It was windy last night - inside the tent! Throughout the night we heard trucks and cars hurtling down the main road hitting the potholes with no mercy. We were up before sunrise (which was beautiful with heady colours of orange, red and purple).
I fed Togo and took out a bottle of orange cordial concentrate for Antonio, pretty sure he'd come to say goodbye, which sure enough he did, looking every bit as cold as we did and wearing a warm sweatshirt. He was pleased we'd spent a safe and good night and was delighted with his cordial.
The road was still pretty heavy going with loads of potholes and we often found it easier to drive alongside on the sand track.
At about 08h30 we stopped for some breakfast of sandwiches, underneath a baobab tree. Unfortunately (or should I say fortunately) Michael spotted that the trailing arm had pulled away from the bodywork. We decided to drive for a while and see how it progressed. About 40km on, after we passed through Xangongo we stopped to have a look and we both thought it looked slightly worse. We decided it was best to do something about it sooner rather than later so we turned around and went back to Xangongo to look for a welder.
After advice from a couple of locals we located a 'welding shop' in someone's back yard. We took the tyre off so the guy could assess the job. When asked the price, in true African style he quoted Namibian Dollars first, then we said no, 'in kwanza please', which was 1,200 ($15) and then when we asked for a price in US dollars he said $20. So of course we said we'd pay 1,200 kwanza and a little later I walked about 150m into town and changed some dollars so we could pay in kwanza and the little bit of exercise was worth the $5!
Michael used the diff lock to close the gap on the mounting so it could be welded, but of course the guy was more than prepared to let his apprentice (who can't have been more than 11 years old) weld straight over all the muck, without angle grinding it first. So Michael did some angle grinding first to prepare the surface and then the little guy did a pretty good job in the end. All in all it took 2 hours, but we were glad we'd had it done.
The route was littered with burnt out armoured vehicles, trucks and other modes of transport.
You could see where there had been ambushes because there was a concentration of wrecks in one stretch. We also saw a few more amputees in the south than further north. We arrived in Ondjiva at about 12h30 and did a last fuel top up. As we arrived in the town we saw a big encampment with a sign saying' Humanitarian De-mining' and another sign saying how the roads had all been improved etc. In fact, the whole town looked like it had had a makeover, complete with a new hospital, scarred only by one or two blown-up/collapsed buildings.
Then we headed for Oshikango and only a few miles out got another puncture (I think that makes it number 10 for the trip), which we fixed in a jiffy because we have had so much practice! The road was excellent and it was great not to have to concentrate on avoiding potholes all the time. The border was a bit disorganised and we ended going to the immigration side instead of emigration (you had to walk around the back of the building to the window on the opposite side of the same room). Still, the guy stamped our passports for us and said we could go. We were stopped briefly by the police at the border gate to check our vehicle and have a nosey inside, but it was pretty peripheral and only took about 5 minutes. Then on the Namibian side we completed the necessary entry forms and then the officer wrote all our details down in a big book. Then we went on to customs where they stamped our carnet (after keeping us waiting for quite a while while having an argument with some Angolan woman about bringing in a bagful of new knickers). The locals were having a bit of a go at the officials saying it didn't need all four women to sort out one person's problem, they could be helping others too - it was all quite entertaining. That was all they needed from us and we were off...
We stopped to change our last few kwanzas and then stopped of at Standard Bank and used our bank card to draw money - so simple - bliss! In Ondangwa we looked for a spare inner tube, but without luck. We also did a bit of shopping and had to restrain ourselves from buying loads of goodies we hadn't seen for ages. In the end, we decided not to push on to Etosha, but to stay at a rest camp (for which I had seen a sign earlier). We were really glad we did. It was wonderful. Each campsite was surrounded by reeds to give privacy (although we didn't need it as we were the only campers there). Each site had space for a car, tent or caravan, with it's own tap, light and even a plug point. The sites overlook a dam which has ducks and geese (which Togo took great delight in chasing, only to bound back out of the water as soon as she got wet up to her chest). The owner's daughter, Mandy was so friendly and helpful and we ended up having dinner at the little restaurant which was delicious. The highlight for me though, was my first hot bath since I left the UK - it was gorgeous and I could have stayed in there for hours... Michael had a wonderful hot shower after working on the Nyathi, straightening the steering arm, checking and filling all the oils, tightening nuts and bolts etc. At the end of the evening we started chatting to one of the locals, Alfred, which was really interesting and we ended up propping up the bar until about midnight!
We had a relaxed wake up this morning. I got out of the tent at 07h30 and went a washed my face (in hot water!) and had a chat to the owner, Frik. He told us about a new gate which has just opened at Etosha and gave us directions. It saved us a 130km journey to the Namutoni gate. He also kindly called one of his friends who owns a spares shop to organise an inner tube for us. I played with Togo for a bit and she had a mad half hour chasing the ducks on the dam, playing with her ball (a spherical palm pip) and generally tearing around the place like a wild thing. We filled up all our jerry cans with the potable water right from the tap. We cleaned out a few bits and bobs and then gave Togo a thorough wash.
We arrived at Etosha by 13h00 and entertained ourselves en route by reading the names of the various shops and enterprise along the way. I can only remember two now: 'Sorry Plaiting Service', 'Try Again Building Supplies'. We decided to just visit for the afternoon, (because we couldn't camp there with Togo) and we got to see a lot for our $10 - oryx, zebra, springbuck, wildebeest, giraffe, warthog, elephant, kudu, impala, jackal, steenbok, duiker and dik-dik (on the main road outside the park). the most exciting bit was watching the zebra and giraffe and the waterhole and then the elephant come down and drink loads fo water and then give himself a mud spray!
We stopped at a lay-by to let Togo have a much needed pee, poo and run and then I noticed our front right tyre (which has had a slow leak for some time) now had a rapidly-deflated look. So, we set about wheel-changing puncture number eleven as the sun was setting behind us, creating a deep, warm glow across the horizon. We drove for another 10kms and then camped in a lay-by under a tree. We had a lovely cold dinner and I sat and did journal entries. Togo wanted to be in the cab with me rather than outside where it was a bit cool, so she lay in the back while I sat in the cab, but she wasn't happy when I went to bed and left her outside, she even jumped up at both doors to try and get in. I felt really mean, but she has to become a tough dog!
Togo was not happy to be sleeping outside last night. She doesn't like the colder weather and I think she is slightly insecure as we played the 'driving off' game yesterday when she didn't come when she was called. I heard her crying a couple of times in the night and when I had to get up for the loo at 03h00 she was trying to clamber back in the cabin with me.
We were on our way by 06h30 and I took the advantage of the good tar road to have a little snooze. We got into Tsumeb just before 08h00 and we had our two punctured tyres repaired, as well as the one slow leak (which I suppose we should count as puncture number twelve)! The people at Trentyre we very helpful and their prices were very reasonable.
Then we went off to buy some food and then headed off to the internet cafe, tourist information and the laundrette. I spent most of the day in the cab populating the journal with photographs. Michael did three large loads of washing at the laundrette and Togo took delight in digging up their borders, which I had to put neatly back and sweep up before we left!
Then we went off to the campsite which was lovely, through fairly expensive. It is a large electric-fenced area, and the sites all have their own light, electrical point, tap and braai unit. It has wonderful expanses of lawn so Togo had a wild time releasing all her pent-up energy by racing about playing fetch with Michael. It also helped that there were only 5 vehicles there so everyone was spaced far apart.
I spent the evening finishing off the work on the website and cleaning out the kitchen, while Michael grappled with the computer for a while.
Annoyingly we were both awake and up by 06h45 this morning, when we could have had a bit of a lie-in. I made porridge oats for breakfast, but I forgot to only put in enough salt for two people instead of five, so neither of us ate much of it, but of course we gave it to Togo, who ate about a third of it. Michael worked on the country information for the website and tried to get everything ready from a technical perspective so he could upload onto the website at the internet cafe. He went off before 10h00 and only returned at about 12h30 very frustrated because the network had crashed and some files were corrupted, but he thinks he managed to get it all back to normal (nothing is ever easy).
I spent the morning cleaning out the cab thoroughly. You can actually see the dashboard is black now. I cleaned the seats and put the freshly washed covers on. I also glued my shoes, the compass and a few other bits and bobs. The town's horticulturist, Jan van der Merwe (who is also responsible for the grounds in the campsite) stopped by to have a look at Nyathi and have a general chat. He was very interesting to talk to and he told me about some interesting routes in Namibia, as well as where to buy the best biltong and go for a good value lunch. He also said we were more than welcome to wash Nyathi and use the big hose. When I told him we'd better not because we'd dump loads of mud on the lawn, he said it would be good for it as it could do with some topsoil so we should take advantage of the water while we can.
We decided to stay an extra night and went for lunch at Juwika, where we had a lovely Greek salad to start and then I had beef schnitzel topped with onions, bacon, mushrooms and cheese and Michael had a 500gram pepper steak - both were served with chips, beans and coleslaw. We also had the obligatory chocolate milkshakes and it was all delicious and very reasonably priced!
Then we went off to J&J butchery and got some very tasty biltong, which was also very reasonable at N$80/kg. Michael also bought some more koeksusters and we headed back to the campsite where we set about washing Nyathi. We only finished at about 18h00, but she looks almost new and it is wonderful to have a clean vehicle again (though not too sure how long it will last)!
We met some lovely folk from Centurion - Pauline, Kallie, Jerg and Antoinette. We had a very pleasant time chatting with them and they were ever so nice to Togo. I cooked up the leftovers from lunch and then we did the washing up and Michael played 'Civilization' while I did today's journal entry...
We had about a 06h45 start and had a lovely hot shower and said goodbye to our Centurion friends. We tried the 'driving off and leaving' trick with Togo this morning, but a German lady was being nice to her and she was completely unfazed by our departure - we've still got a long way to go with her. We had an absolutely delicious breakfast at Juwika's. I had an omelette with cheese, bacon, mushroom and tomato and Michael had the 'boere breakfast' with fried eggs, steak, boerewors, bacon tomato, toast etc. Then we shared a great waffle, syrup and ice-cream!
We travelled towards Grootfontein, (though via a somewhat scenic route) to see the Hoba meteorite, which is apparently the largest of its kind in the world (we think 'its kind' means "still intact"). Along the way, we took a detour to some old site which had a decrepit sign saying "Monument". When we got to the top of the sandy little road there were some steep steps down to a cave entrance, which is blocked off with gates and a large padlock. We couldn't see what was in the cave - how strange?
The meteorite was very interesting, although not presented in the most imaginative way. However, it is amazing to think that a massive chunk of solid iron weighing over 32 tons comes flying through the sky and lands with an almighty thud into the earth. At a glance it looked like any old rock, except some stupid tourists had decided it was a good idea to take a sliver home with them and where they had cut into it you could easily see the silver-grey metal exposed.
On returning to the main road, we came across this little signpost gem:
We made our way south to Otjiwarango, passing through some pretty backwater little towns, one of which was named Kombat. In Otjiwarango I went and got some tourist information leaflets and drew some more money (where does it all go to?). Michael tried to phone Simon and Nicole to find out if they had left Etosha yet, but he just got a message. So we drove on to Outjou, where I had identified a nice sounding campsite and we decided we'd camp the night there.
En route we saw a sign showing a lodge and camping and we drove past it, but then decided it would be worth checking out because then we'd at least have a comparison. After chatting to the owner he showed us where the campsite area was and we saw Jenny parked there, jacked up and all of Simon and Nicole's goods scattered about! What a fantastic surprise. It was absolutely wonderful to see them and to meet Nicole at last. Of course we caught up on all the news, drank and ate a delicious potjie meal with them - it was a great end to the day. Togo also had a delightful time playing with the lodge-owner's little Jack Russel who did a great job of tiring her out. She also went visiting lots of the other campers and was particularly interested in a large overland truck with 13 people who were all eating steak!
We had a relaxed start to the day. I had to get out of bed twice last night (too much shandy). On my second time up at about 05h00 I saw Togo was no longer tied to Nyathi. I whistled for her, but she didn't come so I went looking for her and found her curled up in front of someone's tent, fast asleep! I tied her up and crawled back into bed. Michael and I heard the other campers up and about, but we only surfaced at about 07h45, as did Simon and Nicole.
We had some cereal and made our way into town where we went to the supermarket and a 'tuisnywerheid' (home bake shop), where we bought more koeksusters. We got on the road after 11h30 and headed for the rock finger, which is a massive outcrop which stands about 35metres high. there were also beautiful escarpments surrounding it.
We walked up which was good work for the calf and thigh muscles. At the top we rested in the shade and took in the views and then Nicole and I walked down the easier route, while Michael and Simon went the steeper way. Michael 'left' Togo at the top and only when he was most of the way down did she follow (as fast as her little legs could carry her).
Then we went to the petrified forest. It is compulsory to take one of their guides and now we know why, because no-one in their right mind would choose to employ one. Our female guide was clueless and apathetic and it must have rubbed off because I cannot even remember her name. She clearly thought we were an inconvenience and only really spoke when we asked her something and then she most often didn't know the answers! Then at the end she had the cheek to ask us for a lift for some of her friends. Nevertheless, the petrified trees were incredible. One specimen was over thirty metres long (one end of the trunk is in the foreground of the picture, the other end is where the people are standing!) and another was over a metre in diameter. There were loads of fragments of petrified wood lying all over the place. We also got to see some examples of the Welwitschia plant, which is aloe-like, has a male and female species and whose leaves can apparently grow to 20metres in length, though the ones we saw were very small.
We met another group of overlanders in three vehicles. Chris and Julian had driven down the east coast of Africa and we all spent a bit of time vehicle-ogling and info swapping. Shortly after leaving, we stopped to help a local guy whose very tired bakkie (pickup) had broken down. His clutch cable was broken, and his battery was dead, but Michael helped him roll-start it by crashing the gears into second. Michael then had to exit from the moving vehicle, while the other guy moved over into the driver's seat.
Then we went in search of a bushcamp and found a lovely place at the foot of a craggy mountain, out of sight of the road. It was quite difficult to get there, picking our way through rocks and boulders, and crossing a dry, and very sandy river bed. Just for a change (no pun intended), we got a flat tyre...
We had a delicious braai - I made a Greek salad, gem squash with sweetcorn, baked potatoes and garlic bread and Michael cooked the chops and boerewors. It was fantastic and then we all collapsed into bed after a warm bush wash.
We heard what we thought were wild dogs or jackals howling last night. In the morning I also noticed the rather large piles of elephant dung next to Nyathi (they were old and dry). The sun on the side of the mountain was beautiful and I could hear lovebirds chirping up above. I cooked up some oats porridge for everyone and then we packed up and made our way out of the camp, through the dry riverbed and then we heard a very loud whack!
Michael and I jumped out to see a broken propshaft dangling down in the sand. Michael thinks it had taken strain over the last month's arduous driving and the yoke at the end of the shaft just opened up when he engaged low range. We were in fairly thick sand at the time, in low range, but he did not have the crawler box engaged (though we had been engaged it several times in Angola). Anyway, we winched ourselves out of trouble for the first time this trip.
We first tried using Jenny as an anchor, but Nyathi just pulled her forward in the sand, so we used a well-positioned tree and got out of the riverbed. Michael removed both pieces of the propshaft so we became a 6x2 (front-wheel drive only) and Simon towed us back through the obstacle field to the gravel road.
A local guy, Marcus, came to see what was going on and helped us by moving the rock obstacles when necessary. He didn't ask us for anything and was delighted when we gave him N$10 and some sweets for his children.
So, somewhat disabled, we made our way toward Twyfelfontein to see the rock paintings. The scenery en route was breathtaking and even though we missed the turn-off, we didn't particularly mind as it was such a spectacular drive. We passed lots of little craft stalls, however, the carving here doesn't seem to be as good as in other parts of Africa. The construction of one of the stalls was very unusual and imaginative, however:
At Twyfelfontein, the rock paintings (engravings, really) were interesting and impressive, although our compulsory guide, Pamela, was not. She knew as much about the paintings as one could glean from two or three paragraphs in a brochure. It would be more sensible (and honest) to describe the guides as chaperones, simply there to preserve the rock paintings and ensure no damage is done - and, of course, as a local tourist tax. Pamela had never even noticed a very prominent painting at the first site. You could tell she was surprised when I pointed it out, and she had no imaginative guess as to what it could be, so we settled on a wildebeest.
One can choose between a half-hour (5 sites) or one-hour (8 sites) walk. There are loads of very good examples of engravings, and estimates of their age ranges between 2000 and 6000 years. We are not sure of the science behind these estimates - the engravings seem awfully exposed for such a great age, compared to other sites we have seen. The walk is scenic, taking you up and down rocks and along sandy paths. Togo had a great time putting her rock-climbing skills to the test...
Then we made our way to Burnt Mountain, which was rather disappointing and and we thought resembled a slag heap (as Simon pointed out, Wales is missing out on some great tourism opportunities). We intended visiting the organ pipes, but couldn't find the path and by that stage hunger took over and we ate lunch instead.
After lunch we made our way westwards toward Uis. Nyathi isn't at her best with front-wheel drive only. On these gravel roads, we can feel the wheels losing grip every now and again on the steep uphills, even with her big tyres. If we stopped on the hill, we would certainly have to reverse down to the bottom in order to get going again. Five tons of beast prefers to be pushed than pulled.
Late in the afternoon, we saw a sign indicating a lodge and camping so we decided to head there for the night instead of to Uis. The drive was beautiful, with the sun setting behind the mountain and some very large herds of springbuck, including one giant herd which crossed the road right in front of us. Sadly, when we got to the lodge (which was much further than we had thought), the prices were pretty inflated, and on principle, we decided to make for Uis some 40kms away.
We were rewarded by finding a lovely campsite in Uis called The White Lady owned by Annelie, who had a lovely little Jack Russell called Lulu, with whom Togo played all evening. Annelie even offered to keep an eye on the dogs while we went out for dinner. We had a lovely meal (although not quite up to the standard Juwika in Tsumeb).
It was quite windy and cool first thing this morning. I fed Togo and then she ran off with Lulu. I made a fruit salad for breakfast and then went to eat and watch the birds at the campsite waterhole. It was fantastic, there were quite literally hundreds of birds and I spent a while relaxing and identifying as many of them as possible.
Michael uploaded a whole lot of email and put all our photos onto Simon's computer. Then we saw huge flocks of birds circling the camp and then dive down to the waterhole to drink and then a new batch would arrive and the current flock would fly off and so it went on. I think the birds were Burchell's Sandgrouse and it was so interesting to watch them flying in and out and in and out. Togo succeeded in losing her collar. I think Lulu must have pulled it off her when they were playing, as Togo's neck fur was all wet.
We went to Cape Cross via Henties Bay to see the fur seal colony. The landscape along the way changed, becoming very flat, with no vegetation. On the way, we stopped for Simon to tow-start a local guy in his interesting Land Rover...
We reached the seal colony in the late morning - I have never seen so many seals in one place, it was incredible. As we were driving along the road we could see them all riding the waves! When we stopped at the viewing point we could smell them all (pooey) and hear them all barking and bleating at each other (they sounded like sheep). There are between 80,000 and 100,000 seals in the colony. The mortality rate of their young is 25%. The pups die from being crushed (the adults get very large), losing a parent, or being eaten by jackals and hyenas. We actually saw a few jackals walking in amongst the seals, but we think they prey on isolated young who have lost their mother, so none of the seals took too much notice of them.
The other thing that was amazing to see was the size of the waves! They were enormous and made perfect tubes and crashed down with an impressive spray, while hundreds of seals frolic in the surf. We stopped and had a quick picnic lunch next to the sea and watched the waves come rolling in.
We had puncture number thirteen en route to Swakopmund - much to our chagrin. Simon and Nicole went to check out a nearby campsite, but it was a little grim and our fate was sealed when they didn't accept dogs. The scenery was very stark and desolate, not our favourite.
Instead we headed for Swakopmund which is a nice-looking town with a strong German architectural influence, but it was very dead on a Sunday, so we continued to Walvis Bay. We camped at Long Beach Resort about 15 km away. The facilities were good, but some of the other guests left a little to be desired, drunken louts seem to be attracted to municipal campsites the world over. Nevertheless, we found what we though was a good spot, isolated enough for Togo, and we made some dinner. Michael went off to bed straight away, feeling pretty ill.
We had a terrible night's sleep with Michael's coughing paling to the incessant din coming from the louts, which continued throughout the night until just after 06h00 and then started again just after 07h00. I got up at about 05h30 to put Togo inside because some of the drunkards had started 'barking' at her. When I got up to go to the loo at about 07h30 they were all wandering about with alcohol in their hands and their campsite looked like a rubbish dump!
I went for a walk in search of bread, without success, but spoke to the campsite manager on the way back and said we would not be paying as we hadn't had any sleep. He didn't even put up a fight (I gather he'd been having lots of hassle from them). So we had a bit of a marathon toast-cooking session and left shortly afterwards for Walvis Bay proper. The town was pretty sleepy, but we drove along the esplanade and saw flamingos on the beach and eyed out all the posh houses along the waterfront.
Michael was still feeling pretty ill so I drove all day. We got to Spitzkoppe just before sunset and took our time finding the best camping spot possible - many of the best spot were already taken. Then we all sat on the granite rock and had sundowners. Spitzkoppe is a community-run reserve with 28 campsites set in the bushveld among large granite outcrops. There are no facilities (unless you count the one large site with the quaint bucket shower and three loos [plus one in the middle of the bush with a spectacular mountain view] which are set up for large tour groups). It is very well done and gives a real feeling of isolation, which we love! Simon, Nicole and I cooked dinner on the campfire and had braaied marshmallows for dessert.
Simon, Nicole and I got up and sat on top of the granite rock to watch the sunrise over the granite outcrop across the plain behind us. Had Michael been feeling better, we would have stayed an extra night to go walking and climbing. Togo was feeling a little sorry for herself as her paw pads were tender from all the rock climbing over the last couple of days. Nicole made bacon rolls for breakfast and I made hot chocolate which seemed to take forever on my ineffective fire.
We had a long drive to Windhoek with endless stretches of monotonous scenery (which Michael slept through). We arrived at the lodge / campsite at lunchtime, though we nearly got Nyathi stuck on one of the sand roads inside the campsite! It was mortifying to have to make several attempts to get through sand that even the 2WD cars managed easily. The onlookers must've found it amusing. Luckily Sandy was driving, so Michael kept well out of sight.
Michael and Simon took Nyathi's propshaft in to be fixed, while and Nicole and I treated ourselves to lunch at the resort restaurant. We kept Togo with us and she was very mischievous. She tried to climb into the pond and took great delight in pulling off one the big elephant ear leaves. Nicole and I couldn't stop giggling and I swiftly hid the evidence and tied her to my chair!
Michael had success with the propshaft which can be collected at lunchtime tomorrow. The engineer/owner of the propshaft repair place reckons we can just have a new yoke welded on, and the shaft balanced. Simon and Nicole went off to find a garage to fix their leaking fuel tank and some other bits and bobs. Michael went for a sleep and I did some journal entries and played with Togo.
We were lazy and got Nandos chicken for dinner. I had a wonderful, deep, hot bath and then crawled into bed, where Michael was already fast asleep.
It was a very cold night last night - Michael and I both ended up sleeping with our beanies on - what a sight! It was still very chilly this morning until the sun crept over and started warming up the camp. Michael stayed in bed while I did the laundry and chatted to Nicole. (Simon had taken Jenny in to the servicing place).
Later on we all went for lunch at the resort restaurant and left Togo 'guarding' Nyathi. Then Michael and Simon went off to fetch the propshaft and Nicole and I relaxed in the sun. It turned out that the shaft (the one we had had made up in Burkina Faso) was in fact just a piece of water pipe! It was both bent and twisted (through nearly 360 degrees!) and so needed a new tube, which he had fortunately done already, rather than waiting for Michael's authorisation. So the shaft repair cost around N$700 instead of N$400. Michael fitted the shaft there and then - much relieved to have all Nyathi's capabilities restored.
The guys came back and then we went and dropped off Simon and Nicole at a friend's for tea and we went into town. We left our two tyres for repair at Tiger Wheel and Tyre and said we'd collect them in the morning.
We went back to collect the others and then took them to the garage where Jenny was. We met Ollie there, who used to work for Foley's in Zambia. He told Simon that his brakes needed urgent attention and a few other things needed tightening too, so Simon has his work cut out for him in the morning!
We went back to camp and I took all the washing down and annoyingly noticed one of my favourite t-shirts had been stolen! Michael fed Togo and we tied her up and then all went into town to eat pizza and go to the movies. We saw Charlie's Angels - Full Throttle which was completely over the top but provided entertainment!
We spent a busy morning... Simon worked on Jenny, Michael helped him when he got up too. He phoned his Mom to wish her happy birthday. Nicole and I did cleaning of various sorts. We headed into town and when we got to Tiger Wheel and Tyre they had put the tyres on the rims the wrong way round, despite us reminding them yesterday to put the white lettering facing inwards (why do people like big white lettering on their tyres???). Deon was very apologetic and he very kindly didn't charge us for anything, labour, balancing, the new tube - all free!
Jenny needed wheel balancing so while they were organising that, Michael and I went to the pet shop and bought Togo some new bowls, a collar, leash, treats and a new fluffy squeaky toy Lion (Leo). We also did some grocery shopping and then went back to collect the others at the 4x4 shop. We met some very enthusiastic Italians there who had been taking photos of Nyathi (we saw them through the shop window) and we had a chat to them about travel and Land-Rovers.
We set off for Nandos and to fill up with fuel and then I realised I had left the latch on the tyre when we were packing away the groceries , so we raced off to see if it was still there and sure it enough it was... So we only got on the road near 14h00 and we drove until just before sunset. We camped at a nice little place in Nauchas, where the owners were very friendly and there was an endless supply of hot water!
Michael went straight to bed and the rest of us had beef potjie for dinner followed by delicious lemon meringue pie!
It felt really cold last night (we donned our beanies again). In the early hours of the morning when I got up to go to the loo I put Togo inside, which she was very happy about! We were up at 07h00 and both went for a hot shower. Togo ran about like a mad thing playing with Leo. I phoned Claudia, which was great - it is so nice to know we are going to see them so soon. I also spoke to Robyne. Michael and I sat in the sun and had a slice of lemon meringue pie for breakfast. I made a mini fruit salad for everyone and we got on our way to Sossusvlei...
We stopped off in a little place called Solitaire and bought some delicious seed loaf - it was warm and we cut it up and ate it with butter - it was delicious! The route to Sesriem is beautiful. In fact it's hard to concentrate on driving (especially on the windy, sand roads) and take in the scenery at the same time. The mountains have been cut into really interesting formations by the wind and the closer you get Sesriem, the more the desert sands begin to sweep up the side of the mountain.
We arrived at lunchtime and paid our N$160 for four people and two cars. The 64km from Sesriem to Sossusvlei is tarred (with a number of potholes to keep you on your toes). Then there is a 4x2 car park and the remaining 5km can only be done in 4x4. The dunes were breathtaking, but I think we have been spoilt by the Sahara. We had expected to drive though the base of some dunes and be surrounded on all sides, but there is a large pan (vlei - suppose we should have guessed) which you drive through and the dunes are still some distance away.
Nevertheless, it was lovely and we stopped and had lunch in the shade and then Michael and I continued on the 4x4 circle and we saw an oryx, ostrich and loads of springbuck on the dunes which was quite exciting - although apparently quite common.
Nicole and Simon went off to look for a geocache which was hidden some 2.5km away from the 4x2 car park. There walk was pretty heavy going and they only got back after 17h00, but they found the hidden treasure and brought back a little porcelain Dutch clog to prove it.
When we left the park we discovered the inner gates close at 18h30, but the external gates close at 17h30 - which is daft, but after speaking halting Afrikaans with my best English accent, the guy opened up and let us out (and a big overland truck in). We drove in search of another place to camp which allowed dogs. We came to a restaurant/lodge called Mirgae (which is newly built and very beautiful) and although they said we couldn't camp there they phoned their neighbours who run a ballooning safari company and asked if we could camp there. The owner Thierry said yes, so off we went... We met his son Bernard and he showed us where we could camp in bush about 300m away, which was terrific. Their very big dog followed us there and Togo did a very good job of trying to bite her ears. Luckily she was pretty good natured and put up with Togo's jumping and running about. We were all exhausted so had a cup-a-soup and fell into bed at about 21h30. We put Togo inside as we had been told there were Hyena's about, but we hadn't seen nor heard any evidence of them.
We got up relatively early after a disturbed night's sleep. Last night at 22h20 I woke up to hear a dog whining and looked out to see 'big dog' lying outside with its tail wagging whining for Togo to come out and play and when I opened the hatch, Togo got all excited to be let out, so I let her out, but kept her food in so 'big dog' didn't eat it. Then all we could hear was the two of them thundering about like wild things. At about 02h00 Togo came back and whined to be let in, I gathered she was exhausted, but she got in, ate some food and then got all excited to get out and play again. So I left her out with her basin and blanket for the rest of the night and she and 'big dog' had a wail of a time. Michael's chest infection was still not much better so his coughing didn't help with sleeping either.
The drive to Keetmanshoop was pretty uneventful and somewhat boring in terms of scenery. I had the music playing to keep me alert. At Keetmanshoop we filled up with fuel, bought some groceries. It wasn't the most prepossessing town, but the good news was that we met up with Chris and Julian again and they had some German friends with them - Monica and Axel. We told them about the campsite south of town and said we might see them there later.
The campsite was not exactly what I would call plush, but was nice enough. Togo had a great time making friends with the other campers and chasing some of the kids! Simon checked his fuel tank, which was leaking again (how annoying, after it had just been fixed in Windhoek).
I made a delicious dinner, with lots of salad and the furious wind scattered our burning embers all over the sand like fireworks. Michael had fun inspecting the others' vehicles and talking all things technical, despite still feeling under the weather! Axel and Monica have converted a Bearmach - an Italian 4x4 about Unimog size. Michael lusted after their tyres, as he had originally considered fitting that size and make to Nyathi (Michelin XZL 255/100-16). Apparently their vehicle will fit into a standard 6m container for shipping, if they remove the wheels and fit a set of four specially-made steel discs in their place. This gives us some hope that our vehicle will also be able to fit into a shipping container (though Nyathi is perhaps longer).
Togo was full of nonsense this morning and chewed through the run-rope I had tied up for her last night. I phoned Karen for her 40th birthday and it was so wonderful to talk to her. Simon and Nicole made oats for breakfast and then we packed up camp and headed off for Fish River Canyon. We stopped off to look at the place which Axel had recommended as they said we could camp down in the canyon there. The owners were very friendly, but at first the lady wanted N$200 per vehicle, plus N$10 per person. When I said it was beyond our budget she offered us the bush-camping rate of N$45 per person and said we could still use the kitchen and ablution facilities, which suited us down to the ground. We also told her the others would be following us. We had a drink from their honesty bar and sat on the patio soaking up the sun for a bit, then we headed off for the campsite about 4 minutes drive away. You definitely needed 4x4 to get down the canyon and the views were spectacular.
The campsite was set down in the valley and was up against the escarpment which was lovely, but pretty cold as the sun set behind the mountains. It also had loads of that fine talcum dust that puffs up whenever you walk on it and gets in everywhere. We sat in the remaining sunlight having a drink when two hikers came up and asked us if they were in the right place as marked on their map. The lady had sprained both ankles and her partner was carrying the bulk of her pack, as well as his and then we told them they had overshot their mark by some way. Michael offered to drive them to the correct pick up point and they were delighted. Soon afterwards Chris, Jules, Axel and Monica arrived. It was great to sit and chat with them and we commiserated about the state of affairs in Zimbabwe and how we thought we could put it right!
The night got pretty cold and I cooked a quick dinner. At the end of the evening we all ended up huddled around Nyathi chatting, wearing our warm clothes and beanies.
We spent a glorious, relaxing day in the canyon today. First thing in the morning Michael and I moved Nyathi over to the other side of the river to where the sun was and the dust wasn't! Soon afterwards everyone else followed. We made a tasty breakfast of eggs, bacon and tomato, accompanied by the German bread which was baked fresh yesterday, but we could have killed a kudu with it if we aimed right!
Michael spent most of the day vegging out and playing Civilization. I chatted with Nicole and Chris, read a magazine and soaked up the sun, while trying to avoid the chilly wind. In the afternoon I went with Axel, Monica, Chris, Jules and Togo down to the river ponds, where Axel tried to catch fish. He wasn't successful for a number of reasons, his bait wasn't right and of of course Togo - who took great delight in splashing into the water trying to catch the fishing float and generally causing havoc. Jules was showing her how to dig mud holes and then when she was all dirty she would run over to Chris and I and shake herself off!
Chris, Togo and I walked back to camp and the others followed in Axel's Bremach shortly afterwards. We al cooked our dinners and afterwards huddled around a massive campfire and drank liqueurs - a perfect ending to a great day!
We were up by 07h15, but really would have preferred to stay in bed as the weather was overcast and the wind made it really cold. We had hot chocolate for breakfast and said our goodbyes to the others.
We went into the Fish River Canyon park at Hobas and went to a couple of the view points. The canyon is pretty impressive, but I must confess that I thought the river flowed all year round. The Lodge owners told us yesterday that the river normally floods about 6 times a year, but they haven't had floods for over two years now and are desperate for rain.
We stopped off at the Canon Lodge with the intention of having lunch there. It is in a beautiful setting and looks really good, but the service in the restaurant wasn't very efficient and the menu was very limited and expensive, so we decided to push on. We stopped off a little later for a quick picnic lunch and watch the rain pouring over the canyon in the distance which must be a relief for the locals, although it didn't look like it lasted long!
We found the turn off for the 4x4 track to Rosh Pinah. The route was wonderful. We drove through very flat desert-like scenery to start with and then drove into a canyon / gorge. It was terrific - similar to the Gorges du Ziz in Morocco, but not quite as grand. We were amazed it wasn't mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide!
We found a great bush camp higher up than the river bed and relatively sheltered from the wind. We heard baboons barking at each other up in the mountains and Togo's hair was standing on end and she was looking all alert, barking madly. She also doesn't like the echoes!
We noticed that Nyathi had lost one of the plastic dust-caps that fit over the end of the half-shafts. Michael and I went for a walk, retracing our tracks, in the hope of finding it, but no luck.
As night fell, we built ourselves a big campfire and Nicole and I made dinner while Michael and Simon played chess. Simon won (again), much to Michael's chagrin. The night was very pleasant and less windy than we had thought. We rounded off with melted chocolate on the campfire which I had got from my team at work. Delicious!!!