Tuesday 7th July
Our flight, destination Windhoek, left timeously at 5.00 pm – there was much anticipation and excitement as we sat waiting in the departures lounge at Cape Town International. This capital city is said to be pulsing with life, and adds a sparkle of adventure to your ‘base’ before we head on our travels. On our arrival at Windhoek Country Club we met with Meghan and Eva of Sense of Africa. Meghan has been such a part of our planning over the past 9 months.
The Windhoek Country Club notorious buffet dinner followed by comfortable accommodation really made our first night very memorable.
Wednesday 8th July
Early this morning we met Carlos Mauers, our coach driver / guide for our tour. Carol was particularly pleased with the vehicle to be used for the tour – “Another tick off my bucket list” she said……”I have always wanted to go on one on these ‘overland vehicles’”
Leaving the Windhoek Country Club at 08h00 we headed into Rehoboth along the C24 eventually passing Rietoog and arriving at our lodge – The Hammerstein Lodge – delicious toasted sandwiches under the trees and everyone was starting to really relax and enjoy Namibia.
Dinner tonight was particularly good – served in their dining room and a highlight was the Ohimba dancers – ‘Amarula’ being a favorite song!!
Thursday 9th July
An early wake-up call at 4.45 am – great excitement as we’re off to Sossusvlei this morning.
We left the lodge at 5.45 am after coffee and biscuits. Surprisingly we were not the only group in the lounge – many other tourists all heading off to Sossusvlei. The line of vehicles stretched out along the road at the entrance gate.
You can only drive up to a certain point in your own vehicle (car or bus) and the rest of the trip into the park has to be done on the Namibian Tourism 4×4 vehicles. Pity the tractor which pulls a large multi seater trailer, had a flat battery and this resulted in us having to wait nearly ¾ of an hour. The time was spent consoling a young German girl whose father had hired a 4×4 vehicle which had developed clutch problems……..she was inconsolable but Jackie came to the rescue giving her a life’s lesson: “in life not everything always goes the way you want it to!!” A large hug and she had a smile on her face! Thanks Jax!!!
Several highlights of today were:
Whilst everyone in our group had the opportunity to climb Big Daddy this is sure a challenge of note. Amazing how things change over the years – in our last visit in 2009, 3 of our group climbed Big Momma and it has now turned that Big Daddy is the ‘flavor of the month’!!!
On arrival at the Sesriem Canyon the temperatures were H.I.G.H – my goodness not many were prepared to walk down in the canyon!!!!
Carlos had arranged sandwiches at the local Engen garage near the main gate.
Our accommodation tonight was the Soft Adventure Camp, in the Namib Naukluft park and located on an open plain with granite hills, and the most enormous boulders we have ever seen, and very close to the ‘tent type’ accommodation,this was a favorite with most of our group. A few found it isolated!
A late sundowner drink in their visitor room before a delicious dinner which was served on the patio at the Namib Naukluft Lodge which is situated about 1km from the Camp.. Sandy had a lesson on how to say “Namibia” – much laughter ensued!!
Friday 10th July
After breakfast at the lodge we headed via the desolate, rolling hills of the Kuiseb Moon Valley towards the Atlantic Ocean passing the Tropic of Capricorn. My word, Namibia is a wonderful awesome country to visit!!
We stopped in Walvis Bay down at the lagoon where flamingoes are a fabulous sight. What fascinated us was the fact that as one approaches the group they all move in unison!! When they feel ‘safe’ again, they all move back to their original position.
Brian suggested a lunch at the Probst Bakery in Walvis Bay – what a treat!! Remembering how Ma Probst used to come into the army camp with her famous pies in 1965 ! We enjoyed fabulous food, very inexpensive and everyone was impressed!!
We then headed into Swakopmund – Carlos pointed out the beach areas and eventually we checked into our accommodation for the next 2 nights – Swakopmund Hotel & Entertainment Centre. Lovely accommodation and time to settle in and re-organize the cases was the order-of-the-day!!
Dinner tonight had been booked at the Swakopmund Brauhaus in the centre of town. Very good food, huge portions – only pity that being a Brauhaus it might have been good to have had a bit of background music to add atmosphere. A few in our party enjoyed the Eisbein (wow what a H.U.G.E meal).
Saturday 11th July
An early breakfast and 6 of our group headed out to Walvis Bay for the Marine Cruise with Catamaran Charters at 08h30. (Carol had originally been part of the group but an upset stomach made her decide to give it a miss).
In the afternoon – a few went to the Kristal Gallery ; some watched the rugby, before our dinner at Kuckis pub also in the centre of town. What a buzzing restaurant on 3 levels – we had a charming older waitress who coped admirably with the entire floor’s tables’.
Sunday 12th July
Another early start and heading off for our journey of 450 km to Damaraland. Wow Namibia is a VAST country. Our first stop was Henties Bay where Carlos thought we could buy a sandwich at the local SPAR shop. On arrival this SPAR was not yet open (probably the owners are in church!) Another problem with this vast country is the lack of what we know in South Africa as ‘one-stop’ garage stops!! We found a small absolutely spotless restaurant where sandwiches were very quickly produced – and my goodness they were good.
We continue our journey via the Brandberg, Namibia’s highest mountain (2579m) and one of the least populated and geologically diverse areas in Africa.
En route we stop at local roadside traders who sell semi-precious stones and a real treat was with the Ovambo women who ply their trade with their colourful dolls!
We visit Twyelfontein where only Derick, Brian and Molly braved the 60 minute walk in intense heat to see the Bushmen rock etchings!
The highlight today was the visit to a traditional Damara village where we saw traditional dancing ; heard how they ‘play’ a game with stones ; how they use leaves of the Mopani tree for medicine and were fascinated to hear that even elephant dung – boiled and strained – helps with knee problems. We still had a 3 hour journey to do so it was decided to leave mid-way through the dancing – pity it would have been better to have spent more time here than at Twyfelfontein!!
We then headed to the Ugab Terrace Lodge where Carlos had hoped to get the group installed before sunset! We only arrived as the sun was setting.
The Ugab Lodge has to be accessed via a 4×4 vehicle – it has a very steep climb so yet another unique way to get up to our accommodation, which turned out to be ever so good. A unique house on the hill with a view to-die-for!! A lovely touch was that of a staff member arriving with complimentary wine and water in a lovely basket. Dinner followed.
Power is provided by a low capacity generator, so lights are very dim and hair dryers etc could not be used.
Monday 13th July
A relaxed breakfast and we left the lodge just after 9h15. Today we’re heading to our lodge near Etosha – we only have a distance of 220km to do.
First stop this morning was the little town of Outjo – where some sat and enjoyed coffee/ cheesecake/ a pasty / and others ‘gathered’! Two interesting curio shops held everyone’s attention although there was a complaint that the local grocery shop was badly stocked.
Arriving at the Toshari Lodge before lunch, everyone gathered up at the large white tent and enjoyed a salad or sandwich!
Toshari Lodge was struck by lightning in February 2015 – what a tragedy – but what an amazing change-about! They have erected a very large white tent and even had their curio shop in a smaller green tent – “Very Out-of-Africa” was heard by many!!! An afternoon at leisure had everyone ready for dinner quite early – 6.30 pm.
Their dinner was delicious – even if the foreigners took the ‘wrong-way’ at the buffet according to South African practice – which caused consternation with some in our party! Eventually everyone had dined to their heart’s content and we sat back and were entertained by their staff!!
Tuesday 14th July
Another 4.30 am wake-up call! “My goodness why do women need an HOUR to get ready”.
We were supposed to enjoy coffee and a biscuit – NO biscuits had everyone cutting the fresh bread ready waiting on the buffet for breakfast and making themselves a quick sandwich. The lodge packs a Breakfast pack and we were waiting at the Etosha Andersen Gate at 6.30 am……………
Breakfast at Okaukueja Camp, at their water hole! Not much to be seen and really quite cold……….but within 15 minutes the animals started to arrive – giraffe ; gemsbuck etc etc . We then made our way to Halali Camp– some enjoyed lunch – quite expensive when one considers that you ‘have-to’ eat what they want you to-eat!! $N80 for soup/salad and dessert! (or N$170 for the full buffet). Others wandered to yet another water hole!
On leaving the park today we had seen over 20 species of animals / birds with the highlight being a herd of 14 elephants!! My goodness what a sight to watch them at the waterhole playing in the mud!! Eventually we ‘tracked’ them to the road where they crossed right in front of us!!
A late arrival at the Mokuti Etosha Lodge – what a fabulous place to stay!! We were to stay here for 2 nights. Blesbok roam the grounds – little squirrels scamper the trees and Caroline was thrilled with the bird life!
Dinner was in their dining room and once again, very good…………”Oh my goodness my trousers won’t close anymore”!!!
Most nights on tour had us in bed by 8.30 pm – not surprising when one considers how very busy our days are!
Wednesday 15th July
Today it was voted to have a quiet morning at the lodge. Some went to the Spa for beauty treatments ; Carol and Brian caught up with office work at the business centre ; and by 2.00 pm only 6 boarded the vehicle to once again, catch a glimpse of Namibia wildlife in Etosha! Our hopes were fulfilled. After about 10 minutes, Carlos spotted leopard paw prints on the sand……..and rounding a corner there was only one open vehicle and they flashed their lights at Carlos who cautiously proceeded and there was the most magnificent leopard on the side of the road…….a perfect specimen of an animal not easily seen – what excitement. We had a good 10 minutes viewing his magnificent creature before another open vehicle arrived and frightened the animal away.,………why don’t drivers observe caution! As a result of his action no-one on his vehicle got to see the leopard. Further sightings of at least 26 elephants at a waterhole followed by 2 black rhinos chasing each other and our group of 6 went back to camp very elated! Carlos pointed out a Black Shouldered Kite – another rare sight in Etosha………oh my goodness what a treat this last game drive was!
Dinner and everyone enjoying an early settling into bed.
Thursday 16th July
Today we leave by 7.00 am SHARP – we have our last stretch of 540 km back to Windhoek. Fortunately our route today was all on tar so a comfortable ride through Tsumeb; Otjiwarongo (Jackie was upset thinking she had lost her purse with ID documents etc in – but to her relief she had left it in the toilet) We eventually stopped in at Okahandja for a light lunch.
Arrival at the Windhoek Country Club in the early afternoon had everyone resting before their delicious dinner and fond farewells.
Friday 17th July
Derick and Jackie departed early for their flight via JHB to Durban. Six of us took the hotel shuttle into Windhoek spending sometime at the Old Brewery Craft market – browsing and browsing but not much buying! A coffee on the 9th floor of the Hilton Hotel which has been open for 4 years, was enjoyable.
By 1.30 pm everyone was heading off to the Windhoek International Airport for our flight back to Cape Town.
A saying in the local Namibian magazine states
“When you have been to Namibia you leave with a huge chunk of it in your heart”!!