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Desert Experiences

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My journey in Namibia

The word 'Skeleton coast' was first coined by author John Henry Marsh, which outlines the wrecking in 1942 of the British cargo liner Dunedin star and the rescue of all 106 passengers and crew.Usually the warm wind current that blows from inland into the ocean from heavy fog. The havoic of the benguela current in the region has caused a notable number of deadly wrecks including; The Gertrud Woermann II, 30km from Swakopmund(1904); the Eduard Bohlen, on route to Table Bay from Swakopmund, (Sept 1909),It is just 800m from land and partially covered under desert sand;The Otavi ran aground in Spencer Bay (1945);The Zeila (August 2008) stuck after it got loose from it's towing line near 'Die Wallie' 14 km from the Henties Bay.

The Lichens Fields

A few kilometres drive from Swakopmund along the coastal salt road, the desert comes alive. flat landscape with boulders of rocks on barren ground. Close to the coast its sandy while the region away from the sea is just rocky. The lichen fields are an amazing phenomenon for those of us in into basic biology and i had to make a stop outside The Dorob national park. Lichens are result of the symbiotic relationship between algae and fungi. fog in the coastal parts of the desert provides moisture for the organisms' survival. The fungus portion of the plant provides the physical support, while the algae carries out photosynthesis that makes food and energy for the plant.In real sense they are neither plants nor animals. A few more kilometres i stop on the scene of the Zeila ship wreckage still standing a few metres in the sea partly covered by sand.
My next stop is Henties Bay. Hendrik 'Hentis' van der Merwe discovered the fresh water on this coast in 1929. He had come for trophy hunting for a rhinoceros;a museum of Pennsylvania USA wanted the skeleton of the rhino. Having run out of water they followed the Omaruru river to its mouth where they would find fresh water here. He fell in love with the place and the following he came over to build a cabin house and stayed for his holiday. The town soon would grow into a holiday resort town since then named Hentis Bay.An hour stop in the small town and i head off to the Spitzkopje, an hour's drive from Henties Bay. One could decide to follow the coastline up to the Cape cross for a view of the seals.

Spitzkopje

I took the D1918 road that cuts through the Dorob national park heading inland. The mountains and bolders of the Sptitzkopje are one of the oldest volcanic mountains in the region. The granite peaks are 120 million years old and the highest outcrop stands at 1 728 m above sea level. The khoisan once lived on these mountains and left evidence of bushmen paintings on the rocks. The availability of water source in the region made it possible for settlement to develop though a very small population. The Bushmen Paradise is a rock with such drawings and an insight in the study of the paintings is so fascinating. A few metres from the Bushmen paradise is the Arch rock amazing art of nature.Its worth a visit if you are driving past this region. I have also seen a good number of birds species here as i had lunch under the shade of trees on a blistering sun of the desert. The rock dassies is common on the mountains and the caves. Most striking also is a natural swimming pool on one of the hills which gets water when it rains.

Khorixas

I drove further for another 2 hours on the dusty rocky roads through valleys and dry rivers. Further inland few settlements of communities widely spaced and one can drive for long distances without coming across another community. From a further distance i already see yet another range of big mountains a few hundreds of kilometres ahead.
The D1918 road leads to D1930 which took me to Uis. Uis used to be a tin mining town that was established back in 1958. Tin has been mined since 1922 though but its ore grade was low. The mining strived mainly because South Africa which controlled Namibia, could not buy minerals from anywhere in the world due to sanctions on the apartheid government. At the end of 1991, the mine was abandoned once Namibia got its Independence. Uis is on the foot of the Brandberg mountains the highest mountains in Namibia. I was impressed by the Uis country club here a stop for coffee and a deep of my feet in the well maintained swimming pool. The campsite is safe with green loan, a bar and gaming area for old school. A snooker with an 'L' shape the only one I have seen.
The word Brad means Burning and implies the Brandberg is a burning mountain. Indeed from a distant away the reddish colour of the rocks in the mountain reflects as burning as the golden rays of the sunset or sunrise hits on them. The Damara people from the region used to consider the mountain as a sacred place of the gods and many traditional ceremonies would be held in the mountain. If you intend to see more of the bushmen painties and mostly notable the White lady painting then an overnight here is a good choice.

I drove a further 100 km from Uis to Khorixas, my overnight campsite today. Again it's back to pitching up my tent, which i have already become a professional at. It's already sunset, but still very hot as is usual in Namibia, so a swim is welcome. Khorixas rest camp has also a lodge as well as campsite. The rooms here are so amazing and fairly priced. Should you want an upgrade you have a chance here. I am comfortable with my tent as i am running on a budget tour.The rest camp is 3km outside the town center but there as well a number of accommodation places in Khorixas.The town itself was formerly the administrative town of the Damaraland bantustan during the apartheid era. It's 42km from the national monument site 'The petrified forest' which is one of Namibia's tourist attractions.
The Petrified Forest is in actual fact an accumulation of enormous fossilized tree trucks that dates back 280 million years ago. The trees have been deposited here due to a floods that carried them and possibly the sand and mud that buried them here. They were covered to the extent depriving air to reach the trees thereby avoiding the decay of the wood. The wood would crystalized and the organic material of the trunks was conserved. The petrified trees is a tale of trees that turned into stones. It's worth a stop by. In the same location is the specimen of the Welwitschia Mirabilis plant. The plant is endemic to the Namib desert and consists of a root stem and 2 leaves. Its often referred to as a living fossil.

Opuwo

A 100km from Khorixas along the C35 road i came to Kamanjab; i stopped to fuel up and have a cup of coffee. I realised also that its another overnight stop with good accommodation also well priced. On my other trip down here I would surely make use of this stop over. There is a number of supermarkets here, 2 garages and ATM machines. A club and also several bars mostly for locals but yes I would enjoy that as well. Then there is a good number of women from the Himba and the Herero tribes showcasing their dress codes as well as their art craft.
I drove another 200km to Opuwo a town further North of Namibia close to the Angola border. It is the capital town of the Kunene region with a population of 20 000 people. Its much busier here than Khorixas but not as well established as Swakopmund either. The town is reach in culture and the purpose of visit here is to have that cultural interaction with genuine Himba and Herero tribes. My overnight campsite here is Opuwo country club situated on the high grounds just outside the town. My visit to the Himbas was a mixed of emotions as I came to learn much about one of a few tribes that tried to preserve their there culture against all the technological advancement and the civilization. But also as important as it is one is tempted to help to accelerate their transformation to modern world. They are happy to be who they are and what they are.
Back at the Opuwo country club just before sunset. There is a swimming pool just outside the reception, a bar and restaurant. This has been my best sight for sunset as it sinks on the mountains where the vegetation has improved remarkably from the desert dry open valleys. The campsite is rocky but a good ablution block and kitchen area. The sky is clear and no lights around another chance to gaze the stars.

Etosha National Park

Etosha national park is Namibia's prime game park. The word Etosha originate from the Oshindonga word which means 'The Great White place'. The salt pan which is completely within the national park covers an area of 4 760 sq km which is 23% of the national park. The great white pan is a dried up lake which was once supported by inflow of water from the Kunene river. It is believed the change of course of the Kunene river was shifted due to the movement of the tectonic plates about ten million years ago. Others geologists say the 16 000 years ago when ice sheets were melting across the land masses of Northern hemisphere, wet climate phase filled the lake in Southern hemisphere.
The national park today covers an area of 22 700 sq km in the Kunene region.From the Galton Gate on the western entrance of the park to Namutoni it's a good 320km drive through the park. AS it is in the park the roads on the western half towards Galton Gate the roads are not so good for small cars but for bakkies and 4x4 wheel drives it's no problem at all. As you drive through there are a good number of lodges and picnic sites on protected areas from wildlife. Etosha is generally dry and most of the time waterholes have more activities during the hottest time of the day. I had several stops before I finally stopped for my first overnight in the park at Okaukuejo Campsite.

Okaukuejo

The lodges here are very beautiful, the campsite well maintained. There is actually a community here of locals working and leaving in the national park to look after visitors. There is a post office and lots of postcards here, curio shop and a small supermarket. The restaurant is just close to the bar and swimming pool and the main dining hall for catering of large groups. I camped in the camping grounds which ha also several ablution blocks which were actually well taken care of. Just a few metres off the residential place there is a waterhole and a viewing area where you can enjoy your drink while observing animals coming and going. The waterhole can be visited throughout the night and a chance to see so much action here. I have seen a lion take down a giraffe years back and a den of hynaes trying to chase away the lion from the prey just outside the fence of the campsite. It is always advisable to stay within the rules of the national park. Okaukuejo is 17 km from the Anderson Gate which also happens to be the main and busiest Gate of the national park. FRom Anderson Gate to the nearest town Outjo it is an hours drive.
The next morning just as the Gates open usually at sunrise, I drove went on a game drive on 4x4 open roof vehicles. First to Okondeka on the north-eastern side and back around the western part of the Etosha pan as i made my way to Halali campsite for my overnight. I must stress out that the experience here is quite different and it's about lucky days. However the drive itself is very busy as you would have to stop for several minutes just to observe and enjoy wildlife in its natural state. Being a dry arid national park its easy here to see animals concentrating on waterholes. Halali has also a campsite, and lodges similar to that ones at Okaukuejo and also a waterhole just outside the camp. My second night inside camp did not disappoint.
The next day i drove towards Namutoni gate via the main viewpoint of the etosha Pan. I had a chance to drive for 5km into the salt pan to have a feel and walk on the lake. On a hot day it looks much more beautiful and good use for your camera here. Later in the day i stopped for lunch at Namutoni campsite. I like the camping grounds here, much greener than the other camping sites I have been in the park so far. The areas surrounding the campsite were just as impressive for sightings as well.

What to see:Etosha National Park

Wildlife

In an arid desert animals congregate on a few water holes that are sparsely distributed in the national park. The park has the big four animals except for buffaloes which needs lots of water for their survival. Huge herds of elephants and very big in size and carry short tusks. A good number of prides of lions, elusive leopards and cheetahs especially on the open plains of the park.
The conservation programme of the endangered black rhino here is one of the success story of African and white rhinos also a good population in Etosha. Other interesting big animals are giraffes,zebras, black wildebeest are quite many as well as antelopes like kudus, elands, impalas, springbok would be at every turn in the park and under the shades of few big trees in the park. The black-backed jackal and the spotted hyenas make also a small number here. The small antelopes are as well good sightings including the dik-dik and sternbok.

Birds of Etosha

Etosha boasts of a health population of birds of prey of 35 species of raptor including the rare hooded vulture and cape vulture, bateleur, tawny and martial eagles, goshawks, red-necked falcons, greater kestrel,peregrine falcons and secretary birds. The biggest bird the ostriches are a good number alongside the biggest flying bird which can weigh up to 18kg , the kori bustard. The park has almost 340 species of birds. Flamingos have been seen in large numbers during the breeding season in January and February. The African-scops owl and the southern white-faced scops are rare but seen around Halali camp.White-crested helmet shrikes, southern white-crowned shrike, violet wood-hoopoe and Ruppell's parrot are also seen in the park.while in the plains there is quite a good number of colourful specimen like the european bee-eaters as well as the beautiful crimson-breasted shrike and the lilac-breasted rollers always showing off on dry branches of the dominant acacia trees. Other common birds to look-out for are spike-heeled larks, scaly feathered finches, kalahari shrub-robins, chestnut-backed sparrow larks and saddle-billed stocks.

Etosha has so much to offer for 3 days. I would coming coming for more as i had not seen everything. I booked a campsite just outside the national park just to relax a bit before i take on my long drive to the capital city Windhoek the next morning.

Windhoek

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