Van Zyl’s Pass

 Posted by Elizabeth at 4:09 pm
May 022011

the road to Van Zyl's PassWe have done some serious 4wd driving over the last 2 days, probably the most extreme we will do during our whole time here. We left Epupa for the start of Van Zyl’s Pass, travelling down narrow tracks through the scrub passing only a handful of locals and a couple of villages. The going was slow due to the roughness of the track rather than difficulty until we got closer to Van Zyl’s. The last 90 minutes we scrambled up and down boulders and pretty rough tracks with large dips and holes. The car handled it all fine, but it was extremely slow and rough going. No photos though as it was too hard to stop and get out.

We camped the night at the Van Zyl’s Community Camp. They have 3 sites seVan Zyl's Community Campparated from each other on the river (although there is no water in the river at the moment). Each site has its own open air toilet and shower with a donkey to heat the water and plenty of shade. We had a pleasant afternoon relaxing and were looking forward to a quiet evening. Whilst we were cooking dinner 2 4wds suddenly arrived on our site and parked. No, do you mind or is it ok if we invade you. We pointed out where their campsite was on the other side of the river but they refused to move (ok, being polite, I did say they were welcome to stay so long as they didn’t disturb us whilst I was pointing out their site). There went our peace and quiet. The arrogant male who had parked initially on our siteVan Zyl's Community Camp without so much as a hello, basically yelled all night and had absolutely no consideration for us and the peace and quiet we were hoping to enjoy. He then got up at 5am and started bashing around (oh and he snored)! Needless to say I was not very impressed, but had to hold my tongue in case we needed their help the next day. We found out later that the people on the other site a couple of hundred metres away could also hear him and apparently he was swearing constantly, so that gives an idea of how loud he was and I’m glad I couldn’t understand what he was saying. Their trucks have Cape to Cairo written on them, but I really hope we do not encounter them again.

Van Zyl's PassToday we descended Van Zyl’s Pass. Yes it is rough, but there is really only 1 section of 100m or so that is really extreme. The rest was no worse, in fact may even have been better, than the day before as you wAt the bottom of Van Zyl's Passere not climbing up the road. I didn’t manage to get any video as with only the two of us, one needed to drive whilst the other guided. The photo also doesn’t really show how rough it is. We managed fine and the car again proved just how capable it is. At the bottom of the pass it is a tradition to sign a rock and place it under a tree, so of course we contributed to the pile. It was funny as there was a rock signed by a couple whose webpage we were following in preparing for our own journey. I hope someone follows us to get ideas for their trip and sees our rock too.

MarienflussAfter descending the pass you arrive in a very scenic valley known as Marienfluss. There is just a sand track going through long golden grass with mountains around. We saw some Gemsbok and ostriches off in the distance but that was all. The road is 2 sand tracks for the wheels with grass in the middle, but in the main track the grass in the middle is short and not an issue. The track at one point was a bit rough and Wayne could see another track a couple of metres awMarienflussay that looked better so he decided to take that. The grass in the middle here though was quite long and grass seeds went flying everywhere, and we didn’t have the seed net on our radiator. We only travelled 3 km, but when we stopped our radiator and surrounds were completed covered in piles of grass seeds. A perfect scenario for the car to overheat, or even worse catch fire. We then spent the next hour in the blazing sun, blowing out all the grass seeds and attaching the seed net. Not fun! (I am hoping this is the only photo you see of Wayne under the car!)

Marble Community CampWe left the valley and climbed some more rough roads and are now staying in the Marble Community Camp at Otmenje. Again it is a pleasant campsite with large shaded sites on the river (again no water though) and nice amenities. There is a thunderstorm off in the distance, which hopefully we won’t get, but it has cooled things down significantly already which is very welcome. I hear it is cold at home now, which I am not missing in the slightest!

Man Oh Man, What Day!

 Posted by Elizabeth at 9:26 pm
May 032011

Our day started great as we left camp and travelled through more scenic landscapes of lovely golden grass plains with mountains as the backdrop. Not 10 minutes from camp we saw a herd of hundreds of Springbok, as well as ostriches. We headed towards the Khumib and Hoarusib River beds, which we would drive through for most of the On the way to PurrosSpringboks, on the way to PurrosDriving in the Khumib and Hoarusib Rivers on the way to Purros

day. The area is known for the rare desert elephant so we were hoping to see some either today or tomorrow. We fDriving in the Khumib and Hoarusib Rivers on the way to Purrosollowed the tracks through the river bed, seeing a couple of Steenboks and a group of Giraffes along the way. Eventually the tracks stopped, but the GPS still had the track marked (which means someone has driven it) so we continued on and made our own path through the river bed, weaving our way across and around the Driving in the Khumib and Hoarusib Rivers on the way to Purrosriver and staying on solid ground. At one point we came to a drop that was too high so we had to go back and find another way. Unfortunately we managed to get stuck in the dry sand. It wasn’t a big deal and within 10 minutes we were on our away again. Further on, as we came around a bend in the river there in front of us was a desert elephant, and as we sat and watched him eat and drink from the river we realised there were another 2 elephants eating in the bush behind him. We watched them for a while and then decided to head off. The first path we tried there was too big a drop off to cross, so we turned back to find another way. Desert elephant, driving in the Khumib and Hoarusib Rivers on the way to PurrosFinding a gentle slope down to cross a trickle of water we headed on. The car came to a grinding halt as we sunk into sandy mud. Great! We tried to get out, but it was no use, we were going to have to dig. By now it was midday, it was extremely hot, we were in the middle of the riverbed with no shade, oh and the elephants were less than 100 metres away! The car was up to the diff and axles and all 4 wheels had sunk, so we had no option but to jack each rear wheel up, put rocks and the sand ladders under them and dig away as much sand as possible from underneath the car and wheels. Whilst doing this we had to keep an eye out for the elephants. We could hear them at first but not see them and the wind was blowing so they would not be able to smell us just yet. We had to walk across the riverbed closer to the bushes to gather rocks, not knowing if they had moved up through the bushes or not. At one point they started walking up the riverbed towards us, so we took a break in the car, but they stopped. Later though, they really did walk up the riverbed as well as appeared out of the bushes in front of us, and there were 6 not just the 3 we had seen earlier. We sat in the car as they walked about 10 metres from us, drinking and eating. By now my heart was racing. Watching elephants up close is normally an awesome experience, which it still was, but when you are stuck with no escape route if they get aggressive it is pretty nerve wracking! We sat in the car with the window on their side up (so it was really hot) and kept as still and as quiet as possible, hoping they would just move on. You could tell they knew something was there as they could obviously see the car, but they kept pointing their trunks in our direction and checking us out. After about 30 minutes they eventually passed far enough away so that we could continue. (No photos as I was too nervous to get the camera out!). We were ready to try again, and this time the car successfully got out of the sand. Just before they approached us we were about to try and see if we could get the car out. I am very glad they arrived when they did and not a few minutes later as we would have been right in their path and gathering up the shovel, jack and ladders that were in the river bed about 20 metres away from where the car was now sitting on solid ground.  2.5 hours after getting stuck we were on our way again, exhausted and very hot. Guess where we needed to head – exactly where the elephants had gone. We followed behind them for a while making sure we had enough solid ground to escape if needed until we could deviate from their path. After a couple of attempts we managed to find a way out of the river bed and onto a road for the last 8km to camp. We did not want to get stuck again as we definitely did not have the energy to dig ourselves out again!

Purros Community CampPurros Community Camp is again a very pleasant camp with large shaded sites some distance from each other. Each site has their own open air shower and toilet. Our shower was literallyShower, Purros Community Camp in the middle of a tree. The showerhead was attached to one of the branches, other branches were the shelf, and the trunk and branches formed part of the screening. It was really very well done. I think there must have been some initiative to encourage the villages to set up community camps that provided them with an instruction manual on how to do it. They have the same documents displayed, the same method for sinks and screening and the charge the same prices. It is a great idea as the village benefits from the income and we get to stay in great sites for very little money.

It was about 3.30 when we got to camp, so we rested for quite some while before setting up.The first thing was that the clips that attach to the car battery for our light had one wire broken, so that needed to be fixed. Then I managed to get grease from the fridge slide all across the front of my shirt. so I had to scrub that (not what I was planning on doing!). Then the little suction cap clothes line we have decided to have one end break, so I had to fix that. Nothing major, but annoying when you are already hot and tired. The worst thing though was that because the bugs, particularly the grasshoppers, were driving us nuts we decided to head to our tent to read and escape them. Wayne was reading and put his hand behind his head and next thing he yells in extreme pain saying something has bit him. It was then a mad panic to get our headlamps for a better light and to see what it was and try to not let it get us again, all in a very cramped space. I then noticed it was on my leg, so I flicked it away. He had been bitten by a scorpion. I managed to trap it under a pillow and wrap that in a sleeping bag and tossed it to the ground. Wayne was in extreme pain and we were unsure how dangerous the scorpion was. We lifted the sleeping bag up that was on the ground, whilst standing on the ladder, and saw it run out. Wayne managed to kill it. He was still in extreme pain but there were no other affects yet. He asked a couple of other campers if they knew whether it would be ok or not, and the consensus was that it should be after he described the scorpion to them. My medical book also reassured us by saying that it is very rare for a scorpion bite to be dangerous in an adult. Whilst he was suffering greatly from the pain, he was not feeling ill or getting worse which was a relief. He took some strong painkillers and antihistmine and tried to sleep, but needless to say neither of us got much sleep, he from the pain and me from being concerned he would get worse. It was well after midnight before either of us managed to get any rest, as little as it was. We don’t really know how it managed to get inside our roof tent, but we think it must have crawled into the tent cover that we had left on the ground during the night and then crawled into the tent. That is the only idea we think they live on the ground.

So whilst we saw some great things today, it was also a long hard day and not one I want to repeat in a hurry!

To Etosha

 Posted by Elizabeth at 9:14 pm
May 052011

Wayne’s finger was significantly better the next morning, although it was stiff, his lower arm had altered sensitivity and he was only able to partially use it. Today it is better again, but he is still having some trouble using it, but the pain has gone, which is good.

We left Purros and headed towards Sesfontein, again travelling through pretty scenery. We had planned to take the river bed route, but were told that it was too muddy, and given that we hKhowarib Slucht Community Camp for lunchad already seen the desert elephants, and Wayne’s finger meant there was no way he would be able to dig us out if we got stuck, we decided to take the easy and much quicker route. We saw some Springboks and a giraffe in the distance and a couple of ostriches, but nothing exciting along the way. We were going to spend the night at the Khowarib Slucht Community Camp, but as it was only just midday when we arrived we decided to stop for lunch and to head on further to shorten the following day. The camp itself though was nice. The site we used for lunch had a great view over the river and an excellent stone building to use as a shelter. It would have been a very pleasant place to stay.

Our original plan from there was to travel through the Khowarib Slucht riverbed 4wd trail, but we could not find out any information as to whether it was ok or not, and again we did not want to get stuck and be unable to get out, so we took the easy route and spent the night just outside Kamanjab at the Porcupine Camp. The camp was once again quite nice. We had a large site and the sites are reasonably separate from each other. The amenities are all outdoor, with large screened areas for the showers and water heated by a donkey.

Porcupine CampThe amenities, Porcupine CampShower, Porcupine Camp

Yesterday we noticed that there seemed to be something wrong with our brakes. The pedal needed to be pushed down too far and it was soft, and the handbrake needed to be pulled up too far, so we stopped at the first mechanic which we found in Kamanjab. One pad in each rear brake had worn down to the metal and needed replacing and they were full of mud. Luckily they had 2 relined pads that they have used to replace them, which should see us another 10000km, but we will need to organise something else as it will not last our journey. Air had also got into the brake line. Being Africa, it took 5 and a half hours to fix but only about $250 (but we will get that reimbursed).

As we had been up north for a quite a few days we desperately needed to shop, so we stopped in Outjo and restocked, although we could only buy meat and dairy products for the next 5 nights as we will then be in Botswana and we can’t take meat and dairy in with us. It was then finally off to Etosha. We arrived at the gate about 5.40pm, which is just after sunset and the gate closing. The guard was still there and directed us to turn back to a camp outside the park as we did not have a booking and it was too late. After a bit of begging and explaining we were late due to car issues, the guard finally dialled Okaukuejo Camp for us, who advise me that yes they had a site and it was fine, so we managed to make it – just!

Given it was about 6.30pm when we got to our site and after the last hectic few days we decided to spoil ourselves and eat at the restaurant for dinner. They had a pretty good buffet, which included Kudu (which was very nice) and with drinks it only cost about $53 and I think we deserved a night off!

Last night was the first night we heard the lions roaring this trip, which was exciting. The camp has a large floodlit waterhole, but unfortunately there was nothing to be seen, presumably because there has been so much late rain they have many options for water. Tomorrow morning is our first real game drive of the trip, which we are both looking forward too. Hopefully we will see the lions we have heard.

Etosha – Day 1

 Posted by Elizabeth at 6:19 pm
May 062011

Black Backed Jackal, Etosha National ParkWe were woken around 4am this morning by hyenas calling. There must have been quite a few of them and close by as it was very loud and went on for some time. We also had a jackal going through someone’s garbage bin during the night making a racquet, as even though Okaukuejo Camp is fenced there are still jackals wandering through the camp.Lion, Etosha National Park

During our morning game drive we saw quite a number of animals including a few black backed jackals, some red hartebeest, gemsbok, a hyena and giraffes in the distance, heaps of springbok, some impala, a few kudu, ostriches and lots of birds. As we were heading back to camp for lunch we came around the corner and there were two male lions sitting very conveniently on the side of the road. One sat there cleaning himself making him look just like a big pussycat, not so sure though that I would want to give him a pat. They sat there for quite some time but eventually a car annoyed them so they took off into the bush.


Red Hartebeest, Etosha National ParkSpringbok, Etosha National ParkLion, Etosha National Park

Our afternoon drive was pretty unsuccessful until the last few kilometres when out of the bush came a lioness, then a few minutes later a lion and then another one until there were finally 6 all together. They came out of the bush, walked about 2 metres from our (checked out something on our car which we have no idea what it was they were looking at) and then laid themselves on the road. One of them decided to plonk itself down about a metre from my window, needless to say my window then went up! It was pretty cool and made us late back to camp as they shut the gate at sunset, but they didn’t say anything and we weren’t the only ones who were late.

Impala, Etosha National ParkLion, Etosha National ParkLion, Etosha National Park

After dinner we walked down to the floodlit waterhole at Halali Camp. Talk about perfect timing – when we arrived there were 4 rhinos drinking and eating. 2 of them were having a bit of a tiff with each other on and off. They hung around for ages drinking and eating and again it was an excellent experience. The one annoying thing though was that 2 groups of people decided that silence didn’t apply to them, so they talked incessantly in supposed whispers and kept giggling the whole time. Some people are just so ignorant and rude!

Etosha – Day 2

 Posted by Elizabeth at 7:50 pm
May 072011

Banded Mongoose, Etosha National ParkWe left camp about 6.30am and headed off on a game drive towards Namutoni Camp where we would stay the night. There weren’t too many animals to be seen except a couple of giraffes and zebras, although we did manage to see a large group of Banded Mongoose running around. Just before camp we saw a lioness and a cub, but they were lying deep in the grass and you couldn’t see them very well at all. People also said that there were some cheetahs lying in the distance on the other side of the road, but neither of us managed to spot them, even with the binoculars. Around the same time other animals started to appear and we saw more giraffes, zebras, wildebeest, gemsbok, springbok, impala and various birds.

Impala, Etosha National ParkWildebeest, Etosha National ParkGemsbok, Etosha National Park

After lunch and a rest in camp we headed off for an afternoon drive. A few kilometres from camp there were animals everywhere. I think there must have been a giraffe convention going on as I haKudu, Etosha National Parkve never seen so many of them in such a small area, they were absolutely everywhere! There were also heaps of springbok, zebras and wildebeest. We also saw a couple of warthogs, impala, kudu, ostriches and for the first time some Damara Dik Diks, which are tiny, cute little antelopes. A couple of the waterholes had a right party going on with a variety of animals converging on them, including wildebeest, zebras and impalas.

Etosha National ParkSpringbok, Etosha National ParkEtosha National ParkWarthog, Etosha National ParkEtosha National ParkDik Dik, Etosha National ParkImpala, Etosha National ParkEtosha National Park

We visited the waterhole in camp again, but there were only a few zebras to be seen. I was way too tired to keep my eyes open, so we didn’t stay too long. This being on holidays is exhausting work!

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