Day 40 – The final day and back to Stellenbosch – 18th October

We were up early and as there was nothing in the park to go and see, we thought we might as well just leave early and get back to Stellenbosch by mid afternoon. It was a 6 hour drive on the motorway and so was easy enough as there was very little traffic until the final hour or so. For the majority of the way, there are mountains so there was something to look at but in general, they’re not too spectacular and so we didn’t stop at all. It was weird when we got close to Stellenbosch as there is quite a lot of traffic round there and for the vast majority of the trip, we had hardly seen any cars on the road so it seemed like the M25 during rush hour!

So all in all, a very enjoyable trip. The weather had been a bit up and down in places but I think I can say, we’ve seen the vast majority of the main sights and scenery South Africa has to offer (and most types of wildlife) and visited all the provinces in the country (except the Free State) and also Swaziland and Namibia. It’s been a bit strange only very rarely having internet access and quite often no phone reception either, I’d never class myself as a technophobe but it’s only when you don’t have things, you realise how much you use them….

I’ll try and write a summary of the trip when I get a bit of time – the garden has gone wild in the time we were away so needs a lot of work and the car will take about 2 days to clean with all the sand and dust in and on it!!

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Day 39 – Vioolsdrift to Namaqua Park – 17th October

We only had a 200 km drive so took it easy and left about 10.00. Although the route was through mountain areas, they weren’t particularly good scenery so apart from some road works, it was quite an easy, uneventful drive – until we had to drive the final 25 km on really bad gravel roads! I am really amazed that our car is still in one piece, I kept expecting to get out close the door and for it to fall apart after all the shaking and banging it has had. This was our last night away as we had decided to drive back to Stellenbosch the next day and Elsa had wanted to stay in this park. It is basically a park that is full of flowers for a couple of weeks a year – but we’d missed it by about a week and so there weren’t that many flowers left. The actual park hasn’t really got anything else to see so we spent the rest of the day with me updating my blogs and Elsa reading.

Again, we’d bought food so we had a braai and a few drinks and then watched football on the TV. Elsa went out on the deck and took some really good pictures of the sunset which was pretty impressive so at least we got some good photos of the day. I watched Liverpool v Man United and it was so boring I went to bed at half time – which was lucky as it ended up 0-0 and from all reports, the second half was just as boring!!

 

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Day 38 – Luderitz to Vioolsdrift – 16th October

We had been looking at places to go to on our last section of the trip, from Namibia to Cape Town down the West coast. Nearly all of the coastal towns involved driving quite large sections of gravel road and as I was getting fed up with them now, I was quite keen to basically drive on easy roads and just stay inland on the way home. Therefore, we booked to stay the night at a place just back across the border in South Africa.

It was a 6 hour drive so we set off on very good tarmac road and Elsa drove the first section. Again we were driving through the desert but this time I got to look at it properly and it is amazing. When we got to the gravel road, we swapped and I drove the remaining 100 km. The road was absolutely terrible in large sections (the scenery was great but I couldn’t look at it as I was veering from side to side missing potholes and being shaken to bits!) and I was really pleased when we got to the end of it and back on tarmac for the last 50 km. It was a bit strange when we saw a small township where they’d covered the usual tin shacks they have, with bamboo type wood – but considering the temperature it must get to in them, any sort of heat reduction must be essential.

 

The exit through the border was pretty quick and we were at the tented camp we were staying in by about 4.00. Our room / tent was basically a properly built bathroom with a tent connected to it. It was air conditioned and really nice so we just relaxed for a bit. We had bought meat etc in Namibia to cook a meal but you cannot buy drink in Namibia on a Sunday so we didn’t have any. When we’d booked in, the owners said they had some beer we could buy so we went and sat on their terrace and a drink with them. We found out they were from Stellenbosch and after a little bit, we found out we knew their daughter and also that they knew our brother in law very well so it is a small world!

We went and cooked ourselves a meal and again, had an early night.

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Day 37 – 2nd day in Luderitz, Namibia – 15th October

We got up and had a leisurely breakfast and then went to see Kolmanskoop which is an abandoned mining town and which is now half covered by sand dunes. They discovered diamonds there in the late 1800’s and as it was a German colony at that time, it was set up like a small German town, and for it’s time was very advanced with some pretty high tech systems. The whole of that part of Namibia is sectioned off as a diamond mining area which obviously means nobody can enter it. It’s a pretty popular tourist site so there were 2 guides who split everybody up between English speaking and German speaking – and it turned out about 80% were German!

We then went on a drive around a peninsula, stopping off at various beaches and the lighthouse at Diaz Point and taking our pictures. There’s some nice areas but it didn’t take us too long so we went down to the Waterfront area of Luderitz. It doesn’t quite compare to Cape Towns Waterfront as there are only about 4 shops and a restaurant there! We had a meal in the restaurant and had a chat with some people we had bumped into a few times since meeting them at the border post and they told us about a place in the town called the Diaz which they said was worth going to. It took a bit of finding but we got there in the end – and the 4 people were there too! We were only going to have a quick drink but ended up chatting and drinking with them for about 4 hours before stumbling home to bed!

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Day 36 – Fish River Canyon to Luderitz, Namibia – 14th October

We only had a drive of about 200 km to Luderitz. We were staying there for 2 days so that we could have a bit more time to relax so took our time leaving the hotel. As we were still a bit concerned about the repaired tyre, we kept our speed down. Initially we were on the gravel road and driving through very boring scrubland areas but as we got further on, we got onto better roads and moved into the Namib Desert. This was my first experience of what I always thought of as desert, with miles of flat sand as far as the eye could see. There were also mountains surrounding it so the sand dunes there were banked high up on the mountains so looked a bit surreal. As we got closer to the coast, the desert changed to miles of sand dunes and then finally the sea so all in all was one of the best drives we have had.

Again, we dropped our stuff off and went on a drive to see a couple of the sights around the town. We firstly went to Shark Island (didn’t see any!) and then to Agate Beach which is surrounded by dunes and as ever on the trip, was nearly deserted. It was a nice afternoon so was good just taking it easy. We also drove round the town which is quite pretty with all the houses and buildings painted in different, generally very bright, colours

We planned on going to a bar to eat which was recommended and which you were supposed to be there at opening time to get a table. We got there for opening at 6.00 and had quite a good meal. I had eisbein (like a big lamb shank but pork) and it was the biggest meal I’ve had in years! Apparently it is the best eisbein in Namibia – but then again, I’ve had quite a few of the best hamburgers and steaks in South Africa in many different places! We stayed in there a while and had a few drinks before heading back to the hotel.

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Day 35 – Grunau to the Fish River Canyon, Namibia – 13th October

It was only about 150 km to our hotel, the Roadhouse, so we drove up there. The scenery got a bit better with more mountains though we had to do the final 80 km or so on dirt and gravel roads. The room wasn’t ready so we just drove straight on to the Fish River Canyon. This is the second biggest canyon in the world, after the US Grand Canyon, and is really spectacular. It isn’t as colourful and the main section to see is nowhere near as long but is well worth going to see as you can see in the pictures below. Elsa and I are not people who spend hours staring at the same thing so we drove to have a look at the sections we wanted to see, took our photos and then headed back to the hotel along the dreaded gravel roads.

When I was unloading the car at our hotel, Elsa said it looked like we had a puncture. I can only guess that it had happened in the last couple of hundred yards to the hotel as it was going down fairly quickly. I started putting on the spare wheel when a guy from the petrol station came over and said he could repair it so we let him fix it and planned to get a new one the next day at our next stop on the trip.

As were then stressed out, (that’s my excuse anyway), we went and sat on the terrace and had a few beers in the sunshine. As it was still fairly early, we had a nap before having a meal in the restaurant and then watching a film on the lap top.

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Day 34 – Upington to Grunhau, Namibia – 12th October

We were up fairly early and as we were only going to be having a stopover in Grunau on our way to the Fish River Canyon, Adriaan took me on a drive around the farm. I’d never really been round a farm before and he explained what all the crops were in each of the fields nd how it all works etc which I found pretty interesting.

We left about 10.00 and drove the 150 km to the Namibian border. After a bit of mucking about, we got through the South African side after about 45 minutes. Adriaan had told me that we needed to pay for a road licence on the car on the Namibian side of the border so we drove through the SA gates and expected the Namibian border to be a few hundred metres up the road. But we drove about 3 km and still hadn’t seen it so I thought we’d better go back to the SA border and see if was actually there we needed to get the licence from. The border control found it pretty funny when I asked and told me we still had a bit to go to the Namibian border gate – 17km!!!! Once we got there, we went through fairly quickly and went to or guest house at Grunau. On the drive, on both sides of the border, there was nothing really to look at as it just very big areas of scrubland with the occasional cow or sheep on it so we just stopped at one of the major towns (about 4 houses, a shop and a petrol station!) and got some food to braai and some petrol and went to the guest house.

There was nothing to do there so we just sat outside in the sun reading our books before lighting the braai and making our dinner. We obviously had a few drinks with it so by about 9.00, we were ready for bed!

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Day 33 – Augrabies to Upington (again) – 11th October

I was up at 5.30 so decided to go and get some pictures of the sun rising over the mountains. In contrast to the Kalahari where it was freezing in the morning, here it was quite warm so I sat and watched the sun rise for an hour or so.

We were staying at Elsa’s niece’s farm overnight in Upington and as it wasn’t too far away, we weren’t in any hurry to get going so just packed up and went and had a drive around the park. There were some nice areas around the park with very scenic sections along the river so we got some nice pictures.

We then drove to Leonie and Adriaan’s farm. They had just completed a new building with a bedroom and bathroom and a very nice braai area. We had a really nice evening just chatting and had a good meal and a few drinks. They are a really nice family and looked after us very well.

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Day 32 – Kalahari to Augrabies – 10th October

We got up at 6.00 and Elsa decided to have one final try at seeing something at a water hole so she went off while I tried to wake up with some coffee. As it was only 1C, she wasn’t there long and guess what, there were no animals there at all…… All in all, I can say that whilst I enjoyed the experience of the Kalahari as it was unlike anything that I had not seen or done before, I doubt I will be back again. If you want to see animals in the wild, Kruger is far better.

We packed up and left the camp at 9.00. We had to reinflate the tyres on the car as we had reduced the pressure on the tyres on the way in to help drive on the sand and gravel roads and then set off back on the same bleak 250 km drive back to Upington so set the car on cruise control and pointed it in the right direction. We did a bit more shopping in Upington and then drove the 100 km to the Augrabies National Park.

The main focal point of the park is the waterfall which then runs down a deep gorge and also the mountains surrounding the park. We dropped stuff in our chalet – which was one of the better ones we’ve had in the parks – and went on a walk to see the falls. The area round the gorge and falls is very well set up with a boardwalk and numerous viewing platforms so is a nice, easy walk. As it is the dry season, the falls were not as full as they are at other times of the year (we saw some pictures of when it was in flood and it is really spectacular then) but were still pretty good. It was 32C so after our walk we had a beer on the restaurant terrace before going to sit about at the chalet.

We got ready and went for a meal in the restaurant – not recommended! – but we managed to get some nice pictures of the sunset and sat drinking for a couple of hours before going back to the chalet and bed.

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Days 29, 30 and 31 – Upington to Kalahari National Park – 7th / 8th / 9th October

Day 1

We left the B&B in Upington at 8.00 for the drive to the Park. From Elsa’s research, it was about 250 km to the entrance along exactly the same sort of roads as the previous 2 days so 120 kmph cruise control drive through nothing of interest. We got to the gates at about 10.00 and set off on the supposed 3.5 hour, 115 km drive. The speed limit in the park is 50 kmph so I think they allow for the bad roads and a bit of stopping to see animals etc. However, it took us about 5 hours to get to our camp, the Kalahari Tented Camp.

Everything about the trip was different to our previous National Park visits, with the terrain being pretty flat and open and the roads initially being gravel but then becoming very soft sand which took a bit of getting used to but having traction control on the car certainly helped. Also there are far fewer animals in the park than in the others so we basically only saw springbok, gemboks, blue wildebeest. giraffes, jackals. lions and a few kudu – and in reality, the only ones that there are a lot of are springbok, gemboks and blue wildebeest so it was a bit disappointing. The one thing a bit different in the wildlife is the number of birds of all varieties – not that I’m a twitcher but it was interesting. Another thing in the whole area of the Northern Cape, are nests that are made by lots of birds who combine loads of individual nests into one big one – a bit like a bird multi storey block of flats!

Our chalet was basically half walled / half tented with a separate tented kitchen. It had no plug sockets at all and the lighting was solar powered but it had a 2 ring gas plate, a gas (I’ve no idea how it works) fridge / freezer and a gas boiler for the shower so was enough for us to get by. There’s no phone reception in the park at all and obviously no internet so was strange being out of contact with the outside world! We unpacked and had a quick drive to a couple of water holes and another camp to see if there were any more animals about but there weren’t really so we went back and lit the braai for our dinner.

I was taking some pictures of the sunset when Elsa started shouting that the gas cooker was on fire! I rushed back and the cooker control had fallen off and was leaking gas which was alight. Being a super hero I managed to put it out (I turned the gas tap off at the main) but had still managed to burn all the hairs off my hands and they were a bit sore! I stormed off to get the camp manager to scream at him – but he wasn’t too bothered, basically just said ok and replaced it with a new one! We managed to have a nice dinner sitting out on the deck and had the obligatory few beers and went to bed.

Day 2

We got up at 6.00 and packed all our stuff in order to go to the watering holes to see if we could see any more animals after the lack of them the previous day – but there was still only springbok, wildebeest and gemboks! We were going to stay in another camp (Nossob) about 120 km away and so set off there. This involved driving the dune road for the first half which I’d expected to be all sand but was actually a gravel road which went up and down (a lot) through all the sand dunes there. The second half of the drive was again all through soft sand but because of all the sand banked up on each side of the road, it meant that we couldn’t see anything!

I wasn’t too sure what to expect when I came to the park as I knew it was the desert but it is unlike what a Brit would expect of a desert. It isn’t all miles of high sand dunes with nothing in it, rather it is like the previous parks but with the vegetation growing in the sand. There are big plains with grass on that actually look like fairways on a golf course but also big dunes surrounding it – a bit bigger than bunkers! On the dune road, the sand was all a dark orange colour whereas in the lower levels it is all very fine brown sand, much like a nice beach!

We unpacked our stuff and had some lunch in our next chalet (this one had plug sockets and electric stove and fridge / freezer but they switch all the power off between 22.00 and 5.00 the next day!). As we had seen very few animals again, we set off for another 2 water holes, again along sand roads. This time we planned to stay there for a couple of hours in the hope that the animals would come along – but again, it was only gemboks and springboks though we did see some vultures and eagles. We then went back to the chalet for our dinner. We’d planned another braai but it got very windy so we ended up cooking and eating inside with the obligatory few drinks!

Day 3

We were awake early (5.00) so we waited for a bit and then walked down to the park’s animal hide overlooking a water hole hoping to see something – but the only thing there was a family of 6 Indian people who had been in the chalet next door to us in our previous camp! We managed to get a few good pictures of the sun rising though so it wasn’t a complete waste of time but it was freezing cold (there was ice on the car) so we didn’t hang about too long.

We packed our stuff up and left at 8.00 to go to our last camp, Twee Rivier (Two Rivers), about 150 km away. This was actually at the gate we entered the park at and we planned to stay there overnight as we had a fairly long drive on the next leg of the trip to Augrabies. It meant that we had done a sort of big loop around the 3 camps (about 540 km in total) so we’d managed to see quite a lot of the park. The drive was pretty uneventful with no different types of animals spotted but I had got used to driving on the sand roads now so we made pretty good time. Driving on the sand is like being in the UK and driving on freshly fallen snow but without sliding quite as far when the car loses grip. After the previous day of 33C temperatures, it had cooled down a bit and was only 20C when we arrived at Twee Riviers Camp at 12.30. It warmed up a bit then to a pleasant 25C and as there wasn’t a lot to see, we went and did our washing and sat in the sunshine reading our books. It was about the first time we’d actually just sat in the sun for any length of time on the whole trip so was good just relaxing, though we both got a bit burnt! Elsa wanted to go for one more visit to a water hole, more in hope than expectation of seeing anything decent, so she went off at 4.30 while I cooked dinner. She was there for 2 hours and saw precisely nothing!! When she got back, we had our dinner and a couple of drinks before watching Kung Fu Panda 3 on the lap top and going to sleep.

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