busylizzy

Four Countries Five weeks, Namibia part 4 (sorry for the 6 month delay!)

7 posts in this topic

 

 

 

 

Wednesday 28th June 2017

 

Today we drive to Onkoshi. We stop at every waterhole we pass just in case we spy anything interesting other than Zebra, Impala and Springbok. They are known as the usual suspects because they are everywhere. We've seen occasional Kudu and other antelopes on our way and when we get to Chudop quite a large waterhole the usual suspects are all around and in the middle of the waterhole is a large mass of grasses similar to bulrushes I guess and there are literally hundreds of tiny birds flying around as if they've found the best feast in the world. We sat mesmerised at the noise they were making and the flying in formation, a bit like starlings at home just before they nest. But this was in the middle of the day and because I wanted to get a photo we stayed almost longer than any of the other parked vehicles, who drove off except two others.  

 

 

As I turned to Peter to say I've got my photos and we can move off, far to our right hand side about 300 yards away I noticed a large grey figure just moving out of the bush. 

 

Peter, I said Look! What? Elephant? Elephants!!! They just kept coming, we just kept counting, I put the camera onto video. Big, small, tusked, babies, Mums, Grandads! Thirty Nine of them!

Un   Be  Lievable!

 

All in a line until they got really close to us then they broke ranks, some turned our way slightly then they just surrounded the water and drank, swam, played, trumpeted and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. The fun lasted 15 minutes from start to finish then, as they arrived, except three older ones, they left in the opposite direction and disappeared into the bush to our right! 

Everyday we have been thrilled with superb happenings of totally different things. Africa never ceases to amaze us.

 

We were looking forward to our three nights at Onkoshi. The brochure we received said it was the pinnacle of Namibian Wildlife resorts. It said they would pamper us! We believed them!

 

 

 

The view from the chalets, just 15 of them set around a huge restaurant and lounge area, was of the salt pan and eventually the sunset, there was a small pool we understood, also with stunning views. 

 

 

 

 

First worry as we arrived, was an empty car park. Second worry when we signed in most folks stayed for one night and in saying that, not many people had stayed in recent history. With such a beautiful setting this rang worrying bells. We were booked for three nights and were so looking forward to being pampered because Halali where we had just left was basic, clean yes, but basic especially the restaurant, which at times was bordering on dreadful. 

 

Onkoshi - In the amazing bedroom with both inside and outside shower, huge marble bath and a  lovely view was missing a heater, remember this is winter and in tented accommodation the temperature drops to not much above freezing from midnight to 7am We were frozen throughout the night.  Also no kettle, so if you wanted a warming cuppa in the early hours hard luck!. The safe wasn't working which is a definite no no. Also no fridge because once the suns up you need plenty of cool drinks on hand. The main thing at every establishment and may I say a huge money spinner for them is Game drives, whether Morning, noon or especially at night. Even though the brochure stated special trips across the Salt pan and walking tours, nothing!

 

It was hopeless, the swimming pool was being cleaned at 3pm because we were sat around it and looked like we might use it. In fact the local birds were clearing more flies than the cleaner guy! Also the coffee available, in a vacuum flask, was cold and when we asked, very nicely, for hot, the girl when she brought some fresh coffee, put it in the lounge and came to the pool and said “ Coffee’s out, if you want it” Hello! I thought we were being pampered???? This was not as per brochure, or per anything wonderful, this was rubbish.

 

Thursday 29th June

 

We ate breakfast, paid up, and left as did the two other couples who had stayed the night.  Whilst on the weak internet I managed to e.mail the lovely little Lodge we stayed at last week and asked if we could book two extra nights. Almost immediately Sophienhof Lodge replied “You're welcome, Liz and Peter” So goodbye Etosha, we've enjoyed the wildlife, soooooo much, but your Camps, are very poor, so farewell. 

 

 

 

 

 

We drive one final time through Etosha and feel very sad. As we leave Onkoshi five Giraffes are nonchalantly walking along the road in front of us and quickly go into a trot, it's such a brilliant  sight. They are so funny but so elegant how I'm going to miss seeing them munching leaves along the roadside. It's not something that's going to happen in Devon, England that's for sure.

Also it's a very breezy day and the animals don't like windy conditions, they tend to hide in the bush so there isn't very much about as we drive ever onward towards the departure gate. We visit our favourite waterholes along the way but with everything we've experienced in the past few days, how on earth can we better it. 

 

We are both sad to leave Etosha, it's been the most wonderful place to see wildlife, but we are out on the open road once more and back on smooth Tarmac. Honestly I'll never complain about British roads with potholes again after the rutted, corrugated, dusty gravel of Namibia, they will shake your bones completely, but the country will mesmerise you just the same. We fly down the C38 to Outjo and are soon welcomed back into Sophienhof Lodge.

 

Friday 30th June.

 

Where does the time go? We have been travelling for a whole month and goodness knows how many miles ( or Kilometres as I tend to think in now ) we've done. We've enjoyed the Victoria Falls in Zambia, managed to take a couple of steps in Zimbabwe without it costing us a visa, loved every stunning minute in Botswana and experienced the majesty of Table Mountain and Cape Town. Now we are gradually coming to the end of our Namibian road trip and trying to take in every moment. We are given the use of the best chalet at the lodge with a fabulous view from the patio of the waterhole and the swimming pool. We've booked to redo the Game drive with Verner the German guide at 3.30pm today and we've planned nothing and decide to just sit back, relax and enjoy a quiet day. The Game drive is interesting as before but due to the breezy conditions it's not as productive with animal sightings but I get a few more snaps to join the almost 1500 I've taken already. We sit down with some other tourists to enjoy our final meal at Sophienhof and get into a great conversation with a couple who are working in Windhoek for six months and we  enjoy a few drinks with them whilst watching a herd of around 30 Wildebeest at the waterhole that is now illuminated. (If you want to look at the webcam on line it's at www.sophienhoflodge.com

It's well worth a few visits, you might not see anything for a while but when you do, it's a real thrill. 

 

Saturday 1st July.

 

Peter and I love our wildlife programmes and because of watching a particular one, we decided last year if we got to Namibia we would go and visit the Cheetah Conservation Fund headquarters outside Otjiwarongo. It was founded in 1990 by an American biologist who set it up to help such an endangered species. Since it's foundation they have done wonderful work, although the Cheetah numbers have plummeted in the 27 years around the world to around 7200. Almost half of those live in Namibia and through educational programmes things are getting much better.    

 

The road to C.C.F. is gravel and in saying that, most of it is sand. We have 44km to go, once we leave the major town of Otjiwarongo, so to make a visit you really must be committed to see their work. But it is well worth it, we take a organised drive in a Safari vehicle to see vast, separate areas for both male and female Cheetahs.

 

Then we watch the feeding of them. These animals are all here as the result of being abandoned when either their mothers have been shot or killed ( by fair means or foul ) If they have been abandoned before they are six months old, they haven't received the training they need to support themselves on their own in the wild, so wouldn't survive alone. So without the likes of C.C.F. cubs would died anyway. They all seem very happy, well fed and are helping with the conservation programme and research centre so it's a win, win situation. Plus the added tourism money coming in helps the economy and helps employ so many Namibians through the many different aspects including their farms, the Dancing Goat Creamery, Anatolian Guarding dog project as well as the Education centre and Museum. It's a well run and hugely interesting place and we thoroughly enjoyed our 3 hour visit. 

We arrive at our last two night stop about an hour later. Frans Indongo Lodge is almost at the end of a 17km gravel road, which is full of Warthog families but as soon as we get within photographic shooting distance, they turn away and disappear under the wire fencing. 

 

The Lodge looks very smart, again all thatched chalets, with a small ( as always freezing cold ) swimming pool but it is mid winter here. There’s a sun deck overlooking the savannah but this time there are numerous Antelope, some we've never seen before. I guess when it was built some 30 years ago the habit of drinking sundowners whilst enjoying that gorgeous red ball of heat slip behind the mountains hadn't been thought of. Their decking faces south! So they've decided to build a very high water tower with seats almost at the top where you could watch the sunset, but since building it I presume, a tree has grown very high and ruined the view! Ah well you can't have everything!

 

Once the sun goes down at this time of year, it turns really cold! I mean it changes within an hour from 30c to 5c and by bedtime you really do need the heaters on. When we go to the lounge/bar/restaurant for dinner at 7pm there are not one but two wood fires roaring away. One in the lounge area and one in the wall of the dining room. Peter sits at the closest dining table to the heat and I take off my wrap, where everyone else is wrapped in a blanket, I'm in a silk blouse and linens, I’ve always been a hot blooded creature! It must be my age!

 

Sunday 2nd July.

 

Well this is our last ‘doing’ day as tomorrow it will be the final pack-up and the long drive to Windhoek where we return to the Olive Grove B&B for our final night out, before flying home. So we must make the most of today. The Lodge is set on an enormous farm and as far as the eye can see there is bush and mountains and the wildlife is mainly Antelope and Warthogs but we've been told there are also Baboons living towards the top of the mountain opposite. The Lodge Manager Alf tells us there is a very well marked trail all the way up near, where we understand the Baboons are and it should take around one and a half to two hours as long as we start earlyish as the sun gets extremely hot after 11am.

 

So by 9.30 we have our walking boots on, our backpack filled with bottles of water, a compass, the trail map, my camera and Peters binoculars and off these intrepid travellers go. It's dead easy for the first half hour, flat but dusty through the trees and bushes. Then we start a steady climb and it's totally rocky underfoot, not so easy. We hear the Baboons making a racket but can't see them at this point. We climb higher and slowly by the movement in the trees far above us, we realise is a very large Baboon who is screeching loudly. He really sounds quite scary. I take as many decent photos as I can but as they are over 100 yards away and high up in the trees it's difficult to get a good clear snap. But a fascinating trek and some fabulous views as we make our way back to base.

 

We eventually get back to the Lodge at noon and are very hot but have enjoyed our exercise and we then head to the pool for a beer and relax before we join our very last game drive at 3.30. It's  just another gorgeous, warm and sunny Namibian day when we set off with our guide and a French family and also a fellow guide with eight other tourists follow us through into the Game Park gates in another Safari vehicle. We head left, they head right and the guides keep in touch with each other by phone and radio in case of special sightings. This Lodge, as well as a plethora of Antelope have both Black and White Rhino, as we've only seen White, the chance of seeing Black Rhino would be fantastic. Peter and I have seen everything you can imagine Wildlife-wise on this trip except a Leopard and the elusive Black Rhino, so we are keeping our fingers crossed.

 

It's a slow start and we've seen a couple of Zebra, Wildebeest and Ostrich when our guide gets a call from his colleague, of trouble. Their vehicle has a flat battery so we have to turn around and find them, which is not so easy in such a huge area. A waste of 30 minutes whilst the jump leads start the other truck and so we  head our separate ways and start again. All is going well when we turn into a very long drive of white grasses with bush either side, about a mile long and at the far end two very large dark creatures. Peter and the French guy look through binoculars and I take a hazy photo, yes it's an Adult Rhino and a youngster. The guide tells us they are White Rhino and the Mother died of heart complications recently so the Dad is in sole charge and is doing a grand job, bless him. We must be half a mile away and so Baptista slowly drives forward. Just as we get within a bit better view, the father Rhino lays down and the baby gets close to him and does the same. At that point a message comes over the radio that the other Safari vehicle is in trouble again and unhappily after much discussion as there doesn't seem to be another option, we sadly leave our Rhino stalking and go and sort out the mechanical problems of the other truck. Of course we are fighting a loosing battle as the sun is rapidly setting and by the time both vehicles are ready to travel there is little light to see anything, so we reluctantly head back to Camp. We are all very disappointed, late and cold. Not the best drive at all. 

 

Monday 3rd July

 

Goodbye Frans Indongo Lodge you've been good. Well run by the German manager, Alf. The Lodge was smart, with great attentive staff, a wonderful change from some places we've visited that have been only adequate. It just shows what's possible and for Namibia to grow it needs more places like it. We drive down the B1 tarmac road which about 30km from Windhoek changes after seeing mega road building going on. It turns into the A1 a dual carriageway which continues through the city a bit like the M25 motorway in England and yet people aimlessly travel cross  the road, old ladies drive along the hard shoulder chatting on their mobile phones, transit vans turn right-around on the grass that is the central reservation and head in the other direction. It's another world at times!

 

So we are back at Asco Car Hire and we can't rate them more highly. They've been efficient in all their dealings and Beryl has been a delight to drive. We ordered two spare tyres as we were always worried about the gravel roads and punctures, but thankfully we never had a problem at all during our 17 days. We hired the Garmin road navigation kit, but hardly used it and at one point she told us at Hentiesbaii as we drove north along the Ocean road to turn left which was into a graveyard! Thankfully we knew the only way was a right turn! The useful thing we booked was the Car Wifi, which admittedly didn't work all the time, but was hugely useful for me and my blogs as I wrote and posted e.mails whilst travelling which was brilliant.

 

We did take a minor division before returning the car, we turned off the dual carriageway as we were early, we thought we'd sit overlooking the mountains for one last time. If fact we drove for quite a few miles through ‘Townships’ where the children were coming out of school. The shacks, the poverty, the dogs wandering, the rubbish was appalling. It was a real eye opener Peter said, but as I was driving and it was busier than Spagetti junction on a Monday morning but completely with learner drivers only, I had to keep my eyes on the ‘road’ as it was. Africa is a wonderful place and Namibia is amazing but like everywhere in the world there are two sides to life and we managed to see something of both.

 

So Asco deliver us to Olive Grove guest house and we are back in our old room from 17 days ago and it feels like home. The lovely receptionist remembers us and books us a cab for 7pm so it's Joes Beer House as promised for our last African night out.

 

Oh wow, Joes Beer House, what a place! The first thing someone should have told us is It's an Outdoor Beer House! Here in Windhoek, it's flipping cold at 7pm and most of the tables are arranged outside surrounding a big fire pit, but it's still very cold. I'm never a soup person when I go out for a meal, but after ordering a beer for Peter and a cider for me, it's straight into the soups for starters to thaw us out and very good they are.

 

It's a very rustic place, typically African bush architecture, it's a series of circular areas. The walls are wooden stakes, also some of the long tables seating 6 - 12 have a sort of roof above them, again made from wooden stakes but each of these areas hold around 80 people and there must be 4 or 5 areas like this surrounding a reception area with a pool holding huge Carp ( I lost count at 20 of them ) it's an amazing place. This is a Monday night and its packed to the rafters. Even the bar area near the Carp pool is packed with Beer drinkers throughout our time there. 

 

We share our table with two couples from Lusaka in Zambia, but who are originally from Nepal. We get into deep conversations which are so interesting about the population, culture and politics of Nepal. They are finishing their meal as we tuck into Hake and Chips for me, Kingclip, potatoes and vegetables for Peter. Gosh we were hungry but these enormous portions are stumping us. It's not a quiet venue and the temperature is a problem because Peter keeps heading to the fire pit to warm up, but we cannot leave without sharing a desert and then we get a cab back to the Olive Grove. Our last night is terrific and another wonderful memory of our trip.

 

That's about it folks. Tomorrow we fly from Windhoek to Jo’burg, then Jo’burg overnight to London and eventually back to good ole Teignmouth on the Great Western railway . It's been amazing, we've loved the Wildlife, the scenery has been stunning, the people wonderful and we've had a brilliant adventure.

 

Thanks for listening,

 

Liz and Peter

 

PS I’ve tried to put these photos in between the paragraphs of descriptions, but they’ve disappeared or arrived in the wrong place. So here they are. Again, better late than never!

 

The birds by the waterhole before the Elephants arrived. The rest hopefully are self explanatory.

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Happy New Year and i hope this year is good to you

Thanks for the final report, sad to hear about  your Onkoshi experience !!!

Have enjoyed your report and have learned some new info, many thanks. Colbol

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@busylizzy, Very cute little Hyena. Sorry to hear about Onkoshi, I felt a little the same about Dolomite, although we really enjoyed our too short stay there, I felt Management and Quality Control needed some work. How lucky to see such a big Herd of Elephants coming to the Waterhole, to me thats what Namibia is all about, those life-saving waterholes.

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Thanks folks, any info we can impart, always glad to do so. Everyone on here was so helpful before we went. Would love to go back but got other parts of the globe to see for now.

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Posted (edited)

Excellent end to an excellent trip report, @busyliz. I hope there will be similar also from the other parts of the globe !!

Edited by xelas

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Thanks Xelas, off to Maldives in March so will have to find a way to write a blog on that! Where are you off to next?

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Just home from South Africa / Cape Town and around, and will head to Botswana end of March. Must hurry up with TR not to be caught in "commuter traffic" :D!

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