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Week 3: Trip report: Namibia: Hias Ra (Khorixas) to Kunene River Lodge (Swartbooisdrif)

Updated: Sep 27, 2019

Our third week on the road brought a lot of emotions with it, as we received the not unexpected, but still very sad news of my Grandmom’s passing – and it raised a number of questions about what we are doing, why we are doing it, questions about purpose and reason, as well as the continued quest to live life to the fullest, as we are only here for a short while… But firstly, the normal stats: • Total days travelled: 21 • Total distance from Cape Town: 4,101km • Total borders crossed: 1 And then the Aardvark stats for Week 3: • Best drink: Namibian PotStill Gin from Swakopmund, at the Epupa Falls campsite overlooking the Kunene river • Best food: Tannie Mercia’s warm homemade bread, baked in her tin shed in Warmquelle. • Best view: The nothingness at Skeleton Coast Week 3 started with a gentle hike through the petrified forest – where the “1,500 million year old” pine trees were scared into stone…a bit of a surreal experience holding a piece of a stoned tree in your hand, where you can still count the rings, yet if you bash it against a normal rock, it definitely sounds like a rock! And then to imagine what the landscape must’ve looked like “1,500 million years” ago! We also took a drive through Twyfelfontein, ending with a cold beer a look at some of the ancient rock etchings depicting some of the animals that are still around to this day! The evening was again spent at Hais Ra Campsite where two of our friends all the way from Cape Town joined us for the night – lovely having company from home! Day 16 saw us leaving for the Skeleton Coast via Torra Bay, a road that seemed to be peppered with unrelenting dips – little did we know that the dips were going to continue for the next couple of days, taxing on both Aardvark and the driver(s)…Our goal for the day was Terrace Bay, the most northern point on the Skeleton Coast that one can reach without a permit and a guide. And as we turned north from Torra Bay, it felt as if we were the only car on the road, nobody else nor their dust tracks in sight. The landscape changed so dramatically that it’s almost too difficult to describe, just to remind us that this is a special place…even the temperature changed from a boiling 37°C at the gate at Springbokwasser to 14°C at Terrace Bay! Along the way we turned off to drive over a dune to stop right next to the sea…and after wandering around for a couple of minutes we became aware of the FRESH paw prints next to us in the sand…apparently we stumbled upon the lair of a mother lioness and her three cubs roaming the coast to feast on seals (as confirmed by the rangers at Terrace Bay)! Luckily (or was that unluckily) we only saw their pawprints, but was once again reminded that nature is all around us, and anything is possible! The beauty of the bit of the Skeleton Coast that we saw, left us speechless. The perceived nothingness, coupled with the news of my Grandmom’s passing, made for a fitting backdrop to think about life, the universe, and our smallness within its beauty… After a lovely night’s sleep under fluffy white duvets in the cabins on the beach, we were off again, retracing our steps to go back north to the Koakoland and meet up with our friends again. The undulating dips continued, making for a rather long drive past the vet gate at Palmwag, through to Warmquelle Community Camp. The camp is situated about 10km from the main road, after a stop at the local bakery, where tannie Mercia baked the most amazing bread in her tin shed! A drive through the local village, and down a fairly steep little road, we found the small campsite situated next to some small waterfalls…if it wasn’t so dry, it would’ve been spectacular! Anyway, after we spent a fairly short time next to the river, discussing why our friends were so late in coming through to the campsite, we realized that we made a small navigational error, and we were actually in the wrong campsite ☹ with no means of contacting our friends, we had to pack up Aardvark again, and retraced our steps back to Khoarib some 15km down the road, to meet up at the Khoarib/Warmquelle Community Camp 😊 Again a beautiful spot with a platform overlooking a small stream flowing from the natural spring a bit higher up the gorge….a beautiful place to meet friends, watch sunset and have a braai under the starlit sky! We really wanted to go further north west through the Koakoland, see the fairy circles at Marienfluss and drive the “drum circuit” (Groen Drom, Rooi Drom, Oranje Drom, Blou Drom) whilst looking for the stonemen…but alas, it was not to be on this trip ☹ The effect of the drought (it last rained over 3years ago in this area) combined with overgrazing led to a semi-desert environment, with the August winds causing sandstorms left right and center! We arrived in a big dust storm in Opuwa, which at times completely obscured the road in front of us, as well as wrapped us and our surrounds in a fine powdery dust. We thought it best to leave the Koakoland for another trip, and instead drove directly north to the Epupa Falls – and it felt like finding an oasis in the middle of the desert! Palm trees lined the banks of the Kunene River, both on the Namibian and Angolan side…creating an entirely different landscape to the salt roads and nothingness of two days prior, and the deserted desertland of the previous day! We promptly decided to spend night 18 and 19 at Omarunga Epupa Falls Camp, which we would rate as one of the 2 best campsites thus far on the trip! Camping next to the river under massive palmtrees, and waking up to the sound of the waterfalls just a bit down the river, was a welcome reprieve from the dust of the previous week! After a magical two days, we decided to move only 96km east along the river to the Kunene River Lodge for final two days of “river gazing” 😊 I specifically mention the distance, as it usually takes a lot longer to drive than expected! This short stretch on a relatively good gravel road took us close to 3hours due to the (still continuing) dips as well as river crossings along the way. Again the effect of the drought was palatable, with only a small puddle of water in one of the crossings, in the middle of what obviously is normally a fairly big and potentially hazardous crossing. And we were reminded of the dangers of driving too fast on these unknown roads, as some Eastern European travelers in a rented 4x4 managed to turn it on its roof coming out of one of the dips – no-one injured but lesson learned…

Part of the reason why we stayed for 2 nights at the Kunene River Lodge was to use their dependable wifi (sitting right next to the reception area, the only spot with strong signal) to listen to my Grandmom’s memorial service back in Potchefstroom – the joys of technology meant that we could be in the most northern part of Namibia joining the service along with my cousin in Canada, and other family all over South Africa…and it was a beautiful tribute to my Gran! I’m writing this sitting next to Aardvark underneath a big tree, overlooking the Kunene River and Angola on the opposite side, watching Irene gracefully chasing the blue monkeys with Sarel the RubberSnake and Maya the Kettie, and having an ice cold Windhoek…and I’m reminded yet again that life is good! Tomorrow we are off to join our friends at Etosha for 2 days, before restocking in Tsumeb and then again off NorthEast to the Caprivi…and beyond…

Till next week. J

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