It's time to drive the Koreans to Mariantal - they must take a bus to Cape Town then head home. We pack up and head on our way. Lots of horse and carriages in this part of Namibia. Mariantal isn't quite as far as we anticipated, and we had expected to just stay for the night. No chance – it is too small and a bit creepy. So we hit the store to make some lunch for the Koreans before leaving them at the bus stop. I'm playing chef in the back of the Landie, and it's getting a bit warm. I go to jump out and something goes terribly wrong.... In slow motion I tumble out and catch my foot in the slope of the road. Down she goes, excruciating pain... Sprained ankle. Oh crap. Turns out, Korean #1 is a physical therapist and prescribes ice, elevation, and rest. Yikes. Rest – we're finally going somewhere I can hike! We shall see.... we leave our friends at the local Wimpy and head towards Brukkaros. Brukkaros Mountain is an extinct volcano measuring 1,590 meters at its peak. It is in the form of a ring mountain and was formed when rising magma met ground water, superheated it and blew it up about 80 million years ago. Very exciting.
We arrive (per usual) just before sunset. The place is deserted, so we explore. There is one set of campsites below the mountain, but there is also a path climbing up. The Landie goes in low gear and we start climbing. And climbing. Up we go, and there is another site. No electricity or running water, but a killer view so we stay. Great sunset, gorgeous sunrise, and another night without a tent. We wake up to a local man asking for water. Turns out, this is a community run project and he just hiked about 20 km to get our money. Wow. He does that walk every day in this heat – incredible. He tells us that the place used to have many amenities, but locals stole all of the pipes, electric lines, and fixtures so now it is very run down. This is pretty awful, particularly since this is about it for many miles around. The town of Berseba is very small and feels a bit like a military camp. The mountain could be such an asset and it is not being respected. Shame. We also learn that the crater is a short hike away. I wrap my ankle and give it a shot. Very slow going, and loads of rock but we make it. It's lovely, and starting to re-vegetate. But it's getting hot – so we turn back. And get very, very lost. I spent the entire walk looking down and avoiding falling into holes – not navigating. We end up walking/limping twice as far coming back and by the time we reach camp I am ready to sit. For a while! We enjoy a nice breakfast, break camp, and head to the coast to check out Luderitz!
I awake to Swakopmund on a Sunday – very quiet, dreary day and the water is 60 degrees. We end up at a pub enjoying a few Windhoeks and watching rugby. A day of rest. Swakop is a nice town, with a German feel. The next day we are off to Sessriem and Sossusvlei to see the dunes and Deadvlei. The Namib landscape is incredible, and we enjoy a pretty uneventful ride. Along the way we made a stop at Moose MacGregor's famed bakery in Solitaire. Best apple pie for thousands of miles :) But that isn't all! In addition to the piece of apple pie as big as my face, we also enjoyed a brownie, blueberry strudel for good measure! The 'town' of Solitaire is a tiny cluster including the bakery, a guest lodge, petrol station, and a general dealer but it is an oasis in the middle of the desert and a great place to stop and refuel. With full bellies we get on the road to find our campsite – Sossusvle Lodge. It's lovely and we are lucky to have a nice big tree to shade us. There is also a pool – right here in the desert – and it feels like a sin to have so much water! I indulge frequently :) We even have a pair of resident owls watching over us. Incredible.
The crew is up early the next day to make sunrise at the dunes. What a climb! The dunes are beautiful, and as the sun comes up they are bathed in the most magical light. I could have sat up there all day, but we had Deadvlei to see before the scorching part of the day. We all jump down the dune and back into the Landie. Deadvlei is a bit of a hike, but totally worth it despite the oppressive heat. Deadvlei means 'dead marsh', and it is a graveyard of trees. Petrified in the salt pan, they stand like ancient sentinals in stark contrast to the surrounding dunes. They are believed to be more than 900 years old. I find one with a little bit of shade and curl up for a cat nap before trudging back across the pans. When I awake, I find my friends are doing the same :) It's a magic place, and one I highly recommend. Just be sure to carry some water and cover up from the sun – it's pretty intense!
The sun is quickly dropping, so we begin looking for that 'perfect pulloff' for wild camping. We see a valley and a relatively clear path, so the South African pulls off. It's a rocky road, but the valley is beckoning. We make it down with no real issue, and assess our new home. A short walk reveals rhino prints, leopard tracks, hyena prints, and a myriad of other animal activity. Great - looks wonderful! I'm not nervous.... (ha) But we decide, irregardless, to sleep under the stars and forego our tents for the night. The boys invented a new game - rock bowling, so we play a bit until the sun sets. Then its fire time, and star gazing.
The night passes without any attacks, and I actually sleep pretty well. No scorpions - it's all relative right? We pack up and head to the Skeleton Coast, and it feels like we are driving on the moon.I never thought vast nothingness could be so beautiful! On our way down the coast to Swakopmund we pass an abandoned oil rig, shipwrecks, flamingos, and the Cape Seal Reserve - the smelliest place on earth, where I was 'lucky' to witness the birth of a baby seal. I'll spare you the details! Yikes. We had lunch at the only place possible - and I finally see a meerkat! Oh, and it also climbed on my head :) The drive was going great until just after lunch, on a quiet, desolate stretch of road we run out of petrol. I cannot imagine a worse place to have this happen. So, we either sit and wait for a car to come by or walk the 8+ kilometers to the next town in the blowing sand. We decide to wait. Two cars pass without stopping, but finally a truck pulls up and the South African hops in the back with the gas can. Phew - saved again! The rest of us await his return. An hour later, we are back on the road and arrive in the civilization of Swakopmund after dark - and just in time for sushi - what a treat :)
As we drive through the entrance of Etosha National Park 8 hours later, Korean #1 points and asks “What's that?” And low and behold peeking out of the bush is our first black rhino! Incredible. Such a prehistoric creature, just hanging out beside the main road. I have a feeling I'm going to like this place! And my first impression was not wrong. The campsite was wellmaintained, and we were lucky to get a shady spot next to the water hole. There was a gorgeous pool and plenty of places to sit and observe the wildlife by the water hole. There were plenty of tourists, but mostly people were considerate and didn't sit on the bench next to you yammering in loud voices – thank goodness! Most of the time was spent sitting at the water hole and taking intermissions to jump in the pool. Elephant, the sentinal giraffe, zebra, springbok, gemsbok (oryx), jackal, and more animals than I can count visit this oasis. There is even a park store complete with ice and Amarula – our days are made!
One night, on the way back from the ablutions in the pitch dark, I heard a very loud roar. I freeze.... Yes, that was a lion. I hurry back to the campsite and find it empty... Oh no... where is everyone? Did they get dragged away by a pride of lion? A quick look shows no blood, so I move on to the waterhole, where a crowd has gathered to watch as a pride of lion proceed to devour a baby giraffe. Pure carnage, but I can't look away. It's incredible. There is a hierarchy of who eats first, and the lion take turns tearing away chunks of giraffe flesh (graphic ay? :) While the lions feast, the jackal linger and attempt to steal a few bites. An amusing game to watch. Meanwhile, at the watering hole – a bull elephant shows up to drink, alongside a few thirsty black rhino. A great day at Etosha and I stayed so long I nearly fell asleep on the bench right next to the hungry lions.... oops! Our next stop is Damaraland, and I think we are all a little apprehensive about wild camping after seeing all of this wildlife! Ah well, off we go!
We were sad to say goodbye to Dqae, but we had a long road ahead to Namibia. We did a quick overnight in Toosha at a friend of the South African's, and brought with us another Kalahari rain. The next day we set out for Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. It's a cute city, but as I had imagined most of the 2 million Namibians living here, it was much smaller than I thought. It doesn't take long to wander around and get your bearings, which was nice since I was transitioning from the desolation of the Kalahari. There were plenty of pizza places, and also the popular Joe's Beer House. I had a go at the Mopani Worms at one place, but didn't quite manage more than 1... they tasted like squishy charcoal! The Warehouse Theatre is a cool spot that had a rock band one night, and a jazz/trivia night the 2nd time we went. There is also a restaurant nearby that has reggae night, and dancing there is a priority! The Cardboard Box wasn't great but it had a pool and wifi, two nice amenities! The party scene at the hostel never seemed to cease as it seems to be a favorite local hangout. Luckily the tent area is large enough to keep the noise away. The Chameleon had a better vibe, but not much room for camping. During our stay we also managed to pick up 2 more travelers – a Korean brother and sister on their way from Jordan to Cape Town. They had seen our poster and decided to join us all the way to Mariantal. Off we went to Etosha with a full Landie – 2 Americans, 1 South African, and 2 Koreans!
When we arrived at Dqae on November 5th, we only intended to stay 2-3 nights. That was before I was motivated by their existing site map... we didn't leave until the 14th! During that time we navigated the entire farm (more than 150 km) and I mapped every pan, campsite, water tap, view point, and amenity I could find, and realized just how special a place we'd found. Our first night in Dqae we were just in time for a traditional Bushman trance dance around the fire. The area hadn't received any rain for a long long time, but the night looked promising. As the dancing and chanting continued, the storm clouds grew overhead. Will this work? About an hour or so into the performance, a miracle happened.... it began to pour. Not just a sprinkle, but a real rain – the first rains of the season and desperately needed. It was incredible, but it didn't last and sadly there was no rain the rest of our stay. It was just Kalahari hot – something new for me. There's humid hot, dry hot, scorching hot, hot hot, Sowa Pan hot.... and then there is Kalahari hot. All you can do is sit under a tree and wait for the sun to start going down. You awake at 5am with the sun, for fear of melting in your tent if you wait a minute longer. Luckily for us, there was a pool at the lodge. Yes, a pool in the desert and it was wonderful. In return for the map, the managers graciously provided a few nights lodging (real bed #4!) and some cold Windhoek lagers.
While we mapped the roads, we looked for cheetah, zebra, eland, kudu, ostrich, and hyena. We found cheetah prints and cheetah cub prints, but after 9 days of scanning the farm still no cheetah. Elusive that one! One night we were joined at our campfire by a San who honored us by telling a few traditional San stories. His imitations of the animals were spot-on, and the jackal became a crew favorite.
The 2 Aussies departed during this time, and we all took a trip to Maun to wish them well. On the way to the airport we ran out of diesel - we had to give them one final thrill! The South African was able to siphon from a passing truck (for a small fortune), however, and they still made it in time.
On the way back to Dqae we stopped at Lake Ngami, one of the coolest and eeriest place we've visited. Lake Ngami is located north of the Kalahari and is part of the Okavango Delta. The lake has remained dry for most of the past century up until 2009 when it began filling with water. Prior to this, the community grazed cattle on this dry land - land that today is completely submerged. The community now lives part of the year here fishing. We were told that they leave the area for a few months during breeding season to let the fish regenerate - I was blown away by this! Overfishing plagues so many places in the world, and these people make a serious effort to avoid depleting the resources of Lake Ngami. Inspiring. A fisherman took us for a ride on his canoe, and I was speechless. There are maribou storks, heron, other water birds - and a beautiful flat lake. Trees that were not destroyed by the flooding still stand, and poke through the surface. In some places you can see the remnants of a livestock fence. The lake felt completely out of place in the Kalahari, yet it was surprisingly peaceful. I would love to come back and see how this ecosystem develops - we saw the beginnings of some water grasses and more will come for sure.
The time spent at Dqae was incredible, and I look forward to a return visit. The lodge and land are very important to the San, and the experience has emblazoned my passion to do more for conservation through mapping and GIS. Let's do this!
Waking up on a salt pan under the sun must be what it feels like to be a raisin. Woooo EEEE! Blistering hot, and after a mere 12 hours in the place my lips are beginning to shrivel. No wonder nothing lives out here! All I can think about is where we are headed next ~ to the largest pool in the Makgadikgadi! I don't think I could last a full day out here... it's just too hot. The Landie crunches its way out of the pans onto the main road, and soon we reach Planet Baobab, and the oasis that awaits. A pool! Water! Within moments, I am submerged and begin to reconstitute. Ahhhhhhhh. Next I order an Amarula on ice. There is ice! And Amarula! Is this heaven? Just divine. There are beautiful baobabs throughout the site, but the main event is definitely the large, refreshing, clean, delightful pool. We stay an extra night and indulge.
By now our resources are depleted, so we head to Maun to restock and work on our social skills at Old Bridge Backpackers. It's a cute but crowded place, with a nice bar and plenty of places to relax. We are there only long enough to see what's happening in the world, buy some groceries, and check our email. The crew is eager to get to our next destination – Dqae Qare San Lodge in D'kar!
Combining a passion for travel, the desire to make a difference & a love of maps, MaggieMaps was born.
Unless otherwise noted, all prose, poetry, maps and photography posted on this blog are Copyright 2013 Maggie Maps
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