Africa Adventure Tours and Overlanding Stories by Nomad

Posts tagged “Overland

Expect the Unexpected – a waterfall in the Namibian desert!!

Sunset and a waterfall in the Namibian Desert

I have been fortunate enough to participate in three scheduled tours with Nomad and decided it was time to share the experience with my friends, so we headed to Namibia for 10 days, on a private charter, booked through the Groups & Charters department.  We decided February was the most convenient for us, taking into account our work schedules and for our overseas based friends to be able to join.

The route was simple, but most importantly included all the highlights Namibia has to offer, Orange RiverFish River Canyon, Namib-Naukluft Park, SossusvleiSwakopmundEtosha National Park & Windhoek, or so that was what we planned & expected, what we got was the “unexpected”….

Heading North from Cape Town, we made our first overnight stop at the Orange River, now what I need to explain is that a few weeks before our trip, we received news of “heavy rains”, “not seen in decades” in Namibia.  “Really?  But it’s a desert, it never rains in a desert, does it?”. 

Crossing the border between South Africa and Namibia, we had our first glimpse of the “heavy rains” and upon arrival at our overnight stop, we saw further evidence, but, we had blue skies, sunshine and the most delicious bobotie (a dish of curried mince with an egg custard baked on top) for supper, besides, we were on holiday, what’s a bit of heavy flowing water?  As we had a mixture of camping & accommodated, the campers chose to sleep under the stars, while those that chose accommodated settled into their river facing bungalows for the night.

Water Under The Bridge Felix Camp under water

Our journey continued north, next stop Ai-Ais hot springs, tucked away in the southern end of the Fish River Canyon.  The afternoon was relaxed with a few rounds of poker being played while the chicken potjie was on the go.  As the evening approached, we all hopped on the truck and headed to the Fish River Canyon viewing site for a spectacular sunset, and spectacular it was!  We spent about an hour hanging out at the Canyon viewing point just staring into the sunset and beyond.

Day three greeted us with a sprinkling of rain as we headed for the Namib-Naukluft National Park and our overnight spot, Sesriem.  Every kilometre driven showed more evidence of the “heavy rains”, the normally dusty gravel roads were soaked, muddy and slippery which made for an interesting ride.  The landscape was something I had never before witnessed – green, green, green.  Having travelled to Namibia on many previous occasions with my family, I was used to the dry, arid landscape, I was in awe at the amount of water and the shrubbery and felt privileged to have been able to see the desert this way.   Upon arrival at Sesriem, we pitched our tents, lit the fire and had an early night in preparation for our earliest morning and the climbing of Dune 45 at sunrise.

A green desert A muddy lunch stop

Sadly our dream of climbing Dune 45 did not materialise, the road into Sesriem and Sossusvlei was closed as the river had come down during the night which made the road impassable, however, this did not deter us as we made our way into Sesriem and found the next best dune called Elim dune.  Taking all the huffing and puffing into account to get to the top of the dune, it was all well worth it.  While we were up there, a hearty cooked breakfast was being prepared, which we gobbled down upon our return to the truck.  Next stop… Swakopmund.

Now this is where the fun really began and the warnings of “heavy rains” started making sense.  Just outside Solitaire we came across a number of cars parked in the road, the river was in full flow over the road and was impassable.  Luckily there was a detour further back, so we backtracked and carried on our merry way, it was after all tea time and we were salivating just thinking about the famous Solitaire apple pie.

Examining the road Road Washed Away

Take a moment to notice the beautiful blue skies, we opted to spend a few moments admiring this raging river and photographing it as we all thought it rather impressive.  Finally, after our detour, we made it to our warm apple pie.  If ever you find yourself in Solitaire, buy yourself two slices, one to eat while in Solitaire and the other to save for later, you will regret it if you don’t!

Now what I have not mentioned yet is that Sonny, our beloved truck, developed a disliking to the mud, rain and river beds which he had to pass through on the last two days, he was starting to choke up.  But it was manageable as we would be in Swakopmund within a couple of hours and there Sonny could be sorted out and given a rest.  Ready to leave Solitaire, we heard a couple of stories from the shop assistants that the Kuiseb pass was closed as the river was raging down, that is the only direct route to Swakopmund from Solitaire.  In the meantime, another Nomad truck had pulled into Solitaire, and a second truck was well on his way to go and investigate the Kuiseb situation.  We decided to follow truck #2 and investigate the Kuiseb pass, after all, we wanted our photo at the Tropic of Capricorn which was in the same direction, so off we went, poor Sonny huffing and puffing along.

While having our pics taken at the Capricorn sign, in the distance we saw truck #2 coming back, not a good sign, he was headed back to Solitaire as Kuiseb was full of debris and there was a strong build up of water.  Back in Sonny, we turned around and headed back to Solitaire, once there we would plan our next move.  Heading back to Solitaire, we saw the reality of the situation right before our eyes!  A huge big rain storm was in front of us and we were heading straight for it.

Another Storm is Brewing

Sonny had now decided enough was enough and he was going to wait while the rain passed, so we decided to wait with him.  While our guide and driver attended to the problem, we watched as the storm moved over and so the downpour began.  Who would have thought that a river could form within five minutes!

Waiting out the storm in Solitaire

It was late afternoon and we were still waiting in Solitaire, would we still make Swakopmund?  The baker of the famous apple pie had just heard a rumour that there was a grader down in Kuiseb busy moving debris and the pass would be open soon.  Truck #2 headed back down to the Kuiseb Pass.  Sonny was still being stubborn, so we waited.  Truck #1 in the meantime also decided to leave, after consultation with our operations department, they headed to Swakopmund via Windhoek on the C24.  By now it was probably around 15:30, our guide proposed the alternative, that we follow truck #1 to Windhoek and onto Swakopmund, which meant arrival in Swakopmund would be late, very late.  We all agreed to and were very happy with this plan (we had big plans in Swakopmund, we packed the snowboard to play on the dunes and we had a birthday to celebrate).

Truck Sonny getting some love

Off we headed towards the C24, cellphone reception was dodgy while we were making our way through the mountains, so only about an hour into the drive, our C24 journey came to an abrupt end as a message was received from Tosca, our beloved operations manager “STOP, C24 has been closed – road in bad condition, do not proceed” (in case you were wondering, Sonny had since been given a good talking to and was happy to continue).  We all stood there, in the mud in the middle of nowhere, speechless.  Our operations department had already put Plan B into motion, we would be backtracking to a lodge just between Sesriem and Solitaire.

Getting to our Plan B overnight stop was without incident, back through the mountains, past the detour and so we arrived.  Lucky to have a beautiful sunset and a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon – a waterfall in the surrounding desert mountains!  Yes, a waterfall in the middle of the desert, how many people can honestly say they have seen a waterfall in the desert of Namibia?  After a long day on the road, well, over 500km, 10 hours in and out of Sonny, we ended up 47km from Sesriem, where we had started that morning.

Sunset and a waterfall in the desert

After a group meeting, we all agreed that to go to Swakopmund would no longer be realistic and therefore opted to proceed north, to the gates of Etosha National Park, which would mean we would have more time to explore Etosha and relax.  The C24 had been opened and off we went, quick shop stop in Windhoek and onto Outjo where we spent the night in Plan C accommodation.

And so we entered Etosha National Park and the game viewing started immediately.  Over the next few days, we would encounter an old male elephant, 2 packs of lions, a rhino and her calf at the watering hold in Halali, antelope and various bird species.   And what would a trip to Etosha be without a stop on the pans themselves.

Desert elephant and lion in Etosha
Salt pans in Etosha

After 2 wonderful days of sunshine, spending hours staring at the campsite waterholes, we said goodbye to Etosha and headed back South to Windhoek, which would be our second last night of our tour.  While we only had one night in Windhoek, we chose to spend this evening at Joe’s Beer House, enjoying a great meal.

Our second last day of tour saw us taking the long drive back down to the Orange River, back to where our journey had begun 8 days earlier.  Having had a late night out in Windhoek, the morning felt a bit rough, so I thought it would be a good idea to slip on my three quarter pyjama pants and travel in those, after all, it was going to be a long day in the truck and comfort was my number 1 priority.

Just outside a town called Rehoboth we pulled off to the side of the road to have a quick “bathroom” stop, making use of bathroom #3 (which for those that have travelled with us before will know is a bush toilet), you look for a bush and squat.  Myself and two others eyed out the perfect spot and off we went through the ankle high grass.  All of a sudden, there is a scream and my name being called!  With a “WTF” expression on my face, I turned around to my friend who was waving her hands and screaming wildly, yet no words came out her mouth.

In the movement of me turning around and my “WTF” face – something became entangled in my legs, natural instinct told me to start screaming, jump, shake my legs and run!!  S.N.A.K.E!!  Aha, that is what my friend was trying to warn me about!  I stood on a snake and apparently not a small one either.  The moral of the story, never wear your pyjama pants when in the bush!

And so we arrived at the Orange River, our final night of our adventure.  Exhausted, we had a refreshing swim followed by copious amounts of red wine, reminiscing about our last 9 days.  Our last day saw us head back to Cape Town.  Our wonderful, memorable adventure had come to an end, but that was not the last adventure, as soon, we would be heading to Mozambique to start a brand new adventure!

Namibia is a dry country, please adapt! 

Join us on and adventure of your own!  Contact our Groups and Charter department if you’d like to build your own tour:  groups@nomadtours.co.za 

If you would prefer to join us one one of our scheduled tours to experience Namibia – we have a whole selection for you!

Camping:

20 Day Vic Falls to Cape Town – available in the opposite direction
14 Day Vic Falls to Swakopmund (Desert and Delta) – available in the opposite direction
12 Day Cape Town to Windhoek (Best of Namibia) – available in the opposite direction
7 Day Cape Town to Swakopmund (Desert Explorer) – available in the opposite direction

Accommodated:

7 Day Desert Explorer (Cape Town to Swakopmund)
12 Day Namibian Experience (Cape Town to Windhoek)
14 Day Desert and Delta (Swakopmund to Victoria Falls)
20 Day Cape Town to Victoria Falls 

BY: ANNELIESE KORSCH | 2012-10-29

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Tosca’s Guide to National Park People Watching

I am going to veer a bit off topic, but I assume some people have never been to a Southern African National Park and need a crash course in people spotting.  Now by National Park, I mean a place with animals, preferably some of the Big 5.

With that in mind, there are two things that you need to know about, one, are Animals – that would be the furry and feathered types; the other, is the people coming to look for, and at the animals.  Also, the furry type.

A furry animal, one of the types of visitors to a National Park

A furry animal, one of the types of visitors to a National Park

Now the second category can also be subdivided into quite a few smaller categories, and even share some common traits with other categories.

Lets start with the most well know.  Mr Big 5,  that is the guy, usually in a Bakkie, with a much cowed wife in tow.  Also, can be recognized by the fact that he usually shows up with a caravan, and a trailer in tow.  He can mostly be spotted, zipping at top speed, between waterholes, and carries a humongous pair of binoculars (not to be confused with the Bird watcher, which we will dicuss later).

Now Mr Big 5 is not a guy that will keep quiet about his findings ( unlike the Ms/Mr Yuppie Big 5).  Any chance he has, he will stop you, and gleefully tell you all about the Lion he saw that morning.  Nearly.  Well, his paw was peeking out!  It was a magnificent paw! And it was at a waterhole so and so.  Tomorrow morning, he will be back there, looking for the Big sighting!

Now Mr Big 5 is good for some limited information on where to find some of the animals you are looking for.  When the day is done, Mr Big 5 can be found, in his chair, outside his caravan, while his wife organises supper.

Ms/Mr Yuppie Big 5, well, difference here, she/he shows up in a brand new Pajero.  With Aircon.  Also differs slightly from Mr Big 5, in that he/she stays in chalets, and uses the very expensive high tech camera in a dual function of binoculars as well.  Ms Yuppie Big 5 will Never share info with the other weary travellers, as this would most probably necessitate for them to open the Pajero window, and that in turn will get dust onto the GPS system, which in turn will delete all the info, triangulated, of the previous visits Big 5 sightings.  Ms Yuppie Big 5 will only share this vital information with the other Yuppie friends, at home.  And have a right giggle at those other fools, looking for birds!  And telling other people where to find stuff!  This all over a glass of carefully selected Sancere.

Briefly mentioned above is the Bird Watcher.  Fantastic type, who mostly accidentally see the big 5, as he is so busy scanning trees, and driving so slowly as not to disturb the lesser breasted, immature, never spotted here before bird, that he just kind of stumbles over the Big stuff.  Mr Twitcher actually does not secretly yearn to see the Big 5 ( unlike Mr Tourist), and sees animals as a bit of an inconvenience, especially if said member of Big 5 is lying close to the much sought after Lesser breasted, immature, never before spotted Tit.  Mr Twitcher is easy to identify.  He also carries a pair of binoculars, but these have distance and height and all kinds of vital statistics showing on the inside lens.  He is also the one driving really slowly.  And when parked, please watch angle of head.  If pointed upwards into a tree, chances are he is Mr Twitcher.  Mr Twitcher’s wife, Mrs Twitcher, shares his passion, but secretly yearns to see the big five, as she gets very tired of handing over one of the 12 different bird books that Mr Twitcher carries with him.  Always.  Even to the shop, as one never knows when, a lesser breasted, does not exist wading Mossie, will dart around the next isle. Mrs Twitcher, however, can’t cook to save her life, and is thus dependant on Mr Twitcher’s good will, in the evening, when they park off next to their small tent, made of recycled Gwano platform pillars.

Beautiful Swallow Tailed Bee Eater for Mr Birder

Beautiful Swallow Tailed Bee Eater for Mr Twitcher

Mr Tourist can be divided into two sub-categories.  One would be the large luxury coach type tourist, usually from some Asian country (where cameras can basically cure cancer, while operating on your pet parakeet, and cost barely absolutely nothing in their currency, and can link to your iMattress, that in turn can call up your stock broker, who can programme the iFax to bounce off iSatellite, to make sure you choose the right pair of underpants).  So, Mr Luxury Bus Tourist is pretty much like Mr Big 5, only not in a bakkie, or with a caravan, and won’t tell you where the Big 5 is, as he basically doesn’t know if he saw a cheetah or a goose.  Also, he can only say:  “Where is the bathroom?” and “my pants are on fire”, in English.  Mr Luxury Bus Tourist comes stock standard with a guide, who wears his Field Guide badge proudly, and reports anybody else, who looks like they can actually communicate with their own clients, as non registered.  Mr Luxury Bus Tourist Guide also knows to shut up, find the Big 5, or as close as possible without Mr Luxury Bus Tourist knowing it is actually a domestic cat, and not a cheetah he so kindly pointed out.

The second sub category of Mr Tourist, is actually Mr Undercover Tourist.  Now Mr Undercover Tourist has heard about the other types of tourists who visits National Parks, and would never want to be known as one of those.  So, Mr Undercover Tourist can be recognized by the rental 4×4 he is driving, and his obsessive road rule use.  Mr Undercover Tourist also invested big money on a mammal guide book, a bird book, a map of the said park, a book written by rangers about their stories in the bush, as well as a book on the Traffic Act, the full 12 editions.

Mr Undercover tourist will carefully read the park rules and instructions at reception when clocking in, and will never ever ever be late for a gate closing time.  He is unfailingly polite, and will stay on the left side of the road, even if on the right side there is a lion, chasing a hyena, using a springbok leg as a club, and every Mr Big Five in the district is blocking his view.  It says so in the 12 part Traffic Act book.  Drive on the left side of the road, and when he sees a crocodile, hanging from an elephants tail, smoking some marijuana, he will not slam on brakes and pull out cameras.  No, he will first indicate that he will pull off.  To the left.  And once the car has come to a complete halt, he will then put on the hazards.

Mr Undercover Tourist would secretly also like to see the big 5, but that brings him too close to Mr Luxury Bus Tourist.  So he keeps that to himself.  Mr Undercover Tourist also bought the full Bush Pride Safari Wear range, including the zip off pants.  He carries a regular sized camera, with interchangeable lenses, in case he has to take some shots of the chalet as well.  Now the first two days of his 7 day stay in the park, with the days carefully divided between the main camps, will be spent getting the lay of the land. So if you should stop next to him, and ask him to roll down his window so that you can have a chat about sightings, he will first be hesitant, and only roll down two centimeters (he also researched the crime stats in SA, and was told to never ever ever open your car window to strangers).  So, when you then tell him, two kilometers on, he will see two lions under a tree, he will first look shocked, and then start doing the calculations in his mind to convert miles to kilometers.  But, two days later, if you should meet up with him again, he will flash lights at you, and greet you like an old friend, and swap sighting stories with you.  He catches on fast and is a great source of info, as he is actually very diligent in checking out every bush and tree, and generally enjoys the small stuff too.  He is easily identified in the evening, as he will be spending it inside his chalet (he really wanted to camp, but he could not get the tent he used for last years everest attempt through customs, and also could not find a place on the internet who rents out tents) eating a plate of cooked food.  He does not know how to braai.  He would love to, but is scared this will give away the game, and then everybody will know he is a tourist.  Please invite him over if you should be braaing yourself!

One of my personal favorites, is Mr Wannabe Photographer.  Not professional, them you never see, they hang out on the no access roads, because they grew up in the park, and their father is the head ranger etc.  No, Mr Wannabe Photographer is the one whom you must not park close to at any sighting as when he starts to unroll the camera lens, chances are you are going to lose your car windshield.  The lenses Mr Wannabe Photographer carries are bigger in circumference than Mike Tyson’s thigh.  It is so big, that Mr Wannabe Photographer must carry it with a special pillow and pulley system, just to lower it onto the window frame.  Mr Wannabe Photographer also hogs all the space at any sighting, and stays there until whatever animal you wanted to see, has disappeared beyond the 10 km mark, which is how far his lens can see. Mr Wannabe Photographer does not have time for chats about where to find what animal as he is too busy cleaning his lens and hoisting it back into the car, which is also a Pajero.  Because if one can afford a NASA lens, as a hobby, chances are a Pajero costs nothing to him either.  Mr Wannabe Photographer is not the happiest type, as he secretly yearns to find the Big 5 and then talks incessantly about it.  But he can’t, as he is busy with his lenses.  No time.

Just on a side note, if you should ever run into Mr Professional Photographer:  He drives a beat up old 1980 Uno, as he spends all his money on cameras and Park Fees.  He is also dating the current Miss Slovakia, who he straps onto the roof rack of his Uno (or Landrover), as his custom built camera box, that is also bullet proof, water proof, sand proof and has in fact survived Sarajevo, takes prime seat in the front.  In the back of the car he keeps his emergency supplies, in case he has to sit next to a sand dune for 10 days, where 9 days ago somebody saw a Lion.  Miss Slovakia he keeps on hand for, well, things that only Miss Slovakia can do.  Also because it looks cool!

Another of my favourites, just because of sheer dogged determination, is Family Joe Soap.  Now Family Joe Soap can easily be confused with Mr Big 5, as they also pull in with a caravan.  But that is about where it stops.  They have 3 kids, of which one is a baby.  The reason why they show up in a National Park is to instill the love of nature that their parents taught them at that age, and their parents before them etc.  So, very optimistic bunch this, as they rock up at the camp site, where Mom runs off with baby to find some space somewhere to change diapers, and Dad starts leveling the Caravan.  Boet and Sus will go suss out the shop, and the swimming pool.  On gate opening time, the whole family will sit ready at the gate, with baby on mom’s lap, and Boet and Sus with their noses smashed up against the back windows, ready for action.  And all goes well for at least 30 minutes.  But after 3 hours in a non airconditioned sedan, Boet then has his finger up Sus’ nose, baby is screaming, and Sus is trying to hide under the driver’s seat from the spider she saw three hours ago at the gate.  Dad actually really wishes with all his heart for the big 5, preferably within 30 minutes of leaving camp, so that he can then turn around, go start the fire for his afternoon braai, while the kids play in the swimming pool for the rest of the day.  Mom wishes for the same, but instead of the braai part, she wishes fervently for somebody else to be changing diapers, while doing said task on the dashboard on a side dusty road.  After about 3 days if this, both Mom and Dad promise each other to rather go to Bela Bela next year. But, next year they will be back, as this is what their parents did, and their parents, and they can only remember how much fun it was to sit in the back with their noses pressed to the windows, waiting for the first sight of lion.  Bless their hearts, at least they are trying to get their children into nature!  As much hell as it seems.  And please don’t disturb them with questions about sightings?  They most probably only saw dirty diapers, and Boets bleeding foot which he stuck out the window and which then got torn open by a branch, and really can’t tell you anything, as much as they want to.

And so the list goes on.  The Amateur Field Guide, who will tell you where he saw animals, but who would also want to share his limited knowledge of wildife, gleamed from a National Geographic channel in the process, to be avoided unless you have no other choice.

The Forever Couple who have been coming to the same park for the last 20 years, every year, and keeps to themselves, unless you ask them where to find what.  Fantastic source of info, as they won’t talk your ear off, but will be very precise in the info (third bush to the left, tree that looks like a dog upside down, 1 metre behind, is a Cape Fox.  In the tree above him, is also a Rock Kestrel, in case you like birds).

So, the bottom line of all of this, you will meet some strange and wonderful people in National Parks, and lets face it, everybody really wants to tell somebody of the luck they had today when they saw blah blah.  So go make friends, start a chat in the bathroom, speak to the gate guard, roll down the window, flash the lights if you saw something, as when you leave the park you will not know anybody’s name, but you still would have made a friend for life!

As I near the end of my visit to the Kgalagadi National Park, I look back and realize I saw, interacted with and met most of the above, and a little of each of the above is in me too!

To the Indian gentleman from Botswana, who described a waterhole scene in one sentence (hyenas with pups played and splashed and caused big drama and all);  To the Dutch couple, with wife in the back seat, and husband in the front, and the most exited smiles ever;  To the North West farmer who missed the lion by 2 hours;  To the quantum full of Spanish folk who really tried to look for any predators, as I asked them to, while I was busy running a couple of metres into the bush to pick up a glass bottle there;  And even to the two drunk Frenchmen, who made my life hell at a lion sighting with their “You want drinky?”.  Here’s to seeing you all, in some form or other, at the next park!

Farewell long dusty roads of the Kgalagadi National Park!

Farewell long dusty roads of the Kgalagadi National Park!

When you're the Operations Manager of a Tour Company, anything is possible... thanks to network Nomad, the plate is back!

When you're the Operations Manager of a Tour Company, anything is possible... thanks to network Nomad, the plate is back!

Keen to find out what adventure awaits Tosca next?  Here’s a clue… she will be playing on the longest one in South Africa!

Click here to find out more!