Kamanjab and West Etosha
Recently a campsite was opened at the west side of Etosha in an area that used to be closed to day visitors. It is a popular site with hardly any availability, but we learned they would allow camping on the picnic sites in case they are fully booked. With this in mind, we change our plan once more and head for the west gate via Kamanjab. This town is part of the region where the Himba’s live and we visited on of the Himba villages. The Himba’s are a subgroup of the Herero that were part of the early Bantu migration. The women are famous for smearing themselves with a fragrant mixture of ochre, butter and bush herbs that will color their skin a burnt orange hue. We stayed at a campsite ran by a Belgium-Dutch couple. After checking in, we learned that overlanders even stay free at the campsite!? Well…there is one (very minor) catch…they want to take our picture for the overlandersbook. As their restaurant is highly recommended for their game dishes we decided to eat there… a nice bushman sosatie (a skewer) of giraffe, kudu, zebra and gemsbok accompanied with the best fries of Namibia…finally crispy fries as we like it and no strange looks when you ask for mayonnaise.
The next day off to Etosha, again… in the past the west side of Etosha could only be visited when staying in a very expensive lodge. Now a new campsite has opened, called Olifantsrus. In the past this was an open air abattoir where they killed more than 500 elephants, because the elephant population was to large and they became a danger to the biodiversity of the park. The campsite is build around the abattoir and you can imagine how it was.
The waterhole at the campsite is the nicest we have seen at the different camps. It is a two story tower with an open viewing deck at the top and a glass viewing room on ground floor with water surrounding the tower. On one of the days we saw three elephants drinking and bathing there…not even 3 meters from us !
The west side has very different vegetation than the east side and the density of animals at the waterholes is much higher as well as the variety animals at the same time. It is difficult to describe…you just have to see it yourself to believe it.
After 10 days in/around Etosha we are skipping Kaokeland and Rucana Falls, making our way to Waterberg Plateau and the Caprivistrip.
At Waterberg Plateau we decided to stay inside the private concession area instead of the campsite of the Namibian Wildlife Reserve (as there a many aggressive baboons on their campsite). Our campsite is a lovely spot in de valley of Waterberg Plateau with a shaded picnic area, fire pit, braai and our own ablution.
Waterberg Plateau is a table mountain of 59 kilometres long and between 16 and 20 kilometres wide. Animals were reintroduced at the plateau and, if you’re lucky, you can spot black and white rhino’s, elands, klipspringer and giraffe. They live on top of the plateau and because of the high cliffs they cannot move down into the valley.
On our first night we met a really nice Australian couple (Michael en Kirsten) at the bar and ended up chatting until late. They gave us the name of a new lodge (Batonka lodge) in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (which we booked for our stay there) and we gave them some tips for their upcoming stay in Cape Town and the wine region. The next morning they visited us at our campsite for a cup of coffee and since it was their last day in Namibia… they gave us most of their supplies… Thanks for the G&T… we really enjoyed it!
Near Waterberg, we did two short hikes; one on top of the plateau with a guide named the ‘honeymoon sun downer’, a hike concluded with a bottle of champagne during sunset on the ridge. From the ridge we spotted a group of giraffe in the valley. On top of the plateau we only saw the dropping of various animals, but not any real game. And then it was time for our sun downer… at 50cm from the edge of a 250-meter high cliff… and we were supposed to sit there and relax??? We took our seats, but we’re still not sure how ‘relaxed’ we were…but you can decide for yourself by looking at the picture of us. The other hike combined the fountain and porcupine trail, which led us to a nice part of the valley where the trees where mainly green and even blossoming.
On our way to Grootfontein we stopped at the Hoba Meteorite…the largest (known) meteorite in the world, weighing 54 tons, consisting of 80% iron, 16% nickel and some other minor sorts. Somehow it doesn’t seem that impressive to Judith…there is no crater around and it just looks like a piece of iron of 3x3meters and is just a bit over 1 meter high.
Before leaving Grootfontein the next morning we visited the ‘Alte Fort’ Museum, which served as a military fort early 1900 and afterwards as a boarding school. To save the fort from demolition in 1974 someone started fundraising for a museum and finally in 1983 the museum could be opened. The nicest exposition is one of the local tribes, like the SAN (Bushmen), Herero and Himba, which explains some of the differences between these tribes.
Okanvanga river (near Rundu) and Caprivistrip
From Grootfontein we continued to Rundu, passing the Red Vet Line (again). Meaning no meat may be transported from the north to the south. In the south farms are mostly privately (white) owned, fensed and closely regulated. In the north however the land is community owned and anyone is allowed to farm and keep stock that generally runs free. When crossing the line from the north you need to drive your car through a bath to disinfect your wheels (even al your shoes have to be disinfected (better not wear flip flops ;-)). It is also said to be the line that distinguishes ‘first world’ Namibia from the ‘third world’ Namibia.
Along the road to Rundu we saw lots of settlements (a few huts at the time along the B10/B8 highway). In our lodge (Hakusembe lodge) just 15 kilometres outside of Rundu is a gift shop and Wilfred saw a really nice t-shirt with the statement “I make dirt look good”. A t-shirt hand dyed with African dirt, giving it a nice rusty colour, but unfortunately no t-shirt in his size. There is a smaller sizes for children, so we decided to send one as a birthday present to the son of friends. Standing in line at the post office, with only 8 persons in front of us, it still took us almost 50 minutes to send the parcel… Another African learning moment; people just step to the front of the line, or a person stands in line for 3 friends… And coincidentally, it is end of month again, meaning the queues are longer as many people are depositing or sending money to their families as they just got paid.
While doing groceries in the supermarket Judith noticed a lot of security people standing at the entrance. Everyone needed to show their bags of groceries and the receipt as proof of payment.
After stocking up, we wanted to start our drive on the B8 highway to the west of the Caprivistrip. Our GPS led us through the township around Rundu where the infrastructure had changed… After a U-turn, using a less formal road next to the road works, we reach another small village and people were looking at us thinking that we are completely lost... They’re not entirely wrong, however after a couple of kilometres through what feels like the middle of nowhere, we reach the B8 highway!
The Caprivi strip was named after German Chancellor Leo von Caprivi (in office 1890–1894), who negotiated the acquisition of the land in an 1890 exchange with the United Kingdom. Von Caprivi arranged for Caprivi to be annexed to German South-West Africa in order to give Germany access to the Zambezi River and a route to Africa's east coast, where the German colony Tanganyika was situated. The river later proved unnavigable and inaccessible to the Indian Ocean due to Victoria Falls. The annexation was a part of the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty, in which Germany gave up its interest in Zanzibar in return for the Caprivi Strip and the island of Heligoland in the North Sea. However during WWI the Britsch army invaded the Caprivistrip and it was the first allied occupation of enemy territory.
Being close to several river (with water year round) we noticed a strong change in vegetation. There are more green trees and many vegetable gardens next to the informal settlements, on the riverbanks. Late afternoon we reached our campsite (Ngepi camp) near Mahango Game Reserve. There is wifi available in the bar area and we decided to try to update our travel blog…but internet is extremely slow and it took more than 2,5 hours to upload 15 pictures (that was Namibia - Part 3).
The next day (September 23rd) we went for a short game drive in Mahango Game reserve. The reserve is a protected area in Namibia within Bwabwata National Park. It is situated at the country's eastern border with Botswana in the flood plains of the Okavango River basin, close to the Popa Falls. The Caprivi Strip encloses the western part of the park which was established in 1986 and covers an area of 24,462 hectares (60,450 acres), but was closed for a long time due to the war with Angola. It has been designated as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International with over 300 species. About two thirds of the bird species found in Namibia are located here as it includes both wetland and tropical terrestrial species. This reserve re-opened in 2007 when a substantial number of animals were again in this area (most of the animals were poached by humans since it was their only means to get food during the war or had fled to different areas). Our self drive followed the river and even though we do not see any animals we had not seen in Etosha (with the exception of hippo’s and a few birds that we had already seen at the campsite) it was still a very pleasant way to spend the afternoon.