Friday, August 5, 2016

South Africa to Namibia



I'm rather embarrassed to say, but Hubby and I are the last to dismantle our tent this morning.

Today we have a really early start because we are traveling a long distance to get to Orange River ,South Africa. I am up at 5am and have a nice warm shower before clearing out the tent and taking it down in the dark. I seem to have misplaced my flashlight which could prove challenging for future in the dark tent dismantling situations. Hopefully it shows up.

We almost leave without our towels. I left mine to dry on a chair and I hung My husbands on the truck (Brenda's) rear view mirror. Luckily Alfonse (our driver) notices as we are about to drive off.

Our tour group is split into four subgroups; the lions, the elephants, the zebras and the kudus. We revolve doing group duties; food prep, truck packing, dish washing and truck cleaning.

We are driving through the Northern Cape. It consists of rocky, scrub lands with lots of sheep and a few cows. Think tumbleweed country.

We stop for lunch at a roadside picnic spot. It's starting to warm up a lot. We'll soon be stopping at a mall in Springbok to load up on supplies.

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After driving through terrain that can best be described as mountainous desert, we arrive at our campsite, Fiddler's Creek in Orange River. It is so beautiful here...so beautiful; so peaceful. And it is warm now...the perfect summer day.

After putting up our tents and changing into summer clothes, everyone relaxes except for the "elephant" group who prepares supper. My flashlight turns up...thank goodness.

The door of our tent faces the river...what a view to wake up to.

We are in South Africa but Namibia is across the river. Cameron, a few of the guys and two of the dogs just swam across the river to Namibia and back.

The water is calm, like glass. Every now and then a fish jumps and breaks the waters stillness.

There are three pet campsite dogs here who love nothing more than for us to play fetch the rock with them..and we are not talking pebbles, these are big rocks. The black pit bull is hilarious, you can hear him snorting long before he arrives.

There is no WIFI here. The buildings including the bar are grass thatched. The bar is really fun and quirky with all manner of articles including shoes, hats, bills, signs, beer caps, license plates, crutches, paddles and more nailed to the roof and pillars.

We partake of some beverages as we watch the sun set.

Supper is delicious; pork cooked on a grill over an open fire, potatoes mashed with onions and  carrots, mixed vegetables including red cabbage and onion gravy. Yum.

After supper we lounge by a bonfire under the stars and chat while the younger group sit in the open air bar playing cards. I love the comradarie of this type of trip.

Gift tells us about one tour where they were looking at crocodiles and one Korean gentleman taking pictures said "how close can we let the crocodile get?" Gift said "Where is he?" And the guy pointed directly in front of him. Gift said he was so shocked that he froze to the spot. Luckily The driver quickly yanked the guy away. Later the tourist told Gift that he thought  he was fine because crocodiles don't leave the water. Yikes!

The black pitbull dog keeps wanting the ball thrown for him., snorting his delight with each toss. He never stops. He's my husband Shawn's  best friend cause he throws the ball the most. In the night we hear him snorting at our tent door. Hope reins eternal in that beast.

Before I go to bed I really look at the stars; bright, backlit pinpricks  in a sky of black velvet. I love this place.

I wake up a few times in the night, once with a Charlie horse in my calf and the next time because our snorting, four legged friend is incessantly barking at something in the distance.

Our campsite is just as gorgeous in the morning. About half our group goes canoeing and the rest of us have a relaxing morning. Shawn and I go for a walk to the most floral laden Bougainvillia bush I have ever seen. We are suddenly joined by three bounding Mastiff dogs, ( which intimidate me at first). They were literally climbing all over each other to be petted. Two of them escort us for the rest of our walk.

When the canoe group return, we have lunch and head for the border.

The border crossing is a long drawn out affair. On the South African side, we get out of the truck, line up and have our passports checked. Then we go back to the truck. Next all our hand luggage is taken down from the over- head bins and dogs go into the truck and sniff around. And this is just to leave South Africa.

Graham and I were both finger printed when we entered South Africa.

After we cross the Orange River into Namibia, we stand in line again and go through passport controls. Gift says that we had a quick border crossing...I'd hate to experience the long version. We are now on our way to the next campsite at Fish River Canyon.

Cameron is with a gang at the front table playing cards. Graham is chatting away with Felix and Shawn is fast asleep. We speed across a Namibian road as popular African music ( An artist named Johnny Clegg) plays over the speaker. It suits the countryside.

The roads are unpaved. As Gift says, " they give us an African massage."

Alfons is really booting it with the truck (Brenda) and a huge cloud of dust follows in our wake. The dust makes me cough and my eyes water.

We stop briefly by the side of the road and a few guys tear out to do their business and we are off again.

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The landscape in this part of Namibia is still mountainous desert but it almost has the feel of the lava fields on the big island of Hawaii ( but it's not volcanic)...or Sudbury after the strip mining.

We stop at our campsite and quickly put up our tents but don't take time to move in our luggage or sleeping bags. We race against the clock to get in our hike and watch the sun set over the canyon. I can't believe how quickly the temperature changed. It 's really cold so I change from my skirt and tank top to pants and a winter jacket.

Fish River canyon is the largest canyon in Africa ( there is some dispute because the Ethiopians say that they have the largest canyon). Irregardless, it's impressive. Very much like Grand Canyon.

Not keen on heights, I have a few jittery moments hiking around the edge of the canyon but overall, do ok. We watch the sun go down from the observation point.

Since it's winter here, we have shortened daylight hours. The sun comes up about 6:15am and sets about 5:00pm in Namibia.

We share our big box of wine with our traveling companions after sunset and Gift and Alfons make a delicious supper of salad, rice and beef stew that we eat by flashlights at the lookout.

After returning to our camp, we finish setting up our sleeping bags and sit around the camp fire chatting. It's very cold. Most of us have on toques and gloves and I wear my light down jacket under my winter down jacket.

We wear our toques to bed...ok, I even wore my gloves. Through the night, I'm surprisingly warm and even strip off a number of layers.

We tear down the campsite early this morning. Shawn and I are second last to finish so there is improvement. We have breakfast and are on the road by 7:00am.

As we whip down the roads, enjoying our "African massage", the landscape slowly changes. The bushes get bigger and more plentiful, the land is flatter and we spot more wildlife. We see herds of oryx grazing by the side of the road and spot six ostrich all running in a line, the leader flapping his wings....don't know why he does that, probably for artistic effect or maybe (as I said before), hope reins eternal. Mike (our South African travel friend) told me that an ostrich can really kick the crap out of you.

We stop at a tiny town to stretch our legs, grab snacks and go to the bathroom. Our next stop is at the side of the road, under one of the rare trees in the middle of nowhere....literally.

We are in the Nam desert. It is an outcrop of the Kalahari desert. There are hardly any trees.

The dust is everywhere. Sometimes I just put my shirt over my face and breath through that.

We explore Sesriem Canyon. I am  kind of concerned cause the guys are all climbing the steep rocks ( that have a lot of foot holds).

Our campsite is in the desert; windy and lots of sand. I'm now in the campground bar. We will be having supper in ten minutes.

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