Posts tagged with “Namibia”

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 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 …

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 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.



Part 4 – The long road home

Friday, 2 July, 2010

[Also in Afrikaans @]



 (by PG Jonker)

Katima Mulilo and Caprivi

Day 8

Today we will travel on the Zambian side of the river to enter Namibia at Katima Mulilo.   The borrowed Minus 40 in the back of my bakkie has stopped functioning, and I now have a huge ornamental box taking up space. 

But first we would like to have a look at the falls from a distance.  At the border post to Zimbabwe you receive a free pass, a little scrap paper with a number on it, indicating the number of people in your group.

We walk halfway across the bridge to get a nice view of the Victoria Falls.  What strikes one is the lively trade apparently going on, with vehicles and people crossing the bridge with wares for sale.


 Two of our travel mates each buys themselves a Z$50 000 000 000.  They were advised that this would go a long way to purchase a hamburger and a cool drink.  Quiet, brothers, there goes my billionaire friends.

 Eventually we depart for Namibia.  As we exit Livingstone in a Westerly direction we get charged an exit fee of R30 each.  In Rand, nogal.  We aim for Sesheke, but the GPS voice insists that I should turn around and drive through Zimbabwe.  I ignore her.  When we pass the turn-off to the Kazungula ferry, the voice implores me to take the turn-off, but I ignore her. 

After each such turn-off that you miss, the GPS recalculates the remaining distance to your destination.  But once I passed the Kazungula turn-off the GPS now calculate my distance to Katima Mulilo as 1100km’s.  It bothers me slightly.  Surely the GPS should know there is a border crossing at Sesheke / Katima?  We enter Sesheke.  I do not see any border post.  As we travel through the town I can eventually see Katima getting smaller over my left shoulder, and still there is no border post.  I’m running out of fuel.  Could the GPS know something that I do not know?  For instance, like that there is no border crossing at Sesheke?

Eventually I give a sigh of relief when I find there is indeed a bridge across the river into Namibia!   

The control office is badly marked.  In fact, I don’t think it was marked at all.  A few locals, upon spotting vehicles with foreign number plates, give welcome unsolicited gestures in the direction of the building where you need to attend to when they see you aim for the border without stopping.

The officials on both sides are friendly.  They did confiscate our long life milk, though.  On the Namibia side there is another (unmarked) building where you need to pay your road tax before proceeding. 

Being back in Namibia it feels like back home again.  People speak Afrikaans, you pay in Rand, and the shops look the same as ours.  Ja nee, die Kaap is weer Hollands.

After replenishing our stock and refuelling we head for Namashushu lodge on the Kwando River. 

At the lodge you have the option of staying in luxury bungalows, or to camp.  The ablution to the camp site sports a notice that warns against hippo and elephant movement at night.

This is the last evening for the whole crowd together.  We have a nice potjie and braai, even a few speeches and some farewells.  Indeed, a nice tour was had by all.

Kwando, Rundu, Grootfontein Otavi

Day 9

After a nice breakfast in the lodge we depart the next morning as part of a three vehicle convoy.  We plan to fill up again at Divundu.  Arriving at Divundu there is no petrol station any more.  Eish!  Fortunately we find another petrol station not too far off.  Even a 24h service station.  Well, sort-of. 


Some local boys, clearly school going age, make talk with us, asking for money, and in general behave rather mischievous.

On the road from Divundu to Rundu Dirk realises that he lost 80 litres of diesel from his long distance tank, and Pierre’s air-condition stopped working.  Fortunately my bakkie don’t break down at exotic destinations.  That sommer happens at home.   The vehicles are attended to in Rundu.

At Pupkewitz Toyota in Rundu I could not help but find humor in the close proximity of the ‘customer toilet’ notice to ‘Pupkewitz’.  However, this is only entertaining in Afrikaans.

We decide that I will go ahead and get a place to sleep for all at Grootfontein.  The rest will follow as soon as they have their vehicles fixed.   With the sun still high when we reach Grootfontein we decide to aim for Otavi.  There we find ample place at the Khorab Lodge, about 3km’s South of the town. 

It took some juggling to get the three families and their attachments settled into the various bungalows in a way that the numbers fit the available beds. 

It is this group’s last night together.  From here I will be travelling back home, with the rest of the crowd heading for Swakopmund.

Today we travelled 835km’s.

Otavi to Windhoek

Day 10

We travel down to Windhoek where we will stay with family for the night.  At Otjiwarongo we stop at a shop.  The car watch is armed with a gun.  I kid you not.  I did not even consider not paying him for looking after my car. 

In Windhoek we are just in time to attend the end of the Biltong festival. 

Windhoek to home

Day 11

After a leisurely departure from Windhoek after nine in the morning with the idea to sleep over at Springbok we decide that we’d rather be in our own beds tonight. 

From Mariental I have to contend with a funny noise coming from my clutch every time I have to engage gears.  Fortunately the relative in Windhoek is a banker who knows someone in every town in Namibia, so I have the comfort that he will be able to fix me up with someone should something go seriously wrong with the clutch.   Eventually, back at home, I had to have the spiggot bearing replaced, whatever that might be.

At Vioolsdrif, for the first time on the tour, we encounter an official with an attitude, but nothing serious.  On the Noordoewer side …