Category “English – Namibia”

Gobabeb, Namibia – Part 1

Tuesday, 13 September, 2011

By Johnie Jonker


Reading an article in an old Leisure Wheels magazine – March 2009 – It sure beats working – my eye caught an image of a spider at Gobabeb. 

This reminded me of way back when, when my wife and I toured Namibia and visited the Gobabeb research station, experiencing “A day in the life of a conservation researcher”. 

As access to the research station is now public and it is quite easy to reach in even a non-fourwheeldrive vehicle, I thought some background may be of use.

So in a flush of nostalgia, I compiled a trip report with a bit of a wheels theme, including scans from reprinted slides and photographs.   Shortly therefore, my somewhat belated – 24 years late – Gobabeb Trip Report.

Reporting for duty, sir!

Reporting at the Bronberrik Naval Base in Centurion [it’s only 600km’s away from the sea…. – PGJ] for the final transport arrangements 2 days prior to my third National Service camp, I was informed that it had been cancelled.

After failing to argue myself into an alternative camp, I arrived home disappointed, complaining to my wife that I had prepared myself mentally for being away from work for 4 weeks, but would now have to return.

Let’s go on holiday, Rosemary said. Yes, I agreed. What about Namibia – we leave Saturday!

The Journey

Namiba tour


The map gives a very summarised indication of the trip, just to give you an idea where in the world we were.

On our second day in Namibia, I rolled the Jetta on the road between the Quiver Tree Forest near Keetmanshoop and Mukurob (the Finger of God, which incidentally, also rolled over in sympathy the following year).

After repairing the severed fuel line, the left hand wheels had to be removed, as both tyres had de-beaded due to the sideways skid prior to the flip-over. The supplied hexagon-shaped pipe wheel spanner however went oval trying to undo the wheel nuts, so with our survival kit – warm jackets, bottle of water and a roll of toilet paper – we started walking towards a farm-house we recalled spotting some distance back.

After a few kms, two farm labourers in an ancient Landcruiser pick-up stopped next to us. The driver and his colleague returned with us to the car, BEAT the pipe back into a spanner with a hammer using the head of another as anvil, and fitted the space-saver spare wheel. The front of the spanner had however by now split due to the repeated cold forming, and the second wheel could not be removed.

The LC wheel spanner did not fit the nuts, but the farmer, who had in the meantime been summonsed by radio, brought his Mazda 626 spanner, which worked.

The wheel was removed and the LC spare tried, but was of a different PCD. So one of the two original tyres was re-inflated by hand pump, fortunately sealing the bead, and after the refit we followed the procession back to the homestead, with both front and rear windscreens on the back seat.

It was explained to us that we were fortunate in being found on the same day, as we were on a road pretty much less travelled AND this farm had actually been reduced to cattle station status and was usually uninhabited.  [So the two vehicles on the picture actually counts for a traffic jam, it seems – PGJ]

The only reason anyone being there, was because it had recently been sold and the owner was in the process of “clearing out” – which I later understood to mean shooting out as much of the game – Springbok – as possible. We were given a hearty supper and put up for the night.

The next day, we continued on our holiday, as Windhoek was much closer than home. The remaining flat tyre had since been refitted to …

Gobabeb, Namibia – Part 2

Tuesday, 13 September, 2011

By Johnie Jonker

After turning right just past Vogelfederberg, we arrived 60km later at Gobabeb, where we were put up in the international visitor’s facility, being the special guests of Joh and his wife.


The next morning we crossed the Kuiseb in a well-used Land Rover 110 pick-up with rather special tyres, to Joh’s research site among the dunes, where he was studying the Dancing White Lady spider.

View from the LR. Note the spare wheel tyre.


This trapdoor spider burrows into the side of the dune, lining its tunnel with silk. Joh had pegged out a large research area in a 10m x 10m grid, this being crucial to the survival of his specimens. After taking the spiders to the research station for measurements, they had to be returned to within a few meters of their origin if they were not to be attacked by neighbouring spiders, due to the territorial nature of the species.

For more detail, refer to the paragraph on Study Area here:…-30-02-321.pdf

Team Spider, with our transport parked doer in the distance.


Joh was expert in spotting the outline of the trapdoors, and we also soon got the hang of it.

Trapdoor: The C-shaped trapdoor, with the tell-tale spider footprints leading up to it, indicating a nest.



He would measure and record the angle of the dune slope and the diameter of the trap door, then start digging around the outside to determine the angle of the sack into the side of the dune and also its length. 

The prey contents at the bottom of the nest also had to be analysed, but the spider was still in there, hanging underneath the trapdoor trying to keep it shut against the intruders. The trapdoor was then prised open, and the spider would raise its four front legs in an aggressive stance, realize that it’s up against something completely outside of its league and make a duck for it.

Spider: The spider and sack.

The spider was quick, but no match for Joh, chasing after it in full cry with his camera, prior to capturing Leucorchestris arenicola and putting it into a plastic vial with some breathing holes in the cap. 

Back at the lab the spider was weighed, sexed and coded, quite cleverly, with dots of different colour Tippex on its legs, so that if it was re-captured after release, something could be learnt of its movements.

The Tale of the Topnaars

Another piece of research undertaken by the Centre, was to determine how – when other animals were looking for shade – the Oryx could stand out in the midday sun and not collapse from heatstroke.

This trait was also displayed by the Topnaar goats, so the facility bought one from the local inhabitants and implanted a number of temperature sensors into various parts of its skull.

These sensors were wired to a transmitting collar and could be monitored real-time. From this data it was learnt that air in the nose cavity circulates over an area of high density blood vessels, and by increasing the airflow through panting, heat is drawn from the blood prior to reaching the brain. As often, technology imitating nature, the same principle is applied in a car radiator, with the fan increasing the airflow, reducing the coolant temperature.

But there is a twist to the tale.

Once the research was completed, the Centre had no purpose for the goat anymore and returned it to the Topnaars, who were now seriously suspicious of it. I mean, it does not make economical sense: First, these people buy the goat from us – we get money – now they give it back without wanting a refund?! The animal must be jinxed. (Hierrie bok is getoor!).

So they promptly turned it into a braai.

Our final night was one of those “big sky” moments, camping at Mirabib under …

Namibia – Part 1

Tuesday, 12 October, 2010

[Namibia tour 2000]


[Adapted version hereof published in Leisure Wheels, November 2010.]



[Source: Map data ©2014 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google]

Cape to Okahandja


Border crossing

It can be considered a strategic error to embark on a Namibia tour on the day after the Western Cape Schools have closed for the winter holidays. This was our folly.  The whole of the Western Cape (and half of the other provinces, it seems) are there.  It’s like a church bazaar on the platteland, (rural area) only there are even more cars.

Our convoy of three vehicles arrives at Vioolsdrift with a queue of cars of way in excess of a kilometre long.  As law abiding citizens should, we join the back of the queue.  We get out our samies and start nibbling away, expecting some forward movement in the line of cars.  After a while we realise that this is not how it works.  No, you’re supposed to walk to the front of the queue with your papers, and join another queue of pedestrians at the administration office.  And we soon notice that the guys in the queue are not as amicable as guys queuing for pancakes at the church bazaar.

In spite of it being mid-winter, the sun starts tugging at exposed skin where we stand in the queue for more than an hour.  Frikkie laments the fact that he had his bakkie serviced before our tour.  If he knew he would have so much time he would have come and serviced his car whilst waiting for the immigration officials.  Frikkie does things like that.

Once at Noordoewer on the Namibian side we are now a lot wiser.  Even before we came to a proper stand still half of our touring party is out of the cars and heads for the immigration offices.  Only to be shooed back by the Namibian official in charge of the logistics.  Here you wait at our car until it is your turn.

The Noordoewer side does not boast a PC to speed things up.  Everything is done by hand.  This whole South African cavalcade is dealt with by two immigration officials.  Two officials also deal with the (non-existing) stream of vehicles leaving Namibia for South Africa.  They have nothing to do, but clearly do not see the value of assisting their hapless colleagues on the other side.  It therefore takes a cool two hours before we are done with the paper work and able to hit the road again.


We set our watches an hour back and set out for Ai-Ais with what seems like another hour’s daylight left.    We arrive at Ai-Ais after dark.  The camp site is chock and block full.  It seems like all those who were fortunate enough to be at the border before us also headed for Ai-Ais and got all the good spots.

Following floods in the previous moths we find the facilities no yet fully repaired.  There are also fewer camp sites available.  Those with roof top tents simply make camp in the road.  The best we can do is to gate crash on the personal space of some other campers.

The next day it becomes clear that most people used Ai-Ais simply as a stopover, as the park is considerably less populated by noon the next day.  We stay for two nights.  In spite of the facilities being in a state of repair we enjoy our stay.

On our second night we find Colin starting to experiment with alternative ways to pack his plastic table into the back of his Nissan double cab.  For the rest of the tour this became a routine pasttime of Colin each evening.  I can report, however, that by the end of the tour Colin was still unable to find a more effective way of packing his plastic table, but definitely not due to lack of trying!…

Namibia – Part 2

Tuesday, 12 October, 2010

[Adapted version hereof published in Leisure Wheels, November 2010.]

Namibia third leg


[Source: Map data ©2014 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google]

By PG Jonker

Waterberg to Etosha


The facilities at the Waterberg outside Okakarara are very good, with warm water and electricity.  We find it a bit difficult to figure out which braai area belongs to which campsite.  Judging from the somewhat perturbed “and where must we now braai?” from our neighbours upon returning from a drive, I believe we, in fact, inadvertently took over their braai area in their absence. 

The Herero lady who helps us at the reception desk quickly changes over to Afrikaans after flinching in response to my English endeavours.  She is just as comfortable, though, assisting the overseas visitor waiting next to me in English.  The German speaking gentleman on my other side also enjoys the courtesy of being served in German.

At a later stage during our stay our paths crosses hers, and she volunteers to take us on a guided tour through the history of the old buildings.  She is a true ambassador not only for the Parks authorities, but also for Namibia.

In August 1904 the Battle of Waterberg took place between the Germans and the Hereros.  The Hereros escaped, but their retreat into the desert led to their near extinction at that time.

The old building at the Park that now hosts a restaurant used to be the police station in 1904.


Our next port of call is Etosha.

Within 5 minutes of us entering the Etosha we stop at a water hole where we see a great many species of animals.  Gemsbok, Springbok, Vlakvark, Giraffe, Zebra, Blouwildebees, Kudu, Black nose-impala’s, jackal.  A herd of elephants lingers on the side.  Later they approach the water hole and chase all the animals out and take over the water hole.  Then a large bull comes strolling along and chases all the animals away.  Now he has the water hole for himself.

After reporting at Okaukujo we drive out to Halali where we will set up camp.  Lonely Planet’s book describes the campsite as a dust heap.  Quite right, they are.  [I should remind the reader that this tour was many years ago – things might have changed since].

That night at the water hole we sit in awe and watch as three rhino’s come for a drink.  Ever so often one would hear a soft appreciative “aaahh” from someone.  It is a serene and sacred atmosphere.  Until the silence is ripped apart by a five year old boy who, like Shreck, appears to have been born under the star sign of the flatulent.  It was not as loud so as to disturb the rhino’s, but pretty much everyone else heard it.  Nobody says anything, but after the initial shock, it appears as though everyone is sitting in a bus driving on a corrugated road.  Bodies shake, but everyone tries not to laugh out loud, until, eventually, everyone laughs, except for a little boy and his mother.  Sacred moments, I’m telling you.

Lion hunt

On a game drive with the family, I inadvertently drive right into a lion hunt.  We spot a large male lion just left of the road behind us.  I reverse with the Venture to get a better view.  The next thing the lion gets up, and starts to run right at the Venture.  I watched in shock, for the moment not sure what’s happening.  But the lion runs past us, and only then do we notice a small herd of black nose impalas [well, that’s what it looked like judging from the manual] coming from the opposite direction, unaware of the lion.  At a distance we can make out a number of female lions on the far side of the antelopes.

The male lion aims for the nearest of the antelopes, but we have thwarted his endeavours.  It is clear that …

Namibia – Part 3

Tuesday, 12 October, 2010

[Adapted version hereof published in Leisure Wheels, November 2010.]

Namibia fourth leg

By PG Jonker

Etosha to Epupa Falls to




After attending at Kamanjab’s bakery, Colin and we head for the guest farm Rustig where we will camp.

However, a few kilometres short of Rustig I get my second flat tyre for the day, on the same tyre.  The tyre was repaired at Halali and put back.  This time I need to use my own jack to change tyres, only to find that my jack is not working properly.  By the time I’m done I have a bent jack.  My spare tyre, I notice, had been plugged before, and it is not the same size as the rest of the tyres.

The sun is setting in the West and it will appear that the trip to Epupa might not happen.  It is 18h00 on a Saturday evening.

It turns out that Jörgen Gotshe’s farm bakkie on Rustig is a Toyota Stallion that runs on the same size wheels and tyres as my Venture.  He suggests that I leave my flat tyre with him for repairs, and take two of his wheels on board.  We’re back in business!

I repack my Venture to fit in the extra spare wheel.  Do you have any idea how much space such a wheel takes up in your boot?

That night I cannot sleep.  I’m stressed out about my tyres and my jack that is not working properly.  Jörgen makes regular trips to Epupa with his Kombi, he told us.  It is not strange to get two flat tyres on that road, and on occasion he had three flat tyres on one trip.  It does not bother Jörgen, because like Frikkie, he just takes along all the appliances needed to do the repairs.   Do not have those appliances, and even if I take it along, I will not quite know what to do with it.  We are also alerted to be on the lookout for puff adders and crocodiles.  Mmmm …..

We leave Rustig early the next morning in piercing cold and windy conditions.  The gravel road heading north to Ruacana is very good.  It runs right next to the extreme Western border of the Etosha Park.

We reach what appears to be a veterinary gate.  We now travel from Damaraland into Kaokoland.   We take the turn off to Opuwa, where we will up before heading for Epupa.   From there it is a further 112km to Okongwati.  The road is still good, but a great number of drifts [causeways] require you to slow town to first and second gear to traverse it in safety.

From Okongwati to Epupa we drive the last 75km’s.  The road is not much worse than a bad farm road.  However, if you expect to be done with this stretch of road within an hour and it takes more than three hours it becomes very frustrating.

Shortly after Okongwati we reach a sandy riverbed.  I have my doubts whether I should proceed, fearing that I might get bogged down in the sand.  However, Colin is already halfway and I follow suit.

Some parts of the road show no similarities to what is known as a road in the classical sense of the word.  You choose between the rocky part left and the rocky part right.  We bounce onward.

Good humour has left the Venture.  My wife does a brilliant job keeping the kids happy, but she also does not quite enjoy having to contend with the stuff that had to make place for the extra spare wheel, most of which landed on her lap.

Lonely Planet’s book says the Epupa falls “defies description”.   However, I was very near to reaching the point where I felt “f** the falls!”

And then, at last, we look down on the main fall in a series of falls.  And indeed, it defies description.  The falls …

Namibia – Part 4

Tuesday, 12 October, 2010

[Adapted version hereof published in Leisure Wheels, November 2010.]

Namibia final

[Source: Map data ©2014 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google]

By PG Jonker

The long drive home

After a quick stop at Solitaire (no, we did not stay long enough to enjoy the renowned apple strudel) we headed for Sesriem.  At the turn off to Sesriem we meet a foreign tourist on a bicycle.  He is on a solitary tour through Southern Africa with his bicycle.

We fill up at Sesriem and learn that Sossuvlei has water.  This, I’m told, happens about once a decade and is a must see.  The effect of the dune riding on the backs of both my wife and I compels us to give this a miss.  We have difficulties just finding a body position that is relatively comfortable.  We therefore head for Maltehoë, while Colin and Frikkie and their families head for Sossusvlei.  Having seen their pictures afterwards, of course, made us wish we rather hung on and went to have a look for ourselves.

We stay over at Die Pappot at Maltehoë where Mannetjies and his wife go out of their way to make things comfortable for us.

Mannetjies has a room which we would like to use, but he apologises for the fact that the room is (for the moment) not fit for human occupation.  It turns out that a foreign tourist on a bicycle stayed there for a few days, and his culinary endeavours left a smell that it rather difficult to stomach.

I mention to Mannetjies the foreigner on the bicycle that I met near Sesriem, to which Mannetjies has some rather unfriendly suggestions as to the treatment of said foreign tourist in such a remote location.

By late evening Frikkie joins us, but Colin headed for Duwiseb and will be touring home on his own.

We depart early the next morning.  About 90km’s before the SA border we stop to assist a family whose left hand drive Ford Explorer refused to start again after losing a tyre.  The Explorer has a safety mechanism that deactivates the fuel pump if it detects a bang of some sorts.  A notice in the engine bay says the fuel pump just needs to be reset, for which purpose the manual should be consulted.  Something that Siegfried does not have.

Frikkie does not take kindly to encountering a mechanical problem that he cannot solve.  Eventually he tows the Explorer to Vioolsdrif after the drive shaft of the automatic Explorer has been removed.  At Vioolsdrif we have cell phone reception.  A call to the dealer quickly leads to Siegfried finding the reset button under the carpet of the passenger seat, and the Explorer is up and running again.

We leave Vioolsdrif after 17h00.  We bade Frikkie and his family goodbye at Vanrhynsdorp.  At 00h15 that morning we bade Siegfried and his family farewell at the turn-off to Durbanville.  By 00h45 we are home.  By 01h00 everyone is asleep.

Home sweet home.


Distance travelled:         6060 km

Litres used:                   611

Fuel consumption:         9,9 km / litre (Toyota Venture)

Nights out:                    14

Tents pitched:               9 times

Car trouble:                   PG:  2 flat tyres;  Colin: 1 flat tyre;

Frikkie:  one bust coil

Lessons learnt


Once you have entered the Etosha National Park you are bound to see Springbok and Zebra.  There is no need to be in a hurry to take a picture.  Trust me, there will be more.


One can easily misjudge travelling distances in Namibia.  It is a vast country, with roads mostly gravel.  It is easy to attempt to do too much in one day, forgetting the type of distances you have to contend with.

The other thing is, you may start planning a trip to Ai-Ais.  Then you look on the map and you see, well, you are so near to Duwiseb, you can just as well go visit Duwiseb castle.  But once you reach