Category “English – Namibia”

Namibia tour – further comments

Saturday, 5 August, 2017

In my previous post + the 5 that followed on it, I reflected on our recent trip to the southern part of Namibia.  With this posting I make a few additional comments which I hope readers may find useful.

In my previous posts I have tried to paint the picture of the vastness of the landscape.

One may add that camping sites also need to be viewed a bit differently from, say, Mossel Bay in December. I thought I’ll try to give an idea what I’m talking about, courtesy of Google Maps’ 3D function.

It was a rather glorious evening, sitting on the banks of the Orange river with the sun setting. On a cable (seemed like the feed of a foefie slide) a few birds were sitting. The variety with real wings, I mean. One had caught a fish, which he had in his beak. The fish was still very much alive, and evidently not amused. So the bird casually bludgeoning the fish to death on the cable. It took a number of attempts before the fish gave up the good fight. Such is life, nuh?

[Source: Imagery ©2017 CNES / Airbus, Map data ©2017 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google, South Africa]

Border post
The experience had been swift and painless on both occasions (in and out). Not knowing where to go, I stopped at the first official looking office, where I was told where to park, “where you unpack”. Aag no! It thought. But it turned out the stern looking member of SAPS was just having a bit of fun with me. No unpacking.

From what I understood from Neville at Oewerbos, the hunting season just opened a day or two before. Or maybe on that day – it was 1 July. That probably explained why, on the day of our return, all the vehicles in our vicinity, ours included, got searched.

In an endeavor to maximize packing effectivity, my wife bought us each a R50 nylon zipper bag. They were enormous. You could pack an illegal immigrant in it with ease. We did not, though, just for the records. But on first blush, the rear of the bakkie did look as though it could have been packed with “goods”, with these enormous bags being very evident. Well, actually, it was not that evident. It only became evident once I removed the groundsheet that I had over it to protect from dust and rain. Given that there had been neither dust nor rain when we arrived at the post, it might have raised some suspicion. So the gentlemen from (I assume) SARS and SAPS opened each of these bags, and meticulously went through our clothing.

A docile looking dog that appeared to be half ridge-back and two-and-a-half some other things, stood by. I greeted him friendly. He showed no interest, but I took that as a good sign.

My wife was contemplating whether the combination of our packing system and the age of our vehicle might have counted against us. I think not, though. All vehicles that looked like it could accommodate meat seem to have been checked, and one could easily stack a few kudu’s into those bags of us, provided of course they were not alive any more, and also not in one peace.

But even the lady right in front of us with a midget Peugeot got checked. The friendly dog gave her more than just a sniff-over and she had to park elsewhere for a more thorough search. I did see here again at Klawer, though, so evidently there was just a bit of mis-sniffing that had to be sorted out.

Once in Namibia
My youngest had difficulties grasping the concept that we’re driving along a river in Namibia, but just about 100m away from us – you could swim there – was a completely different country.  Ours.

On that road we at one stage stopped to see if we could pinpoint the De Hoop camping site on the South African side of the Richtersveld, but by then we must have been past that point already.

Rosh Pinah
Mmmm…. Well, I only filled up my bakkie, and did not take much notice of the town, other than to notice that it was being overrun by bakkies with CBR registration numbers. Montagu by the mine?

I have never been to Aus before. But for some reason I had a totally different picture in my head, and more in particular, I though the town was on the other side of the main road. It reminded me of Paternoster, it’s just a bit further away from the sea. At the fuel station people were queuing to fill up. It was a rather busy fuel stop.

We went past Klein Aus, but did not drive in there. I was just amazed that Klein Aus could be smaller than Aus. That’s now, judging by the name.

The road to Luderitz
Captivating. And more so the closer you get to Luderitz. The sand blowing over the road, the very strong wind, and a chilly evening in Luderitz gave a bit of a, well, windy feeling, but once inside things were perfect.

[Source: Imagery ©2017 DigitalGlobe, TerraMetrics, D SIO, NOAA, US Navy GEBCO, Landaat / Copernicus, Map data ©2017, Google, South Africa]

Feral horses of Aus
It’s not quite like the pride stud of some upstanding equestrian estate. It’s more like a Huis-Amper-Dood kind of retirement place for horses, only less luxurious than what the human version of such institutions would normally offer.

Gertrude Grabner’s vast knowledge of the dunes and what lives there, made this visit very special. A worthwhile visit.

[Source: Imagery ©2017 GeoEye, Map data ©2017, South Africa,]

Each place had its own character. Koiimasis offered us a huge camping site, wonderful ablution close by, but with no warm water or electricity. Not that it is a problem, it just helps knowing it beforehand. There are a number of activities to do there, like among other things, horse riding. We only did the 5km walking trail.
[Source: Imagery ©2017 DigitalGlobe, Map data ©2017, South Africa]

What you’re looking at in this picture, is 4 camping sites on the far side of the little koppie, with a …

Namibia Tour 2017 – Part 1

Tuesday, 18 July, 2017

Gate crashing a tour

When I met up with my cousin Lizette earlier this year, first on a funeral and the next day on a birthday (the birthday was the happier of the two affairs) she told me about their planned trip to Namibia in July.  Due to a combination of over eagerness, loud family interaction and a slight hearing problem, I understood her to invite us to join the tour  – something she afterwards denied having done.   We are still, however, on speaking terms, chiefly due to Lizette’s innate kindness.

But this is how it came about that on the morning of Saturday July 1st, we departed from Durbanville heading north, with my Mazda bakkie’s odometer indicating 310 001 km’s.  In between these two dates, of course, a lot happened, such as satisfying burocrats at Home Affairs, getting my twenty year old noble steed properly serviced, and acquiring some necessary camping equipment.  Mine was a party of four, which included my wife Marga and our 15 year old son, and a friend, Mariki.  We would join a convoy totalling four vehicles, us included.

The route would roughly cover the area as on the map:

[Source:  Imagery © 2017 Landsat / Copernicus, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, Map data © 2017 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google]

Each made it on their own time to our first rendezvous point at Vioolsdrift.  As we stopped at roadworks just before Klawer, the vehicle that pulled up right behind me happened to be Lizette and Adriaan’s Colt double cab.  We travelled further in convoy to Oewerbos, some 13 kilometers north-west of the Vioolsdrift border post, but on the South African side.  About a half-an-hour later, Toit and Christine arrived with their Toyota double cab.  Then we were three cars.

It was a busy day at Oewerbos, with rugby on the big screen, and lots of people in the bar.  Apparently there had been an annual church bazaar, Neville behind the bar counter explained.  And the following day a church group would be moving in, he said.  I could not help but wonder when Neville would find the time to restock the bar for the church group of the next day, but it was evident that nothing could seriously unsettle Neville.  Not even a number of his guests absconding after ordering off a tab.

We had a drink on the river bank, watching the sun set.  There was a cano available, and I quite liked the idea of rowing to the middle of the river just to get a feel of Namibia.  That is now assuming the international border to be in the middle of the river.

[Picture:  Mariki Stassen]

We then retreated to the two-bed bungalows where we were staying.  Wors braai and two minute noodles with mince got our field kitchen started.  Not having to set up camp would give us an early head start the next morning.  Brother Johnie and his wife Rose were waiting at Ai-Ais, where he already had a puncture.  They would meet us the following morning where the C37 from Ai-Ais meets the C13 that runs along the Orange river to Rosh Pinah.  But there was no South African cell phone reception at Oewerbos, so we had to leave the final arrangements for the next morning.


Day one in Namibia

Sendelingsdrift, Rosh Pinah, Aus, Luderitz

[Source:  Imagery © 2017 Landsat / Copernicus, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, Map data © 2017 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google]

We made an early start the next morning, and were the first travellers at the border post.  Formalities were swift and painless.  At the first garage just across the border we filled up with Namibia’s substantially cheaper fuel, and bought MTC sim cards. We could then make contact with my brother Johnie to arrange for the rendezvous.  Him and his wife Rosie were now the outstanding parties.  They were at Ai-Ais already, and we had pretty much the same distance to travel from our respective points of departure.  We arranged that we would wait for them where the C37 from Ai-Ais meets the C13 running alongside the Orange river to Rosh Pinah.  The bit of waiting for them set the mood for an unhurried trip – with Adriaan always happy to stop for a picture or food or just because.  I found this refreshing, as I am one of those guys who, once I started driving, I want to keep going until I reach my destination, rather than to stop next to the road.

After meeting Johnie & Rosie with his Land Rover Freelander at the junction, we now had the full convoy complement.

It is a lovely gravel road running along the Orange river.  The scenery is much the same as on the South African side of the Richtersveld.

[Picture:  Mariki Stassen]

Six kilometers upstream of Sendelingsdrift we stopped at the Sendelingsdrift weir gauge.  The weir gauge is intended to determine flow rates and water volumes over time. It made a beautiful sight, watching the water flow.

[Picture:  Mariki Stassen]

At the t-junction a short distance on, Adriaan aimed to the left instead of to Rosh Pinah.  It turned out that, apart from being the lead vehicle, Adriaan would also be the chief negotiator.  He arranged for permission at the border post for us to drive down to the pont station to see what it looks like.

From there we headed to Rosh Pinah where some of us filled up.  More often than not, I was the one doing the filling up, with the others waiting for me.  The 3.4 liter petrol engine of my Mazda is not kind to fuel stops.

If the gravel road between Sendelingsdrift and Rosh Pinah is an indication of what the road from Rosh Pinah to Aus looked like before it was tarred, we can only count our blessings for asphalt.  We stopped at Aus, 178km further.  The fuel station was extremely busy, but I am happy to report that this was one fuel stop that I managed to skip.

From Rosh Pinah to Aus I could not help but become concerned about the wellbeing of the town Montagu.  I counted no less than seven vehicles with CBR registration numbers overtaking us. Who was left to look …

Namibia Tour 2017 – Part 2

Tuesday, 18 July, 2017


Mariki was up early to climb the rocky koppie just meters away from Zum Anker.  It provided a nice bird’s eye view of Luderitz.

We were the only newbies to Luderitz.  As the rest of the touring group had all previously done Kolmanskop, we went there on our own.  This was one of the two primary objectives of my tour, and we did not intend missing this.

Due to high numbers of tourists, we were divided in three groups.  English, German, and Afrikaans.  Our guide was very knowledgeable, and her presentation very good.   Space would preclude a complete rundown of the history of Kolmanskop, but you can read more about it at

But in short, diamonds were found there in 1908.  It was so prevalent that it was picked up in jars, even at night with diamonds identifiable in the moonlight.  Amazingly, each house in Kolmanskop at that time had electricity and a telephone, with ice blocks being delivered to each house every morning to be used in the “top loader” fridges to cool down food.  The complex even sported a pool which looked about25m x 25m and about 3m deep.  However, in 1928 even richer diamond deposits were found at Oranjemund, and everyone then flocked there, simply leaving their homes at Kolmanskop.  Easy come easy go, I guess.


I’d prefer not to stay in this one.

The railway line between Luderitz and Aus, which had been in rehabilitation for more than ten years now, had been built at that time within an amazing ten months by 1908.  It is scheduled to re-open again this year.   It seems like an uphill battle, though, as there are places where whole sand dunes became settled across the tracks.

Johnie hoped to go on a tour to Bogenfels, but apparently these tours require two days’ notice, for which we did not have sufficient time.  We took a drive around the Luderitz peninsula, instead.  We managed to see Kleiner Bogenfels,

and also went down to one of two fjords.  The rather bad smaller roads caused us to thereafter rather aim for Diaz point, where the wind was blowing that I believe would meet the criteria of “fresh”.  Sommer very fresh.

Water over a troubled bridge?

Down below from Diaz cross a young man had a spot of bother with his Nissan bakkie.  After a picnic with his girlfriend, he got stuck.  Under Rosie’s command those of us close enough not to be able to ignore his plight, were all commanded to assist in pushing the bakkie back to dry ground.

It turned out that, independent of our group, my remaining brother also arrived in Luderitz sometime during the day.  Just after dark we happened to pass each other on the road, and he recognized my vehicle.  Well, he should, I would think.  I’ve had it for the past 17 years.

I took him along to Barrels, where the rest of our crowd already convened for dinner.

We might have arrived there a bit late, as the place was full, and we were taken through the kitchen to what seems to be a breakfast corner. This was a lot quieter than the hustle and bustle of the main restaurant and bar.   We also met up again with the gentleman with the Nissan.  He still had the same girlfriend.

We had to wait rather long for our food, but we were advised that, due to the popularity of the place, if you’re not there by six in the evening, this is bound to happen.   We in any event were not in a hurry.


Day three    

The horses of Aus, Tiras Mountains, Gunsbewys

We could once again get on the road fairly quickly, as we only had to pack our bags, with all the camping stuff having remained in the bakkie for the two nights we stayed at Zum Anker.

Before we left we visited the campsite at Shark Island.  It looked rather nice, but I understand Shark Island (as the rest of Luderitz) to have a bit of a reputation for being windy.  Shark Island was a concentration camp between 1905 and 1907 where Nama and Herero prisoners were held.  A monument with several plaques had been set up to commemorate a rather grisly bit of genocidal history.

[Picture:  Mariki Stassen]

Now having mobile phone contact with each other, we left before the rest of the convoy.  Apart from Kolmanskop, the feral horses of Aus were the other item high on our bucket list and we wanted to spend time at the Garub viewpoint about 20km’s before Aus.

The history of these horses is unclear.  Different theories had been put forward, such as that the horses came from the Duwiseb breeding station, that they originated from a 19th century cargo ship, or that they became scattered from South African Expeditiary Forces during the first World War.  Whatever their origin, they adapted to the harsh environment.

Due to ongoing drought (now apparently in its fourth year) steps had been taken to provide limited support of the horses in terms of feeding and water.   More information could be found at

When we got to the viewpoint, two rather lame and skinny horses were hanging around.  They came to within touching distance of us, but remained wary.

[Picture: Mariki Stassen]

We overlooked the plain below where a number of Gemsbok could be seen.

Shortly thereafter more horses approached the water hole, and some came up to the viewpoint.  At one stage a mare approached the viewpoint, causing a flurry of two other mares neighing and rearing, with one of them then departing.  The remaining two mares then came together, necking each other.

This was really a site worthwhile spending time at.

The rest of our convoy joined us, and from there we departed for Aus.  This was our first hot day with temperatures measuring 32 degrees.

I had to fill the bakkie up at Aus.  We in any event had to go back to the shop at the garage just to check on something.  When we passed through on our way to Luderitz, I took a travel brochure from the magazine rack.  Going through it in Luderitz, however, I spotted what seemed like a price on the back cover of the book, …

Namibia Tour 2017 – Part 3

Tuesday, 18 July, 2017

Day four


[Source:  Imagery © 2017 Landsat / Copernicus, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, Map data © 2017 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google]

Trying to describe our journey with words and pictures can simply not do justice to the experience.  Everything is big and vast and majestic.  It enfolds you.  You need to live it to get a feel for it.  So bear with me in the endeavours that follow.

Hart wie Kameldornholz ist unser Land
Und trocken sind seine Riviere                              -Das Sudwesterlied


Arriving at Gunsbewys gave a first impression of a dusty farmstead with outside buildings.  The farm itself had never actually been actively farmed.   The fenced in erf has very little green.  And looking around you, you see vast expanse of land with very little that livestock would be able to live off.

However, Gertrude turned out to be a living encyclopedia.  One of the buildings houses a display of the animals and wildlife to be found in the area.  The magazine Go! visited Gunsbewys and interviewed Gertrude inside her display.  You can find the video clip here:

Cooking is done by green power, using the sun.

Electricity is generated by solar power, with battery backup to last through the night if used sparingly.

Gertrude provided us with laminated cards and instructions how to get to various places of interest close to each other at the southern foot of the Tiras mountains.  These included San rock paintings, and evidence of the San people having been active there at some stage.

The spots were clearly marked and we could easily find all but one of the attractions.   It was 32 degrees, but in the extreme arid conditions, it felt like 26 degrees.  Only a slight breeze is required to improve comfort.

The evening Gertrude took us on a short drive of about 3 km’s away from her house on a sand track.  To my embarrassment my vehicle got bogged down in what appeared to be very straight forward sand driving, albeit at a bit of an incline.   As it happened at the end of the motorised journey, it did not matter – for the moment.

Once disembarked, we have not walked 10 meters before Gertrude pointed out three markings in the sand.  It looked like three little half moons, with nothing to it.  However, as she demonstrated to us, it turned out to be a spider trap.


[Picture: Mariki Stassen]

Gertrude would point out the small markings of beetles and small creatures.

[Picture: Mariki Stassen]

We could follow the trail of a dung beatle forcing his black gold uphill to where his family was waiting on the feast.  I may mention that my nutritional needs differ vastly from the amaBhungane’s.

Gertrude demonstrated how one could collecte iron oxide with magnets from the dunes.

We could see the tracks of the Gemsbok that we saw running as we pulled up there.  The Gemsbok’s urine patch was the only remotely wet spot around.   We stayed there, watching the sun set on the dunes, before returning home.

Gertrude was very impressed with Adriaan’s driving skills, and even named him “the headboy of headboys”.  Gmph….!  She was less impressed with Johnie’s endeavours to turn his Land Rover around in the limited space of the sand track.  She even jumped out to help push in spite of Johnie’s protestations that he was not stuck.  I chose not to stick around, and removed my bakke from the scene downhill in reverse gear, rather than to invite any comments on my driving skills.

That evening Gertrude joined us again for wors and patties, pap, salad and wine.  I’m not much of a cook, so I stood amazed at the absolute five star meals that the ladies could organise (to be executed as per instructions by the males) every day.

As one can imagine, harmony is key to living, touring and cooking in this confined type of environment.  If someone in the group got irked by anything, they were very good in hiding it.  This was, of course, critical to the success of the tour.


Day five


The plan on our departure was for Gertrude to take us on a drive over her farm.  However, as her 4×4 had a flat battery, and as Toit’s bakkie was a two-wheel drive, there was a change of plan.   Adriaan was provided with directions to a dam on the farm, and requested to check the water level.  Should the dam be overflowing, the water pump needed to be switched off.

Whilst waiting on the departure, and because I had nothing better to do, I decided to check my tyre pressure.  I forgot to inflate my tyres for the load before I left home, so it should be normal.  Much to my surprise, though, I found the tyre pressure on all four tyres to be 2.8 instead of between 2 and 2.2kpa!  This, of course, explained why I could not make headway the previous evening on the sand track.

We had a rather splendid drive on the sand tracks on the farm, similar to the one of the previous evening, but this time with no problems at all.  Of course, it goes to show the importance of tyre pressure, but even more so, the need to actually check you tyres before embarking on sand driving!

We arrived at the built dam which was filled to the brim with water.  A wonderful sight in the middle of such a dry area.

On our way to the dam we could see a number of Gemsbok in the distance seemingly racing each other.  Or maybe the one in front had a tiff with the rest and was making a beeline to safety.

From there we went back to the D707 where Gertrude and Toit & Christine were waiting for us.  A friendly farmer who drove past insisted that we first pay a visit to his farm.  That we duly did, even though he was not there!  At this farm, Weissenborn,  a lot of time had gone into creating lush green surroundings in the otherwise arid environment.

We said our farewells to Gertrude, and left for Koiimasis Ranch.  Following Gertrude’s warning of thick sand on the D707, Toit was promoted to second position in the convoy with …

Namibia Tour 2017 – Part 4

Tuesday, 18 July, 2017

Day six

Friends leaving

Adriaan and Lizette left shortly after sunrise to arrange and attend the funeral and pay their respects.  I felt a rather emply gloominess with them departing.

Koiimasis ranch is an active farm with a horse stud and livestock.  You can check their website:  Due to the drought the live stock had been removed from the farm, though. We went on a 5km walking trail the afternoon. It’s a nice walk, with a viewpoint along the road.

That evening we baked a pot bread, and the remainder of the steakof the prevous evening found its way into the potjiekos.


Day seven

Sossus Oasis

This was the first morning where we had to decamp and pack the vehicles from scratch.  Everything went rather efficiently, though.  By half past nine we were ready to leave.

[Source:  Imagery © 2017 Landsat / Copernicus, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, Map data © 2017 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google]

Johnie was now in the lead.

We hit the sandy D707 again, but had the good fortune of eventually landing on the freshly graded tracks of a grader.  At a windswept Betta we stopped for petrol and coffee and snacks.

I found Betta to be a curious place.  It seems in the middle of nowhere, and I wondered whether you decide to start a refreshment station there in the middle of nothing, or whether you incidentally live there, see the opportunity, and then slowly develop the place.  Betta offers accommodation, with a nicely developed website:  I noticed that each of the camping sites had water, electricity, roof cover and a deck.

We met up with a Swiss cyclist at Betta.  Africa was his last continent to conquer before returning home.

Being so close to Duwiseb, we considered paying Duwiseb a visit.  By democratic election the vote went the way of visiting Duwiseb, but we nevertheless eventually decided gainst it.  We were swayed by another tourist’s advice of how bad the road from Betta to Sesriem was.  So we decided to rather get the trip to Sesriem over and done with.

Good call.  I like driving on gravel roads, so I hate to have to admit that, by the end of the day, I found the road to Sesriem to be just 20 kilometers too far.

[Pictures: Mariki Stassen]

The gravel roads that we travelled varied from the sublime (Solitaire to Maltehohe) to the exciting (sandy D707 rounding the Tiras mountains) to the horrible – Betta to Sesriem.  Very rocky and corrugated.

[Picture: Mariki Stassen]

We arrived at Sossus Oasis just past 16h00.  There was a nice buzz at the shop.  There was a garage and a workshop.  I suppose every enterprise on a road such as this one would also stock a few new tyres.   You could collect wi-fi vouchers valid for two days at the shop, and utilise the wi-fi on the stoep of the shop.  From there we could see campsite 1 – 12, built in a circle, and each with its own shade, shower and wash-up.  This looked very nice!

However, we were directed to site 15.  The road went past the larnie sites 1 – 12.  It went past two other sites.  It pretty much went past everything, before ending up under a tree at the outer edge of the terrain.  I guess it was the outer edge, because there was nothing else but open plains.

My initial thought was that this was a real dust heap.  However, upon further inspection it turned out that there was a built braai, working surface for a kitchen, electric light and plugs to tap electricity from.  On top of that the large tree provided ample shade for most of the day.  We were closest to the swimming pool of all the sites, and there was very nice ablution about 50 meters away.   And once we had the tents pitched, it actually turned out to be the best site of all!  Some ladies of our group even went for a swim.

Our site can be seen in the background.

The ladies churned out pasta and salad for the evening and after that we sat down for a game of banana scrabble.  Having electricity on top of running water ablution and warm water ranks as ultra luxurious for me.  This turned out to be a really nice spot.


Day eight


After obtaining our permits at Sesriem, we headed out on the 60km tar road to Sossusvlei just past 8 the morning.  At a speed limit of 60km/h it is a rather sedate drive to where the tar road stops.

[Source:  Imagery © 2017 Landsat / Copernicus, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, Map data © 2017 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google]

After 45 km there is a stop at what has probably become a rather iconic Dune 45.  No prizes for guessing where the dune got its name from.

The teenager in our company was very disappointed in how small the dune is. He was counting on telling his mates that he scaled the highest dune in the world.  However, halfway up Dune 45 he reconsidered the feasibility of scaling the highest dune in the world.

I have to admit, I was also disappointed to afterwards learn that Dune 45 is but a lousy 80 meters high, as opposed to Dune 7 near Walvis Bay which apparently reaches 388m.  Paah!  They should not even call Dune 45 a dune, man!  But on the bright side, at least I can say that I climbed out Dune 45.  I guess the fact that I did climb Dune 7 when I was 12 years old does not warrant current bragging rights.


[Picture: Mariki Stassen]

After reaching the highest spot on Dune 45 our teenager decided to opt for a speedy descent.  Running soon became falling with style.  Rather spectacular.

We then continued to the parking area where the tar road ends.  There you can contract an operator in a 4×4 vehicle  to take you the last 5 km’s to Sossusvlei, Deadvlei and Hidden vlei.  Or you can let down your tyres on your 4×4 and drive in yourself.  As there is no way that Johnie would let someone drive him into terrain that he feels …

Namibia 2017 tour – part 5

Tuesday, 18 July, 2017

Day nine

Tsauchab River Camp

At Sossus Oasis the sun now caught up with the moon, and was up before the moon disappeared.


In the early morning we could see two air balloons rounding the mountain south of us.

[Source:  Imagery © 2017 Landsat / Copernicus, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, Map data © 2017 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google]

We took our time decamping and packing.  We only had a 77km drive to get to Tsauchab River Camp today.

What an interesting, stunning place.  As you drive into the farm, you are greeted by a number of very old vehicles, humoristic welded iron artworks, and a neat erf.

Johan and Niki were our hosts.  There is wi-fi and a pool, but once you leave the reception you have neither wi-fi nor cell phone signal.

The camping sites are all exclusive, with virtually unlimited space.  Our site comfortably housed our 4 tents, each with relative privacy.   Close by is an open toilet that faces away from the campsite (no, really).

Built in a big tree close by was a donkey to heat the water

with a basin and the shower built inside the tree.

Some 50 meters away there are two built facilities, one with a shower and toilet with also a separate toilet, and one with only a shower.  So we had access to three heated showers, and three flushing toilets.  There were no electricity.

Before dark we walked out a koppie that overlooks that farm.

The koppie that is visible about a third from the left, middle of the picture, is where our hiking of the next day took us.

Our dinner consisted of roosterkoek, butternut, baked potatoes and sweet potatoes, salad and chicken stirfry.

The moon was now full or nearly full.  Watching the glimmer of the moon approaching over the koppie was like watching the headlight of a train appearing.  It was just so bright!


Day 10

Hiking and driving

Guided by maps provided by Niki, we drove out to south of the lodge where we took a stroll along a spring with old fig trees.  The lush green surrounding seemed totally out of place in the dry area.

There is a 4×4 route that ranges initially zero, escalating to 3, before you reach the ‘no beginners’ part with a 5 rating.  There is a further hiking trail that would take you from the one leg of the 4×4 route to the other.

[Pictur:  Mariki Stassen]

Those who wanted to do the hike, did so, and Johnie and I drove around with the vehicles.  We did not go beyond the 3 rating part.

[Picture:  Mariki Stassen]

Steep inclines necessitated low range from time to time, and one rocky and twisting part caused a rear wheel to lift, but it is not the stuff that should hurt your vehicle if you do it slowly.

We were somewhat more rested than those doing the hiking trail when we met up again.

[Picture:  Mariki Stassen]

From there we visited the Neuras wine farm for a taste of wine.

Dinner consisted of spagetti, viennas, leftover butternut, sweet patato, salad and chicken of the previous evening.  Thereafter we baked a bread to round dinner off with bread and coffee.


Day 11

Solitaire, Rostock Ritz

Heading to Rostock Ritz from Tsauchab River Camp on the C14, we travelled on the best gravel road this far.  At places it was as good as tar, up to Solitaire.

[Source:  Imagery © 2017 Landsat / Copernicus, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, Map data © 2017 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google]

At Solitaire I filled up, we did coffee and some of us had the obligatory apple strudel.  We also bumped into the Swiss cyclist whom we have met at Betta.

Just as we were at the point of leaving, I saw my rear left wheel has lost air.  I pulled in at the wheel repair shop, where the front bit of a roof nail was dislodged from my tyre, and patched from the inside.  Within a half-an-hour we were on our way.

This was by far the most pleasant puncture I’ve ever had.

From there the road to Rostock Ritz was not as good, but surprisingly wide.  At places the width of a double carriage freeway, only not as good or busy.

We arrived at the imposing entrance to Rostock Ritz.

The hotel was even more impressive.

It was really a place of great splendour, and the biggest and most luxurious of the establishments we have visited thus far.

They also had a Meerkat rehabilitation project there.

After reporting at the front desk we were directed to the camping site some 6 km’s away.

The camping site was markedly less luxurious.

We arrived there in the heat of the afternoon.

Die Klippen, sie sind von der Sonne verbrannt
Und scheu sind im Busch die Tiere                                   -Das Sudwesterlied

There were five camp sites, each with a braai and workspace and electric light.  The braai and workspace had partial cloth shading against the morning sun, but there was no shadow for a tent.  Up against a rocky outcrop was a large built kitchen and braai and an area for socialising.  There were electric light but no plugs. We decided to first camp out at the kitchen area.

We were a bit disappointed with the camping site’s lack of shadow.  Given the heat, and given the rather nice kitchen and dining area, we decided we will just make our beds in the kitchen area.

We soon realised that this might not be a good idea.  The huge crickets that abound probably would not allow for peaceful sleeping, although one could probably survive that.  However, when a large black scorpion casually trundled across the floor, our minds were made up.

[Picture:  Mariki Stassen]

We decided to stick to convention and rather pitch our tents.  That we did once it had cooled down substantially.

[Picture:  Mariki Stassen]

As Toit and Christine would leave then next day, only Johnie and myself and our families would remain.  We decided that this might be a good time to leap into the lap of luxury, and to rather upgrade our stay for the next night in the Ritz itself.  Unfortunately only the VIP suites were left.  …

Namibia Tour 2017 – Part 6 (final)

Tuesday, 18 July, 2017

 Day 12

Heading home, Grunau

We got up, motivated to get going, now heading for home.  This was a great tour, but I was keen on starting with the journey home.

[Source:  Imagery © 2017 Landsat / Copernicus, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, Map data © 2017 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google]

Toit and Christine headed for Windhoek, we said our goodbyes to Georg and Sabine, and left for Grunau in our two vehicle convoy.

From Solitaire the road was extremely good.   At times we did 110km/h on the road.  I kept my vehicle in 4×4 though, for the safety of the four wheel traction.

[Picture:  Mariki Stassen]

Twenty kilometers before the end of our gravel roads, I heard and felt the wroep-wroepe-wroep of a rear tyre disintegrating.  At that time we were going uphill and not very fast, and I could bring the bakkie to a standstill.  There was a moment when the nose headed precariously in the direction of a donga next to the road, but at that time I was slow enough to apply the brakes without fear of losing control.

Johnie was ahead, and at that point there was no signal.  Marga then walked to a nearby hill until she got a signal to call Johnie to come back.  In the meantime, I got going on changing the tyre.

The outside sidewall of the tyre was virtually cut off from the tyre.  The spare wheel is underneath the bakkie, locked with a Solex lock.  I recently checked that it was still working.  And indeed, the key turned, but the lock would not unlock.  After a bit of under my breath encouragement, the lock relented, much to my relief.   I started jacking down the wheel, but after one turn, the crank handle would not move any further.  By then, the spare wheel has dropped only about an inch and was solidly stuck.  And so was I.

Eventually I got under the wheel and lifted it as high as it would go.  I managed to pry the stopper that kept the feel from falling to the ground through the centre hole of the wheel, and had the wheel come down on top of me.  I was rather relieved and remained in that position for a bit.  It was very refreshing.  The rest of the crowd thought I was dead.  But I was not.  Better luck next time.

Eventually I made it out from under the wheel and the vehicle.  As I put the wheel down on the ground without watching where I was going, I managed to split a finger nail when the full weight of the wheel squashed my finger on a rock that was substantially higher than where I expected the ground to be.  I duly noted a protest.

To my surprise this spare wheel,  that had not been inflated in the past 10 years, still had 1.8kpa of pressure in it.  Johnie took the wheel that came off into his Freelander, and off we went.

At Maltehohe we filled up, and attended to the tyre sales and repair outfit.  They did not have the size tyre that I required.  In the 17 years that I have been driving the bakkie, I have never had a puncture.  So given that the 112 km’s to Mariental was now tar, we decided to try our luck at Mariental.  The gentleman at the Maltehohe outfit was kind enough to remove my stuffed up tyre from the rim.  He could also pinpoint the cause of the flat tyre.  A small object on the centre of the tyre caused a similar leak to the one that was repaired at Solitaire.

At Trentyre in Mariental I was assisted by a friendly and helpful George. They stocked Goodyear tyres, but no Firestones, but at least I could get the correct size from him.  The tyre cost what the night in the Ritz would have cost us, so I guess one can say I broke even.  In the meantime the rest of the party trooped over to the restaurant right across the road where they had something to eat and drink.  After also having a bit to eat and drink at the restaurant, we headed out.

I ended up driving in front, and had to do my best to stay ahead of Johnie.  We travelled to Keetmanshoop at a spirited tempo, working on GPS speed rather than the speedometer.  This 221km stretch seems similar to the Laingsburg to Beaufort West road in South Africa.   After yet again taking on fuel (and now also adding a bit of oil to sooth my noble steed’s internal organs), we hit the road for the last stretch to Grunau, with Johnie in the lead.

Darkness fell soon thereafter.  Trucks, hills, and above all, the prevalence of road signs warning about kudu’s, prompted me to go slower than Johnie would have hoped for. Afterwards I enquired whether the kudu signs did not bother him, but he said he did not see it.  Eisj,  Willeboer!

Grunau Country Lodge had reserved for us a 5 bedroom luxury room and two budget rooms, each with two beds, the occupants of which had to use the seperate albution block.  It should only have been two rooms, but there had been a misunderstanding, and we left it at that.  Grunau sits on the main routes to both Noordoewer and Nakop. the hotel was fully booked for the night.

Dinner hour was already past, so we ordered food from the menu. The girl taking the order advised us to sit in the lounge on the soft chairs, and to not be nervous or in a hurry for the food.  We did wait a while for the food, but it was certainly worth the wait. The splendid bottle of Shiraz also assisted in keeping everyone nice and calm.

At Grunau we had by far the coldest night of our holiday.


Day 13

Home, James, home, and don’t spare the horses

[Source:  Imagery © 2017 Landsat / Copernicus, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, Map data © 2017 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google]

With first light we said goodbye to Johnie and Rosie, and left for Noordoewer.  They would be heading for Pretoria through the Nakop border post.

At Noordoewer I took on …

Windhoek, Namibia – Part 1

Tuesday, 30 October, 2012

Visit to Windhoek – Part 1

October 2012


I always find it stressful when I have to get up early to fly.  This was no exception.  We had to get up before 04h00 to make it to Cape Town International Airport to catch the flight to Windhoek.

Cape Town to Windhoek

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

It’s a quiet morning.  Obviously, I mean,  it’s four-a-clock in the morning.  With virtually no traffic it’s a quick drive down to the airport.

We find Air Namibia’s check-in counter, and from there proceed to the passport control.  At last we get stamps in our fairly new (and unused) passports.


Hosea Kutako airport outside Windhoek is not very busy.  Passport control and luggage collection take only minutes.  South African Rands are legal tender, which makes things rather simple.  But only if you have South African Rands with you.  Just before we left home we decided to rather leave the cash for the rest of the family staying behind. Drawing money should not be a problem.

Well, there is a slight problem.  The cash machines on the airport only takes Visa cards.  I don’t have a Visa card.  Fortunately the gentleman at the MTC cellphone shop is willing to put the R50 for an sim card and airtime through on my credit card.

I am in a hurry to get the phone to work so that the kids can contact us in case of emergency.  However, none of the text messages go through.  I later call the toll-free number for assistance.  After making four calls, each time trying another option, I listen to the menu long enough te learn that ‘option 9’ would be the one to speak to an operator.  The friendly operator suggest I make a call to get the number up and running.  I try making a few calls as well, with no success.

My wife later suggests that maybe now would be a good time to upload the airtime.   This turned out to be a splendid idea.  Shortly thereafter everything was working fine.

The 40km’s from the airport to Windhoek is a rather relaxing experience.  It feels like the beginning of a holiday.  No traffic, nuh?

Entering Windhoek it is clear that they missed the news that there is a slump in the property industry.  It is just amazing how much building work (houses and large office blocks) are in progress.

At the guest house we are welcomed with coffee.  This is my type of guest house.

Culture Centre

We attend the opening of the Namibian Childrens Book Fair at the Franco Namibian Cultural Centre in Robert Mugabe drive.

It turns out to be quite a big deal, with ambassadors, reprentatives of ambassadors and the likes making speaches.  They are all dressed up for a social occasion in the European winter.  Only, this is Africa, and it is summer, with the temperatur reaching up to 38 degrees C.

Having watched The Pink Panther a few times with my kids I have difficulties taking the French ambassador seriously.  I find myself waiting for the punch line to come, but it does not happen.   The keynote address is done by the Namibian deputy minister of Home Affairs.  He also supports the idea that everyone should be able to read.

After the speaches two ladies entertain us on a short extract from Dr Zeuss.  They are extremely good and funny!

Thereafter follows the eating and drinking.  The space is slightly confined, so from time to time you need to shoulder an ambassador out of the way to get to the food.

In the tile floor there is one row of glass panels.  Under the floor are sculptures of people.  One gets the feeling of slaves being led away, looking upwards for help.  Above floor level, though, everyone goes about their business, pretty much ignoring them.

I found it remarkably striking and symbolic.

Part 2 to follow…

Windhoek, Namibia – Part 2

Tuesday, 30 October, 2012

October 2012


Some four weeks ago we said our farewells to our friend leaving Riebeek-West for Windhoek.  Based on past experience we expected to see her again in ten years time.  However, our unexpected visit to Windhoek change this.

We alerted her to us coming to Windhoek.  Instead of fleeing off to Swakopmund for the weekend, she gave us the option to choose between a Friday night visit to Joe’s Beerhouse, or to attend the Oktoberfest with her.  As the Oktoberfest only comes around once a year, we opted for the latter.

It’s quite a big thing, this fest.  The Kirchdorfer is a Germany based band touring around the world.  Amongst others they play at the Brasilian summer festival and the Korean Octoberfest.  Oh, and at the United Emirates’ Octoberfest.  I didn’t know you’re allowed to drink beer there.

This oempa band is phenomenal.  Nine men and a lady.  They made music for some 5 hours with enormous energy.  The old man from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory should have had these oempa loempas around!

I’m told that of the 2,2 million people of Namibia, some 4% is German speaking.  And it would appear that 90% of them attended the Octoberfest.  OK, maybe not quite, but it was no desolate affair.

A lot of the men wear the knee pants (leather or not) with braces.  The ladies also wear traditional clothing.  I could not help but notice a few substantial bellies among the men folk.  And some ladies also sported enormous beer tankards.  You basically order your beer by the bucket.

This, of course, has certain predictable results.  At the bar counter a girl stumbles against me as she puts down two beer mugs (smaller versions were also available).  This was while I’m now trying to whisper in the bartender’s ear that I would actually like a Coke, rather than a beer.  Anyway, the girl’s mugs would not stand upstraight, regardless of her endeavours (the beer mugs, that is).  I assume it to be a design defect in the mugs.

The girl explains to me what the problem is.  Well, I think that is what she did.  I assume she was speaking either English, Afrikaans or German, but I could understand nothing of what she was saying; she sounded like Donald Duck on helium.  Maybe that was also due to a design defect, although I suspect that the beer might have something to do with it.

A good time was had by all.


On Saturday we did the tourits thing and went walkabout.

I notice an attorney’s firm:  F Q P attorneys.  A rather interesting name, I thought.

On the topic of attorneys:  it would appear that the occupation of choice in Windhoek must be the manufacturing and installing of electric fences, barbed wire and burglar bars.  Oh, no, sorry, I’m not on the topic of attorneys anymore.

In spite of all these visible deterrents of criminals one does not feel unsafe.  Admittedly, it may have something to do with the fact that you are on the inside of the fencing.  But even outside those perimeters we did not feel unsafe.  Of course you should not be stupid and visit risky place, but it would appear that the crime here is property related, rather than violent crime.

The contrast between the old and the new is sriking.  The old colonial building of the Bank of Namibia now stands dwarfed by the new one right next to it.

The Bank of Namibia replaced the Namibian reserve bank in 1993.  Well, sort of.  The reserve bank never really came into existence.

The rider on his horse (Reiterdenkmal) had to move from his traditional spot to make way for the new North-Korean built Independence Memorial museum.  Reiterdenkmal now stands right in front of the old fort (Alte Feste).

On the picture a part of the Alte Feste can be seen.  The enormous coffee perculator on the left is the Independence Memorial Museum.

The colonial old is dwarfed by the new.  Maybe it was planned like that.

We walk past the building where the first president of Namibia, Sam Nujoma, used to stay.  For a moment I thought maybe I should rather tuck my camera into the front of my pants just to prevent the guards from thinking I am spying on the ex president.  But he does not stay there anymore.  I understand he has moved on. No, he is still alive, he just lives elsewhere in Windhoek.

Just past the Independence Memorial Museum is the Christuskirche.  Construction on this Lutheran church started in 1907 after the German / Herero / Khoikhoi / Ovambo war.  It was finished in 1910 and dedicated as a church of peace.

Downtown Windhoek

Downtown Windhoek is busy.  It is Saturday on a month end.  It is hot.  It is nearly summer.  The town has a nice vibe to it.

There was this one guy, though,  that lost his temper for a taxi that did a u-turn in front of him.  To make clear his point he took to his hooter.  He was not satisfied with a short, informative blast, though.  He just kept on going.  But then again, maybe he did not want to be mistook for a taxi.  The taxi’s do this short blasts to invite you to make use of  their services.

Speaking of which, the Windhoek taxi’s, unlike South African taxi’s, are normally sedan cars, rather than minibus taxi’s.

The new Hilton hotel is just across the road from the old Kalahari Sands hotel. The Hilton is left, the Kalahari Sands on the right.

It’s progress, I assume.

Part 3 to follow…

Windhoek, Namibia – Part 3

Tuesday, 30 October, 2012

The ceremony

Saturday night was the actual purpose of our visit to Windhoek.

We attended the Namibian Children’s Book Forum (NCBF) prize giving ceremony in the Goethe centre in Fidel Castro avenue.  My wife’s children’s book, “Wat is jy Kartoffel?” has been nominated for the prize in the category of illustrated children’s books.

Sandy Rudd, the master of ceremonies, kept the atmosphere light with a live wire approach.  A TV crew from (I assume) Nam TV was there, and a few photographers.  This contingent made it a bit difficult to take pictures from where I was seated.  The girls of the Greenwell Matongo Library Dance Group did their thing. Energetic, alive, loud, fun. The faces are alive;  it’s such a pleasure watching them.

Gcina Mhlope is a renowned South African story teller and playwright.  She does a story telling in which she involves everyone.  She has rythm in her whole being.  Amazing.

Mrs Kovambo Nujoma, wife of the erstwhile president of Namibia, has been the patron of the NCBF for years.  She presented the prizes.  She is an elegant lady.

My obervations not only at the evening, but also otherwise, are that the racial relationships in Namibia appear to be a lot more healthy than is the case south of the Orange river. This evening was no exception.  OK, Mrs Nujoma’s body guard was not unnecessarily friendly, but I assume that goes with the job description.

Of all the prizes handed out, my interest obviously was primarily with my wife’s award.  I was very proud of her when she was called forward to receive her award.  Well, now I can say I know somebody who shook the hand of the wife of the ersthwile president of Namibia.  This, of course, now makes me a bit of a celebrity myself.

Last social

After the proceedings there is a light meal and wine.  When everyone left, our hosts took us to the Hotel Thule for a drink.

Wow! This hotel /restaurant must be on the most prime real estate spot in Windhoek.  It sports a bird’s eye view to the North of the city.

It was an idyllic evening.  Probably still about 27 degrees, with only a slight wind cooling down the ambient temperature.

Going home

Sunday morning at six-o-clock we get picked up.  It is a nice drive out to the airport.  The sun is just rising over the Namibian plains.  OK, I’m lying about the plains; it’s a bit of poetic licence.  There are no plains here – that’s the reason why they had to go 40km’s outside Windhoek to get a big enough flat spot to build an airport.

At the check in counter the man attending to us check our passports, check his computer, check my printout of my electronic booking.  The frown between his eyes keep on deepening.

“I will be with you shortly,” he says.

He takes our passports and booking, and disappear through a door.  I’m sure I hear the theme from the 007-movies playing in the background.  After a while we become (more) concerned.  Even later I see the guy walking past, and follow him into an office where a security guard gives me a hostile look.

I explain to her that those are my papers, and that I just want to know what the problem is.

“No, there is no problem,” says the chap assisting us.  I walk with him back to the check in counter.

There is a slight problem, he says without explaining the nature thereof.  But it only means he has to issue us handwritten boarding passes.  A few minutes later we are sorted, and sit down for a nice coffee.

Over my coffee I peruse our boarding passess.  And choke in my coffee.

I grab my wife’s boarding pass and my booking papers and run back to the check-in counter.  The official looks disturbed when I bash in on him again.

“You booked us to Johannesburg, and we want to go to Cape Town,” I explain.  I hand the boarding passes to him.

“Oh, don’t worry, you are going to Cape Town, the flight number is correct.  You can just change JHB to CPT,” he says.

By that time the first boarding call came, and I did not have time to argue with the man.  So I rush back to my wife, take two gulps of coffee, and head for the passport control.

The boarding passes I fix as suggested by the official.

There, I fixed it

At passport control we start filling in the forms.  However, the form asks me which address in Windhoek I will be staying.  So we decide that these forms cannot possibly apply to us.

At the counter I explain to the lady behind the counter that we have not completed the forms properly, because it does not seem to apply to us.  After a long winded explanation she gives me a smile the way my sub A teacher used to smile at me, and waive us through.

Boarding the plane, just for safety, I present my boarding pass to the attendant with my thumb concealing the destination.  We get in undetected.  I’m sitting in row 23, my wife in row 27, says the boarding pass. But there is only 25 rows.  Oeps!

So my wife heads back to the attendant.  She re-interprets the boarding pass, and concludes that the “7” is actually a “3”.  And so we end up sitting next to each other.

And so we went home.