I’m sitting on the banks of the Zambezi River as I type the first update of the trip. It’s a gorgeous evening here, with the smoke from the wood fires of the locals adding to the pinks, purples and oranges of the sunset that shimmer across the water. The river’s quite placid at the moment with it being dry season and the amount of birdlife here is just staggering. Fish eagles, kingfishers and all manner of water birds flit in and out of the water trying to catch their dinner while the hippos snort, grunt and puff water in the background. We’re based at the Protea Hotel Camp Site tonight here in Katima Mulilo, the border town between Namibia and Zambia. It seems quite unreal that we’ve managed to traverse the whole of West coast of South Africa and the length of Namibia in just six days. It’s been awe inspiring to see the sheer scale of our half of the continent by car- something you really don’t gain an appreciation of by air.
Things have been frenetic to say the least. It’s an early start every morning where we have to pack up our giant car suitcase, followed by at least 5 hours of driving (and that’s on the short days). More often than not we end up at our designated campsite well after nightfall (thanks for the spotlights idea dad!). Sometimes it does really feel like we are only visiting the Engen Garages across Southern Africa. That said, it has been truly epic to see the variation in landscapes, people and animals. The rally itself has been great so far, the other teams are really friendly (albeit rather noisy until well into the night), the checkpoint parties have been fun and it is comforting to know that we are not alone on our mission into deepest darkest Africa.
The first day saw us leaving Cape Town well before the crack of dawn. My friend who we were staying with, Zirkea, stays about an hour away from Noordhoek and it meant that we had to leave a bit earlier than the other crews to be on time (in retrospect, not the greatest idea). It was all pretty uneventful stuff, one got there, you had a quick pic taken and were sent on your way. The roads are amazing and we watched the scenery slowly change from fynbos to the more arid vegetation of the Northern Cape. We made our way through the border at sunset and it was possibly one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. The mountains look as if some giant hand has taken handfuls of stones and dropped them on a carpet of fine, grey-white sand. We wound our way through these canyons to the border post only to be confronted by a south African policeman who first told us we didn’t stop in time at the stop sign, then said we were overloaded, only to burst out laughing and tell us the joke was on us…nice..Namibia’s southern half is barren to say the least. It was pitch dark by the time we reached Ais Ais hotsprings’ campground in the Fish River Canyon – pretty hair raising stuff on the steep corrugated sand roads! Had a welcome quick dip in the hot pools and went to bed. The resort is epic!
Day 2 and 3 saw us making our way through Rehoboth’s Lake Oanab Resort and Toshara Safari Camp (the first check point). It was some of the longest driving I have ever done. It’s been quite a challenge getting used to fitting 5 of us in the Merc…I’ll say this, road trips like this are only for the very brave. I’m still not sure if it’s better to know the people you are travelling with or not. It’ll either make you best mates or you will kill one another. It’s as simple as that. Marshall gets bored about 1 hour in and then proceeds to wriggle his way through the next 10 hours, Helen’s beanflute keeps us singing along all day (hehehehe, kidding), I’m grouchy in the morning (not really, I’m an angel)….you get the idea..
Etosha was amazing!! We saw heaps of game – lions, elephants, rhinos EVERYTHING! The salt pan was huge and absolutely epic! Namutoni Camp is beautiful and I’m pleased to see how our blogging has got the other teams to stay at the same places. It’s really nice to have a bit of a vibe in the camps after a long days driving. I must tell you guys, yesterday was a shocker. We only had around 550kms to drive to Ngepi but the roads were bad, filled with goats, locals and cows. This meant we only hit the dirt road leading to the camp at 8. The sand was so soft and the road so bad we got stuck 3 times! Here we were, running behind the car in the bush to lighten the load, surrounded by killer goats and villages..we got to the camp not speaking to one another only to be told that this was an eco-friendly establishment – no lights, no hot water, no power, oh – and outdoor showers and toilets…this was the last straw for Marsh. He had a meltdown in the middle of the camp, telling us about how the bushbabies were looking at his willy, while we were collapsing with laughter.
I’ll write again when I can. Apologies for the long mail but we have very little internet access so I’ll update when I can.
Fot the forst time in days things have calmed down to a dull roar and I thought I must send you all