Netherlands and Paris tour 2018 – Part 3

Saturday, 6 October, 2018

Part 3 – Paris

 September 25th– 27 th


Shortly before our departure to Europe, we had contact with a relative who is living in Paris temporarily.  He offered us his flat to stay in as he would be out of town during the time of our tour.

So with our Dutch host as guide we left Schiphol for Orley airport South of Paris.  From there we caught a bus that took us to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. We found the flat a 340m walk from the far side of the Arc de Triomphe.  Or if you want to be pedantic, 300m from the near side of the circle.


Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe turned out to be a massive thing.   Twelve big streets connect at the circle around the Arc de Triomphe, with no traffic lights to regulate traffic. Although I found it entertaining to watch, I would not want to drive there!

[Source:  Imagery 2018 © Google, map data © Google]



Big bus tours

We got tickets for the hop on hop off Big Bus Tours bus, valid for two days.   We were told that if you start your trip on the bus past 16:00 in the afternoon, then that day does not count. So we trundled down the Champs Elysees, whiling away the time until four before boarding the bus.

We considered this to be an exploratory trip, so we did not hop off. We wanted to get the feel of the route. Just as I got to the Eiffel tower, my camera memory was full, and I had to resort to some picture with my phone instead.  The bus does not wait.



The next day we did the tour again, this time getting off at the Eiffel tower to begin with.  As we got to the Eiffel tower, I realised that I have not put the camera batteries back after I charged them the previous evening.  Fortunately I found a set of back-up batteries in the camera bag that I actually forgot about!

It’s really no use describing the details of a tour like this. It’s like taking pictures. I later gave up on taking them. Paris is massive and old, with a seemingly endless supply of really impressive old buildings.  And as far as the Eiffel tower is concerned, every ten meters that you walk in any direction from or around it, you find a better angle for a picture.  You just can’t win!

What left me in awe was hanging around these highly recognizable landmarks in the world such as the Eiffel tower and the Louvre and the Notre Dame.  Just being there was just amazing.

According to the running commentary on the bus, the Champs Elysees is a rather expensive street to run a business from. I was thus surprised to find, tucked away on the Champs Elysees, even a MacDonald’s.

It turned out to be the start of fashion week in Paris. Everywhere girls in bridal or other fancy dresses got photographed against the backdrop of the Eiffel tower or other exotic views.



Between changing from the Red Bus to the Blue Bus (for different routes) we visited one of the Lafayette buildings to get to the rooftop which offers a commanding view of Paris – for free.  Getting anything free here is noteworthy.  Even toilets require payment.  Speaking of which, I was initially rather surprised to find a female cleaner going about her business of cleaning the gents’ toilets, unperturbed by the gents using the urinals.  I never quite fancied taking a leak as a spectator sport.

Sorry, I digress.  To get to the top floor of the Lafayette building, you pass a number of exotic stores. At some of these outlets you can buy yourself some really hideous outfits for €1800 and upwards if you are so inclined.   Not even the sky is the limit – very much like with stupidity.

We gave Louis Vuitton a skip because we did not want to do queues. Apparently they had a new range of handbags which is so exotic that you had to queue up just to be let into the shop. I guess they contact your credit provider before letting you in, just to prevent embarrassment to both you and them.  Crazy Store never does that when we go looking for a handbag there.


Sacré-Coeur, Montmartre

We took a walk to the next bus stop. This turned out well for the increasing of the number of steps on my step counter, but it was disastrous from a navigational point of view, even with Google maps. With the sun sitting south of centre instead of north of centre as is the case in the Southern hemisphere, I had difficulties getting my direction. Eventually the answer was to enlarge the screen of your Maps, and to start walking so that one can see in which direction one moves on the phone screen. Eventually we did get to the right bus stop to get to the Sacré-Coeur.

The church is perched on a hill. A steep hill.

Having survived the steps, you are at the top of Montmartre. They had a funicular for the faint hearted who could not do the uphill walk. In spite of the sacredness of the institution one had to contend with all manners of hustlers. Some had these three upside down cups moving around a coin, and for a few Euros you could incorrectly guess were the coin was – and of course, lose your money.  I was saved by my wife from a chap who started tying a rope to my finger. I assume he would have made some ornament which would be impossible to get off and then expected to be paid for it. I was also for the second time urged by lady to “just sign here” on a collections form. Apparently that is just the diversion to get into your pockets – literally.


Place du Tertre

Close by is the Place du Tertre, where you will find a huge collection of artists, many of whom offering to draw your picture while you sit there.  There is a square, and the streets joining the square are very narrow, with a proliferation of restaurants and curio shops.  It …

Netherlands and Paris tour 2018 – Part 4

Saturday, 6 October, 2018

Part 4

Friday, 28 September 2018

Exploring locally – Hilversum museums

Our host took my wife to IKEA. I understand IKEA to be a shop selling furniture and stuff.  Fearing that my wife might come home with a double bed or something that would be guaranteed to not fit into our luggage, I decided to explore a bit of Hilversum by bicycle to calm my nerves down.

Pretty much everyone can ride a bicycle, but doing so whilst obeying rules is a real novel experience. I decided to rather stick to quiet streets and watch what fellow cyclists do. I also ran a quick check on Google on the things you should not do while cycling in the Netherlands. And off I went.

These big bikes are very comfortable, but if Lance Armstrong had to do the Tour de France with such a bicycle he would probably have become a plumber or something on the side to put food on the table.

I am happy to report that things went rather well. One interesting observation is that there is no need to stick to smaller roads. In fact, it is on the smaller roads where you may find yourself sharing the road with cars. On the big roads, on the other hand, you have your own cycle lane.  One must just remember to stay on the lane on the right hand side of the road and to go around a circle anti-clockwise.

My first stop was the Hilversum museum.  There I found a nude art exhibition by Carla van de Puttelaar.  I really only found that out only after I entered.  From there I headed for the Instituut vir Beeld en Geluid.  This is a cultural archive and museum that collects information on the Dutch audio-visual heritage.

I spent quite a few hours there and had great fun!

They have a number of interactive activities where you can be the star in your show, for instance being the driver of a car in a car chase scene in a movie, or reading the news.  Recordings hereof are then sent to your email where it is stored for thirty days.

For my navigation I was reliant on Google Maps, but only on the voice prompts, of course.  I would be looking at a sudden death if I were to look on my phone’s screen while staying out of trouble with the bicycle.  However, picture (or try listening to it in your imagination) the English voice prompts and accent on street names such as Gijsbrecth van Amstel street, Roeitjiesweg, and Burgemeester Gülcherlaan.  I missed quite a number of turnoffs, because I was looking for a street name that sounded like the voice prompts.


Saturday, 29 September

Naarden Vesting

The Naarden Fortress city is built in a star format with fortified walls and a moat around it to keep attackers out.  Napoleon’s brother, however, apparently did manage to breach the fortress, but that was a while ago. These days you can go there without running the risk of being held at bay by the locals.  One can do a boat trip around the city in the moat for a small fee.

As with many of these places, being there of course makes it impossible to get a view of the place.  Below is a 3d picture from Google Maps. The colour scheme makes it look a bit strange, but the two variations of dark green are the water masses surrounding the city, providing the required security against breaching.

[Source:  Imagery © 2018 Google, Map data © Google]

This is one of the entrances to the Vesting, viewed from the inside.  Note the ground wall behind the building.

In what used to be the court house (or rather the mayor’s house) a local gave us the historical background. One room appeared to have been the court room. As this visit commemorated our 30th anniversary, and we were in fact visiting our friend who was then the (nearly qualified) minister who did our marriage sermon, we did a quick refresher of our vows.

From there we paid a brief visit to the 18th century Kasteel Groeneveld.

That evening we had a braai. Rib eye steak on the bone (which sells for roughly 10 times the price we get this back home), salmon for a starter and lamb and pork sausage home made by our host. A good evening was had by all.


Sunday, 30 September


Kinderdijk is an area some 70km’s away from Hilversum with 19 working windmills that (along with more modern pumping mechanisms) pump water out from low lying areas.

A rather entertaining presentation is offered, giving a bit of background to the project.   Thereafter we boarded a boat that took us down the river between the mils.

I found these mills as problematic as the Eiffel tower: every few seconds you find a new angle that you think would make a better picture.

[Click on Part 5 below to read further]…

Netherlands and Paris tour 2018 – Part 5

Saturday, 6 October, 2018

Part 5


Delta Werke Neeltje Jans

The South-western province of the Netherlands is Zeeland.  Geographically, this part has large peninsulas.  In 1953 the Netherlands suffered from massive floods.  The floods caused the forced evacuation of 70 000 people, and left more than 1800 people dead.  More than 47000 houses were damaged, and dykes were breached at more than 60 places.


The Dutch then embarked on a massive project, Delta Works, to build new water restraining mechanisms.

[Source:  Imagery © 2018 Google, Map data © Google]


The works consist of dams, sluices, locks, dykes, levees and storm surge barriers in South Holland and Zeeland.  The purpose of all these was to shorten the Dutch coastline by building dykes and sluices on the outer perimeter,  and in doing so reducing the number of dikes that had to be raised further inland at different places.

[Source:  Imagery © Google, Data SIO, NOAA, US Navy, NGA, GEBCO, Map data © 2018 Google]

The problem here is similar to climbing on top of the Eiffel tower – once up there you can’t see the Eiffel anymore. These delta constructions are huge, and given the layout of the land being so flat you have no vantage point to get to see the project.  Hence the need to resort to Google maps just to give an indication of what one is looking at.  Suffice maybe just to say that I was awestruck.

Bear in mind that the Dutch had the ability to (and did) reclaim land from somewhere in the 1400’s already, and they are still at it, only better.

If ever you get the chance to see the Dutch movie, De Storm, do watch it.  It tells the story of the 1953 storm that caused havoc, and preceded the construction of these Delta works series of dykes.

As a child we were told this story of the boy that put his finger in the hole in a dyke to prevent it from getting worse.  After having seen these dykes, I rather doubt that story.


Monday, 1 October


Utrecht is a 15 minutes train drive to the South of Hilversum.   We stuck to the part of town that centers around the Dom church, so I have no real idea what the rest of Utrecht would look like.


Dom church

It’s a Gothic church, huge and old, as these structures invariably seem to be.  Interesting here is that the tower sits apart from the rest of the church.  See in the picture below the tower left, with the huge space between it and the rest of the church to the right.

[Source:  Imagery © 2018 Google, Map data © Google]

It used to be one structure, but a storm in 1674 caused the connecting part of the church to collapse.  Bearing in mind how large the remaining part of the church still is, the complete structure must have resembled a warehouse.  Size wise, I mean, not architecturally, of course.

Serene church organ music was playing there.  Well, I guess that’s what church music is supposed to sound like.


From a cultural perspective, my wife was very happy to find in the Dom church a book written and illustrated by South African writer, Piet Grobler.  She also found Miffy.   Miffy is the one on the right below.  This bunny had been created by Dutch author Dick Bruna in 1955, and has featured in more than 30 books since then.


In service of the community

We also went to the Olivier’s pub, which is housed in an old church.  The original pipe organ is still there, but unlike as in the Dom church, nobody was playing it.  I’m probably not supposed to say this but I found the atmosphere in the Olivier’s church somewhat lighter.  Their wine on offer is not limited to communion.  Come to think of it, the architecture in this instance does not remotely remind one of a pub, yet it evidently serves the community, albeit somewhat differently than initially intended.

We eventually extracted ourselves from this church.  Utrecht, too has waterways.

Eventually we made our way back to the Utrecht train station, and from there, back to Hilversum.


Before my departure on the tour the war museum at Oosterbeek, Arnhem, was on my bucket list.  It turned out I would not get to Arnhem, so I opted for binge watching the series Band of Brothers instead.  I guess that should count for something.


And that was our tour.  I still have a few observations thought I should add, but this delivery has become somewhat lengthy.  Might do that in a further chapter.…

Elandsbaai road trip

Sunday, 25 March, 2018

March 2018

We went on a little road trip to Elandsbaai recently.

First we did a stop-over at Stompneusbaai.

[Source:  Imagery ©2018 DigitalGlobe, DigitalGlobe, Data SIO, NOAA, US Navy, NGA GEBCO, Map data ©2018 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd]

St Helenabaai

The following picture had been taken from St Helenabaai to the North-East, the direction of our tour, with Elandsbaai just out of the picture to the left.

At the spot where I took the picture there was a warning sign indicating that pregnant Zebras would be crossing there.  We waited a bit, but not even those of the non-pregnant variant showed themselves.

Looking over the sea it seemed as if a Jack Sparrow crew moored out in the bay with a ship drifting in nothingness.

Getting the show on the road, our first stop was at Velddrif, at the Riviera hotel.

Sorry, I know, the pictures looks like the forecourt of a car sales outfit, but I actually intended to give an idea of what the hotel looks like seen from the river.  We had a very nice brunch there at very fair prices.

Just on the other side of the bridge, a number of (among other things) eateries could be seen.  I think next time I should go and check out the Kuiergat Pub.

Looking down from the stoep of the hotel where we had our brunch, I spotted this father and son combination in their boat.

I could just imagine the boy tuning his dad:  “Dad, when you said we’re going out on a boat, I had it play out differently in my mind.”

Velddrif/Laaiplek to Elandsbaai

From the hotel it is a leisurely 70km’s drive on tar road to Elandsbaai.  But first we had to do some shopping.  Laaiplek’s Tops has a Spar too.  A big one nogals.  No, I did not take a picture.

We travelled through Dwarskersbos and past Rocher pans.  Approaching the t-junction where you turn left to Elandsbaai and right to Auroa, one can see Klein Tafelberg in the distance.  And an arty variation of style and colours of different asphalts.

Just before Elandsbaai you find Verlorenvlei.  As the name indicates, it is supposed to be a water mass where birds to their thing.  If I may quote from

Verlorenvlei is one of the most important estuarine systems in the Western Cape and one of the largest natural wetlands along the west coast of South Africa. It is also one of the few coastal fresh water lakes in the country. The system comprises a coastal lake and reedswamp connected to the sea by a small estuary. Situated amid dramatic topography, the lake is approximately 13.5 km long and 1.4 km wide and occurs in the zone of transition between the karroid and fynbos vegetation types. This results in the region displaying a high species diversity typical of an ecotone area. (RAMSAR)

Due to the drought, though, it seems fair to assume that this estuary does at the moment not quite meet estuarian requirements.  Below is a picture I took, and just below a comparison with what it looked like when the Google Streetview car passed through in 2010.  Spot the difference.


For years I had wanted to sleep over in the Elandsbaai hotel.  At long last we now did exactly this.

The entrance to the hotel.

The front view of the hotel, viewed from the sea.

The view from the stoep.  Those promising clouds did, in fact, deliver a bit of rain that night.

View from the upper sea front rooms.

And on the other side of this mountain is where the Saldanha Sishen train would come through.

Incidentally we caught the train on its return trip from Saldanha.  Apparently the longest this train had been on occasion was 7,5km (660 wagons).  I did not count the wagons, but I would guess this train was closer to its normal miserly 3,7km length with 342 wagons and 8 locomotives.


Inside the hotel we found this notice.

It was put up near to the Presidential Suite.  I guess one need a notice like that if you know your president has lots of children.  Just for the sake of the other guest.  But just to be on the safe side we decided to neither run nor scream.  We appreciate your appreciation.  No, really.

Elandsbaai is a world renowned surf destination.  (I don’t surf).  Hence the shop (I did not shop their either).  There are other shops as well.  I did buy a tooth brush from the shop right across the street from the hotel.

I’ve been told that, after the fishing factory had been built at Elandsbaai, it turned that the harbour was not deep enough for trawlers to offload their catch.  So ‘n block and tackle system had to be designed to haul the dinghies (bakkies) up and down.

I was wondering whether it might be a good business opportunity if they could maybe make money from hoisting tourist kids up and down in dinghies.


2009 Hyundai Tucson 2.0 (petrol)

Travelled 545 km’s

Used 41.28 liters of fuel

Consumption 13,2 km/l

[No, I did not lie a bit, we just travelled at a very unhurried pace.]…

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.  …