have much time left in the day so going back to try and find a viewing point and see the canyon wasn’t an option. That was a problem! Pippa was very disappointed and let me know it. I was as well but I was more frustrated and annoyed with myself for not having done enough research and preparation before we left cape Town. The Great Southern African Adventurer had screwed up badly!!

A view of the road to Goibib with a Sprinbuck crossing it.

On our way to Goibib

It was a relief when we finally got to Goibib later in the afternoon. The staff were friendly, the accommodation was excellent and we had a very pleasant dinner with Andre (the owner) and another couple from Cape Town. A nice end to an otherwise disappointing day.

We had another early start the next morning. Our next over-night stop was at Monteiro Self catering and Camping outside Windhoek where we met up with Neil and Liz (Pippa’s brother and sister-in-law). We stopped at Keetmanshoop on the way to get some provisions for dinner which wasn’t a great shopping experience.

Somewhere along the way between Keetmanshoop and Rehoboth Pippa recorded a comment in her diary that the Earth really is flat. A fitting description for the landscape through that section of Namibia. It was also along that stretch of the road that Pippa looked back and noticed that one of the trailer stabiliser legs was swinging from it’s bracket. We stopped to investigate and found that the nut holding the stabilisers in position had come loose and that the other leg had already fallen off somewhere along the way. I wasn’t going back to look for it…we could manage with one!

A view of some hills near Windhoek

Near Windhoek and an end to the Flat Earth section of Namibia!

We arrived at Monteiro early in the afternoon. The chalet was accessible once inside but had a high step to get in. It wasn’t the most luxurious chalet that we’ve ever stayed in but was comfortable enough.

A view of our parking area next to our chalet at Monteiro.

Parked next to our chalet at Monteiro.

Neil and Liz arrived later that afternoon. They’d had a serious breakdown outside Ghanzi on their way through Botswana. Fortunately, unlike me, Neil knows his way around engines and was able to identify the problem. He hitched a ride to Ghanzi to get cellphone reception and phoned his daughter (Trish) and gave her a list of parts and tools needed to repair his car. He then hitched a ride back to the car and set up camp on the side of the road.

Trish and her husband, Lyle, drove through the night from Johannesburg and reached Neil and Liz in the early hours the following morning. Lyle is also very mechanically minded and he and Neil set about fixing the car. Unfortunately they found that another part was needed. Somehow a spare was sourced in Namibia so Trish and Lyle drove across the border to Windhoek to collect that and then returned to complete the repairs. They then had to drive back home to Johannesburg. A round trip of about 3 000km done in just over 2 days…that’s commitment for you! Neil and Liz carried on with their trip to Swakopmund where they stayed for a couple of days before meeting up with us at Monteiro.

We had a very pleasant evening catching up with each others news. There was a bit of excitement when we tried to use the toaster and tripped the electricity for the whole resort. It took a while for the duty staff to find the fuse box and restore the electricity. We didn’t try the toaster again!

We were all up early the next morning to set off for Etosha. There was a bit of traffic to contend with getting through Windhoek but once through there it was open road. We made good time and arrived at Okaukuejo Camp early in the afternoon with only a couple of stops along the way for fuel and provisions. Mrs Garmin played up again but this time I had Neil to follow. She eventually recovered her bearings!

It was fairly quiet when we set up camp but that didn’t last long. The overland tour companies arrived later in the afternoon and we were soon surrounded by tents and tourists. Very different to the experiences that we’d enjoyed on our previous trips to Mana Pools and Moremi.

Later that afternoon we went to the famous floodlit waterhole. An interesting experience. There was quite a lot of game to view but I couldn’t help feeling that it was a bit like being in a zoo. The whole fence was lined with people. Very busy and very commercial. Some good photo opportunities though!

A lone jackal in rocky terrain

A lone Jackal in an expanse of rocky terrain

A Springbok drinking at the waterhole

A Springbok at the waterhole

A family of Giraffe having a drink

Evening drinks for the family

A view of a lone Giraffe

When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go!

A young Ellie in a hurry to get to the water

A young Ellie in a hurry to get to the water.

The young Ellie having a dust bath

Having a dust bath

A Jackal crouched and looking sly

Mr Sly!

A Jackal sniffing around and waiting for an opportunity

Sniffing around

A Giraffe at the waterhole with a reflection in the water

Golden hour reflection

A view of the sunset

Sunset

Back at camp we lit a fire and had a braai for dinner. It wasn’t long before a jackal sneaked in and tried to grab something off the table. Liz was out of her chair in a flash to chase it off…it didn’t have any doubt as to who was the boss and went off to look for easier pickings! 🙂

Our campsite was next to an ablution block so we had an endless stream of people passing us the whole evening, and at four o’clock the next morning one of the buses started up for an early departure. The passengers spent the next hour or so getting up, drinking coffee, packing their tents and talking at the top of their voices. Very distracting and very noisy. We didn’t have a restful sleep!

The next day we went out on a couple of drives but didn’t see a lot of game…a small herd of elephant, a couple of sleepy Lion and of course Springbok and Oryx.  The countryside was fascinating though. Very bleak and very grey. Every bush that we drove past was covered in a thick layer of dust.

An elephant dusting himself

Mid morning dusting

Two Elephant going in different directions

They don’t seem to know whether they’re coming or going!

A small family of Elephant on the march

Family on the march

Sleepy Lion

That evening was pretty much the same as the previous evening. Down to the waterhole, back to our campsite for a braai and dinner and lots more noise from the passing parade!

Oryx and Giraffe drinking at the waterhole

Oryx and Giraffe…can you spot the turtle?

Two Oryx bolting from the waterhole

Skittish Oryx

I think we were all quite relieved to pack up and leave Okaukuejo the next morning. We took a slow drive north to Namutoni Camp with a stop at Halali Camp to see what it had to offer. It looked very nice. Lots more shade at the campsite and even some grass to offer relief from the dust. Unfortunately access to the waterhole there was very difficult in a wheelchair so I stayed in the car while Pippa, Neil and Liz went to have a look. A nice outlook but no animals on view at that time of day.

Namutoni was much nicer than Okaukuejo. Bigger campsites, more shade and a bit of grass on the ground. It was a lot quieter as well.

The waterhole next to the camp was attractive with quite a lot of bush and grass around it. A welcome change from the grey, dusty landscape around Okaukuejo. There were hardly any animals on show though. I guess you can’t have it all.

A view of the waterhole at Mamutomi Camp.

Namutoni waterhole

A distant view of a Rhino near the waterhole

We were lucky to see a Rhino at a distance near the waterhole

We went for a drive around Fischer’s Pan the following morning and had a little more luck with our game viewing.

A Wildebeest

Wildebeest

A warthog

Warthog

A Kori bustard

Kori Bustard

We were especially lucky to see a Cheetah. He looked very lonely and bored wandering across that bleak, grey pan.

A Cheetah wandering across Fischer's Pan

He seemed unaware of us at first

A Cheetah amking eye contact with the camera

Then briefly made eye contact

Looked away again

The Cheetah yawning

Very boring out there!

We went back to Namutoni and had a wander around the Fort before going back to our camp where we spent the rest of the day and evening relaxing and preparing for the next leg of our trip through the Caprivi and on to Botswana and the Chobe National Park.

Pippa and I had gone to Etosha with high expectations. We’d both heard and read very good reports of other peoples experiences there. Unfortunately this trip wasn’t a great success and we were disappointed. We didn’t enjoy camping at Okaukuejo. Too big, too busy and too commercialised for our liking. Our game drives were generally unrewarding but understand that luck plays a big part in what one gets to see…someone else might have driven the same route an hour later and had a completely different experience. We’ll go back!

Next up: Our 6 nights in the Caprivi and then on to Chobe in Botswana.

 

4 thoughts on “Namibia (2015): Part 1 – Cape Town to Etosha National Park

  1. Duncan Gohl

    ……………pssst , writing this in tiniest font I can find………..

    You do know there is a MR Garmin you can ask ?

    1. Dave Gale Post author

      Thanks Derek. We should have followed garmin to the turn-off on the B1 highway but she lost her bearings on the Canyon road…probably my fault with the way I set it up.

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